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Monday, May 22, 2017

Thoughts on racism and criminal justice reform

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

We badly need criminal justice reform, and one of the areas where we need reform is mandatory minimum sentences for various crimes. As Rand Paul pointed out, we have seen far too many injustices resulting from mandatory minimums. This is why we are not only seeing bipartisan agreement on reforming mandatory minimums, but agreement across the ideological spectrum, from right to left and everywhere in between. Not everyone agrees, including President Donald Trump's attorney general.

We should not ignore the context for mandatory minimums though. These laws came about at least in part because of concern that judges were far too lenient with some criminals. When judges fail in their duty to protect the general public by letting murderers and psychopaths walk free to kill, maim and rape again, there is going to be a reaction against that failure. Mandatory minimums are that reaction.

The problem is that the law is a very blunt instrument. Some cases require a harsher punishment, but in other cases a less severe punishment is called for. A judge with wisdom and discernment would be able to make those distinctions, but harsh mandatory minimums take away this discretion and put people behind bars for far longer than they should be there. This doesn't just unjustly harm the person going to prison, but unjustly harms their families and communities.

That said, this is not necessarily racism. A disparate impact is not proof that the goal is to harm blacks, or that supporters of mandatory minimums believe blacks are inherently more violent or dangerous.

Some have argued the War on Drugs itself (which produced so many of the mandatory minimums) is thinly-veiled racism. It is not. Much of the concern over drugs (especially among black leaders) is the destruction drugs and drug-fueled violence did to black communities. That is the opposite of racism.

But while the War on Drugs itself is not racist, Are there aspects of the war on drugs that are heavily tinged with racism? Of course there are. Marijuana criminalization was pushed by appealing to racist fears of blacks and Hispanics, and more myths of black "cocaine fiends" were used to push harsher punishments (especially for crack cocaine) in the 1980's. We should not be blind to this history.

But after decades of the War on Drugs and mandatory minimums being so common that many just reflexively support them, we need to be very careful in assigning nefarious motivations that make bipartisan reforms more difficult by inflaming partisan divisions. When you call someone a racist, the opportunity for dialogue is over as they switch into self-defense mode. You cannot convince someone when you attack in that manner.

Donald Trump threatens to reverse, derail or at least stall efforts at reforming the War on Drugs generally and mandatory minimum sentences specifically. But there is still enough support for reform on the Right to keep moving forward. Making the issue needlessly partisan and launching needless assaults on people's character is not the way to maintain that support.

Are Leftists genuinely committed to criminal justice reform? If so, they need to resist the urge to play the "racism" card. The federal government is controlled by Republicans and most of the states are controlled by Republicans. It is simply not possible to get reforms through without help from conservative and libertarian-leaning Republicans who recognize the harm that these policies have caused.

Can we please not waste this opportunity? Lives are at stake here!

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Sunday, May 21, 2017

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

Stop making terrible arguments for blind loyalty.

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Saturday, May 20, 2017

I have a new hat

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 11:42 AM (#)

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Friday, May 19, 2017

Denigrating fathers to celebrate Mothers Day?

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

As a father, I am really sick of seeing dads reduced to helpless, stupid ogres who could not survive without their wives. I cook dinner. I wash dishes. I clean the bathroom. I wash and fold laundry. I take care of my sons. I would not be living like a barbarian if I was taking care of my sons by myself.

We should value and honor mothers, not just on Mothers Day, but every single day. Just the act of carrying a baby for nine months, with all of the physical effects that brings, is worthy of respect and admiration. But our mothers do much more than that. They take care of their children and are a help to their husbands. Their contributions every day to our lives are too valuable to calculate.

We do not, however, need to denigrate and disrespect the contributions of fathers in order to honor mothers. That was the premise of a really offensive card I saw while picking out cards for my wife and mother. (I posted a photo of the card on Twitter and Tumblr.) The card provides the same message we get from much of our culture, from sitcoms to stupid viral videos: Men are idiots. Men are incompetent. Men cannot take care of themselves. Without women, without mothers and wives, society would fall apart.

No, it would not. It is an offensive meme.

Our culture hates masculinity generally, and our culture hates fatherhood specifically. We see this in sitcoms, movies, greeting card and many other places. When men are not being portrayed as violent savages, we are stupid and worthless. We hear about "Toxic Masculinity" on social media. I cannot imagine picking up a card for Father's Day that would demean and mock mothers as a way to build up fathers.

Men and women are both valuable. Children need attentive and loving fathers and mothers in their lives. Boys need fathers to teach them how to be men and girls need fathers to model what manhood should look like. We can and should honor both mothers and fathers, and should disrespect neither.

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

President Trump's temperament continues to be a concern

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

We need to take a step back and cool off regarding the President Donald Trump's relationship with Russia.

The latest controversy is that Trump allegedly shared top-secret intelligence (specifically information about the Islamic State) with Russia. Did he break the law? Probably not. The President has authority to share intelligence and he promised during the campaign he would work with Russia to help defeat the Islamic State. No one should be surprised he is doing exactly what he said he would do.

Plus, this is just good policy. Of course we should work with Russia to defeat the Islamic State. Russia has a vested interest in defeating ISIS just as we do, and if they are willing to do some of the work it would be helpful to both nations. Our problem is that we do not realize how much Bashir Assad is a bulwark against the Islamic State.

My worry is not whether Trump has the authority to do this. My worry is that Trump is a pop-off.

Sharing intelligence that has been properly vetted and cleared by professional intelligence agents is good policy, and we should do this in our fights against a common enemy – while recognizing that Vladimir Putin is not a friend of these United States and we should be more careful in sharing intelligence with Russia than we would be with Great Britain or Israel.

However, a President who does not know when to shut his mouth and who is prone to blabbing inappropriately (especially when he is bragging to stroke, soothe and boost his fragile ego) is a serious concern for national security. As during the campaign, the concern is with President Trump's temperament. High level advisors need to privately admonish him to be mindful of what he says, even if it puts their jobs at risk. This is where Vice President Mike Pence is valuable, because Trump cannot fire him.

I have been generally pleased with President Trump, but it is a problem that he is a pop-off.

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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Planned Parenthood's application

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

Planned Parenthood has applied for another handout from the Bloomington City Council.

You can see the application at Christian Citizens for Life's website.

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Monday, May 15, 2017

I graduated from high school 25 years ago today

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

This year marks multiple anniversaries of major life events in five year increments. Today marks twenty five years since I graduated from high school. I was in the top three of my graduating class, which sounds impressive... but there were only three of us in the class of 1992 at Grace Baptist Academy in Angola, Indiana. It's amazing looking back that my high school graduation was a full quarter century ago.

I am very thankful for the opportunity to attend school at GBA. Looking back, I think it would have been easy for me to get lost and fall through the cracks in a much larger school. But individual attention and higher standards of behavior helped me, and served to ground me during my college years when I fell away from the faith and stopped attending church. I still have friends today from high school, having connected to a number of classmates via social media.

There is a particular temptation that comes with Christian schools that I am compelled to address. I would caution both parents and students that a Christian school us no substitute for attending church. Parachurch organizations (including Christian schools) are not the church and do not hold the same Biblical authority as the church does. Yes, I was in Bible class and chapel services five days a week, so I was getting significantly more Christian doctrine than I would have if I only attended church, but I still should have been in church. That is where we are to worship God and we should not neglect that.

I am also as firm in my opposition to vouchers for private schools as I have ever been, and that is because of my experience with Grace Baptist Academy. With government money always comes government strings and it will be a tragedy when (not if, when) government decides to use voucher funding to blackmail Christian schools into compromising their principles. I would hate to see teens attending Christian schools today be deprived of the opportunities and instruction I had due to government meddling.

Obviously, no school is perfect, and there were problems here and there. (As the years and decades have passed, I have been able to look back and see how many of those problems were the result of my own sin.) Overall, though, I was very blessed to be able to go to school where I did from fifth grade onward.

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Sunday, May 14, 2017

Martin Luther on Marriage

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

Martin Luther on marriage:

Should I get married? Most of us don’t ask the question. We just assume we’ll get married and spend time thinking about whom we will marry. Martin Luther, however, did ask that question....

Read more at BaylyBlog.com.

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Saturday, May 13, 2017

1 Corinthians 15:22-26

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 7:12 AM (#)

For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at His coming.

Then cometh the end, when He shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when He shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign, till He hath put all enemies under His feet.

The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.

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Friday, May 12, 2017

If you are defending, you are losing

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

Conservatives are losing the culture wars. Why is that? Because we do not know how to win.

Specifically, we do not understand that in order to win you need to be on offense. We are constantly defending territory we hold, and we are losing that territory. We have made no sustained effort to take back territory we have lost. By being on defense, the best "victories" we can hope for are stopping this or that expansion of government or expansion of the Leftist agenda. It does not help when we have elected officials who are supposedly on our side giving away ground to appease the Left.

For example, it was a Republican state senator who proposed "hate crime" legislation in Indiana this year. That law did not pass, but again that is the best we can hope for on far too many issues: We prevent the Left from gaining cultural territory but we do not seek to gain territory and advance our own agenda. What winning looks like is a sustained effort to repeal "hate crime" legislation across the various state legislatures and at the federal level. That can be applied to many other issues as well.

The one area conservatives are winning is the battle over abortion. This is because the Left took all of the territory with one Supreme Court decision in 1973. From that low point, conservatives had nowhere to go but up: There was no more ground to be gained in protecting "abortion rights" from that point forward. Conservatives have spent 40 years chipping away at "abortion rights" with various legislation and activism campaigns. The legal landscape is better for the unborn today that it was twenty years ago as a result.

It has been said that "politics is war by other means," and just like in a shooting war you cannot win if you are always on defense. You have to gain territory in order to win. Otherwise, the fight becomes a war of attrition, as we hold onto an increasingly smaller part of the culture. Perhaps Donald Trump will motivate us to win again, but his conservative credentials are questionable at best. But as childish and immature as he can be, Trump's orientation toward being on offense is something we need to emulate across the conservative movement.

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Thursday, May 11, 2017

1 John 2:19

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

They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.

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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

More thoughts the Facebook comment system

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

After four months of Facebook as the system to leave comments on Herald-Times articles, I have a few additional thoughts on the switch.

One annoyance is that you cannot see your own comment history. That was a nice feature in previous versions of HTO comments, but is not possible now. Technically, comments should show up in your "activity log" on Facebook, but my experience is that they usually do not. Unless you remember which threads you commented on, there is no way to track a discussion without manually saving a link. (Although Facebook helpfully provides notifications when someone likes your comments or replies to one of them.)

Probably the biggest flaw is it removes the ability of all H-T subscribers to comment. Not all H-T subscribers have Facebook accounts, and some subscribers I know personally are actively opposed to having a Facebook account. Therefore, a feature that they paid for monthly for a decade (comments launched in 2007) is now disabled unless they sign up for a new service. Meanwhile, non-subscribers can comment.

It seems that moderation is not as strict as it once was, but comments generally have been more civil since the new comment system was implemented. That could be a flaw in the system, or it could be the moderators themselves, but some comments that clearly should have been removed (such as defamatory accusations of felony criminal activity) have not been removed and probably would have been a year ago.

Some have criticized the system because there are significantly fewer comments than before. That is definitely true, but I do not necessarily think the comment system is to blame. I have seen Facebook comment sections (usually on Facebook pages) with hundreds upon hundreds of comments. People generally are clearly willing to comment using Facebook. I think the best measure of comments will be a year from now, once people have gotten used to the idea of using Facebook for comments.

The primary reason for the switch was to mandate the use of real names for comments. I applaud the decision to eliminate anonymity and I have been calling for that change for years, but it was not necessary to completely change the comments system to do that. A rule change would have done the job.

Flaws aside, the comment system is working well, though the comment system used from 2007 to 2013 was a far better system than the platforms that followed. It is too bad that Old HTO is gone forever.

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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Steuben County Republican Party breakfast

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

There was a great discussion at the Steuben County Republican Party breakfast on Saturday.

A state senator and state representative offered a very helpful explanation of the gas tax increase, and how much the overall tax burden has been reduced to put the increase in context. They both clearly know their stuff on the budget and I was impressed with how detailed the discussion was on policy.

The state is also being fiscally responsible. Human Resources is one of the biggest expenses in government, and we have several thousand fewer state employees than we did 12 years ago, which is impressive.

Senator Glick and Representative Zent also highlighted legislation to ensure someone who has had a stroke is sent to the nearby hospital most equipped to deal with strokes, especially since time is to important.

There was also an explanation of legislation that helps teens in foster care stay on Medicaid after they turn 18. Currently teens in an intact family have that option but those in foster care do not. This closes that gap in addition to providing life skills to help them become independent.

I was also impressed that, when asked how much Steuben County would be getting under the road funding legislation, they immediately looked it up to provide the exact number!

Steuben County is being represented well in Indianapolis.

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Monday, May 8, 2017

Donald Trump and "opening up" libel laws

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

I am not sure if President Trump is playing a political hand in calling for "opening up" libel laws or if he is serious, but in either case he really needs to stop. He is not going to win this battle, he is damaging himself politically, and he is distracting energy from necessary aspects of his agenda.

First, Trump is not going to win this fight. We are not going to get the required number of states to approve a change to the First Amendment to amend libel laws. There will not be a convention of the states, the language will not pass Congress, and the legislatures will not approve it.

As an aside, even if Trump does seriously propose changing the text of the First Amendment to make libel cases easier for plaintiffs to win, that is not the same as "abolishing" the First Amendment. Trump's critics need to focus on what he actually says and proposes, not on their hysterical fantasies about what he says and proposes. A strong criticism can be made of Trump's call to change libel laws or change the First Amendment, but the credibility of that argument is heavily damaged if Trump's critics run beyond what he is actually doing. It is too easy to then dismiss the entire argument as "fake news."

Furthermore, this fight harms Trump politically by making him look like an ignoramus. Libel lawsuits are handled by state civil courts, not federal courts. It does not help when Trump at least appears to not understand the difference between the two, and let's be honest here: Trump is a thin-skinned crybaby. Every time he is criticized, he whines about how unfair it is and he holds a grudge. I generally support Trump's agenda, but he needs to grow up. He is the President of these United States and he needs to get over the fact that people are going to attack him.

This is a wasteful distraction. There are so many hours in the day, there is only so much time in the legislative schedule, and the clock is not only counting down to January 20, 2021, the clock is counting down rapidly to the 2018 mid-term elections. Trump needs to focus on his agenda, not on his fights with the news media. The conservative movement is still mostly behind Trump, and he has even brought on a number of #NeverTrump voters. Now is not the time for distractions and unwinnable battles. Now is the time to implement conservative reforms, especially regulatory reform (somewhere Trump has been very good) and tax reform.

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Saturday, May 6, 2017

It's not a Muslim ban

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 8:30 AM (#)

A nation that does not control its borders is not a nation. President Donald Trump understands this.

I understand that President Donald Trump called for a "shutdown" of Muslims entering these United States, but that is not what either of his executive orders did. Trump banned immigration from specific countries known to be hotbeds of terrorism - countries designated as such by President Barack Obama. Muslims from other nations were not prohibited from entering the country.

Can we please base our arguments on facts?

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Friday, May 5, 2017

We need to stop looking for "fighters"

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

If the primary reason you support a candidate for office, a pundit, a thought leader or a political activist is that he is a "fighter," your priorities are wrong. The first two qualifications for those we support in politics should be integrity and ideology. Whether he is a "fighter" should be a distant third - or perhaps in fifth place after relevant experience and knowledge of policy.

Putting what ought to be much farther down the list of qualifications into the top spot is why the conservative movement is so messed up today. We have gotten to the point where we do not care about personal character, ability, experience, or even whether our "hero" actually agrees with us on issues so long as he "fights" against the other side. It is sad, it is childish, and it is ultimately self-defeating.

This is not to say that being a fighter is unimportant. We need people in the conservative movement who will not run away from conflict or tremble in fear of what is said about them. We need people who will stand up to the Left, defend our values, and be willing to go on the attack when that is necessary. But that cannot come at the expense of personal integrity or conformity with conservative values.

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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Protecting special interests, not public safety

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

When a convenience store found a loophole that allowed it to sell cold beer, the liquor stores howled and their lapdogs in the Indiana state legislature jumped to action to stop this atrocity. But I have to wonder just how stupid the legislature thinks we are. The Associated Press reported that the loophole was closed because it "could lead to more underage people having access to alcohol."

First of all, this is just dishonest. Convenience stores can and do sell room-temperature beer right now. Not one single person - underage or not - will have access to even one drop of alcohol they do not have right now. The only difference is whether the beer will be sold at room temperature or refrigerated. It amazes me that our elected legislators can come up with such an obvious falsehood and think people will just swallow it. Just how stupid do they think we are?

Let's get real here. This was about one thing: Protecting the special interests. This is a gift to the liquor lobby, and nothing more.

If the legislature had been honest about the law, that would be different. A case can be made for protecting mom and pop liquor stores from competition, especially from the big box stores. I would disagree with that argument, but I could respect that legislative leaders were being honest with their constituents about why they are interfering in the free market. What I cannot respect is such brazen dishonesty, especially when everyone hearing this pathetic excuse immediately knows it it totally false.

We deserve better from our elected leaders in Indianapolis.

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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Pull toy Tera

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

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Monday, May 1, 2017

Vaping, abortion and homosexual marriage

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

Do Leftists know what the word "hypocrisy" means, or is it simply a way for them to name-call without actually calling someone an obscene name? The false accusations of "hypocrisy" leveled at me over my opposition to banning e-cigarettes in "public places" certainly indicate my critics have not looked up the word in the dictionary. I did, and here is what Merriam-Webster has to say:

  1. a feigning to be what one is not or to believe what one does not

  2. behavior that contradicts what one claims to believe or feel

Neither of those applies to what I have said about a ban on vaping in "public places."

No, calling for limited government in this case is not inconsistent with supporting legal restrictions on abortion. This is because abortion actually kills an innocent baby. Exposure to second-hand vapor from an e-cigarette does not kill anyone. Even if it irritates someone, irritation is light years different from killing someone. The chemicals found in e-cigarette vapor are in much smaller amounts than tobacco smoke. It simply does not rise to the level where government needs to step in to protect anyone's rights.

Furthermore, people have a choice about whether to patronize a business that allows electronic cigarettes (which are not tobacco products and do not burn anything) or whether to work at such a place. Unborn babies obviously have no choice in whether to be killed by dismemberment, burned to death in a saline solution, or killed by having their brains ripped out and skulls crushed. It is silly to say I am a "hypocrite" for supporting a ban on abortion but opposing a ban on vaping.

I am also not inconsistent for opposing same-sex "marriage." I have never said the government should not allow people should to live as they please in private. I have said I oppose government recognizing the union of two men or two women as a "marriage." If the government did not legally recognize and officially endorse such unions as a "marriage," that would not prevent anyone from doing anything not otherwise prohibited by law. There is no restriction on liberty or behavior here.

Finally, unless someone is an anarchist (and no one is), everyone is going to draw a line where they think government should regulate behavior and where it should not. This is not hypocrisy. This is the way people work: They have different opinions on different issues. We can all be adults here and recognize this reality without spewing fraudulent accusations of "hypocrisy."

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