Despicable racist ad has no place in politics

A political action committee in California stirred up a great deal of controversy with an advertisement against Janice Hahn, who is running for Congress in a special election. It is not unusual for ads by outside groups to be controversial, but the content of this ad had brought extra well-deserved criticism.

The ad is shockingly racist. The video is not safe for work, so beware opening it.

It is one thing to criticize someone’s policy positions and point out the result of those policies. It is another to use openly racist images to frighten people into voting for you – in this case, young black men playing over-the-top stereotypical “gangstas” who will terrorize your neighborhood.

The only thing Turn Right USA managed to do is discredit themselves and take the focus off their message. Instead of having a discussion about Hahn’s policies, the focus is on Turn Right’s offensive racist message. It was a politically stupid move that only created sympathy for Hahn and forced her opponent to discuss Turn Right instead of his own message and criticisms of her.

And really, we should be beyond this kind of filth by this point. Do we really need to use the black male boogeyman as a political prop in 2011? No, we don’t. This is the same crap we have seen for over a century, with black men portrayed as savages (or worse) who threaten the peaceful white community with their vicious crimes. Racism has no place in politics and Turn Right USA should be ashamed of themselves for playing to our worst instincts.

Finally, it is this kind of irresponsible fear mongering that makes a rational discussion on crime policy much more difficult. There are legitimate questions about whether incarceration is actually effective, especially the huge number of people we lock up for nonviolent crimes thanks to the War on Drugs.

"News" media continues to brazenly lie about video games

On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in favor of the video game industry, striking down California’s ban on the sale of violent video games to minors. ABC World News claimed on their June 27 broadcast that the law prohibited the sale of video games that allow kids to “shoot John F. Kennedy in the head” and “re-enact Columbine.”

That is a lie. It is a blatant, brazen, bold-faced lie.

These are downloadable games made for the PC. These are not published for game consoles. Not one single game on any current-generation game console allows you to assassinate JFK or re-enact Columbine. Not on the Wii, not on the PS3, and not on the XBox 360. No game on any of the previous generations of consoles allowed players to do these things. None of the current or previous generation handheld consoles have any games allowing this.

Not. One. Single. Game.

This is a critical distinction and that is why it is so incredibly dishonest for the so-called “news media” to be lumping those games in with the video game industry as a whole, especially with console games sold in retail stores. If I possessed the necessary programming skills, I could make a computer game right now where you could do all kinds of terrible things, and upload it to the Internet for people to play by downloading the game or playing in their browser via flash.

Here is some history. The Atari 2600 was the first major game console, and because of mistakes Atari made it wound up being an open system – anyone could make games for it without Atari’s approval. Atari fought this in court but lost. This led to a glut of terrible games that contributed to the crash of the video game market in the early 1980’s. Because of this, every console since has been a closed system.

What this means is that you cannot make a game for any console unless you have permission from Microsoft, Sony or Nintendo. This is why you will never see a modern remake of “Custer’s Revenge” unless the developer hacks the console, which is illegal under federal law. You cannot even modify your own console under federal law.

I’m not saying there are not a lot of very violent games. There certainly are violent games, including Mortal Kombat, Manhunt, Grand Theft Auto and God of War. There are some sexually explicit games as well. But ABC News should at least have enough respect for their audience to discuss reality, not fantasy.

The so-called “news media” obliterates its own credibility when it shamelessly lies about the case. Unfortunately, this is not new. The so-called “news media” has a long and shameful history of playing fast and loose with the facts in order to put out sensationalistic and alarmist headlines.

I do not deny that there are many games that are inappropriate for children. I would not allow a 10-year-old to play any of the Resident Evil games, for example. But it is ultimately the responsibility of the parents to control what their children see, read and play. It should not be the government’s responsibility to take the role of parent. We have already seen an alarming loss of liberty as government has moved more and more toward being our nanny.

Previously: News media flagrantly lies about video games – again.

Take the politicians off welfare

The US Supreme Court case about public financing of elections in Arizona illustrates why meddling politicians have it wrong on campaign finance, especially when it comes to public funding.

The big issue here is public financing of campaigns. In other words, turning politicians into welfare queens. Instead of working to raise their own donations, politicians can simply put their hand out and the government will forcibly confiscate money from taxpayers at the point of a gun and hand it to that politician.

Public financing has the goal of eliminating corruption in government, which is a legitimate concern. Making politicians into welfare queens is not the way to solve it. Government should not be funding political candidates, especially when it gives extra money to candidates in order to ensure “fairness” in the face of a well-funded opponent.

The best way to battle corruption is with sunshine. This means full disclosure of employment practices of elected officials, and full disclosure of campaign funding. One solution is to require that campaign finance ties be prominently disclosed in legislation and regulations. For example, if Construction Firm A donates to Politician B, that would have to be disclosed in legislation authored by B (such as new highway construction) that would benefit A.

This is not anything new. Candidates and elected officials are already required to disclose personal finance records for the sake of exposing potential conflicts of interest. There’s no reason that campaign finance laws cannot be updated to include the same information. All of this would be posted to an easily-navigated public web site.

Speaking of web sites, we live in a different world than existed even in 1998, when the Arizona law was passed. Internet access is much more ubiquitous now than before, allowing for information to be spread “virally” though blogs, social media and electronic mail. Candidates are now much more able to get their message out via the Internet, and the Internet also offers many opportunities for fundraising -something that helped Barack Obama in 2008.

Government should be a neutral observer in elections – stepping in only to enforce violations of the law and not taking sides by giving money to one candidate or another. All public funding should be eliminated.

And while we are at it, we should eliminate the unfair advantage that incumbents have to send glossy, full color (and taxpayer-funded) “informational” mailings to voters – mailings that are only to enhance the politician’s name ID.

Security cameras in downtown Bloomington?

Security cameras have been prominent in the investigation of Lauren Spierer’s disappearance, which led the H-T to ask a question – should the city install security cameras downtown?

One of the most important responsibilities government has is to not violate the rights of its citizens, so the first concern should be whether this infringes on civil liberties. My answer is that it does not. There is no real expectation of privacy on a public street, where all of your actions are already visible to everyone.

I do not want the government snooping through my e-mail, listening to my phone conversations or spying on me in my home, but I expect I am being watched in a public place. (I should have the right to not be detained by agents of the state for simply walking or driving down a public street, though.)

Concerns about the cameras are reasonable. It is one thing for a private business to be electronically monitoring their property, but having government electronically recording you is a little creepy, even if you are in public.

Even with cameras, one should not have a false sense of security. People should still take common sense precautions to ensure their safety. Cameras cannot cover every inch of downtown. The cameras would be more useful in catching people after the fact or acting as a deterrent. Cameras can be useful in specific situations, such as catching the people responsible for vandalizing the B-Line Trail.

I think comparing cameras to increased police patrols is a flawed analysis. If the idea is to cover as much ground as possible, security cameras would be much more effective than a few more police officers. A couple more officers on patrol will not be able to watch nearly as much area as the cameras, and hiring more officers would be much more expensive than cameras. The biggest expense of any organization is always personnel.

In the end, I do not believe this is necessary. Bloomington is not a high-crime town, and I do not believe the cameras would actually accomplish much. This is a reasonable idea, but the city is right to reject it.

Justice, not convictions, must always be the goal.

The Indiana Daily Student’s article about how Indiana University is “among the worst in the nation” in gaining convictions for sexual assault is symptomatic of one of the fundamental problems of our criminal justice system. Getting convictions should never in and of itself be the goal of law enforcement. The goal should be to see that justice is done.

False reports of rape do happen. Four years ago, a 19-year-old IU student fabricated a kidnapping and “rape.” She later recanted her story and admitted that she “engaged in consensual sex with a man at a local motel.” (Herald-Times, March 30, 2007) Who can forget the Duke lacrosse scandal, where a stripper fabricated a “rape” that never took place and engaged in a criminal conspiracy with disgraced, disbarred ex-prosecutor Mike Nifong to railroad men for a crime that never happened? Let’s not forget that the “university” immediately took the side of the false accuser.

Worse, the Obama Administration has issued new regulations calling for universities to consider “a preponderance of the evidence” in rape cases, rather than the traditional standard of beyond a reasonable doubt. Does President Obama understand basic American values and the principle of innocent until proven guilty?

But the problem is more widespread than that. We have seen story after story about people who have been convicted of crimes they did not commit, and released after decades in prison when serious flaws in their convictions came to light. In some cases, those convictions were based on corrupt prosecutors deliberately hiding evidence so they could “win” a conviction at the expense of justice.

The Innocence Project has a list of people who have been wrongfully convicted and has worked tirelessly to help secure the release of people who have committed no crime.

Rapists who are convicted after a fair trial by a jury of their peers should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. There may be things that can be done to ensure that rapists do not get away with their crimes. But the goal should NEVER under any circumstances be “more convictions.” The goal should always be justice.

Previously:

Peggy Welch is not a terrorist

When the Bloomington City Council voted to give corporate welfare to baby killers last week, Monroe County Council member Sam Allison spoke in favor of the grant. In his comments, he referenced the crimes committed by fringe anti-abortion elements, and claimed that the pro-life movement “condones” bombings, assault and murder.

First, Sam Allison is a liar. The pro-life movement does not condone any of these things, and Allison knows it. The pro-life movement has been very clear that violence is not acceptable as a means to oppose abortion. After the assassination of abortionist Barnett Slepian, the American Life League and other pro-life groups issued a “pro-life proclamation against violence.” Multiple pro-life groups condemned the murder of George Tiller in 2009.

Sam Allison knows all of this. Rather than address our opposition to funding Planned Parenthood on its merits, Allison chose to smear and defame. Instead of behaving like a respectable public servant, Allison decided to behave like an anonymous Internet troll. When Allison began his comments, he introduced himself as a member of the county council, so he was speaking in an official capacity.

The people of Monroe County and the Fourth District deserve better than this. It is shameful that a member if the county council would shamelessly lie about and smear his own constituents. Allison demonstrated that he does not have the integrity to serve on the county council. He should retract his despicable character assassination and apologize to the people of Monroe County for his behavior last week. Then he should resign from the county council so that a reasonable and mature adult can take his place.

The Democratic members of the Bloomington City Council, the Democratic members of the Monroe County Council, Democratic Mayor Mark Kruzan and the Democratic County Commissioners should repudiate Allison for his shameful rhetoric. If the Democratic Party is serious about making this a safe and civil community, they should denounce Allison’s irresponsible remarks.

This is obviously a preview of how Allison will be voting should Planned Parenthood request another handout from the county council this fall.

Bad economy provides the roadmap to defeating Obama

Republicans say that they are dissatisfied with the Republican field and many Republicans are openly worrying about whether we can beat President Obama in 2012. I say this is hogwash.

It is never easy to beat an incumbent President, but with the economy in tatters we have as good of a shot with any of the candidates as we are going to have. This President may have inherited a bad economy, but his policies have done nothing to help.

Instead, he has burdened the economy with crushing debt to the point that he makes George W. Bush look downright fiscally responsible. Even the worst deficits from 2001-2008 are tiny compared to the debt burden Obama has given us.

Obama claims that we will face “bumps in the road.” The summer of 2010 was supposed to be the “summer of recovery.” But the bottom line is that Barack Obama’s policies have failed to promote economic growth. Had he failed to implement these destructive policies, we would be much better off today.

See this video from the Romney campaign:

This, my friends, is how we defeat Obama in 2012. Whether our nominee is Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, Herman Cain, Michelle Bachmann, Rick Santorum or a candidate who is not in the race yet such as Sarah Palin or Rick Perry, we only have to point to his record.

Herald-Times defames opponents of sobriety checkpoints

Printed in the Herald-Times, June 18, 2011

To the editor:

The Herald-Times’ June 3 editorial was shameful and despicable.

Supporters of sobriety checkpoints (including conservatives, moderates and liberals) make utilitarian arguments about why the “inconvenience” of a checkpoint is necessary to prevent the greater evil of drunk driving. While I disagree with this position, I can respect the intentions of those who make that argument.

I do not respect those who argue that opponents of these checkpoints are a bunch of drunk drivers who do not wish to get caught. That represents everything that is wrong with modern American politics, where the focus is not on ideas but on destroying political opponents.

This was a shameful editorial, seeking to discredit those with legitimate objections to the checkpoints by smearing and defaming us as a bunch of drunks. And yes, I mean “us.” After all, I wrote a guest editorial against the checkpoints that was published on November 16.

People across the political spectrum oppose the checkpoints. We object to being asked to “show our papers” to an agent of the state in order to proceed. We worry that this is another step toward a police state. We are Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, conservatives, liberals and moderates. Are we all drunk drivers?

Planned Parenthood gets corporate welfare again

On, Wednesday night, the Bloomington City Council gave another $4,200 to Planned Parenthood, which operates an abortion mill a few blocks from City Hall. This year, Planned Parenthood pretended to be concerned about people infected with HIV, asking for money to test for the virus.

Of course, we know that PP doesn’t care about this. The sole purpose of seeking this funding is to get a political endorsement from city government. PP has mountains of cash and does not need the money by any stretch of the imagination. There are legitimate charities, however, that do need the money and the $4,200 that went to Planned Parenthood could have easily gone to a deserving organization.

In a letter explaining the process, Isabel Piedmont-Smith said that over $383,000 was requested. The council had about $220,000 to spend. In other words, in a year where $150,000 went unfunded, $4,200 was wasted on a political endorsement of a corporation with over a billion dollars in annual revenue.

The Hopkins fund is not intended to be a permanent funding source for local charities, but is intended to help with short-term or one-time projects. Why, then, has Planned Parenthood gotten money from city government 12 out of the last 13 years? (Not to mention the fact that PP has gotten a handout from county government the last two years.) This is clearly an abuse of the process and disrespect for the other organizations.

Several members of ClearNote Church attended the meeting to speak against the funding, suggesting that the money that went to PP could have fully funded the requests ranked higher by the committee and pointing out that government officials will be held accountable by God for the decision to fund the butchers at Planned Parenthood.

There are faith-based charities getting funding as well. It is a mistake for churches and parachurch organizations to get entangled with government, which is why I opposed President Bush’s idea to fund faith based charities and why I oppose vouchers for private schools. With government money always comes government strings, and churches and parachurch organizations should have the faith that God will provide what they need without help from government.

Furthermore, atheists should not be forced to fund churches and parachurch organizations through their taxes.

Councilors Mayer, Ruff, Sandberg, Satterfield, and Volan voted for the funding package. Councilor Sturbaum recused himself because his wife is affiliated with one of the applicants. Councilors Rollo and Piedmont-Smith missed the meeting. Councilor Wisler voted no, as usual.

No corporate welfare for the merchants of death

Tonight at 7:30 in City Hall, the Bloomington City Council will vote to distribute about $226,000 to local social service agencies as part of the Jack Hopkins social services fund. That package includes $4,200 for Planned Parenthood, which operates an abortion “clinic” a few blocks from where the vote will take place. Tomorrow morning, Planned Parenthood will murder several children at that “clinic.”

If it were up to me, there would not be a social services fund at all. But if the city is going to have a social services fund, it makes no sense to give money to Planned Parenthood. The national office and all regional affiliates combine for over one billion dollars in annual revenue. Planned Parenthood clearly does not need this money, yet they have gone to local government every single year since 1999 seeking a handout from the taxpayers. (PP did not apply for money from the city council in 2009, but did get a handout from the county council for the first time.)

Meanwhile, there are local charities genuinely need the money they get from city government, charities that do not have the backing of a national organization with $1 billion in overall revenue. Every single penny that goes to Planned Parenthood is a penny that could be put to good use by legitimate charities such as Middle Way House or Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard.

So why does Planned Parenthood ask for this money every single year? Thw answer is simple, and is the primary reason why PP’s request should have been automatically denied. PP is seeking a political endorsement from city government. They do not respect the other organizations, they do not respect the social services funding process, and they do not respect the taxpayers of Bloomington. This is a shameful, cynical misuse of tax money.

Planned Parenthood claims this money will be used to test people for HIV. But it is the culture of promiscuity that is promoted by Planned Parenthood that causes HIV to spread, along with multiple other sexually transmitted diseases. Giving this money to Planned Parenthood to test for HIV is like giving Philip Morris or R.J. Reynolds a grant to help screen for lung cancer. It makes no sense.

But this has nothing to do with people who may be infected with HIV getting diagnosed so that they can seek treatment and prolong their lives. Persons infected with HIV are political pawns for Planned Parenthood, nothing more. The city council could easily find another organization willing to perform these tests. Perhaps Volunteers in Medicine could administer these tests instead of Planned Parenthood.

Of course, let’s not forget the key issue here. Every Thursday, Planned Parenthood’s kills babies at their “clinic” on South College Avenue. Less than twelve hours after the City Council votes to give PP our tax money, the “doctor” at Planned Parenthood will be busy killing babies by dismemberment. The tens of thousands of people in Bloomington who find abortion morally repugnant should not be forced to finance an organization that performs this barbaric procedure.

The one city council member who has stood against these shameful handouts is Brad Wisler, who represents the Second District and is the only Republican on the City Council. When Planned Parenthood played their cynical political games in 2007, 2008 and 2010, Brad voted against the allocation of funds. We should all thank Brad for his courageous stand, which led to vicious personal attacks against him in the last city election.

Tonight, the City Council has an opportunity to break with the cynical political gamesmanship of the last 12 years and spend our tax money in an appropriate, ethical and non-partisan manner. I know I can count on Brad Wisler to vote “no.” Will 4 of the 8 Democrats finally stop playing along with Planned Parenthood and instead vote to distribute the limited funds available in a way that is financially and morally appropriate? Don’t bet on it. This will pass 8-1 just like it always does. The social services funding process is hopelessly corrupt and the only way to fix it is to throw the Democrats out of office in November.