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January 03, 2009

Political Linkage

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

* Libertarian Thomas DiLorenzo ranks John Tyler as the greatest of American presidents, and Abe Lincoln dead last.

* Texas Secession thinks that the U.S. is on the verge of falling apart.

* Doug Bandow wonders if the U.S. wouldn't benefit from a little "disuniting."

* Should Sean ("Milk") Penn apologize to gays for his political views?

* Jim Kalb offers some thoughts about the future of conservatism.

* Lester Hunt argues that, strictly speaking, Social Security doesn't qualify as a Ponzi scheme.

* Peter Canellos thinks (as I do) that the 1965 Immigration Act has been a major -- and much under-recognized -- shaper of our country.

* Re-read this whenever you find yourself becoming overly impressed by intellectuals and artists.

* Here's an unexpected one: a Jewish case against gay marriage.

* Thanks to The Rawness for turning up this great Thomas Sowell piece about educating minority and poor kids.

* James Grant asks why we have economic policies that punish savers.

* Dave Barry reviews 2008 in politics. (Link thanks to Charlton Griffin.) Funny line:

Obama, following through on his promise to bring change to Washington, quickly begins assembling an administration consisting of a diverse group of renegade outsiders, ranging all the way from lawyers who attended Ivy League schools and then worked in the Clinton administration to lawyers who attended entirely different Ivy league schools and then worked in the Clinton administration.

Shhh. Calm down. It's OK for Dave Barry to crack that joke precisely because he himself didn't go to an Ivy League college. Of course, had he attended Harvard instead of Haverford, Dave Barry would never have dared to crack such joke, and (needless to say) we'd never have dared to pass it along.



UPDATE: Michael Lewis and David Einhorn assess the madness. It's a terrific piece that makes matters vivid and clear in plain English, and that (to my eyes and mind anyway) doesn't collapse into partisan-politics bickering. One nice passage among many:

Rather than tackle the source of the problem, the people running the bailout desperately want to reinflate the credit bubble, prop up the stock market and head off a recession. Their efforts are clearly failing: 2008 was a historically bad year for the stock market, and we’ll be in recession for some time to come. Our leaders have framed the problem as a “crisis of confidence” but what they actually seem to mean is “please pay no attention to the problems we are failing to address.”
posted by Michael at January 3, 2009


I see a bad moon on the rise.

The best political theater going on is Gov. Blago trying to rescue himself by playing the race card against his own party.

Let's see. Obama's former fund raiser and financial fixer, Tony Rezko, is in jail. For 18 months now, one former associate after another of Obama's has been linked to political corruption or just plain madness (Ayers, Wright, Rahm, et al.).

Remember when public financing of campaigns was the great liberal cause? Obama dumped public financing in his presidential campaign so that he could raise 3/4 of a billions bucks. If a Republic had done this, he would have been accused of "buying the presidency."

What happens if the pattern of corrupt associations continues? I've got the unhappy feeling that it will. I can foresee, in a year or two, the whole thing unravelling, with Obama being linked to the corruption, and Democrats screaming "racism!" at every turn as we head toward impeachment. Will Blago start singing and lead the Feds to the bodies?

Just a bad dream I had.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on January 3, 2009 8:43 AM

There will be a consensus among future historians that the 1965 Immigration Act was the suicide of the United States.

Posted by: PA on January 3, 2009 11:40 AM

Re-read this whenever you find yourself becoming overly impressed by intellectuals and artists.

You should also read my forthcoming book, "How French doctors, nurses, small businessmen, firemen, and policemen survived the Nazi occupation" whenever you find yourself becoming overly impressed by doctors, nurses, entrepreneurs, cops, or firefighters.

And of course Social Security isn't a Ponzi scheme. Your local bank is structured more like a Ponzi scheme than Social Security is. Actually, all fractional reserve banking has certain Ponzi elements, which is why Ponzi schemes are such hardy perennials in the fraud department.

Posted by: MQ on January 3, 2009 1:03 PM

EVERYBODY should apologize to gays -- on principle.*

*PC enough?

Posted by: ricpic on January 3, 2009 2:00 PM

A bank only becomes a Ponzi scheme when all its depositors make a run on it. We couldn't have banking without what you call a Ponzi scheme.

Posted by: ricpic on January 3, 2009 2:50 PM

"Re-read this whenever you find yourself becoming overly impressed by intellectuals and artists."

. . . and remember to reread Paul Johnson's Intellectuals, too.

Posted by: fenster moop on January 3, 2009 5:55 PM

If Texas secedes, will they be allocated their proportionate share of the $10 trillion national debt to take with them when the leave? That works out to be about $840 billion if the allocation is done by population.

Posted by: Bill on January 3, 2009 9:38 PM

How could one browse to that Sowell essay? There are no links to it anywhere on Sowell's site that I can find.

Posted by: Rich Rostrom on January 3, 2009 10:07 PM


This obsession with debunking Abraham Lincoln really appeals to you. It's an oldie but goodie for the eastern intellectual class. They were doing the same thing in 1859. This is not original thinking on your part... it's an artifact of that Ivy League education in snobbery that you so often claim to have shrugged off.

Lincoln has always been reviled by East Coast intellectuals. The reason is the same as the hatred directed at Sarah Palin. The Ivy Leaguers look to European ideas and manners for their inspiration. Marxism continues to exert a tenacious hold on American intellectuals because they prefer the Old World of ideology to the New World of pragmatism.

Lincoln was the great Emancipator and the savior of the Union. I'm glad that America survived as a unified country. The world is better off for it. For reasons of political expediency, as well as out of a profound moral sense, Lincoln ended slavery in the U.S. This was a moral lesson that the U.S. taught the entire world.

These continued attempts to debunk the most powerful moral and intellectual political force in American history... well, I guess it gives you a kick... but it's nonsense.

Every kid in American should be taught to revere Honest Abe. I think in most parts of America, they are still doing precisely that.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on January 4, 2009 10:00 AM

Ivy Leaguers never make fun of the Ivy mafia? Not every Ivy grad is successful. I've got one of those BS's myself and I'm a loser...

Posted by: SFG on January 4, 2009 10:33 AM

My favorite quote from Canellos' immigration article.

In the 1950s, 53 percent of all immigrants were Europeans and just 6 percent were Asians; by the 1990s, just 16 percent were Europeans and 31 percent were Asians. The percentages of Latino and African immigrants also jumped significantly.

Yep Latino immigration increased, but lets just talk about European and Asian immigration. Also lets only talk about percentages, so we don't notice the huge increase in absolute numbers.

And this still one of the better articles on the immigration by the MSM.

Posted by: ben on January 4, 2009 12:20 PM

ST, did you grow up as a kid revering Honest Abe? Is that what you were taught as a child? Or did you arrive at your present state of mind as an adult after objectively going over the facts? FWIW, DiLorenzo does not seem to fit the mold of your typical Eastern Establishmentatarian. He's far too libertarian for that.

Posted by: Bob Grier on January 4, 2009 12:28 PM

For once I agree with Shouting Thomas.

It's unfortunate, but circa 1860 the issue of state autonomy and the right to secede simply could not be separated from slavery.

Posted by: MQ on January 4, 2009 6:12 PM

The Civil War would have had to be fought later, and it might have been much, much worse if it was. As much as it pains me to agree with MQ, the secession question was entirely driven by was the question of whether to admit new members into the Union. The Civil War was inevitable...and I'm still retrospectively surprised that it took four score and some to occur.

Abraham Lincoln was one of the greatest statesmen ever, and my candidate for the greatest President.

John Tyler? It's that kind of horsepuckey over at Lew Rockwell (where DiLorenzo spends some time) that makes me think my former libertarian buddies are just a bunch of freakin' crackpots.

John Tyler?

Posted by: PatrickH on January 4, 2009 9:30 PM

ST, did you grow up as a kid revering Honest Abe? Is that what you were taught as a child? Or did you arrive at your present state of mind as an adult after objectively going over the facts?

This question is, to me, irrelevant.

My father taught me to revere Honest Abe, and that's good enough for me. Over the years, I've read many books about Lincoln, starting with the Sandberg biography.

Your statement reflects an outlook that became the received wisdom of the 60s... we must tear all of our traditions apart, subject them to rigid scrutiny and throw them away if... The guidelines for tossing away our traditions are a bit of a mystery to me.

This process, which seems to you sacrosanct, seems to me to have been incredibly destructive and nihilist.

First and foremost, I revere Abraham Lincoln because my father did, and he taught me to do so. I grew up, after all, not far from where Abe the Railsplitter was born and rode the circuit.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on January 4, 2009 11:25 PM

Dear Michael,

As I wait to fall asleep, I came back to this excellent and beautiful blog, and am delightedly surprised to find that you lead of this entry with paleocon/constitutionalist/pro-liberal linkage!!

There needs to be more of that in the Blogosphere (something that I've been stressing, for the past several years, but which may finally be happening... and as I was discussing with Pieter Friedrich the other night, the fact that a Democrat will be in the White House may result in more Republicans and conservatives becoming more anti-state, anti-war, and pro-liberty, like they were when Bill Clinton was in office.

Please keep up the GREAT work at this site, and keep it up and running (unlike what has unfortunately happened, to so many weblogs and websites, these past years :-(

Thanks, and have a great week!!

Posted by: Aakash on January 5, 2009 3:35 AM

Shouting Thomas thinks that the East Coast establishment (!!!) hates (!!?!??!) Lincoln.


Posted by: asdf on January 5, 2009 6:29 AM

The fundamental thing about a Ponzi scheme that makes it a fraud, instead of an investment vehicle, is that it is mathematically impossible for it to do what what it claims to be able to do.

By this metric SS cannot be a Ponzi scheme, because a) the USG can meet any and all obligations it assumes to deliver US currency to any given person or entity by printing the currency as required, and b) the USG can change the terms of the obligation, or disavow it altogether, at will, and without the consent of the holders of the obligations, by due process of law.

As the Mountebank (formely known as the Maestro) himself said to Congress, "We can guarantee payments at any level you like, for any duration. However, we cannot guarantee their purchasing power."


Posted by: StM on January 5, 2009 10:12 AM

StM: I had the same reaction. In a similar vein, the USA cannot go bankrupt.

"We cannot guarantee their purchasing power." Quite so. We have both the means and the will to drop money out of a helicopter if the political class wants to cause inflation.

To me, the most interesting economic question for the world right now is this: how long will suckers keep buying USA debt? Can't they see the cards on the table?

Posted by: Leonard on January 5, 2009 5:36 PM


*Read the unfavorable reader reviews of DiLorenzo's Lincoln book at DiLorenzo's a contrarian crank, that's all.

*Secession is an idiotic obsession and fantasy. The U.S. isn't falling apart, nor will it.

Posted by: Peter L. Winkler on January 5, 2009 10:08 PM

The Lewis/Einhorn piece is great. Elites on both sides are too deeply invested in the model of finance-led growth combined with outsourcing for cheap goods that has fueled the U.S. economy for the past ten years or so.

To me, the most interesting economic question for the world right now is this: how long will suckers keep buying USA debt? Can't they see the cards on the table?

the Asian countries are just as dependent on the system as we are, that's why they keep buying into it. They need the U.S. consumer.

Posted by: MQ on January 6, 2009 1:31 AM

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