Thursday, December 29, 2005

Surveillance Debate

Great discussion here. I think Bob Levy makes some great points.

Hat tip to Orin Kerr for the link.

Travel Bans

A recent article I read regarding the prosecution of Americans who travel to Cuba got me thinking - how in the hell can the US government prohibit me from traveling somewhere? I fully realize that if I choose to take holiday in the hellish circus-state of Sudan that I am on my own. Disclaimer: I don't want or need the protective hand-holding of the Federal government to assist me in my travels. Thanks. Just leave me alone. I digress. So, this being a pretty slow week - I looked it up. It seems that the US Office of Foreign Assets Control - a sub-department at Treasury - is the enforcement bogey-man in this respect. According to the "Mission Statement" on the OFAC's website:

The [OFAC] administers and enforces economic and trade sanctions based on US foreign policy and national security goals against targeted foreign countries, terrorists, international narcotics traffickers, and those engaged in activities related to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. OFAC acts under Presidential wartime and national emergency powers, as well as authority granted by specific legislation, to impose controls on transactions and freeze foreign assets under US jurisdiction. Many of the sanctions are based on United Nations and other international mandates, are multilateral in scope, and involve close cooperation with allied governments.

Got that?? So it seems that the President may unilaterally blacklist a country for all of us without Congressional approval by invoking a "national emergency" based on his Article II "Executive" power and designation as "Commander in Chief." This seems to be a pretty broad reading to me. Afterall, the actual "War Power" and "Commerce Power" are each vested in the Congress - not the President. But who wants to get bogged down with facts?? Anywho..., it appears that the Treasury Department's role is on the embargo enforcement front. Since we are all prohibited (either by Executive Order - as is the case with Sudan - or by federal statute - as with Cuba) from importing, spending or distributing specified amounts of U.S. currency (eg. my money over which the Feds mandate plenary control) in any embargo-sanctioned state via the World War I era, "Trading with the Enemy Act," the de facto result is a complete travel ban. Feels something like an mini-iron curtain, huh?

Judicial Confirmation Hearings

...Supreme Court nominations didn’t used to take so long. As recently as the 1920s, it was still possible for a member of the Supreme Court to resign on a Monday, the President to nominate his successor on a Tuesday, and the Senate to confirm the nominee later that afternoon...
Part of the reason for the change is the Senate hearing itself. It was not until 1925 when the Senate Committee on the Judiciary held its first hearing on a Supreme Court nominee. And it was not until the 1950s that hearings became routine–perhaps not coincidently around the same time many Americans were buying their first television set. When Harry Truman nominated Sherman Minton in 1949, Minton actually refused to appear before the Senate committee. He considered it undignified and unnecessary given his record of judicial service. The Senate confirmed him anyway.
Senators - media whores?? No kidding.....

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

NSA Wiretapping

Here is a great summary of the issue from the Times on Tuesday. Rivkin and Casey believe, as I do, that the President's actions are lawful and vested in the chief executive by Article II:

The president has the constitutional authority to acquire foreign intelligence without a warrant or any other type of judicial blessing. The courts have acknowledged this authority, and numerous administrations, both Republican and Democrat, have espoused the same view. The purpose here is not to detect crime, or to build criminal prosecutions - areas where the Fourth Amendment's warrant requirements are applicable - but to identify and prevent armed attacks on American interests at home and abroad. The attempt, by Democrats and Republicans alike, to dismantle the president's core constitutional power in wartime is wrongheaded and should be vigorously resisted by the administration.

As previously indicated, my primary concerns are not based on the legality of the actions but rather rest upon my typical instincts of lunatic-fringed paranoia. In recognizing that the executive branch may unilaterally exercise such power (without any front-end oversight), we must simultaneously surrender ourselves to the blind faith belief in "benevolent governance" and executive self-restraint. To date, the precise scope of the executive's authority to conduct "unauthorized" domestic surveillance has been, at best, unclear. And so, we are currently witnessing the creation of a fairly broad precedent that I am certain will, in that grand government tradition, only expand over time. To be sure, as that time marches onward, we will confront a situation in which our liberties will be subject to arbitrary whims and the undefined temperance of some imperial President. Frightening.
Article tip from Tom Smith.

Peace on Earth… thanks to Globalization

Dan Griswold at CATO explains why instances of war and conflict are steadily decreasing around the world (and please note all neo-cons, it has nothing to do with a big stick or some theory of preemption):
Many causes lie behind the good news -- the end of the Cold War and the spread
of democracy, among them -- but expanding trade and globalization appear to be
playing a major role. Far from stoking a "World on Fire," as one misguided American author has argued, growing commercial ties between nations have had a dampening effect on armed conflict and war, for three main reasons.
First, trade and globalization have reinforced the trend toward democracy, and democracies don't pick fights with each other. Freedom to trade nurtures democracy by expanding the middle class in globalizing countries and equipping people with tools of communication such as cell phones, satellite TV, and the Internet. With trade comes more travel, more contact with people in other countries, and more exposure to new ideas. Thanks in part to globalization, almost two thirds of the world's countries today are democracies -- a record high.

Second, as national economies become more integrated with each other, those nations have more to lose should war break out. War in a globalized world not only means human casualties and bigger government, but also ruptured trade and investment ties that impose lasting damage on the economy. In short, globalization has dramatically raised the economic cost of war.

Third, globalization allows nations to acquire wealth through production and trade rather than conquest of territory and resources. Increasingly, wealth is measured in terms of intellectual property, financial assets, and human capital. Those are assets that cannot be seized by armies. If people need resources outside their national borders, say oil or timber or farm products, they can acquire them peacefully by trading away what they can produce best at home.
Good stuff. Read the whole thing here. And, note to Bono:
Much of the political violence that remains in the world today is concentrated in the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa -- the two regions of the world that are the least integrated into the global economy. Efforts to bring peace to those regions must include lowering their high barriers to trade, foreign investment, and domestic entrepreneurship.

Very Good

Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution makes a valid (tongue-in-cheek, I am sure) point:

Liberals are claiming that President Bush has violated constitutional restrictions on torture and spying on Americans. Don't they understand that the constitution is a living document that must be reinterpreted in light of new events and understandings? An originalist reading of the constitution would throw us back into the primitive past when the minimum wage was unconstitutional. Fortunately, conservatives know that constitutional interpretation must change with the times and never more so than now. We live in a different world. The Founding Fathers may have been great in their time but they did not face the problems that we face today and we should not be bound by their 18th century ideas of liberty and executive tyranny.

Nice. And I suppose that "consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds..." - way too much to expect, right? Way to give them all a quick lashing, Alex.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The GOP Strikes Again

The Republicans obviously never tire of protecting their friends at the expense of the rest of us. Check out this article by Daniel Auld:

When Ohio Congressman John Boehner recently told a gathering of student loan bankers that he had some "tricks up my sleeve to protect you," he wasn't talking about new tricks. He was talking about the oldest trick in the book: "Protecting" business people from competition and innovation. Stopping consumers from getting lower rates and better terms for their student loans.

The student loan business is now one of the most profitable in America, says Fortune Magazine. And it did not get that way because student loan bankers are smarter, better or less expensive than bankers in other industries.

It is more profitable because they have more protection from competition. And now Boehner, head of the House Committee that oversees student loan legislation, is promising them even more protection from the one force that drives down prices, improves service, and stimulates innovation: Competition, of course. Which in the student loan business in almost non-existent. Thank you, Congressman Boehner.

That is the way it was until earlier this year, when in January, the Department of Education ruled that borrowers looking to reconsolidate their student loans could sidestep the longstanding anti-competitive rule against doing so.

It was cumbersome, but effective. Borrowers had to use a two-step process of reconsolidating into the federal government's Direct Loan Program, then reconsolidating again with a private lender offering better rates. Before then, borrowers were locked in to their current lender no matter what other lenders offered them a better deal.

In May, the Department of Education set aside another longstanding anti-consumer policy by ruling that borrowers who are still in school could convert their variable rate student loans into fixed-rate consolidation loans before rates increased in July. That way they could take advantage of historically low interest rates, much as millions of other borrowers do with their home loans. While borrowers celebrated, consumer bankers plotted. Enter Boehner. Buried deep in legislation to raise prices on student loans are provisions that will largely outlaw the reforms that introduced so much competition into student loans earlier this year.

If passed, student loans would once again be the only thing sold in America that cannot be freely refinanced.

Columnist Dick Morris calls the anti-refinancing scheme an "obnoxious .. ripoff." Terry Savage, the financial columnist of, says there is "no way" borrowers should support this plan." The New York Times calls it "Robbing Joe College to Pay Sallie Mae," the country's largest student loan provider. The Times Union of New York, calls plans to outlaw refinancing a "student loan shame.'

These guys seemingly continue to solidify their status as the true enemies to freedom on a daily basis. The sheer arrogance of the Republican Party may actually force me to vote for a solid slate Dems next time around just to ensure that these jokers lose. I have had it. They think that their base has no where else to turn - well, I say we all make a big turn. 2006 presents a timely opportunity to send a message to D.C. and the GOP-establishment - a message that they will hopefully take to heart before '08. Mark my words, nothing guarantees a President Hillary more than 3 more years of the big-Republican-government status quo.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Why They Hate Us....

Err...... not.

Osama bin Laden's niece in next month's GQ undoubtedly making her uncle extra proud. I love it.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Tis the Season - thank an Illegal

The guest-worker program is an issue that the Bush administration has right. The nativists and border zealots (ala Hannity and O'Reilley) should examine the contents of their refrigerators before casting stones. Nick Gillespie and the folks at Reason have this to add:

While politicians put presents under their trees they should think about workers such as Buca, a 35-year-old Mexican immigrant who works in North Carolina, where one out of every five Christmas trees sold in the United States is grown. It is grueling, backbreaking work, the sort that most of us born in the United States would never do, for any amount of money. The typical worker makes between $6 and $8 an hour to cut, stack and haul trees on a mountainside. During the harvest season, they routinely pull shifts that last 16 hours, often in harsh weather.Buca (we've omitted his last name to protect his family's identity) has an H-2A temporary agricultural visa, which allows him to work for about 10 months out of the year, while Christmas trees are being grown or cut. Every December, after the harvest, he has to leave the country -- and his wife and two children -- returning only in February. Buca's wife, who works as a nanny, is an illegal immigrant, so she stays behind in North Carolina with their two children rather than risk not being able to get back into the United States.

Buca and his wife arrived in North Carolina in 1994, leaving behind $1-an-hour jobs in a Florida orange grove. Despite their long history of employment in the United States -- and even though their kids are native-born U.S. citizens -- they have no serious shot at permanent resident green cards.

Given her undocumented status, Buca's wife simply can't risk applying without fear of arrest or deportation. Her lack of legal working status is something she shares with more than half of the nation's agricultural workers. Most of the people who raise your turkey in Minnesota, dig your potatoes in Idaho, pick your corn in Illinois, and more are illegal immigrants.

We pay so much lip service to charity and aid. But, as usual, it seems most American tithe-givers prefer to keep a safe distance between themselves and those they pity. Not to mention qualify the scope and extent of such aid to protect their own short-sighted self-interests - e.g. farm subsidies, anti-outsourcing measures and walls along the border.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

ANWR Stalled

So, the Senate has blocked the House measure to allow private drilling in the federally protected Alaskan ANWR desert - which very parcel of tundra, I might add, was originally set aside by the Feds (under President Carter) in 1980 for oil exploration. This issue has become far too political, and thus, at the risk of redundancy, irrational. George Will recently penned a dandy piece in which he opines that the contemporary environmental movement (of which the ANWR-junkies are front and center) is little more than a gang of neo-Marxist collectivists who direct their energies toward exploiting the earth-first tendencies of the easily-influenced among us to further their agenda:
[O]ne of the collectivists' tactics is to produce scarcities, particularly of what makes modern society modern — the energy requisite for social dynamism and individual autonomy. Hence collectivists use environmentalism to advance a collectivizing energy policy. Focusing on one energy source at a time, they stress the environmental hazards of finding, developing, transporting, manufacturing or using oil, natural gas, coal or nuclear power.
A quarter of a century of this tactic applied to ANWR is about 24 years too many. If geologists were to decide that there were only three thimbles of oil beneath area 1002, there would still be something to be said for going down to get them, just to prove that this nation cannot be forever paralyzed by people wielding environmentalism as a cover for collectivism.
Here are some other quick ANWR facts from Neal Boortz:

Caribou? They don't care. The population of the Central Artic caribou herd near the oil fields of Prudhoe Bay has grown an average of 8.5% per year. The oil exploration operations don't bother them a bit.

Take the highest estimate of oil reserves from ANWR, then take the lowest. Use those numbers to come up with a mean estimate of ANWR oil potential. That figure is 10.4 billion barrels of oil. That much oil could meet the total petroleum consumption needs of the state of New York for 34 years; Georgia for 54 years, Maine for 259 years, Pennsylvania for 39 years. That is not an insignificant amount of oil.

If the most optimistic estimates of oil reserves in ANWR turn out to be true, it would be enough to replace 30 years of oil imports from Saudi Arabia. That is not an insignificant amount of oil.Will oil production from ANWR exceed estimates? Who knows? The estimates for Prudhoe Bay were around eight billion barrels of oil. So far we've extracted 14 billion barrels .. and we're not near through.

I say we take the politics out of it and put the whole thing on the real estate market. If Exxon wants to set up a rig, then let them pay for it. Or if the Sierra Club wants to maintain the place in its current condition as an arctic wasteland for its members to never visit, then ante up. Nifty, huh? It's called private property - what an idea. In fact, I think the feds should sell every piece of land they own (read in, "occupy"). Just imagine what they could bring in for this place...?

So now you tell us...

... that Clinton did it too. Well - so what? Does that make it right? I am not asking whether it's legal. I acutally think that it very well may be. But, do we really want to vest the Executive Branch with this kind of authority? I hope that this revelation with respect to the aggrandizement of Presidential power (that has been growing exponentially for the past 50 years) will force a skeptical exmaniation of the federal system and the executive branch in particular. I think its time to start stripping the ole boys down a bit.


Congrats to Kelly Slater for his Seventh WST World Championship. With the exception of the accomplishments of Mr. Lance Armstrong "Crowe," this feat is aboslutely unparalleled in sport. But you never even hear about it in the American MSM. Anyway, not bad for an EAST-coaster.
That being said - this guy is still the unrivaled stud of surfing world.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Will on Wire Tapping

Check out Mr. Will's take on the Bush spying hoopteewoo here.
Particularly in time of war or the threat of it, government needs concentrated decisiveness -- a capacity for swift and nimble action that legislatures normally cannot manage. But the inescapable corollary of this need is the danger of arbitrary power.
Modern American conservatism grew in reaction against the New Deal's creation of the regulatory state, and the enlargement of the executive branch power that such a state entails. The intellectual vigor of conservatism was quickened by reaction against the Great Society and the aggrandizement of the modern presidency by Lyndon Johnson, whose aspiration was to complete the project begun by Franklin Roosevelt.
Because of what Alexander Hamilton praised as "energy in the executive,'' which often drives the growth of government, for years many conservatives were advocates of congressional supremacy. There were, they said, reasons why the Founders, having waged a revolutionary war against overbearing executive power, gave the legislative branch pride of place in Article I of the Constitution.
At least George is not rushing to defend the "legality" of the President's actions. The knee-jerk, blind loyalty - on both sides of the aisle - sickens me. I think Bush supporters and bashers should take a step back and suck in some air. Look at the law - statutory and constitutional. Think about the context and applicable scenario to which it was applied. And, finally, ask yourself what you would be thinking right now if a guy from the other party was occupying the White House. This action may, in fact, be technically legal. Or, rather, not illegal. But, more than anything, I fear the precedent and the Orwellian nightmare it entails.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Wasted Charity

Here is an excelled op-ed from an ex-PCV in the NY Times regarding the futility of African charity:
Africa has no real shortage of capable people - or even of money. The patronizing attention of donors has done violence to Africa's belief in itself, but even in the absence of responsible leadership, Africans themselves have proven how resilient they can be - something they never get credit for. Again, Ireland may be the model for an answer. After centuries of wishing themselves onto other countries, the Irish found that education, rational government, people staying put, and simple diligence could turn Ireland from an economic basket case into a prosperous nation. In a word - are you listening, Mr. Hewson? - the Irish have proved that there is something to be said for staying home.
Mr. Theroux recognizes that throwing money at African countries has only worsened their problems - on multiple levels. I whole-heartedly agree with his assessment. It makes me wonder, though: why do so many of the true-believers in the omnipotent power of government and its ability to implement spending-cures to social problems, on the left (and the right nowadays...), recognize the destructive nature and horrid failures of this policy on the African continent, but maintain the necessity of big-G at home? Just this morning I heard an NPR commentator express the need (in his mind) for the Feds to purchase all of the "devastated properties" that have been abandoned in New Orleans. This reasoning was based on the assertion that without a federal buy-out, many of the properties will remain in disrepair and the neighborhoods will dwindle into non-existence. Well, let's examine just why these "neighborhoods" will "remain in disrepair." Could it be the direct result of government-subsidization of irresponsible behavior in the past? Could it be that the property-owners (or "rent-seekers") in question expected such a bail-out from the get-go? Just as Mt. Theroux explains with respect to Malawi, once a populous grows accustomed to outside intervention and the interpersonal gap-filling of some problem or need, that populous will indefinitely divert its resources away from that now-subsidized gap. Why should a local Malawian become a school teacher when the country enjoys a steady stream of western volunteers who are willing to take on the task for free? I am no utilitarian, to be sure, but from a policy standpoint - this is nothing short of crystal clear. Yet, the braniac, do-gooders, atNPR and beyond keep on keepin' on.
Have a nice day,
the Grinch.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Dr. Big Brother

This (from the UK) is what we are in-store for:

People who are grossly overweight, who smoke heavily or drink excessively could be denied surgery or drugs following a decision by a Government agency yesterday.

...and people still cheer on universal healthcare?? Why don't the advocates of cradle-to-grave social welfare understand that there will always be strings attached to such benefits? I liken social parasites (welfare-beneficiaries, rent-seekers, subsidy-hounds) to state-sanctioned crack-whores - once on that dole, the powers-that-be know they will forever trade any and all liberty (votes and autonomy) to sustain their "fix." Suckers.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Why the Beatles Rule (...and always will)

In memory of John Lennon (he was shot by Mark David Chapman 25 years ago today), here is a nice piece from the archives by Charles Paul Freund at Reason on "Why we still listen to the Beatles."

On a side note, can you name a figure of historical significance that is known by three names that is also NOT an evil SOB??

Randian Christmas

Leave it to those Randians to get a bit dramatic. Still, this is very interesting. Thanks to Marginal Revolution for the link:
Christmas in America is an exuberant display of human ingenuity, capitalist productivity, and the enjoyment of life. Yet all of these are castigated as "materialistic"; the real meaning of the holiday, we are told, is assorted Nativity tales and altruist injunctions (e.g., love thy neighbor) that no one takes seriously.
In fact, Christmas as we celebrate it today is a 19th-century American invention. The freedom and prosperity of post-Civil War America created the happiest nation in history. The result was the desire to celebrate, to revel in the goods and pleasures of life on earth. Christmas (which was not a federal holiday until 1870) became the leading American outlet for this feeling.
Historically, people have always celebrated the winter solstice as the time when the days begin to lengthen, indicating the earth's return to life. Ancient Romans feasted and reveled during the festival of Saturnalia. Early Christians condemned these Roman celebrations -- they were waiting for the end of the world and had only scorn for earthly pleasures. By the fourth century, the pagans were worshipping the god of the sun on December 25, and the Christians came to a decision: if you can't stop 'em, join 'em. They claimed (contrary to known fact) that the date was Jesus' birthday, and usurped the solstice holiday for their Church.
Then came the major developments of 19th-century capitalism: industrialization, urbanization, the triumph of science -- all of it leading to easy transportation, efficient mail delivery, the widespread publishing of books and magazines, new inventions making life comfortable and exciting, and the rise of entrepreneurs who understood that the way to make a profit was to produce something good and sell it to a mass market.For the first time, the giving of gifts became a major feature of Christmas. Early Christians denounced gift-giving as a Roman practice, and Puritans called it diabolical. But Americans were not to be deterred. Thanks to capitalism, there was enough wealth to make gifts possible, a great productive apparatus to advertise them and make them available cheaply, and a country so content that men wanted to reach out to their friends and express their enjoyment of life. The whole country took with glee to giving gifts on an unprecedented scale.
Santa Claus is a thoroughly American invention. There was a St. Nicholas long ago and a feeble holiday connected with him (on December 5). In 1822, an American named Clement Clarke Moore wrote a poem about a visit from St. Nick. It was Moore (and a few other New Yorkers) who invented St. Nick's physical appearance and personality, came up with the idea that Santa travels on Christmas Eve in a sleigh pulled by reindeer, comes down the chimney, stuffs toys in the kids' stockings, then goes back to the North Pole.
Of course, the Puritans denounced Santa as the Anti-Christ, because he pushed Jesus to the background. Furthermore, Santa implicitly rejected the whole Christian ethics. He did not denounce the rich and demand that they give everything to the poor; on the contrary, he gave gifts to rich and poor children alike. Nor is Santa a champion of Christian mercy or unconditional love. On the contrary, he is for justice -- Santa gives only to good children, not to bad ones.
All the best customs of Christmas, from carols to trees to spectacular decorations, have their root in pagan ideas and practices. These customs were greatly amplified by American culture, as the product of reason, science, business, worldliness, and egoism, i.e., the pursuit of happiness.
Whoa, no such thing as grey... As much as I admire Ayn and most of her teachings, I still think her boy Leonard is a little weird.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Tummy Tuck Vacation

Medical tourism rules! As we continue to walk the plank to “universal” (socialist) healthcare, I am encouraged by the expanding globalization (out-sourcing) of the healthcare industry. We currently have the best healthcare in the world because the United States has been attracting the best doctors and scientists for a generation because we have maintained a mostly free market-based system. We let them earn their worth. What a novel idea, eh? Although this trend is destined to cease here at home because our voter-pool is saturated with an array of sheeple who display an embarassingly deficient understanding of basic economics, there will always be an escape somewhere:

Last year, the medical-tourism business grossed around $40 billion, and the numbers are getting bigger every day. A recent McKinsey study predicts that medical tourism in India, worth $333 million last year, will bring in $2.3 billion by 2012. Compare price tags and you'll understand why. A bone-marrow transplant costs $2.5 million in the United States. Doctors in India can do it for $26,000. Heart-bypass surgery runs $60,000 to $150,000 in this country. In Asia, the average cost is $10,000. Other less-serious procedures—tummy tucks, face lifts, breast implants, LASIK eye surgery, even MRIs and dental work—can also be had at a fraction of they cost here.

The hospitals abroad offering these bargains insist that the savings come at no sacrifice to quality. They lure potential patients with airport pick-ups, private nurses, frequent-flier miles, and all-inclusive post-op resort stays. Why go to the hospital in Boston if you can stay in a five-star hotel in Thailand? A record 1 million tourists traveled to that country last year for health care. Using Thailand's success as a model, countries like India, Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines have established governmental committees to promote medical tourism.

I kind of like the idea of checking out the Taj Mahal while rehabbing my ACL.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Lincoln: Patriot or Tyrant?

This is a question that I tend to answer somewhere in the gray middle – although, at times, I seem to lean more towards the latter than the former. Thomas DiLorenza (no friend of Lincoln to be sure) recently penned a critique of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Lincoln biopic. Here is an interesting criticism of Republican policy which seems large correct to me:

She also correctly states that after his election as president, the top requirement for members of his cabinet was that they had to be former Whigs. But she completely misses the significance of this point – of the total victory of the old Whigs. For the previous thirty years the Whig Party was the party of Henry Clay’s "American System," period. Lincoln toiled as much as anyone in the political trenches of the Whig Party for decades to attempt to secure the planks of this "system" – protectionist tariffs, a monopoly central bank run by the federal government, and corporate welfare for the railroad and road-building industries (and later, free land giveaways). This is why they were Whigs: they were the political water carriers of the mostly northern business and banking elite, as their political descendants, the Republican Party, still are to this day. Lincoln filled his cabinet with former Whigs like himself so as to guarantee that the old Whig economic agenda would be a top priority.

The distinguishing feature of these neo-mercantilist policies was that they were all
tools of political plunder that primarily benefited the rich and politically well connected at the expense of the rest of society...

Students of politics have understood for literally centuries that the key to success in democratic politics is to use the coercive powers of the state to dispenseconcentrated benefits (through spending, tariffs that block competition, etc.) on well-organized special interest groups while dispersing and disguising the costs among the general population. The so-called "American System" was a textbook example of this age-old recipe for political plunder…

I have long felt that Lincoln was, primarily, little more than power hungry politico. While I think the man should be esteemed for his tireless boot-strapping work ethic and obvious intelligence, I am equally certain that he presents an abundantly ripe topic for psychoanalysis with careful emphasis on the manifestations of acute inferiority-complex. Can you say, "overcompensation at the expense of the rule of law and the vision of the Founders?" In the name of saving the Union (Lincoln never advocated the abolition of slavery in the southern states), Lincoln exercised power like no other before him (or, mostly, since). This is where my “grayness” kicks in. My old Professor, Mike Rappaport, insists that Lincoln should be viewed as honorable because (1) he chose to break a few laws of lesser importance in order to preserve the larger system and greater body of law, and (2) he could have been more tyrannical given the emergency of the situation (e.g. suspend the election of 1864, etc). I admit, at times, I am sympathetic to these arguments. However, should we really revere someone who foregoes donning the clothes of an outright dictator in exchange for those of a dictator-light? Upon being slapped around by some brute, should I eagerly thank him for sparing my life? When viewing the reality of the times and considering the precedent history and the ominous outlook facing a chief executive in 1861, this is not something that I can readily answer. Still, from a ideological standpoint, if I can’t quite bring myself to call ‘ole Abe a tyrant, I am not so reluctant to deem him a political opportunist of the FDR mold.

Will on Incumbent Protection

This is Mr. Will at his very best. Every now and then, George tends to slip up and publish some libertarian thoughts - "Tommy like wingy..." - such as this:

When writing regulations to implement McCain-Feingold, the Federal Election Commission in 2002 declined to bring Internet political speech, meaning bloggers, under the metastasizing federal apparatus of speech regulation. McCain-Feingold does not mention the Internet when listing forms of "public communication" (e.g., mailings, billboards) the FEC should regulate. But unregulated speech is an affront to today's liberalism. And a federal judge with an interesting theory of liberty—that whatever Congress does not specifically exempt from regulation should be regulated—decided that the FEC's exempting the Internet from regulation is impermissible because Congress was silent on the subject. She ordered the FEC to write regulations. This, even though Internet communication is limitless, virtually cost-free and, hence, wonderfully anarchic.

So Rep. Jeb Hensarling, a 48-year-old Texan, tried riding to the rescue. Hensarling is a Republican, which means next to nothing nowadays, but also a libertarian, which means he believes, as Republicans once did, in limited government. He proposed the Online Freedom of Speech Act, to exclude blogs, e-mails and some other Internet communications from federal regulation. He got 55 percent of the House votes, but two thirds were needed to get expedited action. The speech rationers, a.k.a. the "reform community"—abetted by much of the unregulated mainstream media, which advocate regulating rivals—will redouble their efforts to clamp the government's grip on the Internet, and require bloggers to hire lawyers.

Good job, George.