Americans are the Choosing People

Conveniently coincident with, but not necessarily a part of my personal Lent, I am taking Constitution 101: The Meaning and History of the Constitution:

a 10-week online course presented by Hillsdale College.

Featuring an expanded format from the “Introduction to the Constitution” lecture series with Hillsdale College President Dr. Larry Arnn, Constitution 101 follows closely the one-semester course required of all Hillsdale College undergraduate students.

I have just completed the material for Week 1. It is magnificent. After a 2-hour lecture (in four segments) and some reading, Dr. Arnn took some questions about the ideas he presented.

One of the questions was particularly meaningful in context of my annual quasi-religious experiment. Another student asked (paraphrasing): If Jefferson and the Founders looked to so many sources for roots, and if our Founding documents are based those ancient ideas, why didn’t the Greeks or the Romans create a free society themselves?

Dr. Arnn said:

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Being Good Without God

I am not a Christian. My moral and philosophic framework is Christian. I hold the values, but have not been touched by G-d.

It may appear hollow to act faithful without faith. But Christian ethics hold that intent matters most. And if I am sincerely trying to be a better person, I, as a non-Christian, am actually a better Christian than a believer who does not try. Or one who merely pretends:

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Happy Mardi Gras!

The Value of Wisdom

Dan from Madison shares this video of “How to fold a suit”:

Lexington Green comments:

He makes it look easy. I always respect and admire practical, physical skills like this. Once the whole economy was composed of people who each knew hundreds of tricks of the trade.

Industrialization, specialization, and the division of labor into ever-smaller tasks enables each worker to produce more for his efforts. It allowed us to get off the farms and amass the wealth that enabled us to reach the moon.

The flip side of specialization is that nobody knows how to make an entire thing themselves. Each only knows a step in the production process, worthless without others doing all the other steps.

I Want a New Right

Neo-neocon has a new post about political changers. Changing political alignment is one of her core topics. And she holds that change is almost always in the same direction, away from left/liberal toward right/conservative.

I read the post and the comments, then dashed off this contribution to the conversation:

I’m in the midst of a change, too.

“Conservativism” is poorly defined, but I seem to be moving away from it. And part of the problem with conservatives is that they then presume I must be going left. That’s silly, if you could be inside my mind.

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The Unicorn with Ten Thousand Horns

Rush Limbaugh is still fighting the Cold War:

The Associated Press is reporting that Obama could cut our nuclear weapons arsenal by 80%. That is just staggering. This would amount to unilateral disarmament. Three hundred nuclear weapons would take us back to levels not seen since 1950. If we cut our nuclear weapons down to 300, Russia will have five times, 1,550 nuclear warheads. If we reduce to 300, we will have fewer nuclear warheads than the ChiComs. The only thing you could say in response to this, "Well, Rush, we don't have anything to fear from the Russians or the Chinese or anybody in the Middle East." No, of course we don't. The last time we had 300 warheads was in the fifties and that's when we were making them as fast as our technology and materials would permit us to make 'em. We weren't stopping at 300.

300 warheads is not disarmament. It is 300 warheads. Nowhere in his rant did Limbaugh consider how many are necessary, or even sustainable:

During the Cold War, the United States, in an effort to achieve and maintain an advantage in the nuclear arms race, invested large amounts of money and technical resources into nuclear weapons design, testing, and maintenance. Many of the weapons designed required high upkeep costs, justified primarily by their Cold War context and the specific and technically sophisticated applications they were created for.

Limbaugh must think the Defense Department has its own herd of unicorns that can fart fissile material:

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The Planning Tax

Northeast Minneapolis is not a rich part of town. It is, however, a haven for upwardly-mobile Progressive hipsters and University of Minnesota employees who do all they can to hide their six-figure incomes. Those demographics hate chain stores. Shopping local is part of their identity and a point of civic pride.

Any development proposal that might include an anchor tenant like Starbucks faces organic opposition. Similarly, any business required by zoning codes to receive a conditional use permit had better be some kind of cutesy shop and not a convenience store that would attract poor people. Never mind that lower-income households are in the numeric majority.

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A Tactical Vote for Obama

Borepatch saves me the trouble explaining why I will vote for the current President if the Republicans foist Mitt Romney on me:

Here's the problem: it's not Obama, it's Obama's world view. He's just particularly ruthless in pushing it aggressively. Obama isn't alone: he has the entire Intelligentsia on his side, the MSM, the European Elites, the international Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs). They're all in the same tribe, which believes that things should be run by them, with a strong, interventionist government in charge (run by them, 'natch), and with the peons givering deference where it's due (to them, 'natch).

Romney's in that tribe. So's Newt, and probably Santorum. And 60% of the Republican Party. Only Ron Paul explicitly rejects that world view.

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Unicorns in Green Eyeshades

The Social Secuity Trust Funds are one of many topics where political factions talk past one another. Some say that there is no money in the funds, that the FedGov has spent them on other things. The response insists that the Trust Funds are invested in Federal securities, as required by law. It would be silly, says the responding faction, to leave piles of cash under a mattress in Washington, earning no interest. And to invest the Trust Funds in the private markets would represent a higher risk and create incentives for Wall Street to rip off the public, since the FedGov still has to redeem the investment even if the its market value goes down.

Turns out the Social Security Administration has a pretty good FAQ on the Trust Funds:

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Caucus Day Debrief

The caucus for my hunk of the 55418 was held in an elementary school building. Both big parties were having their caucus there. Fitting to party stereotypes, the DFL (Democrats) were assigned to ther library media center, while the Republicans got the lunchroom.

Nobody checked my ID. I just went to the table for my Ward and Precinct and signed in. There was little formality and just enough order to make the proceedings legitimate. When we finally got started on business, about fifteen minutes late, the Convener was amazed by the turnout. He said that in 2010 there were 9 people. This time we had 47.

Of the 47, I recognized a small handful from my time as a community organizer. It's no wonder that the NRP served as a farm system to develop DFL candidates. The Republicans evidently didn't try to take over the system that funneled millions of dollars from the City to neighborhoods.

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Catholic R3VOLution

The Obama/UnicornCare contraception mandate offers a new lens through which we can view the GOP primary race. From 2007’s Open Letter to Catholics on Behalf of Ron Paul:

Although I would have supported Ron Paul back before I converted to Catholicism, I think Catholics will like what they see when they examine his record. Over at Defend Life, Ron Paul comes out decisively on top in a study of the candidates’ positions on the issues according to the guidelines recently established by the United States bishops. (If anything, I think this study understates Paul’s compatibility with Catholic teaching.)

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The Model Candidate

Bruce at Maggie’s Farm is trying to demean and browbeat righties into supporting Romney:

Moreso than his opponents, Romney is what Republicans need to win, and what America needs to unseat Obama. I’ll vote for whoever gets the Republican nomination. But, I’m not happy at being part of many of my compatriots playing out a self-destructive temper tantrum that could lose the election.

It’s pretty common these days to accuse anyone not on Mitt’s bandwagon of being immature. Romney has the right shape and the right markings to appeal to conservatives, but he does not appeal to most of them. I don’t think it is because the righties are being childish.

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All or Nothing in Washington and Rome

The Federal Government’s new rules requiring health insurers to offer contraception is sparking a lot of chatter. A lot of people seem to think that the popularity of contraception among Catholics is a fair justification for the mandate. Our fetishization of democracy has led folks to think that G-d’s law is subject to a vote.

Official and ancient Catholic doctrine opposes contraception. It has been argued and reasoned for centuries among the faithful. The doctrine is not subject to whim. The reported majority of Catholics who disagree with the Church would be well-advised to reconsider whether they are actually Catholic. The catechism is not a la carte.

The Obama Administration has opened new debate not only only the separation of church and state, but on the Church itself. And the Church has some conflicts:

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Trade Will Find a Way

With the Arab Spring devolving into an even more unstable Arab summer, European trade may be cut off from South and East Asia. Increasingly anti-Western Egypt controls the primary route, via the Suez Canal.

Instead of falling back to caravans of camels, Israel is considering a rail link:

Throwing Myself Upon the Gears

I attended my local caucus last night. It was my first experience in official party politics.

The bottom line: I was elected as a Delegate. There are no bystanders.

Other highlights and musings to come…

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Newt Romney Passes on Minnesota

It’s caucus day in Minnesota. Not a big deal to the frontrunners:

Romney, for his part, made just one visit to Minnesota and canceled a visit on Monday.

He said in an interview on the Scott Hennen Show that  Minnesota's contest wasn't his focus.

"We have not participated in the straws polls and beauty contests as much as some of the other guys have, but we’re working very hard to get support and put those delegates together," Romney said.

Gingrich has the newest and least organized presence in Minnesota. He made a last minute stop in the state on Monday, telling several hundred supporters that he would bring "real change on a large scale" to the country.

Who would have thought Rick Santorum and Ron Paul were in a “beauty contest”. The field has already conceded “Most Handsome” to Mitt and his executive hair.

And maybe Gingrich is still mad about Michele Bachmann’s “Newt Romney” barb. Or maybe he’s just not as competent as he thinks he is.

The northern tier of flyover country might just vote for real change anyway, against the Bi-factional Bankster Party:

If Paul manages to capture a first place win in Minnesota, it will be his first state win. Even though the Tuesday night vote is non-binding, that could give national observers pause as he continues on.

Santorum is ahead in the local polls going in. It’s anybody’s game.

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No Cause for Shame

The Barrister at Maggie‘s Farm links to a collection of photos of the previous Penn Station in Manhattan. He begins by quoting a NY Times editorial:

"Any city gets what it admires, will pay for, and, ultimately, deserves. Even when we had Penn Station, we couldn't afford to keep it clean. We want and deserve tin-can architecture in a tinhorn culture. And we will probably be judged not by the monuments we build but by those we have destroyed."

—"Farewell to Penn Station," New York Times editorial, October 30, 1963

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Carter Recalls Ambassador to Moscow

Twin Cities TV news from January 2nd, 1980:

Maybe the phantom of the past is not ready to let us go:

Carter feared that the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, in which an estimated 30,000 combat troops entered that nation and established a puppet government, would threaten the stability of strategic neighboring countries such as Iran and Pakistan and could lead to the USSR gaining control over much of the world's oil supplies.

Thirty years later, the news is the same, even including the threat of nuclear attack:

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Ivy League Economic Thinking

Jonathan at Chicago Boyz writes:

Part of what’s happening is that the economy is recovering, to some degree because the Fed is signaling that it’s going to keep suppressing short rates and buying up long-term govt debt for the foreseeable future. This is an insane policy that funnels money to Obama’s Wall Street cronies while killing low-risk investment opportunities for middle-class retirees. It seems likely to lead eventually to significant inflation. Romney, as the likely Republican nominee, should be hammering the Fed for ineptitude and corruption, for running an unsustainable monetary policy and trying to goose the markets into the election. He should be hammering Obama for trying to reinflate the credit markets to buy votes. (The residential real estate market seems to be picking up, perhaps to some degree in response to Obama’s mortgage-subsidy vote-buying scheme. But it may also be that people see inflation coming and want to exchange cash, especially borrowed cash, for real assets.)

Obama has been very bad for the country. His high tax, high regulation, high cronyism, high uncertainty policies suppress productive investment and throw vast amounts of private capital down politically favored sinkholes. Conservative and moderate/uncommitted voters alike yearn for a Republican candidate who forthrightly defends free enterprise and the opportunity society against Obama’s decadent, stratified socialist ineptocracy. Romney, the great businessman, the man who has been running for president for six or seven years, is tongue tied.

I disagree with Jonathan and the popular view of Romney’s business career. The short version is that Romney evolved into a a vulture capitalist, using debt to buy earnings and cashing out before the debt wiped out the earnings of the companies Bain Capital targeted.

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Caucus for the Constitution

I don’t like political parties. I understand why they exist in the United States, but they ultimately serve themselves more than serving the people. But I may attend my first party caucus next week.

I want to support the Constitution and it quirky proponent, Ron Paul. He can’t win, he’s crazy, he will get us all blown up by Iranians, blah, blah blah. But if I have integrity to my belief in our Founding Principles, and if this really is The Most Important Election Ever! I must go support the candidate who best represents my view. There are no bystanders.

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