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Sunday, June 26, 2016

Quick note on free speech

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM

Freedom of speech is not, will never be and cannot be freedom from criticism. If you say something morally repugnant, racist, depraved or perverted, it is not a violation of your free speech rights to be called out and condemned for it.


Saturday, June 25, 2016

Little known fact

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM

Mark Hamill was a better Joker than either Jack Nicholson or Heath Ledger.


Friday, June 24, 2016

We have posse comitatus for a reason!

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM

The terrorist attack on a homosexual nightclub in Orlando has some people gloating that this validates militarizing our police forces. This is a poor argument and is it unfortunate to see people be willing to give local government this kind of power, and it is scary that people who really ought to know better do not foresee the danger this represents to our liberty.

When I ran for city council last year, I raised concerns about the Bloomington Police Department requesting a Mine Resistant, Ambush Protected (MRAP) military vehicle straight from the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan for local policing. This was not because we are facing an armed insurrection, but because police want to bring overwhelming force to their enforcement of drug laws. Paramilitary SWAT teams are even being used for regulatory inspections!

See here and here and here and here for more.

Let's get this straw man out of the way, right away. People are not objecting to police having protective equipment like helmets and bulletproof vests. Protective equipment is a long way from military grade weapons that are more appropriate for a foreign battlefield than for domestic policing.

Most people do not even object to the existence of SWAT teams. The problem with SWAT is it is vastly overused, including for regulatory inspections. There have been too many tragedies because cowboy law enforcement decided to conduct a middle-of-the-night paramilitary raid instead of simply serving an arrest warrant. In the case of a baby who was severely burned because a flash bang grenade exploded in his face, the perp the cops were looking for not only did not live in the home, he was arrested later without incident at a different location.

We all know what happened in Waco, when the federal government used military force, including tanks, on American soil against American citizens. That is truly frightening and should have been a wake-up call about use of force, whether by the federal government or by local law enforcement. Unfortunately, we were in the middle of a national hysteria about crime that led to some terrible policies in the 1990's.

Our nation has always been wary of militarizing the police, and rightly so. Congress passed posse comitatus for a reason. We shouldn't be making an end run around that by turning law enforcement into soldiers. Cops are not soldiers and should not be soldiers. The job of a police officer who is arresting citizens and is charged with protecting even suspected criminals' civil rights is very different from the job of a soldier, who is to kill people and break things in a war.

Finally, we should dispense with another straw man. Opposing the militarization of police is not bashing cops. That is a smear designed to distract from the debate. One can disagree with bad policy and urge reforms in the way police pursue criminals without bashing police. This "war on cops" meme is intentionally designed to stifle dissent, because defenders of a bad policy knew they were losing the argument on the merits of that policy. We should reject these ad hominem attacks.


Thursday, June 23, 2016

Citizens deserve a chance to speak

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 5:00 AM

Bloomington Herald-Times, June 21, 2016

To the Editor:

The June 15 city council meeting was an embarrassment. Between 30 and 40 people showed up to remonstrate against the city’s funding of Planned Parenthood. As soon as they saw we were all there, Steve Volan immediately moved to limit comments from the public. Speakers were limited to two minutes, which is reasonable in order to give everyone a chance to speak.

What was not reasonable was limiting total public comment time to 40 minutes. At least six people were not allowed to speak, and more did not even get up to wait in line at all. If the city council does not want to listen to the public speak on an issue they are voting on that night, they are not qualified to lead this city and should resign.

Dorothy Granger, who brags on her campaign website that she is a volunteer clinic escort for Planned Parenthood, should have recused herself from the vote. It presents an appearance of impropriety for Planned Parenthood clinic escorts to be using their elected positions to funnel tax money to their organization.

The councilors did not even attempt to address the arguments presented. Their attitude was, "we will do what we want." Shameful.


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Would Republicans oppose the Grand Wizard of the KKK?

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM

Donald Trump is, for all intents and purposes, the Republican Party's nominee for President. But nominee or not, it is bad idea for Republicans to continually demand Republicans "unify" around Donald Trump. That does not unify the party. Instead, it only divides us farther and provokes more arguments around someone who is - let's be honest - an incredibly divisive nominee.

Like it or not, there are some Republicans who will never vote for Donald Trump. That's the way it is and that will not change. I hope that Republicans will agree with me that there is a line where we cannot in good conscience support a Republican nominee for elective office. I would hope there is a line where we will openly oppose that nominee and support a respectable alternative.

Let me use a real-world historical example. Back in the early 1990's, a KKK Grand Wizard named David Duke was a Republican candidate for office in Louisiana. Good Republicans stood up against this wicked man and publicly refused to support him. That was the right thing to do.

Now, Donald Trump is not David Duke. I am not equating the two.

The point I am making is that there is a line where good Republicans must openly and publicly oppose a Republican candidate for office, both for the long term good of the party and just for basic moral decency. Where that line falls is different for every Republican. But in every election, the reality is that some Republicans will always openly oppose certain Republican candidates.

It is foolish and counterproductive to spend all of our time worrying about that. We should instead focus on where we are unified instead of deepening the divisions within the party by either demanding we support the nominee no matter what or demanding all dissent within the Big Tent be silenced.

Demanding #NeverTrump Republicans "unify" around an incredibly divisive (and intentionally divisive) nominee will only provoke more arguments about him, as we have seen in countless threads on Republican pages on Facebook, public meetings and so forth. Instead, we need to focus on where we are united. We do not have to be unified on supporting Trump to be unified in our support of other Republicans on the ballot. We can agree to disagree and move forward in a productive way in electing candidates we all support.

Let's try that for once.


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Thoughts on the Republican state convention

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM

I was elected as a delegate to the state convention last month, so that's where I was on June 11. It was an exciting time and a lot of fun, and we have a strong ticket moving into the November election.

Dawn Wooten gave an impassioned speech but she was overwhelmed by Jennifer McCormick's campaign. McCormick was more organized, had far more supporters and more funding. Some delegates I talked to had concerns over McCormick's stances on issues, but she'll be a dramatic improvement over Glenda Ritz and had a positive vision for moving forward.

Speaking of organized campaigns, all four candidates for attorney general were there in force but Curtis Hill had arguably the best organization - including the backing of several IU College Republican officers. I thought Steve Carter deserved another term after serving well for eight years after being elected in 2000, and he has proven himself to be a statewide winner. However, the majority of delegates felt differently.

This was a reverse Hobson's choice for delegates, though. There were no bad options in that race, as there were four very qualified and experienced candidates. Curtis Hill is a poised, articulate, experienced candidate who commands respect. I was shocked to see how poorly Abby Kuzma did in the first round, especially since she is a deputy AG under incumbent Greg Zoeller.

It is good to see such a strong Republican Party in the state of Indiana, which will hopefully push back against the agenda of whichever candidate becomes President in November.


Monday, June 20, 2016

Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM

Continuing my retrospective of the Star Wars movies, I watched Episode II last week. This movie has its share of critics too, and it definitely has flaws. It is better than Episode I, if for no other reason than Jar Jar Binks' role is greatly diminished. It does take a while to get from Point A to Point B, though.

We begin with an assassination attempt on Senator Amidala. She was queen in the last movie, but apparently on Naboo queens are elected and have term limits. This makes no sense. The assassination was not carried out by the person hired to kill Amidala, but by someone else. Subcontracting an assassination is rather strange.

Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi are called in to protect Amidala, and Anakin is really creepy. He immediately tells Amidala she is beautiful and talks to Kenobi about how he dreams of her every night. It does not help that the actors playing Anakin and Amidala do not have a lot of chemistry, so when Amidala tells Anakin to not look at her because "it makes me uncomfortable" it feels like an emphatic rejection. It is difficult to believe they will be an item later. The romance is very forced, to the point that Amidala might as well look at the camera and say "I love Anakin now because the script says so."

It is good to see Yoda recognize the Jedi have become arrogant and complacent, but this is never followed up on. This should have been emphasized more strongly than it was, and the movie suffers for it.

We see some seeds of Darth Vader planted when Anakin and Amidala are speaking, and he basically supports a dictatorship because he feels democracy does not work. Unfortunately, this is mixed in with a bad scene. Anakin is writing verbal poetry to Amidala, which is incredibly emo to the point it is painful to listen to. The dialogue is absolutely terrible here, but Natalie Portman's body language is really good. She is shifting uncomfortably in her seat, showing how much Anakin's emo poem is creeping her out.

A few other random observations:

♣ - It is unusual for a non-Sith to go one on one with a Jedi and hold his own, much less win a fight. Jango Fett does that against Kenobi in the fight on Kamino.

♣ - Watto was a strong personality in Episode I, but is broken down and weak willed when we see him here. It would be interesting to see what happened to him over the last ten years.

♣ - Amidala should be completely horrified by Anakin slaughtering the sandpeople. She certainly should not be saying it is "human" to be angry after Anakin massacred children. This was a poorly written scene that should have played out with someone else, because it makes Amidala look as bad as Anakin.

♣ - R2D2 and and C-3PO are shoehorned into this movie and contribute virtually nothing to the plot. The slapstick comedy is out of place, especially during the final battle.

♣ - Why is no one in the Senate concerned that the clone army was created a full decade before the vote giving Palpatine the authority to create the clone army?

♣ - Why would Count Dooku spill the beans on the Sith's plot? What if the Jedi had belived him? That was a huge risk. That scene should have been cut out of the movie.

♣ - Amidala and Anakin's trip to the factory made me think I should pick up a controller. It is a quicktime event! This was obviously designed for a video game tie-in.

♣ - When a Jedi goes at totally nonchalant Count Dooku, Jango kills him and holsters his weapon like a gunslinger. That was really cool.

♣ - The Stormtroopers arrive in nick of time to save the Jedi because of course they do.

♣ - The fight between Yoda and Count Dooku is spectacular.

I like this movie, but it takes a very long time to accomplish very little. The main plot elements were Anakin's slow turn to the dark side, establishing the romance between Anakin and Amidala, setting up the Stormtroopers, and establishing Palpatine's emergency powers. It took way too much time to get four things done and it could have been much more efficient. That is why the movie drags at times.


Friday, June 17, 2016

An embarrassing city council meeting

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM

The June 15 city council meeting was an utter embarrassment. The city council - dominated 9-0 by Democrats - showed that not only do they not care what their constituents think, but they do not even want to hear what we think. They have completely failed as representatives of the people.

Between thirty and forty people showed up to oppose the city's decision to give $3,000 to Planned Parenthood. As soon as they saw how many people were there, Steve Volan immediately moved to limit debate: Two minutes per speaker and forty minutes total for public comment.

The first limitation is reasonable. The second one is not. Limiting the time of each individual speaker allows everyone to have their say, and keeps the meeting moving along in an efficient way. But by limiting the public comment to 40 minutes, at least six people were not allowed to speak, and there were more who would have spoken but did not bother to wait in line knowing that it would be cut off.

It was a shameful spectacle. As elected officials, it is the city council's job to listen to the public's opinions on legislation. If they are not willing to listen to the constituents who pay for their salary and their health insurance benefits, they are not qualified to be on the city council and should resign from their position.

I called on Dorothy Granger to recuse herself from the vote, because Granger is a clinic escort for Planned Parenthood. Granger is not legally obligated to recuse herself, but it nonetheless presents an appearance of impropriety for a Planned Parenthood clinic escort to user her position of authority to funnel tax money to the organization where she volunteers. The funding would have passed 6-0 even with Granger abstaining, so there was no reason for her to vote. (Two councilors missed the meeting.)

The city council did not even bother trying to justify the specific appropriation of funding to Planned Parenthood. Susan Sandberg said that the council has decided to allow funding for operating costs, but the guidelines for the program still discourage operating costs in favor of one-time investments. This is the relevant passage from the letter the council sent to social service agencies:

This restriction is intended to encourage innovative projects and to allow the funds to address changing circumstances. To make funds available for those purposes, this restriction discourages agencies from relying on these funds from year to year and from using these funds to cover on-going (or operational) costs, particularly those relating to personnel.

The council could not have possibly cared less about any of the objections raised by speaker after speaker. In years past, some on the council would at least attempt to justify the funding for Planned Parenthood, but now they do not even attempt to do that. They just sat and begrudgingly listened to us remonstrate against therir plans, and finished with the attitude of "we will do what we want and if you don't like it, too bad." They do not see themselves as representatives. They see themselves as rulers. It was shameful.

Particularly striking was that the council completely ignored a woman who described how she was repeatedly raped for years, forced to take contraception to cover up the rapes, and forced to have multiple abortions when the contraception failed. She warned the council that by funding contraception for teenagers, they are enabling the very same abuse that she endured. The Democrats simply did not care.

Yes, the meeting was frustrating, especially because the council is so arrogant and cares so little what their constituents think. But it is encouraging to see progress in the community's opposition even if that is not reflected on the council. It was pretty lonely for a long time when the only opposition to this corporate welfare was me and maybe one or two others. Having thirty to forty people there to show the council there is real opposition was wonderful. I am deeply grateful to all of the people who showed up that night, both those who stood up to say "no" and those who were in the audience to support us. Thank you!


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Herald-Times breaks its own standards again

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM

I sent the following e-mail to the Herald-Times editor on June 8. He did respond that the author should not have been allowed to use the word "murder" in his letter to the editor (which I appreciate) but that calling Michelle Gregg irresponsible is not defamatory in a legal sense.

An accusation of bad behavior need not met the legal definition of libel for a newspaper to refuse to publish that accusation. Claiming she was irresponsible with her child when she was not is a "false statement of fact that exposes a person to hatred, ridicule, or contempt" and "causes her to be shunned." The H-T has a history of holding letters for verification of negative claims about specific people. Publishing this accusation was a poor ethical choice.

Here is the electronic mail I sent last week:

I am very disappointed that you chose to publish the inflammatory letter about Harambe the gorilla today. By the standards that the Herald-Times has established for reader-submitted content, this letter should have been rejected.

First, the use of the word "murder" is not only unnecessarily inflammatory, it violates the standards set by the Herald-Times years ago. As you recall, you forbade the use of the word "murder" in HTO comments to describe abortion, because murder is a felony. You instead suggested the word "killing," which is not a term that describes a felony. If the word "murder" is not allowed in the absence of a murder conviction in HTO comments, it should certainly not be allowed in a published letter to the editor.

Some may think that the killing of Harambe was unjustifiable. They are wrong, but they have the right to hold that opinion. But the killing was not a murder. The zoo employees decided to end the life of an animal to save the life of a human child. If the child was in danger from a human being, it would be seen as a justifiable homicide. The same is true here. If the word "murder" is not allowed to describe abortion, it should not be allowed to describe the killing of a gorilla to save a three year old child.

Second, the statement in the fictional letter from Harambe that "an irresponsible human let her child enter my zoo habitat" is defamatory and should have been removed from the letter. The police have decided there will be no charges against the mother, who has been subjected to unrelenting hate, vitriol and harassment on social media and has even gotten numerous death threats. There was never any evidence that the mother was irresponsible - it was just assumed in the anger over the death of a gorilla that she was a bad mother. Quite frankly, some of these assumptions are based on racist stereotypes of black women.

Anyone who has children - especially more than one - knows that toddlers are fleet of foot and can scamper off quickly. In an environment like a zoo where there are a lot of people and there is a lot of noise, a toddler's ability to zip away is enhanced. Prosecutor Joseph Deters told the New York Times the mother "was being attentive to her children by all witness accounts, and the 3-year-old just scampered off."

It is unfortunate that the newspaper serving a city that houses one of the nation's most prestigious journalism schools would print a letter with an accusation based on conjecture and rumor. I think you owe Michelle Gregg a public apology for deciding to print this inflammatory and false accusation against her.

I hope you will exercise better judgment in choosing which letters to the editor to print.


Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Two items

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:20 AM

Item #1: Someone who is known for holding grudges and being vindictive is not qualified to hold political office. That person will almost certainly abuse the power of that office if elected, to get back at real or perceived enemies. This is very bad for our liberty and the future of our nation.

Item #2: From the Washington Times: Gary Johnson promises to lay off the weed as president. When asked to comment, Johnson said: "Hey mannn... This running for President is a real drag mannn... What were we talking about again mannn... I am so stoned... I have no idea what's goin' on..."

Note for the terminally stupid: The section in italics is SARCASM.


Monday, June 13, 2016

Women in refrigerators and the Mystique billboard

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM

A large part of the problem with the mainstream media covering geek culture (comic books and video games) is that the mainstream media usually has absolutely no clue about the subject matter. We have seen this in the controversy over a billboard featuring super-villain Apocalypse choking X-Men member Mystique.

Does it really glorify violence against women?

We should not dismiss the issue of violence against women out of hand. The "women in refrigerators" plot device is a problem in comics, and should be called out. (That is named after a story arc in Green Lantern where Major Force murders Kyle Rayner's girlfriend and stuffs her corpse in a refrigerator for Rayner to find later.) The retconned rape of Sue Dibny in Identity Crisis was unnecessary and excessive, and was there purely for shock value. I could go on.

So what about the billboard? If Apocalypse was choking Beast, would that be as problematic? What if Apocalypse was choking Mystique disguised as Beast? (As a shapeshifter, Mystique can make herself look like any character in the Marvel Universe, even characters with more mass.) Or is it just consistent with who the character is?

See, in order to understand the billboard, you have to know the character. Apocalypse wants to decimate the population of earth, killing billions. At that point, only the strongest will survive. He kills indiscriminately without regard to race, sex, species or galaxy of origin. He is a villain being a villain. While "women in refrigerators" is a problem, I do not think this is a problem here. Mystique is a soldier who is fighting to save the planet from a genocidal despot.

If we are going to eliminate man-on-woman violence in comics and comic book movies, you have to do one of three things: First, you could get rid of all female superheroes. Second, you could have female heroes only fight female villains. Finally, if female heroes fight men, the woman has to totally curb stomp the man.

Either female superheroes are on the same level as male superheroes or they are not. The way women are treated in comics is a problem, but if we're going to address that problem then we need to address it where it actually exists, instead of seeing the problem where it does not exist. Doing the former is productive. Doing the latter makes it more difficult to address real problems with the way women are portrayed, as it gets lumped in with political correctness.


Saturday, June 11, 2016

Liars cannot be trusted

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 9:30 AM

I get a telemarketer call. It's a spoofed number.

OK, so in the very first interaction I have with you, before I even speak with someone, you are lying to me. Why would I ever do business with a liar? How stupid would I have to be to enter into a business relationship with a liar?


Friday, June 10, 2016

The frightening precedent in the Bill Cosby case

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM

I do not know if Bill Cosby is guilty of drugging and raping women or not. If he is guilty, it would be a terrible injustice for him to go unpunished. But it would be a bigger injustice for the government to get away with an abuse of power in this case. From an editorial by Debra Saunders:

A district attorney prodded a private citizen to forfeit a constitutional right based on an agreement that, Castor later testified, he believed was binding "for all time." If a different prosecutor can tear up that agreement just because he doesn't like it, Turley noted, it's almost a "bait and switch."

Let's be honest: This alleged crime took place over a decade ago, and there is no physical evidence. The prosecutor at the time declined to pursue the case because he did not think he could win it. If Cosby actually gets a fair trial now, there is no way he is going to be convicted. Unfortunately, a fair trial is by no means assured, especially given the politically charged nature of this case and an ambitious new prosecutor who wants to use this case to advance his career.

The reason this is wrong goes far beyond Bill Cosby and sets a frightening precedent for the future. We are in the middle of a serious effort to reform the criminal justice system to make it more fair. Radley Balko has documented scores of prosecutorial abuses at Reason.com, the Huffington Post and the Washington Post. Allowing the Kevin Steele to get away with this abuse of power will only make future abuses easier.

For the sake of his victims and his eternal soul, Cosby should come clean and throw himself on the mercy of the civil magistrate if he is indeed guilty. If he does not, he faces something infinitely worse than prison. But we should be absolutely uncompromising on due process and civil liberties, and stand against abuse of power by the state.


Thursday, June 9, 2016

Tort Reform

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM

A few posts on an issue where I disagree with a lot of my fellow Republicans:

The McDonald's "hot coffee" lawsuit.

Should health care reform include tort reform?

Tort "reform" is not reform at all.


Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Blood transfusions and religious liberty, Part II

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM

A couple days ago, I addressed the troll "argument" that Jehovah's Witnesses should enjoy "religious liberty" protections regarding blood transfusions. What brought this up was a local Leftist whining after my letter to the editor calling on the city council to reject funding for Planned Parenthood. Here are a couple comments making that point:

So, you're okay with forcing Jehovah's Witnesses to subsidize blood transfusions even though it goes against their religious beliefs?

And:

I'm just trying to determine to whom, beyond those in your Christian sect, you extend "religious freedom".

Do I really need to count the ways this is stupid?

Let's start with the most obvious and most glaring flaw: I have never argued that giving Planned Parenthood funding under the Jack Hopkins grant is a violation of religious freedom under the First Amendment, or that such grants are illegal. Trying to make this an issue of "religious liberty" is a dishonest straw man argument. In fact, I did not even mention religion in my letter to the editor!

It is true that I have argued it is bad policy to force Christians to subsidize Planned Parenthood, but that is most certainly not the same thing as arguing it is a violation of religious liberty. I have argued that the council should not vote for this welfare. Yes, the city council has the legal right (unless the state prohibits it) to disburse this funding every June as they see fit. It would nonetheless be the right thing to do to end this forced donation.

Furthermore, the discussion of blood transfusions is completely irrelevant to the Hopkins funding process. One is an issue of religious freedom under ObamaCare and whether private corporations should be forced by the federal government to fund something the owners find morally objectionable. The second is a decision by a local government to offer a purely elective (and politically decided) subsidy to local charitable organizations. These are two separate and unrelated issues. They have nothing to do with each other.

I expect I will get pushback every time I write a letter opposing corporate welfare for Planned Parenthood. Leftists should at least try to present "arguments" that are actually relevant to the topic and are not based on fabrications of arguments I have never once made in support of my position.