1. Should Elena Kagan recuse herself in the upcoming arguments over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act ?
She should step aside on this, though she is not constitutionally bound to do so. The appearance of impartiality is important in a case like this. Scalia and Thomas should also step aside if these stories are true. There is no doubt that cert was needed, after the Circuits split over the issue.
Remember the lessons of Abe Fortas and impartiality…
2. Did JFK want to destroy the CIA ? And did this lead to his murder?
Kennedy fired CIA chief Allen Dulles in September of 1961 for his involvement in the Bay of Pigs fiasco. Previously, Kennedy issued an executive order placing the CIA directly under the auspices of the Defense Department. He had grown suspicious of the agency and how it seemed to be making policy. Neither move was popular within the agency.
3. Will the CIA ever open the Lee Harvey Oswald files?
The Freedom of Information Act –FOIA– passed in 1966, grants records requests via the State Department. Despite what you may have heard, the law does not grant access to classified information. Documents are periodically reviewed and declassified, then made available for requests; However, documents deemed vital to the National Security do not have to be declassified. Oswald’s information falls into this latter category.
4. What is your opinion regarding the constitutionality of the following three topics: The Federal Reserve, Sixteenth Amendment(IRS), and the C.I.A. ? Furthermore, if constitutionally acceptable, are there any significant negative consequences as a result?
The IRS and graduated income tax are constitutional as part of amendment 16. The Federal Reserve has deep roots in the First and Second National Banks of the United States. The Constitution allows the Federal government to regulate commerce and coin money; therefore, such an agency can be created by an act of Congress, which the Federal Reserve Act did. Libertarians are ruffled by the concept of the CIA, but we have come to accept the rationale of national security for agencies like the CIA.
Any changes to our present tax code will have to meet a constitutional test (progressives were sneaky that way.) The Federal Reserve is a hybrid government/private sector venture and as a result does not face the same accountability as other parts of the government. Congress could act to force the FED to open its books, but it is difficult to see the benefit. Without a stabilizing force in the financial sector, our economy has suffered at various times in history: 1807 during the long embargo, 1837 after the Specie Circular debacle, 1873 following another economic panic…etc….So the FED has served a purpose since its enactment in 1913. The current scrutiny surrounding the CIA involves its methods. Democrats want to hold the agency to civilian legal standards. The debate rages on….
5. Who will replace Stephen Ambrose as the next great popular historian?
Some argue David McCullough did long ago, during Ambrose’s later years. McCullough is clearly the best-selling history writer out there. Academic historians have been branching out during recent years. Eric Foner, Gordon Wood, and Joe Ellis are prominent professors who have had bestsellers in the past decade. An argument can also be made for Ken Burns being a popular historian….
6. Is the Protect IP Act a good idea in current global market ?
A bit outside this blog’s alleged expertise, but here goes. Businesses with websites seem to be in favor of the law, while businesses that are websites are against it. The bill’s purpose is to protect American companies from oversees internet piracy. Opponents worry that enforcement will abridge free speech rights here. It’s hard to see merit in either argument as the bill seems hastily put together. In fact, no government attempt at internet regulation has been successful.
7. Should public employees be allowed to collectively bargain?
Nearly all government employees are unionized and collectively bargain. Large contracts with lucrative benefits, which are often paid for with budget deficits, are the greater issue at play in today’s debate. In addition, government employees associated with public safety are typically held to negotiations without striking rights. The precedent was set by Calvin Coolidge (while Governor of Mass.) during the Boston Police strike of 1919, “There is no right to strike against the public safety by anybody, anywhere, any time.” Which public workers fall within these parameters is a matter of interpretation.
8. Should I forgive Christopher Hitchens for supporting the Iraq War?
Hitchens’ argument doesn’t need your or my support. It stands on its own. He was not shilling for some political movement, nor was he a pawn of the Bush administration. Hitchens supported the war because it toppled an oppressive regime, period. There was plenty of evidence, which he brilliantly cited, that Hussein’s Iraq was an immediate threat. Hitchens was a traditional small ‘L’ liberal. He believed people ought to be free.
9. Where will WW3 begin and what countries will be involved?
It is difficult to see a conventional conflict erupting between two allied forces. The United States does face difficult diplomatic courses with Russia and China. Russia’s political system is currently in turmoil and China continues a rapid arms build up. China’s armaments combined with North Korea’s instability make a future conflict in Asia highly probable.
10. Would Henry Clay have been a good President?
Clay appeared on four Presidential ballots. He nearly won in 1844, but the a third-party candidate prevented him from winning New York, giving the election to Polk. A life-long legislator, Clay had little executive experience (one term as Secretary of State.) Historically, legislators have not made good Presidents. Clay was opposed to the annexation of Texas and Manifest Destiny. He would have faced difficulty combating the pro-expansionist factions within the government.
11. What sports were popular before baseball and football? Will they be replaced?
College football was popular long before professional football. Baseball’s popularity dates back to before the Civil War. It is difficult to see another sport rivaling the popularity of either game, one our past-time, the other our national game. Both have become interwoven in our culture, especially our celebrations. Sorry soccer fans….
12. Was Andrew Johnson drunk at his inauguration?
Johnson did not have a formal inauguration. He was sworn in on April 15, 1865 after Lincoln’s murder, by Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase. The impromptu ceremony took place at the Kirkwood House Hotel in Washington DC. Johnson did have three glasses of whisky prior to Lincoln’s second inauguration on March 4. Johnson was recovering from typhoid fever and a doctor gave him the liquor to steady his nerves. The prescription failed as Johnson appeared drunk throughout the ceremony.
13. Should Confederate soldiers be buried in national cemeteries?
Soldiers who swore allegiance to the Union following the Civil War are often allowed into national cemeteries. Confederates killed in the Civil War are not allowed to be buried in hallowed Union ground. These men were killed while rebelling against their country.
14. Were Madison and Jefferson friends?
No question. Madison and wife Dolly would spend weeks at Monticello visiting (there was even a special room for them.) Jefferson was Madison’s mentor and chief political ally. They agreed on most issues, but differed over some important interpretations of the Constitution.
15. Can Ron Paul steal the nomination from frontrunner, Mitt Romney?
Not very likely at this point. Paul does have an enthusiastic following, but securing delegates requires inroads to the Republican establishment. Paul’s neo-isolationism frightens hawkish Republicans and will drive them to Romney.
16. How is the election of 2012 shaping up? Will Obama be reelected?
It appears the Republicans have already conceded this race. Mitt Romney has failed to ignite his base and his wealth is bound to alienate him from the general electorate in November. The bright stars of the party are sitting this election out; Jindal, Christie, Palin, Rubio, and Paul Ryan have all opted out of the 2012 race. The economic numbers are gradually improving which is good news for the incumbent.
17. Is the trade embargo against Cuba still worth our trouble?
Instituted by the Kennedy administration following the Bay of Pigs fiasco, the trade embargo was supposed to pressure the Castro regime with economic hardship. Cuba has struggled ever since, but many argue the embargo forced the Castro regime to more brutality to maintain its power. It is difficult to see the usefulness in the post Cold War world. Hard feelings between the governments exist til this day, but travel restrictions were lifted during the Clinton presidency.
18. Does history repeat itself?
The worst type of answer, yes and no. Historical events rarely repeat themselves in a manner we can clearly identify. What does seem to recur are the mistakes that lead to history altering events. Wars, elections, movements, laws, all differ depending on the time and participants; but historians are always quick to point out the common missteps that lead to the events.
19. Did Pat Garrett kill Billy the Kid?
Simply put, yes. Conspiracy theorists love to spin yarns about the Kid surviving and living a long life, but there were too many witnesses that night. There are some legitimate questions about Garrett’s account of the shooting- some believe he may have killed the Kid while he slept.
20. Will the next world crisis take place in Syria?
The region is in chaos because Arab Spring has been a disaster for democracy. For their many transgressions, Middle-East strongmen like Assad and Gaddafi were largely secular and kept radical Islamists under wraps. Arab Spring has allowed Islamists to gain influence in Egypt and Libia and it appears Syria is next. Today’s admission by Syrian officials that they possess chemical and biological weapons must bring the US into action. The fall of the Assad regime would destabilize the region further. Rogue states like Iran along with terror groups like Hezbollah must not be allowed to get the Syrian stockpiles. If the US does not act, Israel most certainly will move to prevent the weapons from changing hands.
21. Is the recent NY Times editorial on Thomas Jefferson fair?
Paul Finkelman is a notorious Jefferson hater- Wiencek’s new book is so biased that even Annette Gordon-Reed dismissed it in a review. Finkelman argues that Wiencek doesn’t go far enough. Check out my post on the character assassination of Jefferson, I expose Finkelman as a dangerous historical hack.
22. Was Abraham Lincoln racist and/or a white supremacist?
No and no. His racial attitudes fit his times, and he was definitely moderate considering he came from the notoriously racist state of Illinois. Those who view Lincoln as racist judge him by modern racial attitudes. Lerone Bennett wrote a misguided book first proposing Lincoln as some sort of white supremacist. His only evidence was off-color humor Lincoln allegedly used, and Lincoln’s early support for colonization; an opinion he clearly changed during the course of the war.