The botched raid in Waco – 20 years ago today

Twenty years ago today, the federal government conducted a military-style raid on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas. This set up a standoff that lasted nearly two months, and the horrific conclusion to that standoff is much more famous. But the initial raid should not be forgotten as we look forward to the twentieth anniversary of the April 19 massacre where the federal government used military force against American citizens on American soil.

The Branch Davidians were a doomsday cult that was expecting a violent confrontation with the government. When you send heavily-armed federal agents to storm the compound through the second-floor windows, what did you think was going to happen? The federal government wanted to search for illegal weapons, but why could that not be done without using the paramilitary tactics that we saw on February 28, 1993? Would this have gone down differently had the feds opted for a peaceful rather than confrontational approach?

David Limbaugh reports in his book Absolute Power that “(David) Koresh was seen many times off the Mount Carmel premises, jogging, shopping, and frequenting restaurants in town.” If the federal government wanted him specifically, why did they not seek to take him in peacefully away from his cult, instead of storming the compound and provoking an unnecessary confrontation? Given the mentality of who they were dealing with, was a more gentle approach not a much wiser course of action than a cowboy raid?

I do not necessarily subscribe to the conspiracy theory that the federal government wanted a confrontation – I think this is simply an example of the militarization of law enforcement that Radley Balko has done such an exemplary job exposing over the last several years. Creating a “soldier” mentality in law enforcement is dangerous and has resulted in unnecessary loss of life and threats to our civil liberties.

What makes the raid even more nonsensical is that the federal agents had been tipped off when Koresh told an undercover agent he knew the raid was coming – it went ahead anyway. Once the firefight had happened, a tragedy may have been inevitable. After all, many of the Branch Davidians could have been charged with murder or other felonies that would put them in prison for decades.

The siege of the compound did not help calm frayed nerves, and it would end in disaster 50 days later.

Drug tests for people on welfare?

The Indiana legislature is considering drug tests for people on welfare – a populist proposal that may sound good on the surface, but is more complicated than it appears. Obviously, we do not want to subsidize drug use, and limited state funds need to go where they will do the most good, but there are other factors to consider.

First, while someone makes a deliberate choice to start taking drugs, once a person is addicted he or she needs help getting away from drug use – there are physical problems that come with addiction that cannot be overcome with simple willpower. Second, do we really want to deny assistance to the children of a drug addict, for something that is not their fault? Do we want to victimize them twice?

That is why I do not believe this legislation is a good idea.

Denying assistance to drug addicts is not the answer – offering treatment for their addiction is. If our goal is to move people off welfare into the workforce and make them productive taxpaying citizens (and keep them out of prisons, which is really expensive) the best option is to help addicts beat their addiction and stabilize their lives.

What this requires is a change in our orientation to illegal drug use. Drug addiction needs to be treated more like a public health problem and less like a criminal problem – and we certainly should not be treating illegal drug use like a “war” complete with paramilitary SWAT teams knocking down people’s doors in the middle of the night.

Our “War on Drugs” has led to tragic consequences and the frightening militarization of law enforcement.

In sum, a “good citizen” defended his property from what he thought were criminals in a manner consistent with Florida law. He did nothing illegal. And the police officers who trespassed on his property, then attempted to sell drugs on his property, then killed him for attempting to defend his property, not only broke no laws, but their actions were also consistent with sheriff’s department policy. Finally, those policies, the ones that caused all of this to happen… were not going to change.

Source: HuffingtonPost.com

Clearly, a different approach is needed.

One of the common populist defenses of the drug tests is “I have to take a drug test for my job, so why should people on welfare be treated differently?” I believe I addressed the problems with drug tests above, but the logical flaws in this argument should be addressed.

First, government assistance and employment are not the same thing. Employers drug test because they need to know their employees will be reliable and because they do not want to be liable in case an employee using drugs causes an accident that harms someone. Government assistance does not carry the same issues.

Second, “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander” might be a popular argument, it’s a poor basis for public policy when there are other factors to consider – especially when at-risk children are considered.

Filibusters, precedents and Chuck Hagel

Last week, Republicans in the Senate took an unprecedented step, blocking Barack Obama’s nomination of Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense. This will come back to haunt the next Republican elected as President, and (more importantly) is both bad policy and bad politics. Republicans should not have blocked a vote.

I find it strange that there is such strong opposition to Hagel while John Kerry sailed through the nomination process to become our new Secretary of State. The same philosophical objections to Hagel could have also been used to justify blocking Kerry’s nomination, especially given Kerry’s long record of Leftist positions on foreign policy. Yet while Kerry was overwhelmingly approved by a vote of 94 to 3, Hagel is being blocked. Why the double standard?

Last November, I argued that unless there is evidence of gross incompetence or corruption, “the President should have the ability to appoint whoever they want for positions in their administration.” That isn’t the case with Hagel, a decorated combat veteran who is clearly qualified for the position. The opposition to Hagel is ideological, which is reasonable. But let’s be realistic here: Obama is going to choose someone who represents his views on defense policy. The objections to Hagel are really objections to Obama, and Obama’s nominee is going to implement Obama’s policies.

Like it or not, Barack Obama is the President. The Senate needs to review and question Obama’s nominees for his cabinet, but the President’s choices for who he wants should be respected – again, absent evidence of gross incompetence or corruption. The Republicans are playing a dangerous game here, giving Democrats a built-in excuse to block the cabinet nominations of the next Republican President and exposing themselves to charges of hypocrisy when they object. Senate Republicans should reverse course and allow an up-or-down vote on Hagel.

A very special message for PETA

Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.

1 Timothy 4:1-5

Government jobs

So I am listening to Rachel Maddow’s podcast. She claims that Obama is a small government guy because the total number of people working for state, local and federal governments has shrank.

She does realize how silly it is to credit the President for lower workforces in state and local government, which he has no control over, right?

Right?

A yearly maximum on pseudoephedrine purchases?

Note: This letter was sent to all 50 members of the Indiana State Senate.



“Indiana State Police estimate that 80 percent of the illegal meth in Indiana comes from Mexico.” — Bloomington Herald-Times, December 12, 2010.

Senators,

I was dismayed to see that the Indiana Senate approved an annual limit on pseudoephedrine sales in Indiana, in addition to the monthly limit already in place. I thank the four senators who voted “no” on this legislation, and I would ask the other forty four senators to reconsider their votes.

I do not deny that methamphetamine labs are a problem – from the incredibly dangerous explosive “shake and bake” labs to the contamination of houses (both owner-occupied and rental properties) for years. However one feels about the “War on Drugs,” these labs represent a threat to the lives and property of other citizens, not just the people who are foolish enough to use methamphetamine recreationally.

However, my problem is that we are once again punishing the innocent for the crimes of the guilty. Most people will not hit the annual limits on pseudoephedrine you have approved, and fewer will hit the monthly limits already in place. Some, however, will hit those limits (especially people buying the drug for their family if everyone gets sick at the same time) and their liberty to purchase a perfectly save over-the-counter remedy for cold symptoms will be restricted because some people use it in an irresponsible and illegal manner.

I respectfully submit that this is not a solution. Considering that the vast majority of the methamphetamine in Indiana comes from the hyper-violent Mexican drug cartels, this will not make much of an impact on methamphetamine use in our state. Furthermore, it will not do much to even prevent people determined to “cook” methamphetamine from doing so. It is a relatively simple matter to outsource the purchase of methamphetamine to other people so that no one hits their monthly or annual limit.

As much as I disagree with this, there is a far worse proposal that was considered in the 2011 legislative session – making pseudoephedrine (which has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration as safe for over-the-counter sales) a prescription-only drug.

This would cost Hoosiers a huge amount of money by forcing them to make a doctor’s appointment for simple relief from congestion, clog up doctor’s offices with unnecessary visits and increase waiting time for people who truly need medical assistance, and line the pockets of the medical establishment at the expense of working Hoosiers – once again punishing the innocent for the crimes of the guilty. I hope you reject this terrible proposal.

I respectfully submit that these nanny state proposals should not be implemented. Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,
Scott Tibbs

Lifting the Sunday alcohol sales ban

The people of Indiana are well aware of the fact that you cannot purchase alcohol on Sundays – at least not packaged alcohol from a supermarket to take home with you. You can go to a bar and buy various drinks to consume on the premises, and you can drink a beer at a Colts game in the fall. You can go to a casino or a strip club on Sundays. So why do we still have a partial ban on Sunday alcohol sales? Is it a relic of the Blue Laws of years past?

Not really. As Matt Tully pointed out in the Indianapolis Star, this has nothing to do with having the law represent a code of morality. This is because of the Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers, who have successfully lobbied the Indiana General Assembly to prevent the law against Sunday alcohol sales from being repealed. If the ban were repealed, liquor stores would need to be open on Sundays (and incur the extra costs of being open, the biggest of which is labor) to compete with supermarkets, which are already open seven days a week.

So the real problem here is that the Indiana General Assembly is using state law as a means of protecting special interests from competition. It is the worst form of special interest pandering – regulating the market as a way to pick winners and losers instead of simply allowing market forces to determine which businesses will be successful and which will not. Government should not be protecting business from competition.

There are other silly aspects to the relics of Indiana’s blue laws – such as the fact that supermarkets may not sell alcohol pre-chilled. However, they can (and do) have a chilling machine with swirling cold water that you can use to manually chill your bottle of wine. This may be obvious and should not need to be said, but this is really stupid.

So yes, let’s get rid of this silly law. Let’s have the Republicans take advantage of the supermajority they won in both houses of the legislature to get government out of the business of protecting the beverage industry at the expense of the supermarkets. Let’s have the Republicans embrace and implement the limited-government principles the party has been espousing since the Reagan revolution in 1980 and the Tea Party wave of 2010.

Encouraging incompetence and corruption in county government

Why is it that the Monroe County Council, instead of demanding competency and efficiency in county government, is prepared to throw away hundreds of thousands of dollars by creating a new position? Do we really need to throw money at the problem?

I understand why some members of the county council support the creation of a new a Financial Analyst position to review the county budget and help the council in their duties. After all, county council is a part-time position with a fairly small stipend, and councilors do not have the time to fully review the budgets. After all, an error in the county Auditor’s Office cost the local government over $990,000 last year, and a second error resulted in the lost of another 120,600. It makes sense why the council wants another set of eyes looking at the numbers.

The problem with creating the Financial Analyst position is that it just encourages and enables more corruption, incompetence and lack of accountability. We do not need a new position costing taxpayers another $40,000 to $50,000 every year from now on, plus the significant cost of benefits like health insurance and retirement, along with the added cost of unemployment and payroll taxes. We need to have the county auditor do his job – advertising the budget properly, calculating the levy properly and making sure that exempt properties are calculated correctly.

For the last eight years, we have not had a county auditor who was able to perform the duties of the office. The Democrats have made a complete and utter disaster of the office, from errors like the ones I mentioned above to the shameful credit card scandal that broke in December of 2011. That is likely to continue over the next four years with the election of a new Democratic county auditor who was hip-deep in the scandals of the last Democratic county auditor. Creating a new position and taking pressure off the Auditor’s Office is most certainly not the way to fix the systemic problems in that office – meaning, the voters’ foolish choices to elect three consecutive Democrats.

Frankly, the voters need to feel the consequences of their actions. If the Democrats continue to make a mess out of the office (and they will) the council should not bail out their auditor with a new position designed to do the job of the auditor. The County Council should make no effort to fix the problems created by the auditor, certainly not by costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. The voters need to be taught a lesson about electing incompetent people, and the loss of revenue that forces a loss of services is one way to teach the voters that lesson. Voters should not be insulated from the results of their choices in the last three elections.

Banning anti-abortion arguments on HeraldTimesOnline?

And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. — John 3:19-20

On February 17, I said in the comments section for a letter to the editor on HeraldTimesOnline.com that “abortion always kills an innocent human being” and “abortion ends a human life.” One of the responses to my comment was very interesting, and very telling about the commenter’s personality:

I have decided to start reporting his abuse using the HTO red flag. Perhaps if others do the same, we can get some results.

In the abuse report, I wrote “How much longer are you going to allow this speech which greatly harms women who have had abortions? He is entitled to his own opinions, but not his own facts. No “innocent human beings” have been killed. A human being is defined as “an individual of the genus Homo.” For example, a zygot is not individualized and is not an individual and is not a human being. These hateful, hurtful lies should be taken down.”

After some shrill whining by Leftists a couple years ago, the Herald-Times invented a new rule that disallowed the use of the word murder to describe abortion in HTO comments, though the editor specifically allowed the use of the word killing. (Application of that policy has been wildly inconsistent.)

But banning the legal term murder is not enough for pro-abortion HTO posters, who are now openly pressuring the HTO moderators to ban the word killing as well, spamming the “red flag” button to silence my opposition to the killing of unborn babies in our city and elsewhere. I am sure the HTO moderators have nothing better to do than read through dozens of spam reports from Leftists who are trying to silence any and all dissenting views on abortion. I am sure that some of the reports will be acted upon and posts will be deleted in violation of explicitly stated HTO policy.

What this hysterical attempt at censorship does is demonstrate once again the Left’s intolerance for free speech. Only approved speech should be allowed, while speech that falls outside the very limited confines of Political Correctness must be silenced or punished. We see this in the absurd “speech codes” in higher education as well as efforts to criminalize so-called “hate speech” – something that has already happened in Canada and much of Western Europe. Often the Left tries to justify prohibiting dissent by classifying it as harassment, inciting violence or libelous, but that is just a smokescreen. The purpose is to eliminate dissent.

Yes, abortion does kill a human being, and we have the photographic evidence to prove it. The unborn baby is not a part of the woman’s body – he or she resides inside the mother’s body as a result of a choice she freely made. (Rape and incest “hard cases” account for less than five percent of all abortions in the United States.) That baby has a completely unique DNA code from the moment the sperm fertilizes the egg and is simply in the process of growing and developing through the early stages of life.

Making it against HTO policy to use the word killing to describe abortion would effectively ban anti-abortion arguments from HTO. The entire point of the anti-abortion movement is that abortion is the willful and intentional termination of an innocent human life. Banning the word killing as they banned murder would rip the foundation out of the anti-abortion argument and give the pro-abortion commenters unhindered ability to express their point of view with no opposition permitted. Of course, this is exactly what my critic wants to see happen.

Supporters of legal abortion want to silence anti-abortion arguments (as shown by the wining about the use of the stronger term murder two years ago) because they do not want to be confronted with the reality of what they support. They have blood on their hands, either by indirectly supporting the slaughter of the unborn and sometimes by directly engaging in abortion. It is understandable – those who do evil hate the light.

Of course, the Herald-Times can implement whatever policy they want for their comments section, and no one’s civil rights have been violated. HTO is their property and they can run it however they choose. But if the Herald-Times is truly interested in having sensible debate in the comments, they should reject the hysterical demands of a few crybabies to censor arguments those crybabies find uncomfortable.