Some Political News

There have been one or two interesting developments in politics this week. First, there was an upset in the Nebraska primary.

Upstart state Sen. Deb Fischer triumphed in Nebraska’s bitterly contested Republican primary for U.S. Senate on Tuesday night, winning the right to face Democrat Bob Kerrey in November.

The race had become a high-profile showdown among tea party leaders, who split their support among three candidates. The seat being vacated by Democrat Ben Nelson is considered the GOP’s best opportunity for a Senate pickup this fall.

Former GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin had endorsed Fischer last week, giving the little-known rancher from the Sandhills region a boost. “The Palins are in your corner,” the endorsement said. This week, former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain followed suit.

Fischer’s two main opponents, state Atty. Gen. Jon Bruning and state Treasurer Don Stenberg, had spent months battering each other.

Like the Mourdock victory here in Indiana, this is being played as a Tea Party victory, but really it is a sign of how tired voters are of an increasingly dysfunctional and unresponsive political class.

Speaking of which, the federal government still doesn’t have a budget after three years. President Obama submitted one but Congress rejected it unanimously. According to the Washington Times,

President Obama’s budget suffered a second embarrassing defeat Wednesday, when senators voted 99-0 to reject it.

Coupled with the House’s rejection in March, 414-0, that means Mr. Obama’s budget has failed to win a single vote in support this year.

Republicans forced the vote by offering the president’s plan on the Senate floor.

Democrats disputed that it was actually the president’s plan, arguing that the slim amendment didn’t actually match Mr. Obama’s budget document, which ran thousands of pages. But Republicans said they used all of the president’s numbers in the proposal, so it faithfully represented his plan.

Sen. Jeff Sessions, Alabama Republican, even challenged Democrats to point out any errors in the numbers and he would correct them — a challenge no Democrats took up.

“A stunning development for the president of the United States in his fourth year in office,” Mr. Sessions said of the unanimous opposition.

The White House has held its proposal out as a “balanced approach” to beginning to rein in deficits. It calls for tax increases to begin to offset higher spending, and would begin to level off debt as a percentage of the economy by 2022. It would produce $6.4 trillion in new deficits over that time.

By contrast the chief Republican alternative from the House GOP would notch just $3.1 trillion in deficits, and three Senate Republican alternatives would all come in below $2 trillion.

The Senate is holding votes Wednesday on Mr. Obama’s budget, the House GOP’s budget and the three Senate Republican alternatives. None was expected to gain the 50 votes needed to pass the chamber.

I gather that the president’s budget was not really a serious attempt to control spending but  more of a political gimmick.

I have been pessimistic about the Republican’s chances of defeating Obama in the coming election, especially after it was clear that Romney would be the nominee. I am beginning to think, however, that Obama’s days in the White House are numbered.

Invitation

Yesterday evening I had to do the invitation at our church. An invitation is a sort of mini sermon done after the Wednesday evening Bible study. It only lasts about five or six minutes and is done by one of the men of the congregation rather than our regular preacher. In a way, I suppose it is a way to train preachers. I have actually done one once before when I substituted for somebody else.

Anyway, I was asked last month if I would be willing to deliver an invitation and I, absent-mindedly said yes. Sure enough, I was schedule for May 16. I spent most of this week preparing what I wanted to say. Between that and long hours at work, I haven’t had much time or energy to write here.

I was really, really nervous when I started out, but I got better as I started talking. I did stumble once or twice and if I am ever asked to speak again I will have to have my notes printed out in a larger font. I lost my place once, but it didn’t matter much since I had gone over the invitation in my head so I knew what I wanted to say. I am not sure if I did a good job. People told me I did, but this was church and they were obliged to be nice. Maybe if I made some sort of speech in a more secular environment I would get a more honest appraisal. I wouldn’t want this to be generally known, since they might ask me to do it on a semi regular basis, but despite the nervousness, I rather enjoyed myself up there. I would like to think I am making some sort of contribution.

What Jesus Said About It

While I am on the subject, I think it might be a good idea to counter the belief that Christianity ought not to be opposed to same-sex marriage since Jesus said nothing about homosexuality. Well, Christians believe that Jesus is God, the same God who gave Moses the Law on Mount Sinai so the prohibition against homosexuality in Leviticus is applicable.

22 “‘Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable. (Lev 18:22)

And in the New Testament Paul, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit writes

24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error. (Romans 1:24-27)

But if you want to consider what Jesus said during his ministry on Earth, well it is true that he did not directly address the subject. Still, he had something to say about marriage.

 When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went into the region of Judea to the other side of the Jordan. Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.

Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’[a]and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’[b]? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

“Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”

Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”  (Matthew 19:1-9)

Jesus clearly held marriage in very high regard, so much so that he went further than even Shammai, the strictest Jewish teacher who taught that a man could divorce for only the most serious transgressions. I believe that Jesus did not mean for marriage to be simply a casual sexual relationship between two individuals, but rather a permanent union, created and blessed by God, of a man and a woman. The man and woman were created to love and complement one another and cannot be interchanged. In a sense then they meant to be no longer no separate individual but one being, or one flesh that makes a whole greater than the parts.

The real threat to marriage, and so much else, is not same-sex marriage, but the sort of radical individualism that our culture has embraced. The self, or personal conscience is regarded as the highest authority and if traditional morality, or even common sense say otherwise, than away with them. We want to do our thing without very much thought for the consequences.

This is why I am against same-sex marriage. Not because I am bigoted or I hate homosexuals. I don’t. I think that same-sex marriage is a perversion and mockery of something wonderful that God has created.

Obama and Same-Sex Marriage

I don’t suppose it came as a surprise to anyone that Obama came out in favor of same sex marriage last week. He won’t do anything about it, but his fund raising efforts demand that he at least support the idea. Here is the email he sent out.

David —

Today, I was asked a direct question and gave a direct answer:

I believe that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry.

I hope you’ll take a moment to watch the conversation, consider it, and weigh in yourself on behalf of marriage equality:

http://my.barackobama.com/Marriage

I’ve always believed that gay and lesbian Americans should be treated fairly and equally. I was reluctant to use the term marriage because of the very powerful traditions it evokes. And I thought civil union laws that conferred legal rights upon gay and lesbian couples were a solution.

But over the course of several years I’ve talked to friends and family about this. I’ve thought about members of my staff in long-term, committed, same-sex relationships who are raising kids together. Through our efforts to end the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, I’ve gotten to know some of the gay and lesbian troops who are serving our country with honor and distinction.

What I’ve come to realize is that for loving, same-sex couples, the denial of marriage equality means that, in their eyes and the eyes of their children, they are still considered less than full citizens.

Even at my own dinner table, when I look at Sasha and Malia, who have friends whose parents are same-sex couples, I know it wouldn’t dawn on them that their friends’ parents should be treated differently.

So I decided it was time to affirm my personal belief that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry.

I respect the beliefs of others, and the right of religious institutions to act in accordance with their own doctrines. But I believe that in the eyes of the law, all Americans should be treated equally. And where states enact same-sex marriage, no federal act should invalidate them.

If you agree, you can stand up with me here.

Thank you,

Barack

I wouldn’t have as much of a problem about this issue as I do if I thought the matter would end by allowing two men or two women to pretend to be married. (They can’t really be married, of course, since marriage is by definition a union between a man and a woman. At best they can only have a grotesque parody of a marriage, a fact that is more apparent when you consider that monogamy is the exception rather than the rule among homosexual couples.)

But, it won’t end there. President Obama states that he respects the religious beliefs of others. He has not shown such respect for the beliefs of Catholic health providers when he decided to force them to pay for contraception. He said nothing about whether the federal government could overrule states that ban same-sex marriage.

The problem is that the activists who are pushing this will not be content with tolerance or a live and let live mentality. They will want everyone to be in support of same-sex marriage, especially the churches. Anyone not on board with this can expect to be branded a bigot and a hater, often in the most hateful terms imaginable. Consider what happened to  Carrie Prejean when she dared to state her belief that marriage is between a man and a woman. Or, the hate directed at the Mormon church when they contributed to the passage of proposition 8 in California.  I am afraid that a homosexual couple will show up in a church, maybe Catholic or Baptist and demand the priest or minister marry them. He will have to refuse, citing his church’s teachings. They will then file a lawsuit against that church, which they might not win, but will get a lot of attention. The media will side with them, portraying the entire denomination as hateful and bigoted and churches will be vandalized, congregation threatened,etc.

Peace Prize for Lugar

I have been hard on Senator Richard Lugar this week. To some extent, he didn’t really deserve the ignominy of losing the primary. He has been a good Senator. His career is a perfect example of why no one should spend too much time in Washington.

He has been responsible for one accomplishment, which may well have saved many lives. In 1992, the year after the Soviet Union collapsed, it occurred to Senators Lugar and Sam Nunn that in the chaos that followed the fall of the Communist government, no one was watching over the Russian nuclear arsenal. There were nuclear missiles, chemical weapons, and radioactive material effectively unguarded and waiting to fall into the hands of terrorists. So, the two Senators sponsored the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, which was designed to aid Russia in decommissioning unneeded weapons of mass destruction and secure Russian bases and stockpiles. If it were not for this legislation the two Senators sponsored, it is quite possible that al-Qaeda might have been able to obtain a weapon of mass destruction, either by stealing it, or bribing unpaid security guards. The attack on 9/11 might well have involved a nuclear or chemical weapon with a death toll in the millions.

For this work, I think that Senators Nunn and Lugar should be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Unlike most other recent recipients, they really have worked to promote peace. They won’t get it though. Nowadays the only people considered for the Peace Prize are people who hate America.

Some Thoughts on the Last Indiana Primary

First of all, Senator Richard Lugar does a good job explaining why I didn’t vote for him in his concession speech. Here’s the part I found especially revealing.

If Mr. Mourdock is elected, I want him to be a good Senator. But that will require him to revise his stated goal of bringing more partisanship to Washington. He and I share many positions, but his embrace of an unrelenting partisan mindset is irreconcilable with my philosophy of governance and my experience of what brings results for Hoosiers in the Senate. In effect, what he has promised in this campaign is reflexive votes for a rejectionist orthodoxy and rigid opposition to the actions and proposals of the other party. His answer to the inevitable roadblocks he will encounter in Congress is merely to campaign for more Republicans who embrace the same partisan outlook. He has pledged his support to groups whose prime mission is to cleanse the Republican party of those who stray from orthodoxy as they see it.

This is not conducive to problem solving and governance. And he will find that unless he modifies his approach, he will achieve little as a legislator. Worse, he will help delay solutions that are totally beyond the capacity of partisan majorities to achieve. The most consequential of these is stabilizing and reversing the Federal debt in an era when millions of baby boomers are retiring. There is little likelihood that either party will be able to impose their favored budget solutions on the other without some degree of compromise.

This is why Lugar is part of the problem. I do not want my representatives in Washington compromising with bad policies. I want them to fight for Conservative values and policies. It is no good to meet halfway, people who are leading the country off a cliff. I do not want to slow the progress of the US towards Socialism. I want us to change course and go back to limited, constitutional government. Lugar seems to want agreement for the sake of agreement. That won’t work anymore.

Mourdock’s victory is attributed to TEA Party activists and particularly Freedomworks. There is a lot of truth to that but there is more to it. The remarkable tumbling of incumbents all over the country is really the result of more people paying attention to politics and getting involved. The Internet and social media have lowered the barriers of entry, so to speak, and many of the old rules no longer apply. I think that American politics is going to become somewhat more volatile. I don’t think we are likely to see one party in control of Congress for thirty or forty years anymore, nor will either party have some sort of lock on Presidential elections

I hope that this is the end of the idea where a person gets elected to congress and then is automatically elected term after term until he holds that seat by some sort of divine right. It really doesn’t take long for politicians to become acclimated to the Washington culture, and if we can’t have term limits, then we need to pay close attention to what our representatives are actually doing and get rid of them when they get too comfortable.

I see that the mainstream media has wasted no time in portraying Mourdock as an extremist. Here are parts of the editorial in the Louisville Courier Journal.

More likely, though, is that Republicans like Mr. Lugar are becoming an endangered species in the radical, take-no-prisoners direction his party is headed.

No, forget “headed.” It has all but reached its destination of a my-way-or-the-highway road block. It is no coincidence that Mr. Mourdock was backed by what once would have been a triumvirate of the GOP fringe — Palin/Bachmann/Santorum — that’s taking over the party’s landscape.

So, exit Mr. Lugar, who was judged wrong by tea partiers and others on this election cycle’s hot-button issues:

He was pilloried for seeking bipartisan solutions to the nation’s challenges.

He was criticized for supporting the qualified Supreme Court nominees of President Obama — indeed, for not putting enough daylight between himself and the chief executive whose initiatives the GOP has made its mission to stonewall and all but shut down. He was thumped for supporting economic measures that saved the country from falling into the abyss of a depression.

Yes, I want the GOP to stonewall and shut down as much of Obama’s policies as possible. I believe that Obama’s policies, if successful, will do a lot of damage to the country. Why would I want my representatives to help him? This idea that Obama’s stimulus package saved the country from a depression can never be proved, as it is a hypothetical. What we do know is that the President spent a lot of money we don’t have, with no tangible results.

Also overlooked was Mr. Lugar’s longtime record of principled, conservative stewardship. But his steady-as-he-goes style and substance — “A gentle, thoughtful, persuasive, persistent but wise course of action is a winner,” he has said — clearly doesn’t play with a crowd that follows a leader that crows, “The message to the establishment is, ‘You’re our servants. We’re the masters. Do what you’re supposed to do, adhere to the Constitution or we’ll fire you” (Greg Fettig, founder of Hoosiers for Conservative Senate, in politico.com).

Well, yes. I guess it must seem extreme and radical to the main stream media that our representatives should obey us and not the other way around. That is a concept called democracy. Maybe the editors of the Courier Journal have heard of it.

I think that it is odd that people as far to the left as Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi believe the TEA Party is too extreme. I think that the TEA Party could best be described as center-right. Most TEA Party organizations focus on economic issues and take positions that might be considered as common-sense conservative. They tend to avoid divisive social and culture war issues. The Left favors same-sex marriage, unrestricted taxpayer-funded abortion on demand, a government takeover of whole sectors of the economy, confiscatory taxation, and many other things considered anathema by the majority of the American people. Who are the crazed radicals then?

Lugar Lost

I just read that Richard Mourdock defeated Richard Lugar in the Republican Senate primary. from Yahoo News

Dick Lugar, the longest-serving Republican in the Senate, was defeated Tuesday as Indiana Republicans chose state Treasurer Richard Mourdock over Lugar as the party’s nominee.

With 37 percent reporting, Mourdock received 60 percent to 40 percent for Lugar in the Hoosier state’s Senate primary, marking a huge win for tea party supporters and conservatives across the country.

Conservatives had long targeted Lugar for defeat, arguing he represented a Republican establishment in Congress that has acquiesced to the Democratic party. They singled out Lugar’s votes for the bailouts, in support of the president’s stimulus and votes to confirm U.S. Supreme Court nominees Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor as evidence of his “RINO” (Republican in name only) status.

National tea party groups such as FreedomWorks and the Tea Party Express as well as the state group Hoosiers for a Conservative Senate and others mobilized and invested in the race, casting the contest as a nationally significant battle to restore conservatism and hold leaders of the Republican establishment accountable.

Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum were among the high-profile politicians who offered public support for Mourdock’s campaign.

Lugar began the race with a major fundraising advantage and drew support from his extensive political network, which led to endorsements from the state’s popular governor, Mitch Daniels, and fellow foreign policy expert Sen. John McCain.

In the race’s last days, Lugar pivoted from arguing that Mourdock was inexperienced and flawed to branding himself as his party’s best hope of defeating Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly in the general election in November.

“Democrats understand Joe Donnelly will beat Richard Mourdock,” Lugar wrote in an email message to supporters Sunday. “This is serious. Losing our Indiana Senate seat to the Democrats is not a risk that Republicans can take.”

Donnelly ran unopposed for his party’s nomination Tuesday.

Democrats view Lugar’s loss as their best chance of capturing the seat, preferring to go up against a newcomer who spent the primary marketing himself to the far right instead of facing a longtime lawmaker who boasts support from independents and Democrats in the state.

 

It would seem that the Democrats are planning to label Mourdock an extremist for holding views that the majority of Hoosiers hold. Here is part of the statement from Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

“Unfortunately for Republicans, they seem to only have room for Tea Party candidates. That might explain why Mitt Romney has embraced so many far-right positions like endorsing a budget that would end Medicare as we know it to pay for tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires, getting rid of federal funding for Planned Parenthood, and supporting the Blunt-Rubio Amendment and so-called ‘Personhood’ amendments. Mitt Romney called himself ‘the ideal Tea Party candidate,’ and his policies and positions back up the claim.

“The choice in this election could not be more clear. President Obama wants to move the country forward because America prospers when we’re all in it together; when hard work pays off and responsibility is rewarded; when everyone, from Main Street to Wall Street, does their fair share and plays by the same rules. Mitt Romney, Richard Mourdock and the rest of the Tea Party Republicans are offering an economic scheme that is familiar and troubling: more budget-busting tax cuts for the wealthy; fewer rules for Wall Street–the same formula that benefitted a few, but crashed our economy and punished the middle class.”

I wonder how she can say something like that with a straight face. It is Obama who has been busting the budget with trillion dollar a year deficits and different rules for his supporters on Wall Street. The TEA Party stands for fiscal sanity and limited government, the sort of things the founding fathers stood for.

The fact that Lugar lost is actually rather amazing. Just six years ago, he was so untouchable that the Democrats didn’t bother to field an opponent against him. I like it a whole lot better when politicians know they could lose their jobs.

In other news, it would seem that Luke Messer won the Republican primary for the sixth district with 42% of the vote. Mitt Romney won the presidential primary, of course, but he got 645 of the vote. Ron Paul got 15% and Rick Santorum got 14%.

 

The History of the Later Roman Empire

I am not sure whether I only received the first volume of a two-volume book. Despite the title, the book I read only related the history of the late Roman Empire from Arcadius to Phocas, that is, from around 400-600. I won’t complain, however. J. B. Bury’s history is still interesting to read even it only covered about half the period I expected. Actually, 600 seems to be a logical place for ending the story of the late Roman Empire. In the year AD 600, the Eastern Roman Empire was still recognizably the same state that had existed two centuries earlier. The western provinces had been lost, although Justinian made a great effort to recover them. The capital was no longer Rome, but New Rome or Constantinople. Still, all of the institutions of the late empire had survived.

In the following century, however, the Roman Empire of late antiquity had changed into the medieval Byzantine Empire. The invading armies of Islam, and Slavic migrations stripped away all but the core of the empire in Greece and Asia Minor. The empire was fighting for its life and every institution had to be changed to defend the empire from its enemies. Although they still called themselves Romans, right up to the end,  this was no longer the empire of Caesar or even Constantine. Even the official language of government was changed from Latin to Greek, by the Emperor Heraclius just after this book closes,  in recognition of the fact that there were few, if any, native Latin speakers left in the domains of the Roman Empire.

I should say, though, that this is not just a history of the Eastern or early Byzantine Empire.  Bury also covers the last decades of the Western Empire and the establishment of the Germanic kingdoms that succeeded it.  He made an important point that the conquest of the Western half of the Roman Empire was more a matter of slow demographic movements, than conquering armies. When the Germans were a small segment of the population, as the Ostrogoths in Italy or the Vandals in North Africa, their kingdoms did not last, while the Frankish kingdom in Gaul endured because there were already a large number of Germans who had emigrated there.

Despite a few flaws, I highly recommended A History of the Later Roman Empire, as a good guide to a period of history not often studied.

Indiana Primary Day

Well, today is the long awaited primary here in Indiana. I had hoped that the Presidential contest would last this long so that we here in Indiana would actually get a choice, but we had no such luck. Oh well.I voted as a Republican, of course.

Ron Paul is still running along with Mitt Romney but Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum were still on the ballot. I decided to vote for Santorum. Romney will win of course, but we don’t want him to get cocky. There was only one choice for governor, Mike Pence. We do have an exciting race for Senator. I voted for Richard Mourdock. Thanks to redistricting, the Madison area was moved from the ninth to sixth Congressional district. The incumbent Congressman, Mike Pence, is off running for Governor, so both the Democrats and Republicans an open seat to fill. There were seven candidates so I picked the one whose name seemed most familiar, Travis Hankins. There were also a number of local races, usually with only one, or no candidates to vote for.

No Money

Is it possible to live completely without money in this day and age. Most people would say no, but Daniel Suelo would disagree. He has gone completely without money since 2000. I read about him in Yahoo News.

Daniel Suelo is 51 years old and broke. Happily broke. Consciously, deliberately, blessedly broke.

Not only does he not have debt, a mortgage or rent, he does not earn a salary. Nor does he buy food or clothes, or own any product with a lower case “i” before it. Home is a cave on public land outside Moab, Utah. He scavenges for food from the garbage or off the land (fried grasshoppers, anyone?). He has been known to carve up and boil fresh road kill. He bathes, without soap, in the creek.

In the fall of 2000, Suelo (who changed his name from Shellabarger), decided to stop using money altogether. That meant no “conscious barter,” food stamps or other government handouts. His mission was to “use only what is freely given or discarded and what is already present and already running,” he wrote on his web site, Zero Currency.

At first I thought he might be mentally ill, but he does not seem to be. I am just a little envious of him. It must be nice to live without all of the worries and trouble that having money and possessions bring with them. If you don’t have or need any money, you don’t have to work. Maybe Mr. Suelo is on to something. I can’t do it though. I have responsibilities that I cannot walk away from, and anyway I like my comforts.

Some people do not appreciate his life style.

While the book reviews have been generally positive, Suelo has come under fire by some who say he’s a derelict, sponging off society without contributing. They are valid criticisms: This is a guy, after all, who has gotten a citation for train hopping (what would Jesus say about that?). And he’s not opposed to house sitting in winter–not exactly living off the land.

And besides: How is he actually helping others by going without? It’s not like he’s solving world hunger, or curing cancer.

Sundeen disputes these arguments. “He doesn’t accept any government programs—welfare, food stamps, Medicare,” he said. “The only ways in which he actually uses taxpayer funded derivatives is walking on roads and using the public library. So in that regard he’s a mooch–he’s using the roads and not paying taxes. But if you try to quantify the amount of money he’s taking from the system—it’s a couple of dollars a year, less than anyone’s ever used.”

Instead, he is actively promoting “his idea that money is an illusion,” Sundeen said. “The Fed just prints it up, it doesn’t mean anything and it’s going to lead us down the road to serfdom.” Suelo simply doesn’t want to contribute to that, and so he lives life on his own terms.

I don’t think it is fair to call Suelo a mooch, either. He is not living off anyone, especially the taxpayers. His friend Sundeen is right about money being an illusion. Those green pieces of paper the government prints are not really worth anything, except what people think they are.

Anyway, if Obama is reelected, we might all be living without money, in caves.