No good reason to challenge Dan Burton

The Republican establishment is continuing its misguided efforts to unseat incumbent U.S. Rep. Dan Burton, and that is unfortunate. There is no good reason to take Burton out of Congress.

I am not opposed to challenging incumbent Republicans in the primary. I have supported and will continue to support primary challenges to incumbents. I have even voted Libertarian when a RINO is on the general election ballot. But if you are going to challenge an incumbent of your own party, you need to have a good reason for doing so. “I want to be a Congressman” is not a good enough reason and in an ideal world should you to be defeated in the primary.

Burton has a 97% rating from the American Conservative Union, a 94% rating from the Club for Growth and a 98% rating from the National Right to Life Committee. Burton also has a 100% rating from the American Family Association, the Family Research Council and the Christian Coalition. Burton got an A rating from the National Rifle Association and Gun Owners of America.

So why are so many establishment Republicans trying to take Burton out of Congress?

Perhaps establishment Republicans want a Gray Poupon candidate who won’t embarrass them at the country club. I’m convinced that at least some of the opposition to Burton comes from elitists who think he’s too brash or aggressive – the same reason many establishment Republicans despise Sarah Palin. That’s not a good enough reason to remove a public servant like Burton, who has been on the front lines for conservative principles his entire career.

There has been a lot of heat on the Tea Party movement for challenging longtime establishment Republicans. Why is so little said about the Republican establishment’s repeated efforts to get rid of Dan Burton, who has been a reliable conservative vote and loyal Republican for decades?

Eventually, Burton is going to retire, and there will be plenty of opportunity for another Republican to grab the brass ring. Burton should have earned enough loyalty by now to leave him where he is.

Video games are not real, Part 2

In March of 2009, I pointed out that video games are not real. Now, for most people, this is an obvious truth. To the fools at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, it is not obvious. You see, the fools at PETA are really, really stupid. That’s why they are whining and crying about the “Tanooki Suit” in the new Super Mario game for the Nintendo 3DS. (See articles here, here and here about this stupid non-controversy.)

Of course, the Tanooki suit isn’t the only “skin” Mario has worn. The Tanooki suit was introduced in Super Mario Bros. 3, where Mario also wore a frog suit and a Hammer Brothers suit – each of which granted special powers. Mario also wore a turtle shell in the New Super Mario Bros. game for the DS.

This is to say nothing of the scores of animals that Mario “kills” in his adventures. Turtles, moles, fish, beetles, squids, crabs, bats and caterpillars are just a few of the types of enemies Mario has “killed” through his dozens of adventures on multiple game consoles and hand-held systems. So why not cry about all of these other things?

Better yet, why cry about Mario’s Tanooki suit at all? PETA does stand for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, right? Why are they worried about pixels and polygons, when not one single animal is actually harmed?

The answer is actually very simple. PETA cares much more about drawing attention to itsELF than actually advocating for animals. There is so little difference between PETA and the Westboro Baptist “Church” that Ingrid Newkirk and Fred Phelps might as well be the same person.

Here is what is unfortunate. PETA actually raises some good points about fur. In western society, there is no need to wear real fur. The animals killed are for a luxury item, and in many cases the animals are killed in extremely inhumane and painful ways. Legitimate efforts to improve the treatment of those animals and educate the public are lost behind PETA’s attention-grabbing “LOOK AT ME” antics that make them more like the Westboro Baptist “Church” than a legitimate organization trying to improve the treatment of animals.

Remove Smith-Ille from the Election Board

Printed in the Herald-Times, November 25, 2011

To the Editor:

The 2011 election night vote-counting disaster was shameful. First, there is no excuse for county clerk Linda Robbins to not know the law. This does not bode well for the high-turnout 2012 election, and voters should remember this fiasco in 2014.

But it is the childish behavior of Republican Election Board appointee Judith Smith-Ille that deserves the most scorn. As a longtime Republican and a former Republican candidate for elective office, I am ashamed of her actions.

She admitted (H-T, 11/9/2011) that she knew months in advance about the process-breaking rules, but did not inform the clerk about it until two days in advance. This is unacceptable and reeks of sabotage.

Smith-Ille and her anonymous defenders whine that she is ignored by the Democrats on the Election Board.

Maybe they would have ignored her had she presented the facts. Then the election night disaster is completely on them. But Smith-Ille has a responsibility to the voters of Monroe County and to the Republican Party to provide the necessary information in a timely manner.

Monroe County Republican Party chairman Steve Hogan should remove Smith-Ille from the Election Board and apologize on her behalf to the voters of Monroe County.

Thanksgiving 2011

A few verses from God’s holy Word for Thanksgiving:

♣ Give thanks unto the LORD, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the people. — 1 Chronicles 16:8

♣ Therefore will I give thanks unto thee, O LORD, among the heathen, and sing praises unto thy name. — Psalm 18:49

♣ Sing unto the LORD, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness. — Psalm 30:4

♣ Unto thee, O God, do we give thanks, unto thee do we give thanks: for that thy name is near thy wondrous works declare. — Psalm 75:1

♣ Praise ye the LORD. O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever. — Psalm 106:1

♣ But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. — 1 Corinthians 15:57

♣ Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place. — 2 Corinthians 2:14

♣ Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. — Philippians 4:6

♣ And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him. — Colossians 3:17

♣ In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. — 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Mr. Newt’s personal baggage and 2012

Newt Gingrich has vaulted to the top of the polls, taking his place as the latest “not Romney” candidate with the Republican base. Whether he stays there and can win the nomination remains to be seen, but it is remarkable how he has recovered from his campaign collapsing earlier this year. Gingrich has a long history in politics, and one question that has dogged him is his three marriages, all of which are tainted by the stain of adultery.

We all know the story. Gingrich committed adultery and divorced his first wife to be with his mistress. Then he committed adultery again and divorced his second wife to be with his next mistress. In 2009, Gingrich converted to Roman Catholicism, speaking publicly about his sin and how he repented and asked God to forgive him.

This is the story of every single person who has ever accepted Christ as his savior. We all do wicked things, and we deserve eternal damnation in Hell for it. But Jesus Christ took the punishment for our sins upon Himself so that we might escape the damnation we deserve and instead have eternal life.

  • “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” — 1 John 1:9

  • They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. – Mark 2:17

There’s no question that Gingrich has committed wicked sins. What he did cannot be excused. In terms of character and fitness to be president, the main question is this: Is Gingrich’s repentance genuine? Or is he saying what he needs to say in order to minimize the effect of his adultery with evangelical Christians who make up the Republican base?

Gingrich has said a few things about what he did, some of which were off the wall, and some of which indicated genuine repentance. I don’t know him personally, so it is difficult (though not impossible) to discern whether his repentance is genuine. I am willing to let him have the benefit of the doubt, which is the charitable thing to do. Absent evidence of further wickedness, his past adultery would not prevent me from voting for him a year from now.

Gingrich is certainly more qualified than Barack Obama, though that could be said about every Republican in the field. While I am supporting Texas governor Rick Perry in the Republican primaries, I would be more than happy with Gingrich as the nominee. He is a “vision” candidate with a strong record of conservatism (despite a few “off the reservation” moments) and I am confident he would defeat Obama.

Shameful incompetence thwarts open government

It is a good thing that Planned Parenthood was not included in the $95,000 that the Monroe County Council distributed on November 9, but the shameful incompetence in advertising the meeting was unacceptable. The public deserves better.

I have been watching the county’s social services funding process for the last three years, since the greedy folks at Planned Parenthood decided they “need” money from the county’s social services funding program in addition to the corporate welfare they have gotten from the city every year (with one exception) since 1999.

The Monroe County Council’s website advertised for several weeks that the council would be voting on the social service funding package on November 22. They actually voted on November 9. This is not acceptable and it should be illegal for the council to cast a vote on a date other than the one advertised on the county website. The public deserves better than this shameful incompetence because this is an affront to open government.

The legal requirement for advertising the meeting is that it be advertised in the newspaper. As far as I know, the meeting was technically “legally advertised” so there is not an issue with legality. (But there should be.) But once information is published on an official county website, and the wrong information is not changed for weeks, why would anyone check to make sure the posted information is not in error? Why would we not assume the posted date is correct?

The Indiana Code needs to change to match the reality of the digital age. This would include advertising meetings on the county website, and a requirement that all posted information on meeting times, dates and schedules votes be accurate. If this is not the case, the votes should be illegal.

I understand that mistakes happen. Posting the wrong date is one thing. Posting the wrong date and leaving the wrong date on the website for weeks, misleading the public and thereby depriving people of the opportunity to attend the meeting in person is unacceptable. This was a failure not only of the staff, but of each and every member of the county council for not checking the site.

A mistake is forgivable. Not correcting the mistake is not. Honestly, how difficult is it to check the website and make sure it is right, and correct the error it if not? This was a major failure. The Democrats (who have complete control over county government) need to answer for this in 2012. We’ll see if the Republicans have the intelligence and/or courage to attack them on this issue in 2012. My bet is they will not.

2011 election disaster demonstrates need for reform

Last week, the Bloomington city election was an unmitigated disaster. For the 2012 election, we can cross our fingers and hope that it works better, and the public will need to provide oversight to ensure that this mess does not happen again. But going forward, this demonstrates that we need to fundamentally reform county government in Indiana.

What we need to do is amend the Indiana constitution to change several elected positions into appointed positions. Maybe it made sense in 1816 to have positions like coroner, clerk, auditor, treasurer, assessor, recorder elected by the voters. This does not make sense in 2011, and has not made sense for several decades. It is time to professionalize county government by having these administrative positions be appointed.

Right now, county government is divided into political fiefdoms run by multiple elected officials. City government, meanwhile, has a single elected administrator who appoints department heads. County government should be structured along the same lines as city government, with formerly elected positions appointed by the county commissioners.

This would help reduce the influence of politics and the patronage that goes along with it. City government is not immune to patronage, of course. There will always be patronage in government, especially in local government. But if administrative positions become appointed department heads, that would move it one level away from the winds of local politics, and county employees would also be a little more insulated from political tides.

We have seen the results of having administrative positions filled by electoral politics instead of hired based on merit. When a Democratic tide swept Monroe County in 2004, Sandy Newman was elected county auditor, and her tenure was such a disaster that she lost in a landslide in the 2008 Democratic primary – after several Democratic elected officials had called on her to resign a year earlier. County clerk Linda Robbins was also elected because she had a (D) next to her name, and we saw last week how that turned out.

It would not be fair to lump all of the elected administrators together. While there are bad administrators, there are elected officials all over the state who have served for decades in various administrative positions with distinction, and would be the most logical person to hire if their position flipped from elected to appointed. However, it remains true that the best way to attract the best people for a skill position is not to have the voters decide every fourth November.

There are downsides. If we are going to professionalize county government, it will probably become more expensive to hire skilled and experienced administrators. For example, the Monroe County auditor makes $53,778 per year, while the Bloomington city controller makes $75,725. If the county expects to attract a qualified professional auditor, the auditor’s salary is going to have to be closer to the controller’s salary. County government already struggles with how to pay for everything, so this will require some tough choices when budgets are written and passed.

The reality is we are living with a system that is several decades out of date. The people of Indiana need to know that their government works and that we have competent people in positions of authority. Elitist as this may sound, voters are not qualified to make those decisions, any more than they are qualified to decide who is hired as a plant manager at a Ford factory. This needs to be one of the biggest issues for candidates for state legislature and governor in 2012. Those candidates should be expected to take a position on reforming local government.

No reason for the condom picture on the front page

Note: I sent this letter to the editor last Monday.

Why did the Indiana Daily Student feel it necessary to put a large picture of a used condom on the front page of the November 4 print edition? What purpose did it serve? Was it informative to the reader? Did it help the reader understand the story? Or was the condom simply there for shock value? I think we all know the answer to that question.

The IDS is consistently seen as one of the best student newspapers in the country. The IDS often covers issues faster and more thoroughly than the main newspaper for the area, the Herald-Times. The IDS is usually more balanced than the H-T. There are a lot of professional newspapers that could learn from the IDS.

But putting a large picture of a used condom on the front page of the newspaper is an example of a bad habit at the IDS: The propensity to be offensive for no good journalistic purpose. The “F Word” was used eight times in a six month period in 2010. This is not new: the IDS published a how-to guide for anal sex on the opinion page in 1997.

This is a newspaper that is not confined to the IU campus. There are multiple newspaper boxes throughout downtown as well as stacks of newspapers distributed at stores around Bloomington. Did you think of the embarrassed parents who were asked by their children what the bright pink item on the front page of the newspaper was? This picture was not only on the front page, but prominently featured above the fold.

I’ve said this before, but it is worth repeating. Writers for the IDS (for the most part) are looking for a career in journalism. If a human resources manager at a newspaper sees that the person designing the front page of one of the most prominent college papers in the country placed a picture of a used condom in a prominent position on the front page, how do you think that will impact your chances of getting a job? This indicates a lack of maturity and will not help.

Utah Hospitality Association attacks the Constitution

I am a recovering teetotaler. I used to believe the heresy that drinking alcohol is sinful. (Which it isn’t. Jesus’ first miracle was turning water into wine, and the context of John 2:9-10 makes it clear that it was alcoholic wine.) But the Utah Hospitality Association’s attack on the First Amendment right to petition government for redress of grievances makes me long for the days of Prohibition for a few fleeting seconds.

At issue is a new nanny-state law passed by the Utah state legislature restricting the practices of the alcohol industry, including banning daily drink specials and limiting the number of liquor licenses not only to population, but to how many police officers are employed by the state. The UHA’s objection to the law is perfectly legitimate. I have often railed against the nanny state (see here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here) and this law is just as onerous and unnecessary as the ones before it.

But the UHA’s brazen attack on liberty is far worse than any of these nanny state laws. As much as I may disagree with the Mormon cult’s position on alcohol, they have the same right to petition government for redress of grievances as the UHA does. That right is protected by the First Amendment and the UHA is acting in an immoral and anti-American manner by attempting to get the courts to censor the Mormons.

In addition to being immoral, the UHA is being politically stupid. People who would come to UHA’s defense against the nanny state ninnies will instead oppose the UHA because of their attempt to undermine the rights protected by the Constitution. It is never smart to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by turning allies into enemies.

You cannot defend a liberty you value by killing a liberty you find inconvenient. A government that has the power to eliminate dissent certainly has the power to place even more restrictions on the alcohol industry. The UHA would be smart to back down from this lawsuit and instead advocate that all government be smaller and less powerful.