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.
:: Tuesday, April 30, 2002 ::
Walk Forrest, Walk!
Nearly a decade after the release of the hit movie, the LA Times has produced its own answer to Forrest Gump. His name is Peter King, and he has written an article about traversing the City of Angels by walking the length of Vermont Avenue. Alas, for all of King’s energy and stupidity, he completely lacks anything that even closely resembles Forrest Gump’s endearing sense of humility—and as a result has turned out an article that is both pompous and completely idiotic.
The premise of King’s article was that he was going to descend from his perch at the Times’ offices and observe the little brown Noble Savage people who live and work along one of the avenues hit hard by the LA Riots, which broke out ten years ago today--you know, talk to the people who were hit, see how things have changed, and so forth.
Of course, I do this myself pretty much every day. I live in Koreatown, which was hit particularly hard by the looters a decade ago. And not only do I walk around, but I even shop and attend to personal business in the midst of the exotic, if riot-torn, “other.” Tonight, for instance, I got a haircut at the little Korean barbershop at Sixth and Western. After dinner, I went out and picked up a boba smoothie at one of the four boba smoothie shops that have sprouted up in my neighborhood in the last six months. (By the way, a bottle of wine and special recognition on the site to Mr. King if he can even tell me what a boba smoothie is.) After that, I took a walk past the neon signs and steely office towers of Wilshire Boulevard, and finished my smoothie while sitting on the steps of the stunning Gothic-revival Wilshire Christian Church at the corner with Normandie. Of course, that’s nothing special. That’s just me going about my business in the vibrant city I call home. So why does King get paid a big fat check for unleashing a long, vacuous article about something I do all the time? And where can I sign up for this gig?
What’s worse than the sheer arrogance that went into developing this story is the mendacity with which he executes it. For example:
While the composition of looters and arsonists was certainly diverse, nobody found in this cause for celebration. There would be no fancy phrase-making about diversity of dissent. A web of racial and ethnic fault lines had been exposed. And in the aftermath came backlash. No great feat of political genius was required to connect the dots between the upheavals of 1992 and the subsequent campaigns to boot undocumented immigrants from public schools and hospitals, to strip away affirmative action, to reject bilingual education.
Well, golly. Let’s all hold hands and sing kumbaya for the people who looted and burned the property of my Korean neighbors ten years ago—er, I mean, for “the diversity of dissent” that spilled into the neighborhood.
Forrest obviously isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, so let’s try setting the record straight for him. First, there was no “dissent” during the LA Riots. There was lawlessness. And there was no diversity to this lawlessness. It was perpetrated almost exclusively by black thugs egged on by racial arsonists like Jesse Jackson and Maxine Waters. These racist vandals attacked white people like Reginald Denny and Koreans like the ones whom I call my neighbors. And far from provoking a white backlash, the riots prompted investors and community leaders such as former Mayor Richard Riordan to direct millions upon millions of dollars into the city to heal the wounds and rebuild the smoking ruins. (For extensive detail about how these efforts have rejuvenated my own neighborhood and turned it into an attractive place for young professionals, click here.). Ah, but don’t worry facts, or dissenting voices who don’t necessarily believe that “nothing has changed” since the riots—even in a 5700 word opus like this one. Just write, Forrest, write!
The big cherry atop this scoop of journalistic arrogance is a quote from TS Eliot’s poem “The Hollow Men”:
Between the idea And the reality Between the motion And the act Falls the Shadow
In response to this feat of sheer pomposity, I can only quote another portion of the very same poem:
We are the hollow men We are the stuffed men Leaning together Headpiece filled with straw. Alas! Our dried voices, when We whisper together Are quiet and meaningless As wind in dry glass.
Sounds like a pretty good description of the LA Times’ newsroom and the paper it produces each day, don’t you think?
Think of the irony: A sex-drenched American media culture is now upbraiding the Catholic Church for being too forgiving toward licentious sexual behavior. And a culture that has learned to tolerate anything (perjury isn't perjury if it's about sex) is griping that the bishops haven't endorsed a "zero tolerance" standard toward priestly misbehavior.
When we talk about hostility to the Catholic Church, we are talking about a culture that sees the Church as one of the few institutions willing to say no. And with good reason. Any institution that speaks without irony of sin and holiness, as the bishops did last week in Rome, will always be an obstacle to liberty as defined by libertines….
When we look across the breadth of modern American life, in short, we see the institution of the Catholic Church as one of our great assets. The current scandal will have served some purpose if it forces America's bishops to take more seriously accusations against their misbehaving priests. But we aren't about to join those whose real agenda is to leave the church crushed and humiliated.
Scott 6:02 PM [+] ::
This afternoon I finished my belated reading of V.S. Naipaul’s A Bend in the River. Mr. Naipaul, a native of Trinidad now living in England, won the Nobel Prize for literature last fall, and this honor prompted a flurry of positive reviews of this book in the conservative press. The reviews celebrated Naipaul as a defender of civilization against the onslaught of fashionable yet misguided Noble Savage worship that exalts the “independence” and “distinctive cultures” of the Third World. After a reading a couple of these reviews, I added A Bend in the River to my reading list, and vowed to work my way through its pages at the first opportunity.
So were those reviews accurate? Is Naipaul really the eloquent lover of civil society that the Nobel Committee and others made him out to be? That’s certainly the impression one carries away from the book’s haunting first line: “The world is what it is; men who are nothing, who allow themselves to become nothing, have no place in it.” Yet in the 278 pages that follow, Naipaul paints a bleak, Hobbsean portrait of both sub-Saharan Africa and its European colonizers. Despite enjoining us to become (in Tom Wolfe’s phrase) Men in Full, ultimately he makes a powerful case that both savage and civilized man alike live a futile, animal existence.
The book is narrated in the first person by man named Salim, who moves to Central Africa after having grown up on the continent’s east coast. Shortly after his arrival, the natives of the country declare independence from the ruling Belgian government. A socialist dictatorship run by a person whom we know as “The Big Man” takes over, and presides over a period of growth and modernization fueled by foreign investment. The Big Man fills the country with his rabid nationalism, and convinces the citizenry to become “new men of Africa.” Through his narrator, Naipaul gives us a somewhat favorable view of the new government at its outset. The new houses and restaurants built over the bush really were shiny and nice; the imperial government it drove out really was arrogant.
Yet, as we might expect from a government headed by someone who calls himself “The Big Man,” these gains are quickly reversed. The president disbands the country’s “Youth Guard” after its members make a mockery of his cult of personality, and soon these young people plot against the ruling government. As the storm of civil war gathers, the ruling officials become increasingly corrupt in an effort to enrich themselves before they’re cast from their positions of power.
Salim is hardly an omniscient narrator, and he takes a somewhat detached view of these political events. As these things transpire, he travels to England where he visits a friend who has fled the country. Upon arriving, he finds a civilization tainted by corrupt businessmen and parasitic Arab immigrants. “This place is so big and busy you take some time to see that very little is happening,” he quotes the friend as saying. “It’s just keeping itself going. A lot of people have been quietly wiped out. There’s no new money, no real money, and this makes everybody more desperate.”
Still when Salim returns to Africa six weeks later, he finds that the situation there has taken a sharp turn for the worse. The shop he owned has been seized by the government, “radicalized,” and given to a new owner. Salim realizes the mistake he had made in returning home, and at once begins smuggling gold and ivory in order to raise money to flee the country. The local authorities become aware of Salim’s dealings, and come to seize four elephant tusks he had buried outside his apartment.
“The president is very interested in conservation,” a policeman named Prosper tells Salim. “This is why this is very serious for you. Anything might happen to you if I send in my report. This is certainly going to cost you a couple thousand.”
Not having enough money to pay the bribe, Salim is taken to jail. Through a turn of good luck, he is released two days later by a friend who happened to have risen to power in the government. But this friend warns him of the impending doom, and urges him to leave the country at once:
“It’s going to be bad here, Salim. You don’t know what they’re talking about outside. It’s going to be very bad when the President comes. […] [T]hey have to do a lot more killing, and everybody will have to dip their hands in the blood. They’re going to kill everybody who can read and write, everybody who ever put on a jacket and tie, everybody who put on a jacket de boy. They’re going to kill all the masters and all the servants. When they’re finished nobody will know there was a place like this here. They’re going to kill and kill. They say it is the only way, to go back to the beginning before it’s too late. The killing will last for days. They say it is better to kill for days than to die forever. It is going to be terrible when the President comes.”
At once Salim buys a ticket aboard a steamboat leaving the country the next day. The book concludes when the boat is hijacked, a powerful metaphor for the country and its revolution:
“The searchlight was turned off; the barge was no longer to be seen. The steamer started up again and moved without lights down the river, away from the area of battle. The air would have been full of moths and flying insects. The searchlight, while it was on, had shown thousands, white in white light.”
Naipaul concludes that the “white light” of European colonialism had exposed the subhuman existence of the African interior for all its harshness and brutality. Yet the alternative—the technologically superior ways of Western Civilization—are themselves fleeting and lacking in substance.
It’s a powerful statement from such a modestly told story. Despite these highlights, Salim’s narration throughout most of the book is very matter-of-fact, almost journalistic in its avoidance of flowery prose and clever turns-of-phrases. Naipaul also is circumspect about not revealing too much gore and bloodshed. Key figures simply disappear without a trace, and the novel ends before the civil war begins.
Still, the book is a solid read and provides a hearty serving of food for thought. While Naipaul’s pessimism seems to border on nihilism, it’s hard to deny the harsh truth he points out: that man is a fallen being who faces a very long road to redemption.
Mr. Turow served as a member of a commission appointed by Gov. George Ryan (R) to study Illinois' use of capital punishment. Today he returns from what he describes as two years of intense deliberation with his objective and impartial colleagues:
Before the arguments about the wisdom of specific recommendations gather steam in Illinois and elsewhere, I wanted to focus on one important aspect of the report that may be overlooked. More than 85% of the recommendations we made were unanimous. This was no small achievement, given the diversity of opinion in the group. The governor appointed, among others, a former U.S. senator, the general counsel to the Chicago Police Department, the current head of the Illinois State Attorneys organization, the public defender in Chicago, a past president of the local bar association and the son of a murder victim. Among us, there were fierce opponents of capital punishment and stout defenders, but we worked for two years in a spirit of amity and conciliation.
Reading this, we get the impression of 14 leading citizens dressed in their togas, descending from Olympus with stone tablets in hand, filled with recommendations on how to reform capital punishment. Turow describes his conversation with the gods on high:
Looking over the recommendations, there were three assumptions that limited the contentiousness of our deliberations and might, for that reason, be guideposts in the death-penalty debate. First, respect for the political process. Second, respect for the legitimate needs of the surviving loved ones of murder victims. And third, recognition that the system requires reform.
At this point, Turow's Platonic lie about these detached public servants laboring tirelessly on our behalf begins to wear thin. Let's consider the commission's assumptions in reverse order:
1. "Recognition that the system requires reform." Now, this is an odd statement. The panel assumes the very point they set out to prove! Why go through the motions of studying whether or not the system needs reform if you're going to reach that conclusion anyway?
2. "Respect for the legitimate needs of the surviving loved ones of murder victims." Turow expounds on this point in a subsequent paragraph:
We found that survivors need enhanced support services and reliable communication about developments in a case. Compassionate services, rather than a determinative role in the penalty process, may be a better answer for survivors as well as for the system.
Now how crass is this? Those pesky surviving relatives don't need justice. They don't need closure. They need more government services! Jesus H. Christ!
This is a really sick manifestation of the welfare state at its worst. I infer from this that the panel sees the relatives of murder victims as a mere inconvenience, as people who can be bought off and appeased while the State of Illinois gets on with its business of pampering the lawless and the violent. This is absolutely disgusting.
3. "Respect for the political process." This time voters replace victims as the obstacle to the panel's imposition of its "humane" worldview upon the unenlightened masses:
[A] majority of us favored abolition. But repeal was not one of our recommendations. That is because it remains clear that the majority of Illinois citizens and legislators favor capital punishment. As a body, we accepted that the Supreme Court's decisions make capital punishment a political question, meaning it is properly left to the citizenry.
Well, there's a principled position.
Hell, this guy sounds like Pontius Pilate. Pilate left the decision to crucify Christ to the vulgar masses. In somewhat similar fashion, the execution of Socrates was performed after a free, democratic vote of the Athenian Assembly. Yet who would argue that the lives and deaths of these great men should have been decided by politics? And who, centuries on, is not haunted by how alarmingly wrong the voice of the people turned out to be? Sorry, but the death penalty is not a matter of politics that is "properly left to the citizenry." It's a matter of justice, a matter of right and wrong. That’s something that doesn’t change with elections or opinion polls.
It's striking that for all Turow's concern with public opinion and appeasing victims' relatives, he never gets around to using the word "justice" in his 1100-word essay. That should tell us something about Turow and his ilk who would "reform or repeal" the death penalty: that justice comes last and least among their considerations, if even at all.
Of course good people can disagree over this issue. And only a fool would argue that the death penalty is perfect. But nothing is. Cars crash, airplanes fall from the sky, and yet people continue driving and flying every day. So it is with capital punishment. Miscarriages of justice happen, yet that’s no reason for society to surrender its ultimate tool of law and order, of declaring right and wrong.
We need the death penalty to stamp out the monsters who dwell in our midst—like Timothy McVeigh, Zacarias Moussaoui, and Johnny Walker Lindh. Taking their lives will never set things right, but it is the most emphatic way we have of denouncing what they did as barbaric and contrary to the principles of a civilized people—not to mention preventing them from harming our people ever again. Let’s not allow cloudy-minded plutocrats like Scott Turow to keep us from doing just that.
The Czech Republic survived four decades of communism. Now it's facing a different kind of centralizing power, the European Union. Vaclav Klaus, a former and perhaps future prime minister of the Czech Republic, explains the dilemma now facing his country. The Czechs built a free society with a functioning market economy within a decade of the Berlin Wall's collapse--a commendable feat, but one that is not yet complete. Now the nation is about to join a European Union that, Mr. Klaus says, is no longer dedicated to "removing barriers to the free movement of people, goods, money and ideas." Instead the EU seeks to create a "supranational European state aiming at the centralization of power in Brussels and the elimination of European nation states."
Klaus should be canonized for his tireless efforts to import Anglo-American style political and economic systems to the Czech Republic. That country has transformed from a communist police state into a first-rate country in a remarkably short period of time, and Klaus' uncompromising free-market principles are largely responsible for that rapid turnaround. Let's hope he enjoys just as much success at keeping Euroland's socialist bedwetting from reversing those gains.
Just exactly why shouldn't we "yield one-third of our income," as the critics put it? Should we cut our taxes so our classes can get bigger? Our Navy smaller? Our deficits wider? Our caseloads longer? Should we eliminate veterans' benefits? Just exactly why is Saturday called Tax Freedom Day? Why isn't it Tax Bargain Day?
Wow, all this--congested roads, corrupt bureaucracy, and wasteful government payments to the indolent and the incompetent--and all for just one third of my annual salary? Thank you, government. Thank you very much.
Scott 12:25 AM [+] ::
The press will doubtlessly speculate about how White House may be thrown off stride by her departure. I don't think that criticism is warranted. Bush has always kept a talented senior staff distinguished for its loyalty — and relative longevity. He's never really hired K Street mercenaries or self-serving amateurs, always here today, gone tomorrow.
I'm a bit distraught seeing Hughes go, but ultimately I think Ruffini's right on this one. Bush really does run the yard, and he has some people working for him. Ultimately the administration should manage to stay on an even keel despite the absence of such an important figure as Hughes.
Scott 2:05 AM [+] ::
Once upon a time, colleges boasted to their alumni about the rising SAT scores of their applicants, about the football team’s undefeated season, about the chemistry professor who won the Nobel Prize. No longer. Now, at least at Tufts, it’s: Our students have awful hygiene! They are loud, odorous, and inconsiderate! They will frighten your parents and imperil your health! We praise them and celebrate them for their unique identity, and then mock them in our fundraising appeals!
Weinkopf uses the word himself a few times in this article, but it bears repeating: "Priceless."
Scott 1:47 AM [+] ::
So I've been sitting on the WTC site for seven months now, and it occurred to me today that it no longer looks like a grave. And though I know that there is, as the book says, a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up, it still makes me sad that it now looks like nothing more than the largest construction site in the world.
Who ever thought we could feel nostalgic for those days after September 11?
On or shortly after September 11, I remember contemplating the words Aeneas spoke to his tempest-tost crew during their harrowing flight from the ruins of Troy: "Forsan et haec olim meminisse juvabit." ("Perhaps even one day you will remember even these our adversities with pleasure.") Those words gave me solace then, but I remember doubting them deeply, thinking: "Who the hell could remember something like this with fondness?" Yet here we are seven months on, watching as this powerful moment of our lives slips into the past.
I sure hope we never have to live through another day of terror like the one we saw last September. I hope my children never have to see such a day either. Still, perverse as it may sound, there's something bittersweet about moving on. On one side of the coin, it's reassuring to know that the permanent things have emerged from this refiner's fire intact and with all their dross burned away. Life really has gone on, and the eternal verities found in Vergil and elsewhere still hold true. Yet as dusk falls on America's St. Crispian's Day, I also can't help but feel as though this chapter of our lives is coming to a close, that we'll be forever dead to the intense emotions we all felt for months after the attacks. 3000 of our countrymen fell that day, and now a little piece ourselves, for good or ill, is on its deathbed.
So let us all remember while we still can--and remembering, act to make sure September 11 never happens again.
When democracy and tyranny are on the same side, to hell with democracy. Democracy is not an end in and of itself, just a means to an end and that end is liberty...
Hear, hear! Who gives a rat's ass about an abstract principle like the "consent of the governed" when the governed consent to be ruled by Saddam Hussein's man in Caracas? The last thing that country needs is a bunch of holier-than-thou democracy fetishists coming to Hugo Chavez's aid. Thank you, Perry, for speaking this forbidden truth.
Scott 1:33 AM [+] ::
New Issue of Carolina Review!
The new issue of Carolina Review, the student paper I edited while I was in school, has come off the presses! Gawd, they're doin' a great job there! Brother Matthew teams up with Michael Burdei to write a piece on Blogging, there are articles about Jesse Helms and Ronald Reagan, digs at the campus lefties, and the editors have resurrected the "Simply Satire" feature. Ahh, yeah, you gotta love these conservative dispatches from behind enemy lines, especially when they're so well done.
Almost makes me wish I could be back in school and do it all over again...
Scott 1:17 AM [+] ::
I called the courthouse today and got down on my knees to beg to be excused from Jury Duty. No dice. But they did let me postpone it till July--so I no longer have to trudge downtown at 7:45 on Monday morning. Woo hoo!
Scott 12:56 AM [+] ::
Just got over that hangover and stumbled back to the computer after last night's LA Blogger Bash. Gawd, what a good time that was, seein' Layne, Welch, the 'Rev'run, Greg, Virginia, Heather...and, gawd, my head hurts. Just look at how far gone I was. I can't remember everyone else, though there were some really great people over there. Thank you, Cathy! Thank you Amy! Great job puttin' that together...Ahh, boy, if only I could remember more of it...
Scott 12:44 AM [+] ::
The church’s sexual predators are all over the newspapers, Oliver. There’s nothing left to hide. Meanwhile, as John Leo pointed out in this week’s US News and World Report, the far left continues advancing its own "pedophilia chic" agenda under the cloak of darkness, with nary a peep of scrutiny in the press except from conservatives like me and Leo.
Willis points out today that I actually gave the left too much credit by saying that. True, the press isn’t saying much about Levine. My quick Lexis-Nexis searches turned up just twelve hits for Levine’s name, compared to 252 for Cardinal Law—a 21 to one ratio. But wait till you read what’s in those twelve little articles! The coverage of Levine, whose book “Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children from Sex” is actually very sympathetic to her and her radical pro-pedophilia views. Just read this headline from a recent story about Levine in the New York Times:
“Renegade View on Child Sex Causes a Storm.”
This! From the New York Times! The Paper of Record! The audacity here is breathtaking. Could you imagine a headline describing Cardinal Law as a “renegade” whose “controversial" decisions have “caused a storm” among Catholics? Of course not. That’s the double standard at work here.
The other piece Willis digs up is just as fawning. The Boston Globe begins its coverage of the Levine controversy by quoting far-right conservative bogeymen such as Gary Bauer, and then goes on to let Levine get away with comparing her critics with abortion-clinic bombers. ''I have to say, I'm glad my picture's not on the book,'' Levine told the Globe. ''I mean, abortion doctors get shot.''
So perhaps I erred the other night when I confined pedophilia chic to the extreme fringes of the radical left. The more I research this, the uglier it gets. This disgusting agenda really is quickly creeping into the American mainstream. That’s why Catholics need to clean up their act, reaffirm their principles, and begin fighting this with all the hell they can muster.
Faced with fresh and clear evidence that all Chavez seeks is time to regroup and rearm his Bolivarian Circle thugs, a new protest is being planned for May 1st by the CTV and many sectors of civil society. This march will be larger than the one that took place April 11th.
The US Embassy, by the way, has sent all family and nonessential personnel out of the country, and the State Department issued a travel advisory warning Americans of the volatile and unpredictable situation there.
Of course, “Vox Populi, Vox Dei” is the defining heresy of our time. But heresy is no concern for Mr. Willis, who has called the Catholic Church “the bad guy” in his other left-wing post today. Writes Oliver:
The church has been the one hiding and coddling pedophiles, allowing the lives of innocents to be destroyed for the sake of keeping up appearances.
Actually, the church’s sexual predators are all over the newspapers, Oliver. There’s nothing left to hide. Meanwhile, as John Leo pointed out in this week’s US News and World Report, the far left continues advancing its own “pedophilia chic” agenda under the cloak of darkness, with nary a peep of scrutiny in the press except from conservatives like me and Leo. Why the double standard? Why aren’t the newspapers covering the universities and professional groups that have given pedophilia their imprimatur? Is pedophilia really wrong, as the Catholic Church teaches, or do leftists in the media simply have an axe to grind with Rome? Please explain, Oliver.
And please come back to California so we can save you from those Massachusetts Democrats…
It will take a great deal more to convince the American people that tots have the right to select adult sex partners. But the terrain has been changed. Instead of virtually all Americans versus the pedophiles, the Rind team (who grandly compare their case to the travails of Galileo) invited us to see it as scientific and fair-minded people who believe in openness and dialogue versus meddling, antiscientific, right-wing moralists. It invites the left and the center to view antipedophilia traditionalists as the real problem, just as Levine says "the enemy is us," not pedophiles.
Leo’s column should give liberal Catholics pause as they clamor for Rome to relax its teachings on sexual morality. Citing a number of scholars that have signed onto this radical agenda, he makes a convincing case that they’ve long since begun their “long march through the institutions” and are well on their way to transforming child molestation into a socially acceptable behavior.
The sources Leo cites are primarily figures working in the hard sciences, but the normalization of this behavior also is taking place within the humanities and social sciences as well. As of 1997, when I was a sophomore at Chapel Hill enrolled in an introductory Western Civ course, one of the nation’s most prominent government-run universities taught me and 300 other students that Plato had endorsed the idea of man-boy sexual relationships in The Symposium. The not-so-subtle hint was that if a noble authority like Plato could endorse this behavior, we ought to move beyond our old-fashioned hang-ups and get on board as well. Never mind the flawed reasoning here, which asks us to accept an authoritative source as sufficient for proving a point. And never mind the selective reading of Plato at work here, which ignores the fact that the philosopher also endorsed a host of other wild ideas—such as banning the poetry of Homer from the Republic, insisting on rule by a monarch, etc.—which the left wouldn’t dare touch. What the teachers cared about was using Plato to advance a radical agenda.
My point? The left is lining up to co-opt one authority after another to advance this disgusting goal. The pro-pedophilia set has managed to get scientific groups such as the American Psychological Association to rubber stamp this agenda, while colleges are churning out thousands of students each year who have been improperly taught that history and philosophy vindicate child molestation.
There’s no bigger prize in this game than the Roman Catholic Church. It’s the oldest and largest of all the Christian denominations, the only one with a truly global reach. These radicals would love nothing more than to push this institution off its moorings, and to begin steering it in the direction that suits their narrow agenda. After all, as the old saying goes, "Roma locuta, causa finita est." If Roma loquitur [speaks] for the radicals, their causa is won.
That’s why, in the wake of the scandal over priestly sexual predators, Catholics need to begin standing up for what they believe, and for what 2000 years of poring over scripture have taught them—namely that there must be boundaries to what’s acceptable as moral behavior. Working to appease the libertine left by granting any of the concessions they’ve demanded lately—women in the pulpit, acceptance of homosexuality, liberalizing their position on birth control, etc.--will simply embolden them, and convince them that further gains are possible. And if pedophilia can gain acceptability in academia and the scientific community, is it really that hard to imagine the Church being hijacked and co-opted for this agenda as well?
Look, I’m not Catholic, and I have no direct interest in how the current scandal plays out. Frankly, unlike the numerous critics who have complained about how slowly Rome has acted, I’m refreshed by how carefully and how methodically the Church is sorting through this matter—so ultimately I don’t think Rome will budge from its principles in the end. Still the enemy bangs away at the gate. I just hope the faithful are ready to fight if these radicals manage to break their way through--because if they don’t, who will?
So if gradual reform is unlikely, what will work? Perhaps it is time for a modern Reformation, a hugely challenging and conflict-ridden task. If the Soviet empire could wither and be replaced by a peaceful Eastern Europe (the Balkans excepted), why can’t the American Church, or large communities within it, withdraw from Rome’s orbit and establish a spiritual community that meets the needs of the 21st century?
This editorialist must have gone to J-School, because like most holders of degrees in journalism, his thinking contains more holes than Osama bin Laden’s rotten corpse will have once we drag his ass out of his cave and ventilate him with machine gun bullets. The editorialist, of course, is the latest “socially liberal” choirboy to offer his crackling, juvenile voice to the refrain calling for Rome to “get with it” following the Catholic Church’s priestly sexual predator scandal. Let’s take a look at what, exactly, is wrong with his statement:
1. It is not time “for a modern Reformation.” That’s the exact opposite of what’s needed here. The Catholic Church needs to speak with authority in condemning the acts of the predator priests. A “reformed,” decentralized Catholic Church will simply muddy the waters, as every armchair moralizer steps forward to offer his or her take on whether or not sexual abuse of minors is “wrong.” In fact, this decentralization is an Achilles Heel of mainline Protestantism. Under Martin Luther’s doctrine of the “Priesthood of All Believers” every Protestant, from the Pro-Castro National Council of Churches, to the Puritanical Jerry Falwell, is free to spout off whatever idiotic nonsense they want. So which is it? What do Protestants stand for? Are we left-wing geldings, like the Church of England, who constantly flagellate ourselves for even existing? Or are we rightwing kooks who want to what to re-impose prohibition and place chastity belts on every teenage girl in America? And what, exactly, is the Protestant take on sexual morality? Do we condemn pedophilia? Or do we forgive the sinner, as Christ instructed, seven times seventy times? Who knows? With mixed messages like these, there’s obviously no moral clarity at all coming from today’s Protestant Churches. So, what does the Phoenix’s editorialist suggest? Learning from the mistakes of Protestants and avoiding measures that lead to confusion and uncertainty over key points of doctrine? “No, no, Rome needs to weaken its grip. Maybe then those good American Catholics can have a debate or, [God help us], a Dialogue® over pedophilia.” That’s Poppycock. Rome needs speak clearly, and speak with one voice in condemning these acts.
2. Please don’t compare Rome with the Soviet Union. It’s a false and malicious analogy. The Catholic Church is a hierarchy; a de facto monarchy. The Soviet Union was a dictatorial democracy, where the “will of the people” never yielded to such inconveniences as, say, prohibitions on theft and murder. Furthermore, no one is bound to stay within “Rome’s orbit.” The Church is a free community, a voluntary association of fellow believers in Christ. The East Bloc, on the other hand, was a giant prison that executed millions of its people and incarcerated all the others with concrete walls and barbed wire fences. Anyone who disagrees with Rome is free to leave and flip on the 700 Club, or bang on a bongo with some squishy, “new wave” Protestant cult, er, congregation, or to join a more sensible Protestant church in between those two extremes.
3. The world does not need a “church that meets the needs of the 21st Century.” To quote Ecclesiastes, “there’s nothing new under the sun,” nothing that the Church hasn’t seen in some form already during its 2000-year existence. The Church instead needs to proclaim the truth. And truth altered—even for “the needs of X Century” is truth lost. Losing sight of truth is the last thing the Church needs right now, during a crisis in which moral standards are so important.
But of course that’s just my two cents. Rome ultimately is the final arbiter of how this crisis must be resolved; our job as believers simply is to align our thinking with Polaris, with the moral equivalent of true north. There’s nothing more arrogant, or, for that matter, more silly than thinking--as the church's critics do--that the locus of moral authority resides within the self, within the individual. Would that editorial writers like the one at the Phoenix understood this, and spent more time in prayer and reflection trying to understand their moral superiors--instead of constantly nitpicking and finding fault with them.
I just got a roll of pictures back from the developer’s this afternoon. I’m not the world’s most avid photographer, and it took me eight months to finish this roll of 24 exposures. Of course I forgot to bring the camera along with me on some really cool trips, like my retreat to North Carolina’s Outer Banks in December, and my hike in Arizona back in November. Still, I did manage to get a few good shots of some other adventures. Here’s a look:
When Sister Katie came to visit me last August, she and I took a daytrip down to San Diego, stopping at the Zoo and later making a border crossing into Mexico. Here are some shots of us straddling the border.
In November 2001, I drove to an editors’ conference in Scottsdale, Arizona. Here’s a shot I took while barreling along Interstate 10 at 85 miles an hour. God Bless the Grand Canyon State for its wide open landscapes and its generous speed limits.
I finally finished up the role of film over Easter Weekend during my camping trip at the Salton Sea, 20 miles south of Coachella in California’s Low Desert. Even though the temperatures are supposed to be fairly hospitable during the Spring months, you can really feel the 90+ degree heat when you view this shot of the Sea cloaked in a late afternoon haze.
I would be remiss, however, if I failed to comment on the three new Latin CDs that arrived in the mail yesterday. Longtime readers know, of course, that one of my little idiosyncrasies is a taste for all things Latin—the food, the women, the culture, the music. Living in Los Angeles, where more than 40 percent of the residents speak Spanish as a first language, has nurtured this appetite. So if you see me shouting things like “Viva Mexico,” or “100 X 100 = El Salvador,” it’s not necessarily because I’ve had a few tragos de ron. I’m just into it that much. So humor me here.
That said, let’s review the CDs:
Celso Pina, “Barrio Bravo”: Tres cool. For those of you who don’t speak French, that means, “VERY cool.”* If you spend a lot of time driving in Southern California, you should consider picking this one up. “Barrio Bravo” offers an exotic mix of laidback traditional Mexican music (think accordion and percussion) and cumbia, which is a really funky combination of MexiMusic and alternative rock. Cumbia is perfect for those days when you’re stuck in traffic. In fact, I picked up this album because it contains the song, “Cumbia Sobre El Rio” which gets a lot of airtime on LA’s Latin radio stations. The song’s bass guitar offers a very subdued, world-weary sound, while the percussion gives it a distinctly Latin beat. The song almost seems to transform the frustration one feels while sitting in the car at rush hour into something cool, something hip. Turn this up, put on the sunglasses, and say to yourself, “I’ll get to work later. I gotta chill with la gente del barrio right now.” The other cumbias on this disk are just as good. Meanwhile, the more traditional MexiMusic on this disk is solid PCH weekend drive-time music, reminiscent of Buena Vista Social Club. Definitely worth picking up.
(*With apologies to James Dasher, wherever you are, for coining this phrase and the faux condescension behind it.)
Shakira, “Pies Descalzos”: Shakira’s one of the few Latin artists who has any cache at all among Gringos. She’s earned it too—her music is quite good. I liked this CD, but it’s a bit too subdued, too earthy, and too effeminate for everyday consumption. I happened to listen to this CD while I was working on my taxes last night, and it did a fine job of consoling me over the ungodly amount of money I owe the IRS. But I would recommend downloading MP3s for a few of the songs: “Estoy Aqui,” “Vuelve,” “Donde Estas Corazon,” “Se Quiere Se Mata,” and perhaps for good measure, “Pies Descalzos Suenos Blancos.” It’s good stuff, but of course it doesn’t top:
Thalia! Readers of this page are well aware of my infatuation with this goddess from South of the Border. She rules. She’s a bombshell, and her music is simply fantastic. I was worried that her 1997 album “Amor a la Mexicana” would disappoint me, but that wasn’t the case at all. In fact, I think I like this album better than “Arrasando” which I reviewed on this site several months ago. This album is more distinctly Latin, whereas Arrasando incorporates some elements from American dance music. In any case, “Amor a la Mexicana” begins with the percussive, upbeat song, “Por Amor.” It’s playing in the background right now, and if you were here in my apartment, you’d see me dancing in my chair as I type away at the laptop. It’s that good.
But it gets even better. For all Thalia’s energy and festiveness, she’s actually quite the intellectual. Yes, the songs on this album offer a veiled lecture on international relations that’s reminiscent of “Jihad vs. McWorld.” Consider track three, “Mujer Latina,” a celebration of her Latin American roots:
Vengo de raza y de palmera
De campo y de labriego de cana y de madera
Mi orgullo es ser latina de mar y cordillera
Ardiente como el fuego soy sangre de mi tierra…
…with track nine, “De Donde Soy,” a plea for unity and an erasure of cultural boundaries:
Esas diferencias que tu ves
No las reconoce el corazon
Mezcla de colores
Y mezcla de sabores
Todos somos uno, igual a todos, aqui o alla
Mezcla de ilusiones
Llena de corazones
Cadena de vida, una sola voz cantando a la paz….
Sludge from the Swamp Sheet, or Mike Thomas in Today’s Orlando Sentinel
The Orlando Sentinel is a modest newspaper put together in a swamp in central Florida. We shouldn’t expect much from the hometown paper of a city that aspires to be like Anaheim, Calif. and to imitate that city’s Disney-fied, pre-fab culture.
Header: Soft drinks can be as addictive as cigarettes
Oh really? Please do tell.
Lede: When those of us who eat our bran and exercise for 45 minutes a day are done purging cigarettes from society, we will need a new moral crusade to embark upon. After perusing a list of potential villains, the new target is obvious -- carbonated sucrose water. Or as they call it in the Midwest: pop.
Okay, stop right there. Read this closely. Thomas is actively seeking out a “villain” against which he can “embark upon” a “new moral crusade.” But why is Mike on such a desperate quest for a boogieman in the closet? I mean, don’t most people want to live in a world free from villains? Isn’t it just a little odd that he’s pursuing one so feverishly? Second, once he’s found his villain, why does it turn out to be something completely innocent, like soda pop? What makes this an “obvious” villain, anyway—especially in the age of Osama?
No longer can we ignore the increasing carnage to society caused by soft drinks.
Now here’s an interesting sentence. Soft drinks cause “carnage,” a word that refers to flesh, and bloodshed and slaughter. So it seems that in this age of hypersensitivity, it’s a faux pas to describe someone who flies an airplane into a skyscraper as a “terrorist,” yet soda causes “carnage.” Amazing.
Cigarettes kill 400,000 people a year, but close behind is obesity with more than 300,000 victims. The main cause of obesity is sugar. The main source of sugar is pop.
Um, actually, Mike, I’ve got a can of Coke right here. Not an ounce of sugar in it. Thanks to the diligent lobbying efforts of Archer Daniels Midland (“Supermarket to the World!”) and other producers of sugar substitutes, the United States government imposes a quota on the importation of foreign sugar. That makes it prohibitively expensive to use sugar in Coke sold in the US. But that’s what you meant to say, right?
Soft drinks are nothing more than a delivery vehicle for sugar. Each American consumes an average of 115 pounds of sugar per year. Sugar is an addictive drug and should be regulated by the FDA.
Whoa, tiger! Slow down here! Three big, unrelated factual claims in one paragraph. Let’s go to the slow-mo view:
1. “Soft drinks are nothing more than a delivery vehicle for sugar.” Please see above. Also, please note that diet soft drinks don’t even contain a corn sweetener; they contain saccharine or NutraSweet, or some other chemical compound. Are those drinks also “delivery vehicles for sugar?”
2. “Each American consumes an average of 115 pounds of sugar per year.” Okay, fair enough. How much of that sugar is found in soft drinks which, we've established, generally don't contain sugar when sold in the US?
3. “Sugar is an addictive drug and should be regulated by the FDA.” Mike, did you actually call someone from the FDA and seek their opinion about whether or not an ingredient not found in soft drinks is really addictive? Or even call a scientist at a local community college? C’mon, I know you’ve got crusades to fight, but shouldn’t you at least try to earn that paycheck they’re giving you at the Swamp Sheet?
Lets move on.
Health officials say 61 percent of adults are overweight or obese. Even more alarming, 13 percent of children between the ages of 6 and 11 are fat, triple the percent from 20 years ago.
Mike, who are these “health officials”? And what definition of “obese” are they using that includes 61 percent of the adult population?
If you look at this statistically, everybody in America will be waddling in a few decades.
Well, yeah. If the trend continues. It also was 68 degrees Fahrenheit in Los Angeles this afternoon, and now it’s 59. That’s a nine-degree drop in just a few short hours. If this trend continues, all of Sunny California will be living igloos by the end of the week!
You know what? This piece only gets worse from here. But I can’t bear to look at this any more.
What’s so painful about this article—beyond the fact that it was written at all--is knowing that at least three or four fulltime, professional editors had to navigate this landmine of factual inaccuracies and potentially libelous statements before sending it off to print. Sure, I understand what it’s like getting rushed on deadline, and sure, I understand that newspapers are not holy writ to be taken as absolute and unalterable… but still, this is such an ill-conceived piece that I cannot begin to fathom how it ended up on the pages of any newspaper in America, even in a place like Orlando, Fla. Let’s look at this from a production standpoint:
1. Editorial meeting. Junior editor says: “You know, there’s a lot happening in the Middle East right now. Maybe we should run something about that.” Thomas replies: “No, no, I think ridding America of soda pop is much more important right now.” Heads nod in agreement.
2. Thomas surfs the net and finds a website for a “consumer interest group,” then jots down a bunch of dubious claims from one of their press releases. Thomas turns in his poorly-researched piece to the editorial page editor.
3. Editorial page editor, in a misguided quest to create a “punchy” op-ed page, overlooks numerous problems in the article and exalts upon receiving an opinionated piece. Edit page editor passes raw text to the copy desk.
4. Copy desk groans upon reading the article, but keeps quiet out of fear of incurring the wrath of senior editors. They plop the text into Quark or some other page-design program, then send it off to proofreaders.
5. Embittered and underpaid proofreader doesn’t give a damn if the article makes the Sentinel the target of ridicule and potential litigation. Proofreader signs initials to galleys because that’s what upper management deserves for making his life so miserable. Passes copy back to copy desk.
6. Copy desk inserts proofreader’s token changes into computer. Then they print out a new galley, and pass it back to the editorial page editor.
7. Editorial page editor, having already seen the piece once, rubber stamps the final proof and sends it off to press.
So that’s the magic of the newsroom at work. And the establishment press wonders why web logs are becoming so popular…
ARGH! I received a summons in the mail this weekend to serve jury duty on April 22. Damn the man!
This has never happened to me before. Does anyone have any suggestions for getting out of it? If so, could you please leave them in the comment box or e-mail them to me privately? Anyone offering me a successful tip will receive a bottle of wine, plus recognition in print on ScottRubush.com (unless, of course, you'd prefer to remain anonymous).** Thank you in advance, and God Bless your worthy souls.
**Nota Bene: I am not soliciting legal advice per se, so you lawyers and law students in the audience (and I know you're out there because you've sent e-mail that I've been--to my lasting shame--slow to answer). I don't wanna beat the system; I just wanna get out of it. That means all you legal eagles can feel free to offer good, candid advice without incurring the wrath of the Bar Association. So help a guy out here!
Scott 12:51 AM [+] ::
Sorry for the shortage of posts this weekend. I've been out-n-about, catching Cirque du Soleil in Long Beach last night, and going to a lunch confab thrown by my Czech teacher this afternoon, but I've still found time to write. It's just that Blogger has been acting up whenever I've wanted to post. A pox on it! Maybe I should join the mass exodus to Movable Type...
Meanwhile, here's a leftover post from Friday night about wine...enjoy!
Scott 12:37 AM [+] ::
:: Saturday, April 06, 2002 ::
Virginia is for Wine Lovers
Whew. I didn't break the law when I shipped those two bottles of wine to my friend Kepple in New Hampshire last week. This map identifies New Hampshire as "mostly free" to receive shipments of distilled spirits from out of state. Meanwhile, my adopted home state of California allows reciprocal shipping. Thank goodness. I'm in the clear.
Still, is there anything more blatantly unconstitutional than those relics of the Prohibition Era, those laws restricting out-of-state shipments of distilled spirits to dozens of different states throughout the Union? This is a flagrant violation of the interstate commerce clause, which really is the heart of the Constitution and its raison d'etre--even more so than the Bill of Rights, which wasn't even added till two years after the Constitution took effect, and is extraneous to the document's original business of setting up a government and facilitating relationships between the several states. Jacob Sullum explains in this article from Reason Magazine:
The Commerce Clause was intended to make the country a free trade zone in which sellers and buyers could interact across state lines without tariffs, quotas, or other government-created impediments. The Framers knew that if states were allowed to set up such barriers they would try to shield local businesses from out-of-state competition. That is exactly what Virginia and many other states do under the guise of liquor control.
So it's good news to oenophiles and to Constitutionalists alike that the Commonwealth of Virginia has struck down its "three-tier" system (ie, producers, wholesalers, and retailers) of liquor distribution. Let's hope other states follow suit. Or better still, let's hope the Supreme Court takes the pass from Virginia, and finishes off this slam-dunk of a ruling on its own.
Well that was one big, broad, bold statement from our president on the Mideast yesterday. His Rose Garden speech seemed to come late in the drama, but it may turn out that George W. Bush spoke at the right moment--when the action had reached its peak, with the Church of the Nativity surrounded, the tanks rolling through Nablus and on to Hebron, the watching world exhausted, and the rush of adrenaline that had sustained both sides the past week wearing off, leaving some combatants shaky and wondering no doubt if there wasn't a way back from the brink.
…from the brink of actually taking a decisive stand against Arafat’s terror ring.
Mr. Bush's speech said there was. And he demonstrated it by seeming to take a step back himself from his own previous statements. Although his people will soon be calling it not a step back but an elaboration or extension of his previous position.
His announcement that he would send Secretary of State Colin Powell to Israel next week appears to be risky--certainly all the foreign-affairs professionals are calling it a big gamble--but it isn't, really. Things are so bad in the Mideast that if Mr. Powell makes any progress at all, sending him will seem a brilliant move. If Mr. Powell fails, who wouldn't have failed? It's the Mideast. And what would failure look like, anyway? Just more of the same.
No need to worry about those pesky people going about their lives at pizza parlors or discothèques or shopping malls. What matters is how Powell’s trip “appears” and what his success “looks like.”
As for how Mr. Powell's presence will be perceived, the Arab world, which understands him to be one Bush cabinet member who is not reflexively pro-Israeli, will not complain; the Israelis understand him to be representing a president with a history of commitments to Israel; the Europeans see him as an American who has a detached view of the Mideast.
Well, there’s something to be proud of. He’s popular both among the Euro-Trash and among Arab terror states.
And Mr. Powell is a national and international hero. He has the power of the unhated man. His presence has force because his persona is dense with meaning: hero, leader, minority member who struggled to triumph in white institutions, a dove by nature who knows how to fight. He knows how to say tough things in a boring way, a great talent in diplomacy. He radiates warmth but is a reactor cool at the core. He can lower the temperature just by walking in. And the world press both admires and enjoys celebrating him.
So he's a good man to send at a time such as this. And just as Mr. Powell needs Mr. Bush in order to continue as secretary of state, Mr. Bush needs Mr. Powell for the signals his presence sends, and for the stature he lends. They need each other, know it, negotiate around it without acknowledging it, and work well together.
Who needs action when you can dispatch “a good man” to “send signals”?
As for Mr. Bush's speech, it was impressive and, I suspect, clever. What was needed was a definitive statement of America's understanding of, and views on, what is happening in the Mideast, but a statement that didn't make things hotter or more passionate or encourage action that would not be helpful. Mr. Bush needed to give the world a sense of the context as he sees it. What was not needed was rhetorical flight, and he didn't take one. He needed words that weren't each of them little hand grenades but words that had a simple and definite meaning that became sentences that, strung together, built a suspension bridge of thought and well-meaning.
Building bridges? Toning down stridency? Sorry, Peggy. Try, signaling weakness, and setting a new, less favorable status quo that remains open for negotiation.
That's what he did. Neither the Palestinians nor the Israelis hold the immediate guilt; a fanaticism which "induces" an 18-year-old Palestinian girl to strap a bomb on her back and blow herself up, killing a 17-year-old Israeli girl, is the evildoer. "Suicide bombers are not martyrs," Mr. Bush said, "they're murderers, and they undermine the cause" for which they stand.
Just who induced that girl’s fanaticism? Could it have been the Palestinian Authority’s propaganda machine, which routinely spews anti-Semitic blood libels and airbrushes maps of Israel out of school textbooks? And just how much is the murderers’ cause undermined when the President of the United States relents and fails to take decisive action against them?
He said, essentially, that both sides in the struggle have a case, a plea that can be made to the world's conscience. He made it clear he remains a supporter of Israel's right to defend itself and to assert its right to nationhood and freedom. "I speak as a committed friend to Israel." But Israeli settlement activity must stop, and Israel should "lay the foundations of future peace" by halting its incursions into Palestinian areas, and in fact withdrawing from them. He asked Israel to show "a respect" for those who feel humiliated by the actions of its soldiers.
Um, Peggy, how do the people whom Bush called “murderers” have “a case, a plea that can be made to the world’s conscience?” And if the President is such “a supporter of Israel’s right to defend itself and to assert its right to nationhood and freedom,” why won’t he let Israel take decisive action against the Palestinians now, just days after a string of suicde bombings during a Jewish High Holy Week? And what’s this about “respect” for murderers, anyway?
This was a step back from Mr. Bush's previous statements that Israel had a right to defend herself, period.
Bush caved, and went soft on the murderers.
At the end of remarks some bravado: He expects better leadership in the Mideast, and "I expect results."
And while the President is waiting for those “results,” more innocent Israeli civilians are going to die.
The most surprising aspect of Mr. Bush's remarks was that they were so specific. They were not bland and vague as one might have expected from a diplomatic statement by a president to a world that fears a widening war. His remarks were highly specific and informational, full of citations on United Nations resolutions and support of past peace plans that could become a blueprint for progress. Which means his remarks gave everyone--the Palestinians, the Israelis, the Europeans, the foreign-policy community, the media, the Arab street, the Israeli street--something to think about, chew over. As most people can't think, chew and shoot at the same time, his specificity may turn out to have been a contribution.
Good God! Is that the best you can do? Bush’s cave “gave everyone…something to think about?” Does “everyone” include the people who are going to die during the
next suicide bombing?
But in general, at times like this, an American president simply has to speak. He must come forward with a voice that reflects the thinking of a great nation that is trying to be fair. It is good he finally spoke, good that he was comprehensive, good that he launched a new mission. To use the word good three times in a piece about the Mideast after the past six months feels . . . pretty good.
No, Peggy, at times like this, an American president simply has to act. As for feeling “good” about this puff piece you’ve printed, how ‘bout asking the people in Israel’s trauma wards how good they’ll feel as they piece together the little bits of flesh blown apart by the next nail bomb to go off in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv or Haifa.
What a disgusting piece of trash from this washed up White House lackey. Why in the world does the Wall Street Journal, which in my view has the best op-ed page in the country, continue to print her rambling, uncritical articles week after week?
Matt Welch has posted an amazing essay on terrorism and moral responsiblity:
[O]ne can’t help but notice that many of the people who express more sympathy for the Palestinians than the Israelis, not only deny the Palestinians’ humanity by abdicating them of responsibility, but they use a wholly different standard when assigning responsibility to Israel or the United States. The American media is raked over the coals, every day, yet the Arab-world media, with its Nazi-level lies, smears, fantasies and distortions, does not receive the same scrutiny. If a U.S. weapon is used to kill a Palestinian (or any other human deemed to be oppressed), the U.S. has blood on its hands; yet when Yasser Arafat deliberately orders suicide bombers to go blow up a pizzeria, “that just shows how desperate they’ve become under U.S. oppression.”
Superb. Welch's essay is one part CS Lewis, one part Christopher Hitchens, one part...well, you go read it. Every single word of it. Right now.
Scott 11:48 PM [+] ::
I don't care. I don't care anymore. I want to do what's the right thing, and what's right for America. If the spillover of that helps other countries - good for them, but I'm really past getting on our knees and begging forgiveness for the fact that we work hard and have the nerve to have an open society that can correct itself when it goes wrong.
The "Office of Homeland Security" has a budget of $38 billion to do Lord knows what and Tom Ridge is refusing to testify in front of Congress. Is it so difficult? Does he have something to hide? I don't think he does, so I'll have to assume he's just being a dumbass.
Let’s be fair here, Oliver. This guy’s in charge of the nation’s security—the safety of every man, woman, and child in our country. Do we really wanting him broadcasting the way he does business before congress, so that every would-be terrorist can tune in? I mean, c’mon. If you installed an alarm system in your home, would you tell the burglars where to find the switch?
Furthermore, let’s not confuse Ridge’s “silence” with guilt or with having “something to hide.” Ridge actually is talking off record to plenty of people behind the scenes. He even offered to do that before Congress, provided the briefings didn’t take place in a hearing room packed with reporters.
Besides, do you really think a government official would sit around and do nothing with a $38 billion budget? He’s got plenty projects in the works. There’s probably room for debate over the efficacy of those measures, but that debate is the purview of Washington policymakers—not the nosey little brats who populate Congress and the DC press corps. Their myth of a gelded, do-nothing Tom Ridge is simply a canard they’re floating in an effort to bully the man into talking about sensitive matters of national security—which ultimately will make us more vulnerable to the next Osama bin Laden. I’m all for “getting the story” and holding public officials accountable, but I won’t be a party to that.
Simple: No consequences, no control. No limits, no respect. This story of Terps, twerps, and perps is repeated at campuses across the country, where adult administrators pay lip service to discipline but continue to tolerate high levels of insolence, savagery, debauchery, and criminal behavior by college students who have never learned to accept the word "No."
Oh, come now, Michelle! That's not true at all! Today's colleges are little colonies of latter-day, secularized Puritanism. Ever since the movie Animal House set the standard for collegiate debauchery, campuses around the country have spent millions on campaigns to suppress fraternities, "binge drinking," "date rape," and other such incontinences of undergraduate life. Hell, my alma mater, I'm told, used to throw faculty-sanctioned keg parties on the main quad back in the mid-'70s, when the drinking age was still 18. These days, if you're under 21, there's not much besides basketball to break the self-important monotony resulting from countless "awareness-raising" sessions, "social justice" political events, and all-too-serious discussions about public policy over coffee and designer clove cigarettes at outdoor cafes.
Away with that!
Of course, I have a personal stake in the matter. I found the intellectual climate on my college campus to be incredibly suffocating. To invoke my late writing teacher Jim Shumaker who endured the same school two generations earlier, it was "the biggest outpouring of bullsh*t I've ever seen." One of the few things that helped me endure it all was the prospect of...a basketball riot each March! After all, my Tar Heels made the Final Four in three of the four years I was a student. And even before the final buzzer sounded, the police were standing by with blockades to close off the streets and let the revelry begin. It was great! Like a third-world dictator profiling his troops from high atop his palace, I could start by casting an aloof eye on the "pitcher drinkers" from my perch at Top of the Hill, three stories above the main drag, as they all spilled out onto the street. I'd take a couple sips of my beer, then get into the act by shouting down to the street such crowd-pleasers as "Go Heels!" and "Duke Sucks!" Finally my friends and I would go down to the street ourselves, and begin screaming, chanting, bear-hugging friends, and taking turns leaping over the obligatory bonfire. Boy, that was a lot of fun.
Of course, there was no educational value whatsoever to this spectacle. But who says education is everything? I'm all for learning and studying, but the intellect is hardly the only part of our being. As Hillaire Belloc wrote in his delightful book The Path to Rome (which I re-read last weekend for, oh, the fourth or fifth time):
What! here are we with the jolly world of God all around us, able to sing, to draw, to paint, to hammer and build, to sail, to ride horses, to run, to leap; having four our splendid inheritance love in youth and memory in old age, and we are to take one miserable little faculty, our one-legged, knock-kneed, gimcrack, purblind, rough-skinned, underfed, and perpetually irritated and grumpy intellect, or analytical curiosity rather (a diseased appetite), and let it swell till it eats up every other function? Away with such foolery. (p. 235)
Away with that indeed! Roll out the kegs, and let those kids at Maryland have a good time that they'll remember for the rest of their lives.
Oliver Willis’ new roommate Penny Carlson has taken up blogging. Penny is law student in Boston, who’s capable of turning out clean prose—which means she has already scored style points in my book. Plus, her banner features a picture of her very attractive self holding a high-powered firearm. More style points.
Every U.S. citizen is entitled to civil rights. That's what makes America great. This man deserves to be punished, but he also deserves his dignity. Detaining the man with his clothes on, and in handcuffs, is just as effective as taping him to a board.
As Dirty Harry might say: “Well, I’m all broken up about that man’s rights."
It would be easy to dismiss this sentiment as half-baked left-wing tripe. But this woman’s a law student. She doesn’t have any excuse for botching this call.
Sure, I too am troubled by the picture of Taliban John that Penny has posted, which depicts him blindfolded, and bound to a board. But you know what? I’m even more troubled by made it necessary for America to do that to him. I’m troubled by the fact that Islamo-fascists like Walker interrupted our carefree lifestyle here in America on the morning of September 11, when they provoked us into our war. I’m even more troubled that one of our country’s most privileged sons could watch the planes collide with the towers, view the people trapped in the buildings jumping to their deaths, see the Trade Center dissolve into a huge pile of dust and metal--and not be moved to display even a modicum of remorse about having a hand in it all.
But what troubles me isn’t the issue here. It’s the “civil rights” of this troubling man. So examine the matter under the cold eye of reason.
1. Civil rights are not universal. They apply to people who accept the terms of America’s social contract. Far from accepting those terms, Mr. Walker rejected America and its liberal, rights-based regime. Upon doing so, he forfeited any claim he may have had to “civil rights.” There’s nothing in political theory that says we ought to treat him any better than we did.
2. For legal purposes, he effectively renounced his citizenship when he took up arms against our nation by joining a foreign army. The fact that he’s being tried as a civilian shows that America has treated him any far humanely than necessary—certainly much better than the Taliban pawns our armed forces killed in action.
3. Taliban John is a suspect in the murder of CIA Agent Mike Spann. When Spann, a soldier, a linguist, and a father of three children, gets his civil rights back, then I’ll start worrying about Taliban John’s.
So don’t talk to me about “civil rights” or “social justice” or any of those other left-wing euphemisms that signify a defense of the lawless and the violent. I just don’t have any patience for it any more. Let's hope the rest of the country doesn't either. How much longer can a nation survive when its enemies have "civil rights" and its most loyal defenders don't?
Speaking of which, it's time for me to offer my congratulations to Young Kyle Still, who won the first annual SR.com NCAA Basketball Pool! Mr. Still predicted a Maryland championship three weeks ago, and ran away with the SR.com title, scoring 129 of a possible 192 points. I hereby proclaim him the greatest sports authority in all of Blogland!
Of course, yours truly finished dead last. O, the shame! The ignominy!
But there's always next year. I guess.
Hey, how 'bout that ACC and those Maryland Terps?! How ‘bout those Baltimore Orioles?
Ok, ok, enough weaving and bobbing. Here are the final results, with the final point tally in (parentheses):
“It’s time for the fatcats in K-Town share the wealth,” proclaimed Mr. Manni. “As Rubush sips on wine and takes extravagant fishing trips, we’re down here in the barrio trying to make ends meet! It’s time for him to pay his workers a living wage so we can live with dignity!”
Rubush laughed off the workers’ demands.
“Buahahahahahaha!,” said Rubush as he fired all the recalcitrant workers. “Let the little ingrates starve!”
Rubush noted that blogging technology made their Sisyphean labor obsolete.
“I can live without ‘em,” he said of the peasant workers who produce his daily weblog. “Screw them.”
Despite the callous reaction from Hobart Boulevard, Manni pressed on.
“Juntos podemos! Juntos podemos!” he chanted.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, whatever,” responded CEO Rubush.
Shares of SRCOM fell slightly upon initial news of the labor unrest, but quickly rebounded when news reached trading floors that SR.com remains committed to maintaining a high-tech, right-to-work environment.
One of the crosses I bear as a journalist is having to read e-mail messages like this one I received today:
----- Original Message -----
From: "jean hudon" (email@example.com)
Sent: Monday, April 01, 2002 1:18 PM
Subject: Media compilation #60: Ethnically Cleansing Palestine? --- Webposted at http://www.cybernaute.com/earthconcert2000/Archives2002/MediaCompilation60 htm
The situation in the Middle East is getting more and more serious and requires our urgent attention.
Just as much as the suicide bombings with their horrific consequences for innocent Israeli civilians must be vigorously denounced, what the Israeli army is doing under Sharon's leadership is utterly inhumane and unacceptable and must be immediately stopped.
I believe the following information deserves to be widely exposed so that world public opinion can be brought to bear upon the Israeli government to immediately withdraw its forces from all Palestinian cities and territories and stop this insane mass retaliation policy that now looks more and more like a deliberate ethnic cleansing policy.
Praying that peace, compassion and sanity will prevail...
Earth Rainbow Network Coordinator
Here’s the reply I sent her:
Do you have any idea how abrasive your message sounds just hours after the latest suicide bombing in Israel? Even as bombs explode, and innocent civilians fall to their untimely deaths amid a flashes of hot shrapnel-- the Coordinator of the “Earth Rainbow Network” wags her finger and lectures us about “compassion” and “sanity.”
You take the cake, Jean. It’s been a long time since I’ve read something so audacious.
Of course, I should probably give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you’re simply an idiot. After all you:
--Have a computer screen name identifying yourself as a “global visionary”
--Premise the first line of your message on the assumption that the journalists on your mailing list are not abreast of events in the Middle East
--Believe suicide bombers are bad, but that it’s even worse for Israel to actually combat them
--Flash your religious credentials, even as hundreds of Jews are being slaughtered simply because of their religion.
But despite all that, I’m not in the mood to suffer fools, especially fools who flack for Arab terrorists. So get bent, Jean. Show me a little “compassion and sanity,” and spare me your future mailings.
Online journalist Scott Rubush broke camp on the northeastern shores of the Salton Sea this morning, and returned to his home in Los Angeles—abandoning his newfound life as a hunting/gathering hermit!
“It’s really hot out there,” Rubush said of California’s Low Desert, which he called home from Friday night till this morning. “There’s not much shade in the desert, and I forgot to bring sunscreen. Now I’m burnt really bad.”
Rubush also cited his failure to catch any fish as a motive for returning to civil society.
“Damn things wouldn’t bite,” he said of the fish. “There were these little things running around that looked like brown gerbils, but I didn’t want to eat those,” said Rubush, describing of his other culinary options in the desert. “I ended up having to buy some beef and some tortillas and a six pack of Tecate at a Mexican grocery store up the road in Coachella.”
But all was not lost for the 23-year-old web monkey. Rubush managed to catch up on his reading, and to enjoy some quiet time away from the computer and the telephone.
“It’s gonna suck a$$ going back to the office tomorrow,” he complained. “But what the hell…I’m ready to face the music!”
Dr. Cy Cologist, who has been monitoring Rubush’s mental state for some time now, noted that Scott’s weekend as a Noble Savage provided a release of negative forces within his system.
“It was a very cathartic experience for him,” commented Dr. Cologist. “Not only is he ready to face another week at the office,” he added, “but he’s also ready to carry on the business of pursuing the unfulfilled life-goals that drove him out into the desert in the first place.