Revisiting a shameful low point in American politics

One week ago on Wednesday, the world became a much better place when Lawrence Brewer was executed by the state of Texas. Brewer murdered James Byrd in 1998 by wrapping a chain around his neck and dragging him behind a truck for no other reason than he disliked the color of Byrd’s skin. Byrd’s right arm was ripped off and he was decapitated by the brutal crime. Rachel Maddow reported last week that he was conscious for most of the dragging.

By comparison, Brewer requested and got an ostentatious last meal, and was humanely executed in a sterile environment. Before he was put down, Brewer said he said he would “do it all over again,” showing no remorse even 13 years after that crime. Brewer escaped the pain and horror he inflicted on Byrd, though Brewer will experience plenty of pain and horror as he suffers in terrible burning agony in Hell for all eternity. Thank God for Hell.

Byrd’s murder became an issue in the 2000 campaign for President, when the NAACP ran an utterly despicable advertisement against George W. Bush, shamelessly race-baiting because Bush opposed hate crime legislation. Byrd’s daughter said in the advertisement that “when Governor George W. Bush refused to support hate-crime legislation, it was like my father was killed all over again.”

White supremacist terrorist Lawrence Brewer is dead and is currently suffering in horrible burning agony in Hell. John King is on death row waiting to be executed. The third perpetrator will be in prison for the rest of his life. What more does the NAACP want? Do they think Brewer should have been tortured to death instead of killed by lethal injection? Should he have been crucified instead? Should he have been burned at the stake?

You may think I am being hyperbolic, but the point of hate crime laws is that there is extra punishment for crimes motivated by race, sex, religion and so forth. But the death penalty is the most severe form of punishment that our judicial system has to offer. If the death penalty is not enough, what is enough?

To top it off, the hypocrites at the NAACP are opposed to the death penalty itself, describing it as “cruel and unusual” punishment. (See tweets by NAACP president Ben Jealous here, here and here.) So while they demonized George W. Bush for opposing enhanced penalties for hate crimes, the NAACP opposes and is seeking to abolish the very same punishment that the state of Texas set for Byrd’s killers while Bush was governor.

This was a low point in American politics. The NAACP did not give a damn about the purpose of hate crime laws. George W. Bush supported tougher punishment for Byrd’s killers than the NAACP itself. This was about stirring up racial animosity for cynical partisan political advantage. The fact that the NAACP has never apologized for this despicable race-baiting is completely and utterly shameful.

Monroe County Council goes paperless with iPads

The Monroe County Council has decided that each councilor “needs” an iPad in order for the council to go paperless. The effort to go paperless is an admirable one, because it is more environmentally friendly and because it can be much more efficient. After all, if you have a searchable PDF instead of a thick paper packet, you can search for a specific line much faster.

But why do we need to give each councilor an iPad? A new iPad runs $500 or $600 or more, but a laptop is much less costly. In fact, several council members were already using laptops back in 2006. I found several laptops on BestBuy.com for between $250 and $400. Why can’t the council make due with a less expensive solution?

It is fine to use technology to increase efficiency and productivity, but we should not use it as a gimmick. That’s what the Herald-Times suggested in a September 16 editorial, proposing “a participatory system that would let viewers give a ‘yea’ or ‘nay’ (or ‘like” or ‘dislike’) to issues up for votes.” We could see the will of the people in real time!

This is a silly suggestion. If we move to real-time direct democracy, what is the point of electing county council members at all? Furthermore, there’s a good reason the founders didn’t set up a direct democracy. The will of the people is already reflected in who they choose to serve on the council every two years.

It would also be a poor representation of the public’s views on the budget. The vast majority of people in Monroe County are not going to attend the meetings or watch them live on television, so this proposal would leave the decision to a few political junkies – not exactly a representative sample of the voters in Monroe County.

Furthermore, we already have the ability to directly contact all of our county councilors to express our views on items coming to them for a vote, though telephone, letters, electronic mail and public comment at meetings. Their contact information is listed on the county government website. (The same is true with the city.)

Frankly, I would be ashamed to editorialize in favor of such a silly gimmick. This foolishness is not worthy of the opinion page of a serious newspaper, but it fits just perfectly on the Herald-Times editorial page.

Santorum needs to stop whining about his "Google problem"

There is a time in politics when you need to defend yourself and counterattack against your opponent. There is also a time when you need to shut up and not be drawn into the fight your opponent is trying to start. By getting into that fight, you are distracted from your own message and it often makes you look bad.

Such is the case with Rick Santorum, the Republican candidate for President who has a “Google problem.” According to Politico, It started a few years ago, when militant homosexual Dan Savage “organized an online campaign to link graphic sexual terms to the socially conservative senator’s name.”

Basically, Santorum is being trolled by a bunch of immature brats who do not have the intellectual capacity or emotional stability to engage him in the arena of ideas. Because they cannot deal with his stances on their merits, they have to engage in juvenile trolling behavior that would be frowned on by most 8th grade boys.

Let me be clear. I think it would be awesome if Santorum was a top-tier candidate in the GOP presidential nomination sweepstakes. He is a solid conservative with a record of getting things done. I’m supporting Texas governor Rick Perry, but I would be thrilled with Santorum as the nominee. But that is shaken when he says things like this.

Santorum looks like a thin-skinned crybaby when he demands that Google remove offensive content from their search results. He needs to shut up about this and stop whining because it makes him look completely unpresidential. Whining always hurts candidates.

Taking on cultural rot resonates with the Republican base is a smart move for Republicans, especially in the primaries where the base has more influence. Sitting in the corner and sobbing because you’re being trolled by a bunch of intellectually deficient and emotionally unstable Leftists resonates with no one and raises questions about whether you are prepared to be the President of the United States.

Netflix takes a step back in customer service

A lot of people are complaining about the new price structure for Netflix that was announced over the summer. I don’t have a problem with it, because I know bandwidth is not free. A company like Netflix needs a lot of bandwidth to stream movies, and has to pay copyright fees to make the movies available for streaming. Hopefully, this will lead to a greater selection for instant streaming, because the selection for that is very weak compared to the DVD selection.

Here’s the problem with the changes to the service. Netflix is completely separating the instant streaming and DVD rental portions of their business. This means you will have to manage two accounts on two separate websites. This means two usernames and two passwords, as well as storing your payment information in two places.

This is ridiculous. There is no good reason to separate the services. The instant streaming and DVD shipping have been on the same website for years, and it has worked fine. Are you telling me that there is a logistical need to separate the two? Even the local newspaper lets you manage your subscriptions in one place. You can subscribe to different packages for the print edition, or the website, or both.

Other websites (such as Yahoo) allow you to store your payment information in one place when buying more than one product, so why can’t Netflix do this – especially when the infrastructure is already in place?

Right now, people who subscribe to both instant viewing and DVD’s by mail have two queues. You can easily see if something in your DVD queue is available for instant streaming, and adjust accordingly. With the new system, you cannot manage both at the same time, and you have to manage two separate accounts on two separate websites.

What were they thinking?

As I said before, I do not have a problem with the price increase. Netflix needs to cover their costs and make a profit, and I can make decisions as a consumer based on that. The way some people are whining about this, you would think they believe they have a “right” to entertainment at a certain price. What no company should ever do, however, is make their products more difficult to use for the consumer. That’s just stupid.

Should violating a TOS agreement be a federal crime?

Violating the Terms of Service agreement for a website can get your account deleted or restricted. But should the federal government be enforcing a TOS agreement between website owners and users? Should violations of those agreements be prosecuted as a federal crime with possible prison time?

The answer should be an immediate, obvious and uncompromising “no.” However, the way federal law is written, prosecutors can go after people for violating a TOS agreement – and WebProNews reports that changes to that law are under consideration. Once again, politicians are passing laws to deal with a subject they do not understand.

I am not being an alarmist. There is precedent for the government prosecuting TOS violations as a federal crime, as was done with a sick and depraved woman who set up a fake MySpace profile to harass a teenage girl. She was convicted of computer hacking, but her conviction was thrown out in July of 2009.

Think about the free-speech implications of making it a federal crime to violate a website’s TOS agreement. Last April, the Herald-Times announced that the word teabagger (or variations thereof) would no longer be permitted in comments or letters to the editor, and H-T editor Bob Zaltsberg made the utterly laughable claim that “we make every effort to remove comments from HeraldTimesOnline.com that use the term, and to edit it from letters sent by readers.”

I copy-pasted the literal, word-for-word text of several articles published in the Herald-Times (including one written by one of the Herald-Times’ official community columnists) that included variations of the word teabagger to demonstrate the dishonesty of Zaltsberg’s claim. My comment was promptly deleted by HTO moderators.

Obviously, it’s just silly (not to mention incredibly hypocritical) that quoting articles published in the newspaper would be a violation of the Terms of Service for the newspaper’s website. But the overly broad interpretation of the prohibition against accessing a computer without authorization or exceeding authorized access of a computer would make my post not just a violation of the Terms of Service, but a federal crime that could send me to prison.

Now, realistically, am I going to go to prison because HTO policy is completely hypocritical? No. But it is easy to see where corrupt prosecutors can abuse the law to harass political opponents and blackmail them into silence. This has serious and frightening implications for free speech and the free exchange of ideas.

Fixing this problem is easy. All the law needs to do is clarify that violating a website’s Terms of Service agreement does not constitute computer hacking, which is what the law is actually intended to criminalize. Violations of Terms of Service agreements should be dealt with between the interactive content provider and the individual breaking the policy, not between the person who broke the policy and a federal prosecutor.

Rick Perry was wrong on the HPV vaccine

Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. — 1 Corinthians 6:18

Last week, I praised Rick Perry for telling the truth about Social Security and recognizing the need to reform it.

But while Perry is my choice in the race to be the Republican nominee for President, his record is not exactly spotless. Arguably his worst decision was to issue an executive order requiring that pre-teen girls in Texas get a vaccine against the human papillomavirus, which is known to cause cervical cancer.

This was an inexcusable government overreach into the personal lives, health care decisions and parenting decisions of millions of Texas families. Parents should decide for themselves whether or not the HPV vaccine is appropriate for their daughters, rather than have that decision made for them by the governor. The fact that Perry did this via executive order instead of the legislative process adds further insult to this policy.

The HPV vaccine is not equivalent to vaccines against measles or polio, because HPV is a sexually transmitted disease. Our postmodern culture hates judgment and distinctions, so we often try to forget about the ST in STD, but the fact of the matter is that if you do not engage in sexual activity prior to marriage, you choose a spouse who is sexually pure, and you and your spouse are faithful to your marriage vows you have zero chance of contracting HPV.

Many people have legitimate concerns that the HPV vaccine would translate into a license for promiscuity, especially if boys are also vaccinated for the virus so they cannot pass it to their female partners. Sexual immorality is rampant in our nation, and has led to many broken homes, ruined lives and an unacceptable illegitimacy rate. We must be very careful about doing anything that would make people believe it is “safe” to engage in extramarital sex, because it is never safe.

While Perry’s decision will cause legitimate concern for many conservatives, the good news is that he is committed to state sovereignty and will not do something this radical should he be elected President of the United States. While I vehemently disagree with Perry’s executive order, it does not erode my support for his candidacy.

My position is and has always been that tax cuts create jobs

Last week, I said that two specific tax credits posed by President Obama would do nothing to create jobs. My political enemies have jumped on this statement and are now claiming that I said tax cuts do not stimulate economic growth.

That is a damnable lie. I never said any such thing, and my political enemies know it.

What I actually said is that these two specific tax credits will do nothing to stimulate job growth, and I gave my reasons for that position. But criticism of these two specific tax credits is not a blanket, universal criticism of or opposition to all tax cuts. The only people who would argue otherwise are shameless liars.

I do not support Obama’s proposal to implement piddly, meaningless targeted tax credits that do not provide nearly enough financial incentive to hire new workers.

I said last week that this proposal demonstrates that Obama “has no clue how business works.” But there is a more sinister and cynical interpretation of why the President proposed this foolishness. It is entirely possible that Obama is proposing meaningless, tiny and ineffective tax credits that he knows will fail. Then, when his policy fails as it is intended to fail, Obama can gloat and claim that tax cuts are ineffective.

My position is and has always been that legitimate tax cuts create jobs. My record is clear that I believe tax rates should be reduced in order to create jobs. My position is and has always been that we need across-the-board reductions in tax rates – for corporations, individuals and capital gains.

I said on December 7, 2010 that “We should not be taking more money out of the private sector, when it could be used for investing and creating jobs.” I said on September 29, 2010 that “If we increase taxes at this time, we will discourage investment and job creation.” I could cite many more examples.

But the real kicker is my post on October 22, 2009, when I said “We need to reduce the tax burden on business so it is easier to invest and create jobs.”

The very same person who is leading the charge of Leftists falsely accusing me of saying tax cuts do not create jobs threw a hysterical temper tantrum on a local forum over that post, because I dared point out that the Community Reinvestment Act contributed to the 2008 economic collapse. He accused me of “trying to blame the global economic collapse on feckless black people” said that I was an “inveterate racist.”

There is no question he knows my position on tax cuts. He’s simply making things up for the sole purpose of attacking me. It is shameful that someone of such low moral character would be appointed by the Monroe County Council to serve on the Economic Development Commission. He should be removed from that position at the first opportunity. The people of Monroe County need to know that those who serve on boards and commissions are honest and trustworthy, and this individual has proven over and over again that he is a shameless liar.

This is exactly why people are fed up with politics and why they don’t trust politicians. Instead of actually engaging the ideas presented, political hacks shamelessly lie and distort statements made by their enemies. Average citizens understandably throw up their hands and assume everyone involved in politics is corrupt. When objective truth is murdered and replaced with subjective spin based on the partisan affiliation of the person making the argument, who can blame the average person for being fed up with politics?

Robbins is right to place all candidates on the ballot

Printed in the Herald-Times, September 17, 2011

To the editor:

Critics of County Clerk Linda Robbins have complained that she is not following the law by placing unopposed candidates on the ballot. We can have an argument about the meaning of “may” as opposed to words like “shall” in the Indiana Code, but the key point is the legislative summary for the law in question. The summary includes the following statement:

“Provides that uncontested municipal offices are not required to appear on the ballot in a municipal or general election.”

I am not sure how this could be any clearer. The law was never intended to make it illegal to place unopposed municipal candidates on the ballot. It was intended to make it optional.

It is an abomination to democracy that anyone could be “elected” without getting even a single vote in the general election, so Robbins is exactly right. This law must be repealed 100-0 in the House and 50-0 in the Senate.

Yes, canceling the election in Ellettsville will save money, but holding elections is a basic function of government that should be funded,

Finally, the state constitution makes it illegal for government to disenfranchise citizens. Canceling elections is clearly disenfranchisement, so the law is null and void.