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.
If American conservatives dedicate themselves to backing American soccer, the resultant energy and optimistic buzz might just push the U.S. men's national team to the final rounds of this summer's World Cup, or at least lower the percentage of the fans sitting next to me who voted for Mondale, Dukakis, and Gore. Help a brother out already! Strike a blow for federalism, apple pie, and the gold standard, and make a commitment to watch the World Cup this June.
Hear, hear! Soccer's a swell sport, and I'm eager for it to gain a following in the United States. I've been to a couple MLS games in DC and LA, and I had fun every time. The atmosphere is very festive, complete with drunken Mexicans chanting and banging away at drums. It's just a blast. Plus, soccer is a very unpretentious sport--just two goals, a big green field, and a bunch of guys kicking a ball around. Also mercifully absent are the teary-eyed poetics of baseball and the Madden-esque bravado of American Football. America is less of a country for not having this game—soccer riots and all—as part of its dominant culture.
The screwy time zone of the World Cup host countries doesn't help things, either. The games began at 4:30 Pacific this morning, hardly an optimal viewing time for people on the West Coast. I live in the ethnic ghetto for one of the host countries (Korea) in a city with a 40-percent Hispanic population, and people should be going apeshi- right now. Instead, it's just a normal Friday night...
A U.S. Army lieutenant whose jaw is wired shut from a bullet wound he received in Afghanistan claims screeners at San Francisco International Airport denied him permission to pass through security with wire clippers used to snap open his jaw in an emergency.
Lt. Greg Miller, a combat medic and member of a special forces patrol, was shot in Kandahar in April. The bullet passed through his jaw, severing nerves and leaving him without feeling in his mouth. He said his jaw was wired shut at a hospital in Germany, and his doctor issued him a pair of wire clippers to carry at all times in case he became sick and needed to open his jaw to avoid choking. [...] He said San Francisco airport security personnel told him the tool, with a rounded blade less than one-inch long, was dangerous and confiscated it.
Good to know we have the government to help keep our airlines safe from people like this, eh?
Yes, friends, I like the monarchy. The monarchy is good. The monarchy spits in the face of so many of the errors of our democratic age that I have no choice but to embrace it.
Let me begin my defense of the monarchy by saying that democracy is an idiotic way of running a polity. In fact, I spend many sleepless nights wondering how in the world society decided that putting the least informed and the least knowledgeable people in charge of things was not only sensible, but the ideal way of running the government? It’s a nut that I simply cannot crack. I mean, just look around. Do you drive a car? Aren’t there a lot of idiots on the road? And do you use the Internet? Aren’t there a lot of perverts out there? So how is it that these same people who idiots behind the wheel of a car and a perverts at the computer keyboard suddenly become as wise as the College of Cardinals when they step into a ballot booth? It makes no sense at all.
It’s hard not to cringe at the excesses of this system, which forces the would-be-rulers of the free world to pander to society’s lowest common denominator. Who doesn’t blush at the thought of Bill Clinton’s appearance on MTV in 1992 when he answered the infamous “Boxers or Briefs” question? Or at the sight of George Bush puckering up to Oprah Winfrey to win votes from the “minivan moms” in 2000? Why has this sort of showmanship, nay, huckster-ism become the method of governing a polity? And why do we continue to tolerate it, let alone celebrate it as a triumph for freedom?
The monarchy curbs these excesses. It allows a disinterested ruler to govern according to right reason, instead of heeding the whims of the fickle multitude. I certainly wish America had such a check against the “idiotarians,” and I can only lament the fact that Britain has spent 350 years watering down and emasculating its own checks against these foolish impulses.
More to the point, political liberalism (ie, the individualism advocated by such thinkers as Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Jean Jacques Rousseau, Karl Marx, and their followers) is a nihilistic and relativistic way of ordering society. It is flawed in this way because political liberalism places no value on any good higher than the collective will. “Will” by its very definition is fickle and value-neutral. So, if the collective will decides to enslave blacks (as happened in democratic America until 1865) or incinerate Jews in ovens (as happened under the rule of democratically-elected Adolf Hitler), then there’s nothing to stop this atrocity from being carried out. As the slogan goes, “The people united can never be defeated.”
Indeed, democracy itself is just one more form of absolutism. Henry Adams buttressed this idea when he coined the term, “King Demos.” Really, Britain’s debate over the monarchy is really just a question of how many monarchs they want. The trend seems to be moving toward Huey Long’s ideal of “Every man a king.” It’s more sensible, however, to have one lone voice of authority. The latter amounts to basic law and order; the former is simply a presumptuous form of anarchy.
Perhaps this is my last little scrap of idealism speaking, but I still cling to the idea that certain values are antecedent to the political process and must be defended regardless of what the majority may want. Enslaving your fellow man is always wrong; murdering another human being—be it in cold blood, in a gas chamber, or by flying hijacked jets into skyscrapers—is an abomination that must be stamped out by any civilized people. Yet democracy, in final analysis, provides no means of condemning these evils categorically. America began to bear the bitter fruits of this system after September 11 when we were subjected to an outpouring of Chomsky-ite sympathy for Osama bin Laden and his terrorist allies. These cancerous cells on our society threaten to destroy our way of life by marshalling liberal democracy's own values--“free speech,” “civil liberties,” and such—and deploying them in the service of our enemies. To paraphrase Erik Ritter von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, democracy is the only form of government that can destroy itself democratically.
Politics implies natural goods that are prior to human thinking about them. If man is political by nature, the goods of politics also exist by nature. The goods of politics are the ways man must behave to make political community work. If there are natural goods, there is a natural hierarchy of goods, and therefore a natural hierarchy of men, as different men pursue different goods. Civic equality may be salutary for the functioning of society, but men are not truly equal in value.
This is common sense, really. We allow de facto classes and orders in our society, because they are needed to make society function properly and in an orderly fashion. Yet “modern” societies are squeamish about this class system. The result has been to allow unworthy peasants (a la Bill Clinton) to join our aristocracy, while, thanks to the all-consuming fire of “equality,” our truly virtuous citizens have no advantage over the corrupt. I find this situation very disillusioning; indeed, the very underlying values of democratic society ensure that (as the writer of Ecclesiastes lamented) “the race is not to the swift, nor bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding…but time and chance happens to them all.”
The monarchy is the ultimate way of affirming that society stands for something greater than money or votes or this week’s poll numbers. The British are blessed to have this institution as their inheritance, even if the monarchy today is a dim reflection of what it once was under Elizabeth I and Henry V.
It’s worth pointing out that the monarchy’s shortcomings today provide an argument not against the monarchy itself, but rather, against democracy, which has worn away at the crown for several centuries now. The assault began when the proto-Communist Levelers and Diggers waged war against the Stuart Kings in the 17th century; it continued under the Reform Act of 1867, and progressed further with the abdication of Edward VIII (motivated by the democratic impulse to marry not just outside his class, but to marry outside his country). It is no surprise that that vulgar woman, Princess Di, true to “modern” “democratic” form, called herself the “people’s princess.” It’s obvious to all that the royals have their problems today, but let’s at least be fair by pointing to the true source of these problems—namely the democratization of Britain.
What Britain needs is not less monarchy, but more—a vigorous wielding of authority to ward off those who would exchange (in John Milton’s phrase) the golden scepter for an iron rod.
Indeed, as the republican Milton saw and the Samizdata Crew has affirmed, the monarchy is a mighty force for the defense of freedom. It is, as Perry de Havilland has pointed out, free from the impulse to loot and plunder by plebiscite. And in the Britain, the monarchy goes a step further. It separates the function of head-of-government from that of head-of-state. Ironically, “democratic” America vests more power in its presidency by combining these two functions than Britain does in its monarchy, which allows the king or queen to serve only as head-of-state. This separation of powers would have been useful during the Clinton impeachment saga, when it was generally agreed that Bill Clinton was “a bad man but a good president.” If Clinton had served only as head-of-government, the impeachment saga would have been a less disillusioning experience for those who believe that his job also required him to provide decus et tutamen (“decorum and leadership”). L’affaire Lewinsky would never have been such a big deal if we had had a king reigning over a Prime Minister Bill Clinton.
The monarchy, therefore, is useful both on a basic utilitarian level and at a higher, metaphysical level. That’s why it’s time for right-thinking people everywhere to join forces in defending this ancient institution—and the antique virtues the monarchy is designed to protect. The monarchy is a bulwark against the leveling forces that have coarsened political life in Europe and America over the past couple centuries, and an institution that (in Bill Buckley’s famous words) stands athwart history and yells, “stop!” Indeed, it’s no surprise that Edmund Burke marked the abolition of the monarchy in France with his famous lament:
The age of chivalry is gone; that of sophisters, economists, and calculators has succeeded, and the glory of Europe is extinguished forever. Never, never more, shall we behold that generous loyalty to rank and sex, that proud submission, that dignified obedience, that subordination of the heart, which kept alive, even in servitude itself, the spirit of an exalted freedom! The unbought grace of life, the cheap defense of nations, the nurse of manly sentiment and heroic enterprise is gone. It is gone, that sensibility of principle, that chastity of honor, which felt a stain like a wound, which inspired courage whilst it mitigated ferocity, which ennobled whatever it touched, and under which vice itself lost half its evil, by losing all its grossness.
That same fate awaits Britain if it abolishes its monarchy. Indeed, the abolition of the monarchy would be tantamount to the abolition of Britain itself. The society that gave us Shakespeare and Swift, Milton and Pope, the Magna Carta and the original Bill of Rights would be washed away—all in a futile effort to feed the multi-headed hydra of a “democratic people.” Lets hope the sceptered isle, the country that nurtured and weaned America in its infancy, comes to its senses before it’s too late.
I had to become a reporter because I had some damn fool idea I was going to change the world. As I now realize this is a hopeless, fruitless, and futile task, and that my own situation seems particularly unpleasant, I am going to go drink. Heavily.
Yeah, I had a day like that not too long ago. In fact, it's an occupational hazard of the profession Ben and I share. But cheer up, Ben: the world may be going to hell, but at least you and I get to watch it from a a front-row seat...
Folks, I'm happy to report that the ScottRubush.com Baja Beach Party was a resounding success. I got back in town very late on Sunday night feeling completely refreshed, having spent the previous three days in a setting that bore an uncanny resemblance to a Corona commercial. It was great. No phone, no computer, no teevee; just three days of sitting by the beach and exploring the coastline of Baja Norte.
--I saw the new Star Wars flick at Mann's Chinese Theater last Thursday night. Forget what Ben Kepple said; the movie kicks arse. I went in to the theater believing that the movie would use its digitized special effects as a crutch to compensate for a weak plot. Au contraire. I don't care what anyone else says; the new Star Wars movie really is well-done, and it compliments the original trilogy very well.
--The next morning, Brother Matthew and I began our Baja trip with friend Robert Quick. The three of us shot down to our shack in Popotla, just south of Rosarito beach, then ran into town for fish tacos. Afterwards, we stocked up on beef, tortillas, salsa, limes, and (what else?) beer. We grilled dinner over a fire, and chillaxed for the rest of the evening.
--On Saturday, I woke up, brewed coffee, and chillaxed some more over a copy of John Steinbeck's Log from the Sea of Cortez, an awesome little book about Baja. It's packed with info about the history of the peninsula and the fauna populating it. Definitely worth picking up before your next trip down there. Anyway, later in the morning, we drove down to Ensenada, where we took in lunch and walked through the downtown district. Ensenada's a charming little city that reminded me a lot of Santa Barbara, complete with a nice waterfront area, high hills above the city, and lots of shops and cafes within it. From there, we drove on to La Bufadora, a waterspout on La Baia de Todos Santos. Very touristy, but still worth the trip.
--On Sunday, inspired by Steinbeck's descriptions of Baja's tide pools, I explored the un-crowded beach near our little shack. Saw lots of sea urchins, sea anemones, snails, mussels, crabs, and other fauna dwelling within the little pools in the rocks by the ocean. I also cast my fishing line into the Pacific a few times, but didn't catch anything except a few pieces of seaweed. Lousy Mexican fish…
--Late Sunday afternoon, we left Popotla and headed for the border. After passing by the shantytowns and maquiladoras of Tijuana, we got on the toll road to Tecate. After passing through this storied home of Tecate Beer, we crossed the city's port of entry into the United States. After passing through the mountains around this little town, we stopped at In-n-Out Burger in the San Diego suburbs, then shot back up the Five to Los Angeles. There, I dropped Brother Matthew and Robert off at the airport, and the journey was done.
--Yesterday, Memorial Day, I shoulda blogged--but I didn't. Lo siento. I worked from home, and gradually re-adjusted to the faster pace of life in the city.
Anyway, I'm still getting back up to speed after a few days away from the computer, so please pardon me if the posting schedule is a bit erratic for now. I promise to be back in high gear very soon, though, so don't go too far...
Folks, ScottRubush.com is going on a quasi-hiatus for the next few days. Brother Matthew flies to town tomorrow, and he's going to steal all the time I would otherwise spend blogging.
Lector: Booo! Down with Brother Matthew!
Auctor: Now, now, dear Lector. It's okay. I'll still try to post while he's out here. Plus, we're going to do a lot of cool stuff together that I can write about for the website.
Yes, friends, don't go far. Matthew and I have lots in store. Here's a preview:
--Inspired by Ken Layne, we're going up to Mann's Chinese Theater to see the new Star Wars movie on Thursday night. Should be lotsa fun. Review to come.
--On Friday, the First Annual ScottRubush.com Baja Beach Party kicks off! That's right, we're renting a house at Rosarito Beach and spending Memorial Day Weekend sipping Coronas, eating fish tacos, and chasin' the mamacitas. We're also looking to spend some quality time in Teejay and Ensenada too. I'm not taking the computer down there, but I'll give a full report after I get back to Alta California on Sunday night.
Meantime, I gotta go run some errands to get ready for Matt's arrival. Hasta la vista, todos!
These are the kinds of New Yorkers we saw on television after September 11: policemen, firemen, rescue workers--ordinary folks. Their accents may have sounded funny to Southern ears, but they're our kind of Yankee: unpretentious, hard working when they have to be, offhandedly courageous.
So it's official: it's okay for people below the Mason-Dixon to like New Yorkers now.
That still doesn't mean I'm going to cheer for the Yankees...
Scott 10:21 PM [+] ::
As part of what Mr. Castro calls the "battle of ideas" with the capitalist world, he has scientists hard at work on a project that could, if it works, strike fear in the hearts of Wisconsin dairy farmers. Cuban communism's most sacred cow -- a phenomenal milk-producing bovine called Ubre Blanca, or White Udder -- could come back to be milked again -- and again and again, if a team of geneticists has its way. The Cubans are cloning.
These intelligence briefings are a daily fixture in the President's life, and from what I understand, they tend to consume quite a bit of his time. And so this begs the question: why waste a thirty minutes or an hour of a President's time if the information imparted is these daily briefings isn't a) usually important, b) voluminous, or c) varied and kept constantly up-to-date?
I for one would have to think that, in this context, a partially true report about a devilish plot by Osama bin Laden to hijack commercial airliners would be fairly unremarkable, just the kind of threat the President would hear about every morning. If a vague hijacking threat were truly the red flag the media is now making it out to be, there would be no sense in holding these briefings on a daily basis, as the remaining non-flagged items would probably be banal enough to render useless briefings on anything more than an ad-hoc schedule. The President is constantly apprised of legitimate threats of this magnitude, some true, some not.
Ultimately, the primary responsibility for keeping the homeland secure lies with the military, and with a Commander-in-Chief willing to exercise very clear judgment in striking not only at those who have harmed us, but also at those who could. Or, put simply, the best defense is a good offense. Intelligence, by its nature, is largely a defensive vocation, specializing in thwarting an adversary that is often perilously close to achieving its evil objective.
He then applies this line of reasoning to the situation in Iraq, arguing that we should knock out Saddam Hussein in order to prevent future terrorist attacks. Makes sense to me.
James Pinkerton's new column in Newsday takes a look at the Blame Game currently boring everybody outside of D.C. The same Washington journalists who were quick to attack Clinton for bombing Bin Laden's terror camps a few years ago are now attacking the Bush White House for knowing (pre Sept. 11) Bin Laden was still a terrorist and was still scheming against the United States.
Clearly, there were intelligence failures and lots of plain old bad management throughout the federal bureaucracy. Suspected terrorists might be headed to the United States, so we better stop 'em. Whoops, they're already here! There's plenty of stuff to complain about, like two of the now-in-Hell hijackers receiving their visas months after the attacks. But the accusations that anyone in the White House intentionally ignored specific threats related to Sept. 11 only show how heartless and crass U.S journalists and Congress people can be.
National Security Threat Ben Kepple was selected for a random search at the Manchester, NH airport tonight before boarding a plane to Cleveland! Writes Ben:
I was not impressed, though, since I don't think the search would have found anything if I had had a secret compartment within the case. Of course, some people who have gone through what I have probably wished they had secret compartments in their luggage:
ME: Boy, I'm glad I didn't have a Playboy or something in there. SUPERVISOR: Oh, I've seen worse. ME: How could it be any worse? SUPERVISOR: Adult toys. ME: SUPERVISOR: I'm not saying anything more.
The bottom line, as the Bull Moose has noted, is a presidency that serves its own stated agenda --- fiscal restraint, welfare reform, free trade, keeping government out of the market --- far less than Bill Clinton's did.
Um, Charles, go back and read some of the President’s stump speeches. The overriding theme of Bush’s 2000 campaign—ie, the administration’s “own stated agenda”--was the concept of “Compassionate Conservatism,” which de-emphasized fiscal restraint and the conservative impulse to keep the government “out of the market.” He crafted this agenda at great risk to his standing within the GOP, and yet in the end he managed to pull the party away from the Gingrich-ism of the mid-1990s (which Dodgson blindly confuses with Bush’s “own stated agenda.”) It’s a huge testament to his leadership that he has managed to persuade his party to stand for something more than anachro-capitalism.
Beyond his role as the head of his party, has Bush’s leadership amounted to everything? Before we answer the question, it’s important to point out that the presidency is really two jobs—one being the role of head of state (ie: ceremonial functions, providing leadership during times of crisis, etc.) and the other being the head of government (ie, overseeing the federal bureaucracy, and re-shaping it through policy initiatives).
Dodgson takes aim primarily at Bush’s performance as head of government. Eg:
Consider domestic policy, evidently the domain of Bush's political advisors, where no principle, including fiscal restraint, seems worth giving up cheap political points. Bush's welfare bill, for instance, demands 40 hours of work a week instead of 30, even though that is actually likely to cost government money to pay for child care, because "we put more welfare mothers to work" sounds good in a stump speech.
Um, wait a minute, Charles. Here you're saying that Bush is putting the principle of welfare reform above a crass, strictly economical alternative. But didn’t you just say a moment ago that Bush didn’t care about welfare reform? I’m confused. Dodgson trips over himself like this time and time again. Ultimately his effort to paint Bush as “unprincipled” falls flat because the President actually has fought so vigorously for his “own stated agenda.” For example:
--He campaigned for, and passed, a major tax cut. When met with criticism that he repeal it on grounds that it wasn’t “fiscally responsible,” he responded by saying his opponents would raise taxes “over my dead body.”
--Began work to privatize social security. This work was sidetracked after September 11, of course, but Bush dared to touch this third rail of American politics by appointing a bipartisan panel to review the program. It remains to be seen if he’ll continue this work at a more opportune time, but his past actions give no reason to believe he’ll cave on the issue.
--Campaigned for, and acted upon proposals for “faith-based” government initiatives. Like social security reform, much of this agenda also was put on hold after September 11. But Bush created a new government office to oversee these plans, and spent the months before September 11 campaigning for these ideas. While these faith-based programs are a small part of the Bush agenda, they mark the biggest shift in church-state relations in a generation. And he did this despite the focused opposition of Barry Lynn and the pagans at Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, as well as the libertarian wing of his own party.
--Campaigned for, and has pursued oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). He has also been unwavering in his opposition to the Kyoto Treaty. This environmental policy is the political equivalent of shooting Bambi, and Bush has been completely unapologetic about wanting to pull the trigger.
--Assembled the best foreign policy team since the Truman Administration. Dodgson complains that the team is “unfocused.” That’s nonsense. They’ve been handed the colossal task of civilizing a very nasty part of the world by rooting out terrorists and thuggish dictators, (and probably soon) having to re-draw the map of the entire Middle East. Is it asking too much to let the administration have a debate on this before making decisions that could affect the region for decades and even centuries?
--He campaigned for and has steadfastly pursued the construction of an anti-ballistic missile defense. He withdrew from the ABM treaty, and has announced that he will begin construction of the missile defense system the day the treaty ceases to be binding under international law. (Compare this with Clinton, whose foreign policy left every man, woman, and child on the west coast vulnerable to a nuclear attack by the Chinese.)
Even compared to Clinton the head of government, who was hailed as “a good president but a bad person,” Bush is a winner. Clinton was an embarrassment as head of state, of course, and a failure as a policymaker. How many of his 1992 campaign initiatives became law? The "don't ask, don't tell" policy toward gays in the military comes to mind, but can anyone else name another? In fact, Clinton did exactly two good things while he was in office: he passed welfare reform and signed NAFTA. Bush has already done more than that in just over a year. Meanwhile, we no longer have a president who gave more meetings to Monica than he did to the head of the CIA. We no longer have a president who discussed foreign policy on the telephone with congressmen while he was getting his dick sucked. There are no more wag-the-dog attacks on aspirin factories in Sudan. No more jackbooted Attorney General to trample on the civil rights of immigrant children like Elian Gonzalez by dispatching storm troopers to deport them at gunpoint. No more tax increases, no more Chamberlain-esque appeasement of Arab terrorists and Chinese communists. It’s all over. And thank God for that.
I could go on. But I won’t because uninformed critics like Dodgson just don’t want to read a list of Bush's principled policy achievements. They're just too prejudiced against President Bush to give him even an ounce of credit for what he’s done during fifteen months in the Oval Office. Instead of offering up a levelheaded analysis of the President’s policies, they trot out these lists of Bush’s personal shortcomings and call it “criticism.” Dodgson’s post in particular is breathtaking in its ignorance and naiveté. He seems to want a president who is omnicompetent and unconstrained by the pressures of domestic politics. Yeah, buddy, maybe we can dump Bush in 2004 and elect Superman instead.
Dodgson’s post troubles me on another level too. This is one of the worst examples of gasbag punditry I’ve seen in quite a while. The post is completely uninformed by anything beyond personal prejudice (ie, a hatred for Bush) and a few "facts" gleaned from old Molly Ivens columns. Yet despite its numerous flaws, it’s already reverberating through the blogosphere’s echo chamber. This concerns me because till now I’ve seen the blogosphere as an outpost of smart people firing off very high-quality work for nothing (save, perhaps for the occasional dollar or two that flows into the tip bucket). Dodgson’s post strikes me as a sign that Gresham’s Law is working its evil in blogdom. The bad money is now in circulation, and it seems to me now that it’s only a matter of time till drives out the good by giving blogging a bad name or by drowning out its better writers.
Still, in all this there is hope—at least if you’re not a frothing, irrational Bush-hater. If this is the best that Dodgson, et al. can do, this country’s going to have one hell of a president for nearly seven more years.
Peggy "Puff Piece" Noonan actually has written a decent article for once. She still tows the party line today in "Dubya's New Deal," but there's none of that first-person drivel that I absolutely hate--okay, maybe just a little first-person analysis, but enough that the article is about something besides herself for a change. Discussing revelations that the President was briefed about an al Qaeda plot just weeks before September 11, she writes:
Clearly we are at the beginning of a new Democratic foray. Mr. Bush's political enemies will make as much of the story as they can. James Carville yesterday told the ABC News Internet column "The Note" that the question is "What did the President know, when did he know it and what did he do about it?" He is echoing the famous Watergate question in hopes of replicating the famous Watergate disaster.
Why wouldn't he? Playing political games is what Mr. Carville does as a partisan, as an operative, as a holder of the banner of the opposition. It's not only a game but a lucrative one.
She goes on to score some solid points about politics qua warfare and makes a nice historical analogy between Dubya's situation and similar allegations that FDR faced after Pearl Harbor. She's also correct in pointing out that the GOP base will forgive Bush for approving such idiotic policies as the recent farm bill, steel tariffs, etc--because at the end of the day, nobody cares about those issues except for very narrow, directly interested parties. In the end, as Noonan demonstrates, all the criticism he has faced lately is simply a sideshow; the main focus, of course, remains the War on Terror.
All in all, this is a good piece that offers a nice, big picture view on the president’s popularity and the partisan sniping he’ll face during the months leading up to November’s elections.
Thanks, dear readers, for putting up with my whiney wining last night. For those who were alarmed by the sour tone of my post, let me state for the record that all’s well (my awful hangover notwithstanding).
Here’s what brought on this outburst: I’m reading a really cool book right now about a reporter who parachuted into Kiev and Moscow to cover the post-Cold War Soviet Union for the Wall Street Journal. Whoever said that opening a book is a dangerous thing to do must have had something like this one in mind. I’m only half way into it, but it’s already having quite an effect on me. It has filled my heart with wanderlust for Eastern Europe and my mind with all kinds of crony capitalist schemes to pull once I get there. I blush to admit that it also inspired me—someone who rarely strays from the beer and wine to drink hard liquor--to buy a bottle of vodka at the grocery store last night. I drank quite a bit of it while reading and fantasizing about life in the “Wild East.” Finally, I threw down the book, ran to the computer, and screamed, Me Too! So thanks for humoring me, and thanks to Layne and Welch—two grizzled veterans who have worked in that part of the world—for taking pity on me by leaving reassuring notes in the comments box.
Now lemme go run and find some more aspirin for this hangover…Cheers, everybody!
F--- it all. It's drinking night. I'll post later.
Gawd, when will I get that call go be a bigshot foreign correspondent in Prague? Or the call to write the bestselling novel? Dammit, I'm ready to trade up from what I got now.
Scott 2:10 AM [+] ::
O'Reilly had done a magnificent job positioning himself and his Fox "O'Reilly Factor" as a bastion of "no spin." He had crystallized himself as the guy who would ask the hard questions and not accept obfuscation, tangential diatribes or classic political spin. However, when he became the subject of scrutiny and criticism he totally soiled the sheets. He had an opportunity to demonstrate class, calm under pressure and style – and he blew it, big time. […]
Metcalf still seems to think O’Reilly has a remote chance of recovering from this episode, but he still doesn’t think the radio program will last more than a few years at most. Frankly, I won’t be sorry to see him go. Whether on TV or on the radio, he has always struck me as a populist blowhard whose schtick as a pugilistic, non-partisan Everyman fighting for the little guy has always seemed contrived and insincere. It’s kinda fun watching him self-destruct.
Jimmy Carter’s trip to Cuba has got me thinking: having lots of former presidents is a big problem for a country. Sure, it’s never been much of an issue here in the US. Right now, former presidents write memoirs that nobody reads and occasionally carp at their successors about what a terrible job they’re doing. Every now and then they run off to unsavory places like Cuba and try to intercede as diplomats, though that's the exception rather than the rule. In the grand scheme of things, our country’s ex-presidents haven’t done much damage. Yet. Still, in theory having these ex-presidents around is quite dangerous. If there were ever a serious effort to overthrow the government, for example, a logical person to head such a movement would be a living ex-president. I don’t say this to sound paranoid or to insinuate that such a movement is currently afoot; I just think it’s a plausible scenario that a future generation of Americans could be forced to deal with.
The problem of having multiple, legitimate leaders in a society is a problem that has occupied such lofty minds as Shakespeare (who premised several of his plays (including Richard II and to a lesser extent, Henry IV) around the scenario of rival monarchs competing for the throne) and Dante (who believed the Catholic schism under Avignon Popes signaled the end of the world). It’s a dilemma that remains conspicuously unanswered in our Constitution.
Lector: But Scott, America’s a democracy! We’ll never have to worry about something like this.
Auctor: Well, sorry buddy, but democracy isn’t perfect. Just read about the Roman Republic. In its declining years, it faced this very problem.
Lector: So what are you going to do about it? Have presidents serve for life?
Auctor: Yep. That way they won’t be around to cause trouble when their terms run out.
Lector: But Scott, how are we going to hold politicians accountable?
Auctor: Simple. We kill them at the end of their terms.
Lector: But Scott….
Auctor: You heard me. America needs to amend its Constitution so that the president is executed once his term expires.
This will solve a number of problems:
--No more useless ex-presidencies. When was the last time a president did something useful after leaving office? Sure, Jimmy Carter pounds some nails into a Habitat home every once in a while, and William Howard Taft became a Supreme Court justice. Still, Ford, and Bush Sr. haven’t done anything noteworthy, while Clinton has trotted around the world making an ass of himself. Face it: when a president leaves office, his life is over anyway. Why not put him out of his misery?
--Every day counts: If you know you’ve only got a few years to live, you’ll be extremely serious and extremely focused. That’s what we need in a President.
--No more self-serving candidates. If you want to become president once this amendment passes, you’ll need to have an agenda. And you better be willing to die for it. This will be a great winnowing mechanism for weeding out glib, self-serving candidates who lack seriousness and gravitas.
--No more cynicism: How often do you find yourself praising politicians? I’ll bet it’s not very often. But dammit, if a man’s willing to give his life for his political ideals, he’s got my respect.
Lector: But Scott, the September 11 hijackers were willing to give their lives for their political ideals. Aren’t you worried that this new system would attract extremists?
Auctor: Valid point, Lector, but I don’t think it’s a big problem. All the existing checks and balances now found in the Constitution—regular elections, the federal system, the congress and the courts--would all remain in place. This is just one additional safeguard against trouble.
Yeah, critics will carp and say this amendment would be “cruel” and “insensitive,” blah, blah, blah. Still, I think it’s worth considering. We expect our soldiers to give their lives for America; why shouldn’t we expect the same of our civilian leaders? (I’m sure there’s some corollary here with Clauswitz’s dictum that “War is politics by other means,” but I can’t quite figure it out right now.) Anyway, I think this is a swell idea that combines a benefit of the pre-modern system of authority-for-life with the genius of the American Constitutional Order. I invite readers to let me know if they agree.
1. Carter says he met with officials from the State Department and the White House before traveling to Cuba, and he claims that these officials denied the allegations that Cuba was developing biological weapons. Who were these officials, exactly? And upon what intelligence source did they deny the allegations?
2. The State Department still lists Cuba as one of the world's seven state sponsors of terrorism. Leaving aside allegations that Cuba is developing biological weapons (allegations which could well be false), did Carter discuss that country's other terrorist activities during his briefings? If not, why? And if so, why hasn't he confronted Castro about those activities?
Anyway, that's what my enquiring mind would like to know this week.
Of course, even if the bio-terror allegations turn out to be false, Carter's trip has still already been a major embarrassment. Consider:
--Carter already has bought into the canard that Cuba has a swell health care system, saying: "Cuba is unique in having emphasized the health need as a driving force and not just how to make a profit on specific medicines developed." Of course, this is bull. I toured a Cuban hospital myself when I traveled to Havana three years ago this month, and found it to be a complete death trap. Not only was it a death trap, but it was a death trap that pandered to rich, cash-paying foreigners from other parts of Latin America. (I mentioned this in the post found here.) Anyway, I would be outraged about this--except his remarks are so predictable and so typical of what leftists who travel to Cuba say upon returning. I'll give eight to five odds that Carter this week will also extol the Cuban education system and Cuban race relations before calling for an end to the embargo. That's the extent of Castro's talking points memo, and Carter's reading the script perfectly so far.
--Political fallout: Why in the world is the Democratic Party letting its most revered leader go to Cuba when Florida--an important, tightly contested swing state with a huge, motivated Cuban exile community--holds a gubernatorial election in just a few months?
Anyway, there's my two cents. I don't plan to write about this much--simply because I find this leftist-in-Cuba bit so predictable--but I'll keep an eye on it, and post more if something interesting should happen.
Gatlinburg, TN: A tourist trap at the entrance to Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg is home to Dollywood. Need I say more?
Anywhere in New Mexico: When I drove cross country two years ago to take up residence in Los Angeles, I really looked forward to seeing New Mexico for the first time. I assumed it would be an exotic, untamed place filled with cactus strewn across rich, red earth. Instead, I found a bleak, mountainous purgatory situated between the hell of the Great Plains and the mystical paradise of Arizona--which in addition to having the Grand Canyon, the Painted Desert, and the Petrified Forest, also has the added virtue of being within a half-day’s drive of the Pacific Ocean, the Sea of Cortez, and major cities such as LA, San Diego, and Las Vegas, not to mention its own capital city of Phoenix. New Mexico, on the other hand, is out in the middle of nowhere. The sign at the state line may say, “Land of Enchantment,” but it’s really a “Land of Entrapment.”
Colorado Springs: Colorado has got to be the most overrated state in the Union. I traveled there for the first time last September expecting to be able to visit John Elway and crack open a Coors at his cabin high up in the mountains. Instead I found in Colorado Springs an artificial place made from enough aluminum and vinyl to make Palmdale, Calif. blush. Sure, they have some mountains there--but then, so does Palmdale.
Twentynine Palms, Calif.: Creepy little town at the northern gates of Joshua Tree National Park in California’s Mojave Desert. A blighted hellhole that’s notable for its marine base and it burned-out fast food restaurants, Twentynine Palms is primarily a ribbon of vinyl and pre-fab homes stretched along Route 62. The town makes an afterlife in hell seem attractive.
McLean, TX: Creepy little town on the plains of the Texas Panhandle. Home to the “Devil’s Rope” Barbed Wire museum and a gas station that sells watered-down, 86-octane petrol. McLean has all the charm of a real, bona fide ghost town, and offers a preview of what death must be like.
Now, on a brighter note, here are some nicer places to go:
Rosarito, Mexico: Never been there, but Brother Matthew and I are going to scope it out over Memorial Day. It's gotta rule, though. They've got lotsa Corona, fish tacos, and the beach, plus it's only a few minutes from the border.
Asheville, NC: Quaint little town in the Mountains of North Carolina. Get a place with a front porch and a rocking chair, and you're set. Spend your days rocking, and sippin' sweet tea--or if you're feelin' adventurous, go trout fishing in the nearby mountain streams. Doesn't get much better than that...(See also: Flat Rock, NC and Black Mountain, NC).
Roanoke, VA: Give credit where credit is due. Money names this city as a good place to retire, and it really is a swell town. It's situated in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and is close to the college town of Blacksburg. (Full disclosure: My dad was born in Roanoke, and much of my family still lives nearby.)
The Wall Street Journal offers an editorial today calling for an end to the Cuban embargo. The tone of this piece suggests something thoughtful, yet when we look deeper, we see that it's mostly hot air. The writer spends 11 grafs saying that the embargo doesn't work, that it's the product of special interest politics, etc--nothing we don't know already. All this serves as a way of avoiding the really difficult argument, which the writer attempts to make in a single sentence at the end of the article:
Ending the travel ban and embargo will make it harder for the post-Castro era to be controlled by the same gang of thugs.
Um, not so fast there. I'll be the first to concede that the Cuban Embargo is a rather unsavory policy--but still, is the opposite approach any better? Will free trade make Cuba a freer place? Hardly. Consider:
--The United States is the only country in the world that doesn't trade with Cuba; products from the European Union and from Latin America find their way onto the island. Has this made life in Cuba any better?
--America trades freely with other totalitarian states such as China and Saudi Arabia. Has free trade made those places any better off? Or has trade simply given those countries the wherewithal to build missiles to point at our shores and funds to pay the suicide bombers who knock down our skyscrapers?
Frankly if we're still serious about taking out Castro (which I doubt), then we ought to tighten the screws on the embargo. Short of that we should maintain the status quo to indicate that America doesn't approve of this thug today any more than the day he aimed nuclear missiles at our shores, or the day he shot down a civilian aircraft over his country's airspace, or the day he dispossessed thousands of people of their homes in the name of the revolution, or the day he began developing biological weapons, or the day when...well, you get the idea. It might not do much good—indeed, it’s hard to say the embargo has done any good in 40 years--but that’s really not that important. Why? Because ultimately it's not America's responsibility to improve the lives of the Cuban people. That burden falls directly on the shoulders of Fidel Castro himself--and if he really had Cuba's best interests at heart, he would bring an end to the communist police state has used to oppress the Cuban people for over four decades.
Scott 1:34 AM [+] ::
The Times erred, of course, in failing to cite the Downtown News piece--even though they allude to it twice, by my count. Still, it's worth clicking over to the Times version, if only for the video feed of Ankrom creating the sign and placing it over the freeway. This is one of the coolest stories I've heard in a while, and it's worth checking out--even if you have to go to a tainted source.
The Chapel Hill restaurant owner, whose real name is Mildred Council, was among those recognized at a luncheon sponsored by the Small Business Administration and attended by several members of Congress.
Council, who opened Mama Dip's Country Kitchen on a shoestring budget in 1976, was honored as this year's third runner-up in the National Small Business Person of the Year contest.
Ahh yeah...next time you hear about politicians and pork, think of Mama Dip's BBQ.
Scott 12:35 AM [+] ::
Gov. Gray Davis signed legislation Monday night to raise unemployment benefits for workers who lost their jobs following the Sept. 11 attacks.
“Never has there been a more stirring call to serve our fellow human beings,” Davis said.
The measure will provide $540 million in higher benefits to nearly 1.16 million Californians who were out of work between Sept. 11 and Jan. 1 by making them eligible for increases that took effect this year.
Let's hope Davis himself qualifies for unemployment benefits come November.
Scott 1:20 AM [+] ::
:: Monday, May 06, 2002 ::
How's this for an all-American presidential ticket?
For the last year and a half, the state's dairy industry has run its massively successful radio and TV campaign featuring blissful bovines and the tagline, "Great cheese comes from happy cows. Happy cows come from California." The depiction has made PETA's herd of activists, who insist that "the vast majority of California's dairy cows live anything but easy lives," madder than bulls.
So PETA has done what any busybody outfit does when it comes across something it dislikes: seek an injunction from the federal government.
Those monsters! Click here to tell PETA to leave California's Happy Cows alone.
Scott 12:10 PM [+] ::
"About a year ago, I wrote a column about the Euro-elite for the Wall Street Journal hailing the age of the ‘ugly European’. Back then, the ugliness was strictly rhetorical — the smugness of the Pattens and the Perssons. But in the course of 12 months the ugliness has gotten a lot uglier. Muslims killed thousands of Americans, but America doesn’t have anti-Muslim political parties — just a goofy President who hosts a month of Ramadan knees-ups at the White House and enjoins schoolkids to get an Islamic penpal. America has millions of Muslims, but they don’t firebomb synagogues and beat up Jews, and, if they did, the police wouldn’t turn a blind eye. Meanwhile, France has a presidential candidate who makes oven jokes, a foreign minister who believes in the international Jewish conspiracy, and a number-one bestseller which claims the plane that crashed into the Pentagon never existed. But look on the bright side: Europe may be ‘mean-spirited and violent’, but at least it’s not American."
No, it's not a prop at a Pink Floyd concert. The Pig is a BBQ joint here in Los Angeles, located just south of the intersection of Melrose and La Brea. Just went there tonight--yum! It's run by some transplants from Tennessee, and they get it right--complete with the vinegar-based sauce and everything. Best BBQ I've found west of the Rockies. Downside: No sweet tea, though the lady behind the counter knew what I was talking about.
Speaking of southern cooking, I've been meaning to publicize a cookbook I heard about recently: Mama Dip's Kitchen, by Mildred Council. Truth be told, I haven't bought this volume yet. But I already know it's packed with southern goodness. See, Mama Dip is a legend and her restaurant on Rosemary Street in Chapel Hill is the Mecca of Southern Soul Food. That's why her cookbook soon will be on my shelves, and why it should be on yours as well.
One other thought: LA has all sorts of ethnic neighborhoods—Koreatown, Chinatown, Thai Town, Little Armenia, a Russian district, the predominantly Jewish Fairfax District, the African-American Crenshaw District, as well as Hispanic neighborhoods in "East Los," East Hollywood, Inglewood, and elsewhere. So why is there not an ethnic ghetto for southerners? I think all we ex-pats from the South oughta start a "Little Nashville," or a "Little Richmond," or a "Southern Town" complete with BBQ joints, honky-tonk bars, and (if PC sensitivities permit) monuments to General Lee and the Confederate Dead. Los Angeles is a cosmopolitan city and all, but is it really complete without something like this?
Thank you, readers, for making April a successful month here at SR.com. The site had 1818 unique visits last month (compared to 1602 for March, 1493 for February, and 1871 for January.) While the absolute number of hits was not a record, the average daily traffic (60.6 visitors/day) was a new high. And the site's movin' on up, too...so thank you, everybody, for stoppin' in!
By the way, I should also thank everyone who has taken the time to leave a comment on the site, or to send me e-mail privately. You know who you are, and I really appreciate your feedback. I say this not just because I'm truly grateful, but also because I've been very bad about responding to a lot of the messages I've received. But fear not: I'm really not being a snotty little elitist who takes reader mail for granted. I really do appreciate your notes and your posts to the comment boards, and I hope you'll continue letting me know what you think.
Also, some fellow bloggers have written recently to request a permalink on the site. My list, of course, is woefully out of date. You'll notice that I don't even have the obligatory links to InstaPundit or Sullivan, let alone some of the other bloggers I've discovered over the past few months. So fear not: an update is forthcoming. Soon. I promise.
Scott 9:29 PM [+] ::
[O]rthodoxy has been vindicated and progressivism found utterly bankrupt. No priests faithful to the traditional sexual teaching of the Church, and to their own maturely and voluntarily taken vows, caused any of the scandals aired in 2002. Traditional teaching did not fail. Had it been followed to the letter and in a full loving spirit, there would have been no scandals. Far from it.
Those who caused these scandals acted outside the tradition and sinned against it, as well as against God and, in terrible violation, against their trusting charges. Court records show that many of them calmly replied to their young victims, who questioned them plaintively, "But how can this be right?" in words such as these: "Trust me. It's all right. Just say nothing about it. Think no more about it."
Where does one suppose that these priests got the moral theology that allowed them to say that their dastardly acts were moral? They did not find that in orthodox teaching. Whatever was the systemic fault, it wasn't the doctrine of Jesus Christ, Sts. Peter and Paul, and the Church faithful to their teaching since that time.
I know that my liberal credentials may be in jeopardy if I keep citing the Vicster, but he just has this one so right.
Oh, fear not, Brian! It turns out that while Professor Hanson writes for NRO, City Journal, and a host of other conservative publications, Hanson actually is a Democrat! Open up Who Killed Homer, the cri de coeur about the decline of academia which he co-wrote with John Heath, and we find this little sentence on page 258:
Despite never yet having voted Republican, we both of us come down squarely on the side of the conservatives in their attack on the university. [Emphasis added.]
Hanson, a Democrat who voted for Bill Clinton, says there will be a change of the guard. [Again, emphasis added.]
So you're on safe ground, Brian...at least for now. But when you're ready to come out of the closet and declare to the world that you've become a conservative, though, just gimme a call. The Right Wing Conspiracy is Vast enough to include even you....
Scott 2:02 AM [+] ::