Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

An Emerging Republican Majority?

An essay in the latest issue of Commentary by Daniel Casse is a two coffee read. It is entitled "An Emerging Republican Majority?" Although Casse’s discussion is worth reading I think he doesn’t really get the idea of a Republican majority (or realignment) right. He seems to argue that Bush has to stand closer to the center and garner bipartisan support for his policies and this will help make the GOP into the majority party. He also says that whether or not the GOP established a majority will depend on what the Demos will do. He thinks this in part because he sees the election results of last year to be "unexpected." I take issue with this, and think that the GOP victory was not unexpected and it had to do with presenting a real choice to the voters and thereby forcing the Democrats into addressing issues on Republican terms, unless they want to continue to lose elections. The Demos must be forced to recast themselves into a mold that looks more Republican; this is what happens in a true realigment, and, arguably, has been happening since the 1980’s. (The less the Democrats become like the GOP, the more irrelevant they will become.) Clinton ran as a new Democrat in 1992 (once "liberal" became a term of dissaprobation) and was forced to at least appear to govern under the GOP created political universe; and then note both the GOP victory in 1994 and the Demos response to that. The minority party has to begin looking like the majority party, not vice versa. Steve Hayward argues that the 2002 election confirms that the election of 1994 was the biginning of a realignment. That the Demos are in denial over this is a good sign for the GOP; they’ll become less relevant. I highly recommend his thoughtful piece. You might also want to see a talk I gave to the Ashland County Republicans in December of 1994. In this talk I tried to clarify the meaning of realignment and whether or not we were then in the middle of one, and/or what we must do in order to form such a realigning majority. Although there is nothing original in my talk (worth only one coffee), it being entirely derived from Lubell, Jaffa, Kesler, et al, it has the virtue of making clear what realignment means, I hope.

Mainly Bad News & Odds and Ends

Back to reality from the Ohio State victory. At least nine U.S. soldiers have been wounded in a gun fight with terrorists in the Philippines. A rabbi has been stabbed in France by a man yelling "Allah Akbar." He escaped. There are food riots in Zimbabwe and the famine is caused by both drought and the arbitrary take over of white own farms, according to the news report. It amazes me how frequently bad weather visits tyrannies. A Florida journalist has been suspended for a week without pay because he made critical remarks (in a private e-mail) about Muslims. Mouse testicles have become a hot seller in Taiwan after five infertile couples said they conceived after eating dishes containing the organs. I hope the Estonians are listening. Violent crime is increasing in England. Note this: "The ban on handweapons above .22 calibre, which was
introduced in 1997 after the Dunblane primary school
shootings, forced many legitimate owners to surrender their
guns but did nothing to stop underworld supplies." Surprise.
Gephardt says he will seek the presidency because "Bush is leading the country either down the wrong path or not leading at all." The goofy Raelians are claiming that a second cloned baby was born to a lesbian woman in the Netherlands. The first claim they made last month has yet to be varified, yet the press continues to take them seriously.

And the man who invented the Spiro Agnew wrist watch died.

Buckeye Nation

John and I watched the game, refused interruptions from faithless family members, and delighted in the whole thing. Great game . The natutral order of things has been reestablished. All is well in the world. Optimism and good humor will reign during the whole year. And Al Sharpton has announced that he will run for president because he is the most qualified.

The Ohio State Game

The game is tonight at 8 p.m. The other team is good, very good. And the good guys aren’t given much of a chance by anyone who counts. Ohio State is to lose by at least seven points. Because I have already noted the great game against Michigan (and the only one that really counts) I do not have a lot to say on the national championship. I hope we win, and we still might. I know we will play well. Sometimes the heart can have an effect on the ability. Besides, Woody Hayes is watching it all and we should win it for his sake. Why we should win is made perfectly clear by a masterful and wonderful piece by Harry V. Jaffa on the great captain. Vivit post funera virtus.

Who’s Running for President?

Alt is both wrong and right. He is wrong about me: I have chosen not to run (I can’t remember exactly the way Coolidge put it). I can’t say "yes." But he is right about losing count of those who are running. Many have already said yes, and more will do so. It is indeed a very crowded Demo field, and let me add more to it. Don’t forget Al Sharpton. And it is rumored that Wesley Clark (former NATO chief, now twice-a-week CNN commentator) is interested and would publicly say so if it weren’t in his CNN contract not to; he doesn’t want to go against CNN because that is prime means of exposure to the American public and he needs it. Chances are he is also (along with Edwards) interested in becoming VP. The other who is thinking about it is Senator Bob Graham of Florida. That would put another Southerner in the race with some foreign policy/terrorism credentials. And there will be more. And it will be very interesting, I think. A lot of people are saying "yes." Which reminds me of the latest discoveries having to do with whether or not chimps can communicate, indeed, even talk. Here is a report about a talking chimp in Georgia who uses four words, one of which is "yes."
A scientist says:

"We haven’t taught him this. He’s
doing it all on his own."

"Kanzi’s ’word’ for yes stayed the same across a whole
range of emotions, suggesting that the noises were not
simply the result of differences in the chimp’s emotional

I’ve Already Lost Count

Dick Gephardt (D-MO) has announced that he will hold a kickoff event for his presidential exploratory committee later this month. Let’s see, there’s Kerry, and Dean, and Edwards, and Gephardt . . . and it’s only January. Next thing you know, Schramm will announce his candidacy . . . it’s only a matter of time.

Saddam to Step Down?

There is yet another report--rather more explicit than ones I have noted in the past (see my post of December 30)--that many Arab leaders are pressing Saddam to step down and go into retirement, it is asserted that "there will be a land for him," somewhere. The Saudis would like an opportunity, when war is imminent, of persuading him to go into exile. This squares with the way President Bush has been talking about there being no necessity for war, war is only the last option, etc., despite the buildup. There is also an implication in all of this that if he didn’t step down there would be a coup by the military which, no doubt, we have helped orchestrate. So why the very public buildup? Well, because war is possible and because the buildup makes the necessity of war less likely. Also, troops will be needed in the area should Saddam pack it in. Some interesting possibilities, clarification due by the end of the month, mid-February at the latest.

War with which Country?

This is a transcript of the president’s press conference at the ranch (after the long walk with reporters). Much of his responses were reported on camera in the news cycle yesterday, but not the response below. It is about half way down in the text.

QUESTION: If we do have to go to war...

BUSH: With which country?

The Flash in the Pan is Blinding

Howard Kurtz offers evidence today suggesting that Senator Edwards’s moment may have already come . . . and gone. Note in the extended quote below that the reporters are already reading his presidential bid as one for VP, which I predicted on the day of his announcement.

But the media, once so taken with Edwards, seem to have grown a bit tired of his fresh-faceness. After a spectacular run of favorable press – including People’s "sexiest politician" nod and Time calling him the party’s "golden boy" – the buzz on Edwards has not been great lately. Minutes into yesterday’s press availability, a reporter asked whether he’d be willing to accept the vice-presidential slot. (Already? On the day of his announcement? Don’t you have to tank in the polls before that question gets asked?)

Raelians, Cloning, and Journalistic Sloth

I am glad to see these two articles ( Los Angeles Times and Pioneer Press (Mn) take up the issue of why the press (print, TV, everybody) even covered this claim of the Raelian religious cult (who claim to be given marching orders by space aliens!) to have cloned a baby. They gave no proof and got day and night frenzied coverage internationally. What has happened to journalistic judgment? Everybody knew these guys are off the wall, have a track record of weird opinions and actions and are known to be essentually nothing but fruitcake publicity hounds. Why cover it? I mean it wasn’t the Mayo Clinic making the announcement, after all. Now we are to wait a few more days before we are offered proof. And the coverage will continue....This really amazes me. These are the first artciles I have seen on this issue, and I am glad.

Estonians Encouraged to Have More Babies

I noted a few weeks ago that Europe has the lowest fertility rate of any continent. Now the president of Estonia is encouraging its citizens to make more babies. Estonia has a population of 1.4 million and declining. I guess the president understands when The Poet says:
Herein Lies wisdom, beauty, increase;
Without this, folly, age and cold decay.
(Sonnet 11, 5-6)

I have been in Estonia a number of times, sometimes for weeks at a time (teaching civics to high school teachers) and I can tell you that Estonians are very nice people, albeit overly sober (although a third of them are Russians and they’re much less sober). It seems to me you have to have a sense of humor to have children, and if you have more than two, you are the cause of wit in other men.

Frist Helps Injured in Accident

Senator Frist was driving along in Florida, noticed an accident (a car rolled over; please note that it was an Isuzu Rodeo!) and got out to help, and help he did. It is amazing that something like this would happen to Frist just a few days before the new Senate meets. His opponents are going to have a tough time making him into an Iago-like figure (which they have been working on).

News Year’s Day or April Fool’s Day?

The New York Times seemed confused about what day it was yesterday. The front page carried a hilarious parody of a news story entitled, "Outflanked Democrats Wonder How to Catch Up in Media Wars." The story says liberals feel they don’t have enough clout in the major media to "get their message out." Could it be April Fool’s Day and I missed three months of my life?

Among the comic gems of the story is this line: "In one of the more ambitious ideas circulating, a group of wealthy Democratic supporters is toying with the idea of starting a liberal cable network."

Uh, ever heard of CNN, not to mention ABC?

My guess is that this new comedy writing is Howell Raines’ idea to rescue the sinking reputation of the Times.

Now back to Augusta.

Internet Distractions in the Classroom

The New York Times has an interesting article today about internet in the classroom, and the challenge for professors in keeping their students’ attention. Having actually attended a law school that had internet connections in some classrooms, I have to say that it is a mixed blessing. While it does offer distractions, it also was invaluable for searching case law. I welcome comments on this question, particularly from any students who might be sitting in class and reading this blog.

It’s Official: Add Edwards to the List of Dems Running For President

Senator John Edwards (D-NC) announced on the Today Show that he is forming an exploratory committee to run for Democratic Nomination for President. He says that he wants to be a champion for "regular people" in the White House. Let’s be honest: Edwards is a trial lawyer who used the misfortunes of regular people to make himself a multi-millionaire. Now he hopes that populist appeal of "regular people" will take him into the White House.

But Edwards isn’t really aiming for the White House--at least not yet. He’s too green for such a leap. No, this is an opportunity to get his name out there, and to position himself as a possible VP candidate, which is the position he will really be gunning for this time around.

Do Blacks Oppose Affirmative Action?

Lucas Morel reflects on an article by Stuart Taylor regarding whether or not blacks support affirmative action. (Link to Taylor from Morel). Morel argues that the real problem is

"the perception
that eliminating affirmative action is tantamount to reversing
a palpable gain associated with the modern Civil Rights
Movement is the obstacle to true progress in bridging
America’s racial divide." And that this problem can only be overcome by some clear thinking and talking especially on the part of Bush administration. A good start in the post Lott political universe would be the filing of a legal brief with the Supreme Court against affirmative action as practiced by the University of Michigan. Stick to the question of justice and fairness (that is, real civil rights) and on this both blacks and whites can agree, and will agree. Both articles are well worth reading.

Relief for the Sixth Circuit

The understaffed Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals may finally be getting some new judges. The Toledo Blade reports this morning that appellate lawyer Jeff Sutton and Ohio Supreme Court Justice Deborah Cook are scheduled to have a hearing before the Judiciary Committee on January 14th. On a negative note, Chief Justice Moyer has convinced Cook not to take part in any cases which the Ohio Supreme Court is hearing in the next few weeks. While this might make sense if confirmation was assured and speedy, the procedure in the Senate is still somewhat uncertain, leaving open the possibility that Cook may not take her new bench for a number of weeks if not months. The list of possible replacements for Justice Cook includes William Batchelder, a court of appeals judge who served in the legislature with none other than John M. Ashbrook, for whom this web site is named.

Gangs of New York as Citizens

This is Sean Mattie’s (Hillsdale College) take on the movie "Gangs of New York." It is both a good and serious review and he uses the theme of the movie to reflect on the meaning of American citizenship. A one coffee read. I haven’t gotten around to seeing yet, hope to do it this weekend.

Canadians See U.S. As Bullies

Sixty-seven percent of Canadians surveyed agreed with the statement that the U.S. government is starting to act like a bully with the rest of the world. Explaining this statistic, Michael Sullivan of the Strategic Counsel states:

"As Canadians, we take pride in our role as peacemaking and peacekeeping," Mr. Sullivan said. "I think that that is part of our personality. We take pride in medicare, we take pride in our peacekeeping role. And when we look at the U.S., we don’t see those kind of values necessarily reflected."

Well, as for socialized medicine, I suppose he’s right: America doesn’t share Canadian values. We don’t think that you should have to wait weeks and months for necessary surgery. We also have this strange desire to innovate--using new technologies, medicines, and procedures, which seem to be inimical to the Canadian system.

And as for peacekeeping, we Americans have this nasty habit of doing the heavy lifting of actually creating the conditions for peace, leaving it to those nations like Canada whose moral indignation at the unpleasantness of international conflict prevents them from displaying the moral resolve necessary to make difficult choices.

Of course, this is not the first snowball of criticism lobbed from the icy north. Canada PM Chretien suggested on September 11th of this year that America was somehow to blame for the WTC attacks because of economic disparity throughout the world. Yet it is somehow difficult to take criticism from Canada seriously. What incenses Canada is that even they know that on their best day, they are sort of like the U.S.’s little brother. You know, the kid who would get beat up by every passing punk, but for the fact that his brother is the biggest kid on the block. No one really respects the little brother, because they know that there is no merit in this accident of birth. The big brother, however, gets respect, not just because he is big, but because he doesn’t throw his weight around without cause. Similarly, no one really thinks that Canada would amount to much more than a third-world country with a thriving hockey league if not for the U.S. In fact, if not for the U.S., they would probably have to make real world decisions about things like spending for defense and foreign policy.

If the Canadians are going to cast aspersions regarding "values," here is a thought to keep in mind: AQ attacked the United States because America typifies Western Democracy and represents beliefs inimical to these extremists, including freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and recognition of the right of Israel to exist as an independent nation. Canada was not Bin Laden’s target not simply because blowing up ice is less impressive than blowing up buildings, but because on these issues Canada stands once again as America’s little brother, giving a meek and quiet "me too," but failing to take the responsibility necessary to be a leader among nations.

California Diary

Pardon the length of this blog, but as it will be my only entry for the day, I feel the need to go on a bit more than usual.

Tiring, as all sensible people do, with the cold weather in the east, I packed up the family for our summer home on the California coast for new year’s week, where it is often sunny, except in El Nino years, such as this one, which explains the 80 mile per hour winds that tore off a section of my roof last week. I’m hoping for enough sunshine on New Year’s Day to do the annual polar bear swim in the ocean at noon at the Cayucos pier.

But this morning’s local news brings some sunshine into my life: a California State Appeals Court, in a 3-0 decision, has ruled that the California Coastal Commission violates the constitutional principle of the separation of powers, and is thereby illegal. The Coastal Commission, for you non-Californians, is one of those modern administrative agencies that combine bureaucratic ideology of near-Stalinist zeal with petty corruption of the worst kind. (One former commission member went to prison for using his position for bribery and extortion; other obvious insider corruption goes un-prosecuted.) The Coastal Commission was created by ballot initiative in 1972 as a temporary agency to come up with a long-term plan to protect California’s coastline, but somehow became a permanent regulatory agency.

The Coastal Commission is merely the tip of the bureaucratic iceberg that has been sinking development in California for more than a generation. The little coastal town of Cambria I call my second home provides ample example of how this game works. Way back in 1984, a local bank proposed to build 100,000 square feet of commercial development on land it owns in town, including a hotel, shops, restaurants, and badly needed parking. Eighteen years later, after five environmental impact reports, the bank is finally going to be allowed to build—7,000 square feet.

Cambria is aggressively anti-growth, which is great for my own property value, but bad for the public interest. It is of course illegal to be openly anti-growth, so the local water authorities slow down the pace of development through the simple expedient of not adding any new water capacity for the town, and then say to building applicants: “Sorry—we don’t have enough water; you’ll have to wait.” And wait. And wait. Finally the area has become so short of water that a building moratorium has been enacted.

But then along came Habitat for Humanity, which wants to build one (1) affordable cost house here in town. It would be the height of embarrassment for the local water lords to say No to Habitat (Jimmy Carter would think ill of the town), so the water lords “discovered” a loophole in the moratorium to allow the Habitat project go ahead right away. Meanwhile, low-income Hispanic families, who provide the bulk of the labor for the retirees and tourist trade in town, are crowding two or three families into a single house or small apartment.

Just up the coast from here, the Hearst family still owns 128 square miles (square miles!—not acres) of land along the coast, and has long wanted to do some modest development. But they have always been stymied by the regulators. The latest Hearst proposal was to build a hotel and about 400 homes on the land (the homesites were approved decades ago in state land planning law), which would have a net population density of something like the Gobi Desert. All the local self-appointed activist “conservation” groups got into the act and said No, threatened endless lawsuits, and forced the Hearsts to back down. A “compromise” has just been reached: the Hearst may build a total of 27 homes on their 128 square miles, none of them near the beach or in sight of Highway 1, and they have to provide public access to 18 miles of previously inaccessible coastline. While several conservation groups now support the proposal, the Sierra Club has not yet “signed off” on the plan, and the “Friends of the Ranchland” remained “concerned” about exactly where the 27 homes are going to be sited, and “whether or not the Hearsts will set aside certain beach areas for themselves.” Imagine: setting aside beach areas for yourself on your own land!

And people still scratch their heads about why there is no affordable housing in California.

Happy New Year!

A nice line from the Poet:

The mortal moon hath her eclipse endured,
And the sad augurs mock their own presage.
(Sonnet 107, 5-6)

It’s 10:00 a.m. on New Years Eve . . . And 32 Congressmen Are Already Having Trouble Standing

No, I’m not talking about Ted Kennedy and his distinguished colleagues after a few too many Chivas-on-the-rocks. The Associated Press reports that a judge for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed a lawsuit filed by 32 congressmen challenging Bush’s withdrawal from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty because the legislators lacked standing. For those unfamiliar with the law, courts are only permitted by the Constitution to decide actual cases or controversies, and therefore the courts require those bringing suit to have "standing"--that is, plaintiffs must be able to demonstrate actual or imminent injury which is traceable to the complained of matter and which is redressable by the court. The district court’s decision that the congressmen lack standing is clearly the correct opinion in light of the Supreme Court’s recent decision finding that members of Congress lacked standing to challenge the line-item veto bill. (NB: the line item veto was subsequently struck down by the Supreme Court when interested parties who suffered actual injury as the result of spending lines being vetoed brought suit.) The judge declared that "[p]ermitting individual congressmen to run to federal court any time they are on the losing end of some vote or issue would circumvent and undermine the legislative process." Thanks as always to Howard Bashman’s How Appealing Blog for providing a link to the decision, which you can see here.

More on the Five Sought by FBI

It is becoming increasingly clearer why those five whose photo has been plastered all over TV for days are being sought. They are thought to be involved in a passport smuggling operation, and have al Qaeda connections. It also seems that they are likely to be in the state of New York. Not good.

Ships of Concern

The Washington Post reports that U.S. intelligence has identified fifteen cargo freighters around the world that are thought to be controlled by al Qaeda. This is no easy job, and the newstory explains why.

A Reminder of Clinton Corruption

AP reports that Mark Jimenez, a a congressman in the Phillipines, made his first appearance in a Miami federal court. "The U.S. government accused Jimenez of using
corporate money to reimburse employees for illegal
donations to President Clinton and other candidates.
Donors were employees of Future Tech International
Inc., a Miami computer parts distribution business owned by Jimenez, and Mark
Vision Computer, another Miami company owned by a relative.

Jimenez was accused of illegally routing $50,000 to the Democratic National
Committee and $33,500 in donations to campaign committees."

GOP Dominates Rural Vote

The Chicago Sun Times reports that rural voters supported GOP congressional candidates by a 60-36 percent margin. As recently as 1988 the Democrats got 56 percent of the rural votes.

Ultimatum to Iraq?

According to the BBC the Saudis are denying the veracity of the New York Times story (Dec 29) which claimed that the Saudis would allow the bases to be used. And the Debka File reports that Syrian President Assad picked up a message while he was in London (from PM Tony Blair), a final ultimatum, from President Bush to Saddam Hussein, and delivered it to Hussein on December 21 or 22. The nine points listed make clear that unless certain things happen by mid-January war cannot be avoided. Interesting. May this explain Iraq’s recent willingness to allow scientists to be interviewed, Prime Minister Sharon’s assertion that MWD’s have been moved to Syria, and the latest Saudi flap? There is an implication in all of this that Saddam Hussein may be willing to give in, even be willing to go into exile, and that various Arab states are putting on the pressure for him to do so. Complicated.

Fried on Campaign Finance

Professor Charles Fried of Harvard Law School offers a nice article explaining the constitutional problems with McCain-Feingold in today’s New York Times. Worth a read.

Some Bad News

An American soldier was wounded in Afghanistan yesterday, while three American Baptist missionaries working in a hospital were killed in Yemen. A local in Yemeni said: The killings are "a crime unacceptable in any religion. This contradicts
Islam," said a Jibla woman who gave only her first name, Fatima, and said
she used the hospital. "They cared for us and looked after us. I can’t even
count the number of children they treated and saved." I hope Senator Patty Murray takes note of this.

The Unimpressive John Edwards

The New York Times runs its Edwards profile story today and the only thing I got out of it is that he wants to be president (and talked about it as early as 1975), that he doesn’t have any ideas, and he thinks people will vote for him because he is, well, sort of ordinary; people like him. This is what they mean by saying that he is the "anti-Gore candidate." Very unimpressive. The only reason he is being talked about is because he is from the South, is young, and good looking. He will announce on January 4th. See these few paragraphs on Edwards from The Scrum. He will not even get off the ground, in my humble opinion.

Not a Slaveholder, But He Played One on TV

In the tradition of Senators who should know better, the Washington Times reports that Senator Byrd (D-WV) will be playing the role of a confederate slaveholder in an upcoming movie. The NAACP has already denounced Byrd’s role, saying: "It’s not in keeping with his Senate position to be playing that kind of role," said West Virginia NAACP head James Tolbert. Now this insensitivity on the part of Senator Byrd could just be a misunderstanding, so like other recent Senatorial missteps it is useful to consider his past practices. As recently as 2001, Byrd used the "N" word on Fox News. In the 1940s, he was a recruiter for the KKK. In 1945, he wrote the following about the desegregation of the armed forces:

"[I will] never submit to fight beneath [the American flag] with a Negro by my side. Rather I should die a thousand times, and see Old Glory trampled in the dirt never to rise again, than to see this beloved land of ours become degraded by race mongrels, a throwback to the blackest specimen from the wilds."

And, of course, Byrd is not the only Democratic currently serving in the Senate with a segregationist past. Fritz Hollings (D-SC) is a former segregationist, and Zell Miller (D-GA) got his start in politics working for one of the staunchest segegationists in Georgia politics. I did not choose to bring these issues up during the Lott affair simply because it was important to get the GOP house in order without using the "but you do it" defense. But now that he has stepped down as Majority Leader, perhaps it is time for the Democratic party to look at the log in its own eye.

Voter News Service Dying

The New York Times reports that the major television networks and AP are considering dissolving their decadelong partnership with VNS, the election day polling organization that screwed things up in 2000, and altogether collepsed in 2002. I think this would be a good thing because news outlets (and professors) have become too dependent on the polling (note the emphasis) organization. Mickey Kaus considers how this will effect the Iowa caucuses which have, in his words, "been virtually creatures of the VNS." Iowa will become less important, and less liberal Demo candidates will have a better shot in the primaries.

Elk, Drunk, Attacks

In central Sweden an elk, drunk on rotten (fermented) apples, attacked an eight year old boy; he was only slightly hurt, the elk was killed. I note this as a cautionary note to my younger friends--those given to sports, to wildness, and much company--who may contemplate bringing in the new year by overindulging for the sake of general joy. The purpose does not always presage the result.

Al Qaeda, Diamonds, Africa, and the Importance of Intelligence

This story from today’s Washington Post reads like a James Bond thriller. There are spies, and shady characters a-plenty; cornering the diamond market and purchasing weapons, a lot of big weapons; African tyrants from Burkina Faso and Liberia and bad guys from Panama and Nicaragua to Bulgaria; and the value of the computer purchased for peanuts by the Wall Street Journal in Afghanistan a year ago. There are also signs of CIA mistakes (and European determination); signs of huge amount of money and weapons being at stake; signs that Al Qaeda is well organized and smart, very smart. This is a must read; worth reading as if it were a Platonic dialogue, and don’t forget to read between the lines.

Saudi Bases and Reality

The only reason for noting this story in today’s New York Times is that it shows (inadvertently) not only the extraordinary complications of our Iraq strategy/diplomacy, but its success. There has never been any doubt in my mind that the Saudis would go along with our plans. Ironically, their survival (in some form) may well be assured by a liberalisation of the Mid-East, of which the regime change in Iraq is only one piece. They learned this about six months after 9/11. Yet, these things are difficult for them to say, and not only out of self-interest, but because they are in the habit of saying things that they think their listeners want to hear, rather than saying something for the sake of clarity or the truth. Words are not the same as ideas, and ideas are not facts, not reality. Facts and reality are ignored. Remember Saddam claiming victory even before the "mother of all battles"? There is coming a point in all this diplomacy/strategy when the Arab fondness for the poetry of their language will have to start receding in favor of what reason may be found in and with the language; else, they will have to learn to think in a tongue that is able to represent reality.

American Imperialism?

This is a thoughtful and well-written essay (rather long, no doubt could have used some editing) by a blogger I know nothing about, a guy named William Whittle. It is on the American character, on empire, on hegemony, on the world’s cognative dissonance regarding America and her people. Here are a few paragraphs to whet your appetite:

"They went home is what they did. They did pause for a few years to rebuild the nations sworn to their destruction and the
murder of their people. They carbon-copied their own system of government and enforced it on their most bitterly hated
enemy, a people who have since given so much back to the world as a result of this generosity. They left troops in and
sent huge sums of money to Europe to rebuild what they all knew would eventually become trading partners, but also
determined competitors. Then they sent huge steel blades through their hard-earned fleets of ships and airplanes and
came home to get on with their lives in peace and quiet.

Oh, and some of the islands they had visited had asked to remain under the American flag as territories and
protectorates, free to leave whenever they choose.

We are still too close to our actions in those critical years to fully grasp the meaning of what we did. Distant history will
show it to be the most magnanimous act in human history, a test of national character passed with such glory and
distinction that it baffles and amazes both our friends and enemies to this day."

"In one sense perhaps, we are, in fact, an Empire. We are an empire of the mind, a place whose dreams and ideals have
colonized the world. We are a black hole of desire upon which billions place their unfocused hopes. And yet, to them it
seems as if we turn them away. We dangle freedom and hope and comfort in front of them with a glimpse into our
everyday lives though television and movies. They want what we have, desperately. And they hate us for not giving it to

Well, sooner or later they are going to have to grow up a little and face some unpleasant truths. These people want the
fruits of our success; they want our freedoms and our wealth and our confidence. But they are not willing to do the work.
They are not willing to pay for it."

Why is there so little money in U.S. politics?

George Will (who ought to be recovering this morning from sharing the same table at ABC with Al Franken!) has a good column on campaign financing, basing the logos on an article in an upcoming issue of Journal of Economic Perspectives. The thrust is this:

Although the growth of the regulatory state in the 20th century made
government vastly more important as an allocator of wealth and opportunity,
campaign spending as a fraction of national income did not grow during
the last nine decades of the 20th century. That is, it did not grow after the
coming of the secret ballot and civil service and other reforms that weakened
the vote-buying powers of political machines. This, the authors say, "suggests
that the private benefits bought through the campaign finance system are not
an increasing problem for our economy."

The consumption/participation model explains why political contributing, like
charitable giving and consumption generally, increases with per capita income
rather than with the value of government activity. It also explains why political
contributing by rent-seeking interest groups is so small relative to the
monetary value of government action.

The authors’ study of legislative decision-making accords with the extensive
social science literature that concludes that legislators’ voting is almost entirely
a function of their own beliefs and the preferences of their voters and their
party. The authors say that "after controlling adequately for legislator ideology,
[interest group] contributions have no detectable effects on legislative