Following up on corporate welfare for Planned Parenthood

As expected, my letter to the editor generated some responses, so I will address some of those criticisms here.

Here is something that needs to be addressed right away: This is most certainly not an issue that has been debated for 40 years. At most, this issue has been debated for 17 years, since the city council started funding Planned Parenthood through the social services fund in 1999. The issue did not become heavily contested in the public arena until 2002, so in reality it has been debated for 14 years. Describing this as a decades old issue is simply dishonest.

As far as the comment time, if the city is going to cast a vote to spend tax money in a way many citizens disagree with, the city council has an obligation to listen to the people speak against the handout. If they are unwilling to listen to their constituents – if they are actively silencing a number of people – they are not qualified to serve as elected legislators. Period. If they do not want to listen to people speaking against funding Planned Parenthood, they should not be funding Planned Parenthood.

My call for Councilor Granger to recuse herself was met with an absolutely absurd response, suggesting that by that standard someone who volunteers for a school should not be allowed to vote in a school board election. This is utter nonsense. The obvious flaw in the comparison is that Granger is voting as an elected legislator on sending tax money to an organization she actively volunteers for. This is not an issue of disenfranchising voters. This is an issue of a conflict of interest. Granger is not legally required to recuse herself but it would nonetheless be ethical for her to do so – especially since the subsidy will pass unanimously anyway!

At least those two issues are relevant to the topic. I was described as an “Old Testament literalist” I was called a hypocrite for (among other things) eating pork and shellfish. The hypocrisy of this accusation is glaring. In order to accuse me of picking and choosing, my critics have to pick and choose which parts of the Bible apply – explicitly ignoring the nullification of Old Testament dietary laws by Jesus Christ Himself in Acts 10:9-16, as well as the Apostle Paul describing such restrictions as a doctrine of demons in his letter to Timothy.

My letter stands. There’s simply no way to defend Granger’s decision to vote to give tax money to an organization where she works as a clinic escort, and there is no justification for limiting debate time. Yes, there was other legislative business (specifically a hike in water rates) but that can easily be scheduled for a different meeting. The city council knows that a bunch of people will show up to remonstrate against the subsidy to Planned Parenthood, and it is their job to listen to the people who pay their salary and pay for their health care benefits on legislation they are considering.

It is really simple: Either do your job or resign from the council so someone else who is willing to do the work of being a city councilor can serve in your place.

"Star Wars" nails it for those who don’t get politics

One would not think that a Star Wars movie would be the place to bring folks back to reality in dealing with political disagreements, but there is a very short exchange in Attack of the Clones that should be required viewing for anyone looking to run for legislative office. This is a basic, simple concept that too many people just do not understand.

When Padme Amidala and Anakin Skywalker are talking, Anakin is bemoaning the inefficiencies of democracy and says that the politicians should just get together, talk it over, and get something done. That is pretty much what we hear all the time in the real world, from politicians to pundits to your average man on the street. Padme responds by saying that people do not agree on what needs to be done, and Anakin says they should be made to agree. Padme asks who should make them agree, and Anakin says “someone wise.” Padme correctly points out that Anakin’s idea “sounds like a dictatorship.”

Yes. A hundred trillion times, yes!

People just do not agree. Whether the issue is gun control, health care, abortion, homosexual marriage, religious liberty, taxes, regulation, environmental policy or any number of other things, people do not agree on what is best. Just as one cannot expect Leftists to go along with a conservative policy they find ineffective or harmful, one should not expect conservatives to go along with a policy they find ineffective or harmful. It is better to do nothing at all than to do something destructive.

This is why it is so disingenuous and hypocritical for politicians and pundits to whine about gridlock. A more ethical solution would be to make the case for your policy, and why it will be beneficial and will solve the problem we are facing. But as long as whining about gridlock scores political points, politicians and pundits will continue to whine. The solution, then, is for the American people to educate themselves and think critically about these things. If people stop applauding this uninformed, content-free whining the whining will stop.

We have posse comitatus for a reason!

The terrorist attack on a homosexual nightclub in Orlando has some people gloating that this validates militarizing our police forces. This is a poor argument and is it unfortunate to see people be willing to give local government this kind of power, and it is scary that people who really ought to know better do not foresee the danger this represents to our liberty.

When I ran for city council last year, I raised concerns about the Bloomington Police Department requesting a Mine Resistant, Ambush Protected (MRAP) military vehicle straight from the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan for local policing. This was not because we are facing an armed insurrection, but because police want to bring overwhelming force to their enforcement of drug laws. Paramilitary SWAT teams are even being used for regulatory inspections!

See here and here and here and here for more.

Let’s get this straw man out of the way, right away. People are not objecting to police having protective equipment like helmets and bulletproof vests. Protective equipment is a long way from military grade weapons that are more appropriate for a foreign battlefield than for domestic policing.

Most people do not even object to the existence of SWAT teams. The problem with SWAT is it is vastly overused, including for regulatory inspections. There have been too many tragedies because cowboy law enforcement decided to conduct a middle-of-the-night paramilitary raid instead of simply serving an arrest warrant. In the case of a baby who was severely burned because a flash bang grenade exploded in his face, the perp the cops were looking for not only did not live in the home, he was arrested later without incident at a different location.

We all know what happened in Waco, when the federal government used military force, including tanks, on American soil against American citizens. That is truly frightening and should have been a wake-up call about use of force, whether by the federal government or by local law enforcement. Unfortunately, we were in the middle of a national hysteria about crime that led to some terrible policies in the 1990’s.

Our nation has always been wary of militarizing the police, and rightly so. Congress passed posse comitatus for a reason. We shouldn’t be making an end run around that by turning law enforcement into soldiers. Cops are not soldiers and should not be soldiers. The job of a police officer who is arresting citizens and is charged with protecting even suspected criminals’ civil rights is very different from the job of a soldier, who is to kill people and break things in a war.

Finally, we should dispense with another straw man. Opposing the militarization of police is not bashing cops. That is a smear designed to distract from the debate. One can disagree with bad policy and urge reforms in the way police pursue criminals without bashing police. This “war on cops” meme is intentionally designed to stifle dissent, because defenders of a bad policy knew they were losing the argument on the merits of that policy. We should reject these ad hominem attacks.

Citizens deserve a chance to speak

Bloomington Herald-Times, June 21, 2016

To the Editor:

The June 15 city council meeting was an embarrassment. Between 30 and 40 people showed up to remonstrate against the city’s funding of Planned Parenthood. As soon as they saw we were all there, Steve Volan immediately moved to limit comments from the public. Speakers were limited to two minutes, which is reasonable in order to give everyone a chance to speak.

What was not reasonable was limiting total public comment time to 40 minutes. At least six people were not allowed to speak, and more did not even get up to wait in line at all. If the city council does not want to listen to the public speak on an issue they are voting on that night, they are not qualified to lead this city and should resign.

Dorothy Granger, who brags on her campaign website that she is a volunteer clinic escort for Planned Parenthood, should have recused herself from the vote. It presents an appearance of impropriety for Planned Parenthood clinic escorts to be using their elected positions to funnel tax money to their organization.

The councilors did not even attempt to address the arguments presented. Their attitude was, “we will do what we want.” Shameful.

Would Republicans oppose the Grand Wizard of the KKK?

Donald Trump is, for all intents and purposes, the Republican Party’s nominee for President. But nominee or not, it is bad idea for Republicans to continually demand Republicans “unify” around Donald Trump. That does not unify the party. Instead, it only divides us farther and provokes more arguments around someone who is – let’s be honest – an incredibly divisive nominee.

Like it or not, there are some Republicans who will never vote for Donald Trump. That’s the way it is and that will not change. I hope that Republicans will agree with me that there is a line where we cannot in good conscience support a Republican nominee for elective office. I would hope there is a line where we will openly oppose that nominee and support a respectable alternative.

Let me use a real-world historical example. Back in the early 1990’s, a KKK Grand Wizard named David Duke was a Republican candidate for office in Louisiana. Good Republicans stood up against this wicked man and publicly refused to support him. That was the right thing to do.

Now, Donald Trump is not David Duke. I am not equating the two.

The point I am making is that there is a line where good Republicans must openly and publicly oppose a Republican candidate for office, both for the long term good of the party and just for basic moral decency. Where that line falls is different for every Republican. But in every election, the reality is that some Republicans will always openly oppose certain Republican candidates.

It is foolish and counterproductive to spend all of our time worrying about that. We should instead focus on where we are unified instead of deepening the divisions within the party by either demanding we support the nominee no matter what or demanding all dissent within the Big Tent be silenced.

Demanding #NeverTrump Republicans “unify” around an incredibly divisive (and intentionally divisive) nominee will only provoke more arguments about him, as we have seen in countless threads on Republican pages on Facebook, public meetings and so forth. Instead, we need to focus on where we are united. We do not have to be unified on supporting Trump to be unified in our support of other Republicans on the ballot. We can agree to disagree and move forward in a productive way in electing candidates we all support.

Let’s try that for once.

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Thoughts on the Republican state convention

I was elected as a delegate to the state convention last month, so that’s where I was on June 11. It was an exciting time and a lot of fun, and we have a strong ticket moving into the November election.

Dawn Wooten gave an impassioned speech but she was overwhelmed by Jennifer McCormick’s campaign. McCormick was more organized, had far more supporters and more funding. Some delegates I talked to had concerns over McCormick’s stances on issues, but she’ll be a dramatic improvement over Glenda Ritz and had a positive vision for moving forward.

Speaking of organized campaigns, all four candidates for attorney general were there in force but Curtis Hill had arguably the best organization – including the backing of several IU College Republican officers. I thought Steve Carter deserved another term after serving well for eight years after being elected in 2000, and he has proven himself to be a statewide winner. However, the majority of delegates felt differently.

This was a reverse Hobson’s choice for delegates, though. There were no bad options in that race, as there were four very qualified and experienced candidates. Curtis Hill is a poised, articulate, experienced candidate who commands respect. I was shocked to see how poorly Abby Kuzma did in the first round, especially since she is a deputy AG under incumbent Greg Zoeller.

It is good to see such a strong Republican Party in the state of Indiana, which will hopefully push back against the agenda of whichever candidate becomes President in November.

Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones

Continuing my retrospective of the Star Wars movies, I watched Episode II last week. This movie has its share of critics too, and it definitely has flaws. It is better than Episode I, if for no other reason than Jar Jar Binks’ role is greatly diminished. It does take a while to get from Point A to Point B, though.

We begin with an assassination attempt on Senator Amidala. She was queen in the last movie, but apparently on Naboo queens are elected and have term limits. This makes no sense. The assassination was not carried out by the person hired to kill Amidala, but by someone else. Subcontracting an assassination is rather strange.

Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi are called in to protect Amidala, and Anakin is really creepy. He immediately tells Amidala she is beautiful and talks to Kenobi about how he dreams of her every night. It does not help that the actors playing Anakin and Amidala do not have a lot of chemistry, so when Amidala tells Anakin to not look at her because “it makes me uncomfortable” it feels like an emphatic rejection. It is difficult to believe they will be an item later. The romance is very forced, to the point that Amidala might as well look at the camera and say “I love Anakin now because the script says so.”

It is good to see Yoda recognize the Jedi have become arrogant and complacent, but this is never followed up on. This should have been emphasized more strongly than it was, and the movie suffers for it.

We see some seeds of Darth Vader planted when Anakin and Amidala are speaking, and he basically supports a dictatorship because he feels democracy does not work. Unfortunately, this is mixed in with a bad scene. Anakin is writing verbal poetry to Amidala, which is incredibly emo to the point it is painful to listen to. The dialogue is absolutely terrible here, but Natalie Portman’s body language is really good. She is shifting uncomfortably in her seat, showing how much Anakin’s emo poem is creeping her out.

A few other random observations:

♣ – It is unusual for a non-Sith to go one on one with a Jedi and hold his own, much less win a fight. Jango Fett does that against Kenobi in the fight on Kamino.

♣ – Watto was a strong personality in Episode I, but is broken down and weak willed when we see him here. It would be interesting to see what happened to him over the last ten years.

♣ – Amidala should be completely horrified by Anakin slaughtering the sandpeople. She certainly should not be saying it is “human” to be angry after Anakin massacred children. This was a poorly written scene that should have played out with someone else, because it makes Amidala look as bad as Anakin.

♣ – R2D2 and and C-3PO are shoehorned into this movie and contribute virtually nothing to the plot. The slapstick comedy is out of place, especially during the final battle.

♣ – Why is no one in the Senate concerned that the clone army was created a full decade before the vote giving Palpatine the authority to create the clone army?

♣ – Why would Count Dooku spill the beans on the Sith’s plot? What if the Jedi had belived him? That was a huge risk. That scene should have been cut out of the movie.

♣ – Amidala and Anakin’s trip to the factory made me think I should pick up a controller. It is a quicktime event! This was obviously designed for a video game tie-in.

♣ – When a Jedi goes at totally nonchalant Count Dooku, Jango kills him and holsters his weapon like a gunslinger. That was really cool.

♣ – The Stormtroopers arrive in nick of time to save the Jedi because of course they do.

♣ – The fight between Yoda and Count Dooku is spectacular.

I like this movie, but it takes a very long time to accomplish very little. The main plot elements were Anakin’s slow turn to the dark side, establishing the romance between Anakin and Amidala, setting up the Stormtroopers, and establishing Palpatine’s emergency powers. It took way too much time to get four things done and it could have been much more efficient. That is why the movie drags at times.