Punishing the innocent for the crimes of the guilty

Eighty percent of the illegal meth in Indiana comes from Mexico, with the remainder produced locally. Yet Sen. Carlin Yoder of Middlebury wants to further limit the sale of pseudoephedrine, punishing the innocent for the crimes of the guilty while not even touching 80% of the problem.

From the article in Wednesday’s newspaper:

The law was backed the Indiana Pharmacists Alliance.

Of course it was. It gives them more business when it isn’t sold over-the-counter.

(Yoder) said someone who needs more than an 8-months supply should probably consult a physician.

So is he willing to pay the cost of the doctor’s visit out of his own pocket? I hope Yoder is defeated in the next Republican primary election.

XBox One, DRM, and the future of consoles

Two years ago, I predicted that games for the next generation of consoles – the third Xbox and the fourth PlayStation – would be distributed via digital download instead of physical media. Obviously, I was wrong. But it is worth reviewing Microsoft’s major blunders into the world of digital distribution and what it means for gaming.

Microsoft had the right idea with digital distribution, which I maintain is the future of gaming – especially as hard drives get bigger. The current generation of consoles (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Wii) all have extensive libraries of games that are available via digital download, and games for iOS and Android are distributed only by digital download. The PC game market also relies heavily on digital downloads thanks to services such as Direct2Drive and Steam.

The idea of buying games from the comfort of your living room for your favorite console remains an intriguing possibility, but the reason Microsoft flopped so badly is that they announced it in such a halfhearted manner. Switching to a download-only distribution system would be an innovative change, but that is not what Microsoft did. They proposed digital downloads alongside physical media, and that is what killed it.

People are used to being able to play physical media right out of the box, with no restrictions on the ability to use it. Movies on VHS or DVD, games on cartridges or discs, and music on CD have always had this option with no restrictions. Telling gamers that they have to validate the game they own legally on disc was a surefire way to annoy or even anger them. Cutting off the used game market hurt the idea badly. The fact that Sony kicked Microsoft while it was down by announcing no restrictions on PlayStation discs was the end of the experiment.

It is unfortunate. No one expects to be able to re-sell a game they download from Direct2Drive or Apple’s app store. It would have been a transition that most gamers would have been willing to make – especially given the option of accessing your entire game library from a friend’s house by logging into your account, or digitally loaning games to friends and family. Where Microsoft failed was being unwilling to go all the way and have games be distributed only by digital download. Restrictions on the use of physical media that people have purchased was a huge blunder.

Between the current generation of consoles, PC gaming and mobile devices, the gaming industry has shown that it is ready for a dedicated game console where you only buy games digitally. Digital distribution is still a possibility for the next generation, but it will have to be implemented slowly and more carefully than Microsoft’s haphazard and halfway effort with the Xbox One. It will be interesting to see where digital distribution is in five years.

Understanding why we need due process…

When this nation was founded, the men who wrote the Constitution had just fought a war with the world’s most powerful empire. They seceded from Great Britain to preserve the blessings of liberty for themselves and the generations that would come after them, and they distrusted government and feared government would abuse its power. Our Constitution reflects the founding fathers’ belief in the depravity of man.

They knew the potential for abuse of power was very high in criminal cases, which is why (among other things) the first ten amendments prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures, prohibits double jeopardy, makes it illegal to force someone to be a witness against himself, protects the right to a speedy trial and bans excessive bail and cruel and unusual punishments. The fact that the founders enshrined protections for those accused of crime in four different amendments to the Constitution is instructive in how much these wise men saw potential for abuse here.

This is why it is so unfortunate to see comments like the ones following in a letter to the editor and story comments for two articles about two men who allegedly planned to rape and murder a random woman.

  • They deserve the death penalty without a trial or should never see daylight again!
  • i agree but theses guys are money in the bank for some attorneys and judges, they will cost millions to prosecute. I think the girls dad can save the county a lot of money.
  • It would be tough to be a peace officer taking these scumbags into custody. I silently hope they can institute some personal justice; when no one is looking.
  • Maybe they will become punching bags for inmates with daughters who have been raped, that would be very good
  • Kill them. Now. In the street. In public. Violently and painfully and slowly. I will buy a ticket at any price to watch. Please. There is no point in “justice” or a trial.
  • Most people hire a lawyer when they have done something wrong or they want to prove that someone else has done something wrong.

I could easily find literally hundreds more similar comments, just in HTO comments – not counting comments on TMNews.com or thousands of other news website comment sections, discussion forums and so forth.

Do people really not understand, as the founders did, the potential for abuse in cases like these and the reason why we have protections for people accused of a crime?

Do they not know about the Central Park Five, who were convicted of brutally beating a woman and sent to prison for a crime they did not commit? Do they not know about Christopher Clugston, an innocent man who spent 13 years in prison before he was cleared – but not before he was gang raped and infected with AIDS? Do they not know about the Duke “University” lacrosse team, who were nearly framed for a fabricated “rape” by thoroughly corrupt prosecutor Mike Nifong in a criminal conspiracy with Crystal Gail Mangum?

There are many more examples other than the three cited above, and you can read about some of them at the Innocence Project’s website. Radley Balko has a good series on abuse f power by prosecutors, in addition to his work on the overuse and abuse of paramilitary SWAT teams. Click here and here and here for more.

We have due process not because criminals “deserve” it, but because of the potential for abuse of power by government. God has given us the civil magistrate to protect us from the wicked (see Romans 13:1-4) but we must always remember that the men in charge of government are also corrupted by sin and prone to abusing their authority. A righteous and godly civil magistrate is a blessing, but a wicked civil magistrate is a terrible curse. We have limited government, civil liberties and due process in order to limit the damage sinful men can do if they abuse their authority.

"But now are they many members, yet but one body…"

I have been very critical of the church, in general, for not standing more strongly against the wholesale slaughter of unborn children. I stand by this criticism, and I think it is a terrible failure for the Body of Christ to not be a witness against the murder of precious babies made in the image of God. If the church will not speak against the worst mass murder campaign in human history, who will? Certainly not pagans!

It is important, though, that we make a distinction between the body and the members of the body. As the Apostle Paul writes in I Corinthians chapter 12, there is one Body of Christ, but many members of that body. Not everyone in the church has the same spiritual gifts or the same calling. Some people may be called to stand in front of the abortion mill and witness against the murder that goes on inside, and some may be called to hold the civil magistrate accountable for empowering baby-murder, but not everyone has been called to do that.

If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased Him. — I Corinthians 12:17-18

Some Christians are called to care for the sick or the elderly, some are called to care for the poor, and some are called to counsel and comfort brothers and sisters in Christ. Some are called to administration within the church, and the job of collecting receipts and keeping records may not be one that brings a lot of public praise but it is absolutely essential. It is also important to have people cleaning the bathrooms, sweeping the floor, making coffee, taking out the trash and working in the nursery.

It is easy for anti-abortion activists to get frustrated in our work when we do not feel support (and are sometimes openly opposed) by other Christians. But just as the entire body cannot be made up of noses, the Body of Christ has many different people doing many different important things. While the church as a whole should be shamed and rebuked for not standing against well over a million murders in our abortion mills every year, we should be careful not to judge individual Christians who are called to do something different.

A food and beverage tax in Monroe County?

My latest post on Hoosier Access:

The food and beverage tax is crony capitalism at its worst. This is corporate welfare for a project that has not shown to be supported by a market need, by virtue of the fact that the market has not built it. The county council is looking to raise taxes on all of their constituents to benefit a few special interests. The fact that this vote is timed to shut out the voices of the student voters who were critical in electing the Democratic majority in the first place makes it even more shady.

Read more at Hoosier Access.

Movie Review: "Man of Steel"

The excitement surrounding Man of Steel is palpable and I would recommend it to any fan of action movies and especially superhero movies. The Superman franchise peaked with Superman II but fell off with the third and fourth movies, with the fourth movie being especially bad. After the disastrous movies of the 1990’s (specifically Batman and Robin and Steel) and some bad movies in the early 2000’s (Catwoman and Superman Returns) DC hit a home run with the Batman movies. Now Man of Steel may do the same for Superman. When I saw it at 10:00 am on a Saturday, the theater was packed.

Let me address a couple criticisms of the movie. First, the scale of destruction in both Smallville and Metropolis has been criticized. That criticism misses the point. The evil Kryptonians were attempting to destroy all life on Earth and make it into a new Krypton. Obviously a machine that would terraform earth would cause a massive amount of destruction. The battle between Superman and the evil Kryptonians would also cause a lot of destruction if these characters existed in the real world. Superman’s strength has varied wildly in the comics (he has been known to literally move planets but other writers have toned that down) and characters who are as immensely powerful as Kryptonians are going to cause a lot of collateral damage

Superman killing General Zod was highly controversial, but it makes sense. A female Kryptonian said she would kill millions of people for every one Superman saved, and Zod was trying to incinerate several humans when Superman broke his neck. Sometimes, the only way to save innocent lives is to kill the bad guy. This has happened in the comics too: Superman killed three alternate-universe Kryptonian villains in the comics in the 1980’s to prevent them from coming to his universe and exterminating all life on his earth like they did in their universe. That story may or may not have happened (and probably did not) in the post-Flashpoint “New 52” timeline.

My primary problem with Man of Steel is that it is another origin story. It was a well-done origin story, but it did not need to be done. Even people who have never picked up a comic book in their lives know Superman’s origin story, as it has become a part of American culture. Why can’t we jump right into General Zod and his forces invading Planet Earth with an already-established Superman stepping up to protect the planet? Now we have to wait a few years for another movie to advance the story after Man of Steel re-told the same story we have all seen or read many times.

Having Zod show up with multiple Kryptonians raises an interesting question that was never answered in the movie: Why not have all of the Kryptonians leave the ship and go to earth? Superman fights Zod and two other Kryptonian villains in separate fights, but with the number of Kryptonians on Zod’s ship he could have sent all of them to overwhelm Superman and beat him to death.

DC missed a huge opportunity by not including a scene establishing a shared universe with other characters. (Easter eggs do not count.) Marvel did that very well, using after-credits scenes to build each solo movie to 2012’s blockbuster team-up. The Avengers showed that there is a potential gold mine for a Justice League movie, and Batman is already established as a franchise. Why not have Amanda Waller (a top government agent in the DCU) be the DC movie franchise version of Nick Fury, to tie everything together?

My complaints aside, this was a very good movie and well worth seeing in the theater.

The City Council’s shameful subsidy of Planned Parenthood

On June 19, the Bloomington City Council made a mockery of the Jack Hopkins Social Services fund by giving a $5,000 handout to Planned Parenthood. The council showed great disrespect to the taxpayers of Bloomington and the other social services organizations that requested funding, and all nine councilors should be thrown out of office in 2015. Let’s break it down by the numbers, from PP’s fiscal report and the Hopkins fund:

  • Planned Parenthood’s revenue: $14,336,66
  • Planned Parenthood’s expenses: $13,984,785
  • Planned Parenthood’s profit: $351,883
  • Total amount requested from the Hopkins fund: $383,786
  • Total amount distributed by the Hopkins fund: $257,500

Planned Parenthood’s excess of revenue over expenses for their most recent fiscal year is $94,383 more than the total amount distributed to social service organizations by the Hopkins fund. This is utterly shameful. Planned Parenthood clearly does not need the $5,000 they requested from the City Council and was seeking these funds for the sole purpose of getting a political endorsement from the city council. It is shameful that the council is perverting the purpose of the Hopkins fund by using it for political purposes rather than assisting social service agencies in their efforts to help those in need.

Planned Parenthood’s grant does not even meet the criteria for funding that agencies are supposed to meet. The Hopkins fund is supposed to be for one-time projects. Things like fixing air conditioning or providing refrigeration units meet that standard. Planned Parenthood’s grant will pay for STD tests, same-day HIV tests, pregnancy tests, pap tests, and colposcopy & biopsy procedures – all things that Planned Parenthood already does when they are not murdering babies.

Several of my friends and I attended the meeting and spoke against the funding for PP because the organization murders babies every week at their “clinic” on South College Avenue. Even though this corporate welfare supposedly does not go to PP’s abortion business, we object to our tax dollars being given to an organization that murders babies in their mothers’ wombs. Jim Billingsley offered an excellent rebuttal to the handout for PP with a quote from Thomas Jefferson: “To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.”

One of the people who spoke in public comment said that the city should not be pushing a specific religious belief or interpretation of the Bible. But by funding Planned Parenthood, the City Council is doing just that. They are taking taxpayer dollars confiscated by force and giving it to an organization that thousands of citizens find morally repugnant. If we are interested in not taking sides in the abortion debate, there should be no subsidy for Planned Parenthood.

This nonsense needs to stop. Planned Parenthood is not even pretending to follow the guidelines any longer, and other organizations that could use the money for legitimate needs are being shut out so the City Council can make a political donation with taxpayer dollars every June. Since Planned Parenthood will not stop asking for money forcibly confiscated from taxpayers, the City Council needs to tell them they will not get one more dime – or the voters need to replace them with a new council that will.