The Internet, discipline and the educational environment

USA Today had an interesting editorial last week about students posting on social networking sites disparaging teachers and administrators – sometimes in crude and sexually degrading ways. The schools argue such postings disrupt the educational environment, while students argue they are protected under the First Amendment.

First, I am extremely reluctant to allow any restrictions on free speech by government schools, because it sets a dangerous precedent. (Private schools are another matter and should be free to discipline as they see fit.) Once the precedent is established that a government school can punish a student for what he says off-campus on his own computer, the school can use that precedent to clamp down on other speech the school finds “disruptive.” Restricting bullying and harassment on school grounds is one thing. Censorship of speech off campus is something else.

Here in Monroe County, the school system has a reputation for censoring speech that the administration finds “offensive” or disagrees with the school’s dogma. When two students protested the “National Day of Silence” in 2005, the school censored them. The school claimed that that the speech was “disruptive” – as if students refusing to speak at all for an entire day was not disruptive. (For more, see here, here, here and here.) Is it really all that difficult to believe MCCSC would censor “homophobic” speech posted on the Internet if they had the chance?

The answer should be obvious. Parents need to discipline their children if they are posting crude and degrading remarks about teachers and administrators (or fellow students) online. A well-disciplined teenager will not be posting crude and degrading remarks in the first place, but it is never too late to “train up a child in the way he should go.” (Proverbs 22:6) While government schools must be very limited in what they can do regarding off-campus speech, parents should teach their children to respect the authority of the school and the people who hold that authority. (See Romans 13:1-4)

Lessons from the Shirley Sherrod case

Last week, Andrew Breitbart posted a clip of Shirley Sherrod sharing a story of how she initially did not want to help a white farmer save his farm because of bitterness at the way black farmers had been treated. The clip was only the beginning of the story she shared – she realized her initial reaction had been wrong, and the Washington Post reports that “she had been instrumental in saving the man’s farm.” The damage had been done before the full story came out – her reputation had been harmed and the Obama Administration forced her to resign.

Of course, it was the Obama administration who forced her to resign – not Andrew Breitbart, not Bill O’Reilly and not Rush Limbaugh. Fearing a political backlash, the Obama administration was as guilty of rushing to judgment as anyone else. The Obama Administration bears the greatest responsibility because they are the ones who actually have the power to preserve or destroy Sherrod’s career. This was primarily the Obama Administration’s failure.

The lesson here for bloggers and pundits on both sides is we have to be careful in how we report things. (Ask Rush Limbaugh about being taken out of context.) I had not commented on the Sherrod case until now, because I had not followed the story at all last week and finally got caught up on Sunday. Because of this, I was lambasted by Leftists and accused of lying because I refrained from making a value judgment without all the facts.

Nonetheless, while both video clips and written editorials can be mined for inflammatory statements taken out of context, the error we now face is going to the other extreme and refusing to trust even the most obvious evidence. When a thug Congressman was caught on tape physically assaulting student journalists, there was no “context” needed to explain his criminal behavior. When Baron Hill berated a college student for trying to tape his town hall meeting (and had a meltdown afterward) there was no “context” needed to explain his arrogance.

I have been called a liar for posting a video showing Elena Kagan refusing to admit that she wrote a memo that was clearly in her handwriting. She did finally admit to writing the memo, but only after she was cornered and had no other choice. My statement was clearly accurate: Kagan did refuse to admit authorship of the memo even when confronted by irrefutable evidence that she wrote it. Her decision to admit authorship later was a political decision, because continuing to flagrantly lie about it would have destroyed her chances of being on the Supreme Court.

The lessons of the Sherrod case are clear: we should not rush to judgment before we have all the facts, but we should not refrain from judgment when there are clearly more than enough facts to discern what had happened.

Kevin Suddeth’s eligibility to be a candidate

The Herald-Times reported that a local woman has challenged Kevin Suddeth’s eligibility as a candidate against incumbent Democrat Matt Pierce in the incredibly Democratic 61st state legislative district. Suddeth’s eligibility is a legitimate question, so two paragraphs from the article merit special attention:

In the challenge, Farrell argued Suddeth isn’t qualified to run because he wasn’t registered to vote in Monroe County prior to a February deadline for candidates to declare their candidacy. She said her claim is bolstered by the fact the county election board later tossed out Suddeth’s provisional primary ballot, declaring it invalid because he wasn’t registered to vote here.


County Clerk Jim Fielder confirmed Suddeth voted provisionally in this year’s primary election, after he’d gone to his Monroe County Washington Township precinct to cast his ballot but discovered his name wasn’t in the books. He said Suddeth told local election officials both he and his wife had gone to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles to transfer their registration from Greene County, but only her name showed up in the local polling book.

There are two facts and a claim that show it is entirely proper for Suddeth to be on the ballot in November. The facts are as follows: First, Mrs. Suddeth was registered to vote in Washington Township on the day of the primary. Second, both of them showed up to vote on the day of the primary. Suddeth says that they both attempted to change their voter registration when they visited the Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

It appears that there was an error made by the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, and Suddeth’s change of registration was not processed. The fact that Suddeth’s wife was registered is significant, as is the fact that Suddeth attempted to vote in what he clearly believed to be his proper location. There is no reason to doubt Suddeth’s claim that he made a good faith effort to change his registration.

Given these facts, Suddeth should remain on the ballot. He should not be denied his right to run for elective office because of a mistake by the BMV. More importantly, the voters should not be denied the right to make a choice in a district that has had major-party opposition only once in the last five elections. If Suddeth’s candidacy is voided, it will set a bad precedent that will encourage partisan operatives to make “mistakes” to keep candidates off the ballot.

See Kevin Suddeth’s campaign website.

News media flagrantly lies about video games – again

When it comes to video games, you simply cannot trust the mainstream news media. This has been obvious for nearly two decades now, and the MSM has made no effort to reform itself despite repeated humiliations caused either by laziness or outright dishonesty. Unless you’re reading a source specifically dedicated to covering the video game industry, you have to take what you’re reading with a grain of salt.

Let’s have a little history lesson. In the early 1990’s, Sega released a game called “Night Trap” for the Sega CD, an add-on to the Genesis. It was a horror-themed game where the player had to spring traps at specific times in order to trap monsters that were invading a house to kill the women inside.

Basically, the player had to memorize when and where to spring the traps. The MSM’s sensationalistic coverage – and fact-deprived Congressional “hearings” – led people to believe that the player was the one killing the women. Furthermore, The grainy full motion video was much more tame than sensationalistic news media coverage or shameless liars in Congress would have led you to believe.

Now we have another day, and another set of shameless lies by the mainstream media. A British “newspaper” reported that Rockstar Games was going to make a “Grand Theft Auto” sequel about the infamous crimes in Rothbury. The problem is there was no such game. It was made up out of whole cloth. The “newspaper” didn’t even bother to contact Rockstar Games to confirm the rumor – because facts would get in the way of a despicable smear.

This wasn’t even a mistake. This is a fabrication meant to smear a company to increase readership for the so-called “newspaper” – something that should not surprise anyone who has followed the mainstream media’s coverage of the video game industry for any length of time. This is truly shameful.

Previous articles:

Be a parent! — March 26, 2010

News Flash: Video Games are not real — March 25, 2009

Jack Thompson’s jihad against video games — January 14, 2008

Why can’t the media get basic facts right? — June 12, 2007

Bayh’s video game crusade misguided — December 5, 2005

Super Mario Brothers made me break my hand — July 29, 2005

We don’t need government to police video games — December 20th, 2004

Thinking about 1 Timothy 6:10

When we are reading Scripture, it is important that we take the words seriously, not just the ideas. For example, when a wicked “translation” of the Bible mutilates John 1:1 to say that “the Word was a God,” it rips out the divinity of Jesus Christ.

It is appropriate and important, therefore, to consider the use of the definite article “the” in 1 Timothy 6:10. My preferred translation, the King James Version, states that “the love of money is the root of all evil.” But is this correct? First, let’s consider a few more translations:

♣ The New International Version states that “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil”

♣ The New American Standard Bible states that “the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil”

♣ The New King James states that “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil”

♣ The English Standard Version states that “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils”

So which is correct, the definite article or the indefinite article?

First, we should recognize that our temptation is always to soften Scripture so it does not condemn us so harshly. This is especially important for Americans to remember, because we are so incredibly wealthy. Even many people who are considered to be “poor” have luxuries that would make them incredibly rich elsewhere in the world, including air conditioning, cable TV, a computer with Internet access and disposable income. Our love of money as Americans is condemned in slightly more gentle terms when we use the indefinite article.

With this temptation recognized, we also need to think about it logically and use discernment. When you closely examine the world we live in, the love of money is clearly not the root of all evil. It simply cannot be.

Sexual sins, for example, are not driven by the love of money. A man who cheats on his wife does not do so because he seeks wealth, but because of lust. He may even be risking great financial harm by doing so. Even the obscenely profitable porn industry only makes money only because people are willing to pay to satisfy their lust. Alcohol and drug abuse are sins that are also not driven by the love of money. (Not for the addict, anyway.) The addict risks severe financial hardship by making his drug of choice into his god.

So no, the love of money is not the root of all evil, although the love of money certainly leads to an incredible amount of wickedness, depravity, and suffering.

That said, the love of money does tempt us to twist Scripture or explain away the clear text to make Scripture say something that it does not. For example, some people argue that Judas was motivated by a zealous desire to remove the imperial Roman authority, and betrayed Jesus because He was not going to be the military leader the Jews wanted to see. But the Bible is very clear that Judas betrayed Jesus for money, especially when he asked the Pharisees what they would give him to betray Jesus. We should also not forget that Judas was a thief who was stealing from the money that the Disciples had.

Followers of Jesus Christ should be on guard against and praying for God to protect us from the love of money. Given how incredibly wealthy we are as Americans, it should shake us to the core when we read Jesus explaining that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter Heaven.

France moves toward banning veils

The French Parliament voted to make it illegal for women to wear full-face Islamic veils in public, setting up a showdown over whether the ban is illegal. The wearing of veils has reached epidemic proportions in France, where it is estimated that 2,000 women wear veils in a nation of 64 million people that includes 5 million Muslims. Clearly, the French parliament needed to act before they were overrun by the veils and forced to adopt Sharia law.

On Sean Hannity’s radio program yesterday, a caller suggested that women who want to wear veils go back to their own country. What if the people affected are natives of France? Would she be saying the same thing if France was moving to ban crosses in public? Is there any honest person who does not know the answer to that question?

The caller further complained that Islam is dangerous because it forces people to choose Allah over family, including one’s children. I’m certainly not defending Islam, which is a false religion that leads followers to Hell. The caller’s argument, however, ignores Matthew 10:37, where Jesus clearly states that He must be the most important thing in the life of any Believer – a reasonable expectation for the Son of God who died to save His creation from sin.

This law is an expression of anti-Muslim bigotry, plain and simple. It is designed to stir tensions against a virtually nonexistent practice. It is a completely unnecessary move by a paranoid government that is creating unnecessary conflict with both the Muslim population in France and the Muslim world in general. High-minded justifications that this is to protect women from being forced to wear veils are disingenuous at best – that could be done though the law without making it illegal for women to wear a veil by choice.

President Obama has promised to reach out to the Muslim world. He should do that by denouncing French extremism and making it clear that the United States supports religious freedom, including the right to wear religious clothing as one sees fit, within reason and without being disruptive.

The criminalization of dissent

When I saw Yahya Chaudhry’s editorial in the IDS, I assumed it would be the usual call for racist speech, white supremacist propaganda or other such filth to be censored. I’ve seen these arguments a number of times, and I vehemently disagree with any efforts to censor speech no matter how offensive that speech may be. It is precisely the speech that is universally offensive where we need to defend free speech most, because censorship of that speech establishes a precedent that endangers all speech – including Chaudhry’s editorials.

Chaudhry’s “argument” was much more insidious and dangerous than that. Chaudhry actually argued videos claiming that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is dictator (which he is) or memorializing a woman shot during the protests “constituted hate speech.” Chaudhry dishonestly equated calls for the death of Ali Khamenei to legitimate criticisms of Ahmadinejad.

This is ridiculous.

What Chaudhry is advocating is the criminalization of all dissent by labeling it “hate.” Under Chaudhry’s cynical, self-serving and authoritarian definition of “hate,” virtually anything can be classified as “hate speech” and criminalized. Chaudhry’s definition of what incites violence could easily lead to censorship of e-mails, Facebook posts and other speech by the Communications Workers of America in protest of a lack of a raise for IU employees, critics of Mitch Daniels and his budgetary priorities, and criticisms of President George W. Bush’s overreaches in the War on Terror, including the inappropriately named “Patriot Act.”

Chaudhry makes the statement that Americans “must continue to hold onto our First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and press” and then follows up that statement by saying “the Internet must be regulated.” The two statements are mutually exclusive, making it clear that the first statement is merely a cynical attempt to shield himself from accusations that he hates freedom. Furthermore, Chaudhry’s overly broad definition of “hate speech” makes him an apologist for a tyrannical and murderous regime.

Chaudhry clearly does not understand why free speech is important, especially over the last 15 years as the Internet has become a way for anyone to have a public platform to criticize those in power. Free speech allows us to hold government accountable and is a critical tool for protecting our freedom and keeping government in check. It is no surprise that authoritarians and their apologists seek to eliminate free speech. The butchers in Iran are terrified of the Internet, and with good reason: The Internet is a threat to absolute power.

Democrats and the arrogance of power

When Vice President Joe Biden was visiting a frozen custard shop, a store manager made a remark about lowering taxes. In response, an irritated Biden said, “why don’t you say something nice instead of being a smartass all the time.”

We are in the midst of a severe economic downturn, and the federal government approved a $1 trillion “economic stimulus” package to reverse the trend. (The stimulus failed, as expected.) Businesses that are still operating do so under a heavy tax and regulatory burden, with more coming thanks to the Obama regime meddling in the health care system and other initiatives. It is reasonable, then, for businesses to hope for a lower tax burden so they can use that money to invest, hire more employees and expand the business. It’s worked before, after all.

This is not a “smartass” position. This is a request for a change in public policy, which is protected by the First Amendment. The fact that the Vice President arrogantly dismissed one of the people who pays for his salary, pension and health care demonstrates the arrogance of power.

This is relevant for the Ninth District, because Baron Hill brought Biden to Indiana to help raise money. Does Hill support Biden’s arrogant dismissal of a constituent? It is more than fair to say that The Red Baron approves of Biden’s remarks. After all, it was just last September that Hill publicly berated a college student at a town hall meeting after she attempted to record the meeting for a school project, declaring “this is my town hall meeting for you. And you’re not going to tell me how to run my Congressional office.”

As arrogant as they are, Hill and Biden are far from the worst Democrats in Washington. At least Hill and Biden have not (yet) resorted to felony assault and intimidation, as notorious thug Bob Etheridge did earlier this year when a college student dared to film him and ask him a policy question on a public sidewalk. Why exactly are Democrats like Hill and Etheridge so terrified of college students with video cameras? What are they trying to hide?

Hill, Biden and Etheridge are evidence that the Democratic Party is out of touch and holds average citizens in contempt. We do not need a federal government that is determined to rule rather than represent its citizens. We do not need a federal government that has such disdain for citizens who agree with their policy. We need real hope and change in Washington. One way to get that hope and change – and elected officials that actually listen to the people they represent – is to elect Todd Young in November.

Throwing the party under the bus

Last week, the chairman of the Monroe County Republican Party told the Herald-Times that he was having trouble recruiting candidates: “In 2008, we got our pants beat off. I think people are reluctant at this point.”

This is completely unacceptable, not to mention counter-factual.

The Republican Party has candidates in the incredibly Democratic fourth county council district as well as the incredibly Democratic 61st state representative district. With all due respect to the candidates, it is extremely unlikely that a Republican will win (or even be competitive) either of those races because of the demographics of the districts.

It is significant that we have someone to challenge Peggy Welch in the 60th state representative district, despite the fact that Welch obliterated her challengers in 3 consecutive elections (in a heavily Republican district, no less) to the point that no one even bothered to challenge her in 2006 and 2008. In fact, two prominent Republicans competed in the primary for the right to challenge Welch in November.

Which seats are the Republicans not challenging? One glaring omission is the three judge seats. Nonetheless, this is understandable because it is very difficult to defeat an incumbent judge. Even though 2008 was sure to be a huge Democratic year, no Democrat stepped up to challenge Ken Todd. A Republican should have challenged Steve Galvin because of his ruling in favor of the city’s fraudulent theft of Jeff Sagarin’s property, but I can see why nobody wanted to take him on. Galvin is very popular, even if he is illiterate.

It is no surprise that nobody challenged Judy Sharp, who has won repeatedly with large margins. She won in a landslide even in strong Republican years like 2002, where the Democratic candidate for Secretary of State lost his home county, Republicans unseated an incumbent county commissioner and won three of four county council district seats.

The biggest disappointment is that no Republican is challenging incumbent Democrat Vic Kelson.

Republicans have had three consecutive bad county elections, bit those came after very good years in 2000 and 2002. The conservative base is highly energized, which is obvious by the large attendance at Tea Party protests. Outside of Kelson’s race, Republicans have done a good job filling the ticket – even in races that may be unwinnable.

So why is the Monroe County Republican Party Chairman throwing his own party under the bus, in a year that is likely to be a strong Republican year and in a year where the candidate for Congress in the Ninth District is a Monroe County resident? The chairman should not be demoralizing party faithful about Republican chances in the fall with counter-factual pessimism. Let’s not shoot ourselves in the foot.

LeBron James goes to Miami

LeBron James announced his decision to take less money for a chance to win an NBA championship in Miami in an hour-long TV special that put the exclamation point on egomania. James is getting plenty of heat for making his decision (no pun intended) but this business of “loyalty” is silly. (See pathetic hypocritical whining here.)

Perhaps one could make the case that there was a time where loyalty existed in professional basketball. That has not been the case for many years. Does anyone think that the Cleveland Cavaliers would not trade James in a heartbeat if they thought it would benefit them? It would certainly not be an unprecedented move.

As the Atlanta Hawks were making a run for the NBA championship in 1994, they exiled star forward Dominique Wilkins to the L.A. Clippers because they thought they had a better chance to win with Danny Manning – a decision that infuriated Atlanta fans. The New York Knicks sent Hall of Fame center Patrick Ewing to Seattle a decade ago, a decision that shocked Knicks fans. There are many other examples.

Michael Rosenberg compares James leaving Cleveland to Michael Jordan leaving Chicago for Detroit in 1990. What exactly did Jordan get in return for turning Chicago from an embarrassing lottery team to a team that won 6 championships in 8 years? An egomaniac general manager breaking up a team that could have easily continued that run so that he could prove he could build a winner without Jordan and Scottie Pippin.

This is a business. NBA teams have no loyalty to their players and should expect no loyalty in return. James made the decision that he thought would be best for his career. While the hour-long special on ESPN was a sleazy way to inflate his ego and draw even more attention to himself, I see nothing wrong with James going to Miami.

From a basketball standpoint, it will be interesting to see how James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade coexist in Miami. The three of them are intimidating on paper, but when the season starts and they have to play together, will three players who are used to being the #1 option be able to adjust to a reduced role and still be effective?

The 1999 Houston Rockets had Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley and Scottie Pippen, all of whom are in the Hall of Fame. Houston was expected to go deep into the playoffs if not win the championship, but they fizzled in the first round against the Los Angeles Lakers. Meanwhile, the 2007-2008 Boston Celtics had three stars who were used to being the first option, but they meshed well and won a championship.

While the desire to win was the biggest motivator for James, We should not discount the role of taxes in his decision. After all, Florida has no state income tax. This is one of the big reasons Rush Limbaugh relocated there in 1997. Wade, Bosh and James were all free agents and could have theoretically signed with any team in the league, but they chose Miami. James could have joined Amare Stoudemire in New York, but he would have paid much more in taxes.

With all of this said, I would be remiss if I did not point out the completely idolatrous nature of this obsession with where James would play next season. I admit I am a casual basketball fan, though I do not follow the NBA nearly as closely as I did in the 1990’s. But there is a line where being a sports fan crosses over into worship. We live in a culture that is completely saturated with idolatry and most Christians (to say nothing of pagans) have no idea of the dangers we face daily. Pro sports has a place, but that place must never be ahead of God.