Archive for February, 2005

Gay Adoption

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2005

A bill in the Tennessee General Assembly is under fire from gay rights activists:

Gay rights activists say a bill that would prevent homosexuals from adopting in Tennessee is detrimental because it will keep children who need a home from getting one.

“I think it’s a very political, mean-spirited bill that does not serve any positive purpose,” Tennessee Equality Project member Rhonda White said Tuesday. “It only serves to harm children of Tennessee that desperately need homes.”

I generally don’t agree with gay rights activists or the ACLU, but in this case, I have to say that I believe they are correct. It is all but undeniable that children are better off in a loving, two parent home, with both a mother and a father. If children can be placed in such households, then they certainly should be. Realistically, though, if there aren’t enough of these households (which there aren’t), placing a child in a loving, stable, household with homosexual parents is certainly better than allowing the child to bounce around the foster care system until he or she turns 18. Don’t misunderstand – a traditional couple is preferable; but a gay family is better than no family at all.

Currently, only three states ban gay adoption: Mississippi, Florida, and Utah. It would be a bad day for children if Tennessee joins this list.

Gay Adoption

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2005

A bill in the Tennessee General Assembly is under fire from gay rights activists:

Gay rights activists say a bill that would prevent homosexuals from adopting in Tennessee is detrimental because it will keep children who need a home from getting one.

“I think it’s a very political, mean-spirited bill that does not serve any positive purpose,” Tennessee Equality Project member Rhonda White said Tuesday. “It only serves to harm children of Tennessee that desperately need homes.”

I generally don’t agree with gay rights activists or the ACLU, but in this case, I have to say that I believe they are correct. It is all but undeniable that children are better off in a loving, two parent home, with both a mother and a father. If children can be placed in such households, then they certainly should be. Realistically, though, if there aren’t enough of these households (which there aren’t), placing a child in a loving, stable, household with homosexual parents is certainly better than allowing the child to bounce around the foster care system until he or she turns 18. Don’t misunderstand – a traditional couple is preferable; but a gay family is better than no family at all.

Currently, only three states ban gay adoption: Mississippi, Florida, and Utah. It would be a bad day for children if Tennessee joins this list.

The Simpsons in Knoxville

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2005

Remember this episode of the Simpsons?

OIT Annoyances

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2005

I agree with this letter to the editor:

First off, the security of my campus e-mail/Blackboard account is hardly a major concern of mine compared to the numerous accounts I use online to pay bills, order books and such (heaven forbid someone read my gritty UT e-mail which is nine times out of 10 an e-mail from OIT telling me to change my password).

Of course, as we have learned in the past, some people DO have “gritty” e-mails in their UTK accounts… Anyone remember J. Wade Gilley (among others)?

Liberty and Social Security

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2005

President Bush has proposed a plan to “save” Social Security, much to the chagrin of Congressional Democrats, who, save for a few moderates, have expressed fierce opposition to Bush’s proposal. In all likelihood, this will be the first major political battle of Bush’s second term, and quite possibly the dirtiest.

First, we should examine the plan itself, to see if it is really so terrible. Under Bush’s plan, Social Security would not change for people over 55. Younger people would get more choices in the program, though. They would be given the option of taking out a small amount of what they pay in, and invest it in private accounts. The amount we could invest would certainly be limited, but it would, at least, give some choice in what we can do with our own money.

While these are clear advantages to Bush’s proposal, they do not go nearly far enough toward addressing even the President’s stated reason for the private accounts: giving citizens more choices. Most would agree that maximizing personal choice maximizes freedom. While Bush’s plan certainly increases personal choice, it does not come anywhere close to maximizing it.

In order to understand the Social Security system, we should ask ourselves: who does the money being paid in belong to: to us or to the government? Obviously, the answer is to us. It is we who earn it, not the government. Why, then, does the government have the right to take our money (for our “own good”)? Do our elected leaders feel that we are too incompetent to plan for our own retirements?

Let’s assume that you decide you no longer want to pay into the system. “It’s my money,” you say, “I should be able to do with it whatever I like.” That should be a choice you should be allowed to make, if we truly believe in maximizing personal freedom. Sadly, it isn’t. Failure to pay into the system could result in incarceration. What kind of liberty is this? This problem will not be addressed by the new system.

Try another hypothetical. Let’s say that, at the age of 60, you are diagnosed with a terminal illness. You have paid into Social Security for the past 40 years. You do not wish to simply lose all that money; you want to leave it to your children. Again, it is your money that you were forced to pay in. In the result of death, it should go to your next of kin, right? Wrong. Your children will never see a cent of it. Under Bush’s proposed system, they would get a fraction of it.

Social Security was never intended to support the elderly, it was only meant to provide them with a subsidy. It was a safety net. Also, when originally set up during the 1930s, the average lifespan was considerably shorter than it is today. Now people are living for 20 years after they retire. How many 70-year-old systems still function flawlessly today?

The Social Security system was far from perfect to begin with. When implemented by Franklin D. Roosevelt, it obviously was a restriction on liberty. It was also badly set up. They money paid in by you does not go to you in the future; it goes to a retired person today. The money you draw after retirement will similarly come from someone working at that time. If a private business tried this, the company’s CEO would be arrested quicker than you can say Ken Lay. Yet, the government has a knack for breaking it’s own laws. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that such a system works when there are a huge number of working Americans to a small number of retired Americans, but problems will come when this ratio reverses.

Over the years, Social Security became less like a safety net and more like a hammock. More and more retired people became dependent on their monthly check from the government. Politicians seized on this, and essentially bought their votes. Every election cycle, we learn of some new, vile plan to abolish Social Security. Historically, Democrats have been most notorious for this, but in recent years Republicans have gotten in on the act as well. It’s a real shame, because this is not breeding liberty, it is breeding dependence. How can one be free if he or she depends on the government for his or her most basic needs?

The need for reforming Social Security is obvious, and President Bush’s plan is a definite step in the right direction. But it falls short of ensuring real choices and real liberty.

Liberty and Social Security

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2005

President Bush has proposed a plan to “save” Social Security, much to the chagrin of Congressional Democrats, who, save for a few moderates, have expressed fierce opposition to Bush’s proposal. In all likelihood, this will be the first major political battle of Bush’s second term, and quite possibly the dirtiest.

First, we should examine the plan itself, to see if it is really so terrible. Under Bush’s plan, Social Security would not change for people over 55. Younger people would get more choices in the program, though. They would be given the option of taking out a small amount of what they pay in, and invest it in private accounts. The amount we could invest would certainly be limited, but it would, at least, give some choice in what we can do with our own money.

While these are clear advantages to Bush’s proposal, they do not go nearly far enough toward addressing even the President’s stated reason for the private accounts: giving citizens more choices. Most would agree that maximizing personal choice maximizes freedom. While Bush’s plan certainly increases personal choice, it does not come anywhere close to maximizing it.

In order to understand the Social Security system, we should ask ourselves: who does the money being paid in belong to: to us or to the government? Obviously, the answer is to us. It is we who earn it, not the government. Why, then, does the government have the right to take our money (for our “own good”)? Do our elected leaders feel that we are too incompetent to plan for our own retirements?

Let’s assume that you decide you no longer want to pay into the system. “It’s my money,” you say, “I should be able to do with it whatever I like.” That should be a choice you should be allowed to make, if we truly believe in maximizing personal freedom. Sadly, it isn’t. Failure to pay into the system could result in incarceration. What kind of liberty is this? This problem will not be addressed by the new system.

Try another hypothetical. Let’s say that, at the age of 60, you are diagnosed with a terminal illness. You have paid into Social Security for the past 40 years. You do not wish to simply lose all that money; you want to leave it to your children. Again, it is your money that you were forced to pay in. In the result of death, it should go to your next of kin, right? Wrong. Your children will never see a cent of it. Under Bush’s proposed system, they would get a fraction of it.

Social Security was never intended to support the elderly, it was only meant to provide them with a subsidy. It was a safety net. Also, when originally set up during the 1930s, the average lifespan was considerably shorter than it is today. Now people are living for 20 years after they retire. How many 70-year-old systems still function flawlessly today?

The Social Security system was far from perfect to begin with. When implemented by Franklin D. Roosevelt, it obviously was a restriction on liberty. It was also badly set up. They money paid in by you does not go to you in the future; it goes to a retired person today. The money you draw after retirement will similarly come from someone working at that time. If a private business tried this, the company’s CEO would be arrested quicker than you can say Ken Lay. Yet, the government has a knack for breaking it’s own laws. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that such a system works when there are a huge number of working Americans to a small number of retired Americans, but problems will come when this ratio reverses.

Over the years, Social Security became less like a safety net and more like a hammock. More and more retired people became dependent on their monthly check from the government. Politicians seized on this, and essentially bought their votes. Every election cycle, we learn of some new, vile plan to abolish Social Security. Historically, Democrats have been most notorious for this, but in recent years Republicans have gotten in on the act as well. It’s a real shame, because this is not breeding liberty, it is breeding dependence. How can one be free if he or she depends on the government for his or her most basic needs?

The need for reforming Social Security is obvious, and President Bush’s plan is a definite step in the right direction. But it falls short of ensuring real choices and real liberty.

President’s Day

Monday, February 21st, 2005

In honor of President’s Day, I thought it might be fun to examine our 43 Presidents (well, for history nerds like myself anyway):

* George Washington (1789-1797): The “Father of his Country.” No, he did not really cut down a cherry tree. But he did unite the young nation, and he did help win our nation it’s independence. His decision not to run for a third term has president set a precedent that wouldn’t be broken until FDR. Truly an American great.

* John Adams (1797-1801): One of the Founders, but unpopular as president. Though one of America’s greatest political philosophers, Adams was not an effective politician. His distinguished career will overshadow his presidency.

* Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809): Another Founder, Jefferson was a prominent anti-Federalist. Like Adams, he was a great political philosopher. Unlike Adams, he was also a great politician. Jefferson was a strong advocate of democracy, and was an early leader of the Republicans (the party that would later become to the Democratic Party).

* James Madison (1809-1817): The “Father of the Constitution” and prominent Federalist, Madison served as Jefferson’s Secretary of State before becoming president. It is safe to say he would not recognize many of his principals in much of the bills Washington now passes (this is true of all our founders).

* James Monroe (1817-1825): An anti-Federalist, Monroe is most well known for the Monroe Doctrine, which closed off the Western Hemisphere to European colonization.

* John Quincy Adams (1825-1829): The son of John Adams, John Q. Adams was much like his father. Unpopular, he lost both the popular vote and the electoral college, but was chosen from the top three by the House of Representatives as no candidate received a majority of the electoral votes. As president, he was the first to use the federal government to build roads and other public works.

* Andrew Jackson (1829-1837): The first “common man” president, Jackson was the first of three presidents from Tennessee. A frontiersman with a violent temper, Jackson started the “spoils system,” which rewarded political allies with government appointments. Some argue that this was the start of big government. Jackson was also the author of the unconstitutional removal of the Cherokee. He also threatened to use military force to coerce South Carolina.

* Martin Van Buren (1837-1841): Jackson’s Vice-President, Van Buren had a rather unspectacular tenure as president. He essentially continued Jackson’s policies.

* William Henry Harrison (1841): Harrison caught pneumonia at his inauguration, and died a month later.

* John Tyler (1841-1845): Became president when Harrison died. Tyler was very unpopular, as his nickname, “His Accidency,” infers. He stuck strong to his convictions, but lacked the popular support to get much accomplished. Toward the end of his life, he was elected to the Confederate Congress.

* James Polk (1845-1849): Tennessee’s second president, the first “dark horse” president. Polk is famous for being the only president to keep all his campaign promises – among them a pledge not to run for a second term and Manifest Destiny (the belief that it was America’s destiny to extend from coast to coast). Polk was the last strong leader until the Civil War.

* Zachary Taylor (1849-1850): Hero of the Mexican War, and the father of Jefferson Davis’ wife. Died after only a year in office.

* Millard Filmore (1850-1853): Assumed the presidency after the death of Taylor. Not a very notable presidency. Most well known for the Fugative Slave Act.

* Franklin Pierce (1853-1857): A weak president, Pierce served only one term. He lacked the leadership abilities to bridge the divide between North and South.

* James Buchanan (1857-1861): Like his predecessor, Buchanan lacked the leadership to ease the sectional differences between the North and the South. He believed that a state did not have the right to leave the Union, but that the Union also had no right force a state to remain in the Union.

* Abraham Lincoln (1861-1865): Considered the greatest president by many, Lincoln presided during the Civil War, and saved the Union. The first Republican president, Lincoln opposed slavery, but did not believe it should be abolished where it already existed. Very charismatic, he won with no Southern support and less than 45% of the popular vote. Some critics argue that he was the “Great Centralizer.” Lincoln was assassinated in 1865 by John Wilkes Booth.

* Andrew Johnson (1865-1869): Tennessee’s third and final president, Johnson took office at one of the most difficult times in American history. The fact that he was from the South did not help. He largely followed Lincoln’s plans for Reconstruction, which were more charitable to the South, much to the chagrin of the Republican dominated Senate. Chronically weak, he was impeached, but the vote on removal failed by one vote (the impeachment proceedings were later deemed unconstitutional). After leaving office, he was elected to the Senate from Tennessee. Upon return to Washington, he received a standing ovation from the same Senators who voted to impeach him.

* Ulysses S. Grant (1869-1877): Civil War general and noted alcoholic, Grant presided over a very corrupt administration. Nevertheless, he was popular enough to be reelected in 1872. He oversaw Reconstruction in the South.

* Rutherford B. Hayes (1877-1881): Hayes won the most disputed race in American history. As electoral votes were being counted, the South was the last to be decided. Hayes’ opponent, Samuel Tilden, needed only one electoral vote from the South in order to win. Hayes cut a deal with the Southern delegates: in exchange for their votes, he would withdraw all federal troops from the South, ending Reconstruction. Hayes won by one electoral vote. Served only one term.

* James Garfield (1881): Garfield was shot only a few months after taking office. He lived for 40 days following this, and was treated by Alexander Graham Bell. Tragically, he died in September, 1881.

* Chester Arthur (1881-1885): Took office after the death of Garfield. Mostly undistinguished presidency.

* Grover Cleveland (1885-1889, 1893-1897): The only president to serve two nonconsecutive terms, Cleveland is most well known for his liberal use of his veto powers. A champion of limited government, Cleveland vetoed any bill he did not believe to be constitutional. Some claimed he was not compassionate; in reality he was only fulfilling his obligation to defend the Constitution.

* Benjamin Harrison (1889-1893): Harrison was the grandson of William Henry Harrison. He lost the popular vote in 1888, but won the electoral college. His presidency was most known for its wars over tariffs.

* William McKinley (1897-1901): Elected in the famous 1896 election, defeating William Jennings Bryan, McKinley is most well known as a war time president: he led America in the Spanish-American war. Denounced as an imperialist by Bryan (again his opponent) in the 1900 election, he was reelected. Sadly, he was assassinated in 1901.

* Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909): America’s most colorful president, Roosevelt took the presidency in 1901 following McKinley’s assassination. A rugged individualist of classic American lore, Roosevelt was famous for his “bully for you” catch phrase. Though he grew up wealthy, Roosevelt took on the big business by promoting regulation. Considered an imperialist in foreign affairs, he secured the Panama Canal for the United States. He declined to seek reelection in 1908, instead going on a Safari. He ran again for president in 1916 as the “Bull Moose” candidate, but was defeated.

* William Howard Taft (1909-1913): Grossly obese, Taft was not an effective politician. Though selected by Roosevelt as his political heir, Roosevelt turned against him when Taft endorsed high tariffs. Not surprisingly, Taft was defeated in 1912.

* Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921): The father of IR Liberalism, Wilson was an idealist. He was elected in 1912 as an defender of states’ rights and individualism (though he would later have antiwar activists arrested). Though regarded as a progressive leader, he was, in fact, very racist, presiding over the segregation of White House staff. On foreign affairs, he cut back tariffs. Leading America during WWI was quite stressful for Wilson, and he wanted to ensure it never happened again. So he proposed the League of Nations, a forerunner of the United Nations. Many argue that an isolationist Senate refused to ratify it, in reality, Wilson must shoulder some of the blame for being inflexible and unwilling to compromise. Some believe he was mentally unstable toward the end of his term.

* Warren Harding (1921-1923): Considered by many historians to be one of the worst presidents, this characterization is a bit unfair. Though he made some errors in political appointments, Harding was personally honest and probably would have weathered the political storm that was the Teapot Dome Scandal if he had not died. His personal life was not morally upstanding however; he was forced to pay the mother of his out-of-wedlock children child support while in the White House.

* Calvin Coolidge (1923-1929): “Silent Cal” took office following the death of Harding. Very much underrated, Coolidge is not noted for “progressive” legislation. But he is known for nonintervention in the economy, and staying out of foreign affairs for the most part. Possibly the most laissez faire president since the early days of the Republic, Coolidge is revered by libertarians and other advocates of limited government, even while he is overlooked or downplayed by leftist historians.

* Hebert Hoover (1929-1933): A victim of bad timing, Hoover ran for president promising prosperity (”a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage”). Just after his election, the Depression hit. Hoover was ill-prepared to deal with it. He pushed government works projects, not unlike those used by FDR, albeit on a much smaller scale. Hoover was easily defeated in 1932.

* Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-1945): Elected in 1932, FDR’s main objective was to end the Great Depression. His “New Deal” was his plan to do it. The New Deal was essentially an extension of Hoover’s policies. It incorporated public works, and expanding the size of government by a huge amount. It was mostly socialism. Liberal historians claim that it was a success, but the Depression continued for eight years after FDR’s election. Instead, it was a huge boost for the forces of big government and a major setback for individual rights and liberty. When the Supreme Court appeared ready to strike down some of his more oppressive policies, he tried to pack the court with additional justices, favorable to him. FDR was a strong leader during WWII, but he falls short of much of what is claimed about him. He was an avid admirer of Stalin. But he did have a gift for uniting the nation. Elected to four terms, he died in 1945, just before WWII ended.

* Harry S Truman (1945-1953): Harry Truman became president following the death of FDR, but he had not been FDR’s VP for this first three terms. As such, he knew little about the “Manhattan Project,” the plan to build the atomic bomb. It has been speculated that at his conference with Stalin, it has been speculated that Stalin knew more about it then Truman did. It was Truman who made the decision to drop the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Still, Truman was staunchly anti-Communist after 1947, and authored the Truman Doctrine of containing communism. His 1948 election victory (”Dewey Defeats Truman”) remains one of the biggest upsets in history. He elected not to run in 1952.

* Dwight Eisenhower (1953-1961): A WWII hero, the presidency is the first (and only) elected office Eisenhower held. A soft spoken leader, Eisenhower was very popular (”I like Ike”). He signed a truce halting conflict on the Korean peninsula.

* John F. Kennedy (1961-1963): Romanticized, John Kennedy defeated Richard Nixon in a very close election. To this day, rumors persist (with supporting eevidence) that the states of Texas and Illinois were stolen, giving Kennedy the victory. As president, Kennedy was a strong Cold Warrior, who fought to stop the spread of communism. But he had several mishaps, including the Bay of Pigs debacle, and his intervention in Vietnam. His administration also had it’s share of corruption, and his personal life was soap opera esque to say the least. Tragically, he was assassinated on November 22, 1963.

* Lyndon Johnson (1963-1969): More corrupt than Kennedy, Johnson took over following his death. He managed to make a mess of Vietnam, and expanded the welfare state through his “Great Society” programs. About the only redeeming efforts of his administration was his civil rights legislation.

* Richard Nixon (1969-1974): Eisenhower’s vice-president, Nixon had his share of corruption as well (though probably not as much as Johnson). The first U.S. president to visit China in a hundred years, and the president who finally got the U.S. out of Vietnam (though not necessarily in the manner he wanted), Nixon was very popular, and was reelected in 1972 with a 49 state landslide. Unfortunately, the Watergate scandal would be his undoing. Whether or not he knew ahead of time about the break in is unclear (I doubt he did), but he lied about it after the fact. This led to an inquiry into impeachment, and his resignation. A brilliant mind for international relations, he was very respected in the world.

* Gerald Ford (1974-1977): The only president to never have been elected president or vice-president, Ford returned trust to the Executive Branch. He was severely weakened by Watergate however, and accomplished little.

* Jimmy Carter (1977-1981): Even weaker than Ford was Carter, who won narrowly in 1977 due to backlash from Watergate. His inability to do anything about the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the hostage crisis in Iran, soaring inflation and unemployment rates, led to him being very unpopular. Lost in a landslide to Reagan in 1980.

* Ronald Reagan (1981-1989): Easily elected in 1980, and easily reelected in 1984, the “Great Communicator” was one of the greatest president in American history. He favored a policy of arms buildup against the Soviet Union, knowing that he could draw them into a race they could not win. He favored limited government (though, in reality, government grew under him – just at a slower rate, and partially due to a Democrat controlled Congress), and was a great tax cutter. His policies toward the Soviet Union were criticized at the time, but were vindicated with the fall of the Soviet Union and communism. He was the embodiment of idealism: one person can change the world.

* George H. W. Bush (1989-1993): Bush ran as Reagan’s successor. A strong war time president, he led the free world to defeat Saddam Hussein and free Kuwait in 1991. Unfortunately a poor economy and a broken promise not to raise taxes, in addition to a very charismatic opponent, led to his defeat in 1992.

* William Jefferson Clinton (1993-2001): Charismatic and popular, Clinton will be remember more for scandal than for any accomplishments in office. A masterful politician, he did what many observers considered impossible by defeating an ultra popular incumbent. A Democrat, Clinton ruled from the center-left, though he did push legislation favored by Republicans (NAFTA and Welfare Reform). A seemingly endless crescendo of scandals, peaking with the Monica Lewinski incident (which led to his impeachment) plagued his administration. His slashing of the military also seems ill-advised today.

* George W. Bush (2001-Present): Narrowly elected in 2000 despite losing the popular vote, Bush at first seemed that he would be weak. He spent most of his political capital pushing through his tax cuts in the summer of 2001. His opponents saw him as a lightweight. They were wrong. Following the attacks of 9/11/2001, he rallied the nation, and had the highest approval ratings of any president. He led a successful military campaign against the Taliban government of Afghanistan, installing democracy in that nation. He then led a campaign against Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq. Though Saddam was captured and free elections have been held, the jury is still out. Domestically, he has aggressively pushed tax cuts, and reforms to Social Security, though the size of government has exploded under him. He was comfortably reelected in 2004. How history will judge him depends very much on his second term.

President’s Day

Monday, February 21st, 2005

In honor of President’s Day, I thought it might be fun to examine our 43 Presidents (well, for history nerds like myself anyway):

* George Washington (1789-1797): The “Father of his Country.” No, he did not really cut down a cherry tree. But he did unite the young nation, and he did help win our nation it’s independence. His decision not to run for a third term has president set a precedent that wouldn’t be broken until FDR. Truly an American great.

* John Adams (1797-1801): One of the Founders, but unpopular as president. Though one of America’s greatest political philosophers, Adams was not an effective politician. His distinguished career will overshadow his presidency.

* Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809): Another Founder, Jefferson was a prominent anti-Federalist. Like Adams, he was a great political philosopher. Unlike Adams, he was also a great politician. Jefferson was a strong advocate of democracy, and was an early leader of the Republicans (the party that would later become to the Democratic Party).

* James Madison (1809-1817): The “Father of the Constitution” and prominent Federalist, Madison served as Jefferson’s Secretary of State before becoming president. It is safe to say he would not recognize many of his principals in much of the bills Washington now passes (this is true of all our founders).

* James Monroe (1817-1825): An anti-Federalist, Monroe is most well known for the Monroe Doctrine, which closed off the Western Hemisphere to European colonization.

* John Quincy Adams (1825-1829): The son of John Adams, John Q. Adams was much like his father. Unpopular, he lost both the popular vote and the electoral college, but was chosen from the top three by the House of Representatives as no candidate received a majority of the electoral votes. As president, he was the first to use the federal government to build roads and other public works.

* Andrew Jackson (1829-1837): The first “common man” president, Jackson was the first of three presidents from Tennessee. A frontiersman with a violent temper, Jackson started the “spoils system,” which rewarded political allies with government appointments. Some argue that this was the start of big government. Jackson was also the author of the unconstitutional removal of the Cherokee. He also threatened to use military force to coerce South Carolina.

* Martin Van Buren (1837-1841): Jackson’s Vice-President, Van Buren had a rather unspectacular tenure as president. He essentially continued Jackson’s policies.

* William Henry Harrison (1841): Harrison caught pneumonia at his inauguration, and died a month later.

* John Tyler (1841-1845): Became president when Harrison died. Tyler was very unpopular, as his nickname, “His Accidency,” infers. He stuck strong to his convictions, but lacked the popular support to get much accomplished. Toward the end of his life, he was elected to the Confederate Congress.

* James Polk (1845-1849): Tennessee’s second president, the first “dark horse” president. Polk is famous for being the only president to keep all his campaign promises – among them a pledge not to run for a second term and Manifest Destiny (the belief that it was America’s destiny to extend from coast to coast). Polk was the last strong leader until the Civil War.

* Zachary Taylor (1849-1850): Hero of the Mexican War, and the father of Jefferson Davis’ wife. Died after only a year in office.

* Millard Filmore (1850-1853): Assumed the presidency after the death of Taylor. Not a very notable presidency. Most well known for the Fugative Slave Act.

* Franklin Pierce (1853-1857): A weak president, Pierce served only one term. He lacked the leadership abilities to bridge the divide between North and South.

* James Buchanan (1857-1861): Like his predecessor, Buchanan lacked the leadership to ease the sectional differences between the North and the South. He believed that a state did not have the right to leave the Union, but that the Union also had no right force a state to remain in the Union.

* Abraham Lincoln (1861-1865): Considered the greatest president by many, Lincoln presided during the Civil War, and saved the Union. The first Republican president, Lincoln opposed slavery, but did not believe it should be abolished where it already existed. Very charismatic, he won with no Southern support and less than 45% of the popular vote. Some critics argue that he was the “Great Centralizer.” Lincoln was assassinated in 1865 by John Wilkes Booth.

* Andrew Johnson (1865-1869): Tennessee’s third and final president, Johnson took office at one of the most difficult times in American history. The fact that he was from the South did not help. He largely followed Lincoln’s plans for Reconstruction, which were more charitable to the South, much to the chagrin of the Republican dominated Senate. Chronically weak, he was impeached, but the vote on removal failed by one vote (the impeachment proceedings were later deemed unconstitutional). After leaving office, he was elected to the Senate from Tennessee. Upon return to Washington, he received a standing ovation from the same Senators who voted to impeach him.

* Ulysses S. Grant (1869-1877): Civil War general and noted alcoholic, Grant presided over a very corrupt administration. Nevertheless, he was popular enough to be reelected in 1872. He oversaw Reconstruction in the South.

* Rutherford B. Hayes (1877-1881): Hayes won the most disputed race in American history. As electoral votes were being counted, the South was the last to be decided. Hayes’ opponent, Samuel Tilden, needed only one electoral vote from the South in order to win. Hayes cut a deal with the Southern delegates: in exchange for their votes, he would withdraw all federal troops from the South, ending Reconstruction. Hayes won by one electoral vote. Served only one term.

* James Garfield (1881): Garfield was shot only a few months after taking office. He lived for 40 days following this, and was treated by Alexander Graham Bell. Tragically, he died in September, 1881.

* Chester Arthur (1881-1885): Took office after the death of Garfield. Mostly undistinguished presidency.

* Grover Cleveland (1885-1889, 1893-1897): The only president to serve two nonconsecutive terms, Cleveland is most well known for his liberal use of his veto powers. A champion of limited government, Cleveland vetoed any bill he did not believe to be constitutional. Some claimed he was not compassionate; in reality he was only fulfilling his obligation to defend the Constitution.

* Benjamin Harrison (1889-1893): Harrison was the grandson of William Henry Harrison. He lost the popular vote in 1888, but won the electoral college. His presidency was most known for its wars over tariffs.

* William McKinley (1897-1901): Elected in the famous 1896 election, defeating William Jennings Bryan, McKinley is most well known as a war time president: he led America in the Spanish-American war. Denounced as an imperialist by Bryan (again his opponent) in the 1900 election, he was reelected. Sadly, he was assassinated in 1901.

* Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909): America’s most colorful president, Roosevelt took the presidency in 1901 following McKinley’s assassination. A rugged individualist of classic American lore, Roosevelt was famous for his “bully for you” catch phrase. Though he grew up wealthy, Roosevelt took on the big business by promoting regulation. Considered an imperialist in foreign affairs, he secured the Panama Canal for the United States. He declined to seek reelection in 1908, instead going on a Safari. He ran again for president in 1916 as the “Bull Moose” candidate, but was defeated.

* William Howard Taft (1909-1913): Grossly obese, Taft was not an effective politician. Though selected by Roosevelt as his political heir, Roosevelt turned against him when Taft endorsed high tariffs. Not surprisingly, Taft was defeated in 1912.

* Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921): The father of IR Liberalism, Wilson was an idealist. He was elected in 1912 as an defender of states’ rights and individualism (though he would later have antiwar activists arrested). Though regarded as a progressive leader, he was, in fact, very racist, presiding over the segregation of White House staff. On foreign affairs, he cut back tariffs. Leading America during WWI was quite stressful for Wilson, and he wanted to ensure it never happened again. So he proposed the League of Nations, a forerunner of the United Nations. Many argue that an isolationist Senate refused to ratify it, in reality, Wilson must shoulder some of the blame for being inflexible and unwilling to compromise. Some believe he was mentally unstable toward the end of his term.

* Warren Harding (1921-1923): Considered by many historians to be one of the worst presidents, this characterization is a bit unfair. Though he made some errors in political appointments, Harding was personally honest and probably would have weathered the political storm that was the Teapot Dome Scandal if he had not died. His personal life was not morally upstanding however; he was forced to pay the mother of his out-of-wedlock children child support while in the White House.

* Calvin Coolidge (1923-1929): “Silent Cal” took office following the death of Harding. Very much underrated, Coolidge is not noted for “progressive” legislation. But he is known for nonintervention in the economy, and staying out of foreign affairs for the most part. Possibly the most laissez faire president since the early days of the Republic, Coolidge is revered by libertarians and other advocates of limited government, even while he is overlooked or downplayed by leftist historians.

* Hebert Hoover (1929-1933): A victim of bad timing, Hoover ran for president promising prosperity (”a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage”). Just after his election, the Depression hit. Hoover was ill-prepared to deal with it. He pushed government works projects, not unlike those used by FDR, albeit on a much smaller scale. Hoover was easily defeated in 1932.

* Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-1945): Elected in 1932, FDR’s main objective was to end the Great Depression. His “New Deal” was his plan to do it. The New Deal was essentially an extension of Hoover’s policies. It incorporated public works, and expanding the size of government by a huge amount. It was mostly socialism. Liberal historians claim that it was a success, but the Depression continued for eight years after FDR’s election. Instead, it was a huge boost for the forces of big government and a major setback for individual rights and liberty. When the Supreme Court appeared ready to strike down some of his more oppressive policies, he tried to pack the court with additional justices, favorable to him. FDR was a strong leader during WWII, but he falls short of much of what is claimed about him. He was an avid admirer of Stalin. But he did have a gift for uniting the nation. Elected to four terms, he died in 1945, just before WWII ended.

* Harry S Truman (1945-1953): Harry Truman became president following the death of FDR, but he had not been FDR’s VP for this first three terms. As such, he knew little about the “Manhattan Project,” the plan to build the atomic bomb. It has been speculated that at his conference with Stalin, it has been speculated that Stalin knew more about it then Truman did. It was Truman who made the decision to drop the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Still, Truman was staunchly anti-Communist after 1947, and authored the Truman Doctrine of containing communism. His 1948 election victory (”Dewey Defeats Truman”) remains one of the biggest upsets in history. He elected not to run in 1952.

* Dwight Eisenhower (1953-1961): A WWII hero, the presidency is the first (and only) elected office Eisenhower held. A soft spoken leader, Eisenhower was very popular (”I like Ike”). He signed a truce halting conflict on the Korean peninsula.

* John F. Kennedy (1961-1963): Romanticized, John Kennedy defeated Richard Nixon in a very close election. To this day, rumors persist (with supporting eevidence) that the states of Texas and Illinois were stolen, giving Kennedy the victory. As president, Kennedy was a strong Cold Warrior, who fought to stop the spread of communism. But he had several mishaps, including the Bay of Pigs debacle, and his intervention in Vietnam. His administration also had it’s share of corruption, and his personal life was soap opera esque to say the least. Tragically, he was assassinated on November 22, 1963.

* Lyndon Johnson (1963-1969): More corrupt than Kennedy, Johnson took over following his death. He managed to make a mess of Vietnam, and expanded the welfare state through his “Great Society” programs. About the only redeeming efforts of his administration was his civil rights legislation.

* Richard Nixon (1969-1974): Eisenhower’s vice-president, Nixon had his share of corruption as well (though probably not as much as Johnson). The first U.S. president to visit China in a hundred years, and the president who finally got the U.S. out of Vietnam (though not necessarily in the manner he wanted), Nixon was very popular, and was reelected in 1972 with a 49 state landslide. Unfortunately, the Watergate scandal would be his undoing. Whether or not he knew ahead of time about the break in is unclear (I doubt he did), but he lied about it after the fact. This led to an inquiry into impeachment, and his resignation. A brilliant mind for international relations, he was very respected in the world.

* Gerald Ford (1974-1977): The only president to never have been elected president or vice-president, Ford returned trust to the Executive Branch. He was severely weakened by Watergate however, and accomplished little.

* Jimmy Carter (1977-1981): Even weaker than Ford was Carter, who won narrowly in 1977 due to backlash from Watergate. His inability to do anything about the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the hostage crisis in Iran, soaring inflation and unemployment rates, led to him being very unpopular. Lost in a landslide to Reagan in 1980.

* Ronald Reagan (1981-1989): Easily elected in 1980, and easily reelected in 1984, the “Great Communicator” was one of the greatest president in American history. He favored a policy of arms buildup against the Soviet Union, knowing that he could draw them into a race they could not win. He favored limited government (though, in reality, government grew under him – just at a slower rate, and partially due to a Democrat controlled Congress), and was a great tax cutter. His policies toward the Soviet Union were criticized at the time, but were vindicated with the fall of the Soviet Union and communism. He was the embodiment of idealism: one person can change the world.

* George H. W. Bush (1989-1993): Bush ran as Reagan’s successor. A strong war time president, he led the free world to defeat Saddam Hussein and free Kuwait in 1991. Unfortunately a poor economy and a broken promise not to raise taxes, in addition to a very charismatic opponent, led to his defeat in 1992.

* William Jefferson Clinton (1993-2001): Charismatic and popular, Clinton will be remember more for scandal than for any accomplishments in office. A masterful politician, he did what many observers considered impossible by defeating an ultra popular incumbent. A Democrat, Clinton ruled from the center-left, though he did push legislation favored by Republicans (NAFTA and Welfare Reform). A seemingly endless crescendo of scandals, peaking with the Monica Lewinski incident (which led to his impeachment) plagued his administration. His slashing of the military also seems ill-advised today.

* George W. Bush (2001-Present): Narrowly elected in 2000 despite losing the popular vote, Bush at first seemed that he would be weak. He spent most of his political capital pushing through his tax cuts in the summer of 2001. His opponents saw him as a lightweight. They were wrong. Following the attacks of 9/11/2001, he rallied the nation, and had the highest approval ratings of any president. He led a successful military campaign against the Taliban government of Afghanistan, installing democracy in that nation. He then led a campaign against Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq. Though Saddam was captured and free elections have been held, the jury is still out. Domestically, he has aggressively pushed tax cuts, and reforms to Social Security, though the size of government has exploded under him. He was comfortably reelected in 2004. How history will judge him depends very much on his second term.

Blogs Under Attack in Class

Monday, February 21st, 2005

The guest speaker in my communications class is currently attacking blogs as being no different from the National Enquirer. He claims that bloggers often lie, and says that newspapers are far more reliable and concrete (tell that to Jayson Blair). He is offended that America’s youth want to read opinion, instead of actual news. He actually thinks that newspapers have almost zero opinion in them. I guess the members of the Old Media won’t give up their hallowed positions easily.

Blogs Under Attack in Class

Monday, February 21st, 2005

The guest speaker in my communications class is currently attacking blogs as being no different from the National Enquirer. He claims that bloggers often lie, and says that newspapers are far more reliable and concrete (tell that to Jayson Blair). He is offended that America’s youth want to read opinion, instead of actual news. He actually thinks that newspapers have almost zero opinion in them. I guess the members of the Old Media won’t give up their hallowed positions easily.