Category Archives: History


Sixty-seven years ago, a date that still lives in infamy. And this year, it too falls on a Sunday. Will September 11th be remembered as long? It seems that, despite the recent attacks in India, many have forgotten that we are at war with an ideology just as (if not more) dangerous than the ones we fought then.

Randy Barnett happened to be visiting Honolulu, coincidentally, and describes the memorials. I was there a couple years ago, and though not on the anniversary (it was a few weeks earlier), it was a somber and interesting experience.

BCS Declares Germany Winner Of WWII

This is pretty funny.

“Germany put together an incredible number of victories beginning with the annexation of Austria and the Sudetenland and continuing on into conference play with defeats of Poland, France, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium and the Netherlands. Their only losses came against the US and Russia; however considering their entire body of work — including an incredibly tough Strength of Schedule — our computers deemed them worthy of the #1 ranking.”

The US came in fourth, with only two victories — Germany and Japan.

It reminds me of the old joke that college football is the only sport where the champion is determined by drunks arguing in bars. Which is why they brought in the computers, I guess.

Living On Mars

Some thoughts from Bob Zubrin, who apparently has a new book
out on the subject.

I have to say, though, that when he says:

It’s a common view that Columbus was just interested in finding a spice route to the Indies, and that was his sales pitch to the Spanish courts. But I actually believe that contrary to conventional history, Columbus was looking for unknown continents — he just couldn’t pitch it that way.

I’d be curious to know the basis for that belief, or if it’s just wishful thinking or projection. My reading of the history does not indicate that Columbus was averse to making a buck.

Slow Posting

I got up early today and had an eye exam (still have two functional ones). They were dilated in the process, so it will be a while before I spend much time on the computer. Meanwhile, here’s an interesting discussion on arming ships against pirates in modern times. We seem to have managed to deal with this a lot better in the past. I think that we should bring back letters of marque, for not just pirates, but lawless terrorists in general.

[Early afternoon update]

A related question: why don’t we hang pirates any more?

…the number of attacks keeps rising.

Why? The view of senior U.S. military officials seems to be, in effect, that there is no controlling legal authority. Title 18, Chapter 81 of the United States Code establishes a sentence of life in prison for foreigners captured in the act of piracy. But, crucially, the law is only enforceable against pirates who attack U.S.-flagged vessels, of which today there are few.

What about international law? Article 110 of the U.N.’s Law of the Sea Convention — ratified by most nations, but not by the U.S. — enjoins naval ships from simply firing on suspected pirates. Instead, they are required first to send over a boarding party to inquire of the pirates whether they are, in fact, pirates. A recent U.N. Security Council resolution allows foreign navies to pursue pirates into Somali waters — provided Somalia’s tottering government agrees — but the resolution expires next week. As for the idea of laying waste, Stephen Decatur-like, to the pirate’s prospering capital port city of Eyl, this too would require U.N. authorization. Yesterday, a shippers’ organization asked NATO to blockade the Somali coast. NATO promptly declined.

As I noted, there seems to be a problem with the modern approach.

Can Hillary! Be SECSTATE?

She may be Constitutionally ineligible. Sometimes commenter Jane Bernstein notes via email that Article 1, Section 6 clearly states that:

No Senator or Representative shall, during the time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil office under the authority of the United States, which shall have been created, or the emoluments whereof shall have been increased during such time: and no person holding any office under the United States, shall be a member of either House during his continuance in office.

Emphasis mine. Federal salaries, including the schedule for a Level 1 Cabinet officer (such as Secretary of State) were increased at the beginning of the year, by executive order. IANAL, but by the letter of the law, it would seem that she cannot be appointed to that position.

There are two potential outs.

One is trivial–she isn’t a “he,” she’s a “she,” so she could amusingly argue that the section doesn’t apply to her. I suspect that this would probably fail on Fourteenth Amendment (and perhaps other) grounds, though, as well as common sense.

The other would be to argue that the intent was to keep Congress from creating or increasing salaries of a position in order to provide a new or better job for one of its members, and to eliminate this potential conflict of interest. Since the increase was done by Executive Order under a previously passed law, she could argue that Congress didn’t increase the pay in this instance. However, the letter of the law wouldn’t allow this interpretation–it doesn’t say anything about the emoluments increasing by act of Congress–it just says that if they increase (for whatever reason) she cannot have the position.

If true, the good news is that it would also apply to John Kerry. And it doesn’t apply to Barack Obama, since he wasn’t appointed–he was elected.

[Update a few minutes later]

Also, if the logic is correct, it would apply to Rahm Emmanuel, as well as any other potential congressperson or Senator angling for an appointment.

[Update on Monday afternoon]

More thoughts from Eugene Volokh.

[Bumped to the stop]

A New New Deal?

Tyler Cowen has some history:

The good New Deal policies, like constructing a basic social safety net, made sense on their own terms and would have been desirable in the boom years of the 1920s as well. The bad policies made things worse. Today, that means we should restrict extraordinary measures to the financial sector as much as possible and resist the temptation to “do something” for its own sake.

In short, expansionary monetary policy and wartime orders from Europe, not the well-known policies of the New Deal, did the most to make the American economy climb out of the Depression. Our current downturn will end as well someday, and, as in the ’30s, the recovery will probably come for reasons that have little to do with most policy initiatives.

There was also this little item that caught my eye:

A study of the 1930s by Christina D. Romer, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley (“What Ended the Great Depression?,” Journal of Economic History, 1992), confirmed that expansionary monetary policy was the key to the partial recovery of the 1930s. The worst years of the New Deal were 1937 and 1938, right after the Fed increased reserve requirements for banks, thereby curbing lending and moving the economy back to dangerous deflationary pressures.


Because of this news:

ABC News has learned that President-elect Obama had tapped University of California -Berkeley economics professor Christina Romer to be the chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, an office within the Executive Office of the President.

It seems like a much better pick than those of us concerned about an FDRophilic president could have expected. Maybe we won’t replay the thirties.

The Worst And The Dumbest

Remember that civics test? Well, this should inspire confidence in our political “leadership”:

US elected officials scored abysmally on a test measuring their civic knowledge, with an average grade of just 44 percent, the group that organized the exam said Thursday.

Ordinary citizens did not fare much better, scoring just 49 percent correct on the 33 exam questions compiled by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI).

But they did fare better. What does this say about our so-called “elites”? Forget about a literacy test for voters. How about one for candidates?

The Wrong Lessons From History

Exploding the myths of Clintonomics:

The bull market took off precisely when then-Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan took his foot off the brakes and hit the gas in 1995. It was also then that Republicans took control of Congress — further blunting the effects of the Clinton tax torpedo that had taken effect the previous year.

Clinton also benefitted from innovations long in the making, including the Pentium chip released in March 1993 and Microsoft’s Windows program released in August 1995. These together made the Internet boom possible.

As for the budget surpluses, they came as a complete surprise to Clinton economic forecasters, whose static models only predicted their tax hikes on the rich would narrow the budget gap, not get it into the black.

Their “deficit-reduction plan” didn’t create the surpluses at all. They were a direct result of a tidal wave of capital-gains revenues generated by the GOP-led stock boom.

Relieved that Washington would no longer threaten to take over 14% of the economy by socializing medicine or raise taxes even higher, the market took off like a shot at that point. And capital gains tax receipts exploded, flooding federal coffers.

Clinton’s own long-term budgets predicted no surpluses of any kind during his administration and beyond.

Bill Clinton never had a plan to end deficits. The Republicans and economic circumstances did it for him. But I’m sure that this myth that Bill Clinton balanced the budget will prevail in the minds of the media and Democrats, just as the false myth that Roosevelt, and not the war, got us out of the Depression continues to prevail many decades later. They have to rewrite history to justify their continued plunder. And of course, the near-term danger is that President-Elect Obama and the Congressional majority will use this mistaken history as a justification for tax hikes in a recession, which could be economically ruinous.