An ongoing ‘Melo-drama comes to an end

For months, two things have been clear about the Denver Nuggets’ Carmelo Anthony: he wanted to sign an extension for maximum money and he wanted to play for the New York Knicks. Only Denver could offer him maximum money, so he wanted to be traded so New York would have the right to pay him more. New York gave up some key players last week to get Anthony, and now he has the opportunity to get everything he wanted.

Because the numbers are so big here, I do not completely understand Anthony’s perspective. Obviously, if you have the opportunity to make a huge salary, you would rather not settle for a lower salary. But even at the lower rate he would sign as a free agent, he would still make tens of millions and be set for life. Were I in that situation, it seems logical to leave millions on the table to go to the city and team where I really want to play. Even at the lower amount, I will still make more than enough to never have to worry about my finances again.

The Knicks are dramatically improved over last year, and Anthony could still make several million per year by signing with them as a free agent. Then, the Knicks could keep the good players they traded for him. Anthony would be where he wants to be and have a better chance of contending for a championship than before. Anthony decided he would rather have a weaker team around him so he could make significantly more money. He is fully within his rights to do that, but it does not make him look like a team player.

Unfortunately, the way this was handled reflects badly on the NBA. The very public discussion of trading Anthony was a distraction for Denver all season, and it appeared the future of three franchises (including the New Jersey Nets, who were also trying to trade for Anthony) were being held hostage to the demands of one star player. It reinforces the perspective that many have that the NBA is filled with spoiled stars who demand to get their way.

While I keep tabs on the NBA, I do not follow it closely enough to really predict how the new players will impact the future prospects of the Knicks and Nuggets. The biggest problem the Knicks have now is having enough money to put enough pieces around Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire so they can be championship contenders. It is almost certain that the new collective bargaining agreement to be negotiated this summer will lower or more strictly enforce the salary cap, so being able to afford good players will be more difficult.

Michael Rosenberg raised a legitimate point that this episode has “made a mockery of the Nuggets’ season” and reinforces “the perception that the league selectively enforces its rules.” This has hurt the reputation of the league, and it has come at a very bad time because of the potential for a lockout if negotiations stall on the collective bargaining agreement. There may not be an NBA season at all for 2011-2012, or it may be shortened.

The NBA, arguably more than any other professional sports league, is dominated by the top players in the game. Much of this is simply due to the nature of the game, and the NBA has marketed itself as a league of stars for decades. But when stars take such a big role to the point of determining the rosters of three NBA teams, it hurts the league’s reputation. The NBA needs to look very carefully at this and how to prevent further damage.

Swimming in the sewer, but unable to smell the feces

In 2009, a 26-year-old man from Virginia “connected with a 13-year-old Bloomington girl on MySpace and then traveled by bus to Bloomington and had sex with her,” according to the Herald-Times. The perpetrator could have served 50 years behind bars, but he was sentenced to time served and released after the trial.

In the comments, people were furious. Here is a sample of what was posted:

  • She’s pregnant with his child and they couldn’t reach a verdict?!!!
  • Why couldn’t they get the A Felony conviction? Why are jurors so scared to ocnvict? Bad prosecution? I don’t get it.
  • But if juries won’t convict these kinds of people, what is wrong with this world?
  • We would have been better of if he got the 50 years at a second trial, because now we’re out the money for the first trial, and a year of room and board…Good job prosecutor..YOU SUCK!
  • the guy charged with the crime sucks, the prosecutor sucks, the Bloomington jury sucks

The irony of this is that if the 13-year-old girl had only gone to Planned Parenthood to get some taxpayer-funded birth control provided by the Monroe County Democratic Party, this man could have gotten away with his crime. He would never have been charged and would never have served a day behind bars. The only reason he was caught is that the girl’s pregnancy was prima facie evidence that a felony had taken place.

Last June and October, the Monroe County Democratic Party entered into a criminal conspiracy with Planned Parenthood to help child abusers like this man cover up their crimes so they can continue to abuse children. Planned Parenthood asked the Bloomington City Council and the Monroe County Council for thousands of dollars to give contraceptives to girls as young as 13.

Now why would 13-year-old girls need contraceptives? It is a felony in the state of Indiana for anyone to have sex with anyone 13 years old or younger. Contraceptives only serve to help sexual predators cover up their crimes, and the Democrats know it. Why does the Monroe County Democratic Party support felony child abuse?

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Justice, not convictions, must always be the goal

Two cases in the news illustrate how too many in our criminal justice system have forgotten about the importance of the second word – or worse, they are ignoring it for their own personal gain.

First, Radley Balko explores the case of two people convicted in a bizarre child abuse conspiracy, despite the lack of evidence against them. After a judge released the two from prison, a higher court ruled he exceeded his authority and they are waiting to see if they will be sent back.

The question, ultimately, should not be about whether the judge followed the law in releasing Nancy Smith and Joseph Allen. The question should be whether Smith and Allen are actually guilty of the crimes that have caused them to spend years in prison. It is obviously important that judges follow the law, but it is perverse to have that, rather than the question of whether crimes have actually been committed, as the focus of the hearings.

Meanwhile, The Washington Post investigates the use of DNA evidence and the attempts of convicted criminals to request DNA evidence in their cases. Craig Watkins, the district attorney for Dallas, asks a legitimate question: if there is a question about guilt and DNA could clear that up, what’s the harm?

It is possible that some criminals are only trying to prolong the appeals process and lengthening the process and the DNA testing itself does cost money. That is a concern as so many states and localities struggle with budget shortfalls. But while rejecting frivolous appeals is reasonable, the primary purpose of the criminal justice system is justice, not cost containment and certainly not a positive win/loss record for prosecutors.

The problem in both cases is that the basic orientation of the criminal justice system has been corrupted. We hear political candidates (especially for prosecutor) brag about how any criminals they have put away when it comes time for an election, and politicians promise to keep us safe from crime. But who is going to protect the rights of the many, many innocent people who have been convicted on faulty evidence and spent years behind bars?

Let’s also not forget that while most people in law enforcement are good people, corruption exists. Mike Nifong is one of the most infamous examples of a corrupt politician who tried to railroad innocent men for crimes they did not commit. If Nifong’s victims did not have the financial resources to defend themselves – and a few vigilant journalists exposing his criminal conspiracy with Crystal Gail Mangum – he might have gotten away with his crimes.

More and more, the “war on crime” has become a war on civil liberties, and justice is being left behind. As the Tea Party movement has helped raise a healthy skepticism about government in the American people, now is the time to make serious reforms to the criminal justice system and re-emphasize limits on government.

Race baiting in anthem controversy is despicable

Last month, a controversy erupted over a high school girl’s performance of the national anthem. The controversy quickly became overblown to the point of absurdity.

The teenager delivered a perfectly fine rendition of the national anthem and she’s obviously a very talented young lady. She didn’t embellish the tune any more than Jessica Simpson, Faith Hill or any number of artists who have put their own spin on the tune. Those who are bent out of shape about it need to chill out and relax.

But what was far more offensive, and far more destructive to this community, the school system and the nation was the despicable, shameful race-baiting done by demagogues on the issue. This is not an issue of racism or discrimination, it is an issue of people who are too tightly wound about the “right” way to sing a song.

Does anyone really believe that the administration of Bloomington North High School is actively trying to suppress the girl’s black heritage? Those who actually believe this are either stupid or paranoid, and maybe both.

But many who have been screeching “racism” did not actually believe it at all. It was yet another opportunity to stir up racial tensions in order to gain political advantage. That is just plain sick. When people play the race card so shamelessly, it makes us all a little more cynical, and it destroys that person’s credibility to charge racism when real racism exists. Race-baiting on this issue only serves to empower racists.

We have a terrible history regarding race in this nation, and many racial sins. Fabricating racism where there is simply artistic difference does a great disservice to MCCSC, the Bloomington community and our nation.

Private property rights trump abortion "rights"

The IDS editorial board’s position of February 14 is instructive, in that it demonstrates how some of those who claim to be “pro-choice” on abortion rights are actually pro-abortion.

The IDS is upset that a court allowed a landlord to decline to lease office space to an abortionist. The issue is not that the government is restricting access to abortion, because that is not happening. The issue is private property rights.

If a private property owner does not wish to rent space to an abortionist – or any other business for that matter – he should have the right to do so and the government should protect that right under freedom of association. After all, freedom of association necessarily includes the freedom not to associate.

But what Mila Means and her supporters at the IDS want is for the property owner’s wishes to be overruled in the name of “choice.” But for freedom to truly exist, both sides need to enter the arrangement of their own free will.

There is no “right” to abortion in the US Constitution, other than the one the Supreme court “found” implied in the text in 1973. Private property rights, however, are clearly protected by our founding document. The IDS editorial board should review the Fifth Amendment, which makes it illegal for government to take private property “for public use, without just compensation.” If the government were to force Foliage Development to rent to means, that would be a taking.

It is a tragedy that it is legal to murder babies in their mother’s wombs. We should not compound the injustice of 50 million murders since 1973 by taking away the private property rights of Foliage Development for a fraudulent “pro-choice” (actually radically pro-abortion) ideology.

The providence and sovereignty of God

Here is an excellent post by David Bayly on God’s providence and why we should recognize it.

David is right when he says even pagans interpret providence. Last spring, when an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico exploded, some militant environmentalists celebrated it by saying things like “god is a Democrat.” (I think they mean the pagan goddess Gaia.) Read Rush Limbaugh comment here and here.

What is interesting here is that many of the same people who warn us against proclaiming God’s judgment do not hesitate to recognize God’s blessing. Pop culture is filled with these very messages, from songs like “Jesus take the wheel” to stupid email forwards that show up in our inbox from time to time. Why is it that those who warn against pointing out God’s providence in judgment are silent when people praise God’s providence in blessings?

That God often acts against His enemies is common all through Scripture. We see the story of King Nebuchadnezzar and the writing on the wall, God’s punishment of King David’s adultery with Bathsheba and God removing King Saul from power for disobedience. This continues in the New Testament, with God striking down Herod with a worm and killing Ananias and Sapphira for lying to the Holy Spirit. The Apostle Paul warns of the consequences of taking the Lord’s Supper unworthily in 1 Corinthians 11:27-32.

It is true that we are fallible human beings and we may misinterpret God’s providence. Our judgment is clouded by sin and we can often be wrong, which is not the case with the infallible and inerrant Bible. Therefore, we should be humble as we interpret events and the providence of God in those events. However, it is foolishness for Christians to abandon the doctrine of God’s sovereignty in our lives when that doctrine is woven throughout all of Scripture.

We must also remember that not all suffering is a judgment from God. The book of Job is the story of a righteous man who is allowed to suffer but maintains his faith. The Apostle Paul has a “thorn in the flesh” that God declined to remove, saying that His grace was enough.

But Scripture is very clear that God judges here on earth for wickedness. The world hates this doctrine, and many Christians are afraid of proclaiming it for fear we will look like kooks. But that is exactly why we need to defend the doctrine of providence. Remember that Martin Luther encouraged us to defend Scripture at “precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking.”

Vouchers are an invitation to government meddling

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. – Matthew 6:24

In the fall of 1984, I enrolled in Grace Baptist Academy in my hometown. I graduated in 1992. Even when I was in high school, there was talk about vouchers to allow tax monies to follow a student to whatever school his parents chose, to encourage competition and allow students to get the best education possible. I am opposed to vouchers precisely because of my experience at GBA.

It is not because I did not get a good education. I am thankful to God that He allowed me the opportunity to be educated in a Christian environment, from a Christian perspective. I am thankful for the Bible classes, the chapel services and the fact that faith was woven thought everything I was taught – including (and especially) our basketball team. I do not want anyone to have that opportunity to be taken away.

In the short term, vouchers would be a benefit to families seeking a Christian education and for the schools themselves. But what happens when someone with an ACLU mentality is elected and has authority over how the voucher monies are distributed? “Well, you see, we believe in separation of church and state. Therefore, we cannot have public monies going to religious education. Students who have their tuition paid for by vouchers cannot attend chapel services or take Bible classes. Their science textbooks must be secular.”

That is just the tip of the iceberg. What if the government decides that the school may not discriminate in hiring practices, and must allow equal opportunity to homosexuals, atheists or Muslims? What if the government mandates a sex education curriculum devised by the predators at Planned Parenthood? What of the government decides every school should distribute condoms? At what point does the compromise become too much to bear?

So now the Christian school faces a quandary. What if they hired teachers or made other investments based on the increased enrollment? Can they now do without the vouchers, or will they instead justify compromising their principles by pointing to all of the good they can do with that money? Do not assume they will make the right decision. How many churches would refrain from disciplining a notorious adulterer because of all the good they can do with the money he donates? Remember, ruling elders are sinful men just like everyone else.

We do not need to entangle Christian schools with government money and the strings that come with that money. We cannot assume that the hand that feeds us today will never become a fist that punches us. We need to have faith that God will provide what we need, rather than turning to a government that is more often than not hostile to our faith.

Sheila Jackson Lee: The girl who cried racism

We have all heard the fable about the boy who cried wolf. He was sent to guard the sheep, and decided to scream that there was a wolf. The people of the town would come running, much to the boy’s amusement. When a wolf really came, no one believed him and the wolf killed the livestock – and the boy with it. The dishonorable Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) would do well to remember that.

Congresswoman Jackson Lee whined on the floor of the House that the Pepsi Maxx commercial featuring a henpecked man and his overbearing wife was “demeaning” and inappropriate during black history month.

Oh, give me a break. There was nothing racist about the ad. You could argue that the ad was misogynistic, with the beleaguered husband unable to enjoy a treat because of his meddlesome shrew of a wife – the poor guy was hiding in the bathtub trying to enjoy a hamburger when his wife rips the burger from his hand and shoves a bar of soap in his mouth. If the couple had been played by two white actors alongside the attractive white jogger, no one would have given it a second thought beyond the initial reaction: “Well, that was stupid.”

This is ridiculous. People like Jackson Lee are looking for an excuse to be “offended” and demand their “grievances” be addressed. The professionally offended need to be mocked and ridiculed, and certainly not taken seriously.

Are race relations really so good that this is what a multi-term member of Congress needs to be spending time crying about? There are legitimate problems faced by blacks in this country, and a stupid ad for a diet cola is not one of them. There are legitimate examples of racism that should be condemned. A stupid commercial is not one of them.

This controversy is demeaning, but it was the congresswoman’s whining that is demeaning. It is demeaning to people who have endured real racism for a member of Congress to play the race card about a silly diet soda commercial. By screaming “racism” where there is none, Jackson Lee reduces her credibility to name and shame real racism, because she is rightly seen as a clown.

Draw legislative districts for the people, not the politicians

The Herald-Times had a good editorial on Sunday about the upcoming redistricting of state legislative districts and the need to avoid gerrymandering those districts. Because the districts are so gerrymandered, a huge number of legislative districts did not have any major party opposition in the general election.

Leading Republicans have promised to draw boundaries that make geographical sense, rather than to maximize the political power of one party or another. After the shamelessly gerrymandered maps the Democrats passed in 2001, that would be a welcome change. The Congressional districts make absolutely no sense, especially the 4th District, which was drawn to pack as many Republicans in as possible.

Congressional districts are easier, because they have a much higher profile than state legislative districts. It is those legislative districts where the rubber meets the road. That is where incumbent legislators will have the most temptation to draw maps that will ensure their re-election every year through at least the 2010 census. This is where reform will be more difficult to implement, which is why an open process (and a vigilant press) is necessary.

It makes sense to stack the house districts on top of the senate districts. There are 100 seats in the house and 50 in the senate, so it should be relatively simple to draw two house districts within the boundaries of each senate district. This would simplify the process for the people of Indiana and make it easier for people to determine who their legislators are. Obviously, this would require a great deal of cooperation between the two chambers.

Some Republicans argue that because the Democrats have gerrymandered in the past, we should take this opportunity to draw districts that are favorable to Republicans. It is possible to draw districts that make geographical sense but still benefit your party. However, Republicans can take a leadership role here by resisting that temptation.

There is also a political benefit for Governor Mitch Daniels, who is frequently mentioned as a possible candidate for President in 2012. Leading his fellow Republicans to eschew gerrymandering would be seen as a practical and bipartisan step in reforming government and making it more accountable. With all of the talk about bipartisanship, this is a concrete step that Daniels can use to bolster his credentials while advancing a policy that benefits all Hoosiers.

Statewide smoking ban: The nanny state marches on

The Tea Party movement was largely responsible for the 2010 Republican tide, and Indiana Republicans reaped the benefits by not only capturing the Indiana House of Representatives but capturing a 60-seat supermajority in that chamber. That is why it is so disappointing that a party that gained power on the strength of a movement dedicated to limited government is advancing nanny-state legislation to protect us from ourselves.

It is bad enough when individual cities, towns and counties ban smoking on private property. At least there are places in the state where private property rights are respected. For state government to overrule the wishes of those localities where smoking is not banned is an overreach. There is no pressing need to ban smoking in “public places” and there is no need to force this on localities that do not share the nanny state sentiments of places like Bloomington.

Let me be clear: it is foolish to smoke tobacco. If you smoke, you should stop – not only for your own health but for the good of your loved ones. But this legislation is simply wrong.

Banning smoking in true public places like government buildings is the right thing to do. But while restaurants and other businesses may be seen as “public places” they are actually private property. Government has no business telling a private property owner that he may not allow consenting adults to use a legal product on his property. The property owner should be allowed to run his business as he sees fit.

No one is forced to breathe secondhand smoke. If your employer allows smoking, you can look for employment with a business that does not. No one is forced to patronize a business that allows smoking, or bring his family into that business. According to the Herald Bulletin, 26.1 percent of Hoosiers smoke cigarettes. Considering that smokers are a minority in Indiana, there is no reason the market could not work to eliminate smoking in public places as businesses cater to the wishes of the 74 percent of Hoosiers who do not smoke.

If government has the power to ban smoking in “public places” in Indiana, it has the power to force businesses to allow smoking on their property, regardless of the wishes of the property owner.

Does that sound extreme? There is a precedent for it, because this is not the first time that Hoosier Republicans have misfired on private property rights. A year ago, Republicans led the effort to pass a law restricting the private property rights of employers who did not wish to have guns on their property.

Had this been passed a decade ago, when Frank O’Bannon was governor and Democrats controlled the state house of Representatives, it would have been bad policy. When this nanny-state legislation is passed by the party that is supposed to be for limited government and individual liberty, it is especially egregious.