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.
:: Friday, September 20, 2002 ::
Speaking of California Politicos...
While I'm on the subject of California politics (see below), I'd like to pose a question to my readers: why is it that California--a state with the largest, most dynamic population in the country, and a state with unparalelled geographic (and therefore economic) diversity--has such awful politicians? Why is it that out of 35 million people available to run for office, the State of California can do no better than Grey Davis and Bill Simon? I invite you to leave your comments and theories below.
Scott 1:07 AM [+] ::
California's gubernatorial election, like Germany's (see below), to date has provided another case study in why America needs to re-think its religious devotion to the idea of popular government. Incumbent Gov. Gray Davis (D) (as others have suggested) is probably the most dangerous California politician since Richard Nixon, while his Republican opponent Bill Simon is a loopy ideologue with no previous experience in electoral politics. The two unsavory choices really vindicate my decision to leave California for Delaware--Delaware of all places!--two months ago.
I've been asking myself that question a lot during the current election campaign in Germany. A post tonight at Brother Matthew's site reminds us why: Germany is mortgaging its diplomatic relationships with two key allies, France and the United States, as incumbent Kanzler Gehardt Schroder trolls for votes in Sunday's elections among German isolationists who oppose disarming Iraq. Schroder's justice minister took the rhetoric to a new level of stridency today when he compared President Bush to Adolf Hitler.
All of which leads me to wonder: why in the world did America spend half a century making Germany "safe for Democracy" when this charade is all that democracy is good for? Somewhere along the line it became sacred writ that democracies are best at fighting and winning wars. It's a line we here often from popular historians such as Stephen Ambrose and Victor Davis Hanson. Yet the German case seems to suggest that democracies are actually quite bad at fighting wars. The situation reveals what democracy really is about: pandering to society's lowest common denominator even at the expense of the common good, including the world's security.
Germany could resolve this situation by restoring the Kaiser. Give power to one authoritative ruler, and we'd have German troops storming Baghdad by morning.
Okay, I'm only joking about restoring the Kaiser. But still: why do we Americans value democracy with such religious devotion when it leads to charades like this one?
The cool idea of the day comes to us from Tony Piece:
i want a live car chase channel. in LA theres always car chases. they break into local programming and the cops always get their man, but its really entertaining.
i would want them to give us details about the neighborhoods that theyre speeding through, details about the car that theyre chasing. comedians could make jokes. the cross promotion and ad potentials are boundless. then when there arent any live chases, you could show us some classic ones. then when theres none of those, you could just feed in some survielence cam stuff. who doesnt like to people watch? thats all it is.
I had the misfortune of driving the entire length of the New Jersey Turnpike twice today—round trip between its southern terminus at Wilmington, DE and its northern end in New York City. After this extensive fact-finding mission, I’ve come to the conclusion that the entire highway should be destroyed.
Okay, well not quite destroyed. But if I were a politician living across the river in New Jersey, dammit, a central plank in my platform would be to eliminate the tollbooths from that whole mess of a highway. Let me count the reasons why:
1. After crossing the Delaware River from Wilmington into New Jersey, my friend and I approached the first tollbooth. There we took a ticket marking our entry point onto the turnpike. Did a fast, efficient machine dispense this ticket? No, goddammit. Some lazy-ass, union scale worker—a human being, if one can call such a person that—handed it to us. Yes, friends, some fat slob is earning $10/hour (or some obscene wage) to pass out little slips of paper to passing motorists when machines exist that could perform the same work more quickly, and at a fraction of the price. Why do the people of New Jersey tolerate this?
2. One cannot exit the Jersey Turnpike without, in my traveling companion’s words, “giving a pint of blood.” Therefore the Great State of New Jersey has erected “service centers” along the turnpike that provide food, gas, and other services. Which is to say that the state has granted monopoly-control of these services to Sunoco Oil, and to a handful of fast food restaurants. The high prices and poor services provided at these service centers correspond to the strength of the monopoly power.
3. For example, this morning en route to New York, we stopped around 10:30am for a bite to eat at one of the service centers in question. We waited half an hour in line as one person—the only one on duty at this particular “fast” food joint—served the 20 people in front of us.
4. To give another example, my friend purchased for dinner a semi-edible chicken sandwich, along with fries and a large Coke at a “service center” just south of NYC. Price: $8.50.
5. To give yet another example, we stopped to fill the gas tank during the return trip this evening. No self-service pumps were available. Instead, we had to wait in line a full half hour as an attendant, with all the efficiency of a Frenchman, pumped the gas of four other cars in front of us. During this time, at least three other pumps sat idle as attendants took breaks. Again, I ask: Why do the people of New Jersey tolerate this?
To add insult to injury, I also noticed:
--An inordinate number of state troopers—in fact, a police presence greater than or equal to that of Pyongyang--patrolled the turnpike today, setting speed traps along lightly-traveled portions of the road—even as some stranded motorists waited endlessly for assistance. Each passing driver paid a toll to fund this police state. Once more, I ask: Why do the people of New Jersey tolerate this?
--Also vexing is the fact that the number of lanes on the turnpike falls by half—from twelve to six—north of I-80. In some sections, it goes from six to just four. I remind you, gentle reader, that this portion of the Jersey Turnpike is a major artery through the largest city in America. And with congestion bad enough as it was, it was made even worse today by the Jets-Patriots game at the Meadowlands. In the Philadelphia suburbs at the other end of the Turnpike, just two lanes run in each direction—even though Philadelphia is the fifth largest city in America. Yet despite this, each of the thousands of people passing along paid a toll to ride on this completely inadequate highway. Again, I ask: Why, why, do the people of New Jersey tolerate this?
After this horrid experience, I’m tempted to move across the Delaware River to the Garden State so that I can run for a seat in the legislature. Once I get there, I’d introduce a bill that would:
1. Eliminate all the tolls and tollbooth operators. This will make traffic flow more smoothly, while saving motorists a bundle. Furthermore, free access on and off the road will break the monopoly power of state-sanctioned “service centers,” allowing a cornucopia of free-market benefits to flow to the good people of New Jersey.
2. Raid the welfare-for-crack-moms-in-Newark fund to widen the Turnpike through New York and the Philadelphia suburbs.
3.Raise the speed limit to 75mph outside the New York metro area.
Incidentally, the New Jersey case could be replicated in states throughout the Northeast. All these godawful little states—all the way from DC to Maine--exact varying levels of tribute from passing motorists, and dammit, I think The People are ready for a change. If conservatives need a way to lock up a few elections in the Northeast this fall, liberating the region’s toll roads is the way to go.
Break their teeth, O God, in their mouth: break out the great teeth of the young lions, O LORD. Let them melt away as waters which run continually: when he bendeth his bow to shoot his arrows, let them be as cut in pieces. As a snail which melteth, let every one of them pass away: like the untimely birth of a woman, that they may not see the sun. Before your pots can feel the thorns, he shall take them away as with a whirlwind, both living, and in his wrath.
The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance: he shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked. So that a man shall say, Verily there is a reward for the righteous: verily he is a God that judgeth in the earth.
Shout-outs are in order for Geitner Simmons, who linked to my Wednesday post on NAFTA. Geitner's traffic, apparently, has skyrocketed recently thanks to plugs from InstaPundit and Andrew Sullivan. In fact, he has sent more than 150 readers here today at last check. Simmons definitely has earned the large and growing audience he now commands. Run by a fellow Carolina alum and an editorial writer for the Omaha World-Herald, Simmons' blog is one of the best I've discovered in the past few months. If you're not yet one of Simmons' regular readers, you're really missing out.
Scott 5:25 PM [+] ::
100 Greatest Update Coming Soon
Notice to readers: an update on last week's list of the 100 most influential non-Americans of all time is coming soon. Maybe tomorrow, maybe later in the weekend. For some reason the muse just doesn't want to sing this week, so that's why I've been tardy in following up on that. Shouldn't be much longer, though, I promise!
Scott 12:23 AM [+] ::
Security measures have curbed cyberspace so much since the September 11 attacks that the Internet can be counted among the collateral damage caused that day, a worldwide media watchdog group said Thursday.
Haven't these people ever heard of war blogs?
Scott 12:10 AM [+] ::
If we knew for sure he is capable of blowing up the world, let's go get him. If there were any reason to believe war on Iraq might stabilize the Middle East and diminish, rather than increase, the threat of terrorist attacks on the U.S., sign me up. But guess what, folks. There is none of that. And still, nearly two-thirds of the 1,372 adults polled nationwide say they would support a ground attack on Iraq.
Who are you people?
Are you the same ones I see going into the Olive Garden?
Are you the audience CBS and Fox had in mind when they dreamed up reality TV shows based on "The Beverly Hillbillies" and "Green Acres"?
Until we can figure out a way to conduct polls that make us look smarter, we ought to ban them altogether.
Jesus H! People who eat at Olive Garden are disqualified from commenting on foreign policy? Can you hate your readers any more than that?
Scott 11:46 PM [+] ::
:: Wednesday, September 04, 2002 ::
California gubernatorial candidate Bill Simon may be a total space cadet, but his campaign staff sure did hit a home run when they designed this site.
Due to NAFTA, no less than 89 percent of Mexico's exports now head north, to the United States, the article says. Mexico's economy faces structural problems including ill-considered government encouragement of monopolies and a worrisome reliance on oil revenues (providing 35 percent of revenues for the country's federal government). Still, Mexico has made significant strides since the country's dramatic economic slide of the mid-1990s, in terms of economic reform as well as greater political openness. At a time of economic wobbliness in Brazil and outright meltdown in Argentina, Mexico's stability (at least for the moment) provides welcome reassurance.
When I visited Mexico for the first time as a college student about five years ago, I went on a Church Mission trip to Reynosa, in the Tamaulipas state along Tex-Mex border. We stayed in a two-story compound constructed of plain, unpainted cinder blocks, located in one of the poorest and dirtiest shantytowns I've ever seen. The streets weren't paved, and most of the time we didn't even have running water in the building. While we were there, we were hectored constantly by visiting do-gooder Gringos about how NAFTA was "exploiting" the local people. The shiny factories across town run by multinationals such as Panasonic and Zenith didn't pay them a "fair wage," and good, compassionate Christians should be concerned about that. Well, that pissed me off--not just because these people were wrong and misguided, but because they were sitting in middle of this shanty town and effectively saying that the local residents shouldn't be able to get jobs, that they shouldn't participate in the economy, and that instead they should continue eating mud and just be happy about it. That was the practical consequence of their position, "Christian" as it may have been.
Now, five years later, the moral case for free trade has become even clearer. As places like Argentina, Brazil, and Venezuela endure political and economic turmoil, Mexico remains on a steady--not to mention peaceful--track out of Third World poverty and into the global economy. Not only can those people I met in Reynosa sleep soundly at night knowing they're not going to be arrested or killed by some newly-installed military government, but they can also wake up each morning confident that their lives steadily are getting better and their pocketbooks a little fatter.
So how, in the year 2002, can there still be people who oppose free trade--the very engine that makes such peace and prosperity possible?
Hey, folks, I'm back from my little jaunt up to New York this weekend. I had a blast up there as I sampled nearly every Irish, Russian, and honky-tonk bar within a ten block radius of Times Square. Memories are vague, but suffice it to say that I put the anti-fraud people at my credit card company on edge as I charged one tab after another. Good times.
On a more serious note, I did make the obligatory trip to Ground Zero while I was up there. It was the first time I had visited the site. Of course now all the rubble has been cleared away. All that remains are two large craters resembling a giant construction site. Still, buildings adjacent to the site remain draped in black, protective cloth to cover the facades--many of them hundreds of feet tall--that completely shattered during the collapse of the two towers. Underneath the cloth, you can view hundreds of pieces of plywood that now board up the broken windows. So even though most of the wreckage has been cleared out, it’s still a pretty intense sight to see.
Another sight, along the Hudson at the USS Intrepid, really drilled home for me the human loss we suffered during the attacks. There they had on display a box filled with debris collected from the WTC site—including a lot of gray dust, a legal form for a financial account, a fragmented 3.5” floppy disk, and other objects you might find in an office. Sitting atop the heap was a mangled piece of the fuselage from Flight 11 that had been charred gray in the explosion. Still distinctly visible in the metal was the shape of one of the plane’s windows. The metal was folded over at about a 45 degree angle, but you could still make out the little rectangle where the frame had held a pane of glass.
I wonder who had the seat next to that window on that fateful morning.
I wonder what that person thought when the hijackers commandeered the plane. I also wonder if he managed to see the Tower before the plane’s impact, and if he had a chance to realize that he was going to die a firey death a split-second later. I wonder too if that person had a chance to utter one quick last prayer, or to think one last time of a husband or a wife, or of children, or of some other loved one.
We can only guess at those answers, of course. And that’s why we fight—for the memory both of that person and for the scores of others who shared that horrible fate. As the initial shock of the attack fades away, let's not forget just how much we lost that Tuesday morning last September...
Scott 12:41 AM [+] ::
Blair told a news conference Iraq posed a real and unique threat to the Middle East and the world, and said the international community, not just the United States, had to deal with that threat. Blair insisted no decisions had been taken by London or Washington on what kind of action should be taken against Baghdad, but added: "Either the regime starts to function in a completely different way...or the regime has to change."
So much for those complaints about "unilateralism" from the Bush Administration...
Scott 11:26 PM [+] ::