Vol. 9, No. 1


In this issue:

1. An Exceptional Year
2. Another One Bites the Dust
3. Unnatural Gas Lines
4. Quick Hits
5. New at Reason Online—Annus Horribilis
6. News and Events

1. An Exceptional Year

The Bush administration continues to bank on exceptionalism carrying the day in its unfolding wiretapping scandal. That the exceptional threat posed by terrorism gives the office of the president exceptional powers to act is the basic outline of the White House argument. Except not everyone in the administration bought that argument, even as existing wiretap review procedures were being bypassed.

It is clear that there was some dissent at the Justice Department in 2004 about continuing the practice of turning the NSA loose on domestic terror targets without first running the idea by a judge somewhere. What was initially a variation on a "hot pursuit" argument for the program in 2001, that there just was not enough time to comply with the law, had morphed into an "inherent power of the presidency" argument. That is quite a bit different from a supposed ticking time-bomb scenario where timely intelligence is vital to stop terror.

To illustrate, a county sheriff might chase a suspect into a neighboring county and arrest him even though, usually, the sheriff would not have jurisdiction there. Everyone understands that there is a time constraint at work. But no one would claim that the chasing sheriff now also had jurisdiction in the neighboring county just by virtue of holding the office or that the laws governing arrest powers no longer apply. Yet that is exactly the kind of claim the White House makes with regard to surveillance of terror suspects.

The Bush administration is saying that a temporary hot pursuit green-light is not enough, that any judicial oversight of presidential action in the War on Terror is unacceptable and, evidently, unconstitutional. And that is an exceptionally bold position to take.


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2. Another One Bites the Dust

Say goodbye to Independence Air, yet another airline to stop flying. Indy Air is gone after only about 18 months of existence as a low-fare carrier, which might be some sort of record.

Analysts say Indy was "doomed from the start," which suggests the obvious question: Why did it start, then? What is it about running an airline that makes it so uniquely hard for otherwise functional businesspeople to pull it off?

One guess would be the industry's odd combination of strict government regulation and wide-open exposure to the ups and downs of the oil market via jet fuel prices. Throw in the high fixed costs of owning and servicing a fleet of jets, and the margin for error is very small. Look for bits of pieces of Indy to find their way to other airlines.


3. Unnatural Gas Lines

Europe is fast finding out that depending on Russian pipelines for winter heat is no sure thing. Plus the dispute between Ukraine and Russia over a "fair" price for gas is a murky thing when state-run energy companies like Gazprom are involved.

It is hard not to see state-run companies as conducting foreign policy initiatives on behalf on their owners even in the best of times. Given that Russia is not trusted by Ukraine or by much of Europe, this goes double for the current crisis. Higher gas prices are seen as a way to secure enough money to rebuild Russia's military, no doubt about it.

Because of that and the lack of true private-sector control, talk of setting "market prices" for gas rings a little hollow. As a result, the price of Russian gas will be a political negotiation, and that is never a good thing.


4. Quick Hits

Quote of the Week

"They attacked us before, they'll attack us again if they can."—President George W. Bush in San Antonio on the terrorist threat.


Coke Adds Strife

Getting your college campus to divest itself of Coke products will likely be a big deal among the activist set this spring now that the University of Michigan has gone that route.


Iraq or Bust

A Florida high school student is back at home after winging off to Baghdad to check things out for himself.


Intel Outside

Chip maker Intel is dropping its "Intel inside" tagline in favor of the vaguely Maoist-sounding "leap ahead." Guess "Tap into America" was taken.


5. New at Reason Online

Annus Horribilis
Scenes of rancor in 2005. Cathy Young

Crystal Ball 2006
Prognostications for the coming year. Ronald Bailey

Confidence Man
Controversial memoirs from Britain's former ambassador to the U.S. Michael Young

And much more!

6. News and Events

Get liberated with Ronald Bailey's brave new book for a brave new world!

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