Mensch tracht, un Gott lacht

Monday, January 31, 2005

It Was The Best Of Times, It Was The Worst Of Times

Among my modest attainments is the fact that I complete each week the New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle, considered the gold standard of that genre. In fact, a very bright friend of mine once told me that the only other person she knows that does it in pen is Anthony Kurtz, the MIT engineering genius who has worked with NASA on designing all the space modules and shuttles.

The amazing thing about this puzzle is not only that most people can't figure out the answers when the paper is blank, they cannot even figure them out after they have been filled in. I am often asked to give a touch of insight into this process for intelligent people who would like to begin enjoying this form of mind-stimulating recreation.

I have just completed the one which ran in yesterday's Miami Herald; we get last week's, so this would have appeared in the Jan. 23 Sunday Times.

Now, the key to the puzzle is its title. But the title only reflects upon the longer answers.

The title of this particular puzzle is CYBERCHUCKLES. Here are the clues to the longer phrases and their answers, in keeping with the theme of the title.

24 Across: Rich man's wife, often - LADY OF LEISURE.
37 Across: Consequence of war - LOSS OF LIFE.
58 Across: Usually low-paying work - LABOR OF LOVE.
84 Across: Opulence - LAP OF LUXURY.
102 Across: Chop alternatives - LEGS OF LAMB.
117 Across: Illinois - LAND OF LINCOLN.
3 Down: English policy-makers - LLOYDS OF LONDON.
54 Down: Stuff in baskets - LOADS OF LAUNDRY.

Do you get it now? If not, you might want to stick to gin rummy.

Time and Evangelicals

Time Magazine has an interesting feature on the 25 Most Influential Evangelicals, but there's one small problem. Several of those named are not evangelicals! The list includes a couple of Catholics and several Pentecostal/Charismatic types who don't necessarily fit the definition. By Time's logic, anyone who takes their Christian faith seriously is an evangelical.

Nevertheless, the list is interesting to read. Time takes a couple of cheap shots, such as saying Rick Santorum compared gay marriage to bestiality (which he certainly did not), but not so many as to ruin the experience.

Iraqi Blogger Describes Voting . . .

American leftists should put their Bush-hatred aside and read this from Iraq the Model. Just to whet your appetite, here's a little taste:

I walked forward to my station, cast my vote and then headed to the box, where I wanted to stand as long as I could, then I moved to mark my finger with ink, I dipped it deep as if I was poking the eyes of all the world's tyrants.

I put the paper in the box and with it, there were tears that I couldn't hold; I was trembling with joy and I felt like I wanted to hug the box but the supervisor smiled at me and said "brother, would you please move ahead, the people are waiting for their turn".

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Welfare Reform, German Style

In the What Will They Think of Next? Department, our friend Greg McConnell sent us a link to a story in the Telegraph that is, alas, all too easy to believe.

The German government has officially become a recruiter for prostitution rings. German women who lose their jobs can now be forced to work as prostitutes or lose their unemployment benefits.

The Telegraph article reports:
A 25-year-old waitress who turned down a job providing 'sexual services' at a brothel in Berlin faces possible cuts to her unemployment benefit under laws introduced this year.

"Prostitution was legalised in Germany just over two years ago and brothel owners – who must pay tax and employee health insurance – were granted access to official databases of jobseekers.

"The waitress, an unemployed information technology professional, had said that she was willing to work in a bar at night and had worked in a cafe."

The job center gave her a phone number to call, and it turned out to be that of a brothel.

"Under Germany's welfare reforms," the Telegraph reports, "any woman under 55 who has been out of work for more than a year can be forced to take an available job – including in the sex industry – or lose her unemployment benefit. . . .

"The government had considered making brothels an exception on moral grounds, but decided that it would be too difficult to distinguish them from bars. [Gee, maybe they should get out more.] As a result, job centres must treat employers looking for a prostitute in the same way as those looking for a dental nurse."

Ronald Reagan talked about getting government off the backs of the people—now governments are trying to get women on their backs.

Opiate Of Them Asses

I always love it when people argue against religion for saddling people with unnecessary guilt.

Then, when you say that religion is a positive force in your life, they say, "Well, if you need that kind of reassurance, then maybe it's right for you."

Which is it, scourge or crutch?

Of course, to believers it's neither and it's both: it's an obligation.

But to those fools, anti-religion is their drug of choice, and they'll use any argument or combination of arguments, however self-contradictory.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Apparel All Parka Crashes

The Vice President is being criticized for attending the Auschwitz memorial ceremony in a ski parka and knit cap instead of a suit. Perhaps he has been overeating at the inauguration parties and his suits don't fit (not like Johnny Carson's, anyway).

As a less-than-well man, he should remember what Orson Welles said: "My doctor told me to stop having intimate dinners for four. Unless there are three other people."

Bottom line, ski parka = tres tacky. As Evelyn Waugh said, "I can abide formality or intimacy, but I detest informality."

Bullet Points From Party Headquarters

The experiment in Palestinian democracy proceeds apace.

After Hamas had a strong showing in local elections in Gaza, they called a little victory rally. They celebrated by chanting slogans and their opposition, Fatah, responded by spraying the crowd with bullets.

Apparently, Palestinians and democracy go well together - like Smith and Wesson.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Companies Upsizing?

As I have mentioned, I am on the road in Savannah, Georgia, and have limited access to the Internet. This morning and afternoon were delightfully spent with some cousins over in Hilton Head, South Carolina.

Briefly, I wanted to share a thought about this latest pattern of 'padding' that seems to be at the heart of a few scandals, from the Krispy Kreme orders and profit reports to the Boy Scout enrollment numbers, not to mention some questions about charitable foundations (oh, oh, I can feel the double entendre crowd starting to heat up).

Do we as a nation have a particular cultural problem that pushes us to always want to seem bigger than we might be in actuality?

Conservative Philosophers Get Together

Francis Beckwith emailed to let me know that he's joined a new weblog staffed by conservative philosophers, including one Roger Scruton.

It's a nice counterpart to Left2Right, which was discussed on this site some time ago. Go check out The Conservative Philosopher! They've been in operation about three days and are already getting a couple thousand or so hits daily. Not bad.

Some Awesome Scalia Action . . .

From Christianity Today's Weblog:

Last week, however, Scalia had less jurisprudential matters on his mind when addressing a Louisiana chapter of the Knights of Columbus.

"To believe in traditional Christianity is something else," Scalia told a group of about 350.
For the Son of God to be born of a virgin? I mean, really. To believe that he rose from the dead and bodily ascended into heaven? How utterly ridiculous. To believe in miracles? Or that those who obey God will rise from the dead and those who do not will burn in hell?

God assumed from the beginning that the wise of the world would view Christians as fools … and he has not been disappointed. …

Intellect and reason need not be laid aside for religion. It is not irrational to accept the testimony of eyewitnesses who had nothing to gain. There is something wrong with rejecting a priori the existence of miracles. …

If I have brought any message today, it is this: Have the courage to have your wisdom regarded as stupidity. Be fools for Christ. And have the courage to suffer the contempt of the sophisticated world.

Constitution and Koran?

I found Peggy Noonan's dour assessment of the inaugural speech deflating, but I'm not likely to doubt her judgement. I have to admit that I flinched when Bush referenced our national identity being built on "the truths of Sinai, the Sermon on the Mount, and the words of the Koran (italics mine)."

I think David Gelerntner already covered this ground somewhere out there in the aether, but I'm having a little trouble with that third part simply as a matter of history. I'd love to see someone produce a believable explanation of how the words of the Koran affected our constitutional development or helped promote self-government.

Yes, yes, Bush was playing down the confrontation between Christianity and Judaism on one side and Islam on the other. That's smart. He should do that. He has a responsibility to America's Muslims to do so, but let's not falsify the record.

By the way, none of this goes to say that I think Muslims are incapable of democracy or any of that business. If you had intercepted Christian civilization at various points, you would have likely said the same about Christians. Certainly, the twentieth century was full of Protestants heavy-handedly making that accusation about Catholics.

Wake Up, Mourning Noonanite

The American Spectator today includes an article which wonders if Peggy Noonan has gone a bit wobbly of late. Among her sins is an article in which she expresses her concern that there are not enough forces of deletion arrayed against the forces of insertion in the Administration's speechwriting give-and-take.

In truth, she may well be right. I once wrote that editors 'haunt the writer's Eden', but if there was ever a place where editors should outnumber writers it is in the White House. Since the presidential speech by definition must be rhetoric wedded closely to policy, the flights of literary fancy that the scrivener classes adore should very rarely be flown by Air Force One.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Freedom From Wisdom

I am often amused and sometimes enlightened by the writings of Arnaud de Borchgrave, a 30-year Newsweek veteran and now editor at large of UPI and The Washington Times. I tend to share his skepticism, though not his pessimism, about using our taxes and military for secular missionary work in Iraq and elsewhere. His January 24 column, however, traveled a bridge too far:

“Democracy and freedom,” he wrote, “mean different things to different peoples around the world. For countless millions in Europe, the Middle East, South Asia and China, it means the freedom not to emulate America's anything-goes freedom -- where surveys show the rich getting richer and the poor standing still, and almost daily mega swindles on Wall Street. For almost half of humanity, which survives $2 a day per person or less, it means freedom from want, hunger and disease.”

Even aside from this gratuitous leftist bias (oddly attributed to “surveys”) against affluence and Wall Street, Borchgrave’s notion that the concept of freedom is culturally subjective is both offensive and absurd.

Residents of our maximum-security prisons have “freedom from want” and hunger. And their medical care is free too.

Kofi Anan---Defender of Jews

It's really quite amusing. Having presided for years over some of the most virulent Jew hatred ever seen at the UN---no small achievement---the ineffable Kofi Anan, emceeing the current UN memorial observations for this 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, now states that "The tragedy of the Jewish people was unique." The Hatikva was played for the General Assembly. Memories of the 2001 UN Conference Against Racism in Durban went down the memory hole, as well they should from Kofi's standpoint, as that "conference" degenerated quickly into a cauldron of Israel bashing, anti-Semitism, and the widely-agreed equation of Jews with Nazis.

So what gives? This is, after all, the Kofi Anan of the Tutsi slaughter fame, of the Srbenica massacre fame, of the oil-for-food fiasco, ad nauseam. Could it be that our beloved Kofi, reeling from one scandal to another, beset by calls for his resignation, etc., now has discovered that he needs friends? Like Hillary's announcement during her 2000 Senate race that chicken soup flows through her veins, Kofi knows that a friend in need is a friend indeed, and what better friends could there be than the Jews? Thus has our beloved Kofi demonstrated once again an eternal principle: Where Kofi stands depends on where Kofi sits. That the chattering classes defend the UN as a citadel of "moral authority" is appalling.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Bayh to Moderate Status

Hunter notes that "Evan Bayh, Democrat Senator from Indiana and much-lauded moderate, voted 'no' on Condoleezza Rice's confirmation as Secretary of State. She was confirmed by a large margin regardless, but I can't help but see his 'no' vote as a surprisingly unpleasant gesture.

"What was he thinking? Is he that secure in 'red' Indiana?"

Certainly he does remain immensely popular, and his next Senate reelection campaign is not for a while, but I think there is more to it than that.

This is as far to the Left as I've ever seen Evan Bayh openly go. The vote suggests that he is trying to solidify his base among Democrats. It is quite possible that this vote--the first big one of this session--signals Bayh's intention to pursue the Democrat Party's nomination for president in 2008. It also suggests that he feels it necessary to move openly to the Left in order to have a plausible chance.

So Much for His Moderate Reputation . . .

I can't believe it. Evan Bayh, Democrat Senator from Indiana and much-lauded moderate, voted "no" on Condoleezza Rice's confirmation as Secretary of State. She was confirmed by a large margin regardless, but I can't help but see his "no" vote as a surprisingly unpleasant gesture.

What was he thinking? Is he that secure in "red" Indiana? Help me out here, Mr. Karnick.

Nathan Hatch Named Next President of Wake Forest

This is a shocking turn of events. Along with George Marsden and Mark Noll, Nathan Hatch is a member of the famed trio of evangelical historians who have had a major impact on the American academy. All three men stand for the nurturance and rigorous application of the Christian mind.

Hatch was previously Provost at Notre Dame (a rare feat for an evangelical) and should make things interesting at Wake Forest. Wake doesn't have much of its Baptist identity left, so he won't be able to make huge changes, but he may be able to plant some very promising seeds.

The Future of Children's Entertainment

Many of you know there has been a raging controversy over a video that uses various cartoon characters to promote diversity and tolerance. An accompanying web pledge apparently makes clear that tolerance includes sexual orientation. We could parse that issue to death.

Instead of giving you my two cents, I came across a very interesting interview between Christianity Today and Veggietales creator Phil Vischer (aka Bob the Tomato). Here's a worthwhile bit:

Kids' shows themselves very seldom have agendas beyond the crassly commercial. Individual writers, however, sometimes do. Writers may slip something into a script for their own amusement or socio-political gratification that the producers of the show will never notice. We evangelicals will pick up on those subtle intrusions and assume they are systemic.

Looking at the world of kids' television today, I can't think of any shows with an overt sexual identity agenda. I do think that will change over the next 5-10 years, though. Since the early 1970s, promoting diversity has been considered vitally important in children's television, especially in the New York-Washington D.C. school of children's programming exemplified by Sesame Street. Nickelodeon has made it a major focus as well.

But for the last 30 years, diversity has meant gender and race. As a result, liberals and conservatives could agree on their children's programming. Sesame Street, a product of the "Blue States," worked just fine in the "Red States" as well. Over the next 5-10 years I think this will change. Sesame Workshop (the foundation behind Sesame Street) and Nickelodeon will come under increasing pressure from their Blue buddies to positively portray sexual diversity alongside racial and gender diversity. The day a same-sex couple moves onto Sesame Street will mark the day the Red States and the Blue States (or more accurately, the Red Counties and the Blue Counties) will no longer watch the same children's shows. How far away is that day? Maybe two years. Maybe ten years. But it will happen. (Italics mine)

Isn't that an interesting prediction. I hadn't thought of it before.

Where's S.T. Karnick? An Explanation.

I'm sure many Reform Club readers are wondering about the whereabouts of one S.T. Karnick, the founder of this weblog. I have been in contact with the hardest working man in conservative journalism and find that he has been under tight deadlines for the several publications he edits for the Heartland Institute in Chicago. He has also experienced trouble with the home office set-up, which includes internet access.

Fear not. The greatest living film critic in the English language (there are some guys in the Middle East whose jocks he couldn't wash) will be back in the near future, perhaps provoked by a very poorly considered parenthetical remark!

L'Chaim, To Pro-Life

The great Hunter Baker has requested that I address the very important question of Jewish pro-life belief and activity. This will require some fairly thorough treatment, and I will commit to returning to this matter within a few days. However, I need to get on the road tomorrow morning; I'm driving from Miami to Savannah, Georgia, to spend the weekend with friends. Gotta get meself into a bed for five or so hours.

In brief, let me just say that normative Jewish belief, based on explicit Jewish law, is that abortion is forbidden, and considered an act of murder, except to save the life of the mother. However, there is some extra latitude given to abortions within the first forty days from conception; the child is legally considered unformed until that time.

As to the question of to what extent has there been an effort to promulgate this view within the culture and to fight for it in the political realm, we will leave that until I have a tad more time.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005


I'm going on record right now. New England will beat the Philadelphia Eagles decisively in the Super Bowl. Bill Bellichek (sp?) has won me over.

I believe he is the greatest coaching genius in NFL history this side of Lombardi. Because he spent a lot of years as Bill Parcell's assistant, we even have to wonder how much of the Parcells mystique is attributable to the unassuming fellow with the graveyard expression.

Michael Moore Speech Avoided! Celebration Spills Into Streets

From Newsday:

Mel Gibson's religious blockbuster "The Passion of the Christ" missed out on main categories, but did pick up nominations for cinematography, makeup and original score.

Michael Moore's gamble to hold his hit film "Fahrenheit 9/11" out of the documentary category -- to boost its best-picture prospects -- backfired. The movie was shut out across the board. Moore won the documentary prize two years ago for "Bowling for Columbine."

Cross-cultural Exchange on Life

Jay, having heard you express the desire to protect the life of Terri Schiavo, it occurs to me that I don't usually associate Jewish voices with the sanctity of life movement. Is there a strong pro-life strain in Judaism? If so, could you describe it?

Shame On Us, Shame On US

Very, very sad that the Supreme Court will let Terry Schiavo die. The Talmud says that the Second Temple had a chance of being saved until one person did one creepy act of stealing another man's wife and then, when the man fell behind in alimony payments, hiring the man and forcing him to be their butler while they partied.

The pain of one human being weighs so much in God's eyes, especially if we cannot construct a society to protect such a precious life from a heartless predator.

Monday, January 24, 2005

On Interview Styles . . .

Because of my old job at a Georgia think tank/advocacy group, I've done a fair bit of radio interview work and even some television. My point about interview styles and bias works both ways.

Without exception, my "mainstream" media contacts have been more difficult than the work with Christian or conservative outlets. I did an interview with Moody Radio today (no chance at a Reform Club plug, sorry S.T.) and felt like I was sitting in a friend's living room. I suspect that members of the Democratic party feel that way when they go on ABC!

Whisk Those Cons In

The son of Congresswoman Gwen Moore of Milwaukee, Sowande Okomunde, has been arrested, along with four compadres, for slashing the tires of Republican Party vehicles on Election Day. The evidence indicates that the vandalism was part of a concerted effort entitled (You can't make this stuff up) 'Operation Elephant Takeover'.

They will no doubt be tried in front of a friendly judge, so I would not imagine tht jail time is very likely, although a name like Okomunde would make a jailhouse memoir into a guaranteed best-seller.

We have to give credit for the cops who successfully prosecuted and executed their part of what we might call 'Operation Donkey Dunk'.

Stale Aire with Terri Gross

Are you like me? Are you a conservative who hates himself for occasionally (or often) turning the radio dial to National Public Radio only to get whacked in the head with obvious bias?

With most NPR features, the bias manifests itself in story selection. For example, we must have a million different angles on the quagmire of Iraq. My radio station would say, "Assume lots of horrible crap is taking place all the time. We'll update you when the situation changes."

Terri Gross and Fresh Aire is my least favorite of the bunch. She interviews all kinds of people (liberal and conservative) in a long program. One interesting feature: When she interviews conservatives (like Grover Norquist), you can FEEEEEEL the tension. When she interviews any liberal figure they're just chatting like old buddies. Wow, is it irritating.

Listen and tell me I'm wrong. Better yet, don't bother. If you'd like to have the NPR quality and tone without the annoying content, go to NPR alum Ken Myers' Mars Hill Audio. They have a tape subscription service that absolutely rocks. Check that out.

Gen-X Carson React

Yes, there is no news today. Blogging is at an absolute standstill. Thus, for the first time (I think), I go into celebrity commentary.

Johnny Carson is memorable to me for a few reasons. The first is sartorial. The man wore the tightest cut sportcoats I've ever seen. Though he was reed slender, his sportcoats were always very closely fitted to his shoulders, chest, and waist. My father used to complain about a salesman at a men's store who got him to buy a suit that was far too tight by pushing it as being "Johnny Carson style."

Second, I reflect on the guests of Carson's show. Except for new comedians, I always recognized the guests on The Tonite Show. I am thoroughly convinced there were far fewer celebrities back then so that it was possible to know them all. It makes sense. You had three channels and the movies for most of the run. Very different from today's celeb universe where you could never watch MTV and consequently not know many apparently "famous persons."

Third, is his significance as a cultural marker. For many of us, Carson signaled forbidden territory. Bedtime occurred well before Ed made the big introduction, so to actually see Johnny on screen or hear the monologue seemed like a great privilege, even if you didn't get the jokes.

Fourth, is the Letterman-Leno fiasco that followed Johnny's retirement. I'm a Letterman guy. I just find him more entertaining. Can't be helped. He is the natural heir. Neither Carson nor Letterman were classic stand-up comedy guys like Leno, who could jump right back into standing in front of a brick wall with "The Improv" in neon. Both Johnny and Dave easily got as many laughs from their mannerisms or reaction to telling a lame joke as they did from punchlines.

Letterman also has a natural "in" with people in my age group (late 20's to early to mid 30's). His original show following Carson was arguably the best and most original thing on television many nights of the week. The Top Ten List is still one of the better gags around. Plus, he captured the 80's beautifully with his curly, disheveled hair and sportcoats worn with basketball sneakers. You can still watch those shows today and get a tremendous charge of nostalgia. I'm not sure you'll be able to say that about anything associated with Jay Leno, who is apparently a very nice and funny guy.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Tonight No Show

Johnny Carson has passed on, as too Rosemary Woods. In memoriam, look for Leno to observe eighteen minutes of silence tomorrow night.

Once and forever, Johnny took the neb out of Nebraska. Rest in peace.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Danny Boy, Forget The Pipes And Hang Around

In honor of Daniel, our preacher friend who always contributes delightful and insightful comments to enhance our work, I offer the following reminiscence.

Back in 1992 and 1993, I was asked twice to spend the weekend in Manhattan to be part of a lecture program. The friend who invited me lived in cramped quarters, so he arranged for me to stay at the capacious home of a Jewish philanthropist named A. C. Nussbaum who, if I am not mistaken, has since sold that apartment and moved to Israel.

Interestingly enough, both times I was there, a year apart, he had the same house guest staying the next room over. This was a young man named Daniel, whom I had met about a decade earlier. Daniel is a friend of my first cousin, who introduced me to him circa 1982. Since then, I had often run into him and exchanged pleasantries.

In fact, one night in 1991 or so, I had encountered him in a restaurant in Brooklyn, at which time he told me that he had recently been divorced. I offered him some briefly mumbled sympathies. Being a divorcee myself, people expect me to empathize and draw comparisons to my own experience, but I am fairly adept at avoiding that unless cornered.

Back to 1992 and 1993, when I remeet Daniel at Nussbaum's. He more or less joined me in my schedule, walking me to various neighborhood places of interest and then attending my lectures. Additionally, we spent quite a bit of time conversing back at the Nussbaums' apartment.

What emerged was that he was still very much enamored of his ex-wife and simultaneously despairing over ever finding someone else. I spoke to him a great deal in an effort to encourage him and help to rebuild his confidence.

Some years passed and I was living in Cincinnati. One night in 1995 or so the phone rings and it's Daniel.

"You have no idea how hard I had to work to track down your phone number. But I felt that I had to call you to tell you the good news that I'm engaged to be married to a wonderful woman. I'm very happy and I wanted you to know that I feel that it is only because of what you told me that I had the strength to keep looking and keep hoping."

"Really? What did I tell you that you found so meaningful?"

He reminded me that I had shared with him the words of the Midrash, which says that there are three characters in Scriptures who saw their world built, then destroyed, and then rebuilt again. These are Noah, Job and Daniel. Noah lived in the antediluvian world, experienced the devastation of the Flood, and then rebuilt the world along with his children. Job succeeded in building up wealth and a family only to lose it all, yet he later managed to recreate both, even exceeding his prior attainments. Daniel lived as a young boy in the last days of the First Temple, saw it destroyed and was exiled in Babylon; as an older man, he was able to see the Second Temple standing.

"Since your name is Daniel," I told my friend, "perhaps this will be your fate."

Now he is happily married with at least one child by his current wife.

Afflatus Or Succubus?

Lately I have been pondering a great deal upon the nature and quality of inspiration, particularly poetic.

The Talmud's distinction between psalms that begin "A song for David" and those that begin "For David, a song" is fascinating. When the inspiration comes first, the song precedes the name. When the person has to begin writing before the inspiration is quite there, then the name comes first.

It would be interesting to hear from other writers about the times the spirit moves them to write as opposed to the times they are obligated to start writing without being yet in the mood.

Christianity Today Article on Baylor Is Up

I had about 40 minutes to write this piece for Christianity Today on Friday. Check it out.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Chatty Lawrence

I think Lawrence Henry of American Spectator Online is a magnificent conversational author. Although I've emailed him several times, I hold out hope of meeting him for a meal and perhaps a cigar at some point in the future (even though I hate cigars). Here's his latest on napping.

Baylor President Sloan Resigns

Robert Sloan has resigned the presidency of Baylor University. Christianity Today called and asked me to do an online piece about it.

The good news is that Sloan will become Chancellor and will continue to push the university's revolutionary vision. The not so small world of Christian academicians will be watching and waiting to see who will become the next President. Those opposed to the vision pretended that Dr. Sloan was the problem. We'll see how their strategy evolves now that he has abandoned the thankless task of being a lightning rod.

Some Shameless Self-Promotion

Here is a link (registration required) to my latest op-ed, from today's Los Angeles Times. It deals with the federal pricing scheme for pharmaceuticals for many federally-funded health programs, that of the Department of Veterans Affairs in particular. What many call a "negotiation" is actually a price control regime. That it is The Children who will suffer from the future reduced availability of drugs---caused by current price controls and attendant reductions in R&D---has not stopped the Lefties from advocating such "negotiation." Comments welcome.,1,5744479.story?coll=la-news-comment-opinions

Speaking of El Rushbo . . .

I wrote a couple of interesting (yes, I do say so myself) columns about the Maharishi for American Spectator Online during the controversy that followed the talker's comments about Donovan McNabb. The short version is that he was wrong about McNabb, but the witch hunt atmosphere that followed was overblown and a symptom of a society that has lost its sense of real sin. You can read the first one here and the second one here. Here's an excerpt from the first piece:

I have a theory about why Rush’s brief remarks have unleashed so much antagonism. Many will believe it’s just about liberals trying to bring a big conservative down. That’s part of the story, but there’s something larger underneath. Every society must have taboos. We need to know the difference between sins and virtues so we can order our lives and live in community. In short, knowing what is right and wrong is the key to social order.

America has witnessed a radical re-ordering of our conception of what is good and bad. Socially useful taboos like unmarried cohabitation, having children out of wedlock, adultery, consumption of pornography, and divorce have all been transformed into acceptable activities through a powerful shove from the cultural elite and correspondingly widespread practice. G.K. Chesterton once famously complained about the rich preaching their vices to the poor and introducing them to ruin. He was right. The old sins aren’t sins any more and we’ve paid a certain price for that. Just ask any child of a single mother who hosts a series of transient males in the home.

But sins don’t disappear and leave a vacuum. We have a moral sense and we will exercise it on something. The ever-considerate cultural elite did not leave us empty-handed. Commandments they destroyed have been replaced by others more favorable to people of fashion. The sin that now stands center stage is the improperly crafted negative remark about anything having to do with race, gender, sexual orientation, or non-dominant religions.

When some unlucky soul crosses that line, it’s over. I’ll never forget the display of mass hatred and judgment I witnessed at a game between the Houston Astros and the Atlanta Braves when John Rocker ran onto the field. The anger and disapproval that cascaded from the stands was a palpable force that lasted the entire time Rocker was on the field. Not surprisingly, the young reliever (beyond redemption, apparently) performed poorly and left the game fairly quickly. I was embarrassed to be there.

While the effect of this dynamic on individuals is devastating, the implications for public policy are worse. We now seem incapable of rational discourse. Instead, debate has been replaced by a series of hostile encounters and gotcha moments. We don’t talk to each other so much as we circle warily and look for a moment of weakness so we can gain leverage.

The cost is too high. We should refuse to pay it and look for another, more useful way to employ our moral judgment. The founders envisioned the clash of factions and a marketplace of ideas where truth would eventually emerge. Let’s have that instead of the despicable elementary school game that seems to be the rule of the day.

Judgment To Rush

Speaking of talk show hosts, I always laugh when people tell me that they don't listen to Rush Limbaugh because he is arrogant. Rush and I have mutual friends, and no one feels that he is the least bit arrogant as a person. These people are unable to distinguish performance schtick from reality. Rather pathetic.

A cute thing happened to Rush today - twice. He created a Spoonerism. Trying to say faith-based, he twice said face-bathed. He caught himself and for the rest of that discussion he enunciated 'faith-based' very gingerly.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

A City Of Two Tales

Well, I sensed this morning that today would be a banner day for me, a personal 'day of inauguration' if you will. Sure enough, I succeeded in finishing a short story, fairly long at 11,000 words, that is #6 in a book that is projected to include 12 stories.

Remember, folks, I'm counting on you to get behind me if I get it sold and make my way around this great country on a book tour. The weather is still gorgeous in Miami, so I guess that we should push ahead today and start Story #7....

The Conversation Killer . . .

Ross Douthat once said the most shocking thing you can say to an atheist/agnostic is not that you believe in God, but rather, that you believe in demons. On his weblog, he uses the thought to introduce three books on the subject.

M.Scott Peck wrote two of them. He broached the idea in People of the Lie, his study of evil. The second is his final book A Glimpse of the Devil. I was so fascinated by People I had to pick up longtime Vatican insider Malachi Martin's book Hostage of the Devil, which absolutely makes the worst bedtime reading imaginable. Martin's accounts of real-life exorcisms are anything but Hollywood.

Peck's early account was far less graphic, but still chilling. He apparently decided to study exorcisms scientifically from his perch as a psychiatrist. The new book is the result. If anyone has read it, I'd be interested in feedback. I'm going to give in to the impulse to buy it soon.

Bush's Way

Michael Tackett provides a very good analysis of George Bush's governance style in today's Chicago Tribune. Despite the president's support for some traditionally Democrat items such as Medicare prescription drug coverage, Tackett argues that Bush is anything but a compromiser. He quotes University of Chicago political science professor Melissa Harris-Lacewell:

"This is a president that came into the White House, and many on the progressive left thought, `He is coming in by the narrowest of margins. Even if we don't like this guy, we have nothing to fear.' . . . But that is not how he governed at all. He always had a sense of destiny. This is a president who personally and theologically thinks he has a mission."

Tackett notes that Bush tends to decide what he wants and then rely on strong support from Republicans in Congress to get it. The writer expects Bush to suffer from the types of problems most second-term presidents have, however, as competitors in the president's own party break with him in an effort to prove their independence and stake positions for their own presidential hopes.

This phenomenon may be exacerbated, I would add, by the fact that Bush's vice president, Dick Cheney, does not serve as an anointed successor. However, Tackett notes that although Bush's will surely will be tested during the next four years, the weakness of the Democrats' opposition will tempt him to "swing for the fences," as Tackett quotes former Clinton chief of staff Mack McLarty as saying.

The article makes a good case for the notion that Bush is rather more complex than we tend to think.

Buckley, I've Got a Job For You

Bill Buckley's National Review did a great service for the conservative movement by reading out anti-Semites, over-zealous John Birchers (who thought Eisenhower was red -- a Commie for you teeny boppers who think red is right-wing), and Ayn Rand (for whom the dollar sign was a holy symbol). It's time for someone to do the same with Michael Savage.

He's on my drive time radio and his brand of conservative talk just leaves me feeling dirty. He plays on racial fears and punches the immigration button with way too much enthusiasm. He's also not exactly polite when it comes to discussing the questions of sexual orientation. This is the guy who told a critical gay caller that he "should get AIDS and die."

If we are going to have any chance of preserving the best of our culture, we'll do it by engaging in what Robert George calls "the strongest possible lines of argument." That would rule out constant resort to demagoguery. Let's be done with this character.

Amber Bird Has Spoken

It's not possible to conceive more beautiful weather. It is 70 degrees and sunny in a perfectly clear sky this fine Miami morn.

Everything looks so beautiful... the flowers... the palm trees letting us all nestle in their gentle shade... everything looks so... amber!

What a day this will be. A day of life and love and smiles and joy and creativity, a day to relish, a day to remember.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

All The Noose That's Fit To Print

No greater testimony to the cultural power of The Reform Club may be adduced than today's Miami Herald. One day after the great Hunter Baker raised the specter of a Jeb presidency in these precincts, the Herald, in a paroxysm of dread, felt compelled to post the following as its front-page lead headline: BUSH FLORIDA BUDGET UP 4 BILLION FOR 2005.

And this subhead (believe it or not!): New Plan Cuts Taxes For Wealthy, Services For Needy; Raises Tuition.

Hunter said "presidential timber" and these boys said, "Cut him down." Yep, they're hoping to hear us say: "Timbeeeeeeeerrrrrrrr.....!" Sometimes a great notion, Mr. Baker.

The New Worst Cartoon Ever

If you'd like to get really angry, then follow this link. If it appeared in your local paper, shame on you if you haven't already sent the letter to the editor.

Hint: It's about Condi Rice.

Glazed and Confused . . .

I knew something was wrong when I walked into a Krispy Kreme several months back and they were handing out free, hot doughnuts. What kind of strategy is that? I'm in the building. Nobody browses at Krispy Kreme. After they provided samples to me and my guests, we weren't that interested any more. The edge was off. The jones was slaked. If you're gonna do free samples, get out the toothpicks and the carefully cubed cross-sections. Handing out whole doughnuts is bad for business when the impulse buy is critical.

Nuts For Dough

Krispy Kreme has announced the firing of its chief executive, Scott Livengood, for expanding the company too quickly and financial irregularities. I guess he ain't livin' so good now.

Apparently, he miscalculated national demand by surveying Hunter Baker's consumption and then extrapolating from that to the rest of the country. Takes a lot of glaze to get that Cary Grant look going.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

The GOP and Social Conservatives

The Bullmoose and our loyal "gadfly" as Mr. Homnick recently called him, Tlaloc, wonders to what extent Reform Clubbers think the GOP simply uses social conservatives or "the religious right" without actually being interested in their issues. Mr. Homnick has expressed agreement with the idea.

I'm on the other end of the spectrum. Not only do I think the GOP is interested in enacting a socially conservative agenda, I think the GOP is now dominated by social conservatives and those who are fellow travelers. Part of the reason W. is so strongly supported by conservative Christians is their visceral sense that he *is* one of them. He talks the talk comfortably (which is rare for him) and appears to walk the walk. He can provide real evidence of redemption in his personal life and has clearly shown that he is a man with strong core convictions.

Those who have difficulty with social conservatives in the party usually disagree more as a matter of aesthetics than on substance. Conservatives have always felt freedom requires a corresponding emphasis on virtue, so it's a good fit. Stridency is more often the problem than powerful policy disagreement. The better "religious right" types get at articulating their message, the stronger the ideological fit between the GOP and their concerns will become. We're already miles ahead of the old Falwell/Robertson days, when perhaps religious concerns really were a sort of window dressing, except with regard to abortion where Reagan might reasonably be said to have been adamantine as a President with a very clear position.

Recognizing Jeb's Potential

Despite having a terrible political name, Jeb Bush (the Jeb, not the Bush) is probably the best hope for the GOP in 2008. Dick Morris thinks Condi is the only one who could beat Hillary, but I'm with Matt Towery who thinks Jeb has all the tools. Check out his column on the superb job Jeb has done as Florida's governor.

For the record, I'd be freakishly pleased to see Condi run, too. I just don't buy the idea that Americans wouldn't elect three Bushes to the Presidency. People like stability and they like brand names. Bush has become a pretty good brand name in politics. It ain't Reagan, but it's pretty good.

Ralph Reed for Lt. Gov. in Georgia?

Haley Barbour currently resides in the Mississippi Governor’s mansion, so I don’t see why Reed’s political operative status should be much of a barrier. The state party was pretty much moribund until he took over as chairman and had great success in 2002. The Washington Times suggests Reed is getting ready to move into elected office. We’ll see.

I once met Ralph Reed after missing him in my job interview at his firm (Yes, I was eventually offered a research/writing job, but I was already better employed). He was at the Capitol observing Democrat redistricting in action (which didn't work out the way they hoped). My recollection is that he was extremely handsome, much better than he appears on television. He was also quite personable. Like a good politico, he remembered a mutual friend we share and gave me the time of day.

If he has the right temperament, I think this could be a good move. He’s well-practiced at handling the press and is a bonafide intellectual. Remember that he’s got an Emory Ph.D. hanging on the wall. The Pat Robertson adventure short-circuited an academic career before it started.

Roy Moore, Next Governor of Alabama?

The Mobile Register has a story reporting that former Alabama Chief Justice is easily the choice of state Republicans and has a high approval rating statewide.

Although I'm in favor of allowing the posting of the Ten Commandments in public spaces, I'm not encouraged by this news. On the one hand, Moore is a determined man faithful to his convictions. On the other, I suspect he may be a bit of a loose cannon.

Time will tell, but I think the state's business elite will turn on Moore like they did Fob James and a moderate Democrat will be elected. We'd certainly get an interesting race out of it, with grist for the dissertation mill galore!

Divided by Jerks

P.J. O'Rourke (for my money easily the best political humorist around) has a biting alternative inaugural address he would like to see Bush deliver. After reading it, I wish he'd deliver it, too. His thesis is that America is divided because there are jerks living here. He arranges the speech around the Ten Commandments. Here's a smidge:

We are all sinners. But jerks revel in their sins. You can tell by their reaction to the Ten Commandments. Post those Ten Commandments in a courthouse or a statehouse, in a public school or a public park, and the jerks go crazy. Why is that? Christians believe in the Ten Commandments. So do Muslims. Jews, too, obviously. Show the Ten Commandments to Hindus, Buddhists, Confucians, or to people with just good will and common sense and nobody says, "Whoa! That's all wrong!"

And another . . .

"Thou shalt not kill." Why, in the opinion of jerks, is it wrong to kill a baby but all right to kill a baby that's so little he hasn't been born yet? And why do the same jerks who favor abortion oppose the death penalty? We can imagine people so full of loving kindness that they can accept neither the abortionist nor the executioner. We can even imagine people so cold-hearted that they embrace them both. But it takes a real jerk to argue in favor of killing perfect innocents and letting Terry Nichols live.

Confound It, Archie, Bring Me Some Beer, I'm Thinking!

The hardest thing about reading news from Israel is the sheer uncertainty. When Israelis are killed by terrorists, you know that's bad news. But beyond that you can never tell.

Palestinian election - good news or bad news? Abbas winning - good news or bad news? Sharon cutting off ties - good news or bad news? Abbas calling for an end to terrorism - good news or bad news? A sign of a new moderation? Or a new con game?

It's easy to say that only God knows. But somehow He expects us to navigate this - how?

Believe it or not, when the Talmud lists the problems in the pre-Messianic period and says that "we have no one to lean on but our Father in Heaven" there is one commentary that explains that this is part of the problem, the fact that we think we cannot contribute to ameliorating our destiny.

In other words, a person of utmost good will trying to derive a plan for living day-to-day based on that quotation cannot even be certain if it's telling him that there's nothing he can do or that he MUST bestir himself to do something.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Curing Race Schism

We celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Day today, and well we might, considering that we no longer judge people by the choler of their kin, as in the Hatfield-McCoy days, but by their contentious characters, like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.

But more seriously, I think that we can learn a lot not only from the fact that we have defeated racism everywhere except inside the Democratic Party, but by the WAY in which we accomplished that objective. As long as the culture said that racists were bad, they were able to hang on, because we have a lot of tolerance for badness under the rubric of roguish and cool, but once we said they were stupid, they either shut up or disappeared.

Just Back From Houston . . .

I want to take back at least some of the horrible things I've always had to say about Houston. I lived there for four years in an apartment near the Astrodome. In other words, NOT PRESTIGE REAL ESTATE. We had a veteran's hospital nearby and a seriously nasty, worn-down hotel with extremely non-glamourous prostitutes soliciting out front. I was in law school. The wife was doing an OB-GYN residency. Our annual income was about 1/3 the total our debt, which was growing. She was working 80-100 hours every week.

Having just visited H-town to see some old friends, I feel I have been unfair. Houston is a nicer city than I gave it credit for being. It's no Vancouver, mind you, but it's okay. This I believe.

Another Thoroughly Conventional Right-Wing Comment . . .

It's conventional, but relevant and important. Michael Crichton made an impact on the sexual harassment debate with Disclosure and may do the same with his current novel State of Fear. In both books, he makes news with his concluding comments following the story. In the latest volume, he takes on the global warming hystericists. The Hearland Institute (where our own S.T. Karnick plies his editorial craft) has a nice summary of Crichton's remarks. Here's a sample:

"The current near-hysterical preoccupation with safety is at best a waste of resources and a crimp on the human spirit, and at worst an invitation to totalitarianism."

"[T]he thinking of environmental activists ... seems oddly fixed in the concepts and rhetoric of the 1970s."

"We need a new environmental movement, with new goals and new organizations."

My own suspicion is that the environmental movement has been damaged by an infusion of post-Soviet Marxists looking for a way to hamper the expansion of capitalism. Conservation is a thoroughly laudable goal, but it must not pursued in such a way as to destroy national economies. We've had enough of the centrally planned and controlled economic models of the past. There are many ways environmentalists can succeed using the incentives of the free-market to achieve their goals. It is that sort of new movement to which Crichton likely refers.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

A Thought? A feeling? An Impulse? Something.

Lately I have found myself pondering the Jewish theological model that parallels love with kindness and fear with justice. I find it very fascinating when you look at actual life experience through this prism, extraordinarily edifying.

Briefly, this is the sketch.

We say that the initial act by God in creating the universe is an expansive act, hence the universe expands (a feature of Jewish theology at least a millennium ahead of the astronomers' discovery of same). Then there is a second act, that limits the expansion at a certain point.

Each individual person represents a microcosm of the universe. The impulse by which he expands his private universe is called "love" in emotions (heart) and "compassion" in consciousness (soul). The capacity to draw lines that will not be crossed is called "fear" in emotions and "justice" (sometimes "strength" is substituted) in consciousness.

Think about your relationships with love as a force reaching out and fear as a force holding back. I find it to be an amazing model to predict human behavior and experience.

A Word Of Caution

Apropos of nothing at all, I wanted to issue a call to my colleagues and readers to avoid letting their children skip grades in school. I know there are a lot of very bright people here, and presumably their children will be likewise.

Some of you may know my history, that I graduated high school at age 14.

Later, at age 20, I was in the room when a child prodigy who had been pushed and pushed by his parents went insane. He was 16.

He is still alive, a gibbering hulk fueled by psychotropic medications.

My children have all stayed with their age-appropriate grade level. They have the pleasures that I never had, being best in class, always having high grades, valedictorian etc. I'm grateful to have been able to give them that.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

This I Believe (4)

That the highest grossing songs of the 20th Century were Cats In The Cradle by Harry Chapin and In The Living Years by Mike and the Mechanics (not in cash, silly, I mean in Heaven; because every time you hear the former you're nicer to your kids and every time you hear the latter you're nicer to your parents)... this I believe.

This I Believe (3)

That if you only get to read one autobiography of the 20th Century, it should be Witness by Whittaker Chambers. If you have time for one more, it should be A Child Of The Century by Ben Hecht (I promise you'll thank me for this)... this I believe.

Friday, January 14, 2005

This I Believe (2)

That One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey is the best novel of the 20th Century.... this I believe.

A New Feature: This I Believe

In the tradition of Trailing Edge Film Reviews, I'm initiating a new feature under the inspiration of Walker Percy. The title is This I Believe. Here's today's declaration:

Abba's Swedish pop sensibility is far more entertaining than anything the Rolling Stones have ever done. This . . .I believe.

I believe I should probably also find a new address before music critic S.T. Karnick comes knocking.

Where Do I Go To Get My Friend Back?

It is not often that life hands you a chance to stand behind your declared principle - immediately following the declaration!

In my column entitled Fingering Armstrong's Handouts, published in Wednesday's American Spectator on line, I made the point that those of us writing on the right wing of the political spectrum are willing to forgo heftier paychecks elsewhere for the sake of maintaining integrity. But I added the modifier: "...although we struggle every day..."

Sure enough, life saw fit to put me to the test.

I play Scrabble on line at and I have painstakingly built myself up to a 1983 rating. The only people with 2000 ratings or higher are literally international champions. It is the equivalent of grandmaster in chess.

So many games had been lost to me by flukes like my computer crashing when it was my turn and the system reading it as a resignation. I could very well have constructed a rationale that said that I had really earned the 2000 and was being thwarted by technical accidents.

Tonight, I was playing an opponent who is known to me personally, the Scrabble champion of a country in Europe. Due to the time difference, it was morning where that person was. Because of their high rating, I would receive 20 points if I won, catapulting me to 2003. However, if they resign, although they lose the 20 points, I do not gain it; that is the system.

Toward the end of the game, my opponent made a move that in my view was defensible as a gamble, but it created an opening for the letter E on the Triple Word Score line. It cost me the E, the Q, and a blank, to make EQUID for 49 points and an insurmountable lead late in the game.

Suddenly, my opponent informs me that the opening was not created as a tactical gamble but as an intentional gift to throw me the game so that I would reach 2000. So there it was: in a flash, I was walking in Armstrong Williams' shoes.

I refused to accept the gift; I knew that you would expect it of me. I offered to unrate the game (an allowable option); my opponent refused, said that I was demonstrating "shockingly bad form" in refusing their gesture.

I said, "But I won't be 2000 if I haven't really won the game." That did not go over real big.

So I gave up the points. My opponent resigned.

I gave up the friendship, too, most probably. It was a great honor and pleasure for me to be acquainted with this genuine champion: gone.

Not much left. Just a much-soiled threadbare mantle of integrity, at least until the next time I fail.

But my column at the Spectator... I can leave up for one more day. Just this once, the tempter came and I did not bite.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Fetter-All Courts And 'opin' For A Mind

Judge Clarence Cooper has ruled that it was un-Constitutional for the Cobb County school district to have affixed a small sticker to the inside of its science textbooks. It read: "This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, concerning the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered."

How does it feel, folks, to be living in a country that sees (at least in its judicial outlook) this phrasing as an encroachment of religion upon science?

If you scroll down to Monday, January 10, to a piece entitled The Paradoxical Critique, you will see that there are "9 comments". Read those comments and you will see a physicist taking on Hunter and myself on the question of Intelligent Design. I will make no further comment except to promise that you will gain insight into two different approaches toward employing the human mind as a resource for living. (You might want to remember that I have an essay espousing Intelligent Design which is published in a college philosophy textbook called Philosophy: An Introduction Through Literature available through Paragon, the publisher, or

Buzz for Miracle Cure

Miracle Cure is a new book by Sally Pipes of the Pacific Research Institute that takes on the question of uninsured individuals and reform of the health care system. I've just had the chance to read some reviews and comments by Walter Williams about the book, but it looks like a very serious critical analysis of American and Canadian health care. No lame talk show sloganeering, here. This looks like the real deal. She's got endorsements from Milton Friedman and Steve Forbes, both of whom have been known to take an interest in innovative policy development. Here's a nice excerpt from Williams' column about the book:

"The recently published 'Miracle Cure,' by Sally Pipes, president of the San Francisco-based Pacific Research Institute, exposes health-care myths while explaining why the sometimes-touted Canadian style health care isn't the answer. Myth: Uninsured individuals have no access to medical care. Fact: It turns out that in 2004 uninsured Americans received $125 billion of health care, of which $41 billion was provided totally free of charge. Myth: Skyrocketing prescription drugs are driving health-care spending up. Fact: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as a whole, Americans spend about 1 percent of their income on drugs. Seniors spend about 3 percent on drugs, less than the amount they spend on entertainment. Spending on drugs, as a percent of total health-care spending, was 10 percent in 1960. It's roughly the same today."

The link I've provided at the top of this post takes you to a page where you can get much more indepth information about the book, including the full 10 myths and facts about health care in the press kit. If Mr. Karnick were still putting out American Outlook, I'm sure he'd have a nice article by Ms. Pipes out in the next issue.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Armstrong's Cashout

Our fellow Reform Club contributor Jay Homnick has an article in today's issue of the American Spectator, "Fingering Armstrong's Handouts," in which he discusses the disturbing case of the talk-show host Armstrong Williams accepting a quarter of a million dollars to promote the Bush administration's No Child Left Behind education reform initiative. I have no objection whatever to Armstrong having accepted money to produce a couple of advertisements for the administration, but what is highly unseemly is that, according to a USA Today story, the contract contains a clause requiring Armstrong "to regularly comment . . . during the course of his broadcasts."

I'm aware that countless other journalists have made an incalculable amount of money by being on the payrolls of politicians, business, activist groups, and the like, but that doesn't make it right. This is a matter of selling influence. If Armstrong would have been inclined to comment positively on the administration's plan anyway, then taking the money is fraud, because in accepting payment for the activity, he implied that he was doing them an exclusive service. And if he took the money knowing that he would not otherwise have commented positively on the administration's plan, he has deceived his audience by saying things that were not his real thoughts.

By signing that contract—if it truly contained the clause the USA Today reported, or something like it—Armstrong has unquestionably forfeited his credibility as a journalist.

The issue of money and journalism is a complex one, but this story is, alas, all too simple, if true.

The Weighty Issue

In my own self-defense, I post the link to what I still consider to be the best thing I ever wrote. Follow this link to "I Might Be a Giant." I'll also include the slightly less funny, but still worth reading "A Big and Tall Tale."

"Around" The World With Hunter Baker

This news just in from the Hunter Baker Fan Club:

(Official communique of HBFC)
In a thinly veiled attack on Hunter Baker, the United States Department of Agriculture has announced that Americans need to lose weight.

In related news, Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman has denounced Hunter Baker for calling her "a nag". We wish to report Hunter's denial and clarification. What he actually said was, "No Secretary in Ag can tell me what not to eat."

He did not say, "No Secretary, a nag....."

The Baylor Meme

is gaining momentum. The Hugh Hewitt-inspired blog Evangelical Outpost has picked up the story and run with it. I'm hoping some of the rest of the Hewittverse will kick in and do their part. No one should underestimate the importance of having at least one true research university giving serious consideration to the Christian perspective.

One negative point though is that commenters from other Christian colleges have knocked Baylor out of loyalty to their own schools. This is not a competition, guys and gals. Wheaton, Calvin College, etc. are not making any effort to reach research university and doctoral granting status. They've got their niche covered well, but we need this more comprehensive approach.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

"Passing" Along An Open Question

This patriarchal blog seems like a prime venue for posing the following question to my colleagues and to male or female readers. What exactly constitues making a "pass" at a woman?

Many times a woman will tell me that so-and-so made a pass at her. On a few occasions I was so foolhardy as to ask what the pass consisted of and how one is sure that it was indeed a "pass". This query is inevitably greeted with frosty condescension: "Don't you think I know what a pass is?"

Well, you may well know, sweetheart, but I sure as heck don't.

Incidentally, because I have a number of actresses and models as friends, I occasionally hear about celebrities who made such passes. One of the reasons why I have never included any of these in my journalism is because I am frankly an agnostic about this whole "pass" business and suspect that women often magnify more-or-less innocent comments into this category. (Only once did I hear about a celebrity who "pawed" a friend of mine; yes, you guessed right, he is now a governor.)

Kimball Meet Karnick . . .

Bernard Chapin has an incredible knack for obtaining interviews with interesting conservative figures. I keep meaning to ask how he does it. His latest is the third of three with Roger Kimball from The New Criterion, which is an excellent magazine to which I intend to subscribe in the near future. Here's an excerpt that fits in perfectly with S.T. Karnick's motivation for having the blog in the first place (which I regrettably dilute and bastardize from time to time):

BC: I often (unfortunately) hear, from people the question, “Why are you are a conservative?” When I’m asked that I usually say that I think it’s a superb idea to conserve what we have in America today. How do you answer such inquiries?

RK: I am a conservative because I am a liberal. That sounds glib, but it is true. (I take the formulation from Russell Kirk.) What is a conservative? A believer in freedom who understands that civilization, the precondition for liberty, is a fragile achievement won at great cost and preserved only at the expense of unceasing vigilance. A “liberal” in the contemporary sense is often someone who is willing to barter freedom for the sake of some utopian dream, someone who discounts the reality of human imperfection and the constant temptation to evil and chaos, someone who trusts in “planning,” “rational solutions,” and “education.” I ended my book Tenured Radicals with this passage from Evelyn Waugh; it sums up one important reason I am a conservative: “Barbarism,” Waugh wrote in 1938,

is never finally defeated; given propitious circumstances, men and women who seem quite orderly will commit every conceivable atrocity. The danger does not come merely from habitual hooligans; we are all potential recruits for anarchy. Unremitting effort is needed to keep men living together at peace; there is only a margin of energy left over for experiment however beneficent. Once the prisons of the mind have been opened, the orgy is on. There is no more agreeable position than that of dissident from a stable society. Theirs are all the solid advantages of other people's creation and preservation, and all the fun of detecting hypocrisies and inconsistencies. There are times when dissidents are not only enviable but valuable. The work of preserving society is sometimes onerous, sometimes almost effortless. The more elaborate the society, the more vulnerable it is to attack, and the more complete its collapse in case of defeat. At a time like the present it is notably precarious. If it falls we shall see not merely the dissolution of a few joint-stock corporations, but of the spiritual and material achievements of our history."

Hanging On To The Dowry

The Dow just closed at 10550 or thereabouts, so perhaps I should mention a word or two about how I manage my portfolio. A week ago we had some discussion about the fact that professional advisers average a return of 6.8 percent while private individuals average 6.4.

I took over management of my own retirement fund on April 16, 2003, so I am approaching the 21 month mark, and I have achieved 17.5 percent growth, averaging out to almost exactly 10 percent a year.

The only item that I trade is the Dow Jones Diamonds (symbol=DIA), which essentially follow the Dow index. In other words, if the Dow is 10000, the Diamond sells for approximately $100. This way my fate is tied to the Dow, which has averaged 10 percent annual growth for almost a century.

It also pays a small dividend and is a great all-around deal. Since I'm a bit of a market timer, I sold them all at $107.96 apiece at the end of December, right below the peak of $108.55 and am now sitting on the sidelines with cash, waiting for a more hospitable climate for reentry.

A Baylor Clarification

The excellent blog Southern Appeal linked my National Review story of Baylor's President Sloan under siege for leading an educational revolution and elaborated on events at the school. He noted that Dr. Sloan was on the losing end of a lopsided faculty referendum. What should be noted is that many faculty members boycotted the referendum, which made the tally look very skewed. Their position was that leadership of a university is not akin to a popularity contest. I tend to agree. Where would Jack Welch have gotten with GE if his employees had been able to toss him out for bringing needed reform?

American Spectator, WOW!

Okay, forgive me while I give an unpaid advertisement. I got my start online writing for The American Spectator, which opened doors to all kinds of other opportunities. In fact, that's how I met one S.T. Karnick. I still write for them every chance I get. Their website started pretty modestly in the wake of the magazine being essentially killed by the Clinton machine, but is now on the third generation of makeovers. The new design is fabulous. I urge you to get yourself over to right away and check it out. They are now offering almost as much content daily as National Review and will soon be making their magazine more affordable through digital subscriptions.

Those Hip God-Fearing Kids of Today

National Review Online interviews Naomi Schaefer Riley on her new book God in the Quad. It looks like another very interesting act of pop sociology similar to The New Faithful by Colleen Carroll from a few years back. The message is the same. Generation "M" for missionary is on the rise. I wonder whether we're going to see the same kind of youth movement that erupted when John Mott called for "the evangelization of the world in a single generation" back in the early part of the 20th century?

Robbin' Givin's

The two conservative writers that everyone loves most to hate are Ann Coulter and Tucker Carlson. Various rationales will be offered by their detractors, but you and I know the truth; it's because they're so darned good-looking. And it does not help that they can both write, are quite witty, and have mastered the rare art of being a likeably wry conservative on TV.

As you may have gathered, I love 'em both, and for all the same reasons. Plus Ann has a super-special place in my heart for the amazing behind-the-scenes legal work that she did to assure Bill Clinton's impeachment, as told very dramatically in Isikoff's book (the title of which eludes me on three hours of sleep).

But Tucker is wrong today in his column on when he says that 'we don't give (charity) so that others will feel good about us, we give so that we can feel good about ourselves'. Brrr. What a sentiment!

One can't help hearkening back to the Talmud (Bava Batra 10b) and its attack on the governments of its time: "All the charity and assistance that they expend is a sin because they do it only for self-aggrandizement... they do it only to maintain political viability... they do it only to feed their egos... "

Giving is not a form of therapy. Giving is not a disguised form of taking - whether taking credit or taking self-satisfaction. Giving is about caring for the other. You give "of" yourself. You give "to" others. Any receiving of good feeling on your part is a secondary process, a tangential outgrowth. (Philosophy students will recall that Bishop Butler clarified this point in the 1800s to deflect the critics who said that philanthropists are not admirable since giving charity makes one feel good.)

If our giving is anything less than that, then we have a long way to go before we can appreciate an Abraham running out during his post-operative rehabilitation at age ninety-nine to invite dusty wayfarers in for some of his best delicacies.

(I still love Tucker, and I hope he appreciates that this is a gentle nudge offered in a spirit of friendship and respect.)

Simmering (Simian?) Symmetry

Well, it's 4 a.m., and even in Miami it's time to go to sleep.

But first a thought about Intelligent Design:

If there is no Design, then love is just a hiccup.....
.....then a flower is just a weed.....
.....then a soul is just a shadow.....
.....then a dream is just a mirage.....
.....then a heart is just a pump.....
.....then a smile is just a grimace.....
.....then yesterday is today's stepmother.....
.....and tomorrow is today's banana peel.

Monday, January 10, 2005

The Paradoxical Critique

I just got an email from a fellow attacking my NRO article on Baylor. His rationale was that if I'm willing to discuss Intelligent Design on this website, then I must be one of the people who would stifle inquiry in a university setting. Huh? The way I see it, by being willing to discuss the interplay of I.D. and Darwin's theory, I'm talking about more things rather than fewer things. Why is that so hard to get?

Live from Brigham Young:

This comment was in response to the NRO article about Baylor. I take a lot of heat from disenchanted Baylor types who argue by insult rather than by addressing content, so it's refreshing to give space to this student from Brigham Young.

Anonymous said...

I am a senior at Brigham Young University and was at attendance at a forum which Sloan spoke at a few years ago here in Provo. He impressed me and from what I saw, Baylor would be foolish to replace him. I commend Baylor's effort to integrate reason and revelation. True reason and true revelation will never contradict one another because God is a God of truth. By observing the success and practicality with which BYU integrates the two, I can attest to the possibility of both teaching religious principles and building a respected educational institution while preparing students for success after college. I warn that many will never accept the validity of religious principles and to try to please them would be akin (though not identical) to Jesus trying to please the leaders of the Pharisees. Were any institution to stand down from its founding principles due to pressure form the outside, the world would lose interest - resulting in a loss of support from those who believe in the founding principles and no net gain from seeking other's praise.

Interesting stuff from this Mormon fellow.

News Clips

I fancy myself first and foremost a fiction afficionado, but stuff like this you can't invent. UPI reports today that the People's Republic of North Korea has been running public service announcements on its television broadcasts encouraging men to take shorter haircuts to reflect the appropriate "socialist lifestyle".

One of the clever things that I was taught in my classical Jewish education is that all forms of idolatry eventually take on the same mold. Apparently, the famous Golden Calf haircut mentioned in Exodus (32:25) is back in a new incarnation to celebrate the great 20th Century idol as it hobbles into the 21st.

Welcome NRO Readers!

You’ve followed the link to a group of diverse bloggers, but I’m the one who writes frequently about the interesting dynamics present at Baylor University. To learn more, I strongly urge you to follow this link that explains Baylor’s new direction.

Crossfire Done?

CNN is apparently canceling Crossfire and The Capital Gang in favor of a pure news format. I'm filled with nostalgia at the news. Without Crossfire, I'm not sure I ever would have studied politics, economics, public administration, law, and religion.

A friend put me onto the show in our senior year of high school and I was hooked. We called each other during the commercial breaks and at the end of the show to talk about what we'd seen. Pat Buchanan was still a superb presence in the conservative movement at that time.

I wish he'd never run for office. His autobiography, Right from the Beginning, written during those glory years, is a great read.

Crossfire suffered from Buchanan's departure and never regained its form. The battles between Buchanan and Kinsley were especially worth watching. Many of you may enjoy Hannity and Colmes, but I don't think it comes close to the glory that was Crossfire in the 1980's.

Tom Wolfe and Darwin?

Here's a piece of American Spectator's excellent interview with Tom Wolfe, which they've now happily posted on the net:

TAS: What do you predict for 21st-century journalism?

Tom Wolfe: I have no predictions. But I am struck by one thing: Try to think of a single important idea that has ever come out of these media. The fact is they are technically less advanced than print at getting across ideas and theories and simply explaining things in a way that can change history. I am struck by the fact that Karl Marx, this unpleasant man sitting alone in the British museum writing these abstruse essays, really did change the world. Look at Darwin. My God, what a powerful theory. Incidentally, I give that one about 40 more years, and it will go down in flames.

TAS: Why 40 years?

Tom Wolfe: Look at the Big Bang. That's a fairly recent theory, and it is already burning out. There are too many scientists who are saying this is rubbish. Just think about the theory of the Big Bang or this ridiculous theory about where the first cell came from. Now they say it probably came from outer space when an asteroid hit the earth and a few of these things bounced out. It is because of all this silly stuff that Darwinism is going to go down in flames.

Quick Note on the Intelligent Design Debate

We had a lot of posting on Intelligent Design several days back, but I remembered something worth sharing. When Lawrence Van Dyke (sp?), a student on the Harvard Law Review, published a positive notice on Francis Beckwith's book about Intelligent Design and the law, several hard core Darwin types freaked out. I wrote about it for National Review Online and had an email correspondence with Mr. Van Dyke in which he told me he was an engineer by training. He said something that has stayed with me since that time:

"As an engineer, I know that nothing EVER works unless it was well-designed."

I mentioned Van Dyke's sentiments to my father, who was an accomplished engineer for the Monsanto Corporation for many years and now works on missile defense. He heartily agreed.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

You Bade Your Med, Now Lie About It?

Let's admit it, we're all heartsick about the Rush Limbaugh situation. I live one county south of him here in Florida, so I get to read about it locally.

Basically, if they can prove that he was doctor shopping, i.e. going to two or more doctors concurrently and soliciting the identical prescription, then he can go to jail. They raided the offices of some doctors and got some evidence, presumably not "doctored". Rush is fighting the search warrants based on a narrow interpretation of patient-doctor privilege, but it sure as heck sounds as if they got the goods.

He and his friends (including Matt Drudge, another neighbor) claim that no one gets prosecuted under these laws. Well, that didn't help Abe Fortas, when I was a kid, or Michael Milken a bit later. When you're high profile, any ambitious D.A. will want to feather his cap and his bed by taking you down, Democrat or Republican.

Rush officially denies the doctor shopping. I hope that turns out to be true; we all owe him a great deal.

Don't Hang On To Those Genes Too Tightly

Sadly, Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston are splitting, apparently over her continued reluctance to have a child.

If there is one thing that can be singled out as the most destructive outgrowth of the morality shift that grew out of the 60s, it is this message to women to delay having children until they very often are defeated by the biological clock. A healthy society needs its brightest, prettiest and most talented people to reproduce. Very, very sad to think that there will be no genetic remake of such women as Condolleezza Rice and Oprah Winfrey. Come on, Ann Coulter, make your move.

Penning A Ton Of Congrats

Congratulations to Chad Pennington and the New York Jets for winning a playoff game, something they do with unbecoming rarity.

When they won the Super Bowl back in 1969, I was just an 11-year-old kid with a transistor radio. Now I'm a 46-year-old scribbler with 2 grandchildren. Life, eh? Just keeps chugging along.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Blog Endorsements

Bloggers are generally quite good at letting you know who endorses them. I'm taking the opposite tack to give some insight into blogs you might enjoy. The key to not wasting your time is to find blogs where individuals offer some special subject area knowledge (The Volokh Conspiracy), rare access to breaking news (Drudge) or entertainment ability (Scrappleface). We offer a mixture of the above with our personnel.

Blogs that I think you might enjoy, but might not be getting the traffic they deserve are:

1. the Claremont Institute's blog, The Remedy
2. No Left Turns, by the Ashbrook Center
3. Christianity Today's Weblog by Ted Olsen, which is updated once daily like James Taranto's Best of the Web and may actually have preceded Taranto.
4. Last, and probably best, is the non-electronic equivalent of a weblog written by Father Richard John Neuhaus in each month's issue of First Things. The back of the magazine, titled "The Public Square," belongs to Neuhaus and he does wonders with it. I can't tell you how happy I am to see FT in the mailbox each month. If you're a slacker and are content with waiting a month for the current issue. You can get it on the web.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Martin Luther and Charles Bronson

After writing the last post, I thought maybe a few of you are wondering why a nice Christian fella like me would glory in the revenge films of Charles Bronson. My answer is that I agree with Martin Luther who said that Christians should be willing to offer themselves to the slaughter, BUT who also says there is a fallen world full of people who need peace and good order as much as they need air, food, and water. For that reason, Christians should be willing to take up the sword in their defense, acting even as public hangmen if need be. Yes, Bronson plays a vigilante, but he's taking up arms because the proper authorities wrongfully laid theirs down.

Mr. Karnick is the resident Lutheran, but I think he'd back me on this.

Bronson Baby, Yeah

Little known fact: I am such a fan of Charles Bronson and his movie Deathwish that I once harassed S.T. Karnick into mailing me an article he wrote in which the film is referenced. He had to mail it because the article does not exist in electronic form. If you haven't seen the film, you must rent it. It is one of the most profoundly political movies I've ever seen. Lefties had gone overboard in protecting evil-doers (imagine how they treat Saddam and then apply it domestic thieves and muggers) and the makers of Deathwish responded. I wrote all that to include this bit from Daniel Henninger at the Wall Street Journal:

One of the better-known artifacts in the archaeology of New York is the movie "Death Wish." Released in 1974, it stars Charles Bronson as a Manhattan liberal who snaps under the burden of New York's violence and goes into the subways to mow down thugs the cops can't or won't catch. Back then the city's audiences cheered and screamed as Bronson smashed one civil-liberties platitude after another.

Vigilante films like Deathwish and Dirty Harry made a powerful impact upon the way we view crime. It may not be going overboard to say those films are the reason Democrats moved strongly toward a law and order stance in the 90's.

Christians and Politics

Mr. Homnick is dead-on when he points out that Christian political activity (particularly on gay marriage) is a tiny fraction of the total dollars spent even by conservative Christians on social ministry of various sorts. As a person who has made a pretty good tour through the Christian political world, I can attest that groups like the Christian Coalition are hardly the cash-flush entities the left supposes them to be.

The reality is that even though left-wing powerhouses like the ACLU are far more heavily funded than the right-wing Christian groups, the so-called Christian right is able to make a significant impact because it is articulating a very clear complaint with modernity that resonates with a great many people.

The cornerstone of the whole project is abortion. Had Roe v. Wade not occurred and the abortion issue had been left to the states, I suspect what we know as the Christian right would be a mere shadow of its current manifestation. Is that because male paternalism was somehow overthrown by reproductive freedom? No, the answer is that the pro-life movement is among the most noble causes imaginable, the protection of the weakest and most vulnerable among us and a belief in their entitlement to exist. You can ultimately disagree with that goal, but the motivation is very pure and very just. And it has moved millions to engage politics in a way they never cared to do before.

The Turtle End I Hear

Great article in the Reuters Science section today about the Sri Lankan turtles that were prevented from hatching by the tsunami. The article begins, fittingly, with the bereft researcher wiping away a tear.

Remember the old Jewish joke about the poor man who told Rothschild, "If I had your money, I'd be richer than you." The tycoon asked why, so the mendicant explained: "Because I also make a few dollars a day in alms."

This is the flip side. 147, 000 dead, and what's more, widespread devastation in the turtle egg community.

Averting My Gaze

This notion that Arianna Huffington is the single biggest twit, fraud and harridan sitting on a pile of undeserved wealth in this country strikes me as a trifle overblown - we must finish compiling the dossier on Theresa Heinz Kerry before making a final judgment.

But in reading her Things To Forget About 2004 column, not without a faint splash of humor, one is struck by the billowing bile.

Here is one item:
That at a time when America has over 35 million people living in poverty, the issue Christians are most up in arms about is gay people trying to make their lifetime commitment legal. Heaven forbid.

This is so incredibly flawed a syllogism that it reminds me of the Jewish phrase about "spelling Noah (in Hebrew, a two-letter name) with seven mistakes".

But just to choose one: do you have any idea how many times more is the amount of money that Jews and Christians gave last year to help poor people as opposed to money given for lobbying against gay marriage? A thousand to one, at the very least.

Krugman Reveals Truth

I am sure that many of you saw earlier this week Paul Krugman's column in the New York Times, in which he actually argues with a straight face that there is no fiscal imbalance problem inherent in that Ponzi scheme known as Social Security. Why? Because the Trust Fund (Note: There ain't no such animal) contains IOUs from the Treasury to the Social Security Administration, and those IOUs are real assets.

Now, what is interesting about this argument is not that it is utterly preposterous; promises that future Congresses can (and, indeed, will be forced to) change are not real assets even to future Social Security beneficiaries, let alone to the economy as a whole. What really is interesting is that Krugman---who, believe it or not, actually used to be a serious man---knows better, but still is willing to argue the point in public. This reveals clearly that for Krugman his ideological biases---and hatred of George W. bush---have trumped such other considerations as objectivity, fairness, and indeed his own credibility. That he is willing to make himself look silly, without anything subtle about it, in order to defend the indefensible is an indicator of the depths to which he has sunk.

Advice for Democrats

Peggy Noonan has an excellent article in yesterday's Opinion Journal on what she thinks the Democrats must do to regain majority-party status. Her suggestion, which I am quite certain will be ignored, is that the Democrats should move to the right of the Republicans on selected issues such as local property taxes, public tobacco use, homeland security, and immigration. I am convinced that she is right, and have said so in the past on this site and in the American Spectator and elsewhere.

The Republicans have made themselves the party of the middle classes, and the Democrats have allowed their party to split into two camps of the privileged and the underdogs. This process has been in place since the 1968 presidential campaign and has only been overcome when the Republicans have stumbled, which they have obligingly done on occasion. The Democrats are in a terribly precarious position today because of the potential loss of support among their base if they should try to pursue a more middle-class appeal. I believe, however, with Peggy Noonan, that such a strategy is their only hope for improvement.

I further believe that a significant portion of the middle class would happily vote for any Democrat who could credibly run as a classical Christian humanist liberal, one who seeks to maximize both order and liberty, with an emphasis on creating an economically and socially dynamic "opportunity society."

Unfortunately, there seems to be very few people in the Democrat Party who would be both inclined to do so and have a history that would make such an approach believable. Hence, change within the party is going to have to come from the ground up, and the Democrats' fortunes may wane further before they wax again, if ever.

Update of Christian Academia Post

I heard from a Baylor source yesterday that deposits for next year are 40% ahead of this time last year. While some Baylor alumni and profs are working overtime to remove President Sloan, his plans are proving to be very attractive to the private education marketplace.

Biblical (In Miami) Amid The Bibulous

Working on a little Biblical exegesis tonight, thought I'd think out loud.

If God told Moses (Exodus 3:19) that Pharaoh would not let the Jews go right away, and that it would take time and a strong hand to pry them loose, why was Moses so upset (ibid 5:22) when there were delays? Why did he say "Why did You send me?" if he had been told that it would take time?

My thesis is that he was bothered by the fact that things got worse and their work load was increased. He understood that there would be a process but he assumed that it would be incremental; he was shocked that it got worse before it got better.

The problem then arises: if that was indeed his question, then how does God's response solve it? I have an idea, but it's quite complex, so let's leave the question open for now. We'll sleep on it. 3:45 a.m. here, time for bed.

(Had a job tonight covering a conference, writing a thousand words within an hour afterwards, pays a hundred bucks, ten cents a word: life of a free-lance.)

Thursday, January 06, 2005

The Academic Christian Right

You may not have seen it coming, but it's almost guaranteed by evolution (yes, bad word choice I know). Once evangelicals got involved in the public square, it was a lock they'd start to look hard into high class academia and how they could put their own spin on it, just as the Catholics have. Charlotte Allen has a nice piece at the Opinion Journal that does a good job of getting you up to speed on Christian Academia version 2.0:

But numbers don't tell the whole story. Many religious schools, traditionally regarded as second-tier or worse, have improved the quality of their students and of their academic offerings, sometimes dramatically.

The evangelical Wheaton College in Illinois and the Reformed-affiliated Calvin College in Michigan now rank among the nation's leading liberal-arts institutions. Baptist-affiliated Baylor University in Waco, Texas, has embarked on an ambitious program to boost itself into the nation's first rank by hiring 220 new full-time faculty members. The percentage of Ave Maria's law graduates who passed the Michigan bar examination last year was higher than that of the University of Michigan's graduates. Orthodox Jewish Yeshiva University is on U.S. News & World Report's list of the nation's top 50 research universities, while Wheaton ranks 11th in percentage of graduates who go on to receive Ph.D.s.

You knew I'd excerpt the part that mentions Baylor now, didn't you?

O. Henry At The Bar

What this blog needs is a bit of short fiction to add some zest. Here is an unpublished little thing that I did a few years ago.


Dr. Parkinson quivered with excitement at the prospect of meeting his hero. After years of research, he had finally discovered the location of the man he admired most. He stood before the door of the Lawd-Have-Mercy Rest Home, atwitter and agog.

"Gotta calm down, gotta pull myself together," he mumbled to himself, eventually working up the courage to ring the old-fashioned bell. A female human being in white, her face locked in an expression of stupendous boredom, opened the door. He quickly bustled down the hall.

"Oh, why if it isn't Doctor Parkinson," burbled the cheery, chubby lady behind the desk. "Here to see Doctor Alzheimer?" The mere mention of the great man's name set him stammering and twitching in a frenzy of anticipation.

Soon he was ushered into the common room and introduced to a very old man with a pointed goatee sitting and staring vacantly into the middle distance; then again, it might have been the long distance; truthfully, it may well have been the short distance.

"Doctor Alzheimer," he began to babble, his eagerness uncontrollable. "I'm so thrilled to meet you, sir. I have so admired your work."

He stopped for a moment, struck by the old man's demeanor - wait, could it be disdain? Alzheimer looked down on his work - and who could blame him? Oh, no, this is so humiliating. Well, nothing left to do but just keep on blurting.

"Yes, sir, my disease is nothing compared to your disease. I feel like a humble acolyte meeting a great master. Tell me, how did you do it? How did you discover such a wonderful disease?"

Dr. Alzheimer did not answer immediately. An uncomfortable silence filled the room, broken only by the maddening tick-tock of the clock on the wall. Will he just ignore me?, thought Parkinson. Am I a nonentity in his eyes? Is he just above the fray, oblivious to the feeble attempts of younger doctors to grab at anything, a symptom, a syndrome, almost anything - you name it, they'll name it?

Finally, after minutes that seemed to stretch into lifetimes, the great man responded. His voice was surprisingly firm, still the mellifluous tenor of his youth.

"Disease," he said. "What disease?"