New Year’s Resolutions for the Republican Party

I keep my new year’s resolutions simple and achievable. Nothing vague, like “try to be a better person” or “be nicer to cats”. Mine for years has been to floss more, if only to avoid the shame and blood loss at biannual dentist visits. As we round out a year witnessing the expensive and embarrassing political spectacle of two statists angling for the starring role of celebrity president, I’ve compiled a list of new year’s resolutions to triage, refocus and rebrand the Republican Party. The goals, admittedly, are much more ambitious than avoiding bloody gums and the censure of dental professionals. The Republican Party is in an existential crisis; acting as the Democrat’s co-pilot as we drive over debt and liberty cliffs will render the former useless as a case of Maker’s Mark at a Mormon new year’s party.

So here they are:

1. Bring our troops home. All of them. Despite what the neo-cons tell us, there is no “world policemen” clause in the U.S. Constitution. Mucking about in foreign lands that most Americans can’t identify on map is great at sowing resentment and draining our treasury, but does very little to make your neighborhood’s streets safer. I anticipate objections to this resolution from a small but influential covey of neo-cons and from those brought up to believe that foreign wars are macho and therefore conservative. The litmus test is simple: does the foreign entanglement reduce government and grow personal liberty within our borders? If no (which is almost always the case), then get the heck out of dodgistan. And what an easy way to outflank Democrats on a populist issue: Democrats brought us into WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Bosnia, Somalia, and ramped up the drone wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Remake the GOP as the real anti-war party, and they’ll finally nab the youth vote.

2. End president worship. Just because a president was Republican and appears on U.S. currency does not make him a demigod. Remove the fog of mythology and you’ll see that Abraham Lincoln was the first U.S. tyrant – he started a war against individual self-determination that killed 600,000 Americans and threw political dissidents in jail. And before you offer the third grade objection that “Lincoln freed the slaves!” I invite you to read about the first 13th Amendment that your sanitized history books omitted mention. And then there is Teddy Roosevelt, a favorite celebrity Republican. Modern Republicans cringe every time Barack Obama issues a new executive order that ignores Congress, the Constitution, or both. Guess who popularized that practice? Yup, TR did.

3. Become Austrians. No, I don’t mean become a steroidal Californian governor. Too many Republican Congressmen buy into the premise of Keynesian economics if it means more federal money flying into their districts. Take it upon yourself to read up on the Austrian school of economics here, here or here. You won’t be sorry, and there is nothing more fun than dicing up Paul Krugman’s bizarre arguments that essentially advocate another try at pre-1989 Eastern European communism.

4. Become Tenthers. Nullification, the Jeffersonian idea that the federal government is not the sole judge of the constitutionality of its own acts, is finally becoming mainstream. In the past few years, states have nullified the NDAA, Obamacare, federal marijuana laws and REAL ID, and 2013 appears to be ripe for more, including state legislation nullifying encroachments on the Second Amendment. Washington, DC, whether run by Democrats or Republicans, never shrinks itself. So it’s high time for the Republicans in your state legislature to grow a pair and take back their sovereignty. This, my friends, is more critical to our freedom than any so-called fiscal cliff crisis now facing the well-pensioned statists running the federal government.

Ambitious resolutions? Indeed. But four times in my life (three state bar admissions, one swearing into public office) I swore that I would uphold and support the United States Constitution. If I can do it, you would think the party that professes individual liberty can also. Which leads me to my other resolution: Put the Constitution first. Every issue, every time. No exceptions and no excuses. And always (always!) before political party.

Best wishes for a more free and prosperous 2013 for you and your families.

Christmas in the Garden of Good and Evil

Christmas is the season of joy for both Christians and those – religious or not – whose humanity is improved by the holiday spirit. Christians regard the birth of Jesus not just as the birth of the human God but as the birth of joy. Whether one is a believer is immaterial; the joy, the cheer, the mood, the giving, the family, the warmth, the fellowship is all very real. Christmas joy is real.

But this year, that joy has been entirely destroyed in the friends and families of the 27 victims in the Connecticut school shooting, and it is a little bit destroyed in the rest of us. The joy that allows us to see God, or if you prefer, the human goodness in each of our fellow men, is a little less bright. That’s what evil does. You see, at Christmas time, we open up our hearts to kindness, love, generosity and goodness. We are exposed. Evil goes right after the joy, snuffing it out for some, chafing it raw for others.

But the answer to evil is not to restrain joy or love or fellowship. To curtail the latter is to feed the former. When joy and love and fellowship abound, evil has no oxygen. Evil loses.

The Sweaty Federalist generally limits commentary to politics, economics and, incongruously, running. You were probably expecting an impassioned or snarky essay on gun control and the Second Amendment, but right now that horse is getting beaten enough. Instead, let’s talk about the culture that gives oxygen to evil.

But first, let’s talk about joy. The primary sources of joy in my life are family and friends and the fellowship with each. Secondary are things material: food, wine, running shoes and that sort of thing. The evil in my life (or in Christian-speak, the sins, or as the ancient Greeks would say, missing the mark) are the emotions of impatience and condensation. The sins, though ever-present, are easily beaten by joy every time. So I expect the same is true with you.

So what happened to the lives in which evil beat joy? What cultural, familial or physical enablers give evil the advantage? Abusive behavior? Pharmaceuticals? Crass media? Dehumanizing pornography? What combination changes a human being from projecting joy to projecting evil?

The answer, I expect, is intuitive to each of us. We thrive as a society when the joy of life defends against the cultural assault of evil. But the cultural assault occasionally breaks through and wins one for evil.

Your job this Christmas to feed the joy, keep it alive and share it whenever you can.

Merry Christmas.

Opinion or Fact

“Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts”.   Daniel Patrick Moynihan

I am of the opinion that most liberals are nitwidgets. The liberals who bother to send me fan mail are of the opinion that I am a rightwing wanker. Disagreeable or not, both opinions are valid to their holders.

Facts, on the other hand, are made of sturdier fiber. They exist independently and sometimes despite one’s wishes. Like the fact that Barack Obama gets to live in the White House for another four years commencing next month. This fact displeases me immensely, but it gives joy to those who think of federal government as a piñata to transfer wealth from those who earned it to those that didn’t.

Facts are reality’s fulcrum, which is why I am partial to disagreements in which opposing camps share both mutual hostility and agreement to the underlying facts.

Take the abortion debate. Advocates and detractors of the practice both recognize that abortion is the killing or terminating of something, i.e., a blastocyst, a fetus, a pre-born baby. Whether one’s side goes for clinical or emotive nouns and verbs, both sides understand the practical effect of the procedure. The little hands that get tossed into the medical wastebin remain little hands, regardless of where you stand on the legality of the practice.

But other areas of political discourse are marked by a rampant dishonesty (or ignorance) regarding the underlying facts. Ripe for this abuse is the field of economic policy, largely because economics is known to create cranial discomfort among most mouth breathers, who find it less laborious to adopt the pronouncements of their ideological allies than understand the Law of Opportunity Cost and the Law of Scarcity.

Chief among the dishonest are proponents of Keynesian economics, most notably Barack Obama, Paul Krugman, Robert Reich, as well as pretty much every Democrat alive today. Now to be clear, and this is the key distinction, it is theoretically possible to be an honest Democrat, liberal, progressive or socialist. Thus, one can promote redistribution of private property, equality of outcomes, government central planning, quantitative easing and “stimulus” spending, and still recognize that such policies at best, will achieve France-like permanent high unemployment, low class mobility and debt hanging above like Damocles’ sword. What, you say that advocates of the former fail to mention the latter? As I said, such honesty was theoretically possible, not likely.

And why, you ask, does it matter? Because policies matter. Good policies promote wealth and liberty; bad ones create Greece. If Barack Obama admitted that increasing taxes on the top 2% would do statistically nothing to reduce debt, shore up entitlement programs or create a net gain in new American jobs, his support for the same would fizzle to a lame band of Marxists, the spitefully envious and, invariably, Paul Krugman.

Now recall the distinction between fact and opinion. One can be of the opinion that the rich are in need of a good robbing, but that opinion does not change the fact that robbing the rich will not reduce debt, unemployment, dependence on foreign oil, or the popularity of gated communities.

And now is as good a time as any to anticipate the moderate’s objection: “But the truth is always somewhere in the middle!” The cheerful moderate, the bane of logicians everywhere, repeats this meaningless catchphrase as an end-all to all arguments, likely because the brain mechanics of cheerful moderation appear to leave small capacity for analytical thought. But I digress.

So I must leave you with an admonition: feel free to argue, promote or change your opinions, convince others of the soundness of your ideas, but for honesty’s sake, please leave the facts alone.

A Tenther’s Guide to the Fiscal Cliff

Watching Republicans and Democrats squabble over the so-called fiscal cliff is like watching a duo of burglars arguing over who keeps your flat screen television. No matter which party prevails, you lose.

Tenthers, as a class, tend to be more pre-occupied with the liberty cliff, whose precipitous incline we fell off long ago. The other various cliffs – fiscal, debt, tax policy, entitlements – are really just the jagged rocks we’ve met on the way down. Which is why Tenthers tend not to wade into the whole fiscal cliff debate. If your causes are liberty, constitutional rule of law and sound currency, then it seems downright silly to sweat the details of how much the federal government should raise the debt ceiling to pay for foreign wars, Obamaphones and highways named after U.S. Senators.

Consider the numbers. The federal government now spends $3,800,000,000,000.00 per year. Various taxes supply about $2,900,000,000,000.00 of that amount. The free ride component – the annual deficit – has now accrued to a staggering $16,000,000,000,000.00 in national debt.

Faced with these appalling details, the Democrats (and Paul Krugman) respond with calls to tax and spend more. Republicans, the supposedly more fiscally continent of the two parties, grumble on about tax increases and then invariably capitulate to more borrowing and spending. And with the deck chairs on the Titanic nicely rearranged, the American people are once again free. By “free” I mean free to watch Dancing with the Stars and Real Housewives of Cleveland while an omnipotent federal government further enslaves us into a highly regulated, pathetically dependent blob of couch potatoes.

So what would a Tenther do? I’m glad you asked!

  1. Sell off all federal lands outside of Washington, DC. With title to 760 million acres, the US Government is the fifth largest landowner in the world. Besides being a lot of lawns to mow, it’s tough pretending to be a sovereign state when the federal government owns 85% of you (i.e., Nevada). Even a promiscuous reading of Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution would deny the federal government the right to play landlord for parks, cattle grazing, oil leases and the like.
  2. Bring our troops home, all of them. We have 53,000 active military personnel in Germany, 11,000 in Italy, and over 60,000 Afghanistan. In fact, we have uniformed Americans stationed in 150 countries. You know that bit in the Constitution about us being the world’s policeman? Oh, right, it doesn’t exist. Plus it’s plenty expensive with scant benefit. Playing al-Qaida whack-a-mole has cost us $1.3 trillion since 2001, and no matter how many we kill, the rest still hate us. Go figure.
  3. Close every single federal department that is not authorized by Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution: Agriculture, Labor, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, Energy, Education and Homeland Security. I know, I know, that would make slime-ball lobbyists work harder because they’d have to travel to 50 state capitals to plunder your tax dollars rather than just one, but who said life was fair?
  4. End Social Security. Before you scream that I’m heartlessly pushing granny off the (fiscal) cliff, let me note that we would be morally obligated to keep funding Social Security for those now or almost receiving it, while we push retirement schemes to the States or the people, where they belong.

As the sporting type, I’m willing to wager that suggestions 1 through 4 above will not be considered by this Congress, regardless of which party’s sticky fingers hold the gavel. And about that cliff? Better buckle up.

 

Crossposted at http://blog.tenthamendmentcenter.com/2012/12/a-tenthers-guide-to-the-fiscal-cliff/

JFK 50

Those who don’t run marathons think those who do are crazy. In similar fashion I regarded ultramarathoners as mentally unsound. Why run 50 when 26.2 works well enough to serve that addictive brew of exhaustion, pain and endorphin rush? And how does one run a step past 26.2 miles, a distance that the ancient Greeks observed to be fatally unkind to war messengers?

On Saturday I found out. I did it. I ran 50 miles in eight hours, 18 minutes and 48 seconds at the nation’s oldest ultramarathon, the JFK 50.

It would be true – and expected – to tell you that running 50 miles was an exhilarating, emotional and exhausting ordeal, but this falls way short of explaining what a freakish out-of-body experience ultramarathoning is. To keep running, one must force the mind to mislead your legs. Never do you let them in on the secret they have 28 miles to go. Nope. My two legs never ran a yard beyond a marathon finish line. Not on a training run, never. So to compensate, my brain had to play Jedi Knight to my stormtrooper legs.

Brain: “Just five more miles until you see Dad with new sneaks after the Weverton cliffs. Nice progress!”

Legs: “Doesn’t the Garmin say 40 miles left?”

Brain: “A change of shoes will feel good, won’t they legs?”

Legs: “New shoes, good. Will keep running.”

And so forth. Legs, I learned, have no natural inclination to keep running indefinitely. So for eight hours my brain had to concoct various distractions to keep my legs from being present in their reality. Hence my conclusion that ultramarathoning is a sport best left to Jedi Knights or, as previously guessed, the mentally unsound.

The course itself was beautiful. The race began with a 2.6 mile climb from downtown Boonsboro, Maryland, to the Appalachian Trail, followed by another 2.5 mile ascent to the trail’s peak. For most of the running public, that alone would earn a big bacon breakfast at your favorite diner. The next 10 miles were on single track and often rocky trails through deep woods. Nature added to the challenge by spreading a carpet of leaves all about, sending many runners, this writer included, into noisy and embarrassing dust-ups with the hard ground below. This was the slowest bit of the day, taking me 2 hours and 42 minutes to run 15 miles.

The next 26 miles were routed along the C&O Canal Towpath under a picturesque tree canopy, which natural beauty helped distract from the slight uphill grade for that entire 26 miles. Here I settled in at a pace in the low 9s, interrupted by a minute or two of walk-and-eats after every aid station, which appeared irregularly at two to four mile intervals. My Garmin 405 quit dead at 36 miles, leaving me with my back-up watch to gauge time. It is the Towpath where the brain-versus-legs battle wages fiercest. My legs, accustomed to propping up at a bar stool after marathon distance, were not pleased by the demand to keep on running. The old grey matter, singularly focused on keeping momentum forward, found successful recourse in the run-and-chat strategy. In the same way that long runs are made more pleasant and companionable in groups, I glommed on to anyone I could talk to. A neuroscientist from Cincinatti. Rick Meyers, the owner of The Runner’s Sole in Chambersburg (whose 24 hour record is 119 miles). A young lady from upstate New York whose husband, identifiable by his Mohawk Hudson River Marathon shirt, gave me my 5K-left instruction to finish strong. I even met a dude from Kensington, Maryland, who sets up the notorious Obamacare exchanges for our formerly sovereign states and managed to resist mentioning that I was an Tenther libertarian. My mental battle would not have been won without all of their help.

The Towpath empties onto a steep hill starting the 8-point-something miles to the finish line. I walked part way up the hill, then said, “F#$% this, I’m outta here,” and ran strong (albeit at an upper 8s pace) all the way to the finish, passing a dozen people on the way.

Time now to mention my favorite part of the race: my Dad. My 74-year-old father, a former college cross country runner, high school cross country coach, marathoner (30-some to his credit) and ultramarathoner (7:17 PR), was my race support team. Dad was everywhere on the course, offering Gatorade, spare clothes and encouragement. My only complaint was he parked a half mile from the finish line (I just ran 50 miles, man), which I forgot immediately after we sidled up to a bar for a few beers after the race.

And, yep, that’s my last 50. I’m sticking with marathons – just the right amount of crazy for my taste.

What Was I Thinking?

Several years ago I disclaimed any inclination to running an ultramarathon, with the idea that 26.2 miles more than sufficiently meets my occasional need for masochism. As usual, my superego failed to keep my id in check and thus tomorrow I am running the JFK 50. That’s fifty miles of hills, trails and lengthy boring bits (see elevation chart below), starting in Boonesboro, Maryland and continuing until the earlier to occur of my finish line crossing or my physical collapse.

I can’t say I am looking forward to it. Sure, I’ve been training for twenty weeks, but only with slight modifications to my marathon schedule and no runs over 26 miles. And catching a cold this week eroded my already moderate enthusiasm for the event.

My father, an accomplished marathoner, ran several 50 milers, with times ranging from 7:30* to 9:00. I’m hoping to come in at the 8:30 mark, sparing dad having another record beaten by his competitive eldest child. But at this rate, I’ll just be happy to finish tomorrow and remain thankful that dad wasn’t into 100 milers.

*Correction from original posting: Dad’s 50 miler PR is actually 7:17. 

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Fun Fiscal Cliff Idea #1

The United Nations, that rogue’s gallery of tin-pot dictators, Eurotrash socialists and Islamofascists, costs US taxpayers $6 billion per year. George Bush, to his credit, withheld arrearages during his eight year term, but these were promptly paid in 2009 by a president intent on stimulating bloated governments from Sacramento to Turtle Bay.

Admittedly, the UN has done an excellent job of filching tax dollars from middle class Americans and funneling them to a small class of very rich Third World kleptocrats, but that’s where my praise ends. My neighborhood PTA has had more effect on preventing war and genocide than that collection of spies, bureaucrats and thieves ever did or ever will. The argumentum ad ignorantiam that countless wars were averted due to the diplomatic and peacekeeping efficacies of the UN is silly even in a purely American context. When in history have we declined to drop Marines or missiles into foreign lands because of UN protest? And whether the geopolitical landscape would suffer but for the 16 active UN peacekeeping deployments is anyone’s guess, but surely I am not alone in wondering how a garrison of Blue Helmets in East Timor – all the benefits of their main export, sandalwood, notwithstanding – makes us a more free people.

I say shutter the UN and give the buildings to Donald Trump to develop into condominiums. That would make a good “Apprentice” and boost New York City with enough new property taxes to hire a whole platoon of Pepsi police.

On Firewalls

I vote for “firewall” as the most overused political term of the season, as in Pennsylvania and Virginia provided Barack Obama with a firewall against Mitt Romney’s pinching of too many electoral votes. The Republicans now boast they have a “firewall” against the Democrats and the impending fiscal cliff given the former party’s robust majority in the U.S. House of Representatives. Of the two usages, the first, we found out late Tuesday evening, was valid. The second usage, however, only works if by firewall you mean a wall constructed of gasoline-drenched paper towels demising a smokers’ lounge.

Probably now I should insert a SPOILER ALERT. Our knock-kneed Republicans will cry uncle and the debt ceiling will be extended to a breath-taking and unconscionable $18 trillion. Or more. Which fact should make you wonder whether Mandarin or Cantonese would be the better Rosetta Stone to put on your Christmas list (answer: our new overlords will likely prefer Mandarin).

While Harry Reid and John Boehner are busy conferring on how best to fiscally sodomize the American taxpayers, the Sweaty Federalist will offer – in a multi-part series – some refreshingly bold ideas on cutting spending that you should clip and send to your Congressman. Stay tuned!

Vote for Santa Claus!

I’ll spare the dingbats who voted for Gary Johnson any hard criticism. In the end, the 2012 election was held in the hands of those deep in the pockets of the U.S. Treasury. The Left have proven that Santa Claus exists. Heap free stuff on the American people and they will reward you with votes. Why spoil the illusion with the awkward facts that the free stuff is paid with borrowed money, Federal Reserve smoke-and-mirrors and the loss of private sector jobs.

As my friend Michael Boldin, executive director of the Tenth Amendment Center keeps saying, our Republic will not be saved by federal elections. We are on a trajectory of national bankruptcy, Orwellian tyranny and wealth destruction never imagined in the worst nightmares of our Founding Fathers. Our last hope rests with a handful of States reclaiming their sovereignty and those citizens awake enough to  join the fight.

Are you better off?

Are you better off than you were four hours ago?

The marathoner’s answer is always ‘no’. You’ve done to your body what the US Army Field Manual on Interrogation prohibits inflicting on high-value al-Qaeda targets. Dislodged toenails. Chafed crotch and nipples. Blood blisters like creepy Halloween decorations on your toes. And acute muscle pain that gives you the gait of an extra on The Walking Dead.

Yesterday I ran 26.45 miles in 3:09:18 at the 37th Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, DC, arriving 308th out of 23,515 finishers. Marines in combat uniforms handed out water and Gatorade along the course. Hurricane Sandy generously distributed the headwind. Unofficial course entertainment included two Gangnam-style dance routines.

The course was surprisingly scenic, lightly hilly and well-managed. The finish line was staffed with a large squadron of Marine lieutenants who saluted you before placing the finisher’s medal around your neck. And a mighty fine looking medal at that.

At one point along the course you run by a dense series of posters of Marines recently killed in combat. They are officers and enlisted men. They are white, black, Hispanic and Asian. Some photos were taken in dusty combat zones. One was taken in a living room, with the happy Marine holding his toddler son. I’m not very often susceptible to emotion, but I felt tears welling up. And I wondered was it worth it. Was it worth it to send thousands of Americans to die in unwinnable wars? Did those sacrificed lives in Iraq and Afghanistan make your and my families’ lives safer or more free? Or is the blood spilled in Afghanistan like water spilled in the Sahara? Who exactly are we fighting this for?

And are we better off?