December 19, 2008

Web Reconnaissance for 12/19/2008

A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the check back often.

In the News: (Registration may be required to read some stories)
The Real 'Torture' Disgrace - The release of Carl Levin's report on the Bush Administration's alleged "torture" policies was a formality: The Senator's conclusions were politically predetermined long ago. Still, the credulity and acclaim that has greeted this agitprop is embarrassing, even by Washington standards. (READ MORE)

A Dollar Referendum - As it has so often in recent months, the market elation that greeted the Federal Reserve's epic monetary easing earlier this week has turned to worry. Stocks fell off again yesterday, but the big news of the week has been the slide in the dollar. (READ MORE)

'Deep Throat' Mark Felt Dies at 95 - W. Mark Felt Sr., the associate director of the FBI during the Watergate scandal who, better known as "Deep Throat," became the most famous anonymous source in American history, died yesterday. He was 95. (READ MORE)

Obama Team Assembling $850 Billion Stimulus - President-elect Barack Obama and congressional Democrats have entered discussions over an economic stimulus package that could grow to include $850 billion in new spending and tax cuts over the next two years, a gigantic sum that some Democrats say could prove difficult to push rapidly through... (READ MORE)

Plans Being Drawn to Close Guantanamo Prison - The Pentagon is drawing up plans to shut the military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to be prepared for any order from President-elect Barack Obama, who has promised to close the controversial facility after he assumes office Jan. 20, a defense official said yesterday. (READ MORE)

Arrests in Iraq Seen as Politically Motivated - BAGHDAD, Dec. 18 -- Iraqi politicians said Thursday that the arrests of government officials accused of supporting a group linked to Saddam Hussein's Baath Party was an attempt by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to demonstrate his power. (READ MORE)

On the Web:
Donald Douglas: Gay Radicalism Key to Left's Agenda Under Obama - As regular readers know, the next stage of the left's agenda emerged on November 5th, the day after the election when Democrats saw the historic victory of the country's first black president. Obama's win was nevertheless regarded as "bittersweet" for many, as voters in California also passed Proposition 8, which restored marriage traditionalism to the state's constitution. Since then, we've seen a non-stop campaign of intimidation and show trials against the "bigots" and "homophobes" who exercised their rights by contributing to and voting on the passage of the initiative. We've already seen a lot of grumbling on the left during the Obama transition, of course. Leftists have been boiling with resentment over the "lack of representation" by "progressives" in the cabinet, as we've seen according to story after story in the press. (READ MORE)

Lawhawk: Pakistani Jails = Communications Hubs For Terrorists - Prisons are supposed to keep the terrorists from communicating with their fellow jihadis and prevent terror plots from being hatched. That is far from the case in Pakistan, where the terrorists behind the murder of Daniel Pearl were able to use the Pakistani jail as a communications hub from which to direct an assassination plot against Pervez Musharraf. If this is what the Pakistanis do with the terrorists in their custody, imagine what the terrorists are able to do in places like the frontier provinces? If anything, the situation is even worse than that since we have once again been provided with evidence showing that Pakistani authorities are busy aiding and abetting the jihadis in their war against the West. This thug hasn't had his death sentence carried out because he's got friends in high places - or in this case, the Pakistani ISI. (READ MORE)

David Schenker: Gifts from Iran and Russia to Lebanon? - Lebanese Minister of Defense Elias Murr just returned from Moscow where he received an offer of 10 MIG 29 “Fulcrum” aircraft. The MIGs would be a significant boost to Lebanon’s depleted and antiquated fixed wing fleet, which today is comprised of some five 1950s-era Hunter Hawker aircraft. The Russian donation compliments the Iranian offer this past November—in response to Lebanese President Michel Suleiman’s request—to provide weapons to the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF). Given Lebanon’s limited defense budget, it’s hard to imagine how the LAF would finance the maintenance of the Russian aircraft. Moreover, if Beirut were to accept the Russian and Iranian offers, there could be significant implications for US relations with the LAF. (READ MORE)

Bear Creek Ledger: Pelousi fiddles while the economy goes down in flames - Nancy Pelousi has no problem telling Wall Street or Auto executives to cut their salaries but look at what she’s just done! She’s given herself and Congress a PAY RAISE! A pay raise in a time when so many Americans are losing their jobs. How heartless and money grubbing can you get? She’s taking money out of the mouths of children by extorting the American taxpayer to give herself a raise. “IBD - Raise Some Hell - Hypocrisy: With workers losing jobs by the millions and taxpayers forced to rescue banks and carmakers, how does Nancy Pelosi’s Congress show it cares? By giving themselves a big pay raise. What a great time for taxpayers to give senators and congressmen a $2.5 million jump in their already bloated salaries. It’s tough to get by on $217,400 a year if you’re House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — even if, as the Washington Times reported, you funneled nearly $100,000 from your political action committee to your husband’s business over a decade.” (READ MORE)

Noah Shachtman: Wikileaks Posts Secret Bomb-Stopper Report — Did It Go Too Far? - In July, 2005, I asked a member of a Baghdad-based military bomb squad about the radio-frequency jammers his team was using to cut off signals to Iraq's remotely detonated explosives. His response: "I can't even begin to say the first fucking thing about 'em." A few days later, one of those jammers seemed to save me and him from getting blown up. Months after that, David Axe was thrown out of Iraq by the U.S. military, for a blog post which mentioned the Warlock family of jammers. So I was more than a little surprised, when I saw that Wikileaks had posted a classified report, outlining how the Warlock Red and Warlock Green jammers work with — and interfere with — military communications systems. The report, dated 2004, gives specific information about how the jammers function, their radiated power and which frequencies they stop. That Baghdad bomb tech would've put his fist through a wall, if he saw it out in public. (READ MORE)

Don Surber: Obamacare - A government doctor weighs in: “The same government that mishandled Katrina, created the current mortgage crisis, and failed to monitor Mr. Madoff is now going to run our health care.” If you ever want to become an instant expert on a subject, write a newspaper column. People will educate you quick. Especially after the column ran. When it is too late to save you from yourself. So I was delighted when a correspondent who is a medical doctor in the military wrote me about this week’s column on government-run health care. I share, sans name. I vouch for the authenticity. You can believe me or not. “Dear Mr. Surber, You are very wise. Your opinion of government run health care is spot on. I am a military doc serving to repay the government as they paid for my medical school. The little military clinic in which I serve is a great example of what is in store for Americans if OBAMAcare is enacted.” (READ MORE)

Hamilton, Madison, and Jay: The very definition of idiocy out of Congress - We have no confidence in this incoming Congress. These people are utter fools, and their obtuse ideas defy logic or reason. Geraghty the Indispensable explains the newest point of idiocy to come out of Congress: “Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-California, is talking about not only bringing back the Fairness Doctrine, but somehow, in some constitutionally dubious way, applying it to forms of communication that do not include public airwaves — i.e., cable and satellite programming. It is worth remembering, at moments like these, that Obama has said he opposes reinstating the Fairness Doctrine. It is also worth remembering, at moments like these, that all statements from Barack Obama come with an expiration date. All of them. Think about this. A congresswoman, believing that ‘there should be equal time for the spoken word,’ is going to have the government step in and regulate what can be said on privately owned communication systems, i.e., cable television and satellite radio. And at no point does it cross her mind that this would violate the First Amendment.” (READ MORE)

Gribbit's Word: Bush “Cronyism” Unmatched By Obama’s - Where’s The Leftist Backlash? - For all the leftist complaining that we’ve had to endure over the past 8 years about President George W. Bush’s supposed “cronyism”, the left seems awful silent on Barry’s. In the latest example of King (in waiting) Barry H. ‘Sorento’ Obama’s brand of “cronyism”, the ‘Chosen One’ has named the head of Chicago Schools to become Secretary of Education. That’s right campers, the ‘Messiah’ himself has named the chief of a failing public school system to a post which could lead to the widening of that failure. From “President-elect Barack Obama on Tuesday tapped Chicago schools chief Arne Duncan to be his education secretary, calling Duncan a hands-on and unyielding advocate who would help craft a ‘new vision’ for education in America.” His vision? Widespread poverty and ignorance. (READ MORE)

Jules Crittenden: Managing Your Greenwald Relationship - The Other McCain has been graced with a Greenwald citation. High honor. If you wish to continue to be mentioned by the (throughly self-documented) great one, it is important that you avoid a few pitfalls. No references to that unfortunate “sockpuppet” affair. Greenwald has an ego so big, the extensive self-adulation of his “about” and the real estate at Salon being insufficient to the task, it has required other online identities to fully express it. I’d suggest you also avoid out-and-out mockery, as despite being a constitutional lawyer and purportedly bestselling author … “American Morons: Takes One To Know One,” ”A Constitutional Argument For Hanging George Bush By His Thumbs” and “How Would a Patriot Act? How Would I Know?” something like that — apparently people actually buy this stuff … Greenwald is very thin-skinned. (READ MORE)

Knee Deep In The Hooah!: Please Mr. President, NOT this bailout! - Mike Spann died serving his Country. He can not be pardoned, he can not be brought back and given back to his family and his Country. Spann was the first American casualty in Afghanistan. A young American man from California was present that day after he had left America to study Islam. He had joined the Taliban and had knowledge of the revolt that would lead to Spann’s death. Lindh, the American turned Taliban was not only present when Spann was killed, but he had foreknowledge of what was about to happen. Lindh and his family are asking President Bush for the most vulgar bailout proposal yet — they want a pardon from a sentence that many feel is already too short (20-years). CNN reported yesterday that Lindh is asking for President Bush to pardon him from his 20 year sentence. Lindh left the US and joined the Taliban. His parents claim that he did not participate in terrorist activities nor did he fight against US Forces. (READ MORE)

neo-neocon: Whatever Caroline wants, Caroline gets? - It came as a surprise to me to hear that Caroline Kennedy is pushing to be appointed as the replacement for New York Senator Hillary Clinton. I had always been under the impression that Caroline was a quiet and retiring sort, eschewing the public limelight for the more private joys of literature and the arts, philanthropy, and above all family. She was also a person who had learned only too well the perils of political fame. She seemed to step into an official role only reluctantly and intermittently, although with her lineage she could easily have run for office long ago. Welcome to the new Caroline. Except for her name and her law degree, she appears to lack any particular qualifications for the job, although it must be said that she is a bona fide New Yorker, unlike her late-arrival predecessor Hillary or earlier relative and NY Senator Bobby Kennedy. (READ MORE)

Donald Sensing: Qualifications and credentials - In the 1970s the US Army assessed the damage done to the officer corps by the Vietnam War. It wasn't pretty. Careerism had largely displaced professionalism. Col. Dandrige Malone, one of the principal assessors, wrote that the Army's historic code, "Duty, honor, country," had been pretty much replaced by "Me, my [rear] and my career." The Army's centuries-old ethic, not to lie, cheat or steal, not to tolerate anyone who does, had come to be honored only in the breach. With a combat leader's success in the profession was being measured primarily by how many dead enemy he reported after a fight - the now-mocked "body count syndrome" - body count inflation became rampant. A platoon leader would report, probably honestly, say 12 enemy killed. The company commander would add another five, the battalion commander another four, and by the time the report reached division, a 15-minute firefight would wind up having killed almost three-dozen VC or NVA. (READ MORE)

ShrinkWrapped: Moore's Law, an Economy of Abundance, and Disruptive Technology - The four most dangerous words for our economy are "this time is different." Anyone who has lived through and paid attention to, the last few bubble iterations (, housing, financial) knows that when the good times are rolling, the Cassandras who warn of impending doom are typically silenced with words to the effect that "this time is different." It raises the question of what conditions would need to exist for the economy to actually reach a point where the ruleswould change; in other words, what conditions could enable an economic singularity? The triumph of liberal capitalism (though in the present context of the early days of a frightening recession it may not seem particularly triumphant) has been the creation of wealth. By leveraging individual genius we were able to create a self-perpetuating technology that has raised the standard of living of even the poorest Westerner to levels that Kings could only dream about in the past. (READ MORE)

Susan Katz Keating: Ban on Blackwater? Read the Smoke - Interesting smoke patterns are wafting up from certain halls within Federal City. Mil-planning seems to be much on the politicians' minds. Here's what I see, and here's how I read it. Some powerful American politicians want the United States to stop using private security contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan. The burn pile mainly is the U.S.-based private security firm, Blackwater Worldwide. Sen. John Kerry, who will take the helm of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in January, wants the State Department to fire the American-based security firm. Additionally, the presumptive incoming Secretaryof State, Sen. Hillary Clinton, has cosponsored legislation to ban the use of private security contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Warner Todd Huston: In Case You Forgot, AP Still Reminding Palin’s a ‘Failed Republican Vice Presidential Candidate’ - I don’t know. Maybe the Associated Press thinks that no one is aware that John McCain lost his race for the White House? Maybe the AP thinks no one is aware that his choice for VP, Governor Sarah Palin, lost right along with him? Maybe the AP thinks that hardly any American has gotten the word that Obama and slow Joe Biden won on November 4th? The AP sure acts as if they think people still need it pointed out that Governor Sarah Palin is “the failed Republican vice presidential candidate.” At least if its current report on the latest doings in Alaska is concerned, anyway. After all, right in the middle of a report on Alaska state workers having sent around some race tinged joke emails, the AP helpfully reminds us that Palin is that aforementioned “failed Republican vice presidential candidate.” I mean, who knew she lost? (READ MORE)

Travelers’ Testimony: Freedom of Choice at Stake with Auto Bailout - Although my father was an employee of GM for over thirty years, we both agreed that the bailout was the worst plan for both the American people and the company. Those in favor of the bailout cry that the auto industry will die if they are not bailed out but in all reality, the auto industry has been in its last death throws for many years now. Part of the reason my father retired at thirty years was because they closed his plant and he did not want to relocate. My uncle did though and ended up relocating a few more times after the 1998 closing of the Kalamazoo GM plant. So, what is the conclusion then for GM and the other automakers? It is what any other company would do in the capitalist system, which is file for bankruptcy protection and restructure their antiquated business model. I know this will take sacrifice, which seemingly is a foreign premise any more in America. This sacrifice will not only come from the corporation itself but from the employees, the unions, and our government. (READ MORE)

Shawn Mallow: Patriotism: A Word Defined - I consider myself to be somewhat an amateur Revolutionary War history buff. I've recently read two exemplary books on the subject, "Patriots", by A.J. Langguth, and "1776", by David McCullough. As I am now reading through David McCullough's "John Adams", I am awestruck at just what these men of uncanny education and foresight were able to accomplish with what could only be described as perseverance of pure willpower. George Washington, between serving as both Commander in Chief of an undisciplined, untrained army, eventually being elected to two terms as our first president, gave almost 16 years of his life to an ideal. An ideal, which if it were not to have materialized, would have resulted in his hanging for high treason of British law. The same can be said of John Adams. (READ MORE)

Meryl Yourish: Pretend truce is officially over - The fantasy truce—the one where it’s okay to launch a few hundred rockets, instead of thousands—has been officially declared over by Hamas, and of course, it’s not their fault. It’s Israel’s. “Hamas on Thursday declared the end of a six-month-old Egyptian-brokered ceasefire with Israel in the Gaza Strip, raising the prospect of an escalation in cross-border fighting. ‘The calm, which was reached with Egyptian sponsorship on June 19 and expires on December 19, is finished because the enemy did not abide by its obligations,’ said Hamas member Ayman Taha, who represented the group in talks with other Palestinian factions. ‘The calm is over.’”
The European Union finally noticed the rocket fire and demanded that it stop. But not until it had the chance to tell Israel to stop defending herself, first. (READ MORE)

W. James Antle, III: Payback Time - Labor unions shelled out well over $100 million (pdf) in donations to political candidates during the 2008 election. More than 90 percent of that total went to Barack Obama and the Democrats. With President-elect Obama's nomination of Rep. Hilda Solis to be his secretary of labor, the payback has begun. Solis, a liberal Democratic congresswoman from Los Angeles, is one of big labor's best friends. Don't take my word for it, however. Listen to the chorus of union leaders and labor-friendly progressives praising her nomination. "Hilda Solis is an outstanding choice," Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union President Stuart Applebaum said in a statement. "She has demonstrated a life-long commitment to working people and, like President-elect Obama himself, knows first-hand how unions can lift poverty wage workers into the middle class." (READ MORE)

David N. Bass: Meet the New Climate Change Kid on the Block - Barack Obama announced his new energy team at a press conference Monday, sending a subtle slap down to President Bush by saying his administration would "value science" and "make decisions based on the facts." The four appointments are a precursor to what will be the most enviro-activist administration in American history. Among others, Obama tapped Carol Browner, former EPA chief in the Clinton administration, to head up a new office in the White House designed to coordinate environmental policies. In a move that will please multiple facets of his leftist base, he also picked Nancy Sutley (an open lesbian and current deputy mayor in Los Angeles) to lead the White House Council on Environmental Quality. The press conference underscored the Obama agenda for curbing so-called catastrophic climate change. That agenda will doubtless extend to supporting nonprofit organizations like the Climate Registry. (READ MORE)

Marc Ambinder; Democrats And The Legacy Question - Nepotism and dynasty are the politico-sociological phrases of the week, and Democrats who are digesting the possibility of Caroline Kennedy becoming a U.S. senator because she is Caroline Kennedy are concluding that the criticism is not entirely without merit. Using the word "nepotism" to describe the Kennedy situation is inaccurate. Kennedy is a legacy; her family is not in charge of the process of selection and does not exert any formal influence on the process. Legacies benefit from the social characteristics imputed to their families; their values, ideals and informal social influences. President John Adams appointed his son, John Quincy to be ambassador plenipotentiary to Prussia; JQA made peace with Britain during the Napoleonic Wars. The elder Adams worried about the appearance of nepotism, but his argument was sound: John Quincy was one of the very few Americans who had spent considerable time overseas, who knew the diplomatic causeways, and who the president trusted to handle the account. (READ MORE)

THE TYGRRRR EXPRESS: From Community Organizers to Socialites - A former Governor of a large state that maintained 70% popularity through most of his tenure would be considered an easy choice as a Presidential candidate. Yet sometimes events that are totally outside of the potential candidate’s control get in the way. It isn’t fair, and it isn’t right, but it is what it is. Despite being one of the best Governors in America, Jeb Bush of Florida will most likely be not be President. Republicans rave over him. Conservatives love him. He is married to a Latina, and has strong relations with the Latina community. Yet his last name is Bush. In an ideal world, people are judged on their own merits. In the real world, the company we keep, including at the dinner table on holidays, does matter. (READ MORE)

The Belmont Club: The horror. The horror. - Bill Roggio describes classic insurgent political theater. After defeating a tribal group opposed to them in Pakistan, Taliban executed its leaders and desecrated their bodies. “Pir Samiullah, a rival tribal and religious leader opposing Mullah Fazlullah’s forces in the Matta region of Swat, and eight of his followers were killed in a Taliban assault on Dec. 16. Two of his aides were subsequently beheaded in public, while an estimated 40 of his followers have been captured. ‘The Taliban also torched the houses of Samiullah and 15 elders of his group,’ Daily Times reported. After Samiullah was buried, the Taliban returned, dug up his body and hanged it in public. The Taliban made an example of Samiullah and those who oppose Fazlullah’s rule. Samiullah was the first tribal leader in Swat to raise a lashkar, or tribal army, to oppose the Taliban. He claimed to have organized more than 10,000 tribesmen to oppose the Taliban and protect 20 villages.” (READ MORE)

Big Dog: Obama’s Senate Seat Is For Blacks Only - A long time ago in this country there were truly disgusting practices that involved our society having whites only lunch counters, drinking fountains and seating on buses. The signs that read “Whites Only” reflect a particularly bad time in this country when people were judged on the color of their skin and nothing else. It seems that this is taking place in reverse in Illinois. The seat that Barack Obama was elected to (he never really occupied it) has a sign on it that reads “Blacks Only.” At least that is what Laura Washington of the Chicago Sun Times believes. To her, the mess with Governor Blago has created a situation where they might lose the black seat. You see, if there is an election then the people of Illinois might decide to elect a white person thereby taking the black seat away. You know how those racist whites are in Illinois are. (READ MORE)

CJ: Code Pink Gets Handled - I love when the Code Pink hags are put in their place. Their smug little holier-than-thou crap that they pull is so unproductive. They're ignorant seditionists who deserve a fate worse than the one they ultimately succumb to at the end of their life, whatever that may be. They have created suffering, pain, grief, frustration and anger for our troops and their family members. They have DIRECTLY funded terrorism and never apologized for it. And they continue to disrespect our wounded warriors at Walter Reed and other other rehab locations. Their current "Make out, now war" slogan forces bile into my throat. I don't even want to think of the what kind of man would "make out" with any of those women. Maybe they just make out with each other. In this video, Iraqi Ambassador Samir Sumaidaie addresses Code Pinko activists calling for the release of Muntadar al-Zaidi, the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at President Bush during a press conference in Baghdad. (READ MORE)

McQ: Perception - There’s’ no question in any thinking person’s mind that the financial meltdown was in large part as much a failure of government than greed on Wall Street. For the last few months, however, we’ve been treated to legislators acting like cats trying to cover up crap. We’ve also had to ensure their bloviating about how those on Wall Street who were a big reason for the crisis shouldn’t be getting raises or bonuses. Of course, like most of the laws they pass, that sort of reasoning doesn’t extend to Congress. All 535 of them will be getting a raise. As Howie Carr says: “Thanks for the subprime mortgage crisis, Barney Frank! Here’s your bonus for tanking the economy - another $4,700, on top of the $169,300 you were already making.” (READ MORE)

Charles Krauthammer: Princess Caroline Wants to Be Anointed - "I don't know what Caroline Kennedy's qualifications are. Except that she has name recognition, but so does J-Lo." -- Rep. Gary Ackerman, D-N.Y. WASHINGTON -- Right idea, wrong argument. The problem with Caroline Kennedy's presumption to Hillary Clinton's soon-to-be-vacated Senate seat is not lack of qualification or experience. The Senate houses lots of inexperienced rookies -- wealthy businessmen, sports stars, even the occasional actor. The problem is Kennedy's sense of entitlement. Given her rather modest achievements, she is trading entirely on pedigree. I hate to be a good government scold, but wasn't the American experiment a rather firm renunciation of government by pedigree? Yes, the Founders were not democrats. They believed in aristocracy. But their idea was government by natural -- not inherited -- aristocracy, an aristocracy of "virtue and talents," as Jefferson put it. (READ MORE)

Michelle Malkin: No Mercy for Jihad Johnny - If it's December, it's time for the left to throw another shameless pity party for convicted American jihadist John Walker Lindh (aka Suleyman al-Faris, aka Abdul Hamid). Every Christmas season for the past four years, the Taliban accomplice and his parents have asked President Bush to pardon him. This country should save its tears and mercy for the defenders of freedom. The farther we move from the September 11 attacks, the cloudier our collective memory of Lindh's case becomes. Sympathetic journalists have rewritten the history, embracing him as a naive young hippie-dippie from Marin County, Calif., who was just caught in the "wrong place at the wrong time." Others, like Esquire magazine writer Tom Junod, have proclaimed him "innocent" and lamented his life behind bars in a federal medium-security facility. Junod criticized the government for forbidding Lindh to speak Arabic -- human rights atrocity! (READ MORE)

Oliver North: Missing the Story -- Again - WASHINGTON -- This week, the so-called mainstream media fixated on a Baghdad shoe-throwing contest, more government bailout bucks, and the delightful prospect of having Caroline Kennedy appointed to Hillary Clinton's vacant seat in the U.S. Senate. The potentates of the press gave short shrift -- or simply ignored -- two far more important news stories: the first-ever assembly of Latin American leaders gathered to stick it to the United States and the passing of a great conservative leader who helped Ronald Reagan become one of America's greatest presidents. Both stories deserved more attention than they received. That, however, would require journalists, news directors and editors to have some knowledge of history and current events beyond what they can collect from a quick Google search and have attention spans greater than a fruit fly's. First, the Latin Leader Finger-in-the-Eye Stunt. (READ MORE)

John Hawkins: "Mama Government" Treats Americans Like Small Children - "I ask the three of you, how can we, as symbolically the children of the future president, expect the three of you to meet our needs, the needs in housing and in crime and you name it." -- A question from Denton Walthall AKA "The ponytail guy" at a 1992 presidential debate - In America, we come from pioneer stock. Our ancestors explored, conquered, and civilized a continent one wagon train and settlement at a time. They crossed hundreds of miles of hostile territory, risked starvation, murder by Indians, and dying alone in the wilderness to try to carve out a decent living for their families. That same ferociously independent spirit was what inspired our ancestors to throw off Britian's shackles and forge America into the greatest economic and military power the world has ever seen. (READ MORE)

Kimberly A. Strassel: Democrats Are the New Ethics Story - A note to all those visitors who will soon flood Washington for the inauguration: Be careful of the "swamp." That would be the swamp Speaker Nancy Pelosi vowed to drain when she led her party to victory in 2006. The GOP had been rocked by scandal, and Mrs. Pelosi and Democrats won, in part, by promising to clean up the "culture of corruption" that pervaded Washington. Instead, Democrats now have an image problem. The real issue isn't so much Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's Senate-seat auction, as it is the focus that his scandal has directed toward a wider assortment of Democratic troubles. This isn't great timing for Barack Obama, who campaigned on cleaner government. The Blagojevich drama is titillating enough, and local Democrats' dithering over how to fill Mr. Obama's seat guarantees it will remain a storyline longer than is comfortable. (READ MORE)

Philip K. Howard: Let's 'Restructure' Washington While We're at It - Congress has been suitably tough in its advice to Detroit, calling for "a complete restructuring" of our failing auto makers. But how about restructuring Washington? The federal government is a giant Rube Goldberg machine that not only wastes hundreds of billions of dollars each year but also burdens local governments and the private sector with legal requirements that no longer serve the public good. Congress should take its own advice and retool Washington. Here's how: Cut "legacy obligations." Detroit cannot afford promises it made in past years. Neither can America. Last year, Congress once again reauthorized farm subsidies, mainly to large corporations, of over $10 billion annually. The farm bill, originally passed in 1933 to keep small farmers afloat (when 25% of Americans lived on farms), outlived its usefulness by the start of World War II. Today just 2% of Americans live on farms. (READ MORE)

Richard A. Epstein: The Employee Free Choice Act Is Unconstitutional - A top priority of the incoming Democratic Congress and Obama administration is the misnamed Employee Free Choice Act. The EFCA, as is well known, introduces a card-check procedure that allows a union to gain recognition without an election by secret ballot. Thereafter a government arbitration panel can impose, without judicial review, all the terms of an initial two-year collective "agreement" if the parties cannot negotiate an agreement within 130 days. It is commonly supposed that economic regulation is immune to constitutional challenge since the New Deal. That's not the case with this labor law. Consider card check and the First Amendment. Under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) today, an employer can insist upon a secret ballot after 30% of workers indicate by card checks their interest in a union. The campaign that follows lets the employer air his views about the downsides of unionization before the vote takes place. (READ MORE)

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