Three quick notes

A question: What if people left parties the same way they leave Facebook?

The Obama administration’s rule on relief agencies providing access to abortion is causing quite a bit of concern. But the reality is this: With government money comes government strings. Always assume those strings will become a noose used to strangle your liberty. Getting entangled with government is a bad idea.

I posted the text of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act on Facebook.

Does administrative experience matter?

We have heard a lot of criticism these last seven years in relation to Obama that he lacks administrative experience, and now we are hearing the same about Ted Cruz. Unless someone has been the governor of a state (especially a large state) then he is not seem to have the administrative experience necessary to be the chief executive. But the big question is, does the President need that experience?

The federal government takes in and spends over three trillion dollars every year. The federal government’s workforce is absolutely massive, spread across various agencies and bureaucracies. The President, even if he spent every waking moment doing nothing but managing, could not hope to even begin to oversee the federal government. This is why the President appoints heads of various agencies, who then have managers and supervisors under them. This leaves the President free to focus on more of a big picture agenda instead of the minutia of the federal juggernaut.

A bigger question, and the one we should be asking, is whether a candidate for President has good judgment, good character, and a good ideological focus. (The last of which is obviously different for each voter.) Can the President pick good people to run the various federal agencies, and are those people capable of managing the managers under them? Is the President a good judge of character, so he is not picking bad actors to run federal agencies? Is the President himself a trustworthy person?

The focus on administrative experience has never made sense to me. I am much more interested in the President’s character, discernment and judgment, as well as his policy agenda than in a skill set he will never actually use in office. For an office like mayor or county auditor, administrative experience matters and should be at the top of the list of qualifications voters consider. For the President of these United States, the concern is misplaced and can distract from what really matters.

No, Bloomington cannot decriminalize marijuana

Democratic candidate for mayor John Linnemeier made headlines earlier this week when he proposed that the city decriminalize marijuana. The problem with this is that city government has no authority to decriminalize marijuana or any other illegal drug. That is a state law, not a local law.

While I agree with Linnemeier on the issue itself, he did himself no favors with this proposal, which made him look like he does not understand the powers and responsibilities of local and state government in Indiana. If you want to be Mayor,you need to demonstrate that you know what city government does and does not have the authority to do. Proposing that the city do something the city cannot do indicates that you are “not ready for prime time.”

What the city does have the authority to do is change the enforcement priorities for the police department. The Republican candidate for mayor in 2003 expressed concern over police “harassing” students when they are walking home from a bar. (Which is what we want them to do, instead of driving.) Linnemeier could use his authority as mayor to instruct police to place less emphasis on marijuana infractions. State police, of course, can continue to enforce the law. The Indiana University Police Department can do the same.

I mocked the Libertarian Party for being “the party of dope” a few years ago, and I also have to question the priorities of a candidate for Mayor who makes marijuana decriminalization a top issue – especially when he does not have the authority to decriminalize anything. If Linnemeier wants to change marijuana policy in the state, he should run for state legislator or governor. Perhaps Linnemeier and Brent Steele can join forces to make this a bipartisan effort.

Littering

So I am driving on the west side the other day, in the left lane on West Third Street. The passenger in the car ahead of me chunks a Polar Pop cup out the window into the street, in traffic.

Really?

You can’t find a trash can?

Seriously?

Come on, people. There is no reason to behave like that. Even if your parents didn’t teach you basic manners, you are old enough to know better. Grow up.

Free speech in the U.S. Senate

For all of the sound and fury about Republicans in the U.S. Senate allegedly sending a letter to the leadership of Iran, there is something that has been missed, and that is a critical fact. Those Republicans in the U.S. Senate never sent a letter to Iran. Yes. That is right. The Republicans never sent a letter to Iran. This is a rather important detail.

What the Republicans actually did is compose an “open letter” to be posted online and published in newspapers. In essence, they were exercising their free speech rights under the First Amendment. They wrote an editorial. If what the Republican senators did was “treasonous” then all of the editorials, speeches and statements by Democrats in opposition to President Bush’s policy in Iraq and Afghanistan were and are also treasonous. All of those things could be seen by hostile regimes or terrorist groups, after all.

Now, politically, what the Republicans did was not very bright. By writing their editorial in the second person and calling it an open letter, they managed to draw more attention to their argument but also gave Democrats the opportunity to completely ignore the content of the editorial and toss out accusations, red herrings and straw men. They did not think this through. Someone should have raised a red flag about how this could be spun. Between all of the Senators and their staffs, someone should have thought about this. Perhaps someone did, and was ignored.

But the fact is that the Republicans did not do anything abnormal, or anything that Senators of both parties have not done for centuries. For all of the discussion about politics stopping at the water’s edge, there has always been public debate about our foreign policy, and what that policy should and should not be. This debate has been carried on in editorial pages, floor speeches, press releases and letters to the editor, all the way down to water cooler discussions. Democrats, who once claimed that dissent is patriotic, are playing a very dangerous game that could easily turn against them.

A bigger question and a more serious problem

The theft of $430,000 by an employee of the parks department in the city of Bloomington is certainly troubling, and it is important that this person should be punished to the fullest extent of the law if she is convicted by a jury of her peers. But that is not the real scandal here.

Why were there not sufficient financial controls in place to prevent the theft of several hundred thousand dollars? That is the real question here, and that’s the real scandal. Why were there not several sets of eyes on the parks department finances to ensure that all of the money is accounted for and is going to the right place? How was this person able to get away with stealing for four years before she was caught?

We know from Romans 3:10-18 that human beings are inherently corrupt, so the fact that people will steal money or property is not a surprise. No matter how exemplary someone’s history or character might be, there will always be temptation to steal, especially when one is responsible for large sums of money. That is why any organization should have procedures in place to verify where money is and how it is spent.

Even worse, this story follows the arrest and criminal prosecution of another Bloomington city government employee in another department who stole over $800,000 from the city over several years. With over $1,200,000 in taxpayers’ money stolen by just two city employees, the people of Bloomington should be very worried over what are obviously very sloppy accounting practices in city government.

This year is an election year, with four candidates (three Democrats and a Republican) seeking their respective parties’ nomination for Mayor. All four of them should commit to full and complete financial transparency, instead of the shamefully secretive nature of the Kruzan administration following the first scandal. All four should commit to a top-to-bottom review of the city’s financial procedures to ensure that crimes like this do not happen again. The taxpayers deserve no less.