The Voice, the Veep, and The Godfather Sunday, Dec 12 2010 

Change of pace: No politics today since it’s a national holiday. Or should be. A new biography, “Frank: The Voice,” reminds us that on this date, December 12, 1915, Francis Albert Sinatra was born in Hoboken, New Jersey.

No, I wasn’t around at the time but that doesn’t stop me from having a Sinatra story in my past. Some heavy name-dropping here, but if living in Washington half a century doesn’t entitle you to name-drop, what’s the point of it?

The story has to do with a trip to the West Coast I made with my then-employer, Vice President Spiro Agnew, in the summer of 1971. Agnew and Sinatra had struck up a friendship (despite Richard Nixon’s disapproval) and the Vice President soon became a frequent visitor at Sinatra’s home in Palm Desert, California. (more…)

Old Gambler’s Proverb Sunday, Dec 12 2010 

“There is nothing so uncertain as a dead sure thing.”

–George M. Cohan

The Tea Party Justice Tuesday, Dec 7 2010 

Who would have guessed Antonin Scalia was a Tea Partier? In a recent appearance at Texas Tech University, Scalia threw his considerable weight behind a pet Tea Party project, repeal of the 17th amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

That, in case you don’t have your Glenn Beck-autographed copy of the Constitution nearby, is the amendment providing that U.S. Senators be elected by popular vote rather than selected by state legislatures.

Passage of the 17th amendment in 1913, argues the irrepressible Scalia, was a “progressive” abomination that brought on “the decline of so-called states’ rights throughout the rest of the 20th century.”

Which is to say that allowing voters of a state to choose their senators directly, at the polls, was the first step leading to the expansion of centralized federal power at the expense of the individual states.

Quite a stretch, if you ask me, but who am I to cross juridical swords with the godfather of constitutional originalism? Irrepressible he may be, but give Scalia credit for coming up with an original idea for cutting the cost of U.S. Senate races: The going rate for buying votes in state legislatures – the way U.S. Senators were sent to Washington before 1913 – is a helluva lot cheaper than campaigning for popular support. Just think how many millions Meg Whitman might have saved.

Day of Infamy Quiz Tuesday, Dec 7 2010 

So tell me, where were you 69 years ago today, when you first heard the news about the bombing of Pearl Harbor? (You don’t have to answer if you’re too young to be eligible for Social Security.)

Advice to Wikileaking U.S. Diplomats Tuesday, Dec 7 2010 

“Don’t write anything you can talk, don’t talk anything you can nod, don’t  nod anything you can wink.”

— Louisiana Governor Earl K. Long, circa 1955