Are we living in the Idiocracy?

I have been blogging for fifteen years. I was writing opinion columns for seven years before that, back to when I wrote for the Indiana Daily Student in college. I found out after the Super Bowl that the way to be an Internet celebrity is not to try to form coherent and convincing political and ideological arguments and influence policy that way, but to to eat horse manure on YouTube.

That is encouraging. I am so glad I have poured so much time, effort and money into my blogging just to be leapfrogged by an idiot who takes a big bite of horse manure. It makes me feel like all my efforts have been worth it.

My frustration is not with my lack of reach, or that others are more successful than I am. My frustration is the kind of content that makes someone famous: Not years of work, but thirty seconds to do something disgusting that is uploaded to YouTube. Is that really all it takes to go viral? Apparently. It feels like we are living in the Idiocracy, where we use Gatorade to water our plants and the most popular TV show is one where people get kicked in the groin over and over.

The complaining above aside, I am happy with my life. I am satisfied with what God has given me and I am thankful for His blessings, which are numerous. I understand that I will never be a nationally known columnist or pundit, nor will my blog be one of the most heavily visited sites on the web. Do I want to have a wider reach, a bigger audience and more influence? Sure I do. I would be lying if I said otherwise. But after over twenty years writing thousands of opinion pieces, I understand that my blogging is a hobby and that is how I have to approach it. If it is God’s will that I become more influential, it will happen.

Police militarization and effective protest tactics

The people who disrupted Mayor Hamilton’s state of the city address are right to be concerned about the city’s purchase of an armored vehicle. I opposed the purchase of a mine resistant, ambush protected (MRAP) military vehicle when I ran for city council in 2015, and I remain opposed to police militarization. Let’s be clear here: A BearCat does represent police militarization. The chief of police admitted that this is “the least-militaristic option.” Unfortunately, the way the protesters behaved harms the cause.

First, targeting the news media was counterproductive. The Herald-Times has taken an editorial position in favor of the BearCat, but they are not policy makers and the photographer is not the enemy. He is there to document the meeting. Flipping him off is unnecessary and uncivil. Worse yet, this behavior (especially the middle finger) makes the protesters look like they are angry for the sake of being angry, not like they are making an effective policy argument. Is it likely that the Herald-Times will give the protesters favorable coverage after the treatment of the paper’s photographer? Ideally, that would not slant coverage, but human nature is what it is.

Shutting down the mayor’s speech did bring attention to the cause of opposing police militarization, but that cause was already highlighted by significant coverage in the newspaper and on social media. Shouting down the mayor with a bullhorn does not increase awareness, it is overkill. That also splits Leftists, as some Democratic partisans will defend their mayor.

With that said, this is an important issue. I called for a public examination of the policies for deploying the Critical Incident Response Team (basically SWAT) and especially for the guidelines on the use of “flash-bang” grenades. While they are falsely described as “non-lethal” weapons, “flash-bang” grenades have caused fatalities and have maimed people – including the horrific case of Bounkham Phonesavanh, who was severely burned by a flash bang grenade. Rickia Russell of Minneapolis “suffered third- and fourth-degree burns” from a flash-bang grenade that exploded next to her during a drug raid in 2010.

Police militarization is an important issue, and opposition to it has the opportunity to unite both Left and Right. In addition to splitting Leftist activists and Democratic partisans, overly aggressive protest methods also cause an unfortunate knee-jerk reaction among conservatives – many of whom were horrified by the deployment of military force against American citizens in Waco, Texas in 1993. Let’s not squander our opportunity to make our case with foolishly antagonistic tactics.

What is going on with Facebook?

I sent this open letter to Facebook a week ago.

Facebook administrators,

What is going on at Facebook? I shared Rick Santorum’s Google Plus page on my personal Facebook profile on February 10, 2012. When I looked at my “On This Day page” I was shocked to see a notification that Facebook had removed my post because it “looks like spam” and “violates community standards.” My post that violates some phantom “rule” was removed six years after the fact!

Really?

Yes, sharing a presidential candidate’s profile on another social media service qualifies as “spam” and violates community standards. This is despite the fact that nowhere in Facebook’s community standards is it forbidden to share a presidential candidate’s profile on another social media service.

This leads to an obvious question. How many of my other posts on Facebook have been taken down because they violate some Ex Post Facto “rule” that Facebook comes up with years after it was posted? How many others have had their posts removed because of this same kind of overly aggressive moderation?

I understand that Facebook is trying to deal with the problem of “fake news” and spam links, but this approach is far too aggressive and needs to be scaled back. It seems likely that my post was flagged by a bot instead of by a human being. Bots can be programmed well, but no bot will ever have the judgment of a human being. No human being would have looked at my post and honestly thought it was spam or violated community standards – unless that person was a Leftist activist who hates Rick Santorum.

Here is the irony in your aggressive moderation for spam. I have had comments auto-rejected because they “look like spam,” but those comments have been links to Snopes.com refuting hoaxes I see on my timeline. Facebook is actually making it more difficult to combat the spread of “fake news” with this new, overly aggressive approach to content moderation! You are preventing your users from exposing and refuting fake news. Is this what you really want? Are you against your users self-policing content?

Facebook is a private company, and therefore you can implement whatever rules and guidelines you wish. However, content moderation needs to be handled by human beings with a clear understanding of Facebook’s rules, not bots that auto-reject any URL address, even to a reliable source.

You have already seen a significant drop in use of your service, which is bad for business no matter how you try to spin it. You will only manage to drive more users away from your service and to competing services, especially if they cannot trust that posts completely within community guidelines will not be unfairly removed. Just because you are the 500 pound gorilla now does not mean that will always be the case.

Just ask MySpace.

Fake “christians” betraying the Gospel of Jesus Christ

We can support a leader’s policies and support him for election without excusing his moral defects. Why is this so difficult to comprehend? Last week, Dennis Prager defended evangelical Christians who support Donald Trump, on the basis that Trump has good policies.

Yes, Trump has good policies. He has been an ally to religious freedom, has worked to oppose abortion, has signed significant tax cuts, repealed ObamaCare’s wretched individual mandate, repealed job-killing regulations, and pursued a foreign policy that puts American interests first. (To answer inevitable Leftist objections: I am not addressing whether Trump personally believes any of this. I am talking about policy.) All of this is why I support Trump and why this former #NeverTrump voter who wrote in Darrell Castle in 2016 would not hesitate to vote for Trump if the 2020 general election were held today.

But the one thing Christians must never do is excuse the man’s wicked personal life in order to support his policies. It is a betrayal of the gospel of Jesus Christ to say Trump gets a “mulligan” on an alleged especially heinous act of adultery because his policies have been friendly to Christian values, as Tony Perkins did. (Perhaps the heretical “mulligan” remark could have applied 30 or 40 years ago, but not to something that allegedly took place in 2006.) It is cowardice and heresy to brush aside Trump’s immorality based on his policies, as Jerry Falwell Jr. did.

It is utterly disgusting to watch so-called “christians” brush aside and excuse Trump’s well-documented history of sexual depravity because his policies have been good. It is a betrayal of all of those Christians who struggle with sexual sin on a daily basis, because it lessens the good and necessary shame God gives us to protect our souls from the ravages of sin. When heretics pretending to be “pastors” do this, they are allowing wolves to devour the sheep entrusted to them. It angers me to no end.

As I said before, I did not vote for Trump. I still shake my head at his incredibly childish behavior, and I wish he would grow up and behave with the dignity and professionalism the office requires. But he is the incumbent, so the only path forward for conservatism through 2021 or 2025 is to work with him and support him as he fights for our values. Assuming he runs again, we will have the choice between continuing the good policies he has implemented and the terrible policies of the Democrats.

Trump, a lifelong New York City liberal who donated truckloads of cash to Democrats, was an unknown quantity in 2016 and there was no reason to trust that he would govern as a conservative. That is not the case now. He has a record, and that record should please any ideological conservative. But supporting that record and his continued place in the Oval Office does not require us to excuse his personal immorality or forbid us from denouncing it and calling on him to repent.

What people like Perkins and Falwell are doing is committing idolatry. They have placed access to political power over the gospel of the Savior who shed His precious blood to redeem us of our sins. Given their positions in the Christian community and the harm they are doing to believers who look to them for spiritual guidance, their apostasy and idolatry is especially heinous and despicable. These men are heretics, and their wicked teachings should be rejected by any faithful Christian.

Standing against the militarization of police

This is an open letter to Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton. I was the only candidate for city council in 2015 to oppose the purchase of a mine resistant, ambush protected military vehicle for the Bloomington Police Department and I remain opposed to the militarization of local police.

Mayor Hamilton,

I wanted to express my opposition to the purchase of a “BearCat” armored military vehicle for the Bloomington Police Department. I understand why an armored vehicle might be necessary in cases of an active shooter or hostage situation, and why an armored vehicle would be necessary to evacuate civilians or people who have been wounded. These are good objectives.

That said, I find it inappropriate to be adding a vehicle designed for military use to a city police department. As you recall, I objected to the purchase of a mine-resistant, ambush protected military vehicle in 2015, and those objections are still valid. Police are not soldiers, and should not have a soldier’s mentality. The reality is that outfitting police like soldiers encourages that mentality.

Radley Balko of the Washington Post has made some good points about police militarization: Even when police departments only intend to use military equipment in extreme situations, there will always be the temptation to use it in other situations – such as raids against nonviolent drug users. One of these pressures is to justify the purchase of the vehicle. Even if you have strict policies for the vehicle that limit its use, you will not be mayor forever and the next mayor could adopt a more aggressive stance.

I strongly encourage you to reconsider this decision and the implications for militarizing our local police department. I believe the Obama administration was right to reject the city’s request for a MRAP in 2015, and it is disappointing that the quest for a military vehicle has continued. In the past, the BPD has used an armored bank truck for hostage and active shooter situations, which would provide similar ability to protect and evacuate without the military implications of a BearCat.

We can lead by example, and I encourage you to choose this option instead.

The nanny state swallows all

With the “Tide Pod Challenge” all over social media and with mainstream media attention, it should be no surprise that authoritarians have decided that their subjects… I mean citizens are far too stupid to choose their own laundry detergent and government must heavily regulate their choices.

So yes, the nanny state swallows all, including Tide pods. The liberty to grab a single pod and drop it into the laundry instead of pouring out and measuring liquid or powder detergent must be restricted. While we are at it, dishwasher detergent pods should be banned too. After all, once Tide pods are banned people might move to dishwasher detergent. (As an aside, it is unfortunate that Tide has taken all of the heat for this, considering that other brands also offer the pods.)

I do not use laundry pods, but I can see the appeal of them – especially when you are at the end of your liquid detergent and you are not sure how many loads you have left. (I have used the dishwasher detergent pods, but they are very expensive.) With the pods, you know exactly how many you have left and how soon you need to go to the store to replenish your supply.

Of course, anything can be abused. That does not mean that products should be banned because of those who abuse them. For those worried about children ingesting the pods, how about this for a solution: Do not buy the brightly colored pods, and purchase liquid detergent instead. Some people even make their own laundry detergent at home, for a fraction of the cost of what you pay in the store!

We do not need government to micromanage our lives. Much like the War on Drugs, the War on Tide Pods will inevitably create a black market, especially where New York shares a border with states that are not as authoritarian. This is not something New York needs to spend time and money enforcing. Let people choose for themselves how to wash their laundry, and focus on the essential functions of state government.

What does it mean to be pro-life?

What does it mean to be pro-life? Does it mean only to oppose abortion, or to embrace a wide variety of issues where human life is threatened or degraded? What should the pro-life movement do about issues like immigration, police brutality, and helping the poor? Are we truly pro-life, or only “pro-birth?”

I wonder if people who push for the pro-life movement to address a broader variety of issues understand what we are talking about when we oppose abortion. Do they really understand the gravity of the situation, and are they truly committed to saving the unborn from being murdered?

The answer to what the pro-life movement should do to on any issue other than abortion and euthanasia is “nothing.” We should be laser-focused on protecting innocent human life from being terminated. This is not to say that other issues are unimportant, of course. But nothing else comes close to the slaughter of over one million innocent babies every single year. Nothing else comes close to an average of 19 babies murdered every week right here in Bloomington, Indiana.

But once we start moving away from abortion and euthanasia (where the pro-life movement is completely unified) we run the risk of splintering the movement and creating infighting. People of good conscience disagree on how to deal with illegal immigration, and the pro-life movement is split on capital punishment. The same could be said for numerous other issues. The more issues we address, the less effective we will be in opposing the murder of unborn babies. Ending abortion must be our primary goal.

There are other ways to address these other issues. There are groups that will lobby one way or the other on immigration policy, the opioid epidemic, social welfare policy, capital punishment, and use of force by law enforcement. We do not need to co-opt the pro-life movement when we have other avenues to address other issues we find important. We certainly do not need to water down our message because we are worried about what our enemies will say about us.

Abortion is the most critical moral issue of our time. If we truly believe abortion is the unjustifiable termination of a human life, then nothing else comes close. We have seen over sixty million defenseless unborn babies ripped limb from limb in their mothers’ wombs since, a holocaust that ought to exceed our worst nightmare. If you add all the causes of death together, none of them come close to the death toll of abortion. How could the pro-life movement be anything other than exclusively focused on that one issue?

Chillax, dude!

Democrats are hyperventilating over an off-the-cuff remark by the President this past week:

Even when he touted record-low black unemployment, Trump complained, Democrats sat on their hands. “They were like death. And un-American. Un-American. Somebody said ‘treasonous.’ I mean, yeah, I guess, why not? Can we call that treason? Why not? I mean they certainly didn’t seem to love our country very much.”

This is what people mean when they talk about taking President Trump seriously, but not literally. He was joking. Granted, what he said was unprofessional and unpresidential, but he was not seriously advocating making it a capital crime to not cheer him. Chillax.

Joe Donnelly’s repeated pro-abortion votes

This is an open letter to Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly.

First, I want to thank you for voting for the legislation to ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Then, I will explain why your vote does not matter and is hypocritical. Your vote was political pandering and virtue signaling, to hide the fact that you are actively working to keep abortion legal.

There is no reason to allow abortion after twenty weeks. Of course, there is no reason to allow abortion at all, but abortion at twenty weeks is especially heinous. We are talking about a fully formed, well-developed baby. We are talking about babies that in some cases are viable outside the womb. The following descriptions on BabyCenter.com for 20, 21 and 22 weeks are especially haunting, since your political party has voted that it should be legal to kill those babies by dismemberment.

20 weeks — Your baby can swallow now and his digestive system is producing meconium, the dark, sticky goo that he’ll pass in his first poop – either in his diaper or in the womb during delivery.

21 weeks — Your baby’s movements have gone from flutters to full-on kicks and jabs against the walls of your womb. You may start to notice patterns as you become more familiar with her activity.

22 weeks — Your baby now looks almost like a miniature newborn. Features such as lips and eyebrows are more distinct, but the pigment that will color his eyes isn’t present yet.

You support killing these babies by dismemberment, Senator Donnelly, no matter how many votes you cast on legislation to ban abortion at any stage during pregnancy. Your support for this slaughter is reflected in your membership in the Democratic Party, which has become radically pro-abortion. You voted to put in place leadership in the U.S. Senate that would never allow legislation banning abortion at 20 weeks from reaching the floor. You voted to have pro-abortion extremists chair key committees where legislation would be considered.

Senator Donnelly, you are not “pro-life.” You have supported a political party that is dedicated to protecting those who kill helpless little babies in the womb, even in the second and third trimester. You pretend to oppose abortion while you vote for Senate leadership who would ensure that no pro-life legislation ever makes it out of the Senate or even to the floor for a vote. Your hypocrisy and dishonesty is utterly repulsive. If you want to be taken seriously as a “pro-life” Senator, you need to abandon the Democratic Party.

Indiana’s Congressional districts are not gerrymandered

Ever since Trey Hollingsworth was elected to Congress, Leftists in Bloomington have been bitterly complaining that he won a “gerrymandered” district. But here is the dirty little secret that nobody wants to talk about: Indiana’s Congressional district map is not gerrymandered. Indiana is going to have a majority of Republican legislators because Indiana is a Republican state. That is reality.

All you have to do is look at the Congressional district map to see the districts are not gerrymandered. We have geographically compact districts that follow county lines, with equal populations. Yes, only two Congressional districts are held by Democrats, in the most Democratic areas of the state. That is not because of gerrymandering, but because the rest of the state is heavily Republican. To emphasize this point, examine the 2016 statewide election results:

♣ – Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton 56.5 percent to 37.5 percent.

♣ – Todd Young defeated Evan Bayh 52.1 percent to 42.4 percent.

♣ – Eric Holcomb defeated John Gregg 51.4 percent to 45.4 percent.

Hollingsworth got 54.1 percent of the vote in the Ninth District, but the margins in the districts immediately east and west (also in compact districts that follow county lines) were significantly bigger. Luke Messer got 69.1 percent of the vote, and Larry Bucshon got 63.7 percent of the vote. Basically, other than Monroe County, the southern half of Indiana is a Republican stronghold.

You can draw the Congressional district map for Indiana differently, but Democrats are always going to face a demographic disadvantage in Congressional races in that there are simply more Republicans than Democrats across the state. The same is true in reverse for Democratic states like New York. The fact that Republicans win the Congressional races does not mean that the districts are gerrymandered.

For historical perspective on Congressional districts, see the 2011 Republican map and the 2001 Democratic map. The Democrats drew the 4th District to keep heavily Republican Lawrence County out of Baron Hill’s 9th District and John Hostettler’s 8th District. To accomplish this, the Democrats used a sliver of Monroe County to put Bedford in the same district as Purdue, but not as Indiana University.

The Republican map is obviously an improvement over the heavily gerrymandered Democratic map of a decade earlier. It is not even close. Republicans need to stop allowing the Democrats to get away with pretending the maps are “gerrymandered” and push back against this meme. It is especially important for Republicans to call out the Democrats for their obscene hypocrisy on gerrymandered maps. President Trump has shown us how to fight back. We need to take that lesson and apply it in Indiana.