Discernment is a good thing

OK, this is laughable.

You gotta watch for those terrorist toddlers, according to some really stupid people.

Honestly, how difficult is it to practice a little discernment and ignore the “no fly” list in this case? Did they actually think she could be a terrorist? Just like boneheaded “zero tolerance” policies in government schools, this demonstrates that being so slavishly devoted to regulations leads to insane outcomes. The airline employees should have simply ignored the “no fly” list when they saw the “terrorist” was EIGHTEEN MONTHS OLD.

Good grief!

A shameful cover-up by the Herald-Times

What would you say about a so-called “newspaper” that actively covers up the political activity of a member of the county economic development commission as well as the political connections of at-large candidates for county council?

Greg Travis, who was appointed to the Monroe County Economic Development Commission by the Monroe County Council in 2005, posts on HeraldTimesOnline.com as “Nitpick.” His wife, Sophia Travis, voted for his appointment, and she is running to reclaim her seat on the county council in the November election. I am not permitted to say this on the Herald-Times website, as my post will be deleted. The Herald-Times is protecting Mr. Travis’ anonymity, so he can say what he wishes without being held accountable by name for what he says.

This is simply shameful. You have a person in a position of authority in county government who is spewing filth in HTO comments and the so-called “newspaper” is protecting his identity. His wife (Sophia Travis) voted to place him in that position of authority, and the so-called “newspaper” is covering up her political connections – after all, her husband is her most enthusiastic supporter.

This is why anonymity should not be permitted on HTO. Public officials and candidates for elective office should not be allowed to hide behind a fake name to escape accountability for what they say in a public forum. By fiercely protecting Greg Travis’ identity on HTO, the Herald-Times is engaged in a cover-up, plain and simple. It is a shameful dereliction of duty by a “newspaper” that is supposed to hold the powerful accountable for their behavior.

But that is not all. Greg Travis posted the following under his “Nitpick” handle:

My wife is one of the 129 million americans who cannot get health insurance, at any price, because of a pre-existing condition.

In a very bizarre letter to the editor in April, Greg Travis whined that he had “paid out $4,200 in health insurance premiums” over three months. County Council members have access to the county’s health insurance plan, and Sophia Travis is running for County Council. After this comment, a reputable newspaper would ask the obvious question – is Sophia Travis running for elective office so that she can have access to the county’s health insurance plan? Given his whining about it, this is a legitimate question.

Of course, the so-called “newspaper” petulantly refuses to address the question of whether Sophia Travis is running for office in bad faith, so I don’t expect them to ask a logical follow-up question. The fact that a candidate’s spouse is looking for employment in another state raises serious questions about whether she will complete her term and whether she is running for office knowing she probably won’t complete her term.

The behavior of the “newspaper” here is simply shameful. These are legitimate issues that deserve further examination by a reputable newspaper – something we do not have in Monroe County. Right now, the only place you can find real investigative journalism in this matter is a blog that very few people read, because the “newspaper” will not even allow readers to expose the truth in story comments.

If the Monroe County Republican Party or the Republican candidates for County Council had a spine, they would be forcing the Herald-Times’ hand by making an issue out of it. I don’t hold out much hope for that either.

More unethical behavior by the Democratic county auditor

When beleaguered Monroe County Auditor Amy Gerstman (a Democrat) wanted to keep some part time workers on staff, she transferred $7,000 from the budget for her own salary to pay those employees in a sneaky and underhanded attempt to increase the budget for her department.

The ability to move funds within a category is a good one, because a department with a surplus in one line item can move funds to cover another one without needing an additional appropriation. But there was no surplus in Gerstman’s line item and she was certainly not taking a pay cut – she knows the county is still obligated to pay her full salary. By spending that money elsewhere, she could force the county council to approve an additional appropriation later in the year. Gerstman then moved the money back after being called out for her unethical behavior.

Gerstman’s aborted transfer of funds is small potatoes compared to the mess she is facing regarding the county credit card scandal. She used her county credit card to pay for personal expenses, including connecting it to a PayPal account for the purposes of paying tuition for her children to attend private school. She also had the county pay over $2,500 for a training trip she did not take.

The Democrats’ mismanagement of the Auditor’s Office predates Gerstman. Sandy Newmann’s arrogance was so obscene in hiring her daughter to process payroll that the County Commissioners amended the personnel policy to prohibit nepotism shortly thereafter. Major problems with payroll followed, leading to several Democratic elected officials calling on Newmann to resign from office.

Do we really want to elect yet another Democrat to run this office, after the Democratic Party has driven it into the ground? Let’s not forget that the Democratic candidate for Auditor, Steve Saulter, is the chief financial officer in that department and went along with the unethical transfer of funds. Furthermore, if Saulter is such an asset to the office, why didn’t he put a stop to the abuse of county credit cards? Given that Saulter already has a long string of personal financial problems – just like his boss – this is just another strike against him.

We need to clean up the Auditor’s office, and the only way to do that is to elect a Republican. The Republican candidate has 25 years of experience in that office and a great deal of institutional knowledge. If voters pull the “D” lever simply because they like Barack Obama (which is what happened in 2008) then the 8-year Democratic reign of error, incompetence and corruption will be extended to a 12-year Democratic reign of error, incompetence and corruption.

We must not allow that to happen!

We need to stay out of Syria

Bashir Assad is an evil man, and the world will be a better place when he’s dead. The best outcome for Syria would be for someone to put a bullet in his head. He has committed mass murder on a horrific scale against his own people, going to the demonic extreme of putting human shields on tanks to prevent rebels from firing on those tanks – an act that is not only evil, but also the act of a despicable craven coward. Assad is little more than a serial killer in an official position – as if Jeffrey Dahmer was the president of a nation. All of this is obvious.

That having been said, I disagree with calls for U.S. military intervention in Syria, just as I opposed military intervention in Libya last year. We do not have a national security interest and we cannot be the world’s police force.

If we are going to commit U.S. military power in another nation, we need to have a couple things established before we intervene. First, we need to have a clear threat to our national security interests. As terrible as Assad’s actions are and as evil as he is, I would not be able to justify telling the wife, daughter or mother of an American soldier that we should intervene without a clear threat to national security. Second, we need a clearly defined goal where we know what “victory” means – we need a clearly defined mission so we can keep our intervention limited.

I have seen no strong argument that the first condition has been met. But what would our goal be? Would it be to stem the civilian casualties? Without regime change, that is an open-ended mission that could go on for decades. Would the goal be to remove Assad from power? Perhaps, but what do we do after that? It certainly would not be good to see Syria devolve into chaos more than it already has if there is a power vacuum – and any American-backed regime would meet with resistance and be seen as empire-building.

This does not mean we cannot do anything at all. We should consider arming the rebels in order to give them a better chance at defending themselves from Bashir “Dahmer” Assad’s forces- but we need to be very careful about doing this. After all, some of the rebels in Libya were affiliated with al-Qaida and we do not want to be arming our enemies. Can we arm the Syrian rebels without it coming back to harm us? We can also offer some humanitarian assistance.

But military intervention needs to be taken off the table unless Assad is foolhardy enough to threaten us or our allies directly as a way to distract from the crisis. We have spent too much blood and treasure with by using military force around the world, and we have created resentment and ill will in the process. We need to stop trying to be the world’s police force and start minding our own business.

Bloomington’s anti-vehicle bias

Bloomington Herald-Times, June 23, 2012 (Comments)

To the editor:

The anti-vehicle bias of our city government has to stop. Two years ago, the city installed a completely unnecessary and wasteful traffic island in front of the business school at IU, which only serves to snarl traffic. The island is so poorly designed with a dangerous bump-out that it had skid marks and a chunk of concrete missing while it was under construction.

Then we get into the insanity of the traffic impeding devices (not traffic “calming” devices) on West Third. A politically favored neighborhood was given special treatment by city government to keep the taxpaying public off “their” road – but it is not “their” road at all. It is a public street, not a private driveway.

Now we have the summer of construction, which has been so poorly planned and executed that one has to wonder if it was intentionally designed to make driving so miserable that more people would bike or walk.

I understand these projects need to be done and that it will be better when they are done, but it is unnecessary and wasteful to do all of them at once. All that does is unnecessarily snarl traffic to the point of absurdity. Stop it!

Sunshine is the ultimate disinfectant

“Cursed be he that smiteth his neighbour secretly. And all the people shall say, Amen.” – Deuteronomy 27:24

On June 10, I posted a comment in response to a guest column in the Herald-Times. Within hours I was viciously personally attacked by an anonymous poster who attempted to threaten and blackmail me into silence. (Fortunately, the comment was deleted, though I kept a screenshot.) I am no stranger to this kind of blackmail, as I have been subjected to it for ten years. Ironically, the very next day H-T editor Bob Zaltsberg had an editorial published in which he praised the “civil” tone of comments on a specific story.

Ironically, the comments in that story were not all that civil, as “hmmmm” pointed out. “DRM” opened up his thesaurus to find some insults to use, calling another poster a a “clueless smatchet” and followed it up by saying those who disagreed with him were sophomaniacs, quibblerdicks, smatchets, and klazomaniacs – all several days before Zaltsberg’s editorial was published. Oops. You might want to read the whole thread next time, Bob.

But this leads to an obvious question: Would HeraldTimesOnline.com posters be so willing to toss insults, much less spew threats and attempts at blackmail, if they were forced to reveal their real names? Would the spouses of elected officials and candidates for elective office be willing to spew filth if they were held accountable by name in a public forum? Would members of the Monroe County Economic Development Commission or the Monroe County Redevelopment Commission be willing to personally attack people who make innocuous policy oriented comments if they had to reveal their real names when doing so?

What the Herald-Times is doing by allowing such people to post anonymously – especially when they post vicious personal attacks – is covering up the political activity of public officials and hiding the political affiliations of candidates and elected officials. That is simply unethical, and that alone should be reason enough to require that everyone who posts on HTO post under his/her/its real name or publicly tie every pseudonym to the poster’s real name.

As I have pointed out many times in the past (see here, here, here, here, here and here) the H-T could easily clean up 99% of the filth in HTO comments by taking away the veil of secrecy surrounding HTO comments. If the Herald-Times is serious about having a civil comment section, they could easily achieve that goal. If they are not willing to implement the obvious solution, they should never publish another editorial whining about it.