A bigger issue than net neutrality

There is a bigger issue in the FCC vote on Thursday than net neutrality.

Since this is basically a new law, it should have been passed by Congress, not an administrative agency.

Once again, this shows how lawless our government has become, with the bureaucracy usurping powers that rightly belong to the legislative branch.

And that lawlessness is bipartisan.

Evolution and Republican politics

Despite the fact that just over 40% of Americans believe the Earth is less than 10,000 years old, belief in evolution is being used as a wedge issue against and litmus test for potential Republican candidates for President in 2016.

The theory is that if you believe in the Biblical account of a literal six-day creation, you are an ignorant, stupid, uneducated inbred hick. You probably live in Appalachia and are married to your first cousin. Most of the people mocking creationists will not admit they think this way, other than the “uneducated” part but the subtext is clearly there. Anyone who admits being a young-earth creationist – even the 27% who have a college degree – are clearly several steps below the rest of society.

But here is the dirty little secret – no one cares if a Republican candidate for President is a young-earth creationist. The people who do care and will vote based on that would never vote for a Republican candidate anyway. People are much more concerned about a candidate’s relevant experience, his record in office, his policy proposals and political platform, and how his policies will impact them, their wallets, and the issues they care deeply about. Whether a Republican candidate is a creationist or not is irrelevant to these other factors.

While elitists love to puff up their chests and look down their noses at creationists, belief in the Biblical account of creation is not nearly as much of a political disadvantage as they think it is. In fact, the vindictiveness, snark and ridicule might actually benefit the candidate being attacked as average voters think they are also being mocked and insulted by the elite. Just as Mitt Romney’s remark about the 47 percent harmed him in the 2012 election, deriding anyone who believes that what Genesis says is literally true can backfire badly.

In defense of exclusive primaries

Primaries are a good thing, and should remain under the control of the political parties. While Indiana technically has a “closed” primary, the enforcement is nonexistent, allowing people to cross back and forth or (worse) monkeywrench the other party’s primary. Now comes a Herald-Times editorial arguing for an open primary system – one that would defeat the entire purpose of primary elections.

As a Republican, I have no business deciding who the Democratic nominee for Mayor will be. I am not going to be voting for the Democratic candidate, and that decision is best made by Democratic voters. Note that I said Democratic “voters” instead of Democratic party activists. After all, party activists are a small subset of the primary voters who choose the nominees. This is why the Herald-Times’ argument for allowing voters to participate “whether they are active in a party or not” is a classic Straw Man logical fallacy.

(See previous articles from April 27, 2011 and April 21, 2011.)

I am not sure why the H-T is complaining that the primary system somehow violates people’s privacy. There are many good reasons why someone’s election participation is public record. One reason is it protects against voter fraud: It is important to have the voter list be verifiable. Everyone can look up who voted in a primary or general election. Even if someone votes in a primary, it does not mean that person will vote for all – or even any – of that party’s general election nominees. When someone votes – though not for whom they voted – should always be public record.

The primary election already results in the top vote-getter for each party making it to the November general election, though there are two separate pools of voters instead of only one. That means the nomination is already decided by the voters. This is why, nationwide, there have been many candidates who have been chosen by voters when the political parties would have chosen someone else. One big example is Barack Obama, who most likely would not have been the Democratic nominee for President in 2008 if that was decided only at a convention instead of primary votes.

Some have argued for nominating conventions instead of taxpayer-funded primary elections. The problem with this is it does not give the voters a choice of who will represent them on the ballot. The other problem is that party insiders may choose a poor candidate, while winning a primary election at least demonstrates that candidate has the support of the party’s voters. There have been a number of elections where the nominees would have been very different if chosen by the party establishment instead of the voters. And while not having taxpayers fund a primary sounds good on paper, it is never going to happen. You will never see that choice taken away from voters.

The primary system is a good one. All it asks is that the voters who pick the party’s nominees pick one party or the other. Having an open primary where all voters can choose both parties’ nominees is an invitation for mischief and severely dilutes what it means to be a Republican or a Democrat. Strong political parties, and clear differences between the parties, is good for democracy. It should remain that way, and separate primaries ensure that. If anything, Indiana’s closed primary system should be more restrictive, not less.

Just say "no" to mandatory HPV vaccinations!

A couple weeks ago, I argued that the Measles vaccine (and vaccines for other highly contagious communicable diseases) should be mandatory in order to protect public health. This is a case where the rights of the public to not be infected should supersede individual choice, under the principle that “your right to swing your fist ends when you touch my nose.” But one proposal that should be rejected is the idea of mandatory vaccinations of all children for the human papillomavirus, or HPV. This was proposed by the Indiana state legislature.

(See previous articles from September 20, 2011 and December 31, 2005 and February 28, 2007.)

The big difference is that HPV is a sexually transmitted disease, and therefore an infected person cannot pass it to someone else unless there is sexual contact between the two. Someone who has HPV cannot infect anyone else unless that person is sexually intimate with the infected person. Whether we want to admit it or not, the HPV vaccine does send a dangerous message that sexual intimacy outside of marriage is less dangerous, and there are many consequences of sexual immorality that go beyond sexually transmitted diseases.

Since HPV is spread in a very specific way, it should be up to the parents to decide whether or not their children (usually daughters) will get the vaccine. I do not have a problem with the vaccine itself or with parents choosing it, and if I had a daughter I would probably encourage her to get the vaccine as an extra safeguard. The potentially dangerous moral message can be overcome by instruction in morality. Plus, it is possible that even a faithful married person can contract HPV from a spouse who was infected before the marriage happened or is unfaithful.

But making the HPV vaccine mandatory is a step too far. It does not protect public health, and instead intrudes on a private medical decision that is properly made by families and their doctors. It also intrudes on parents’ God-given authority over their children’s welfare. I fully support giving information on the vaccine and full information on its effectiveness. But this is not a decision that should be made by the government.

Pavilion Properties’ unprofessional, childish and offensive ads

Does Pavilion Properties really think that a video of a naked man, with his genitals (barely) covered, is the best way to attract new tenants to rent an apartment or house managed by them? If I was in the market for a rental home, an advertisement like that would not only do nothing to help sell Pavilion as a landlord, it would actively push me toward other property management companies.

Perhaps Pavilion thinks that the ad is edgy or clever. It is not. It is offensive, childish, and incredibly unprofessional. It has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of the rental properties Pavilion is marketing to students, or anyone else who reads the Indiana Daily Student website. As an IU alumnus and Bloomington resident, I check the IDS daily to see what is going on with the alma mater as well as the IDS’ coverage of local news. I do not appreciate being accosted with this offensive video while I am trying to stay informed.

The IDS designed the ad for Pavilion, and I think Pavilion got a bad deal. Think about this for a minute: You work for one of the best college newspapers in the nation, a newspaper that often has better coverage of local events and issues than even Bloomington’s local newspaper. This is despite having a disadvantage in institutional knowledge of the area and contacts with local people. If you want to go into a career designing online advertisements, or working in the news media generally, do you think this helps or hurts your career prospects?

The naked video advertisement, unfortunately, highlights a disturbing tendency of the Indiana Daily Student – being crude the sake of being crude. From publishing obscene words to inappropriate images and video, some folks at the IDS seem to have never moved beyond junior high school in terms of maturity. Readers of the IDS website, and people who are looking for a rental home, should expect more maturity and seriousness from a top college newspaper and an otherwise respectable property management firm.

Like it or not, Marie Harf has a point

One of the things I dislike about social media (and especially Twitter) is how things tend to be dumbed down and stripped of context, for the sole purpose of creating a silly meme that misses the entire point of what it is (poorly) mocking. One example of this is the case of Marie Harf, who has practically been painted as a sympathizer of the Islamic State for a comment she made on Hardball. First, let’s take a look at what she said:

“We’re killing a lot of them, and we’re going to keep killing more of them. So are the Egyptians, so are the Jordanians — they’re in this fight with us. But we cannot win this war by killing them. We cannot kill our way out of this war. We need in the medium to longer term to go after the root causes that leads people to join these groups, whether it’s a lack of opportunity for jobs.”


“We can work with countries around the world to help improve their governance. We can help them build their economies so they can have job opportunities for these people.”

You will notice that nowhere does she say that we should not kill ISIS terrorists. She said we and our allies will continue to kill them. What she is doing is pointing out that we need a holistic approach to dealing with Islamic terrorism. I fail to see why this is controversial, or why what she said is “stupid.”

It is well known that in times of desperation, it is easier for demagogues to whip up popular support and make a grab for power. One example of this is the rise of Adolf Hitler to power in Germany. There were a number of factors that contributed to Hitler’s rise to power, but one of the big ones was the severe economic depression and hyperinflation in postwar Germany. Hitler offered a way out of the depression and a scapegoat for it.

Yes, of course some Muslim terrorists were wealthy before they became terrorists. Yes, of course some of the people fighting for ISIS are just plain evil sadists. But people who lack economic opportunity, people who are dealing with a corrupt and oppressive government, and people who do not see a lot of hope for improving their lives are vulnerable to the pull of persuasive demagogues to fight for them, especially if they are fighting for some sort of “greater cause.”

Harf was right to argue that we need a more holistic strategy. It is a longstanding theory in political science that democracies do not fight each other. (This is not entirely true, as a quick Google search will show.) One big reason we rebuilt Germany and Japan with democratic traditions was to turn them into allies instead of enemies. Building bridges with the Muslim world and fostering economic opportunity is a similar (though obviously not identical) strategy – using our soft power as a way to blunt extremism.

There are many legitimate objections to President Obama’s strategy in dealing with the Islamic State. The silly #JobsForISIS meme is not one of them. It makes conservatives look simple-minded and does a disservice to legitimate discourse about public policy. Serious issues (especially life-or-death issues like the War on Terror) need serious people and serious ideas. Mocking a legitimate and historically proven strategy is not serious by any means.

Following up – "traditional" values vs. Christian values

Note: I posted this in the comments section for yesterday’s post, but I am also highlighting it on the main page because it’s a long comment.

I’m not advocating for everyone to be forced to “convert” to Christianity, as that would represent false conversions. That also presents a dangerous precedent, and gives power to a government that can never be trusted with it no matter who is in charge.

But in terms of religious values in law, we have that right now and have since the nation was founded. We always will. The question is not whether we have religious values in our system of laws, but which values.

The phrasing of your question is interesting – “impose” the Biblical definition of marriage on a homosexual. I certainly do not believe that anyone should be forced to marry against their will. In fact, I do not believe government has an interest in criminalizing relationships between consenting adults. I would draw a distinction between a sin and a crime.

But allowing people to live as they please is not the same as having government place a stamp of approval on that relationship with legal recognition of that relationship as a “marriage.” Our society has always had restrictions on what it recognizes as a marriage: No polygamy, no close relatives, and (until very, very recently) no people of the same sex. We do not allow people under a certain age to be married, to protect them against abuse an exploitation. So arguing about whether there should be restrictions is pointless. The argument is about which restrictions.

Even before the states started recognizing same-sex marriage within the last decade, any homosexual could “marry” someone of the same sex provided they could find a church in rebellion against Scripture to perform the ceremony. There were no restrictions on it and it was not illegal. What that couple could not do is have the state place a stamp of approval on and grant legal recognition to that “marriage.”

And all of that was always considered in perfect harmony with the First Amendment until the last decade. It was inconceivable for the men who actually wrote the First Amendment that it would be used to force state recognition of same-sex “marriage.” Original intent matters, and the prevailing political winds of the day should not be used to change the clear meaning of the Constitution as it was written.