Scott Rubush is a recovering journalist living in West Chester, PA. He is a native of York, PA, and grew up in Cary, NC. A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Scott has an extensive background in writing and politics. He is Publisher Emeritus of Carolina Review, and a former associate editor of the Los Angeles-based website FrontPageMagazine.com. He currently works as a grant-writer for an educational foundation in Wilmington, Del.
:: Thursday, January 31, 2002 ::
LA New Times on Davis
Jill Stewart of The Los Angeles New Times (the alt-weekly, not the abysmal daily) has written a great take-down of Gov. Gray Davis:
Remember how bad off you were the last time you even toyed with the notion of getting a payday loan? God, you might as well hock Grandma's crystal if you're thusly snuffling the floor like a dog.
But that is exactly where Davis has put California, a state boasting a supposedly highly diversified economy buttressed by millions of eager immigrant workers and highly educated college techno-grads. Yet we're facing a $12.5 billion shortfall. That equals the entire yearly budgets of some nations in South America...
Folks, the Carolina-Duke basketball game was held tonight, and the Heels lost by nearly 30 points. This is horrifying. I don’t know how much longer I can bear the pain of such an awful season.
For me, a year without a good Carolina Basketball team is like a year without springtime. Seriously. Every year around February 1, my life normally comes to a standstill as I postpone work and other commitments to watch the Heels beat the mess out of one poor opponent after another. I can normally count on this fun-filled season lasting through late March, when the Heels bow out of the NCAA Tournament in the Elite Eight or Final Four. There’s so much fast-paced action in every game, plus there’s the long-term dimension of watching where the Heels will be seeded in the Tournament, whether or not this will be the year they go all the way, whether or not they’ll beat key rivals, etc. Plus there’s a social aspect to it. An entire community of Carolina students and alumni come together to join in this exciting season, sharing beers, high-fives, and plenty of good times. But Folks, that’s not going to happen this year.
Things are different these days for North Carolina's defining institutions. Jesse Helms isn't returning to the U.S. Senate. Billy Graham is giving the reins of his ministry to his son. Even the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse got moved. So perhaps it is inevitable the state's longtime athletic bellwether, the Tar Heels, have become a bad basketball team.
There are, Susan Worley says, five stages of dealing with a North Carolina Tar Heels basketball defeat. You begin with Questioning the Point of Life. You end with Rationalization. In the middle comes all manner of annoyance, guilt and denial…."This year I'm in a whole different stage," she says. "It's just this bizarre, surreal world."
None of this is exaggeration or hyperbole, folks. It’s really depressing to watch this. Please pray for Carolina Basketball—and for all us poor fans who don’t know where to turn now.
Folks, we're all up to our armpits in SOTU coverage. If you're looking for some of it here, you're outta luck. I'm sick of it, and I suspect you are too. If you're looking for something different, there's some leftover cheesecake down below.
I've really tried my best to bring you some other news tonight. But dang it, nothing else of consequence happened today. Okay, fine. Janet Reno collapsed, some grubby Marxoid protestors are descending on New York, and Cheney has up-ed the ante in his game of chicken with the GAO. But you know what? I just don't care about those things tonight. Maybe tomorrow I'll feel differently, but tonight I'm burnt out. So let me just leave you with a few quick announcements instead.
--Record Hits! Yes, friends, I got "Layned" today. Last time I checked, we were at 652 hits today--and counting. That shatters the old record of 153 by at least four-fold. And the day ain't over yet...Thanks, Ken! --Matt's Birthday! Brother Matthew turns 19 tomorrow, Jan. 31. Wish him a happy birthday by clicking here.
Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, members of Congress, honored guests, and all of my fellow Americans who have pulled themselves away from tonight's episode of ``Battle Bots'': This is my first State of the Union address. It is also my last. [...] After many years of observing Washington, however, I've concluded that the annual State of the Union address -- or SOTU, as insiders call it -- is worse than useless. After tonight, it will be discontinued. [...]
I ask you, members of Congress, to consider the big picture. Have you ever looked at yourselves during a State of the Union speech? Tune into the C-SPAN rerun when you get home tonight. Half of you cheer the president as though you're lifers in the old Soviet Politburo. (Cheers.) The other half looks alternately sullen or mocking. (Boos.) Either way it's not pretty. Trust me: I'm doing you a favor. [...]
The folks at home may not realize it, but for the past three months, each tendril of the vast federal bureaucracy has been vibrating in anticipation of this speech. In every cabinet department, the special assistants to every deputy assistant undersecretary have been imploring every assistant deputy secretary to nag the secretary's chief of staff to beg a White House communications assistant to get the speechwriters to arrange for the president to mention some favored initiative. The result is a list of dozens of proposals and programs, many of them contradictory, which rhetorically can never be woven into a coherent whole. That's why SOTUs always fail as rhetoric, even as they do wonders for a president's popularity. They created the impression of an omnicompetent chief executive, overseeing a government equipped to solve every problem and answer every need. My fellow Americans, this image is misleading.
And that's the SOTU circus in a nutshell, folks. Except I can never see the politicians walking away from so many teevee cameras. Washington really is the "Hollywood for Ugly People," and this is their version of the Oscars.
Dick Gephardt just finished his little schtick on the Teevee. Not a moment too soon, either. Early GOP reaction, received via IM: he "sounds like a f----- robot with a dying battery."
Scott 10:25 PM [+] ::
Life in Reuterville
I'm one of the few people who really, really enjoys politics. In fact, I used to throw "State of the Union Address Parties" in college. But wire reports like this one from Reuters--issued before the speech was even over--lead me to believe that the whole charade is overwrought.
Tuesday January 29, 9:02 pm Eastern Time Bush does not mention asbestos in speech WASHINGTON, Jan 29 (Reuters) - U.S. President George W. Bush made no mention of limiting liability for asbestos lawsuits in his State of the Union speech on Tuesday night.
Speculation has been rife on Wall Street that the Bush administration might move to limit liability for asbestos lawsuits and traders have cited rumors that Bush might mention the issue as helping to fuel a Go??? [sic] with some asbestos exposure.
But a text of the speech provided by the White House did not contain a??? [sic] asbestos issue.
An explosion of asbestos-related legal claims is battering many prominent manufacturers in the United States and has already pushed some ???ugust 2000 [sic], Georgia-Pacific Corp. (NYSE:GP - news) and USG Corp. (NYSE:USG - news).
Another Monday, another missed FrontPage column. Yes, yours truly was a deadbeat once again this week. This is starting to get really pathetic. Hopefully next week will be better. Meantime, here's a link where you can send me hate mail.
Scott 2:11 AM [+] ::
Welcome, Michael Burdei!
Michael Burdei, a friend of the Brothers Rubush, has begun blogging! Burdei is a student at Carolina, and has the distinction of being one of the very first people in America to report on the machinations of the post-Sept. 11 academic left. His Sept. 21, 2001 article for FrontPage titled "America's Enemies Rally at UNC-Chapel Hill" was cited by the Wall Street Journal, Time, US News and World Report, &c. It even led to this article in the Nation, which smears him and FrontPage (including yours truly, by name) as being too tough on the blame-America set. Michael's just getting started over at randomsociety.blogspot.com, so go check out his page and give him your full support.
Scott 2:06 AM [+] ::
However I view this new translation as a vindication of sorts. The very fact that the Religious Left has to commission a brand new translation of the Bible to back up its half-baked Theology is evidence, eo ipso, that they are wrong in their interpretation of scripture. “Gender neutrality” is a dubious goal of the American left, not divinely-ordained principle. So in order to disguise a narrow political agenda as the Word of God, they’ve commissioned the new translation. It’s the ultimate exercise in hubris, really. The translators are “playing God” by trying to pass off their views as His. It's shameless.
I just hope that future generations of Christians will hold the same contempt for this translation that the religious left now harbors for its predecessors who produced the stately, if “sexist,” King James Version.
Here’s a cause that could unite the wide-ranging political views LA’s Bloggers: a move to ban car alarms from our streets. The right-leaning City Journal has taken up this crusade for New York, and I’m willing to help bring the movement to Los Angeles.
This article they’ve written is wonderful, and packed with statistics. Did you know that the average car alarm blares at 125 decibels—as loud as a jet? Did you know that 95 percent of the ones that go off are false alarms? And did you know that politicians and special interest groups are working feverishly to keep these annoying, yet ineffective devices on the road? Go read the article, then join me on my crusade to ban car alarms from our city once and for all.
Wow…looks like I got a lot more out of Friday’s LA Blogger Party than just a chance to meet some of the best writers in the City of Angels. I also got a five-fold jump in hits over my daily average. So welcome aboard, newcomers! I hope you’re back soon!
Since so many of you are new to the page, now seems like as good a time as any to give you a little introduction to the site.
Like any web log, ScottRubush.com is a personal soapbox where I spout off about politics, culture, and everything else under the sun. Yes, the whole enterprise is breathtakingly vain--from the site name to the day-to-day content. But then, as the writer of Ecclesiastes reminds us, all is vanity.
My take on life tends to be rather conservative. However, this site is not called “AriFleischer.com.” If you want the conservative party line, here’s a link to the White House Press Office.
My particular brand of conservatism is a mixed cocktail of libertarianism and Christian traditionalism. If you’re familiar with the canon of sainted conservatives, you could say I try bringing together the top hat–and-monocle world of Albert Jay Nock with the youthful, free-spirited Christianity found along Hilaire Belloc’s Path to Rome. Or, to put it in pop culture terms, if I were a character from the Simpsons, I’d be one-half Bart, and one-half Mr. Burns.
These two sides of me often clash on this page, but don’t mind that. As the saying goes, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” One day I’ll review a Dvorak CD, the next day I’ll post pictures of Latin Pop goddess Thalia. Other days we’ll drink ice water and discuss the news, other days we’ll head down to Teejay and pop open some Coronas. Needless to say, it’s a wild ride here. I hope you’ll enjoy it.
I’m really surprised that Princeton has offered a refuge to the likes of West and Appiah. That school has always struck me as one of the more levelheaded Ivies. This, remember, is the same school that turned out George Will and Steve Forbes. Heck, I even had a little summer fling with a Princeton girl briefly last year, and she was one of the smartest, sweetest gals I’ve met in a long time. Ahh…sigh…. But anyway, with the hiring of bestiality-advocate Peter Singer a few years ago, and now with the hiring of Appiah, Princeton seems to have come off its moorings. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why they’re snapping up all the radical left-wing academics from the post-Sept. 11 clearance rack. It’s a really pathetic move.
Here’s an interesting specimen from today’s LA Times. Neal Gabler bemoans the fact that there’s not much talk these days about the gap between the rich and the poor. He calls for a renewal of class warfare after a 20-year-truce that began with Reagan-Era stock market boom.
This whole piece is a bunch of leftist tripe, complete with dubious statistics about the “stagnant” incomes of middle class workers during the past two decades, and the obligatory complaints about the “yachts” and “luxury cars” owned by the wealthy. Which is fine, I suppose. At least we’re back on familiar territory, and I’m glad to see the leftists reverting to their old ways. That means I won’t be out of a job any time soon.
Gabler’s analysis is most fatally flawed, however, in its attempt to simultaneously call for 1) a renewal of class-consciousness and 2) an end, or at least a narrowing, of class distinctions. Sorry, Gabler. You can’t have it both ways.
Personally, though, I like the parts of this piece where Gabler calls for an increased focus on class. A society with no class distinctions (as someone else has probably said before) is a society with no class at all. The leading citizens of our nation need to have a greater awareness of their status, one which allows them to perform their proper social function--which Mary M. Colum defined as: “The art of aristocrats, the art of enriching life.” Instead, as David Brooks has pointed out in his book BoBos in Paradise, we see the rich indulging rather proletarian tastes these days.
I just wish that with all the wealth our country has generated during the past 20 years, that we had a few more concert halls, a few more symphony orchestras, and a few more museums to show for it—instead of three-dollar cups of coffee, colossal SUVs, and enormous home entertainment systems.
This democratized set of consumption preferences among our nation’s wealthiest citizens gives me pause. It means the poor and the middle class no longer have sure guidance as they develop their own tastes. In fact, the normal order of things seems to have been turned on its head: our nation’s wealthy Don Giovannis have their swapped clothes with its peasant Leporellos, and the result, in my view, has been just as farcical and as humorous as that scene in Mozart’s famed opera. And there’s no end in sight, either. In fact, the current generation of baby boomers has only pushed the trend further along. Perhaps the Thermadorian Reaction will come in my time, but in the age of Britney and the Backstreet Boys, I’m not holding my breath.
But anyway, I won’t belabor the point any further. Besides, de gustibus non est disputandum. I’ll just let it go. For now.
I had a really great time at the LA Blogger Party held at the Brian Linse home last night. My grubby little fingers can’t type a report worthy of such a wonderful evening, complete with good food and wine, and even finer conversation with some genuinely fascinating people. But Ken Layne, however, a better man than I both in bloggage and in person, has written a very nice piece about it over at his site.O-Dub also has a little blurb about it, and has promised to post some pictures of last night's festivities later today. Other reports probably will emerge over the next few days at other sites as well. Stay tuned...
Scott 3:13 PM [+] ::
This “report card” for President Bush really annoyed the hell out me this morning. Sure Bush, a man who still commands a great deal of my respect, scored high. But the whole concept of a poll like this irritates me. It reminds me of the “peer grading system” we used to have in my freshman English class at Carolina—where the students, not the teacher, assessed the quality of the work. It was the most damn-fool idea my 18-year-old eyes had yet encountered, yet not one student in the class bothered to raise a hand and ask, “Isn’t it presumptuous of me, an uneducated buffoon straight out of high school, to do the work of a professor by judging the quality of work done in a college English class?”
This poll is the public-policy equivalent of that asinine system. The hubris and presumptuousness that predicate such an exercise really are suffocating, as Shakespeare pointed out in Troilus and Cressida: “This chaos, when degree is suffocate, follows the choking.” But alas, I guess it’s only logical that in a society where every man is his own priest, and every man is a king, that every man should be a professor too, handing out “grades” to his betters. God help us all.
I had the chance to visit RFE/RL headquarters during my trip to Prague last summer, so I can attest that they really are spooked about the terrorist threat to that building. As I entered, I had to walk through an airport-style security checkpoint with a metal detector and an x-ray machine. Even before Sept. 11, Islamic extremists had targeted the building because RFE/RL transmits Arabic-language broadcasts to the Middle East. I understand that a plot to blow up the building on the day of September 11 was thwarted, and certainly the bad guys still have the building in their sights.
Still, RFE/RL have a wonderful facility there, complete with state-of-the-art broadcasting equipment and an editorial boardroom with a breathtaking, panoramic view of the “City of a Thousand Spires.” It’s an incredible piece of real estate, and one that RFE/RL enjoys rent-free. Following the collapse of Communism, the Czechs allowed the agency to move in, as a display of gratitude for RFE/RL’s objective, uncensored news broadcasts during the Cold War. (You can read my FrontPage profile about RFE/RL by clicking here.)
It would be an understandable—though very unfortunate—decision for them to withdraw this support to the agency. Let’s hope the Czechs change their minds about this.
I had a damn good wine with my pasta at dinner tonight: the Ironstone Vineyards Cabernet Franc (1999). This stuff was a steal at Ralph's last week--normally it sells for nine bucks a bottle, but with my Ralph's Club Card, it was just $6.99. And, boy, it was incredible. Like a beautiful girl, this wine is a bit sweet at first, then bursts with depth, subtilty, and flavor. It's amazing. I recommend picking up a bottle of this stuff this weekend. It's excellent.
By the way, if the following posts read like the ramblings of a hopeless drunk, you now know why.
Elmo -- "Tickle Me Elmo," it was called -- was a very hot Christmas toy a few years back. If you tickled it, the thing would scream. In the Bay Area, a couple of moms got into a fistfight at the Toys R Us over the last Elmo. This gave me and Charlie and Os a Big Idea. We would make a cheap knock-off toy and sell it out of a van parked outside the malls. The toy would look vaguely like the muppet in question, but would be called "Please Don't F**k Me Elmo" -- it would yelp in horror if you prodded it in the Wrong Place.
If you had lived in the middle ages, what would you have done for a living? Ever wonder about that? Now, thanks to the magic of the Internet, you can find out by clicking here.
For the record, yours truly would have been a shepherd:
Your distinct personality, The Shepherd, is to tend to your human flock. You understand the needs of those for whom you are responsible. Shepherds are vigilant and reliable. You realize your obligation and commitment to the well being of those entrusted to your care. Shepherds are very dependable. You engender a feeling of comfort and stability to those within your charge. On the positive side, Shepherds can be empathic, caring, understanding, practical and realistic. On the negative side, you may be manipulative, close-minded and sentimentally rigid. Interestingly, your preference is just as applicable in today's corporate kingdoms.
I bring this article up not just because it’s a good read (as is everything on FrontPage), but because Tooley takes one of my least favorite Carolina Alums—Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong--out to the woodshed. This man, at minimum, is a complete jackass. More likely, Spong is a psychotic nutbag who’s using the Episcopal Church as a giant shrink’s couch.
Here’s what he had to say about September 11, according to Tooley:
Spong theorized that the revived religiosity of late really masked a "deep suspicion" that "no such God exists and that we are alone in this vast, chaotic and frequently painful world." […]"A supernatural God…is simply no longer believable…"
I bring this up because I’m still bitter about a puff piece the Carolina Alumni Review published last summer about this guy. Here’s a man in his 70s who has never outgrown his juvenile atheism—yet he has no problem using the Episcopal Church as his personal soapbox. And, surprise, surprise, my alma mater rushed to claim him as one of its own. Here’s the teaser to their article:
"His Bible — infallible and unquestioned — was his best boyhood friend. In Chapel Hill he opened his eyes wider. Then the Episcopal Church made John Shelby Spong '52 a bishop, and hung on for a wild ride."
Jesus, Carolina! Granted, they wrote this piece before September 11 when it was still all the rage to embrace “Christians” like Spong who had performed gay “marriages,” but this is absurd. I wish—certainly in vain—that my alma mater could see this guy for who he is—someone with no compunction at all about abusing a centuries-old institution for his own demented quest to figure out whether or not God exists. I’m certainly not saying it’s wrong to have doubts about religion—but for Christ's sake, don’t have them in the pulpit.
Richard Riordan: The frontrunner’s plain-vanilla demeanor was on full display last night. Reports the LA Times, “He…appeared ill at ease for much of the debate, frequently stealing glances at a yellow legal pad on the table in front of him.” I’ve concluded that this guy is the “Gerald Ford” of this race. Like Ford, Riordan’s public persona lacks polish, while his political views place him to the left of most Republicans. He’s a highly competent executive and he would probably make a good governor, but he appears to be a fundamentally weak political candidate.
Bill Simon: The Steve Forbes of the race. “The Man of Ideas”—and the man of money. He spent last night’s debate discussing budget politics—proving he might make a good State Treasurer, but that he fundamentally lacks the vision to serve as the chief executive of the nation’s largest state.
Bill Jones: The Dark Horse. He stayed on message last night. Jones, the only Republican elected to statewide office in California, also is polling well outside the state’s major urban areas. His well-oiled campaign machinary and his grass roots support within the state party could give him a strong showing in the March 5 primary. If he wins, though, this largely unknown candidate still is likely to have a tough fight against Gov. Davis.
Iraq and the Return of McGovern Democrats
The New Republic’s featured article today discusses the Democratic Party’s squeamishness about deposing Saddam Hussein. TNR reports that just two Senate Democrats were willing to sign a letter to President Bush calling for the Iraqi dictator’s ouster.
Of course this is just one more shameful display of the weak-willed foreign policy of the Party of McGovern, Carter, Mondale, Dukakis, Cohen, and Albright. But one revealing quote in this story spoke volumes about that party:
"The crucial difference between [the Democratic establishment's] support for the interventions in Kosovo and Bosnia," explains the Democratic Leadership Council's Will Marshall, "was that they were cloaked in disinterestedness, whereas in Iraq, America's interests are directly threatened."
Note two things about this quote: One, is that it comes from a member of the Democratic Leadership Council, the “moderate” faction of the party. Two, note the rationale for the party's opposition to intervention in Iraq: “America’s interests are directly threatened.” So it seems that not even Democratic Party “moderates” are willing to defend our country when its interests are “directly threatened.” And they wonder why Bush and the Republicans are so popular during this time of war.
Castro v. Guantanamo
During the whole flap over the alleged “human rights abuses” by US troops guarding the al Qaeda and Taliban prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, I’ve been waiting for someone to point to the huge elephant sitting in the living room: the wholesale human rights abuses that take place outside the base under Fidel Castro. To my knowledge, no American writer has yet pointed out the complete hypocrisy of “human rights activists” whining about Guantanamo while turning a blind eye towards Castro’s slave state.
Fortunately Canadian writer Peter Foster has made this point today in the always-reliable National Post:
“The choice of Guantanamo as a holding pen for terrorists is in many ways inspired, even mischievous. Set against the pervasive human rights abuses that characterize the rest of Cuba, the minor inconveniences suffered by sworn enemies of the Western world pale into insignificance.”
“The prisoners will certainly enjoy better food and medical care than those on the other side of the barbed wire and land mines that surround the base. They cannot possibly suffer more abuse of their fundamental rights. How many Cubans are political prisoners? All of them.”
Words don’t begin to express my contempt for abortion, a practice so hideous and so barbaric that not even the animals will stoop so low as to perform it. It’s a black mark not just on our nation, but on the human race itself--one more way in which, to quote William James, “Man, biologically considered…is the most formidable of all beasts of prey, and indeed the only one that preys systematically on his own species.” If another gynecologist never stuck another set of tongs up into the reproductive tract of another woman ever again, the our world would be a much better place.
Furthermore, our world would be a much more free too.
Yes, I know all of all that pro-abortion rhetoric celebrating “choice” and reproductive “rights.” But, my friends, I think it’s time for a major j’accuse here. Legal abortion, I’ve begun to believe, is not the mark of a free society at all. On the contrary, it seems to be a defining mark of an un-free society.
The seeds of this belief were sown in me during my trip to Cuba back in 1999. While I was there, my group visited the offices of what’s roughly the equivalent of that country’s National Organization for Women (NOW). I joined my group of twenty other Presbyterian college students in sitting around a huge wooden table in an ornate, Spanish colonial room, drinking miniature cups of espresso, and listening to a long lecture on the status of women in Communist Cuba. My seat was directly across from a giant portrait of a young, idealized Fidel Castro. For at least an hour, I sat looking at el Maximo Lider and listening to an endless litany of “achievements” the Revolution had struck for women. One of the achievements she cited was legal abortion. Not only that, but under the Revolution, the Cuban Government even paid for abortions.
By the end of this exhausting experience, I was too worn out to ask any questions. Since that day, though, I’ve wanted to go back and ask that Cuban “women’s rights” advocate: “Does your political opposition have a nice office like this somewhere else in the city? Where, exactly, might I go to see it?”
To my lasting regret, I didn’t ask that question. If I had though, I’m not sure how she would have replied. See, the pro-life movement in Cuba doesn’t have a nice office somewhere else in Havana. They don’t have any offices at all. In fact, Cuba doesn’t have any pro-life movement whatsoever. You see, it’s illegal to hold pro-life views in that hellhole of a country. Those who dare to speak out on behalf of the unborn can expect beatings and imprisonment by Castro’s state police. As the National Right to Life Committee reports:
“Fidel Castro's dictatorial grip on this island nation has done more than the widely reported devastation of the economy and demoralization of the people. According to the Communist Cuban government's own numbers, an extraordinarily high six out of 10 (60.2%) pregnancies in Cuba end in abortion, the largest number of any nation in this hemisphere.
“The law in Cuba not only allows abortions for any reason, but abortions are also paid for by the state. The pro-life movement in Cuba continues to struggle as reports that many of its leaders are jailed, beaten, and expelled come out of Cuba.”
And friends, Cuba is just one tiny Banana Republic of 11 million people. Similar conditions exist elsewhere around the globe, including the world’s most populace nation, China. There, abortion is cheap and easy, yet genuine “choice” and “rights” and “freedom” are nowhere to be found.
I think there’s something in rights-based politics that actively promotes this sort of tyranny. “Rights,” believe it or not, are a dime a dozen in shittly little dictatorships like the ones based in Havana and Beijing. Albert Jay Nock shed some light on why this may be the case in his 1943 book, Memoirs of a Superfluous Man:
“In a spirit of sheer conscious fraud, the State will at any time offer its people “four freedoms,” or six, or any number; but it will never let them have economic freedom….all the mass of verbiage about “the free peoples” and “the free democracies” is merely so much buffoonery.” (pg. 211)
Applying Nock’s reasoning to abortion, it seems to me that the “right” of a woman to snuff out the life growing inside her is just one more “freedom” the State pays out in exchange for its licence to creep into the most personal corners of our lives. As a bonus, permitting abortion in places like Cuba and China allows those governments to display the appearance of freedom, without having to grant the reality of it. Moreover abortion also has another consequence that performs yeoman’s work for tyrants: it cheapens the value of human life. Indeed when individual lives are nothing, the road is clear for "the revolution" or "the state" or "society" to become everything. In fact, abortion performs on small scale what totalitarian dictators have spent a century doing with the gulag and the concentration camp. Beyond sheer numbers, is there really any logical difference between someone who performs an abortion in order to pursue a career, or to cover up an embarrassing pregnancy and a Stalin or a Pol Pot who sacrifices millions in war or gulags for the sake of a “revolution” or some other dubious goal? As Tacitus put it centuries ago:
“The reason is always the same: lust and avarice, and a desire to change their circumstances. Still, liberty and specious words provide the pretext; and yet no one ever lusted after slavery for others and dominion for himself without using the very same cant.” (Histories, 4.73)
Really the whole rhetoric of “freedom” and “choice” in abortion is just so much horseshit. So pardon me if I don’t buy it. I’ve heard it before. Besides, it’s just ridiculous to believe that banning abortion will put us on the road to a Theocratic dictatorship or anything like that. On the contrary, any society that’s willing to ban nail clippers on an airplane certainly should be able muster the moral resolve to ban abortion. Such a ban would be a reasonable measure made in the spirit of a free, humane society. I just hope we don’t have to wait another 29 years before we do such a thing here in America.
The Kyle Still Free Press is back on the Perma-link list after a short probationary period, which I imposed because he failed to update his site for a very, very long time. He's back, though, and has some really good stuff up now--including the "Breakfast Quiz." (See below.)
Yeah, it's troubling. This kid obviously needs some guidance. A mentor. Someone to keep him off the streets and out of trouble. So I'm sending him the following e-mail message:
From: Scott Rubush To: Kyle Still Re: McCain-Feingold
I enjoy reading your Blog, but you’ve really gone astray with your post about Enron and McCain-Feingold. I know you’re still young enough to have some idealism left in you, but I’d expect a more realistic outlook on public policy from a poli sci major. Let's try to set you straight.by going through your post, point by point.
“If there is one thing that the Enron debacle shows us is the extent to which American politicians are in bed with large corporations.”
You say this as though it’s a bad thing. Are corporations evil? Or are they legitimate, players in our society which have their own set of needs and concerns? If it’s the latter, how are they supposed to assert those needs within a political and regulatory system that determines the rules by which they do business? Do corporations vote? Do they have representatives in Congress?
Quoting Dean, you write:
"Notwithstanding protestations to the contrary, American businessmen don't make large political contributions because they love their country. Rather they are investments, on which they want a return."
Fair enough. Corporations want something from the political system. Is that not also true of Grandpa, who uses his vote to shake down young taxpayers for social security and Medicare payments? Is it not also true of the welfare queen who votes herself money from the public coffers? Doesn’t every political actor bring some sort of self-interest the table?
Moving on, you say:
Donations to campaigns are not free speech, because all citizens are not free to quantify their voices equally through donations.
Oh really? So, if money negates free speech, should we simply ignore everyone who spends a buck or two to express their opinions—including newspapers and television and Internet news sites, all of which require huge budgets to function? Should we ignore policy think-tanks, which also require money to function? And if these things could operate for free, wouldn’t they still have a disparate voice compared to others in our society? That being the case, should we shut them down altogether simply because they’re not “equal” to everyone else? Or should we simply take the mature view and accept the fact that money—and a certain amount of “inequality”--are unavoidable, and perhaps even desirable, parts of any political system?
“Some actors have substantially more voice in political affairs than others do. This can lead to a situation where common everyday Americans (probably like you, actually) feel like they cannot affect their government or have a stake in what it is doing, because the government will not heed the opinion of normal Americans who are unable as individuals to greatly influence a politician's ability to get reelected.”
Okay. But again: is this really such a bad situation? Who says that every voice in our system must have the same amount of input? Do we really want the uninformed crank who writes sloppy letters to the editor to have the same voice as, say, a poli sci professor or a political analyst? In other words, do we want a system that counts votes, or a system that weighs them?
I’ll concede that it’s somewhat disillusioning to know that my voice and my vote don’t count for a whole hell of a lot. But let’s turn this on its head. If one person’s vote doesn’t count for much, it means that the votes of a lot of other people don’t count for much either. So, for instance, the same system that puts checks against me also restrains the vote of Matthew Hale, head of the Church of the White Supremacist. I'm certainly not going to shed any tears for him. It also puts the breaks on the agendas of other nasty people too, such as the idiot driver who gets in my way during rush hour, as well my annoying upstairs-neighbor who blasts techno music through my ceiling at four in the morning. Is it such a bad thing to put those people in their place? I don't think so. On the contrary, checks and balances such as these are the hallmark of our system--and a big reason why it works so well. It’s just not a good idea to let one person have too much power--even if that one person were me.
“Here's where campaign finance reform comes in…These reforms, when enacted, will have the effect of cleaning up elections…”
Geez…Maybe when we’re done ridding Washington of corruption, we could legislate an end to poverty and disease. Then we could pass the world peace bill, and vote to give everyone a huge mansion high up in the Hollywood Hills. Heaven on earth, here we come!
Seriously, Kyle, let me ask you this: Congress enacted campaign finance legislation back in the ‘70s following the Watergate Scandal, with the expressed purpose of “cleaning up elections.” Is the system any less corrupt today than it was then? If the system is better off now, why do we need additional reforms? And if it’s worse off, why didn’t the magic wand of “campaign finance reform” do the trick? What gives you reason to believe it will work this time around?
Furthermore: what gives you reason to believe that a set of 535 legislators will simply abandon their self interest, and enact campaign finance laws that will really clean up elections? And what gives you reason to believe that future generations of politicians won’t find and exploit loopholes in those laws? And even if you trust politicians to act in such good faith, will you apply this same standard to CEOs? Would you also trust the good graces of, say, Texaco, to write legislation for the oil industry? If not, why do you trust politicians, but not the heads of major corporations?
Anyway, enough of my ranting and lecturing. Keep on bloggin’!
Sorry, children. I know it's Monday, and I know I'm supposed to have a column up on FrontPage today, but unfortunately that's just not going to happen. Check back next week, and maybe I'll have written something new by then. In the meantime, feel free to send me nasty e-mail hectoring me for being such a deadbeat.
Scott 3:22 PM [+] ::
1000 Unique Visitors
ScottRubush.com had its 1000th unique visitor this morning at 6:37am PST! Woo hoo! Actually, that was the 1000th visitor since I installed the web counter on Dec. 4--which means we hit four figures quite some time ago. It's still a noteworthy achievement, though. Onward and upward, everybody!
Scott 10:52 AM [+] ::
:: Sunday, January 20, 2002 ::
SR.com is Ad-Free!
Thanks to Mr. Brian Linse, there no longer is a banner ad across the top of your screen! Brian was kind enough not only to pay for the removal of the ad, but also to keep hounding the folks at Blogger after an error kept the ad on the screen longer than expected. So be sure to show your appreciation by checking out his website, which is perma-linked on the left-hand side of your screen.
Scott 4:53 PM [+] ::
Yes, my friends, today's Times has a piece bemoaning the "gentrification" of Mid-Wilshire and Koreatown, the part of Los Angeles I've called home since June 2000. Look at the horrible things people like me have done:
"While Koreatown's growing cachet may be good news for business owners who are struggling to keep the area commercially viable, many low-income families in Koreatown are being pushed out of a neighborhood that in recent years has offered immigrants a toehold in a new land." [...]
[S]igns of gentrification are emerging. Rents in the area are climbing, in some buildings as much as 200% in three years. Two Starbucks and a Wal-Mart recently moved in. [...]
"The problem here is a matter of culture," said Eduardo Rodriguez of the Assn. of Salvadorans of Los Angeles. "You have to respect the culture of people. The problem with gentrification is that it doesn't take into account what people feel, what people think. It's just about money."
Oh, the horror! The natives have invaded this modern-day Ellis Island, kicked out the noble savages, and put up a McDonalds, a Wal Mart, and a Starbucks! The horror! The horror!
As if this wasn't bad enough, this evil is being wrought by people on my own street:
[S]inger-songwriter Linda Mark found her place in Koreatown. A year ago, the 26-year-old Boston transplant moved to an old building on South Hobart Boulevard because she wanted a cheap apartment that wasn't one of the "new generic dentist office-looking buildings," she said.
I too live on South Hobart. Like Miss Mark, I also enjoy the area's low rents and art-deco architecture. I've even been known to drink a cup of Starbucks coffee from time to time. Mea culpa, LA Times. Mea maxima culpa.
Sorry, but I can't help but get a kick out of stories like these. What does this reporter want, anyway? A return to the early '90s, when:
In 1992, the area was ravaged by rioting; scores of Korean-owned businesses were looted and set ablaze. Many Koreans lost their businesses, and some moved away.
Pardon me if I don't shed a tear for the changes that have taken place to K-Town and Mid-Wilshire over the past decade. In fact, everyone in my building is pleased at how much the neighborhood has cleaned up in recent years.
As for those displaced immigrants? They still enjoy apartments that, under the city's rent-stabilization rules, can increase no more than five percent each year. So the whole prospect of poor, downtrodden people losing their homes is exaggerated. In fact, my neighbor Felipe, an immigrant from El Salvador, lives two floors below me yet pays only about half the rent I do. So the immigrants aren't going anywhere. Statistics even bear this out, as the reporter is forced to concede:
In 1990, according to census figures, Koreatown's population was 27.5% Asian, 51.1% Latino, 11.2% white and 6.4% black. Ten years later, the breakdown was 29.9% Asian, 51.7% Latino, 6.6% white and 4.7% black.
Read: there are more Asians and Hispanics in the neighborhood now than before it was "gentrified." So I fail to see what the problem is. A cool, edgy neighborhood has sprung up in the middle of a major city. Poor people who endured riots and urban decay now partake of the newfound bounty. Everybody wins.
But I guess a story like that wouldn't sell as many newspapers as one that pits the newcomers against the old-timers.
Mashhad, Khorassan Prov, Jan 18, IRNA -- Interim Friday Prayer leader of this northeast Iranian province said, "September 11 U.S. terrorist incidents were designed and carried out by the U.S. secret agencies in order to assure exertion of America's full hegemony over the whole world." Hojjatoleslam Mohammad Farzaneh argued, that is the way the "free-minded intellectuals" think today around the globe.
He added, "a large number of innocent individuals got killed during the said inhumane attacks, which is of trivial importance for the U.S. political system, since the U.S. politicians merely care for exerting their hegemony over vaster areas and securing more interests at any cost."
The Mashhad Friday Prayer leader added, "the U.S. administration attacked the defenseless Afghan nation soon after the September 11 terrorist attacks without presenting any reasonable proof for interference of Afghans in those attacks and the American bombardments that are still going on there have led to the death of at least 20 thousand, mostly innocent, Afghans up to now."
UNC Sociology professor Charlie Kurzman blamed recent events on a Military Industrial Complex.
"We're…playing into the hands of our own militarists, whose interests always lie, I believe, in the exaggeration of threats, armed responses, and so on. In fact, I would argue that there is tacit collusion among the militarists of all sides."
The forum hit a new low, however, when panelist Stan Goff equated the terrorist attacks with the German Nazis’ torching of the Reichstag in 1933.
"The de facto executive branch and the compliant press are putting the historical spotlight right now on December 7, 1941, and Pearl Harbor," said Goff, a disgruntled former U.S. Army Ranger. "I think we need to aim that spotlight at February 27 in 1933 and the Reichstag fire."
Paul Greenberg has an excellent piece in today's Washington Times on the failure of our nation's nation's media to grasp important issues pertaining to our military and our national security. Mr. Greenberg takes two members of the DC Press Corps to task for their sloppy questions and their even sloppier published reports, and then argues that the nation is in danger of losing its heightened awareness of terrorist threats:
"As the country begins to move past the War of September 11, one can already feel the familiar old apathy settling back in. Celebrities are news again. Partisan maneuvers have begun in preparation for this year's midterm elections. How long before Gary Condit is all the rage again?"
Greenberg is right: let's not lose our momentum by fretting about Enron, or dare I say, whether or not Paula Zahn is "sexy." There will be plenty of time for that when our war is over.
The high-profile visit from this hero of September 11 is sure to boost the prospects of Mr. Simon in the March 5 Republican primary election. Simon, the son of Nixon-Era Treasury Secretary William E. Simon, has lagged in polls behind former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan and Secretary of State Bill Jones, despite his high-profile family connections and his ties to various Maecenases of the conservative right.
The three candidates are vying for the opportunity to challenge incumbent Gov. Gray Davis (D), whom Los Angeles-based political analyst Scott Rubush calls, “quite possibly the most inept elected official in America.” During his four year term, Davis has presided over the state’s Power Crisis and over the collapse of the state’s once-robust dot-com economy. Gov. Davis also drew criticism last fall for sounding a false alarm over alleged terrorist threats to the state’s landmark bridges.
"[T]wo of the white firefighters are worse than invisible. They have been erased and replaced by make-believe firemen of color who did not actually stand atop the shifting, smoldering rubble and unfurl Old Glory. The FDNY, of all agencies, has added to the monumental pain and suffering of its personnel, 343 of whom were killed at the Twin Towers. While two of the three men in the photograph basically have been defaced, other firemen and the survivors of their deceased colleagues also must endure an ethnic controversy rather than simply enjoy the immeasurable appreciation of a national humbled by their selflessness."
It’s a complete shame that FDNY had to turn what should have been a unifying memorial into another polarizing debate over racial quotas. Sure, our nation certainly needs to discuss these issues, but Ground Zero is hardly the place for that. Let’s just take the photo of those firefighter as-is—or use something else that won’t evoke such strong, politicized emotions.
I’m not sure where I stand on the debate over “Suburban Sprawl.” I’ve heard plenty of arguments on both sides—some good, some not so good. I’ve lived both in suburbs where sprawl has provided a nice, peaceful way of life, and I’ve lived in a mega-city where sprawl has caused traffic, smog, and all kinds of serious problems.
“You haven't smoked a cigarette in years, and you've learned to control your cravings for doughnuts and barbecue. Now, some doctors say, you have another health hazard to worry about: urban sprawl. […]
“"It's clear that urban sprawl is one of the important contributors to our epidemic of heart disease, diabetes, asthma and obesity," said Dr. Hugh Tilson, a professor of epidemiology and health policy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.”
C’mon. What’s next? Will the trial lawyers who shook down "Big Tobacco" for billions of dollars now file class action suit for suburban homeowners? Gimme a break.
What really gets me is that the target audience for this story—residents of the leafy neighborhoods in the Raleigh-Durham, NC area—live in one of the wealthiest, most sanitized suburbs in America. In fact, those people enjoy one of the highest living standards in the history of civilization. Yet here they are, worrying about a boogieman in the closet. On second thought, perhaps those suburbs have been bad for their health—at least their mental health, anyway. Those people—or at least this jackass N&O reporter and his editors—must be completely crazy.
The Olympic Torch made its way through Los Angeles today —and yours truly spotted it while sitting in traffic in front of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) on Wilshire Blvd., just after 6:00pm. What a thrill that was. Admittedly it clogged the streets and left traffic snarling all over the Westside, but it really was a pleasant surprise to see the flame and to see Wilshire lined with dozens of cheering, flag-waving onlookers. As I write this, the torch is on its way to Universal City Walk where Arnold Schwartzenegger will receive it and light a cauldron. Earlier, the flame passed just a block-and-a-half away from my apartment as it made its way from Downtown to Beverly Hills. Here’s a link to a map of the torch’s route through the city, courtesy of the LA Times.
It's Monday, and that means it's time for my latest FrontPage column. This week, I take aim at the Clinton-Era program known as AmeriCorps, which Congress now wants to expand, lest we should lose the "Spirit of September 11" or "allow the terrorists to win" or anything like that. I blow the whistle on this bill by discussing AmeriCorps' scandal-ridden past, and by citing a number of flaws in the new plan to expand the program. Go take a look.
Scott 1:59 AM [+] ::
Update: Brian Linse
Last time we heard from Brian Linse, he was hunched over his computer during the wee hours of the morning trying to pin the Enron Scandal on the current crop of Republican political jobholders. I was sure there was absolutely no hope for this guy.
Oh, but how wrong I was.
Mr. Linse and I had a very cordial exchange of e-mails this weekend, and it turns out that he’s quite a cool guy. He lives here in Los Angeles, and sent me a e-mail inviting me to some sort of secret get-together for LA Bloggers. (Oh, wait…you weren’t supposed to know that.) I’ve given him a perma-link, and even cut him in on my plans for taking over the world. (Oh, wait…you weren’t supposed to know that either.) Anyway, you can look forward to many more spirited exchanges the two of us on this page.
I finally got around to seeing Lord of the Rings yesterday. What a ridiculous movie that was. Lord of the Rings was the most pretentious, overwrought film I’ve seen in quite a while.
Imagine, if you will, a crossover between Wagner’s Ring Cycle and an Irish Spring soap commercial. Then imagine this farcical display set to a CD of Orff’s Carmina Burana repeating over and over again for hour after excruciating hour. Place this clunky edifice into the hands of scriptwriters who are completely incapable of putting together a definitive conclusion or even a memorable secondary character, and you begin the approach the cinematic disaster that is Lord of the Rings.
Surprisingly, though, everyone I’ve talked to today has defended this film. I’m wondering if I actually saw the same movie as these people. Here’s a sample of one of the conversations I’ve had:
Me: Lord of the Rings sucked
LOTR Fan: C’mon…it had great special effects
Me: Well, so did “Mummy II.” And special effects didn’t do much to rescue that hideous film…
LOTR Fan: …
Me: Besides, the film ends with a whole host of issues unresolved
LOTR Fan: That’s because it’s part of a trilogy, you idiot...
Me: Well, so was Star Wars. And each part of that trilogy ends with a stand-alone conclusion…
LOTR Fan: Well…well…well, at least it had some great Christian themes…
Me: Well, so does the Jerry Falwell Revival Hour, and you don’t see me watching that, do you?
Alas, nobody I’ve talked to seems convinced. “Read the books,” they say. “Get a life,” I fire back. But it’s a lost cause.
If I were to piece together all the different aspects of this film that I found stupid, pretentious, or otherwise offensive to good sense, I’d be here all night. Allow me to give you this sampling instead:
1. Froto is the most un-compelling hero I’ve ever seen on film. The guy is four feet tall and has a bad haircut. Plus he’s a coward who runs away from every threat, real or perceived. Not to mention the fact his name rhymes with “Toto” and “dodo.” Why do the filmmakers tempt us with two scenes where the stupid lout is almost killed, but --against all standards of realism and plausibility--somehow manages to survive ?
2. What’s the deal with this gawddamned ring, anyway? It’s supposed to do something really, really powerful. Yet we never see it do anything except make a few characters magically disappear. If this ring is so central to the plot, why don’t the filmmakers give us a little more insight about what it does?
3. Why is there not one moment of comic relief anywhere beyond the first half-hour of this film? Every mundane scene in this film includes flowery, highfalutin language and noisy, Orff-sound-alike music in the background. This makes it the cinematic equivalent of writing a novel, and ending every sentence with an exclamation point. The whole charade grows tiresome very quickly. By the start of the third hour, I couldn't help but MST3K the action scenes:
Random Hobbit:Uh-oh, Froto, how are we going to defeat these evil horsemen?
Froto: Why, with the luck of the Irish, me lad!”
Somehow this movie has managed to rake in an ungodly amount of money since opening last month. That probably should have been my tip-off, though. A movie this popular couldn’t possibly have been any good.
Anyway, I weary of discussing this painful film any further. Suffice it to say that you should steer clear of it you’re unless you're a complete nihilist who’s willing to toss aside all existing standards of plot development in order to accept a ridiculous fantasy world of and elves and pre-teen action heroes. Just don't look for me at the theater for final two installments of this asinine trilogy.
The southern cookin’ last night wasn’t an unmitigated disaster, but it still turned out to be a big mess. Here’s a box score:
Sweet Tea: The meal’s bright spot. Quite possibly the best sweet tea west of the Mississippi—and quite possibly the only sweet tea west of the Mississippi.
Hush Puppies: Acceptable, but the batter I found at Ralph's here in Los Angeles was not nearly sweet enough. I added sugar to the batter, and later batches tasted alright. I brought some hush puppy mix back from North Carolina, though, and I'm going to stick with the real McCoy next time.
Catfish: What a mess. I let the filet sit too long, and the batter stuck to the frying pan. Then, to my horror, the breading and the fish separated when I tried to flip the filet. I had to pull the fish out of the frying pan while a thin layer of corn meal continued to sizzle away in pool of hot oil. I re-breaded the half-cooked fish, this time using a different technique. Then I had to scrape the burnt batter from the pan, wash it, and start all over. By the time I finished cooking at 8:30—an hour and a half later—much of the filet had broken apart into big pile of unappetizing flakes. I ate half of of what remained, and threw the rest away.
All of which goes to show that single men can’t cook.
Scott 11:14 PM [+] ::
Brian Linse and L'Affaire Enron
As if last night’s culinary debacle wasn’t bad enough, lefty Brian Linse has forced me to turn my thoughts and energies to L’Affaire Enron when I should be trying to salvage what’s left of the weekend.
Of course, the Bush-Haters aren’t resting this weekend either. Nosiree. In fact, they’re laboring away with missionary zeal as they try to convince America that Enron really, really is a big deal. Just look at Linse’s site for proof. While conservatives like me were sleeping peacefully away during early hours of Friday morning, safely assured of their good standing among the angels and the saints, Linse posted this screed about their “silence” at 3:07am:
"Helleeew? Come on guys! There's a question of credibility if you ignore this one for too long. Can you imagine the roar from ConservoBlogs if this were another Clinton scandel? [sic]"
Alas, if anyone’s guilty of wishful thinking here, clearly it’s Mr. Linse and the anti-Bush left. They’re so eager to pounce on the President that any whiff of scandal rising from Washington these days sets them loose like bloodhounds. These, mind you, are the same hounds that spent eight lazy years lounging on the front porch while Bill Clinton dug up trouble out in the yard. With their noses for scandal so well rested, the Democrats can’t seem to figure out why conservatives haven’t gotten worked up about Enron.
That has a lot to do with the fact that our nation has just emerged from eight years of corrupt rule by a man who has been credibly accused—from the left, no less--of committing both murder and rape. That’s on top of the dozens of other scandals that man was involved with while in office. My point? Unless George W. Bush establishes a Fascist Dictatorship or commits murder in cold blood while he’s in office, any scandal that could ever possibly erupt during his presidency already has been dwarfed by William Jefferson Clinton. No matter how bad things get for Bush, conservatives will always be able to turn to the Democrats and say, “Tu Quoque.”
So call me “scandal fatigued,” if you will. Just pardon me as I sit this one out.
Edmund Burke, the lodestar of conservatism, was born this day in 1729. Happy Birthday, Mr. Burke!
“Society cannot exist unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere, and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.”
--Burke, Letter to a Member of the National Assembly 1791
Today I’ve added a link to a war blog by Patrick Ruffini--a member in good standing of the Conservablogger Caucus. A May 2000 graduate of Penn, Ruffini has an impressive background both as a campaigner and as a political strategist. His daily dispatches on the ’02 cycle will make his site more and more fascinating as election day draws closer. Though Nov. 5 is still months away, you can get ahead of the curve by clicking on his site and reading closely. Go check it out!
It’s finally time to bust out those hush puppies. I’ve got some sweet tea and a filet of catfish waiting for me at home in the fridge, and there’s gonna be some good southern cookin’ at La Casa Rubush tonight. If you’re in the neighborhood, drop on by.
Many people look forward to reading the Sunday Paper. I, however, try to tune the news out during the weekend—so my stand-in for the Sunday Paper is Friday’s Wall Street Journal.
Friday’s Journal hasn’t quite been the same since Paul Gigot gave up his Potomac Watch column a few months ago, but it’s still the best weekday edition of any newspaper in America. I haven’t finished reading it yet, but already I’ve spotted two articles in today’s edition that merit your attention:
George Gilder instructs us to look beyond the crashing waves of the Enron saga and to observe a much more sweeping tide in the media coverage of the economy: namely a rush to Blame Corporate America for the recession, rather than the unsound policy decisions of the self-serving hacks in Washington.
Meanwhile, the Houses of Worship column in the Weekend section offers an insight into why I generally oppose school vouchers. It’s not that they’re bad for government schools, or anything noble like that. No, no. My big qualm is that vouchers are bad for private schools. As this article attests, vouchers are simply a Trojan Horse which, if allowed to enter, will result in the destruction of the few schools left in this country that actually work.
[Cornel West] is shielded not only by his manifest brilliance, but by what an essay in The Cornel West Reader calls his “ego-deflating humility.” This humility is on prominent display at (where else?) cornelwest.com, which introduces the professor’s CD, Sketches of My Culture, with the announcement that “in all modesty, this project constitutes a watershed moment in musical history.” A lesser man, having produced such a watershed work, might have been tempted to caper and preen, to indulge in self-congratulation. But Cornel West, modest genius that he is, does everything with “ego-deflating humility.”
Oliver Willis complains that the conservabloggers are just a little too quiet about Enron. Is something fishy going on here, guys?
Sorry, O-Dub. Didn’t mean to cut you out of the loop. You're an honorary Republican in my book--if only because you're a 'Skins fan--and you're more than welcome to plot-n-scheme with us conservative fatcats.
It’s just that we’re really not that worried about Enron. It’s a complicated story, which appears to be more sound and fury than substance. Besides, Ben Kepple delivered the definitive conservative view on Enron nearly a month ago. I agree with Ben that it’s great copy for the business press, but it’s hardly Watergate, much less PardonGate, ChinaGate, Whitewater, the Lincoln Bedroom Scandal, or Hillary’s activities on the Cattle Futures Market.
The events of today and the past few weeks give me little reason to change that assessment. Granted, I haven’t been watching this story very closely. In fact, it’s taken me some time to get up to speed on it this evening. That said, though, let me take a stab at assessing this story:
1. The political damage from this story will be minimal. Kepple was right a month ago: this story is too damn complicated for your average Joe to make sense of. As we learn more about Enron’s collapse—including its shredding of documents and its efforts to fudge the books—Enron, not GOP politicians, will take the flak.
3. Despite Lay’s influence with the GOP and the Bush administration, there’s nothing in existing media reports that suggests wrongdoing on the administration’s part. Last time I checked, having the ear of the president and vice president was not a crime. So I’m not bothered by revelations that Lay attended meetings where the administration’s proposed energy policy was discussed. The policy is not law yet, so there’s obviously not a quid pro quo here. More to the point, though, I think it’s wise to consult energy interests when creating energy policy. They’re the ones affected by it most directly, so why should Washington ignore their concerns for the sake of avoiding any appearance of impropriety?
4. Did Bush have prior knowledge about Enron’s pending collapse? This question, which came up at today’s press briefing on the case, seems beside the point. The company collapsed anyway, so Bush obviously did nothing to stop its downfall. Once again, nothing even remotely resembling a quid pro quo here. If Bush knew about the situation, did he have a legal or moral obligation to act at that point? Of course not. That was the responsibility of Ken Lay and the Enron Board of Directors.
5. If a smoking gun eventually emerges in this case, the act of wrongdoing will occur sometime in the coming weeks or months. Obviously Ken Lay has favors to call in—and he’d probably like to use them now while he’s on the ropes. I predict that there will be a lot of huff-n-puff when the administration bails out Enron’s pension accounts and begins pushing for changes to current Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) regulations. But those would be sound policy decisions based on precedent and certainly not acts of impropriety. Other than that, this story—despite its complexity—is no longer under the radar, so it’s hard to imagine Bush or anyone else doing cozying up to Lay while everyone’s watching. Ashcroft has removed himself from the DOJ probe of Enron, and Bush seemed reasonably forthcoming when talking about the matter to reporters today.
In short, I don't see this story going much of anywhere--despite the legions of lawyers now investigating Enron's final days. The Dems will get to fire off some childish, election-year press releases bemoaning "Texas" and "Big Energy Companies"--which is no biggie, since they've been doing that all along. Meanwhile, we'll get some much-needed pension reform legislation out of this, and Bush will get a footnote in the history of his time in office. But I suspect that'll be about all the milage we get from this story.
A: Military officials explain that it is one of the most secure bases overseas, lowering the prospects for escape - or for a break-in by sympathizers. It's surrounded on three sides by the sea, and the fourth side, guarded by Marines, fronts a cactus wall Cuban leader Fidel Castro built in the 1960s to stymie Cubans seeking refuge. Beyond the cacti is unfriendly scrubland."
"Q: What are U.S. forces doing on Cuban territory?
A: U.S. Marines set up base at Guantanamo on June 6, 1898, at the outset of the Spanish-American War. In 1903, the newly established Cuban Republic acceded to U.S. demands to lease Guantanamo - it had little choice, considering it had won independence from Spain largely through U.S. might. The rent was and remains 2,000 gold coins a year, now valued at $4,085. In its act establishing the lease, Congress cited two goals: protecting Cubans from Spain, and providing defense for the United States."
...And One More:
Q: Does Cuba abide by the lease?
A: It has little choice. Castro says the base is an affront to Cuban sovereignty - he refuses to cash the United States' annually delivered check. In the 1970s, he used its existence to justify the large Soviet troop presence on his island - but the law and balance of power are on the side of the United States. The Cuban foreign ministry acknowledges that Cuba has no jurisdiction over the base. There are regular two-hour flights between Jacksonville, Fla., and Guantanamo, but no regular travel between Guantanamo and Castro's Cuba.
Today's been a slow-as-molasses-in-January news day--unless you're chasing the Enron story or still obsessing over the Paula Zahn flap. Drudge has plenty of material on those stories, and you can read about them there. For my part, the only item on today's must-read list is Victor Davis Hanson's masterpiece in the new City Journal.
It's a joy to read through City Journal when its publisher, the Manhattan Institute, unveils it each quarter. It's one of the sharpest publications around. They consistently print some of the best conservative scholarship in America.
The excellent piece by Hanson is typical of the quality of material City Journal runs. In his article, Hanson dissects the foundations of Islamic culture. The result is devastating. Here some highlights:
"[B]laming the West, and Israel, for the unendurable reality is easier for millions of Muslims than admitting the truth. Billions of barrels of oil, large populations, the Suez Canal, the fertility of the Nile, Tigris, and Euphrates valleys, invaluable geopolitical locations, and a host of other natural advantages that helped create wealthy civilizations in the past now yield an excess of misery, rather than the riches of resource-poor Hong Kong or Switzerland. How could it be otherwise, when it takes bribes and decades to obtain a building permit in Cairo; when habeas corpus is a cruel joke in Baghdad; and when Saudi Arabia turns out more graduates in Islamic studies than in medicine or engineering?"
"[Western] values and traditions—not guns, germs, and steel—explain why a tiny Greece of 50,000 square miles crushed a Persia 20 times larger; why Rome, not Carthage, created world government; why Cortés was in Tenochtitl`an, and Montezuma not in Barcelona; why gunpowder in its home in China was a pastime for the elite while, when stolen and brought to Europe, it became a deadly and ever evolving weapon of the masses. Even at the nadir of Western power in the medieval ages, a Europe divided by religion and fragmented into feudal states could still send thousands of thugs into the Holy Land, while a supposedly ascendant Islam had neither the ships nor the skill nor the logistics to wage jihad in Scotland or Brittany."
Hanson on Israel:
"If Israel did not exist, the Arab world, in its current fit of denial, would have to invent something like it to vent its frustrations. That is not to say there may not be legitimate concerns in the struggle over Palestine, but merely that for millions of Muslims the fight over such small real estate stems from a deep psychological wound. It isn’t about lebensraum or some actual physical threat. Israel is a constant reminder that it is a nation’s culture—not its geography or size or magnitude of its oil reserves—that determines its wealth or freedom. For the Middle East to make peace with Israel would be to declare war on itself, to admit that that its own fundamental way of doing business—not the Jews—makes it poor, sick, and weak."
Still More Hanson:
"We are militarily strong, and the Arab world abjectly weak, not because of greater courage, superior numbers, higher IQs, more ores, or better weather, but because of our culture. When it comes to war, 1 billion people and the world’s oil are not nearly as valuable military assets as MIT, West Point, the U.S. House of Representatives, C-Span, Bill O’Reilly, and the G.I. Bill. Between Xerxes on his peacock throne overlooking Salamis and Saddam on his balcony reviewing his troops, between the Greeks arguing and debating before they rowed out with Themistocles and the Americans haranguing one another on the eve of the Gulf War, lies a 2,500-year cultural tradition that explains why the rest of the world copies its weapons, uniforms, and military organization from us, not vice versa."
I guess it’s better than having Chomsky, or dare I say, Cornel West, who came to the campus when I was a frosh. But geez…can’t you guys at Carolina find something more exciting to talk about? Nobody cares about CFR, Matt. Sure, expressing concern for CFR might win you brownie points at a cocktail party in Georgetown--or make you sound like Aristotle at a fete up in the Hollywood Hills--but I have yet to meet a soul who cared about that issue anywhere else in America. Yes, the legislation is a big deal to the overgrown student councilmen who populate Capitol Hill, but that’s only because their jobs are at stake. I find nothing more cynical than the idea of McCain, et al, trying to forge a crusade around this self-serving piece of legislation. CFR is employment insurance for politicians, and nothing more. Period. That anyone could believe that crap about CFR “restoring faith in democracy” or “ridding politics of corruption,” is pretty pathetic. Fortunately this sort of warped thinking is limited to a few small corners of our nation, albeit high-powered ones like the northwest quadrants of Washington and Los Angeles.
But seriously, though Matt, you need to run over to Ken’s Quickie Mart (do you even know where that is?) and pick up a case of watery, domestic beer to share with your friends. Hopefully it’s not too late to save you guys from becoming pathetic Beltway losers.
The Canadian government has issued a report warning that the term “drop-out" is offensive. The report suggests calling those who leave their studies before graduation to be “early school leavers.” Yes, Canada, it really is about time we started doing more to celebrate the uneducated.
…goes to California Gov. Gray Davis. During his State of the State address tonight, Gov. Davis revealed that he’s fed up with confronting weighty issues like the state’s power and budget crises, and that he’s going to preoccupy himself homeland security instead.
The governor’s verbiage about terrorism, security, and Sept. 11 gobbled up roughly a third of 3700-word speech—compared to around 450 words on the energy crisis.
For charging at this windmill and getting involved when nobody asked for his help, Gov. Davis receives a Don Quijote award from yours truly.
Meanwhile, the rest of the governor’s address was one part election-year stump speech:
“I will not advocate raising taxes.”
…one part Bill Clinton…
“I will expand our commitment to children.”
…and one part Jimmy Carter:
“We must continue to conserve [energy].”
The governor also avoided the dirty work of discussing the power and budget crises of the past twelve months by recycling an endless litany of statistics from two and three years ago. Phrases like “…in the last three years….,” “When I took office in 1999…,” “Within 28 days of taking office…,” “…a tenfold increase in three years,” and “…three years in a row” litter the entire document. The governor sounds like Stalin reading off production quotas for the five-year plans. It’s pathetic, really.
In short, the address was typical Gray Davis—which made it both annoying and unremarkable all at once. Let’s hope this guy’s out of a job come November.