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:: ScottRubush.com ::

"Contemplata aliis tradere."
:: welcome to ScottRubush.com :: bloghome | scott-at-scottrubush.com ::
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.
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:: Thursday, February 28, 2002 ::

The Brit-ster in the Weekly Standard?

Macho Weekly Standard columnist Matt Labash is warming to Britney Spears? Say it ain't so!
:: Scott 1:55 AM [+] ::
...
A Whole Lotta Woman...A Whole Lotta Rosie

Surprise, surprise...Rosie O'Donnell is a carpet-muncher. Did we really need weeks and weeks of hype about this topic? Regardless of her sexual orientation, I can't think of anything more revolting than the thought of Rosie in the bedroom getting her...well, you know. Yuck, yuck, a thousand times yuck. Let's hope this story fades into oblivion with all due haste.

By the way, Andrew Sullivan offered this post last week weighing the politics of decision to come out of the closet. Would the announcement have had more clout if she had made it earlier in her career? Or was she better off waiting until she after she had established herself as a household name, Sullivan asks. Either way, Sullivan reasons, the announcement is good for gays as they try to gain acceptance in the mainstream of American society.

I would counter that. Sullivan, who is gay himself (and, oddly, also a Catholic and a Republican), is sharp as a tack on most issues, but is almost completely incapable of talking about gay politics on his website without lunging into hyperbole. (His books may be another matter, but unfortunately I haven't had a chance to read them.) And that's what Sullivan has done here. He's taken the media spectacle of the moment, and puffed it into something of enormous moment. In doing so, he fails to see that Rosie is a terrible spokesperson for every issue she touches. The unconverted never liked her anyway, so why will they warm up to her now that she has announced that she's a lesbian? Gays will get another shrill, and sanctimonious spokesperson in Rosie. Yippee. All their spokesmen are shrill and sanctimonious--even the otherwise levelheaded Sullivan when he brings up this subject. Meanwhile, Rosie will have one more thing to be shrill and sanctimonious about, giving me one more reason to view her as the most revolting woman in America. Gays may have their place in the mainstream of American society (as the erudite Sullivan himself demonstrates), but Rosie’s not the person to make the case for it.

:: Scott 1:47 AM [+] ::
...
Bill Simon as the Next Ronald Reagan?

The Wall Street Journal's John Fund chimes in with another piece about the California gubernatorial race today, and tries to make the case that Bill Simon is the next Ronald Reagan.

A Riordan loss would stun the state's political pooh-bahs. But it shouldn't. There is an historical parallel. In 1966, the California GOP establishment also thought it had the perfect candidate to run against unpopular Gov. Pat Brown, an unpopular Democrat. George Christopher, a former mayor of San Francisco, was a businessman with impeccable moderate credentials.

The only problem was that Mr. Christopher's opponent was an actor by the name of named Ronald Reagan, a first-time candidate for office. Mr. Reagan proved a much more sure-footed candidate than expected, and his upset victory made history.

Sound like a stretch? Yeah, I agree. Fund's argument is a bit labored, as even he is forced to concede at several points in this article.

Still, it's really fascinating that Simon remains a serious contender in this race just days before the primary. Simon comes from the same mold as Steve Forbes--big on ideas, short on charisma. I think he would make a swell governor. Simon's a movement conservative who sees the world more or less the same way I do. He's terrible on the campaign trail, though, and I'm still apprehensive about supporting him in the primary.

Meanwhile, Dick Riordan seems to have gotten his act together somewhat. A well-placed source tells SR.com that Riordan continues to impress reporters in the news media, and that the former Los Angeles mayor is set to lock up an endorsement from a major daily newspaper in the LA area. In other words, Riordan's core support--ie, the media and voters in Los Angeles--still is firm, despite the recent surge from Simon. So don't expect any surprises next Tuesday.

As for poor Bill Jones? The Machiavellian in me still says he's the best man to take on "Singapore" Gray Davis, though I'll be the first to concede he's very short on substance. He's going to get trounced in the polls next week, for want of money and name recognition. Oh well.

None of these three candidates really excites me that much. And the Democrats' alternative is even worse. I guess I should have known this when I moved to California, but still....35 million people in the Golden State, and we have to pick our next Governor from these four?


:: Scott 12:47 AM [+] ::
...
:: Tuesday, February 26, 2002 ::
Where are the Enemies of Ashcroft When you Need 'Em?

For all their talk about Bush's new "police state" and Ashcroft's "assault on our civil liberties," it's really amazing that the anti-war left falls silent when the discussion turns to the rights of those trapped in the "Axis of Evil" nations--Iraq, Iran, and North Korea. For instance, I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for the ACLU's response to this propaganda piece churned out today by the (North) Korean Central News Agency:

Some days ago, traitor Ri Hoe Chang was so impudent as to assert that the core of the issue of detente on the Korean Peninsula is to "defuse threat from north's weapons of mass-destruction" and call on it to "come out to settle the issue." He even talked the nonsense that South Korea and the United States "should set the people at ease" through "long-term cooperation." Rodong Sinmun today in a signed commentary dismisses this as a repetition of war outcries of the U.S. imperialist warmongers who work hard to stifle the DPRK by force of arms, talking about the "axis of evil." [...]

The Korean nation will never pardon U.S. servant Ri Hoe Chang but make him pay a thousand-fold price for his crimes.

"Thousand-fold price," eh? Will the real police state please stand up? And will the anti-war left muster the courage to denounce it?



:: Scott 9:28 PM [+] ::
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Ben Kepple's Back!

Ben Kepple has had the flu this week, which explains his dearth of postings during the past few days. Don't let his recovery fool you, though. Kepple remains a sick man. A very, very sick man, indeed.
:: Scott 9:11 PM [+] ::
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New FrontPage Column

Here's my column from today's FrontPage on PETA and its efforts to brainwash kids.
:: Scott 12:16 AM [+] ::
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:: Monday, February 25, 2002 ::
George Will on John Edwards

Here's a link to George Will's WaPo column about North Carolina Senator John Edwards as a possible candidate for president in 2004. Will dismisses Edwards with a line that pretty much sums up my view of the Tar Heel State's junior Senator: "His face is fresh, his philosophy is a stale orthodoxy." Will suggests that Edwards might have a shot at the nomination in '04. If that's true, that's a really sad statement about the Democratic Party's crop of candidates.
:: Scott 9:59 PM [+] ::
...
SR.com Philosophy Index

Here's an online test, via Samizdata, that allows you to figure out the origins of your political philosophy. According to the computer, these are the philosophers with whom I should most closely identify:

1. Mill (100%)
2. Augustine (88%)
3. Aquinas (85%)
4. Bentham (83%)
5. Kant (80%)
6. Epicureans (76%)
7. Prescriptivism (74%)
8. Spinoza (66%)
9. Ockham (63%)
10. Plato (58%)
11. Rand (56%)
12. Aristotle (47%)
13. Sartre (45%)
14. Cynics (38%)
15. Noddings (36%)
16. Stoics (35%)
17. Hobbes (25%)
18. Nietzsche (21%)
19. Hume (16%)

I'm not surprised to see Augustine and Aquinas near the top of this list, though I find it interesting that their pagan counterparts Aristotle, and especially Plato, don't rank higher. Also, I figured the Stoics and the Epicurians would run neck-and-neck in this race, and I'm really surprised at how wide the margin is between these two schools of thought. (Although, after reading through last night's post about the Wine of the Week, my Epicurian roots make a bit more sense.) I'm also surprised that Hume and Hobbes (whom I grudgingly admire) took a back seat to Rand, Sartre, and Bentham, whom I despise. And John Stewart Mill...how did he end up on top? Anyway, it's a fun test, though you might want to take it with a grain of salt.


:: Scott 9:50 PM [+] ::
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Wine of the Week

Before we begin this evening, gentle readers, let us have a moment of silence for the friends of Bacchus who rose up in defense of the stein and the gobblet last night in Salt Lake City.

...

Okay, that'll do.

Friends, I'm enjoying the Wine of the Week right now. To refresh memories, I'm drinking Mario Trinchero's Cabernet Sauvignon (1998). It ain't half bad. Trinchero's not a keeper, but it sure does make for a good, one-night stand. Trinchero offers hints of berries and cedar, though the taste is somewhat fleeting. (Don't ask me how I know how cedar tastes, because I don't. I'm just cribbing from the label.) But seriously, though, this wine is, in the balance, a good, worthy red.

Okay, you'll have to pardon me now. Wine just doesn't taste as good when you're staring at a computer screen. I'm off to the couch for another glass, along with some light reading. See ya tomorrow, folks!




:: Scott 12:31 AM [+] ::
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:: Sunday, February 24, 2002 ::
Clinton to Africa: I Feel Your Pain

Bill Clinton goes fishing for a Nobel Prize.
:: Scott 11:37 PM [+] ::
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Branded

Michael Burdei offers this primer on corporate PR strategies.
:: Scott 11:33 PM [+] ::
...
John Q.

Last night I went out to see the new Denzel Washington movie, John Q., over in Westwood Village. It wasn’t a bad movie—not bad at all.

Of course, I should preface my remarks by saying that John Q. was a propaganda film worthy of the old Soviet Union. The movie celebrates working-class Denzel’s Robin Hood-like decision to hijack a hospital emergency room at gunpoint when rich doctors callously refuse to perform a risky and expensive heart surgery on his lovable and adorable grade-school-age son. It’s a compelling sob story rounded out with plenty of exciting drama. Denzel’s character is a respectable, hard working guy who gets backed into a corner when his seemingly fit son collapses from heart failure, his insurance coverage is insufficient to cover the treatment, and doctors turn him away when he exhausts his savings. He lashes out against the system to the cheers of a multitude watching the hijacking on teevee and from a street adjacent to the hospital. The film ends happily when a new heart miraculously becomes available for a transplant. The heart is placed into the chest of Denzel’s son; the surgery works; Denzel’s son revives and becomes his old, cuddly self again. Denzel is sent to jail for his actions, but receives only a short, slap-on-the wrist sentence. Nonetheless final scene showing Denzel in a police car riding from the courthouse to prison secures his role as a martyr for his son’s behalf.

The filmmakers give away their agenda near the end of the film, though, when they break from the plot to show a brief montage of left-wingers talking about health care. The pundits and politicians they show in this montage make up a who’s-who of my least favorite people in American politics—Jesse Jackson, Gloria Allred, Arianna Huffington, and Hillary Clinton, along with a few lesser lights whom I find almost as irritating. We see each of these sanctimonious figures jabbering away about the nation’s health care system—“fifty million Americans don’t have health insurance, blah, blah, blah.” The filmmaker’s agenda couldn’t be more obvious: elect these people to office so they can repeat Denzel’s hijacking at every hospital in America. Our government, that Niagara of blessings, that font of all good things, can save the lives of innocent children, and spare their working class parents from grief, if only we support the efforts of the Great Leader. “Workers of all nations, unite!”

I’ll spare you my debunking of the filmmakers’ claims. Debating health care policy in the abstract is a dry, and boring proposition, as far as I’m concerned. Suffice it say that this movie was a skillful piece of sophistry in defense of an unsavory socialist agenda. If you’re tempted to embrace Hillary-Care after viewing it, I’d simply suggest that you go visit a government hospital in a country where health care is “free,” such as Cuba. There I promise you’ll find a dilapidated death trap where supplies are short, the un-air conditioned halls are dark and dingy, and broken light fixtures dangle from the ceilings un-repaired seemingly forever. And, oh yeah, the wealthy and the powerful still receive top priority for treatment. Even under government health care schemes, some patients still are more equal than others.

All of that said, though, I’ve gotta confess that I really enjoyed watching John Q. It’s an exciting movie that, with a few small changes, could have become a high drama in the mold of Aeschylus or Shakespeare. There’s a point near the end of the film, for example, where the Denzel Washington character offers to commit suicide so that his heart could be transplanted into his son—while, unbeknownst to him, another heart is on its way to the hospital. The film would have been much more powerful, in my view, if the producers had let Denzel follow through with the suicide. John Q. could have been a moving portrait of self-sacrifice—a parallel to Romeo and Juliet, if you will, substituting erotic love for paternal love—where a man’s overwhelming yet tragically misguided love for his son conspires to undo him. I’d probably still be bawling right now if the movie had ended that way. Instead, the filmmakers shy away from a tragic resolution, and instead serve up a saccharin, and somewhat predictable ending.

That’s too bad. The plot of John Q. had a lot of potential. In the hands of a more honest producer this could have been an even better film than it was. Instead, John Q’s politicized and profit-hungry makers chose to make a propaganda film that catered to the sensibilities of a mass audience. As such it fails to completely draw out the moral ambiguity of Denzel’s actions, portraying him as hero rather than a tragically flawed man who has unrealistic views about life and death—and oh, yeah, who also happens to loot a quarter-million dollars worth of treatment from a hospital. But let’s not dwell on those tiny little matters, lest we offend soccer moms, eh?

Ultimately the movie is worth seeing. In fact, I suspect most people would enjoy it more than I did. It really is an exciting film, though one that ultimately left me a bit disappointed.

The verdict on John Q: three stars out of five.

:: Scott 1:10 AM [+] ::
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:: Friday, February 22, 2002 ::
Announcements!

Folks, I apologize for my relative dearth of bloggage this week. I know I promised another reply to the folks at Samizdata, and I know there are plenty of other items I should be writing about--for instance, the bastards who killed Danny Pearl, senile ex-presidents, the California gubernatorial race, as well as the French, the Germans, the Chinese, the Hungarians, and other topics of interest. But, friends, I've spent much of this week engaged in what we conservatives like to call, "legitimate business." I'm going to cut the freebie stuff, and let you go read my buck-raking "premium content," for which I actually get paid.

That said, though, I'd be remiss if I didn't throw you a few scraps of teaser material. Admittedly there aren't many crumbs left at my table this Thursday night, but here's what I've got:

--Wine of the Week: Last Sunday, we sampled a wine from Southeastern Australia. It was awful. Hopefully we’ll do better this week, when we return to the States and sample a nice California red--Trinchero Cabernet Sauvignion. With Enron lingering in the headlines, this wine's label struck me this week with its complete accounting of its grape content. Right there on the label it says, "48% Santa Barbara, 21% Lake, 14% Napa, 13% San Luis Obispo, & 4% Monterey Counties." I saw this at Ralph's and was like, "Wow. Here's an honest wine." And thanks to my Ralph's Club Card, I saved four dollars on this bottle, enough to bring it under the $10 threshold stipulated by Wine of the Week Rules. Boo-yeah.

But I'm starting to worry about this wine. Why do the makers need to offer such an exacting and precise account of its content? If Trinchero is based in such a prime spot in Napa County, why does nearly half this bottle come from Santa Barbara? Are they holding something back from us? Is the good Signor Trinchero an Antonio, freely giving of his bounty, or is he a Shylock of winemakers, carefully counting each grape before exacting a pound of our flesh (or at least $8.99) at the grocery store? We'll answer those and other questions this Sunday night, when we uncork the Wine of the Week.

--Blog-Free Friday: There probably will be no bloggage tomorrow. I'm planning to chaperone a group of high-schoolers at my church tomorrow night for dinner and a movie. Should be fun. But alas, that cuts into my blog time. I might surprise you and put something up in spite of that, but don't hold me to it.

--Anna: And, what the hell. Here’s a picture of Anna Kournikova. Have a great weekend, everbody!




:: Scott 2:50 AM [+] ::
...

:: Wednesday, February 20, 2002 ::
Update: California Governor's Race

Andrew Sullivan offers these remarks in response to John Fund’s article about the California gubernatorial race in today’s Wall Street Journal:

Fund's piece shows how parts of the right have become what the left now is: a movement dedicated to ideological purity even at the expense of electoral suicide. Riordan is part of the solution; not part of the problem.

Sullivan is right on the generalities here, but wrong on the specifics. To wit: the conservative right in America really is a movement that would prefer to win arguments than win elections. The party has muzzled most of its ideologues since George Bush came on the scene, but they remain unleashed to create messes, particularly at the state level. The GOP could benefit from a stiff dose of pragmatism.

Sullivan errs, however, in offering Riordan as the pragmatist's choice in this race. Riordan is openly hostile to the GOP base, and his ability to defeat “Singapore” Gray Davis is questionable. Even if he did manage to win and become governor, there’s good reason to believe his victory would be Pyrrhic. The man's bland personality and uninspiring politics are huge liabilities for the party.

The Machiavellian in me says that Secretary of State Bill Jones, not Riordan, is the horse to back in this race. Yet the Golden State’s conservative activists have been reluctant to support him, simply because he endorsed the wrong candidate for President in 2000. I even had a Republican member of California’s State Assembly tell me recently that Jones’ endorsement of McCain was the reason he was putting his money on the ideologically-pure Bill Simon, who has all the charisma of a potted plant.

If enough of these Simon voters would quit counting ideological angels on the heads of pins and support Jones, though, then we could have a really interesting primary race.

Instead Simon and Jones will split the anti-Riordan vote, the former LA Mayor will win the nomination, and the GOP will be left with a bland candidate in the mold of Gerald Ford and Bob Dole, whom I predict will lose to a weak, and inept Gray Davis.

And it will be just the latest electoral debacle for a pathetic—and breathtakingly incompetent--California GOP.

:: Scott 10:06 PM [+] ::
...
:: Monday, February 18, 2002 ::
Announcements!

Damas y caballeros, today is President's Day, and I fully intend to get outside and enjoy a day off work. I'd be remiss, however, if I let the day go by without acknowledging a few things first:

--I issued a rather severe smackdown to Samizdata’s David Carr yesterday, but alas my harsh words appear to have been written in error. Apparently I missed the point of his satire, which was based on a Monty Python film. Certainly it isn’t the first time I’ve made such a mistake. I’m a complete illiterate when it comes to pop culture, and I make no claims of being completely “with it” here at SR.com. At any rate, I was way too harsh with Mr. Carr, and for that I offer my apologies. If I ever make it to London, David, I’ll buy you a pint of ale to make up for it.

--Meanwhile Perry de Havilland has written a follow-up to my post from last night. From his perch in cold, rainy London, de Havilland might not be aware of how nice February can be in Southern California, and could possibly come to the conclusion that I’m dodging his formidable argument. But I really will be out enjoying the sunshine and the warm weather today, and I fully intend to reply to his fine post later.

--In other news, a friend of mine has convinced me that I should get a Scottish Terrier. For the past few days I’ve been thinking about how much fun it would be to have one of those adorable little pooches to keep me company (and help me pick up chicks). If anyone out there has had an experience owning one of these dogs, I’d like to hear from you. Also, if you can help me locate one in Los Angeles, I’d be at your debt.

--Wine of the Week Update: This week's wine was a genuine disappointment. To refresh memories, last night I uncorked the Barwang Cabernet Sauvignon (1999) from Southeastern Australia. Of course, per Wine of the Week Rules, I had never had this wine before, though it seemed like an interesting pick. It was from a reasonably exotic place, and it was relatively inexpensive. But alas, Barwang tasted like grape-flavored rubbing alcohol. I managed to choke down two glasses of it, but just barely. I have no idea what I’ll do with the rest of the bottle now, since I’ve forbidden myself from consuming wine between Monday and Saturday during Lent. Maybe Uncle Fritz (the name I’ve already picked out for that Scottish Terrier I want so badly) will drink it.

Anyway, Happy President’s Day, everybody!

:: Scott 12:51 PM [+] ::
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:: Sunday, February 17, 2002 ::
Technology, Morality, and Freedom

Samizdata’s David Carr offers this juvenile outburst in response to my 2/14 post about why Libertarianism is the ideological kin to Marxism. Lumping me with the Luddite Right, Carr writes with childlike fascination about all the toys science has placed in his unworthy hands:

So apart from steam engine, the lathe, penicillin, vaccines, manned flight, electricity, the internal combustion engine, steel, oil fractionating, synthetic fabrics, rubber galvanisation, intensive farming, antibiotics, radio, radar, cine film, pasteurisation, central heating, the lightbulb, plastics, telecommunications, the laser, microwaves, invitro fertilisation, the integrated circuit, computers and, of course, the Internet...WHAT HAS TECHNOLOGY EVER ACTUALLY DONE FOR US, EH??

This post is hardly worthy of a response; indeed, despite appearances Carr himself never discusses the point of my post—namely that libertarian “dynamism” shares many of the same assumptions as Marx’s theory of dialectical materialism. If Carr had bothered reading my post in toto, he would have seen that I anticipated his criticism in my final paragraph:

Innovations can change the speed of life (as in travel, communication, etc), and the length of life (medicine, etc.), but technology does little to change the quality of life. When I see technology make a man more courageous, then maybe I’ll bite. When a computer rids the world of injustice, then I’ll be persuaded. And if the next medical breakthrough makes mankind live not just longer, but more virtuously, then I’ll be won over. Till then, don’t bug me with Marxoid delusions about “progress,” and don’t ask me to place all my chips on “the future.”

Note to Carr: I never say that “technology” or “progress” is categorically bad. I just don’t share your uncritical fascination with novelty and innovation. But far from rejecting modern science, I partake of it freely, albeit with an awareness that everything comes with both costs and benefits. Technology itself is morally neutral, and can be used for both good and evil. That’s why I stand by my statement that invention does little to change the human condition. Humans are moral actors, and machines are not -- so the final measure of a technology ultimately is how man puts it to use. Computers, for instance, have made my entire career as an online journalist possible. But those same computers could allow a hacker to seriously disrupt my life if he gains access to the right information. Air travel is nothing short of magic, and I consider it a blessing to be able to fly across the United States in five or six hours. Yet I don’t know anyone who can get on an airplane any more without thinking that the jet he’s on might become the next to be hijacked and flown into a skyscraper. Computers, airplanes, and other technologies sprout up, yet the human condition remains the same, ensuring that the fruits of innovation will be both sweet and sour as they are put to use in achieving humanity’s morally ambiguous goals.

All of which is beside the point. I never intended to say that technology is “good” or “bad,” but simply to point out that liberty and morality are not synonymous with technological progress. Is that such a controversial point? In his failure to address this issue, Carr leaves us with a weak, and ultimately unsatisfying post--which disappoints me so much because Samizdata’s editors are capable of so much more than this. I respond only because Carr has drawn praise for his post, and because I’m getting a lot of traffic from this discussion. I’d hate for all the readers coming to this site to mistake silence for surrender.

Contrast Carr’s screed with Perry de Havilland’s post on Saturday. De Havilland successfully identifies the main point of my post, offers a calm, courteous reply, and ultimately does a fine job of tweaking my post.

De Havilland and I actually appear to be on the same side of the barricades. I share his desire to strengthen civil society “rooted in the 'tried-and-true' common law culture of the Anglosphere,” and to weaken its enemy, the modern super state. And like him, I certainly don’t have any problem with casting off unjust “traditions” such as slavery, and Jim Crow. To paraphrase Edmund Burke, I’m willing to improve society with zeal, though with fear. To that end I often find myself making common cause with the libertarians, whose public policy proposals I generally find quite persuasive, particularly on economic matters.

However libertarianism qua philosophy seems much less satisfying to me. I view it as one more point along a continuum that begins with Machiavelli, passes through Hobbes and Locke, then ends with Marx—and the totalitarian states those philosophers inspired during the 20th century. Consider this point from De Havilland’s post:

Marx felt technology would turn society into a vast state-society based on 'scientific socialist' principles in which truth itself in collectively derived. D'Souza feels technology frees us to think and entertain such concepts as liberty itself.

To which I would respond by quoting Rousseau: “The Romans had been content to practice virtue; all was lost when they began to study it.” (“Discourse on the Arts and Sciences,” part one.) Indeed, simply because technology has given us a state where we’re at leisure to discuss liberty and freedom, doesn’t mean that we’re going to come to the right conclusions about those ideas. In fact, I would argue that this trend actually has left us less free. Half-wits such as Marx and his followers could not have existed in a pre-modern society; they would have been too busy working on more basic things. Of course, we don’t need to be reminded of the damage these people have done when their delusional ideas have obtained modern tools. Indeed abstract political ideologies such as communism and fascism left more people dead than any medieval plague or inquisition ever did. Say what you will about pre-Renaissance life, but it didn’t contain atomic bombs, gulags, concentration camps, or, for that matter, the modern “security” state, which began to dawn the morning of September 11. Those are the products of an age with too many tools, and too much free time on its hands. Mixed with the lethal will to power that binds humanity through all times and all places, the results are disastrous.

Indeed, technology can serve the worst sides of human nature. The results can be grim, as we’ve seen during the past century, or they can simply be banal. De Havilland writes:

Where is the Hottentot Aristotle? Where is the Nung Socrates? Where is the Inuit Aquinas?

To which I would say, show me the modern Socrates, and the 21st century Aquinas. When I turn on the television, I don’t see sages like these; I see Oprah and Jerry Springer. When I turn on the radio, I don’t hear the Beethovens and Mozarts of our generation; instead I hear Britney and the Backstreet Boys. Ultimately I think that’s what we could expect from the democratized, progressive, materialist society advocated by D’Souza. Is that really progress? Certainly D'Souza's society would be capable of genius, but his value-neutral "dynamist" regime would do nothing to steer its citizens toward it. The result would be the social equivilent of Gresham's law, where bad culture drives out good culture.

Ultimately the D’Souza vision and the Marxist vision are flip sides of the same coin. Both advocate a progressive, value-neutral materialism, though they differ in whom they give power to: Marx gives power to Stalin; D’Souza to Oprah Winfrey, and the democratized, vulgar masses--a soft dictatorship of the proletariat, if you will. Both sides of that coin are sub-optimal, in my view.

I would offer my alternative to these two visions, but I weary of writing more. Besides, it’s time to uncork the Wine of the Week, so I’ll leave that discussion for another day. Till then, cheers!

:: Scott 10:47 PM [+] ::
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Megan McArdle: Trust "Bust"er

McArdle offers this fun, tongue-in-cheek post about "predatory blogging practices."

:: Scott 7:58 PM [+] ::
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:: Friday, February 15, 2002 ::
Libertarianism and Marxism

This piece by Dinesh D'Souza (via Samizdata) today reminded me why I'm not a libertarian. Libertarians in general and "dynamists" in particular are way too eager to dispense with tried-and-true under the dubious pretext of "progress"--and unwittingly they place themselves in the same camp as Karl Marx.

Generally I'm a big fan of D'Souza; he's done some damn good work in the past ("End of Racism," etc.), and he's struck me as a very bright man on the two or three occasions I've heard him speak. Plus, he got his start in writing--like me--at a Collegiate Network newspaper. (He worked for the Dartmouth Review during his college days.) D'Souza's the last person you'd expect to find taking up common cause with Marxists, but here he is today doing just that. In his article, D'Souza advocates the same dialectical materialism that Marx pioneered. Compare this passage from D'Souza:

[T]echnological progress can generate moral progress. The most dramatic illustration of this is the abolition of slavery. Every ancient society had slavery: the Chinese, the Greeks, the Romans, the Africans, and the Native Americans. [...] Slavery in the West was abolished for many reasons, one being economic: many people realized that it was no longer necessary to force humans to do tasks that machines could perform more efficiently. So technology helped to free human beings from bondage, and that is a moral gain because it extends a cherished value: freedom.

...with these snippets from Marx's Communist Manifesto:

In the earlier epochs of history, we find almost everywhere a complicated arrangement of society into various orders, a manifold gradation of social rank. In ancient Rome we have patricians, knights, plebians, slaves; in the Middle Ages, feudal lords, vassals, guild-masters, journeymen, apprentices, serfs; in almost all of these classes, again, subordinate gradations. [...]

Modern industry has established the world market, for which the discovery of America paved the way. This market has given an immense development to commerce, to navigation, to communication by land. This development has, in turn, reacted on the extension of industry; and in proportion as industry, commerce, navigation, railways extended, in the same proportion the bourgeoisie developed, increased its capital, and pushed into the background every class handed down from the Middle Ages. [...]

The weapons with which the bourgeoisie felled feudalism to the ground are now turned against the bourgeoisie itself.

Notice the similarities? Both Marx and D'Souza share an abiding faith that "progress," technology, and economic efficiency will set us free. This view--known as Dialectical Materialism--is the sine quo non of Marx's ideology. It's his belief that capitalism inevitably would become so efficient that mankind could simply transcend it and enter into communism--just as earlier epochs had cast off feudalism and other pre-modern economic systems for something more advanced. Yet D'Souza, a leading conservative voice, bought into it, hook, line, and sinker.

That’s why his piece is fatally flawed. D’Souza fails to see that mankind’s nature is essentially unchanging, so technology will never make us “free” or more “moral” or anything like that. As Genesis reminds us, we’ve been cast from the Garden and must work in a world of scarcity to feed our raging, infinite appetites. Nothing short of the Second Coming will free us from that. Hell, I live in the 21st century in one of the wealthiest cities on earth, and I still had to roll my arse out of bed this morning and go to work—at a computer terminal, no less. Thank you, Bill Gates. Thank you “progress.”

Innovations can change the speed of life (as in travel, communication, etc), and the length of life (medicine, etc.), but technology does little to change the quality of life. When I see technology make a man more courageous, then maybe I’ll bite. When a computer rids the world of injustice, then I’ll be persuaded. And if the next medical breakthrough makes mankind live not just longer, but more virtuously, then I’ll be won over. Till then, don’t bug me with Marxoid delusions about “progress,” and don’t ask me to place all my chips on “the future.”






:: Scott 2:07 AM [+] ::
...
:: Thursday, February 14, 2002 ::
Ken Lay Cleared?

Enron Whistleblower Sherron Watkins testifies today that top executives duped CEO Ken Lay about his company's fraudulent accounting activities. Apparently Lay's henchmen brought about the company's demise, while keeping Lay and the board misinformed.

Don't hold your breath waiting for the media restore Lay's good name.
:: Scott 11:22 PM [+] ::
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Kim Jung Il: "Sun of the 21st Century"?

North Korea lately has been taking a lot of flack in the media for being "evil." Now the regime in Pyongyang has come to set the record straight. According to this item from Korean Central News Agency:

Pyongyang, February 13 (KCNA)--The world progressives are highly praising leader Kim Jong Il as the sun of the 21st century. He has been awarded well-known orders, medals and honorary titles from different countries.

He was awarded the honorary titles of academician and doctor according to a decision of the standing committee of the international information technology academy of Belarus on January 23.

Last year he was awarded the honorary title of doctor, honorary citizenship certificate, key, honorary diploma, gold medal and medal from the Autonomous University of Quito and Morona Santiago Province, Ecuador, Villa Maria Del Triunfo and Magdalena Del Mar cities and Chachapoyas and Huancayo provinces, Peru, and the French institute for the fidelity in work.

He was given over 90 orders and medals from more than 30 countries and international organizations.

Among them are "Sacred Kuds Star Order" of Palestine, "Solidarity Order" of Cuba, Libourne city medal of France, and order first class of the organization of socialists in the Mediterranean.

After he was registered as an honorary citizen of Toamasina, Madagascar, in April 1987, at least 30 cities of more than 10 countries including Guyana, Portugal and Cote D'Ivoire awarded him honorary titles of citizenship and keys and tens of universities in Russia, Peru, Mexico and other countries honorary titles of academician, doctor and professor.

Whether or not North Korea is "evil" may still be open for debate, at least if your last name is Chomsky or Sontag. But let's stipulate as uncontroversial the fact that, if nothing else, these guys are psychotic nutbags.

By the way, looking at this list of "honors" for Kim Jung Il, I have no doubt that he received every last one of 'em. Sure, this is all propaganda, but why would someone lie to take credit for winning awards from Cuba, Belarus, and Palestine? The world really is full of people who love that stupid commie. Yet people still wonder why America doesn't give a rat's a$$ about the "international community."
:: Scott 11:11 PM [+] ::
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Progress in the War on Terror

Ari Fleischer labels the Palestinian Authority as part of the "Axis of Evil." Now we're getting somewhere....
:: Scott 10:50 PM [+] ::
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Lent and The Presbyterian Church (USA)

I just came back from a very moving Ash Wednesday Service at Westwood Presbyterian Church. It was a solemn and dignified affair, complete with a brief sermon, two hymns on the organ, Holy Communion and the Imposition of Ashes. The message was the most sober of the Ecclesiastical calendar: "Dust thou art, and into dust thou shalt return" (Ecc. 3:20). Certainly it's not the most pleasant message, but it's one we all need to hear from time to time. I'm fortunate to have found a congregation that's willing to bring up such hard topics when the time is appropriate.

Contrast that scene with the larger denomination to which I belong, the Presbyterian Church, USA (PCUSA). Once again, PCUSA has gone out of its way to embarrass me and my fellow believers. PCUSA has urged all the faithful to join in a "Lenten Fast from Violence." That's right, a "fast from violence."

If you're like me, you're probably searching through the Orwellian fog, and trying to figure out exactly what a "fast from violence" entails. According to PCUSA, the goal of this "fast" is to confront "our cultural addiction to violence" and to "focus on the growing violence in our world and the need for peace and reconciliation." PCUSA offers these guidelines for participating in the "fast:"

You are invited, as an individual Christian in Christian community, to examine your life and choose a fast that has meaning for you and your community. Some examples of violence from which you might fast: violent TV shows, movies, video games, toys that glorify violence or war, music with violent lyrics, taxes that pay for war, products manufactured in sweat shops or by child labor, financial investment in companies that produce violence.

Now, you might get angry at the bald-faced political agenda behind this list, or you might simply snicker its breathtaking stupidity. But let's entertain the idea of a "fast" from "violence" for a moment. Perhaps we could "fast" from singing "Onward Christian Soldiers" and Martin Luther's hymn "A Mighty Fortress is Our God." Perhaps we should "fast" from daily lectionary readings like those proscribed by the Church for Ash Wednesday which include references to "the LORD...who makes destruction flash out against the strong, so that destruction comes upon the fortress" (Amos 5:8-9). We could even go over the top and "fast" from Good Friday Observances, full as they are of references to the "violent" crucifixion of Our Lord.

Or maybe we could open our eyes and recognize what a damn fool idea this whole "fast from violence" really is.

I should probably be angrier about this than I am. After all, the grandees of mainline Protestantism long ago sold out our faith to a radical left-wing political agenda. This is just the latest telling the Gospel according to Noam Chomsky, complete with the anti-American call to “fast” from “taxes that pay for war” and calls to understand the “root causes” of terrorism.

Yet the motivation behind this is not so much a hatred for America, I believe, as it is a desire to demonstrate that the Church is “with it.” Their hearts are in the right place, though their brains obviously are not. But alas, every time they put on a display like this to show how attuned they are to the shifts in popular culture, the pews become little emptier, and the Church’s cultural influence a little weaker. After it’s all done, the empty pews and the loss of cultural influence are then used by Church leaders to justify another shameful round of this politicking. It’s pathetic.

Some people close to me (such as Ben Kepple and Brother Matthew) have grown so disgusted with this whole cycle that they’ve left the squishy Protestant churches altogether, and converted to Catholicism. I’ve thought about that too. I have enormous respect for the Church of Rome, and find its theology quite appealing. In fact, the Catholics identified the errors in behind this "fast" 1600 years ago, and called them the "Pelegian Heresy." Nonetheless I’ve decided it’s better for me to remain among these misguided souls instead, and to work and pray for reform within the Presbyterian Church. My family has had ties to the Presbyterian Church for centuries (several of my ancestors were ministers at Paxton Presbyterian Church in Harrisburg, PA back in the 1700s), and few things sadden me more than this politicized assault on their heritage. But rather than let the barbarians storm the pulpits, I’m going to stick it out and fight. And ultimately, I believe, the fight will belong to those of us working to save our traditions from those who advocate trendy, populist innovations. Our heritage is simply too rich and too strong to be defeated with the half-baked new-wave theology held by the Church’s national leadership.








:: Scott 1:34 AM [+] ::
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Quote of the Day

Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
Even among these rocks,
Our peace in His will
And even among these rocks

TS Eliot, "Ash Wednesday."
:: Scott 12:25 AM [+] ::
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Lenten Reflections

Here's a link to a page that offers prayers and reflections for each day of Lent, via Chris Weinkopf.
:: Scott 12:19 AM [+] ::
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Neo-Nazis for Saddam

Far-right Austrian Freedom Party leader Joerg Haider visits Saddam Hussein in Baghdad. What a nutbag.
:: Scott 12:10 AM [+] ::
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Riordan to LA Times: Drop Dead

An LA Times reporter pesters former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan about the death of his daughter. Riordan explodes with indignation. "'I don’t want to talk to you ever again,' he shouted at the dumbfounded reporter. 'Just get out of here now! Do you understand?'” Thus reports the LA Weekly. Say what you will about Riordan, but grant him this: the man's human.
:: Scott 12:08 AM [+] ::
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Arafat the Peacemaker

"Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat aimed a handgun at West Bank Preventive Security Service chief Jabril Rajoub during a tense meeting on Monday," the Jerusalem Post reports today. And we're still wondering what the "peace process" would be like if Arafat were gone...
:: Scott 12:04 AM [+] ::
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:: Wednesday, February 13, 2002 ::
Lent and "Wine on Sunday"

Folks, tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Christian Holy Season of Lent.

Lector: What is Lent, Scott?
Auctor: Lent's a bit like Ramadan, except it's not as politically correct, and doesn't come with calls to "stop the bombing," &c. It's the Christian season of self-sacrifice during the 40 days before Easter. It coincides with Christ's time of fasting in the desert shortly after beginning of his ministry. During Lent, the faithful are supposed to give up something they enjoy until Easter Sunday. I've decided to give up wine for the next 40 days.
Lector: But Scott, you love wine...
Auctor: Yes, little one, but we must all take up our crosses and deny ourselves during these 40 days.
Lector: But isn't self-denial for chumps?
Auctor: No! "It's in losing ourselves that we find ourselves," moron. Get with the program.

Yes, friends, I'm giving up wine for 40 days. Today it's Fat Tuesday, so I'm nursing one last bottle of this nectar before joining the faithful of all nations in a time of renewal and self-sacrifice. (For the record, tonight's wine is the Canyon Road Vineyards' Cabernet Sauvignon, 2000.) I'm off to Church tomorrow for the imposition of Ashes, and a sermon that includes the grim reminder that "from ash we come and to ash we shall return." Afterwards, no wine till Easter. Also, no meat on Fridays. As the good Catholic JFK might have said, "We do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard."

But wait! Not all is lost. Sunday's are not counted in the 40 days leading up to Easter. See, each week, our Lord grants us a foretaste of Easter, of the victory over death and sin. That means I can drink wine on Sundays!

What does that mean for you, dear reader? It means that we're going to begin a new Lenten feature here at SR.com: Wine on Sunday. Yes, each week, I'm going to uncork a new bottle of wine and tell you about here in this space.

I'm also going to give you a chance to join in, and experience this divine joy for yourself. That's right, each week I'm going to announce the Lenten Wine of the Week, and we can all partake on Sunday, united in the grace, peace, and joy of our Lord Jesus Christ. I'll give you enough time to head out to Ralph's or Trader Joe's, or--if you're in some stinkhole like Manchester, NH--to Boston to pick up Sunday's wine.

Here are some rules, provisos, and other caveats:

1. I'm not a wine expert. I just like wine. Don't expect expert commentary from me each Sunday night.
2. I will select only wines that I've never tasted before. Wine-drinking should be an adventure, and I'm not going to place my chips on safe bets here at SR.com.
3. All wines will cost less than $10 per bottle. Even though I'm a Republican, I'm still not rich enough to buy expensive wines. Besides, you should be able to enjoy wine without worrying about how much it cost you.
4. I prefer red wines, so expect my selections to include lots of cabbies, chiantis, etc. For the sake of variety, though, I'll try picking out some whites during the next few weeks.
5. No merlot. There are too many of those rotten wines out there, and too many of them aren't up to snuff. And, as we all know, bad wine offends St. Peter. We're just going to avoid them altogether.

This Sunday, I'll be drinking Barwang Cabernet Sauvignon, 1999. It's from Southeastern Australia. It cost just $6.99 at Ralph's tonight. I've never had it before, either. But it looks yummy. We'll find out this weekend how if it's up to snuff.

Pax vobiscum, everybody!



:: Scott 12:35 AM [+] ::
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:: Tuesday, February 12, 2002 ::
GOP Cracks Down on Eco-Terror

...'bout damn time too.
:: Scott 11:43 PM [+] ::
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One State, Two State, Red State, Blue State

The Wall Street Journal offered this article yesterday about the cultural divide between the coastal and non-coastal areas in our country. The Journal rules in favor of the "red" Bush states.

As a Red-State transplant to the Blue State of California, though, I think the Journal's pastorale to Bush Country is off target. Certainly I think the virtues of the Red States are superior to those of the terra infidelium that voted for Gore in 2000. But you know what? I'd much rather live in California, a Gore state as "Blue" as the sky, than a red state like, oh, say, Montana. Sure, there are plenty of good people out there. But the standard of living out here in Gore Country can't be beat. In fact, I really enjoy living in a mega-state like California. Sure, it has its problems. It's full of Gore Voters, for starters. But you can't beat the selection of restaurants, museums, and cultural attractions found in any major city. In fact, I've got grocery stores, banks, and boba smoothie shops all within walking distance of my apartment. It's hard to beat that. The Red States are great if you want to settle down and raise a family (and there's no way in hell I'm doing that in LA), but if you're young, free, and lookin' for fun, you gotta "move to the city where it all begins."
:: Scott 11:41 PM [+] ::
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Stanley Kurtz and The "I" Word

I was afraid that I sounded a bit like Noam Chomsky in my post last week about the War on Terror. But lo, another conservative has gone a bit farther than I did. Stanley Kurtz goes so far as to call the clash with the "Axis of Evil" an assertion of a "New American Imperialism." He puts a smiling face on matters, but I'm still a bit reluctant about becoming the world's policeman--even if it means we're not 100 percent secure from foreign attacks.
:: Scott 11:22 PM [+] ::
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Neville Chamberlain Takes Credit for Winning WWII

...or, Bill Clinton takes credit for winning the War on Terrror. What a jacka$$...
:: Scott 11:16 PM [+] ::
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Quote of the Day

From one of Glenn Reynolds' readers, on the Congressional hearings on Enron:

"Do the congressmen realize that they are coming across as total buffoons? I work on a trading desk, and we have MSNBC on all day. Whenever any Senator or Congressman starts on an Enron witness, we all have the same reaction. Something along the lines of "What a hypocritical a*****e that guy is!" And we're not talking about the witnesses. Do you think the rest of the country sees them that way? Do you have to be totally clueless to be an elected official?"



:: Scott 11:14 PM [+] ::
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:: Monday, February 11, 2002 ::
Welcome, Megan McArdle and Libertarian Samizdata!

I've updated the perma-link list found on the left-hand column of this page to include two fine sites: Megan McArdle's Live from Ground Zero, and the redoubtable Libertarian Samizdata. Welcome aboard!

Despite being a New Yorker, and despite the poor judgment she displayed in basing her URL (JaneGalt.blogspot.com) on a character from a tedious novel by a third-rate political philosopher, the copy she churns out is quite good. She's got some really keen insights on everything from corporate taxation to spam e-mail. Plus she's a worker at the Ground Zero site in Lower Manhattan, a role which allows her to pepper her page with insights from a place that's so dear to us all right now. I'm proud to have her listed on my site.

Meanwhile the Samizdata crew e-mailed me this afternoon and informed me that SR.com has been perma-linked to their site. Woo hoo! The least I can do is return the favor. They've got a kick-a$$ page over there, and you should make a habit of reading it daily.

:: Scott 11:47 PM [+] ::
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SEC and Enron

Insight Magazine takes a ball-busting look at the Enron debacle and finds that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) cleared the way for much of that defunct company’s mismanagement. The commission granted numerous exemptions to SEC regulations, yet its chairman Arthur Levitt is portrayed as the savior in this whole saga. “Hypocrisy,” she wrote.

I guess I shouldn’t be so shocked to learn that the government had a significant role to play in this financial disaster. After all, waste and mismanagement are the sine quibus non of the public sector. Still it’s fun to watch the sport of a good reporter taking down a comfortable political jobholder like Levitt. Go read and enjoy this article, then laugh next time you hear Levitt and his lackeys say, “We’re from the government, and we’re here to help you.”

:: Scott 11:29 PM [+] ::
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Grand Central Market

One more reason why Los Angeles rules: Grand Central Market, at Fourth and Hill Streets, downtown. I went there for the first time today--after more than a year and a half in the City of Angels. I was on my way back from Central Library this afternoon, and spotted it from Pershing Square. I had heard about it before, and decided to go check it out.

Folks, Grand Central Market is awesome. It's a little bit like a Dean and Deluca for blue-collar Latin-American immigrants. It's a marketplace (Spanish cheeses, fruits, etc.), cum food court. I had the best damn chicken tacos there today too, at Tomas' taco stand. I ordered two of them, and ended up with a plate-and-a-half-full of roast chicken drenched in salsa picante, all on top of two soft flour tortillas per taco. They were great. I've had some good Mexican food since I moved to LA, but those chicken tacos could well be the best I've had in all that time. And with the atmosphere, I really felt like I was in Monterrey or Tijuana. It was wonderful. Pity the poor people in the Valley and on the Westside who never venture past the shopping mall to experience this bounty of culture and culinary delight.
:: Scott 12:59 AM [+] ::
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Smetana Revisited

A local classical radio station (K-Mozart, I believe) has a saying for their music: "The longer you listen, the greater it gets." Though it's obviously a marketing plug, the statement really is true. While the music of some composers (esp. Mozart, Beethoven, and a few other giants) immediately overwhelms you with its beauty and power, other composers take a little more time to appreciate. Like a good friend, these composers greet you at first with a handshake and a bland, generic set of pleasantries--but then slowly and gradually they grow on you, and begin to enrich your life in ways that nothing else can match.

So it is with Bedrich Smetana, whose masterpiece Ma Vlast ("My Country") I pooh-poohed on these pages back on November 10. I said then that Ma Vlast "wasn't bad, but..." It struck me as a rather ho-hum composition when I first heard it.

Fast forward three months, though, and suddenly I'm completely in love with Ma Vlast. Right now it's playing on the stereo for the fourth time in 36 hours. All I can say is, "Wow." Incredible. The notes jump from the speakers and tug at the soul. It's sublime. And it gets better each time I hear it. "The longer you listen, the greater...&c."

Anyway, I'm not afraid to admit when I'm wrong. And with Smetana, I missed the mark completely. I'm happy to correct the record, and report that Smetana's music rules.
:: Scott 12:35 AM [+] ::
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:: Sunday, February 10, 2002 ::
Anti-Globo-Anarchists

Matt Welch has posted an item today in which he tweeks free-traders for spending too much time making fun of anti-globalization protestors, and not enough time fighting protectionism, which keeps poor countries poor. Writes Welch:

If free traders spent as much time railing against rich-country protectionism as they do making fun of the anti-globalization kids, the pig-puppet audience would dwindle to a core of fog-headed Maoists, and more importantly, destitute people around the world could vault out of poverty much faster.

Too true, Matt. Would that domestic politics didn't stand in the way of rational economic policies like Fast Track Authority and the African Free-Trade Bill that's been floundering around Congress for several sessions now. It's just that the anti-globo freaks are such easy targets. After all, do Pat Buchanan and John Sweeny run around dressed like circus clowns?
:: Scott 11:43 PM [+] ::
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Whit Stillman

Mark Henrie has edited a new volume of essays about one of my favorite filmmakers, Whit Stillman. National Review has written about it here.

By the way, if you've never seen Stillman's movies Metropolitan, Barcelona, and Last Days of Disco, you should go rent them tonight. They're excellent films, complete with witty dialogue, and what Peter Lawler describes as "rather Socratic, Christian, and at least ambiguously conservative" themes. Barcelona, which explores left-wing European anti-Americanism as it follows two Americans living in Spain during the latter years of the Cold War, is particularly apt right now, given our involvement in a war on terrorism; meanwhile Last Days of Disco offers a subtle defense of the doctrine of original sin and the notion of Christian virtue. Heavy as those themes may seem, though, Stillman is a filmmaker par excellence, who truly understands the meaning of the old Latin phrase, ars est caelere artem. He's a master at cloaking an important point beneath a veneer of wit and humor. If you're like me, you'll probably end up renting his films over and over again, and finding something new with each viewing. Would that we had more filmmakers like him.
:: Scott 3:15 PM [+] ::
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Euro Trash

In a tip of the hat to Hamas, Hezbollah, and Islamic Jihad, The European Union has outlined plans for the creation of a Palestinian State.
:: Scott 2:35 PM [+] ::
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:: Saturday, February 09, 2002 ::
Update: California Governor's Race

I had the opportunity to hear two of the three Republican candidates in the California Gubernatorial Race speak yesterday at the Council for National Policy's Conference in Laguna Niguel. After watching Bill Simon and Bill Jones in action--and noting the conspicuous absence of frontrunner Richard Riordan--I'm starting to conclude that the best hope for movement conservatives in this race is Secretary of State Jones.

Before we go any further, let me disclose that I have left my notes at the office this weekend, and that what I'm writing is based largely on memory. There may be some small discrepancies from the actual record.

That said, though, let me make the qualified assertion that Bill Simon is a complete space cadet. Simon, who happens to be pals with Rudy Giuliani and a few other powerful northeastern elites, got in front of 250 movement conservatives yesterday and bored them to tears. He started off with invocations of Edmund Burke and Friedrick Hayek (how many California voters know who they are?), and went straight downhill from there. He mentioned the term "public-private partnerships" about half-a-dozen times, and his biggest applause line was, "Isn't the private sector better than the public sector?" Uh, yeah, Bill. And with one-liners like that, you'll be in the private sector for a very, very long time.

Bill Jones, on the other hand, gave a much more polished speech. He invoked Reagan, and rattled off some of his endorsements that revealed his bona fides with Mexican-Americans, gun-owners, and other groups that the GOP cares about right now. He emphasized his electability on a statewide level. Then he came out swinging at Gray Davis. Then he ripped into Dick Riordan's moderate record on abortion, gays, and other core conservative issues. He criticized him for giving $12,500 to the Davis campaign in 1998. And he took this shot at the absent former of Los Angeles: "I know I should uphold Ronald Reagan's 11th Commandment to not openly criticize another Republican, but in the case of Richard Riordan, it really depends on how you define Republican." All in all, it was an impressive display. Whether or not he'll overtake Riordan remains to be seen, but Jones really strikes me as the horse to back if you're looking for an electable conservative.

:: Scott 10:43 PM [+] ::
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SR.com: Olympics-Free Zone

I don't have a teevee in my apartment (I hate the damn things), but if I did I wouldn't be watching the SLC Winter Olympics. The Wall Street Journal's Kimberly Strassel touches on a few of the reasons why I'm going to sit these games out:

The IOC has spent a lot of the past two decades trying to bolster a specific image. Along with the United Nations, it has increasingly sought to occupy that distant, holier-than-all-you sphere (even if it is a bit crowded up there in la-la land with Human Rights Watch, Unicef and Doctors Without Borders). The Olympic PR spin is that the games transcend petty nationalism, greedy athletic ambition and ungentlemanly conduct. The IOC's role, as it sees it, is to ensure that every two years, athletes from around the world come together to celebrate world-wide fellowship and love of their fellow snowboarder, ping-pong player or synchronized swimmer.

The IOC has a lot going for it in this way. The perceived wisdom, after all, is that all the Olympics' noble and peaceful attributes descended directly from the original Greek games. In those days, or so the story goes, all the city-states stopped warring so that a couple of decent chaps could shake hands and wrestle in a civilized fashion (albeit naked), while Plato and Socrates sat in the stands and invented democracy. The IOC even has visual aides, including interlocking rings (international unity) and the torch (for peace), to cement its gentle, loving image.

The problem, of course, is that the ancient games were nothing like this [....] As for the nicey-nicey symbols: The interlocking rings didn't come until 1914, and they were originally meant to symbolize the five previous modern Olympics, not the five continents. The Olympic torch wasn't introduced until the 1936 Summer Games in Berlin, to glam up Hitler's image. Moreover, the first torch had corporate sponsorship; it bore the logo of Krupp, a German munitions giant. Peace in our time.

Ah, yes, you gotta love those Teutonic symbols of "World Peace."

More to the point, though, what self-respecting guy would want to watch...figure skating? Curling? Or any of the other feminized sports these "We Are The World" types hash out? Maybe Feminist Blogger has some items on the Olympics, but I promise not to clutter this page with stories from that circus in Salt Lake City.





:: Scott 10:12 PM [+] ::
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Cesky





Thanks to a healthy dose of wanderlust and not a few Pilsners Urquell, I've signed up for a Czech language course at Loyola Marymount University. The first session took place this morning. Prague, here I come--again.

By the way, Matt Welch has posted a cool article today about the founding of the newspaper Prognosis, which he and a group of fellow UC-Santa Barbara grads put together shortly after the Velvet Revolution. The piece includes a lot of details about Prague, and the period following the collapse of communism. Between that article and my class this morning, I can't think about anything else right now except going back there, taking a walk along the Vltava, and then settling into a little bar with some friends for a few liters of the best beer in the world. Ahhh, sigh…One day I’ll get back there…one day…


:: Scott 7:43 PM [+] ::
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:: Friday, February 08, 2002 ::
War on Terror, My A$$*

Maybe my German's just a little rusty, but this article from Die Welt really ticked me off: "Bush will Kontakt zu Arafat nicht abbrechen." ("Bush does not want to break off contact with Arafat.") Sure enough, the article tells us about Bush's meeting with Ariel Sharon today, and his refusal to accept Sharon's request that we break off ties with the PLO Chairman. Why the hell not, Bush? The "axis of evil" runs right through that man. It's completely hypocritical to continue huffing and puffing about fighting a war on terror, while wheeling and dealing with an anti-Semitic monster who blows up civilians at discos, Sbarros Pizza restaurants, and open-air shopping malls. F*ck Arafat. F*ck Palestinian statehood. And F*ck this nonsense about an "axis of evil" until it includes fighting a man who blows up real people with real lives, and real dreams, and a real desire to live peaceably, without the threat of being a target of the next suicide bomber.

On a side-note, why do I have to read about this story in the German press? The first meeting with the Prime Minister of Israel since the "Axis of Evil" speech seems like pretty big news, eh? But alas, my cursory search of US news sites at this hour reveals the following lead stories:

Fox News: "[Enron's] Feet to the Fire"
New York Times: "In Shift, Bush Says Geneva Rules Fit Taliban Captives but Not Qaeda Members"
Los Angeles Times: "U.S. to Give Its Captive Talibs Geneva Status"
Washington Post: "Enron Hearings Yield Questions, Few Answers"
Drudge Report: "UTAH GOES ON TO WAR FOOTING FOR WINTER GAMES "

Glad to see our nation's media have their priorities in order...

*If I sound like an angry German tonight, it's because I'm listening to a CD by the loud, grim-sounding German heavy-metal band Rammstein. They rule.
:: Scott 1:57 AM [+] ::
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:: Thursday, February 07, 2002 ::
Birthday Shoutouts!

My friend, comrade and predecessor at FrontPage Ben Kepple turns 26 today. Happy Birthday, Ben!

Meanwhile, Sister Katie, whose good standing in the Rubush family was renewed last December when she gave me a George Foreman Grill, turns 22 tomorrow! Happy Birthday, Katie!

:: Scott 11:58 PM [+] ::
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Happy Birthday, Ronald Reagan!

The Gipper turns 91 today. Happy Birthday, Mr. President!

"Government growing beyond our consent had become a lumbering giant, slamming shut the gates of opportunity, threatening to crush the very roots of our freedom. What brought America back? The American people brought us back -- with quiet courage and common sense; with undying faith that in this nation under God the future will be ours, for the future belongs to the free."

--Reagan, State of the Union Address, February 4, 1986

:: Scott 12:46 AM [+] ::
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The Axis of Evil

Former Newt Gingrich Aide Tony Blankley has a good op-ed in today's Washington Times on President Bush's "Axis of Evil" speech last week. There's a lot of material out there about that speech, but this piece is one of the better ones I've read. It reassures us that our fight against the terror states of Iraq, Iran, and North Korea is just, while warning us against the hawkish triumphalism that now appears to have emerged as the nation’s consensus on foreign policy.

Mr. Blankley invokes the ancient Greek historian Thucydides in his article, and I think our nation would be well served by heeding that wise man's warnings against wars of aggression--which we've now taken to calling "pre-emptive strikes" against "outlaw regimes." President Bush strikes me as a much more sincere leader than the Alcibides described in books six through eight of Thucydides' history of the Peloponnesian War, but I don't see that our modern-day version of the Athenian Assembly--our nation's voting public--has evolved that much in the 2500 years since the world's first democracy launched its disastrous, yet oh-so-popular Sicilian Campaign.

I doubt that a single campaign against any nation in the "Axis of Evil" would be nearly as costly as that, but the "Bush Doctrine"--if applied consistently--has all kinds of sobering implications. Would we be willing to fight a war with, say, China, which aims its nuclear weapons at the West Coast and supplies arms to terrorist states? Would we be willing to maintain a large troop presence on the far side of the globe to maintain order and prevent "the next Afghanistan" from emerging? When, exactly, can we declare victory over "terror," an enemy that is neither human nor institutionalized (such as a nation-state)?

And, besides, isn't it just a bit naive to think we could ever successfully prevent another attack from ever being launched against our country? The grim side of human nature we saw on display Sept. 11 may have been in hibernation for many years before those attacks, but it's a chilling fact of life that our existence is not triumphant, but tragic--or to quote Thomas Hobbes, "nasty, brutish, and short." To defeat that side of our existence is to erase the blot of original sin from all humanity-- a war which only the Almighty Himself will ever win. I like George Bush a lot, but he's no Messiah, and he's not going to build a New Jerusalem that's free from any and all external attacks.

Don't get me wrong here, though. I certainly will support whatever action the President may take in the War on Terror. And if any three countries are due for a day of reckoning, it's those which Bush listed in his speech last week. I'm just a bit daunted by the magnitude of the task that the President has laid out for us. Perhaps he will allay some of my concerns as he provides more details on the actions he wants to take.

But there are just a lot of hard questions that nobody seems to be asking right now. The anti-war Left discredited itself over Afghanistan, while the Right has been solidly hawkish over the Axis. What seems to be missing from the debate right now is a prudent middle ground between complete passivity on one hand, and overreaction on the other. Certainly I believe we ought to take reasonable measures to avenge Sept. 11 and prevent the next Sept. 11 from happening. But there seems to be more at stake than just that. If Bush is sincere about his intentions--and we have every reason to believe he is--then a tectonic shift in our nation's foreign policy is underway —from a role of benign (relative) neglect of the non-western world to one of aggressive, proactive involvement. I worry that such a huge assertion of American power would be against our enlightened, long-term self-interest. Yet we're moving forward with nary a peep of serious dissent.

But who needs that? "United we stand," eh?





:: Scott 12:16 AM [+] ::
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:: Wednesday, February 06, 2002 ::
Armey on AmeriCorps

Thank goodness we have people in Congress who are willing to say that the whole idea behind AmeriCorps is "obnoxious." Now if we could just get 217 more Dick Armey's, plus 51 in the Senate, and another for the White House...
:: Scott 10:50 PM [+] ::
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Wine for Ben Kepple

Luis Felipe Edwards Cabernet Sauvignon...from Chile's Colchagua Province...$7.99--at Ralph's. Yum.
:: Scott 12:22 AM [+] ::
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:: Tuesday, February 05, 2002 ::
NOW and Forced Abortions

The National Organization for Women (NOW) would have us believe that they support a woman's "choice" to have an abortion. But that's bull. They want as many unborn children as possible extracted with forks and tongs from the wombs of their mothers. Now they're giving the game away by showing their support for China's ghastly "one-child" policy of forced abortions. Read more about it here.
:: Scott 8:49 PM [+] ::
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Planned Parenthood's Final Solution for the "Negro Problem"

The Washington Times ran this op-ed today about how Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger advocated abortion as a means of exterminating African Americans. It documents her ties to various and sundry proto-Nazi groups during the 1930s, and her infatuation with eugenics. It also includes this revealing quote: "We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population..."

But let's not question motives here. Thanks to Sanger and her ilk, African-American women now have the "right" to do the work of the lynch mobs and the Ku Kluxers--er, to have an abortion. "Free at last, free at last..."
:: Scott 8:42 PM [+] ::
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:: Monday, February 04, 2002 ::
Lil' Johnny Edwards

The New Hampshire Primary is still two years away, but Sen. Johnny Edwards (D-NC) is on a trip up to Kepple Country this week to drum up support for his Presidential bid.


Frankly as a right-winger I can't help but salivate at the prospect of this man running for President. Johnny is a slick lil' pretty boy who has won exactly one election in his entire life. After knocking off a weak incumbent in 1998 to become a US Senator, though, he seems to believe he's just a hop, skip, and a jump away from the Oval Office. Kinda reminds me of another young Senator who was cast into the limelight a bit too soon--Dan Quayle. In short, I don't see his presidential bid going anywhere--but I'll feel all kinds of Schadenfreude watching him fall flat on his cute little face. Plus if he runs, he may have to give up his Senate seat, which would be up for grabs during the '04 cycle. Run, Johnny, run!

I actually had the privilege of helping shout down Edwards during his campaign stop at UNC-Chapel Hill in 1998. As Edwards spoke in the Pit (the campus' main public square) during lunchtime, me and a bunch of my right-wing buddies surrounded the square, shouted GOP slogans, and held-up campaign signs for Edwards' opponent. It was great! The man was completely flustered, and even had to interrupt his speech at one point. Afterwards, I followed Edwards and snapped a roll-full of unflattering pictures paparazzi-style with my little point-and-shoot Nikon camera. Still have 'em somewhere, too. There's one of him holding a Diet Coke in one hand, balling a fist with the other, and giving me a really dirty scowl with his face. Priceless.

And to think, we might have Johnny to kick around for an entire Presidential Election! I can hardly wait!

:: Scott 11:19 PM [+] ::
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Shock Schlock Alert

A Lego Concentration Camp...a "Disney-like" portrayal of Nazi ringleaders...a Bunchenwald prisoner holding a can of Diet Coke: this is just a preview of the shock schlock set to go on display next month at New York's Jewish Museum. Here's the New York Post's write-up about this appalling display.
:: Scott 10:52 PM [+] ::
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:: Sunday, February 03, 2002 ::
Ken Lay's Catch-22

Folks, if you need any more evidence that the Enron Scandal has become a modern-day Salem Witch Trial, go read Bad Dude Brian Linse and his take on CEO Ken Lay's refusal to testify before the Congressional Panels investigating the company's demise. Writes Brian:

Kenneth Lay is A F---ing Criminal C---s---er...

...who makes me wish I believed in a place called Hell. Today, Lay announced that he will not appear before the Senate Commerce Committee because of their apparent ability to conclude in advance that something really s----y had gone down and that Mr. Lay was the guy in charge. Hopefully, justice will someday prevail, and Mr. Lay will find himself in a penitentiary as somebody's bitch. Hell on Earth is something I believe in.

C'mon, Brian! Before we damn this guy to Hell, can't we at least dunk him to see if he floats? Good grief!

Now, don't get me wrong here. I'm not into flacking for criminal scumbags--a profile which Mr. Lay seems to fit. But look closely at what Linse is condemning: it's not Lay’s alleged criminal activity; it's Lay's breathtaking audacity to...get ready for this...defend himself! How dare the most vilified man in America fight back against a nationwide legal and media lynching!

The same is true of Vice President Dick Cheney, who now is under pressure to release information about meetings he held with energy executives. How dare he defend himself too!

You know what folks? If the economy weren't in such a stink hole right now, Enron wouldn't be nearly as big a deal. The story resonates because people all around the country are suffering financially right now, and Enron has become a scapegoat for all those problems. If we could just get to the bottom this scandal, the logic goes, then the economy would recover and we could brace for the stock market to take another shot into the stratosphere.

Certainly there are serious cases of illegal and unethical conduct at play here, but those have been blown way out of proportion. We're at the point now where nothing Lay, et al. say can vindicate them in the eyes of a bloodthirsty public. And if they remain silent, that's just further proof of their guilt. It's a Catch-22, folks. And it's one that I'm quickly losing patience for. Certainly this man should be investigated for the mess that happened under his watch at Enron. But he also deserves a fair hearing--and there's no reason to believe that he would have gotten one before a highly-politicized congressional panel. Quite frankly I don't blame him for thumbing his nose at Congress.

(Besides, what in the world is Congress, of all possible institutions, doing with its hand in an ethics investigation? That's like having Darryl Strawberry and Lawrence Taylor serving on an anti-drug campaign. Gimme a break, people.)

Look, I'm not defending anything Ken Lay may or may not have done as the Chairman of Enron. I just think he has the right to defend himself. Even in this high-tech era, when rumors and allegations spread at breakneck speed, can't we at least support something as quaint as the notion of innocence until guilt is proven?




:: Scott 11:57 PM [+] ::
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Lazy Weekend in Los Angeles

Howdy, Folks! Thanks for enduring several Blog-Free days here at ScottRubush.com. I’ve been enjoying a beautiful weekend here in the City of Angels, where it’s currently sunny and 70 degrees. Ahh, nothing like Los Angeles in February. Let me just point out that it is currently:

44 and Cloudy in Washington, DC
45 and Cloudy in Raleigh, NC
42 and Mostly Cloudy in New York

…yet it’s warm enough for short sleeves here in Southern California. God Bless the Golden State.

I’ve been out enjoying the weather this weekend, which explains my conspicuous lack of bloggage the past few days. Yesterday I brewed some coffee, then went up to my rooftop with a chair and a book, and spent the entire morning reading and taking glances at the Hollywood Sign and the San Gabriel Mountains. Afterwards, I ate some lunch, then went for a five-mile hike over at Temescal Canyon in Pacific Palisades. There I got a great workout, plus some stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and the Los Angeles Cityscape. This morning, I got up and went to Church over at Westwood; now I’m hunched over the computer, trying to figure out how to spend the afternoon. Weekends don’t get much better than this.

You’ll have to pardon me for completely tuning out the news this weekend. I’m sure there’s some incisive commentary on SOTU or the Super Bowl on some other sites, but there will be none of that here today. The big game seems like it will be a dud, and I don’t want to waste the weekend thinking about the news. Sorry, ya’ll. Maybe tomorrow….

Anyway, have a great weekend, everybody!


:: Scott 4:27 PM [+] ::
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