A King, Not a President? ( Foreign Policy ) by David Boaz

Gene Healy praises former president Gerald Ford for proclaiming himself "a Ford, not a Lincoln" and demonstrating "a modest approach to the most powerful office in the world." The Washington Post notes:
Ford never forgot his humble roots, famously presenting himself as "a Ford, not a Lincoln." He was not even born a Ford. His original name was Leslie Lynch King Jr. 
So if not for his mother's remarriage, he could have begun his presidency by declaring "I'm a King, not a President." But that's a claim better suited to the current president than to President Ford.

Posted on December 29, 2006  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Seventh (Grade) Sense ( Law & Legal Issues ) by David Boaz

My young colleague Jessie Creel has an even younger sister, Mary, who sounds like a future libertarian debater. Jessie tells me that a speaker from Fannie Mae recently visited Mary's 7th-grade class at a Maryland Catholic school to discuss poverty. The speaker said, “I love my job because I make money helping people.” And Mary raised her hand and said, “What job doesn’t help people?” Sounds like a natural economist.

Posted on December 23, 2006  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Sandy Berger: Oops, I Must Have Accidentally Stuck the Wrong Papers in My Briefcase, Hidden Them under a Construction Trailer, Come Back to Get Them, and Cut Them into Shreds ( ) by David Boaz

The Washington Post reports
On the evening of Oct. 2, 2003, former White House national security adviser Samuel R. "Sandy" Berger stashed highly classified documents he had taken from the National Archives beneath a construction trailer at the corner of Ninth Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW so he could surreptitiously retrieve them later and take them to his office, according to a newly disclosed government investigation. The documents he took detailed how the Clinton administration had responded to the threat of terrorist attacks at the end of 1999. Berger removed a total of five copies of the same document without authorization and later used scissors to destroy three before placing them in his office trash, the National Archives inspector general concluded in a Nov. 4, 2005, report. After archives officials accused him of taking the documents, Berger told investigators, he "tried to find the trash collector but had no luck." But instead of admitting he had removed them deliberately — by stuffing them in his suit pockets on multiple occasions — Berger initially said he had removed them by mistake. The fact that Berger, one of President Bill Clinton's closest aides from 1997 to 2001, illicitly removed the documents is well-known: A federal judge in September 2005 ordered him to pay a $50,000 fine for his actions and forfeit his security clearance for three years. What Berger did, and the ham-handed and comical methods by which he did it, are freshly detailed in the National Archives report, which the Associated Press obtained first under a Freedom of Information Act request. Although the report reiterates that Berger's main motive was to prepare himself for testifying before a commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks, it makes clear that he not only sought to study the documents but also destroyed some copies and — when initially confronted — denied he had done so. His lawyer, Lanny Breuer, said in a statement yesterday that Berger "considers this matter closed, and he is pleased to have moved on."
More special rules for Washington insiders?

Posted on December 22, 2006  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Identity Triumph ( General ) by David Boaz

Tom Shales of the Washington Post didn't like "Identity," the new NBC prime-time show hosted by Cato Mencken Fellow Penn Jillette, but the people did--"an impressive (and dominant) 12.18 million viewers and a 4.5 rating/11 share among adults 18-49." The show continues every night this week. No relation to Identity Crisis.

Posted on December 19, 2006  Posted to Cato@Liberty

The Pentagon Is Not Reporting the Good News from Iraq ( General ) by David Boaz

The Pentagon said yesterday that violence in Iraq soared this fall to its highest level on record and acknowledged that anti-U.S. fighters have achieved a "strategic success" by unleashing a spiral of sectarian killings by Sunni and Shiite death squads that threatens Iraq's political institutions. In its most pessimistic report yet on progress in Iraq, the Pentagon described a nation listing toward civil war, with violence at record highs of 959 attacks per week, declining public confidence in government and "little progress" toward political reconciliation. --The Washington Post

Posted on December 19, 2006  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Republicans and the Libertarian Voters ( General ) by David Boaz

Writers in both National Review and the New Republic have dismissed David Kirby's and my warning that Republicans are losing libertarian voters by noting that President Bush's percentage of the vote went up in 2004 even though he lost libertarian votes. Thus, Ramesh Ponnuru and Jonathan Chait say, losing libertarian votes is no problem for the Republicans. In National Review, Ponnuru writes:
The electorate as a whole swung toward Bush during those years: He increased his percentage of the overall vote from 48 to 51. Libertarians swung one way; the remaining 85 percent of the electorate swung the other way, and swung far enough to overwhelm the libertarians.
In the New Republic Chait agrees:
Boaz and Kirby ...stress that President Bush's share of the libertarian vote dropped precipitously between 2000 and 2004. But, during that time, Bush's total share of the vote rose by almost 3 percent.
It's true enough that Bush increased his percentage of the total vote even as libertarians were swinging away from him. But Chait and Ponnuru would have us believe that Bush succeeded because his policies alienated libertarians and appealed to a larger group of non-libertarian voters. But what policies would those be? Did he achieve re-election on the strength of the war in Iraq? His massive over-spending and prescription drug entitlement? His support for the gay marriage amendment? Not likely. (For a discussion of state marriage amendments and the 2004 vote, see here.) Indeed, the large question about 2004 is why a president with a strong economy won only 51 percent of the vote, 6 points behind what economic models of presidential elections predicted. The biggest answer is the war in Iraq, which was increasingly unpopular by November 2004 and which likely turned off both libertarians and other independent and centrist voters. Meanwhile, along with the economy, what accounted for Bush's gains from 2000 to 2004? It’s terrorism, stupid. The most important number in the 2004 exit polls was this: 58 percent of respondents said they trusted Bush to handle terrorism, while only 40 percent trusted Kerry. You can’t win a post-9/11 election if only 40 percent of voters trust you to protect them against terrorists; people may not have been happy with the war in Iraq, but many of them thought terrorism was the bigger issue. Indeed, our study found that libertarian-leaning voters who cited "terrorism" as the most important issue in 2004 voted heavily for Bush, while those who cited some other issue gave a majority of their votes to Kerry. And of course, our post-election 2006 data found that libertarians again gave Democrats a larger share of their votes than they had historically done. And this time it did cost the Republicans. Independents--many of them libertarian-minded--turned sharply away from Republican candidates. Disgruntled libertarians probably cost the Republicans congressional seats in New Hampshire, Montana, Arizona, and Colorado, Nevada, and Iowa, and possibly also in Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. If Republicans can't win New Hampshire and the Mountain West, they can't win a national majority. And they can't win those states without libertarian votes. This may be good news for Democrat Chait. But Ponnuru should worry about it.

Posted on December 18, 2006  Posted to Cato@Liberty

More Special Rules for Fannie Mae? ( Defense & National Security ) by David Boaz

A banner headline and photo in the Business section of the Washington Post show former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling reporting to prison to begin serving a 24-year term for fraud and conspiracy. (Note that federal sentences don't allow for much parole; Skilling must serve at least 85 percent of his sentence.) Sidebars depict other jailed corporate executives: Bernard Ebbers of WorldCom, 25 years; Dennis Kozlowski of Tyco, 8 to 25 years; John Rigas of Adelphia, 15 years (being appealed). On the same page, another story reports:
Three years ago, Fannie Mae assured lawmakers that it had the required capital to cope with a broad variety of business setbacks. Since 1992, "Fannie Mae has met or exceeded our capital requirements in every year," Franklin D. Raines, then its chief executive, testified in September 2003. "Indeed, we are one of the best-capitalized financial institutions in the world, when compared to the risk of our business." As it turns out, the assurance was false.
Will Raines and other executives face lengthy jail terms for their repeated and massive accounting misrepresentations, which resulted in multi-million-dollar bonuses for the executives? It doesn't look likely. Criminal charges against the company itself have been ruled out. The government may seek to recover millions of dollars from executives who received massive bonuses on the basis of the manipulated earnings statements, but there seem to be no plans to pursue criminal prosecution of these sophisticated Washington insiders. There may well be good legal reasons why Enron and WorldCom executives were guilty of crimes punishable by 25 years in jail, while Fannie Mae executives were guilty only of outrageous behavior. But one can't help wondering if the difference is related to yet another tiny story in the Post's Business section on the same day: "Fannie Breaks Record On Lobbying Outlay." Some background on the fundamental problems with Fannie Mae and other government-sponsored enterprises here.

Posted on December 15, 2006  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Cheer Up, Kirk Douglas ( General ) by David Boaz

Kirk Douglas is celebrating his 90th birthday with a new book and a jeremiad on the state of the world. "Let's face it," he writes to "America's young people": "THE WORLD IS IN A MESS and you are inheriting it. Generation Y, you are on the cusp. You are the group facing many problems: abject poverty, global warming, genocide, Aids, and suicide bombers to name a few. These problems exist, and the world is silent. We have done very little to solve these problems. Now, we leave it to you. You have to fix it because the situation is intolerable." I ponder his analysis and recommend Indur Goklany's book The Improving State of the World: Why We're Living Longer, Healthier, More Comfortable Lives on a Cleaner Planet to him at the Guardian's Comment is free.

Posted on December 13, 2006  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Cheer up, Kirk Douglas

We're living longer, healthier, more comfortable lives on a cleaner planet.

Posted on December 13, 2006  Posted to The Guardian

Mother cussing

For Dick Cheney's daughter, pregnancy has the usual frustrations. Morning sickness. Sore back. Political attacks from left and right.

Posted on December 8, 2006  Posted to The Guardian

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