Month: October 2004

Social Security is Unconstitutional

I’m breaking away from election-related posting to touch briefly on a subject close to my heart: the unconstitutionality of Social Security. The Social Security Administration tells us this:

Three Social Security cases made their way to the Supreme Court during its October 1936 term. One challenged the old-age insurance program (Helvering vs. Davis) and two challenged the unemployment compensation program of the Social Security Act. The Court would issue rulings on all three on the same day.

Helvering vs. Davis:

George P. Davis was a minor stockholder in the Edison Electric Illuminating Company. Edison, like every industrial employer in the nation, was readying itself to start paying the employers’ share of the payroll tax in January 1937. Mr. Davis objected to this arguing that by making this expenditure Edison was robbing him of part of his equity, so he sued Edison to prevent their compliance with the Social Security Act. The government intervened on Edison’s behalf and the Commissioner of the IRS (Mr. Helvering) took on the lawsuit.

The attorneys for Davis argued that the payroll tax was a new type of tax not listed in the Constitution’s tally of taxes, and so it was unconstitutional. At one point they even introduced into their argument the definitions of “taxes” from dictionaries in 1788 (the year before the Constitution was ratified) to prove how earnest they were in the belief that powers not explicitly granted in 1789 could not be created in 1935. Davis was also of the view that providing for the general welfare of the aged was a power reserved to the states. The government argued that this was too inflexible an interpretation of the powers granted to Congress, and (loosely) that if the country could not expand the interpretation of the Constitution as it stood in 1789 progress would be impossible and it would still be 1789.

Steward Machine Company:

In the Steward Machine Company case the unemployment compensation provisions of the Act were disputed. The Company dutifully paid its first unemployment tax installment ($46.14) and then sued the government to recover the payment, claiming the Social Security Act was unconstitutional. Steward made the same as points as Davis about the meaning of the word “tax,” and argued in addition that the unemployment compensation program could not qualify as “providing for the general welfare.”

Carmichael vs. Southern Coal & Coke Co. and Gulf States Paper:

This was also a case disputing the validity of the unemployment compensation program. In this variation the companies were challenging the state portion of the federal/state arrangement. Unwilling to pay their share of state unemployment compensation taxes the two companies sued the state of Alabama declaring that it was the Social Security Act, which they deemed unconstitutional, that gave Alabama its authority to tax them in this way and since they believed the Act to be invalid, they did not have to pay the tax. Alabama differed. It was again the same issues as in the two prior cases.

Mr. Justice Cardozo for the Court-

On May 24, 1937 the Supreme Court handed down its decision in the three cases. Justice Cardozo wrote the majority opinion in the first two cases….

Mirroring the situation in Congress when the legislation was considered, the old-age insurance program met relatively little disagreement. The Court ruled 7 to 2 in support of the old-age insurance program. And even though two Justices disagreed with the decision, no separate dissents were authored. The unemployment compensation provisions, by contrast, were hotly disputed within the Court, just as they had been the focus of most of the debate in Congress. The Court ruled 5 to 4 in support of the unemployment compensation provisions, and three of the Justices felt compelled to author separate dissents in the Steward Machine case and one Justice did so in the Southern Coal & Coke case.

Justice Cardozo wrote the opinions in Helvering vs. Davis and Steward Machine. After giving the 1788 dictionary the consideration he thought it deserved, he made clear the Court’s view on the scope of the government’s spending authority: “There have been statesman in our history who have stood for other views. . .We will not resurrect the contest. It is now settled by decision. The conception of the spending power advocated by Hamilton . . .has prevailed over that of Madison. . .” Arguing that the unemployment compensation program provided for the general welfare, Cardozo observed: “. . .there is need to remind ourselves of facts as to the problem of unemployment that are now matters of common knowledge. . .the roll of the unemployed, itself formidable enough, was only a partial roll of the destitute or needy. The fact developed quickly that the states were unable to give the requisite relief. The problem had become national in area and dimensions. There was need of help from the nation if the people were not to starve. It is too late today for the argument to be heard with tolerance that in a crisis so extreme the use of the moneys of the nation to relieve the unemployed and their dependents is a use for any purpose [other] than the promotion of the general welfare.”

And finally, he extended the reasoning to the old-age insurance program: “The purge of nation-wide calamity that began in 1929 has taught us many lessons. . . Spreading from state to state, unemployment is an ill not particular but general, which may be checked, if Congress so determines, by the resources of the nation. . . But the ill is all one or at least not greatly different whether men are thrown out of work because there is no longer work to do or because the disabilities of age make them incapable of doing it. Rescue becomes necessary irrespective of the cause. The hope behind this statute is to save men and women from the rigors of the poor house as well as from the haunting fear that such a lot awaits them when journey’s end is near.”

With these cases decided, Justice Stone could then dispose of the third case in short order. “Together the two statutes now before us embody a cooperative legislative effort by state and national governments, for carrying out a public purpose common to both, which neither could fully achieve without the cooperation of the other. The Constitution does not prohibit such cooperation.”….

It is no coincidence that the Supreme Court reversed its record of opposition to the New Deal when faced with the certainty that Congress would approve Roosevelt’s court-packing plan and dilute the authority of the sitting justices. As SSA tells it:

Despite the intense controversy the court-packing plan provoked, and the divided loyalties it produced even among the President’s supporters, the legislation appeared headed for passage, when the Court itself made a sudden shift that took the wind out of the President’s sails. In March 1937, in a pivotal case, Justice Roberts unexpectedly changed his allegiance from the conservatives to the liberals, shifting the balance on the Court from 5-4 against to 5-4 in favor of most New Deal legislation. In the March case Justice Roberts voted to uphold a minimum wage law in Washington state just like the one he had earlier found to be unconstitutional in New York state. Two weeks later he voted to uphold the National Labor Relations Act, and in May he voted to uphold the Social Security Act. This sudden change in the Court’s center of gravity meant that the pressure on the New Deal’s supporters lessened and they felt free to oppose the President’s plan. This sudden switch by Justice Roberts was forever after referred to as “the switch in time that saved nine.”

In the end, the Court decided wrongly to legalize Social Security by invoking Hamilton’s supposedly looser view of the powers vested in Congress, and by improperly interpreting the “general welfare” clause.

Madison — the “Father of the Constitution” — had this to say about the general welfare in Federalist No. 41:

Some who have denied the necessity of the power of taxation [to the Federal government] have grounded a very fierce attack against the Constitution, on the language on which it is defined. It has been urged and echoed that the power to “lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises, to pay the debts, and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States” amounts to an unlimited commission to exercise every power which may be alleged to be necessary for the common defense or general welfare. No stronger proof could be given of the distress under which these writers labor for objections, than their stooping to such a misconstruction….

For what purpose could the enumeration of particular powers be inserted, if these and all others were meant to be included in the preceding general power? Nothing is more natural or more common than first to use a general phrase, and then to explain and qualify by an enumeration of the particulars. But the idea of an enumeration of particulars which neither explain nor qualify the general meaning, and can have no other effect than to confound and mislead, is an absurdity … what would have been thought of that assembly, if, attaching themselves to these general expressions and disregarding the specifications which limit their import, they had exercised an unlimited power of providing for the general welfare?…[quoted in testimony before Congress]

Was Hamilton of a different mind? Apparently not:

The Federalist Papers are one of our soundest guides to what the Constitution actually means. And in No. 84, Alexander Hamilton indirectly confirmed Madison’s point.

Hamilton argued that a bill of rights, which many were clamoring for, would be not only “unnecessary,” but “dangerous.” Since the federal government was given only a few specific powers, there was no need to add prohibitions: it was implicitly prohibited by the listed powers. If a proposed law — a relief act, for instance — wasn’t covered by any of these powers, it was ipso facto unconstitutional.

Adding a bill of rights, said Hamilton, would only confuse matters. It would imply, in many people’s minds, that the federal government was entitled to do anything it wasn’t positively forbidden to do, whereas the principle of the Constitution was that the federal government is forbidden to do anything it isn’t positively authorized to do.

Hamilton too posed some rhetorical questions: “For why declare that things shall not be done which there is no power to do? Why, for instance, should it be said, that the liberty of the press shall not be restrained when no power is given by which restrictions may be imposed?” Such a provision “would furnish, to men disposed to usurp, a plausible pretence for claiming that power” — that is, a power to regulate the press, short of actually shutting it down.

We now suffer from the sort of confusion Hamilton foresaw. But what interests me about his argument, for today’s purpose, is that he implicitly agreed with Madison about the narrow meaning of “general welfare.”

After all, if the phrase covered every power the federal government might choose to claim under it, the “general welfare” might be invoked to justify government control of the press for the sake of national security in time of war. For that matter, press control might be justified under “common defense.” Come to think of it, the broad reading of “general welfare” would logically include “common defense,” and to speak of “the common defense and general welfare of the United States” would be superfluous, since defense is presumably essential to the general welfare.

So Madison, Hamilton, and — more important — the people they were trying to persuade agreed: the Constitution conferred only a few specific powers on the federal government, all others being denied to it (as the Tenth Amendment would make plain).

Now we are embarked on a great mission to undo what Congress did so wrongly almost 70 years ago. The first step is to privatize Social Security. The next step is to abolish it. The ultimate step is to abolish Medicare and Medicaid. But one step at a time…as my father always said.

Setting the Record Straight

The Last Amazon corrects Osama bin Laden Moore’s rewriting of history, with a vengeance. Here’s where she starts:

In Osama bin Laden’s latest video release he said something that piqued my interest. He stated that is was the behaviour of the American 6th Fleet in Lebanon in 1982 that inspired him to attack Americans. I could have sworn that originally Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda declared war against America because American infidel soldiers were being based in Saudi Arabia and polluting the sacred soil, but hey, never let it be said that I cannot go with the flow.

She then rips into bin Laden Moore’s fabrication, at length, leaving his story in tatters. Read the whole thing.

Speaking of the EU Constitution…

…as I was in this post, there’s still a chance that all of Europe won’t be herded down the socialist path by France and Germany. According to an AP story, “All it takes is one rejection to sink the constitution.”

I sometimes wish that our Constitution could have been derailed by only one State’s failure to ratify it. The Antifederalists were mostly right about the consequences of the Constitution. As “An Old Whig” put it in Antifederalist No. 46:

Where then is the restraint? How are Congress bound down to the powers expressly given? What is reserved, or can be reserved? Yet even this is not all. As if it were determined that no doubt should remain, by the sixth article of the Constitution it is declared that “this Constitution and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof, and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shalt be the supreme law of the land, and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, any thing in the Constitutions or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.” The Congress are therefore vested with the supreme legislative power, without control. In giving such immense, such unlimited powers, was there no necessity of a Bill of Rights, to secure to the people their liberties?

Is it not evident that we are left wholly dependent on the wisdom and virtue of the men who shall from time to time be the members of Congress? And who shall be able to say seven years hence, the members of Congress will be wise and good men, or of the contrary character?

Despite the subsequent adoption of the Bill of Rights — and despite occasional resistance from the Supreme Court (in the midst of much acquiescence) — Congress (often in league with the Executive) has for most of its 215 years been engaged in an unconstitutional power grab. Campaign-finance “reform” is merely a recent and notably egregious bit of evidence that the Antifederalists were right.

Cronkite’s "Conspiracy Theory"

Drudge reports this:

…Somewhat smiling, Cronkite said he is “inclined to think that Karl Rove, the political manager at the White House, who is a very clever man, he probably set up bin Laden to this thing.”…

Think of all the lefties out there who will use the quotation without noting that Cronkite was “somewhat smiling” when he said it.

P.S. I’ve noticed that the righties are getting all exercised about Cronkite’s crack. Loosen up, fellas — election’s only two days away. No serious person is going to pay attention to Uncle Walter’s mutterings. Hell, most of CBS News’s remaining fans (all three of them) think he was mummified and glued to the anchor chair. (Oops, that’s Dan Rather, isn’t it?)

Debating the Debates

Ed Driscoll points to a piece by Fred Barnes about the debates:

…The traits we look for in a president are wisdom, steadfastness, foresight, integrity, inner strength, emotional intelligence, and the willingness to do what’s unpopular but right. If there’s been a presidential debate that gave us a glimpse of these in a candidate, I missed that one. Instead, I’ve watched debate after debate that provided only the shallowest of impressions about a candidate….

Now think about a few presidents who served before the advent of televised debates–George Washington, James Madison, Andrew Jackson, Ulysses Grant, William McKinley, Lyndon Johnson, Dwight Eisenhower. I doubt if any of them would have fared well in a debate. Washington was too aloof, Madison too short. Jackson had a hair-trigger temper. Grant was a great writer but not as good a talker. Up against William Jennings Bryan, McKinley would have been overpowered. Johnson talked too slowly and Ike had trouble putting together a sentence with a subject and verb in the right place. All of them would have lost debates and maybe the presidency. Yet most were presidents of great merit.

Another worthwhile test of the value of debates is to consider the 1964, 1968, and 1972 presidential campaigns, the ones with no debates. Were the issues clearly drawn in those campaigns? Yes. Were the differences between the candidates clear? For sure. Did we manage to get insights into the character of the candidates? I think so….

Driscoll adds this:

Given President Bush’s unspoken war against the leftwing legacy media (and vice-versa), I’m kind of surprised he didn’t choose to use this campaign to say “no mas” to the debates.

My own take:

If Bush loses, it will because he debated Kerry, period. I know that it’s unseemly for a sitting president to refuse to participate in the quadrennial test of cramming and makeup. But the debates do nothing but show how well a candidate can perform in the artificial setting of live TV. The debates have nothing to do with governance and everything to do with performance (in the showbiz sense).

Bush should have refused to participate in the debates, on the ground that he has more pressing things to do, such as prosecute a war. His refusal might have cost him a few points in the polls, but that’s nothing compared with the damage he has suffered by giving Kerry an opportunity to feign gravitas.

Someone Who Understands

Unlike a hermetically sealed “strategic planner” who can bring a perfect world into being by imagining it, Mike Rappaport of The Right Coast actually understands the world:

Many people…have argued that Bush has been running the Wars on Terror and in Iraq incompetently and support Kerry on that basis. But what about the War in Afghanistan? The Bush Administration has been tremendously successful there, defeating the Taliban, forcing Pakistan to become an ally, and instituting the beginnings of democracy. See here.

If Bush is so incompetent, how has he been able to pull off these feats? Of course, it is sometimes said that Afghanistan was easy, but that is not how it was initially perceived. After all, war in Afghanistan had defeated the Soviets.

The Bush critics are selective in their focus. Here is my explanation for the success in Afghanistan and the relative difficulty in Iraq….Terrorists from other countries have chosen to focus on Iraq, so the job [t]here is much harder. Moreover, the difficulty in fighting such terrorists cannot solely or easily be attributed to the incompetence of the Bush Administration. The Israelis, who are experienced at this and are hardly incompetent, also have a difficult time fighting terrorists (in their own country). If the Israelis have a hard time and cannot easily stop terror, the critics of the Bush Administration expect too much.

It is not that the Bush Administration has not made mistakes. Of course it has. But it is important to recognize that this is a new type of war for the US and mistakes were inevitable. It is unrealistic to expect an Administration to display the competence of Kerry’s (or Andrew Sullivan’s) hindsight.

Can He Be Serious?

Thomas P.M. Barnett — self-styled strategic planner — has reacted to the latest bin Laden tape by posting this:

Not so much a warning as yet another offer of civilizational apartheid. Last spring Osama told Europeans they had 90 days to leave the Middle East or he promised to have all of them still there killed–one by one. This time he sounds a far softer note, in effect telling Americans it doesn’t matter who wins the election, there will be no peace until America “respects” the security of Muslim states in the region: “Any state that does not mess with our security, has naturally guaranteed its own security.”…

Take Osama’s offer, America. In your heart, you know he’s right . . . about us. We’re a selfish, greedy country, full of guns and self-hating polemicists. We’re not built for this long-haul conflict. We just got lucky on the Cold War because it was led by the Greatest Generation. We don’t have that leadership now because we don’t want that leadership now. Bush is the most polarizing president in anyone’s memory, beginning to eclipse Nixon with this campaign. Neither he nor Kerry could ever hope to rule over anything but a severely divided and self-doubting nation after this election.

Take Osama’s offer, America. Let the self-healing truly begin.

Is he serious? Perhaps. There’s this:

If Kerry wins, it’ll be put up or shut up on Iraq, and most European experts expect a booming silence from the Old Continent come 3 November if winner Kerry starts speed-dialing his chums across the pond.

I think the last prognosis is a bit gloomy, reelecting the European tendency to want to weasel out of any difficult job as quickly as possible (but understanding their reticence on this one because it’s completely our doing). I don’t think Europe stonewalls Kerry because it really would create a backlash–hence the depressive fear of a Kerry win (Mon Dieu! Now we must actually help the Americans!).

Plus, I don’t think the price tag the Europeans assume will be so hard for us to meet will actually be that hard to meet. Here’s the list from the editor of Die Zeit, the hugely influential German paper:

(1) After Abu Ghraib, we have to promise to the world that we’ll be more careful in following the Geneva Conventions [Hell, I’ll throw in an apology if they’d like]

(2) That we work to dramatically reduce our own nuclear stockpile at home and not just tell others to stay away from WMD [Wow, that one would be really hard, wouldn’t it?]

(3) That we enter into serious discussions on how to fix Kyoto [Easy, get India and China into the treaty]

(4) “a return to a less arrogant tone of conversation” [Again, not exactly stressing]

That’s it! That’s the entire list to get Europe to come to the aid of the US in Iraq!

Tell me any of those is hard for Kerry, then tell me Bush is capable of making any of them happen.

And this:

…My point is this: the strategic despair is on our side (our troops decry: “My God, there’s too many of them to kill, we’ll never get the job done!”), when it should be on our opponents’ side (“My Allah, there’s too many of them to kill, we’ll never get the job done!”). So guess who’s talking about pullout and who’s talking about jacking up the effort?

The only way we effectively jack up the effort is to internationalize the military occupation force dramatically, plussing up our total numbers hugely. That’s how we’ll create strategic despair on their side: filling our ranks with New Core troops who have a long and bloody history of killing Muslims. We can generate that strategic despair in the minds of the terrorists fielding a team of almost exclusively European-descent countries. We need to change the occidental skin tone of this force and fast. Otherwise the terrorists think all they need do is wait out the Americans just like they waited out the Sovs in Afghanistan.

Any other talk of getting more aggressive in Iraq is complete bullshit. Ask any knowledgeable military officer who’s been there: there is no military solution to this situation—only a political one.

The question of this election is—therefore—who will get you that solution fastest and at the lowest cost? A nuanced and deal-cutting Kerry or the steadfast and full-of-certitude Bush?

That may well be the choice between winning and losing in Iraq.

And this:

…Here’s the interesting conclusion on foreign policy from these two*: they see the neocons as being a spent force, so the real question for Bush II is who rules the roost: the social conservatives or the anti-gov types?

My point is this: either way it goes, this administration will be sorely restricted in its ability to continue this global war on terrorism. That’s why I know Kerry will do better: not just the change in his tone, but the leeway offered within his party.

There’s a brilliant, all-knowing “strategic” planner for you. The world and its workings can be explained in glib, assured — if defeatist — tones. Barnett must be hoping for a slot in a Kerry administration,** so that he can wave his magic wand and transform the world into a place where Americans are beloved by Euro-snobs and Islamofascists. It’s all so easy to do — just surrender.

__________

* “‘Bushism’: This president has remade the politics of the right,” op-ed by John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge, Wall Street Journal, 27 October 2004, p. A16.

** Or as a script writer for “The West Wing” — where every problem, no matter how complex or irrelvant to the legitimate functions of government, can be solved in an hour (including commercials) by wise, all-knowing, all-seeing President Bartlett and his merry band of genii.

Left-Wing Logic at Work

Lambert at corrente opines:

If OBL says 9/11 and Iraq have nothing to do with each other, and Kerry says 9/11 and Iraq have nothing to do with each other… That makes OBL and Kerry moral equivalents, right?

No, it simply shows that Lambert is stupid if not duplicitous. Osama admitted responsibility for 9/11 (no news there), but he didn’t say that it happened without help from others.

Nor does the case for regime change in Iraq hinge on Iraq’s degree of involvement in 9/11. The invasion of Iraq was — and is — a means of removing an avowed enemy of the U.S. and gaining a base in the Middle East. If Bush wins re-election, watch the dominos fall in Syria and Iran — both of which are assuredly sponsors of terrorism.

P.S.

It’s obvious that Osama favors a Kerry victory. Why else would he go to such lengths to try to discredit Bush and remind American voters that the “choice” is ours?

Does that equate Osama and the American left? It would by the left’s vilely strident, anti-war, anti-Bush rhetoric. But I won’t stoop to the left’s level of illogic. I’ll say only that some on the left sympathize with Osama’s ends and means because they’re essentially acting out a form of adolescent rebellion.

Restore Free Speech

The L.A. Times reports:

Stung by a radio campaign to oust veteran Rep. David Dreier, the National Republican Congressional Committee has filed a federal elections complaint. It contends that an ongoing campaign by a pair of radio talk-show hosts represents an illegal contribution to Dreier’s opponent.

That’s the Incumbent Protection Act — also known as the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) — in action.

Osama Parrots Michael Moore

In the newly released videotape bin Laden also says (via Drudge):

[W]e never thought that the high commander of the US armies would leave 50 thousand of his citizens in both towers to face the horrors by themselves when they most needed him because it seemed to distract his attention from listening to the girl telling him about her goat butting was more important than paying attention to airplanes butting the towers which gave us three times the time to execute the operation thank god.

What was Bush supposed to do, don his Superman outfit, fly instantly to Metropolis, and perch all 50,000 (?) citizens on his shoulders? Or was he supposed to start barking orders left and right, without detailed knowledge of events on the ground and in the air? By the time he had learned all there was to know, it would have been too late to start giving orders.

In this country, we don’t wait for Allah or Premier Stalin to tell us what to do. We rely on free individuals and institutions to do the best they can do with the resources at their disposal.* That concept seems to be beyond the ken of religious and irreligious fanatics like bin Laden and Moore.

__________

* If the FAA and armed forces of the United States were less prepared for 9/11 than they might have been, the blame rests with Clinton as much as anyone. What was he doing on the morning of 9/11, and with whom was he doing it?

Bin Laden Threatens SUV Owners

That’s one of the implications of the newly released videotape made by bin Laden (or an actor), somewhere, sometime since the Dems nominated Kerry. Via Drudge, bin Laden says:

Your security is not in the hands of Kerry or Bush or Al Qaeda. Your security is in your hands. Each state that doesn’t mess with our security has automatically secured their security.

In other words, America should get out of the oil-pumping lands of the Middle East and al Qaida will leave America alone.

I’m sure there are many left-leaners and pseudo-pacifists out there who 1) are ready to believe bin Laden and 2) ready to do the deal. Before they consider it seriously, however, they ought to think of what would happen to the price of oil and the state of the U.S. economy if we were simply to abandon the Middle East to bin Laden and his thugs.

Hundred of billions for defense, not one cent for tribute.

Who’s Got the Brains?

An article at Wired News asks “Dems, GOP: Who’s Got the Brains?” The gist of the article, if you read it closely, is that Dems tend to be more emotional than Republicans. As for who’s smarter, I answered that question when I wrote “The Right Is Smarter Than the Left.”

The Devil You Don’t Want to Know

TradeSports has opened contracts on identity of the 2008 Republican nominee. As of now, contracts are available for Tenn. Sen. Bill Frist, Ariz. Sen. John McCain, ex-NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Fla. Gov. Jeb Bush, Homeland Security Sec’y. Tom Ridge, Nat’l Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice, N.Y. Gov. George Pataki, Colo. Gov. Bill Owens, Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney, Va. Sen. George Allen, Neb. Sen. Chuck Hagel, and HHS Sec’y. Tommy Thompson.

Mostly big-government Republicans and RINOs, with the exception of Allen, who’s probably unelectable because of his “hard” image.

Libertarian Republicans need to get serious and coalesce around an attractive, small-government, pro-defense candidate. Are there any out there?

The Devil She Knows

Megan McArdle (aka Jane Galt of Asymmetrical Information) has decided how she’s going to vote:

Kerry’s record for the first fifteen years in the senate, before he knew what he needed to say in order to get elected, is not the record of anyone I want within spitting distance of the White House war room. Combine that with his deficits on domestic policy — Kerry’s health care plan would, in my opinon, kill far more people, and cost more, than the Iraq war ever will — and it’s finally clear. For all the administration’s screw -ups — and there have been many — I’m sticking with the devil I know. George Bush in 2004.

And that’s only the conclusion of her long, perceptive explanation. Read the whole thing here.

Paul Johnson on Election 2004

Paul Johnson, a British historian perhaps best-known for Modern Times, assesses the stakes in the election of 2004:

The great issue in the 2004 election — it seems to me as an Englishman — is, How seriously does the United States take its role as a world leader, and how far will it make sacrifices, and risk unpopularity, to discharge this duty with success and honor? In short, this is an election of the greatest significance, for Americans and all the rest of us. It will redefine what kind of a country the United States is, and how far the rest of the world can rely upon her to preserve the general safety and protect our civilization….

…September 11…gave [George W. Bush’s] presidency a purpose and a theme, and imposed on him a mission….[H]e has been absolutely right in estimating the seriousness of the threat international terrorism poses to the entire world and on the need for the United States to meet this threat with all the means at its disposal and for as long as may be necessary. Equally, he has placed these considerations right at the center of his policies and continued to do so with total consistency, adamantine determination, and remarkable courage, despite sneers and jeers, ridicule and venomous opposition, and much unpopularity.

There is something grimly admirable about his stoicism in the face of reverses, which reminds me of other moments in history: the dark winter Washington faced in 1777-78, a time to “try men’s souls,” as Thomas Paine put it, and the long succession of military failures Lincoln had to bear and explain before he found a commander who could take the cause to victory….[S]omething persuades me that Bush — with his grimness and doggedness, his lack of sparkle but his enviable concentration on the central issue — is the president America needs at this difficult time.

He has, it seems to me, the moral right to ask American voters to give him the mandate to finish the job he has started.

This impression is abundantly confirmed, indeed made overwhelming, when we look at the alternative….[T]here are six good reasons that he should be mistrusted. First, and perhaps most important, he seems to have no strong convictions about what he would do if given office and power. The content and emphasis of his campaign on terrorism, Iraq, and related issues have varied from week to week. But they seem always to be determined by what his advisers, analyzing the polls and other evidence, recommend, rather than by his own judgment and convictions….

…Second, Kerry’s personal character has, so far, appeared in a bad light. He has always presented himself, for the purpose of Massachusetts vote-getting, as a Boston Catholic of presumably Irish origins. This side of Kerry is fundamentally dishonest. He does not follow Catholic teachings…[and] since the campaign began it has emerged that Kerry’s origins are not in the Boston-Irish community but in Germanic Judaism. Kerry knew this all along, and deliberately concealed it for political purposes. If a man will mislead about such matters, he will mislead about anything.

There is, thirdly, Kerry’s long record of contradictions and uncertainties as a senator and his apparent inability to pursue a consistent policy on major issues.

Fourth is his posturing over his military record, highlighted by his embarrassing pseudo-military salute when accepting the nomination. Fifth is his disturbing lifestyle, combining liberal — even radical — politics with being the husband, in succession, of two heiresses, one worth $300 million and the other $1 billion….Sixth and last is the Kerry team: who seem to combine considerable skills in electioneering with a variety of opinions on all key issues. Indeed, it is when one looks at Kerry’s closest associates that one’s doubts about his suitability become certainties….[T]he man Kerry would have as his vice president is an ambulancechasing lawyer of precisely the kind the American system has spawned in recent decades, to its great loss and peril….

Of Kerry’s backers, maybe the most prominent is George Soros, a man who made his billions through the kind of unscrupulous manipulations that (in Marxist folklore) characterize “finance capitalism.” This is the man who did everything in his power to wreck the currency of Britain….He has also used his immense resources to interfere in the domestic affairs of half a dozen other countries, some of them small enough for serious meddling to be hard to resist. One has to ask: Why is a man like Soros so eager to see Kerry in the White House? The question is especially pertinent since he is not alone among the superrich wishing to see Bush beaten. There are several other huge fortunes backing Kerry….

I don’t recall any occasion, certainly not since the age of FDR, when so much partisan election material has been produced by intellectuals of the Left, not only in the United States but in Europe, especially in Britain, France, and Germany. These intellectuals — many of them with long and lugubrious records of supporting lost left-wing causes….

Behind this front line of articulate Bushicides…there is the usual cast of Continental suspects, led by Chirac in France and the superbureaucrats of Brussels….Anti-Americanism has seldom been stronger in Continental Europe, and Bush seems to personify in his simple, uncomplicated self all the things these people most hate about America — precisely because he is so American. Anti-Americanism, like anti-Semitism, is not, of course, a rational reflex. It is, rather, a mental disease, and the Continentals are currently suffering from a virulent spasm of the infection, as always happens when America exerts strong and unbending leadership.

Behind this second line of adversaries there is a far more sinister third. All the elements of anarchy and unrest in the Middle East and Muslim Asia and Africa are clamoring and praying for a Kerry victory….[Bush’s] defeat on November 2 [would] be greeted, in Arab capitals, by shouts of triumph from fundamentalist mobs of exactly the kind that greeted the news that the Twin Towers had collapsed and their occupants been exterminated.

I cannot recall any election when the enemies of America all over the world have been so unanimous in hoping for the victory of one candidate. That is the overwhelming reason that John Kerry must be defeated, heavily and comprehensively.

(From Paul Johnson’s “High Stakes,” National Review, October 25, 2004. Thanks to The American Thinker for the tip, and to the Hispanic American Center for Economic Research for the complete text.)

Ray Fair’s Prediction

Yale econometrician Ray Fair, whose model of presidential election outcomes I have discussed here, has issued his final prediction for the 2004 election. He believes that Bush will get 57.70 percent of the two-party popular vote. If that were to happen, Bush would walk off with 461 to 518 electoral votes (explanation here, see method 3).

I see a much closer election, with Bush getting about 51 percent of the two-party popular vote and somewhat more than 300 electoral votes. I’ll issue a final prediction on election eve.

Al Qaeda’s Candidate…

isn’t Bush:

No, my fellow countrymen you are guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty. You are as guilty as Bush and Cheney. You’re as guilty as Rumsfeld and Ashcroft and Powell. After decades of American tyranny and oppression, now it’s your turn to die. Allah willing, the streets of America will run red with blood matching drop for drop the blood of America’s victims. [al Qaeda operative “Azzam the American”, via ABC News]

So it must be Kerry.

The Illogic of Helmet Laws

Liberals love laws that require bicyclists and motorcyclists to wear safety helmets. The usual reasons:

1. Taxpayers defray the cost of emergency services that go to the scene of accidents.

2. The failure to use helmets results in higher health-care costs and, thus, higher health-insurance premiums.

Proposition number 1 isn’t universally true. But even if it were, so what? Accidents aren’t caused by the use or non-use of helmets. Almost any accident involving a bicyclist or motorcyclist will require emergency services, whether or not the rider incurs a head injury.

Proposition number 2 overlooks the fact that non-helmeted riders are less likely to require prolonged, expensive care — because they’re likely to die more quickly than helmeted riders.

That brings us to the real proposition — number 3: Bicyclists and motorcyclists should wear helmets for their own good. The insistence on helmet laws is simply another liberal pretext for telling others how to lead their lives.

Here’s a deal for helmet-loving liberals. If you’re a bicyclist (likely) or motorcyclist (unlikely), you can wear a helmet if you want to. In return, non-liberal bicyclists and motorcyclists will agree that you don’t have to sport an American flag on your helmet.

Peace in Our Time?

The European Union — an idea whose time has come and gone — is about to become as permanent as a modern marriage, with the signing of the EU constitution. Here’s the story from BBC News:

Heads of state from across the EU will be in Rome for the ceremony, to be held in the same room where Treaty of Rome was signed to establish the EU in 1957.

The ceremony will be held amid a row about the views of prospective Italian EU commissioner Rocco Buttiglione.

Incoming President Jose Manuel Barroso has withdrawn his entire proposed team and has hinted he may make changes….

A squadron of F-16 fighters is expected to enforce a no-fly zone over the city centre for the duration of the ceremony….

On Thursday Mr Barroso said he is considering making a number of changes to the commission, despite controversy focussing on Mr Buttiglione.

The Italian, a devout Catholic, has been widely scorned by MEPs unhappy at his views on a range of issues, including homosexuality and the role of women in society….

Although the constitution will be signed in Rome on Friday, member nations still have to ratify the document individually before it comes into effect.

Some clauses within the constitution have caused divisions in EU states, notably plans for an EU president and a change in voting systems.

Member states can choose to hold a referendum in order to ratify the treaty or to put the issue to a parliamentary vote.

A number of countries have chosen to hold a public vote, with the first scheduled for Spain in February 2005.

The memory of World War II — the impetus for the EU — was vivid at the EU’s inception in 1957. But thanks to Europe’s American-engineered peace and prosperity, a European war has become as likely as an outbreak of laissez-faire capitalism in France. The merger of European countries is no longer necessary to the future peace and prosperity of Europe, but the formalization of the EU will proceed because of pressure from the bureaucrats and politicians who stand to benefit from it.

I predict that the EU will dissolve — in fact if not in law — within 20 years. Moreover, I won’t be surprised if the union is dissolved by intra-EU disputes that lead to a European “civil war”. That would be the ultimate, tragic irony of Europe’s misguided attempt to secure a lasting internecine peace through an arranged marriage of incompatible partners.

Ballots for the Intelligent

Regarding the purportedly confusing Ohio absentee ballots, Eugene Volokh says:

…I think well-designed ballots should be understandable even by people of below average intelligence — there are quite a few voters like that, and one doesn’t want them to be confused, either. More to the point, ballots should be understandable by people who are intelligent but who are distracted, or who don’t invest much time in following directions closely….

Why should we tailor ballots to fit the needs of those who are stupid or distracted? If you’re too dumb or distracted to understand a ballot, you shouldn’t be voting. The loss of liberty can be traced to too much democracy (see here and here). Complex ballots might be an antidote for excessive democracy.