Wednesday, July 19, 2006

On the internet, no one knows you're not a dog...

...So Spotty's been kind enough to let me fill in while he's tackling the rigors of a vacation. Let's review what Spotty's missing while he's gone, boys and girls.

The Republicans are trying to market the war in the Middle East as WWIII because they think it’ll play well in the mid-terms, as they're counting on all calls for restraint "falling away." A solid DFL candidate is run out of an election by an opposition research professional - get this - because the candidate did opposition research! Ann Coulter says that she sent the white powder to the NYT mailroom, but right-wing eliminationist apologists point out that Michael Moore is fat, so there. The US Attorney General just yesterday admitted that Our Glorious Leader personally blocked the clearances for DOJ lawyers, thus preventing them from investigating warrantless eavesdropping. The White House press Secretary implies that Helen Thomas is carrying water for Hezbollah, but the GOP hacks will soon remind us that she's ugly, so no harm done.

Spotty will also be happy to hear that I'm paying attention to some of his favorite people, too. Captain Fishsticks has penned a piece that rewrites history broadly, pretending that the Northern Pacific Railroad simply didn't exist:

Meanwhile, James J. Hill built the Great Northern Railway, running from the shores of Lake Superior to Washington State, with private capital.

While subsidized railroads used government authorization to grab public and private lands, Hill spent his own money to relocate farmers along his rail route. He knew that his railroad would prosper only if the region it ran through prospered. Hill funded agricultural research and livestock breeding to ensure that farmers, and his railroad, had something profitable to ship.

In tough economic times, when subsidized railroads fell on hard times, Hill and other private railroaders built spurs into Glacier, Yellowstone and Grand Canyon National Parks, creating a tourist industry and introducing Easterners to the grandeur of the American West.

Robber baron?

Oh yeah. Hill’s railroad made him rich.

What the good Captain neglects to tell us is that BOTH of Hill's railroads made him rich. While the Great Northern wasn't a land grant railroad, the other Hill railroad, the Northern Pacific was the recipient of the very first charter for a transcontinental line, and along with it received from the federal government some 47 million acres of land. Hill knew how to play both sides, and he took advantage of the very same land grants that other railroads did. He just had his privately funded railroad too.

Taken together, the Hill lines across the Dakotas were the ultimate monopoly, controlling not only grain transport to market, but the import of all outside goods and the transport of all passengers. His considerable efforts to merge the two began in the 1890’s, but antitrust and labor concerns kept the efforts at bay until 1970.

So, boys and girls, be sure to look beyond the incredible tales of Libertarians that the invisible hand of the market and mere hard work will make all of us wealthy. James J. Hill did it, but only with plenty of government handouts.

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