Monday 28 August 2006

Al Gore

So much for the UK (or Scotland) being anti-American. Last night Al Gore was welcomed by the assembled ranks of Friends of the Earthers, Liberal Democrats, BBC journalists, pro and anti-independence Scots and assorted members of the Edinburgh Great and the Good, as if he were Mick Jagger over at Hampden Park. The Sunday night whooping and hollering must have caused a mass outbreak of birling in the graves of deceased local Presbyterians. However, unlike at the Glasgow gig, there was no smoking or inhaling by Mr Gore in Edinburgh. He did however appear to be enjoying a wee dram during the book signing session. (Look carefully at the photo below.)

Gore was introduced by Herald political writer Iain MacWhirter, who seemed quite beside himself with joy at sitting beside the great presence - "a man who could be the next President of the USA, because, after all, he’s already been elected to the position!” Except it ain't true.

MacWhirter (a Herald political "expert") told us that if Gore had been President the US would have signed up for Kyoto. "Not true," I whispered to Mrs F&W. To his credit, Gore pointed out MacWhirter's error. In the American system it's the Senate and not the President that ratifies treaties and they voted against Kyoto by 95 to 0. Gore didn't think it too likely that Kyoto would pass now even if he were President.

Gore had lost any sign of the woodenness that I'd read about during his presidential campaign. He spoke very competently and without (apparent) notes. He started with a series of one-liners: "For eight years I flew around in Air Force 2 and now I have to take off my shoes and belt before I can get on a plane." Tough, Al. Welcome to the real world.

MacWhirter asked about Global Warming and it's "human causes". We got the full Gore spiel. As far as can be discerned, according to Al, the scientific community is unanimous that it's all our fault. Except, once again, it ain't true. But the Edinburgh audience weren't told about any modern dissenters although I was sorely tempted to give a good old traditional shout of "Daur ye say nonsense in ma lug?" Of course, Jenny Geddes (*) didn't have the Secret Service to worry about. I presume that Mr Gore did have his own security but the two heavies at the book signing session were Scots and I'm damned sure that one of them does duty outside a well-know local pub on football Saturdays. I'm suspect that keeping Hibs and Hearts fans apart is an excellent training for protecting the former VP.

Mr Gore seemed to enjoy himself immensely. I thought that his answer to a question on Scottish independence might cause a mild panic over at Number Six. But if Scotland were to become the 51st State, Mr Gore could count on ten Electoral College votes for the Democrats. On last night's evidence at least.

(* Vegetable seller Jenny Geddes, attending morning service in St Giles, the High Kirk of Edinburgh, on 23 July 1637, is said to have picked up her stool and hurled it at the minister. That flying furniture led to the Scottish National Covenant, the English Civil War, the execution of Charles and the conquest of Scotland by Cromwell.)

I meet the man who invented the Internet

And here he is signing a book for Mrs F&W who is dressed in "Republican" red:

In a brief conversation with Mr Gore he confirmed to me that he had known (slightly) his fellow Nashville resident, the late Harry Browne who ran as presidential candidate for the Libertarian Party.

Sunday 27 August 2006

Where Atlas Shrugged?

Many libertarians have been influenced by the novels of Russian-American author Ayn Rand. Probably her best-known work is Atlas Shrugged, in which Rand shows what happens when the "men of the mind" go on strike.

Rand grew up in St Petersburg before escaping to the US. When I was in the Russian city recently I came across these statues of Atlas (CLICK to enlarge):

St Petersburg - June 2006 Originally uploaded by David Farrer.

St Petersburg - June 2006
Originally uploaded by David Farrer.

Not only that, the statues are to found in Millionaire Street:

St Petersburg - June 2006
Originally uploaded by David Farrer.

I wonder if Rand's inspiration for the title of her famous book came from her own hometown.

Not the Wright stuff

The Book Festival is almost over and I'm looking forward to getting back to a more normal existence, but I'll miss the Festival (and all the others) when it's gone.

Yesterday we went to hear Amaranta Wright in what the programme promised would be:

A vivid and eye-opening new take on globalisation. Journalist Amaranta Wright was employed as an undercover researcher on Latin American youth for Levi's - but soon realised the full arrogance of corporate globalisation, always seeking to create new consumers, however inappropriately. A passionate and timely polemic.
A "new take" for most of the audience would be one that actually explained and praised globalisation - like these folk do.

But that's not what we got; far from it. Here's an extract from the Guardian's review of Wright's book:

Childhood was punctuated by Crouch End dinner parties, "stroking the long black silky hair of mysterious Amazons as they left bespectacled Anglo-intellectuals in awe of their passionate intelligence".
Oh boy!

The whole talk was like that. Ms Wright clearly had no idea about basic economics, nor, shockingly for someone born in Latin America, about the nature of that continent's political structure. She told us that a free market economy (inevitably described as "neo-liberal") had been imposed on Latin America by military dictatorships. How I wished that a real expert on the continent had shared the platform:

From a staunchly libertarian perspective, this sweeping analysis and history considers the fate of Latin American freedom and the cultural institutions needed to protect it. Llosa looks at the ancient Incans, Aztecs and Mayans and their authoritarian ways of doing things, and asks: Isn't it time to drop this?

In modern times the tragic irony deepens. Throughout Latin America, those who governed the republics liberated from colonizing countries, and the leaders of all the major reform movements since, have shared the same approach to governance as those colonizers. Even the alleged market reforms of the 90s were attempted without the more basic changes, including well-defined property rights, without which "privatization" could only be cosmetic and spurious, mere cover for further corruption.

What must be expunged are the "five principles of oppression" -- corporatism, state mercantilism, privilege, wealth transfer, and political law -- that keep "the people" and their actual rights out of the loop despite everything done in their name. Can this be done? Llosa says yes, telling the inspiring story of how capitalism and a certain conception of rights successfully emerged in the West, and offering proposals for reform that offer genuine hope.

The military cliques in Latin America never "imposed" a free market. Governments can only respect not impose freedom. Llosa's "five principle of oppression", not capitalism, are what politicians have given to Latin America.

Sadly, the audience lapped it all up. Except for one thing. A questioner asked Ms Wright about Chavez and Castro, you know, those leaders who don't like free speech. The speaker acknowledged that there was a problem: Mr Chavez had given a 4.5 hour speech when Ken Livingstone invited him to London!

Ms Wright ended by telling us about her new anti-globalisation magazine. It's going well apart from one small problem: large companies are reluctant to advertise in it! Oh the humanity. Curse that wicked globalisation.

Monday 21 August 2006

Monday's Festival

Barry Turner spoke about his new book Suez 1956: The Forgotten War. This was an interesting presentation and several members of the audience had been in the Army at the time. During his national service Turner was put in charge of a transport unit despite his being unable to drive. Talking of Nasser, Mr Turner said that many western politicians didn't realise that much of what Middle Eastern leaders say is exaggerated for domestic purposes and shouldn't be taken too literally. I asked him if Israel should worry about the outbursts emanating from Iran. Turner said, "No." And tomorrow is the 22nd!

Robert Lacey gave readings from his Great Tales from English History. I thought this session was a bit of a letdown.

In the evening we went to hear David Wishart talk about whisky:

The conventional way to classify Scotch malt whiskies is by region - Highland, Lowland, Speyside, Islay and Campbeltown. But knowing where they are made doesn't explain how they taste.
Well now we do because there was a well-stocked and free tasting session after Mr Wishart's very interesting illustrated talk.

These guys were present providing some of the samples.

The man:

Edinburgh - August 2006
Originally uploaded by David Farrer.

The message:

Edinburgh - August 2006
Originally uploaded by David Farrer.

Sunday 20 August 2006

Festival on Sunday

Alexander McCall Smith at the Book Festival this morning:

Edinburgh - August 2006
Originally uploaded by David Farrer.

Saturday 19 August 2006

Free to fly

Ryanair is often decried by the bien-pensants of Notting Hill on the grounds that it flies to and from some rather obscure airports. It does, although Ryanair's Scottish base is at Prestwick, the centre of the known universe.

The company's boss makes plenty of noise and his recent outbursts aren't appreciated by Martin Kelly on the grounds that Mr O'Leary isn't quite one of us.

I'm sympathetic to Martin's argument in so far as the only possibly legitimate function of the state is that of protecting the liberties of the British people and that it's up to us how the state should achieve that goal.

Today's Scotsman brings us this:

TERRORISTS are "rolling around the caves of Pakistan, laughing" at Britain's response to the terror threat, an airline boss said last night as he gave the government a seven-day deadline to relax restrictions or face legal action.

Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary described some of the security measures as "farcical, Keystone Kops-like and completely insane and ineffectual"

I have to agree with Mr O'Leary on the farcical nature of the situation, although some of the terrorists are probably a bit nearer to home than Pakistan.

But although I understand Martin's insistence on British sovereignty over the British state, does that rule out a security role for the Irishman O'Leary? Not necessarily. What if Ryanair were allowed to operate its own security system for its flights?

After all:
Mr O'Leary said the people being subjected to intense security were "not terrorists and not fanatics ... they are actually called holidaymakers".
Very well, let Ryanair operate a lax security system and see if the passengers still turn up. Other airlines may chose to adopt a policy of - how shall I put it? - passenger profiling. It's time to introduce some competition.

(UPDATE: the people have spoken.)

Mixing oil with water

Yesterday afternoon we went to hear talks given by Fred Pearce (author of When the Rivers Run Dry) and Jeremy Leggett.

Mr Pearce addressed us for around thirty minutes without even hinting at the only solution that will stop the rivers running dry, namely property rights. I'll give him his due though: he didn't mention Palestine until he had spoken for seventeen minutes. Surely some mistake.

During his presentation Pearce had a little dig at someone who had made a sensible remark at a conference he'd attended. "Even an economist agreed with me," Pearce told us. Inevitably, this raised a chortle from the assembled ranks of the Guardian-reading classes.

I was unable to ask a question during the meeting but approached Pearce afterwards. "Economics is the study of the use of scarce resources. Why didn't you mention property rights? It's only through the correct application of economics that environmental problems can be solved." I went on to point out that California's Central Valley was the fruit basket of America only because vote-seeking politicians had subsidised water in this desert area at way below cost. I was astounded when Pearce agreed with everything I said. He acknowledged that ownership was the key. He favoured the privatisation of fisheries and agreed that India would be far better off if farmers owned the water on their land instead of it being appropriated by the state.

The question is this: if some environmentalists actually do understand the economic facts of life, why do they never speak out accordingly?

I wasn't too impressed by Leggett. He made the de rigueur anti-Bush comment of course (in probably less than seventeen minutes) but what amused me was this: "We can't leave any of this to the free market, not that we have a free market, of course." Now if we don't actually have a free market, which we don't, is Mr Leggett really sure that it won't work? Has he actually studied economics? You know, the study of the use of scarce resources? There was certainly no evidence on show yesterday. If people like Mr Leggett are in charge we certainly will have a resource problem.

It was a relief to go on to hear Paul Johnston talk about his Greek novels followed by Gianrico Carofiglio, whose novels are set in southern Italy where he works as an anti-Mafia judge.

Incidentally, during this hour the noise on the roof of the marquee demonstrated that there is absolutely no danger of Scotland running out of water.

Wednesday 16 August 2006

No bias here

The BBC is setting up a rival to al-Jazeera and this is what it promises:
"It will maintain the BBC values of accuracy, editorial independence, impartiality, while balancing a wide diversity of views."

The BBC yesterday said its new television service would be "free from commercial, political and religious affiliations or pressures".

I suppose it's possible that some BBC people really believe this nonsense. I've watched the Beeb for long enough. Will they refund my licence fee so as I can try the competition for a while?

Tuesday's Festival

Last night we went to another debate, this time between Michael Gove MP and Hywel Williams on who really runs Britain. Mr Williams thinks that it's the City:
He depicts the political elite, now more centralised than ever before in the House of Commons. He shows how governments and parliamentary parties all embrace the interests of finance capital. He also examines the professional elites, especially business consultants, IT firms, university vice-chancellors and City lawyers.

But the core of this book, as of the ruling class, is the financial and business elite. Williams shows us "the core competence of the City of London: reckless gambling on the one hand and well-spoken, beautifully suited, sharp practice on the other." He notes, "The rest of London - indeed the rest of Britain - could disappear tomorrow and the City would carry on functioning quite happily."

Mr Williams - a Marxist - said that he would prefer to see a more competitive form of capitalism. Yes, and the way to get that is to limit the state to the protection of property rights and the upholding of the rule of law. What's unfair about the elites is not their wealth but their close connections with the state. Abolish most of the state's functions and there would be no advantage to be gained from getting close to politicians. And the country wouldn't be so centralised on London.

I was pleased to hear Mr Gove discuss the impact of blogs in exposing the links between the elites and the state. I was even more pleased when he told me that he was a reader of this blog!

Edinburgh Hate Festival

I've been having a bit of an argument with some of the folk over at Tim Blair's place.

Monday's Festival

On Monday I went to the RIAS exhibition:
The Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland 2006 Festival Exhibition is intended to be a revealing and affectionate response from some of the people who play an important part in the Incorporation’s role in the promotion and understanding of architecture.
One architect had picked the BBC transmitter at Kirk O' Shotts as his favourite place in Scotland. Odd, I thought, but apparently there are fantastic views of both Glasgow and Edinburgh up there and I'll pay a visit some day - complete with camera.

Then it was on to the Culloden Exhibition at the National Trust for Scotland's HQ.

That is handily located next to the Book Festival where I heard Eric Beinhocker speak on Society and Business. This was a bit disappointing. He took almost 50 minutes to say that the economy is somehow evolving and that this evolution is effectively a good thing. In the ten minutes left for questions I wasn't able to suggest that most of us had worked that out already.

In the evening Mrs F&W and I went to hear a debate on the Middle East between Con Coughlin, defence correspondent of the Telegraph, and Gwynne Dyer. After the debate I asked both speakers if they thought that there was any significance in the date 22nd August, about which there's been huge speculation on the web. Neither had heard of the rumours and Coughlin made a remark about Nostradamus. Unfortunately, I'd forgotten that the Wall Street Journal had also written about what might happen on the 22nd. Let's hope that the Iranians don't "light up the sky over Jerusalem", but if they do, Mr Coughlin should be suitably sheepish. The debate was chaired by Iain MacWhirter.

Monday 14 August 2006

Out and about in Edinburgh

The Festival started for me on Wednesday when I visited the Edinburgh Photographic Society's annual exhibition. I was a little disappointed this year but perhaps that's because I've attended the event so many times that it's becoming too familiar. And we were spoiled by last year's Cartier Bresson show. I am looking forward to seeing Harry Benson's work at the Portrait Gallery and Albert Watson at the City Art Centre.

Yesterday I went to four events at the Book Festival. First, I heard the incomparable Christopher Brookmyre address a full house in the big tent. He was - as always - good value and told us that his website now contains a glossary for the Scotologically challenged in which you can learn that "Fitba" is a:

Popular team sport known in some quarters as “soccer”, invented and given to the world by the Scots. English claims to have invented it rest on their having the first Football Association, which proves only that they invented football bureaucracy. Thanks a pantload, guys. You form yet another bloody committee and a hundred years later, we had to put up with Jim Farry.

Unfortunately this also means that Scotland gets to enjoy the "Old Firm", which is an:

Ingenious idiot-identification scheme which tags halfwits, criminals, thugs and assorted neerdowells voluntarily in blue or green-and-white garments, making them easier for the rest of us to avoid.
(Mr Brookmyre supports St Mirren!)

Next were rather more sedate but nevertheless excellent presentations from historians Mike Dash and Tom Holland, respectively authors of Thug and Persian Fire.

After a "beverage" break it was time to hear Paul Johnston and Aline Templeton discuss "Location, Place and Crime Fiction". Conclusion: it's still OK to create yet another detective based in Edinburgh.

Finally, Mrs F&W and I went to hear Francis Fukuyama give a lecture based on his new book After the Neocons: America at the Crossroads. We sat alongside Mr Eugenides and another political friend. I thought that Fukuyama was somewhat bland and didn't hear anything new. Audience score: Moonbats 20%, Anti-moonbats 25%, Silent Majority 55%.

(UPDATE: I've just ordered tickets for the newly announced Al Gore event on the 27th.)

(Another UPDATE: Book Festival director Catherine Lockerbie tells me that Al sold out at 10am.)

It's simple really

Janet Daley asks:
Whose considered judgment is it that the broadcast (unlike the print) media should cringe in the face of extremist Islam?
It is the "considered judgment" of a broadcast media that is (unlike the print media) financed or regulated by the state.

Saturday 12 August 2006

Motorway service stations

These hated institutions are the subject of a piece in today's FT by Tim Harford:
Competition between MSAs could fix all that, and this is where the government campaign against the motorist comes in.
Mr Harford explains just how the state restricts competition between and within MSAs. Unsurprisingly, the bureaucrats' mistrust of advertising is a major problem.

There is one exception to the horror of Britain's service stations and I always use Tebay when driving north on the M6.

Others agree:

Top of the league was the independently run service station at Tebay on the M6 in Cumbria: "An attractive wooden building with terrific far-reaching Cumbrian views and a duck pond make a great first impact ... With stuffed pheasant, a deli counter and a selection of chutneys and jams, this is the closest the motorway network comes to Harrods' Food Hall," they rave.
I wonder if the Scottish Executive has any power over MSAs up here. In over-centralised Britain, perhaps not. But I'd like to see a "Scottish Tebay" on the M8 replacing the present incumbent at the armpit of Scotland.

The MSM and the bloggers

In today's Scotsman (but behind the subscription wall), Joyce McMillan makes a plaintive call for "real journalism". She starts off with an easy target:
The News of the World, for example, has been a byword for filthy and intrusive stories about bishops, actresses and divorces for 150 years
But this is a mere lead-in to what's really bugging Ms McMillan:
...society as a whole should end its foolish flirtation with the idea that professional journalism is somehow dead, now that every citizen can generate his or her own news stories and images, and write them up in his or her own blog. No-one on the planet has a hope in hell of understanding what is going on, in this chaotic universe of digitised disinformation, unless someone, somewhere, continues to undertake the job of information-gathering, agenda-setting, contextualising, editing and analysis that has been the role of serious journalists down the ages, regardless of the medium through which their work is presented.
Now, hold on. I'm not aware of any serious blogger who claims to "undertake the job of information-gathering" in the same way as can a newspaper or broadcasting company with hundreds or thousands of employees. It's when we get on to "agenda-setting, contextualising, editing and analysis" that the problem arises. And the problem I'm alluding to is that mainstream journalists all too often bitterly resent any suggestion that they are anything other than "objective".

Now, I can accept that a journalist covering, say, the physical sciences, may be objective, but when we are dealing with questions of politics and economics it's clear that there is no consensus. The mainstream media (especially the taxpayer-funded BBC) is full of journalists who portray themselves as "objective" when they are nothing of the sort. All successful political bloggers of the sort maligned by Ms McMillan openly declare their ideological starting-point and are increasingly becoming the "serious journalists" of our time. The relentless and instant feedback of the web together with expert knowledge is making many bloggers far more reliable than so-called professional journalists.

Tuesday 8 August 2006

From Finest Hour to a nation of snitches

"The day will come when the joybells will ring again throughout Europe, and when victorious nations, masters not only of their foes but of themselves, will plan and build in justice, in tradition, and in freedom a house of many mansions where there will be room for all."
But no "mansions" for smokers:
The Evening News website revealed yesterday that the actor, who is playing Winston Churchill in the Fringe show Allegiance, had abandoned his plans to breach the smoking ban and light up on stage as part of his performance as the cigar-smoking Prime Minister after council officials threatened to shut down the Assembly Rooms, where the play was being performed.
I seem to recall that statist fanatics have threatened us before:
"Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail."
We didn't flag or fail, and now Britain is free.

Or is it:

...the council is to investigate the latest incident, at the Assembly Rooms on George Street yesterday, when Smith posed for photographs after the show. He could be liable for a £50 personal fixed penalty fine if he is found to have broken the rules.
At one time public spokesmen were eloquent:
"We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender"
Over the top, perhaps?

No such problem today:

A spokeswoman for Edinburgh City Council said that although his head and upper body were outside of the window, leaning out of a room where smoking is forbidden would not technically get around the ban - which prohibits smoking in enclosed public places.
This was the message of Britain's Finest Hour:
"Tyranny is our foe, whatever trappings or disguise it wears, whatever language it speaks, be it external or internal, we must forever be on our guard, ever mobilised, ever vigilant, always ready to spring at its throat. In all this, we march together. Not only do we march and strive shoulder to shoulder at this moment under the fire of the enemy on the fields of war or in the air, but also in those realms of thought which are consecrated to the rights and the dignity of man."
And now?

A nation of snitches:

Instead, council workers plan to rely on members of the public telling them if actors are smoking real cigarettes or cigars on stage and make complaints if they feel the rules are being broken.

Sunday 6 August 2006

If nominated, I will not run; if elected I will not serve. Probably.

Powerful. Intimidating. Trivia Nazi. President Bartlet is all of these and more. A super-nerd who's into chess, National Parks, and rambling off things in Latin, POTUS is the 'real thing.' Not being completely upfront with the American people may cause him re-election headaches, though...

:: Which West Wing character are you? ::

Thanks to the next Tory PM for this one.

Saturday 5 August 2006


O it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, go away";
But it’s "Thank you, Mister Sheridan", when the Media begins to pay,

I mean, surely the SSP is looking forward to receiving half of Tommy's winnings in line with party policy on wages.

But, what's this? The SSP's website thinks that the most recent newsworthy story in Scotland concerns school meals and Jamie Oliver.

And if you have a glance here it looks like the comrades are in an unseemly state of disarray.

Meanwhile, Martin Kelly reminds us that it's not over till the old judges confer.

How can the Festival compete with this?

(UPDATE: More comradely fallout here)

The Lord Haw-Haw tax


pays for this

Thanks to new blogger Prodicus for the images.

Friday 4 August 2006

The attack on photography

There's an increasing level of concern in the photographic community about harassment of photographers by "The Authorities". It's all in the name of "security" of course. It used to be possible to wander around the streets of any city in the West and photograph anything you damned well pleased. Not any more. Particularly in the English speaking countries, using a "professional" camera is liable to attract the attention of the police and all kinds of other security employees. Somehow, these goons think that there's something threatening about using an SLR with those big, "professional" lenses. Forget the fact that pocket-sized digitals often have more powerful built-in zooms than one is likely to find on an SLR; forget the fact that the ubiquitous mobile phone is increasingly equipped with an impressive camera; why not just have a go at those of us who like to photograph cities using good quality equipment. Let's face it: is a terrorist likely to take a photo of a target building while standing out in the open with a Nikon or Canon and a foot-long lens, or is he perhaps going to use something just a wee bit less obvious?

How interesting to note that we may end up having to go to Saudi Arabia to enjoy our hobby.

From the Beatles to Tommy Sheridan

It's good to read that judges still live up to their unworldly image:
He said: "I am not aware of ever having bought or read a single copy of the News Of The World but I am not in any position whatsoever to judge its journalistic standards."

From the articles that have been put before the court during the case, Lord Turnbull said the newspaper appeared to specialise in "human interest features".

Tuesday 1 August 2006

The West Wing

There was a very interesting article by Janet Daley in yesterday's Telegraph.

According to Ms Daley:

If you didn't get 'The West Wing', you won't understand America
I think she's right and this is what she's getting at:
At its most sententious, it should have been absurd, but it was not. If you listened properly - and they did talk very fast - you could learn an enormous amount, not only about how liberals would like to see themselves, but also about America's reverence for democratic institutions, an issue of immediate relevance to the global crisis in which we are now immersed.
It's the love of democracy that makes America special, we are told:
What must have been quite astonishing to a British audience was how seriously everybody in American politics appeared to take the concept of democratic government itself. Government of the people, by the people and for the people seemed to be engraved on the heart of every politician of every party.
Democracy, it seems, is the true American religion:
This American notion that the will of the people, and the democratic process by which they express it, is sacred - a form of secular religion on which the whole concept of justice and human welfare is predicated - is absolutely fundamental to the position that America is now adopting on the world stage.
As Ms Daley explains, this reverence for democracy makes it very unlikely that a future Democratic president would be any less keen on promoting this "true religion" throughout the world than does George Bush.

The problem I have with Ms Daley's article is that nowhere does she mention that the United States was not formed as a "democracy" but as a constitutionally limited republic.

From the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
The point of the Declaration and the subsequent Constitution is that the proper purpose of government is to secure the unalienable rights of the people, not to subject them to never-ending democratic revision. Sadly, America's politicians have been trashing the country's founding principles since the Civil War if not earlier. It makes no difference which party is in power. Left wing, right wing or West Wing, they're all the same. According to the current issue of Liberty:
Total government spending rose by 33% during Bush’s first term. The federal budget as a share of gross domestic product grew from 18.5% on the last day of the Clinton administration to 20.3% at the end of Bush’s first term.
I don't see that spreading democracy into the Middle East is necessarily going to help the situation in that troubled part of the world. Nor is it much use anywhere else, unless the people in question hold firmly to the values of liberty. If Americans, or anyone else for that matter, wish for a more peaceful world, they must encourage the pursuit of liberty, not of democracy.