Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Farm Aid

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Prof. Orin Kerr offers a mild reminder to the true-believers in the unitary-executive (most of whom, I might add, also bought into the Karl Rove fantasy of a permanent Republican-majority):

[F]or the folks who thought that President Bush had the power to arrest anyone in the United States and detain them as "enemy combatants" without any hearing as part of his Commander-in-Chief power..., this power is now enjoyed by Barack Hussein Obama. That's right: A liberal with the middle name "Hussein" who pals around with terrorists and is adored in Paris now has all that Commander-in-Chief power. And if he decides that you're a threat to the nation, he can order you seized and locked up indefinitely. Congress can't get in B. Hussein Obama's way: As the FISA Court of Review emphasized back in 2002, Congress "could not encroach on the President’s constitutional power." And that meddling Supreme Court can't stop "The One," either. Or at least that's your view of things.

And to those of you who have deluded yourself into thinking that BO is going to saintly abstain from employing the vast expansions of executive power claimed and exercised by GWB over the last 8 years, good morning.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Speech Blog

The best parts of the speech, imo, dealt with foreign policy matters and civil liberties (with the latter being a sure slap at GWB):

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society’s ills on the West - know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist....

...As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake. And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

Nothing all that memorable, but not all that bad either.

Inauguration Day

We wish BO the best of luck (sort of) and here's to hoping that he governs more like our last democratic administration, and less like last republican one. For those of you in doubt, Bill Clinton spent less, regulated less and shrunk the size and scope of the federal government more, than George W. Bush...
(see linked articles for discussion)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Bush's Principles

During his final press conference yesterday, GWB stated that he "chucked aside [his] free-market principles” in order to deal with the current financial crisis, which statement begs the question: "what free market principles?" Michael Tanner at CATO has put together a "short" list of Bush policies that contradict GW's delusional self-reflections:

Increased federal domestic discretionary spending (even before the bailout) faster than any president since Lyndon Johnson.

Enacted the largest new entitlement program since the creation of Medicare and Medicaid, an unfunded Medicare prescription drug benefit that could add as much as $11.2 trillion to the program’s unfunded liabilities;

Dramatically increased federal control over local schools while increasing federal education spending by nearly 61 percent;

Signed a campaign finance bill that greatly restricts freedom of speech, despite saying he believed it was unconstitutional;

Authorized warrantless wiretapping and given vast new powers to law enforcement;

Federalized airport security and created a new cabinet-level Department of Homeland Security;

Added roughly 7,000 pages of new federal regulations, bringing the cost of federal regulations to the economy to more than $1.1 trillion;

Enacted a $1.5 billion program to promote marriage;

Proposed a $1.7 billion initiative to develop a hydrogen-powered car;

Abandoned traditional conservative support for free trade by imposing tariffs and other import restrictions on steel and lumber;

Expanded President Clinton’s national service program;

Increased farm subsidies;

Launched an array of new regulations on corporate governance and accounting; and

Generally did more to centralize government power in the executive branch than any administration since Richard Nixon.

Yep. And to think that his supporters deem Obama "an enemy to free markets..."

Inside the Belly of the Beast

Radley Balko notes:

After the 2000 Census, the richest county in America was Douglas County, Colorado. By 2007, Douglas County had fallen to sixth. The new top three are now Loudon County, Virginia; Fairfax County, Virginia; and Howard County, Maryland. All three are suburbs or exurbs of Washington, D.C. In 2000, 14 of the 100 richest counties were in the Washington, D.C., area. In 2007, it was nine of the richest 20.

Interesting, eh? But certainly not a surprise:

The problem is that, save for the tech corridor in D.C.'s Virginia exurbs, the Washington Metro area doesn't actually produce anything. Washington doesn't create wealth, it just moves it around — redistributes it. As government grows and takes control of more and more of the private economy — either through spending, regulation, or taxes — more and more wealth that's created elsewhere comes to Washington to be devoured.

The Washington wealth boom is the result of the massive expansion in government over the last 10 years, which has populated the region with an increase in well-paid federal employees, and wealthy federal contractors and lobbyists.

Whole article here. I am willing to wager my house on the thesis that the "wealth" accumulations in and around the D.C. region will increase exponentially during Obama's tenure. To be sure, when you start talking about throwing 1 trillion dollars (or more) around, the vultures are certain to gather. All of this powerfully underscores the reason that the founding fathers insisted that the centers of political power be geographically separated and removed from the centers of commerce (i.e., D.C. was built in an uninhabited swamp far from Boston, Philadelphia and Charleston for a reason). I suppose they should have realized that snakes dig the swamp.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Evolution and Capitalism

Here is a fascinating article regarding the linkage between Darwin and Adam Smith. According to the essayist:

Ideas evolve by descent with modification, just as bodies do, and Darwin at least partly got this idea from economists, who got it from empirical philosophers. Locke and Newton begat Hume and Voltaire who begat Hutcheson and Smith who begat Malthus and Ricardo who begat Darwin and Wallace. Before Darwin, the supreme example of an undesigned system was Adam Smith’s economy, spontaneously self-ordered through the actions of individuals, rather than ordained by a monarch or a parliament. Where Darwin defenestrated God, Smith had defenestrated government...

Today, generally, Adam Smith is claimed by the Right, Darwin by the Left. In the American South and Midwest, where Smith’s individualist, libertarian, small-government philosophy is all the rage, Darwin is reviled for his contradiction of creation. Yet if the market needs no central planner, why should life need an intelligent designer? Conversely, in the average European biology laboratory you will find fervent believers in the individualist, emergent, decentralised properties of genomes who prefer dirigiste determinism to bring order to the economy.

Writing The Bush Legacy

With barely 1 week left in office, the fun has begun:

Historians will suspend immediate judgment. All modern presidents leave office sullied, yet many, like Harry Truman, Bill Clinton and even Jimmy Carter, have had their reputations restored with time. But from the vista of now, the nation's 43rd president risks joining the likes of Franklin Pierce, his own distant relative, as among the nation's worst presidents, harshly judged in their day and never bathed in the warm afterglow of hindsight.

Bush leaves to his successor two unfinished wars, Osama bin Laden living in an unstable Pakistan, a U.S. reputation soiled by Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and torture, a deep recession and what is sure to be the first $1 trillion-plus deficit. In short, a gigantic mess, all the bigger for the peace, prosperity and black ink he inherited....

Bush both grew the government and gave laissez-faire a bad name, overseeing a rash of corporate scandals in 2002 and the housing meltdown. The financial wreckage has many fathers, but Bush, the first MBA president, stands among them, failing to restrain the liquidity bubble as it ballooned and asking for $700 billion to rescue banks as it burst. The GOP is fractured and adrift....

The plan for a swift victory and quick exit [in Iraq] turned into a bungled and bloody occupation that has left roughly 4,800 U.S. troops dead, 33,000 Americans wounded, as well as thousands of contractors and tens of thousands of Iraqis dead. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have lasted longer than World War II and cost 50 percent more than Vietnam: $904 billion since 2001, according to the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. That ultimately could rise above $2 trillion, including decades of care for wounded veterans, estimated as high as $65 billion alone. Bush economic chief Lawrence Lindsay was fired for saying publicly that the Iraq war could cost $200 billion....

Conditions are worse now than when Truman left office, said Sean Theriault, a political scientist at the University of Texas. "The objective standards by which we can evaluate the presidency are just so bad. The economy is truly in tatters, and I don't think any Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative, can dispute that. When Bill Clinton left office you could argue that Americans were generally pleased, but people thought he wasn't a beacon of integrity. But we can't have an argument about the success of Bush's economic policies."

Whole thing here.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Your Old Road is Rapidly Ag'in

David Harsanyi kicks out some good ole fashioned ageism in the Denver Post:
According to USA Today, the average age of a House member this term will be 57 — which is a day nursery compared to the Senate, where the average age now stands at 63. Both are records.

Thirty years after Ted Kennedy griped about Ronald Reagan's advanced age, the man serves as a 76-year-old, nine-term senator recovering from brain-tumor surgery. Really, is there no one else available in the state of Massachusetts who can drop his Rs and vote dependably Maoist?

An average adult would not trust Sen. Robert Byrd (who is 91) to pet-sit their mutt for fear that the unfortunate creature might accidentally turn up in chili con carne. Yet, Byrd sits on the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, where he doles out massive amounts of taxpayer funds for West Virginia landmarks with "Byrd" in the title. Fortunately, this session Byrd has lost his chairmanship to make way for a young whippersnapper in Hawaii's Daniel Inouye, who is 84.

And, sure, there has been some progress in the Senate with the ousting of Alaskan criminal Ted Stevens (85). The youth movement continued in the House with the ejection of 82-year-old John Dingell from his chairmanship of the House Energy and Commerce Committee to make way for Henry Waxman, who comes in at a stylish 69.

Then there are Supreme Court justices, who in many ways hold power beyond that of legislators. Certainly the position entails a far higher level of intellectual rigor. The average age in that institution is 69. Five justices are over 70 and another two are over 60. Justice John Paul Stevens is 88.

Whole thing here.

Where's My Bailout?

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

I Heart Sallie James