Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Today's Tune: The Beatles - Rock and Roll Music (1966)

Today's Tune: The Beatles - A Day In The Life

Delivered From All Stain

By David Mills
Dec 6, 2010

“Yeah, right” is the way the more irenic of my Evangelical friends react to the Immaculate Conception, the feast day of which (a holy day of obligation) we celebrate on Wednesday. A few will go so far as to say something like “Whatever floats your boat,” while others react with something like horror or disgust. Very few, in my experience, have a very good idea of the dogma to which they're reacting.

“It says that Mary doesn't need to be saved,” Evangelical friends with doctorates in theology from elite universities have told me, which is, you know, and I do hate to say this, kind of dumb. I can easily understand their believing the dogma made up out of thin air, but even then they should realize that what is made up is a statement about the way Jesus saved his own mother.

So it may be useful here to explain the teaching in first week of “Mary 101” form. At least everyone will know where they stand. I thought of this when reading some of the bitter and cutting responses to David Hart's lovely reflection on holiness, “The Abbot and Aunt Susie,” and feeling like saying, in the tones of a mother whose children are trapped inside on a rainy day, “Why can't you just play nice?”

The word “Immaculate” doesn’t simply mean “perfectly clean,” as we tend to think from its use in real estate ads, but “unstained.” The doctrine emphasizes Mary’s freedom from moral corruption—not, and this is the crucial point, what she is in herself but what she is by the grace of God. Issued by Pope Pius IX in the Apostolic Constitution Ineffabilis Deuson December 8, 1854, the definition declares that

the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful.

She is, he wrote, “far above all the angels and all the saints so wondrously did God endow her with the abundance of all heavenly gifts poured from the treasury of his divinity.” Because God did this for her—because God did it—Mary, “ever absolutely free of all stain of sin, all fair and perfect, would possess that fullness of holy innocence and sanctity.”

Even very sympathetic Protestants think of it as a kind of devotional optional extra. But Pius thought it a very important doctrine to get right. Anyone who rejects it (he seems to be thinking only of Catholics here) is “condemned by his own judgment.” The dissenter should know “that he has suffered shipwreck in the faith; that he has separated from the unity of the Church.”

To read the rest of the article click on link below:

- David Mills is Deputy Editor of First Things. His previous “On the Square” articles can be found here. Much of the information in this article is taken from his book Discovering Mary.

Benedict XVI: Christian Radical

A Further Perspective

By Samuel Gregg on 12.8.10 @ 6:07AM
The American Spectator

As the condom-wars ignited by Benedict XVI's Light of the World abate, some attention might finally be paid to the book's broader themes and what they indicate about Benedict's pontificate. In this regard, perhaps the interview's most revealing aspect is the picture that emerges of Pope Benedict as nothing more and nothing less than a Christian radical.

Those accustomed to cartoon-like depictions of Joseph Ratzinger as a "reactionary" might be surprised by this description. But by "radical," I don't mean the type of priest or minister who only wears clerical garb when attending left-wing rallies or publically disputing particular church doctrines.

The word "radical" comes from the Latin radix, meaning "root." It's in this sense Benedict is radical. His pontificate is about going back to Christianity's roots to make, as Benedict says, "visible again the center of Christian life" and then shining that light upon the world so that we might see the truth about ourselves.

At Christianity's center, Benedict states, is the person of Jesus Christ. But this person, the pope insists, is not whoever we want him to be. Christ is not the self-help guru proclaimed by the charlatans of the Prosperity Gospel. Nor is he the proto-Marxist beloved by devotees of the now-defunct liberation theologies. Still less is Christ a "compassionate, super-intelligent gay man," as once opined by that noted biblical scholar, Elton John.

According to Benedict, Christ is who Christ says he is: the Son of God. Hence, there is no contradiction between what some call "the Christ of faith" and "the Christ of history." In Light of the World, Benedict confirms that underscoring this point was why he wrote his best-selling Jesus of Nazareth (2007). "The Jesus in whom we believe," Benedict claims, "is really also the historical Jesus."

Such observations hardly seem revolutionary for a Christian. But the context of Benedict's remarks is a world of biblical studies dominated by what's known as the historical-critical method. Among other things, this involves placing scripture in its historical conditions and exploring the different literary genres used by biblical authors.

In itself, such analysis can help illuminate scripture's meaning. But from the beginning, many of its practitioners have imposed readings upon biblical texts that explicitly sever the Christian scriptures from the Christian faith from which they emerged. It has also facilitated the piling-up of tenuous-hypotheses upon tenuous-hypotheses about Christ which are then masqueraded as "facts" that, in Benedict's words, "eventually lead to absurdity": Christ-the-guru, Christ-the-revolutionary, Christ-the name-your-fashionable-cause.

Yet, Benedict argues, these "alternative portraits" can't "explain how within such a short time something could suddenly appear that completely transcends ordinary expectations." In short, Benedict states, "the only real, historical personage is the Christ in whom the Gospels believe, and not the figure who has been reconstituted from numerous exegetical studies."

Before dismissing this as fundamentalism, let's note that Benedict maintains that the picture of Jesus as one who was really crucified, really died, and really rose from the dead accords not only with faith, but also with reason. For all their variations, the Gospel accounts are reasonable because they provide the only coherent explanation of what happened. These texts, Benedict notes, provide "direct access to the events." Some of these writings, he reminds us, "originate literally from the 30s of the first century."

But why, we might ask, does Benedict belabor the point? One reason is surely the damage done to Christian faith by scholars parading various pet theories as "facts." Another reason, however, may be Benedict's sense that even many faithful Christians have forgotten the radical implications of accepting Christ as whom he says he is.

First, such an acceptance rescues Christianity from becoming what the German philosopher Rüdiger Safranski calls "a cold religious project": a "mix of social ethics, institutional power thinking, psychotherapy, techniques of meditation, museum curation, cultural project management, and social work." That's a concise description of the "liberal Christianity" that's helped empty Western Europe's churches, particularly in Benedict's German homeland.

Second, it forces us to take seriously aspects of Christianity that have disappeared from public view over the past forty years.

In recent decades, Benedict claims, Christian preaching has stopped mentioning the Last Things revealed by Christ: i.e., heaven, hell, and the fact that all of us will be judged. Instead, preaching has become "one-sided, in that it is largely directed toward the creation of a better world, while hardly anyone talks any more about the other, truly better world."

For confirmation, just look at the websites of those religious orders which talk endlessly about social justice without relating it to Christian belief in the limits of earthly justice and the reality of divine justice. This diminishes Christianity to either what Benedict calls "political moralism, as happened in liberation theology" or "psychotherapy and wellness." It also, some might interject, encourages us to conjure up secular messiahs who, not being God, cannot possibly fulfill religious-like expectations of hope and change.

In the end, it results in the same thing: practical atheism, at the heart of which is a teddy-bear Christ who, as Benedict wrote years ago, "demands nothing, never scolds, who accepts everyone and everything, who no longer does anything but affirm us."

And therein may be the essence of Benedict's Light of the World. Yes, Christ always offers us forgiveness. Nonetheless, Benedict adds, Christ also "takes us seriously." Having stated who he is, Christ leaves us free either to accept him as he really is and order our lives accordingly, or to construct what another Christian scholar, Thomas More, called "worldly fantasies" of our own making.

More radically different paths are hard to imagine.

- Samuel Gregg is Research Director at the Acton Institute. He has authored several books including On Ordered Liberty, his prize-winning The Commercial Society, and Wilhelm Röpke's Political Economy.

Laughing Matters: Discuss

The New York Times
December 7, 2010

From Hogarth to Noël Coward

By Paul Johnson
228 pages. Harper. $25.99.

In the 1940s, long before the unlovely abbreviations LOL and ROTFL became standard usage, the great film critic James Agee broke the four main kinds of laughter inspired by silent-film comedians into four more intricate categories: “the titter, the yowl, the belly laugh and the boffo.”

There are titters, and perhaps even a few yowls, in the British historian Paul Johnson’s new book, “Humorists: From Hogarth to Noël Coward,” which contains chapters on both the Marx Brothers and Laurel and Hardy. But in this warmly appealing if slightly dotty book, Mr. Johnson is far more interested in wit that slowly simmers and mellowly embraces la comédie humaine. He admires the kind of sustaining good humor that, as he writes about Dr. Johnson’s apothegms, makes us “hug ourselves with pleasure.”

Thus “Humorists” is packed with essays on figures who don’t immediately come to mind when you think about funny people. Don’t look here for appraisals of Woody Allen, Bob and Ray, Richard Pryor, Fran Lebowitz or the comic princes in Monty Python. Only one of Mr. Johnson’s subjects, Nancy Mitford, was born in the 20th century. He’s more at home with the artists William Hogarth, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Thomas Rowlandson, or with writers like Charles Dickens and G. K. Chesterton. He calls this grab bag, which includes Benjamin Franklin, Damon Runyon and James Thurber, “a strange collection of geniuses, worldly failures, drunks, misfits, cripples and gifted idiots.”

This book’s long view, and its deep eccentricities, are what give it a burnished glow. You’ll want to consume it with good Scotch and (what the hell) maybe even a pipe, agreeing with Charles Lamb, who hoped that “the last breath I draw in this world will be through a pipe, and exhaled in a pun.”

Mr. Johnson, who has written similar volumes with titles like “Intellectuals,” “Creators” and “Heroes,” reckons, persuasively, that among all these people comics “are the most valuable.” The world is cruel, he observes, and “those who can dry our tears, and force reluctant smiles to trembling lips, are more precious to us, if the truth be told, than all the statesmen and the generals and brainy people, even the great artists.”

Among the smart lines approvingly quoted in his book are the following, from Dorothy Parker, about a book by Hugh Walpole: “This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.” There will be those who will hurl Mr. Johnson’s book with great vigor too. His pantheon — those worthy of a chapter here — includes, alas, only one woman, and that woman is Mitford, who was never all that funny. He wanders so far off topic, even in short essays, that it’s like watching Mr. Magoo toddle about. And he is not a particularly funny writer himself.

The range of reference here is dated, but then so is Mr. Johnson. This book contains many startling confidences on the order of “Jean-Paul Sartre told me in 1953,” or “Groucho Marx said to me,” or, about Mitford, “I met her in Paris in the early ’50s.” There’s a bit about listening to the philosopher Isaiah Berlin (born in 1909) tell riotous stories. Mr. Johnson, who is 82, makes growing old seem quite worthwhile, at least if you can derive as much pleasure from the world as he clearly does.

Mr. Johnson takes humor seriously, tracing its history — the Old Testament has no fewer than 26 laughs, he reports — and attending to its often reprehensible motives. One of the best things ever written about laughter, he notes, is Arthur Koestler’s essay about it in Encyclopedia Britannica. Koestler “describes laughing as a ‘luxury reflex,’ ” Mr. Johnson writes, “containing elements of aggression and hostility, even savagery.”

He has a keen eye for rosy detail. About Martin Heidegger, known for his solemnity, Mr. Johnson writes: “He is recorded to have laughed only once, at a picnic with Ernst Jünger in the Harz Mountains. Jünger leaned over to pick up a sauerkraut and sausage roll, and his lederhosen split with a tremendous crack.” After a shout of glee, Heidegger immediately caught himself and resumed his habitual fierce expression. Mr. Johnson also reminds us what Dorothy Parker said to a friend who had had a baby: “Congratulations. We always knew you had it in you.”

Mr. Johnson’s best essays, perhaps because unexpected, are those on Hogarth, Toulouse-Lautrec and Rowlandson. He admires their jolly, forgiving and often randy views of society. About a dancer at the Moulin Rouge whom Toulouse-Lautrec drew, he writes: “He made her live, and presents her in all her charm and folly: rambunctious, joyful, gobbling everything in sight, living for the hour, giving everything she had to give without thought for the morrow, talented, a kind of bohemian genius but also ignorant and stupid.” He expertly describes so many drawings and paintings that it’s a crime that this book does not include illustrations.

The author’s description of Toulouse-Lautrec himself is memorable: “He limped, had very large nostrils, bulbous lips, a thickened tongue and a speech impediment. He sniffed continually and drooled at the mouth.” He was said to do quite well with women.

Mr. Johnson is far less interesting on silent comedians and on writers like Runyon and Thurber, who have been analyzed with more vigor and discrimination elsewhere. But his celebration of largely forgotten talents like Chesterton will have you wanting to read more.

Here’s one decent thing Chesterton said: “Science has many uses. Its chief one, however, is to provide long words to cover the errors of the rich: ‘kleptomania’ for example.” Here’s another: “Lying in bed would be an altogether perfect and supreme experience if only one had a colored pencil long enough to draw on the ceiling.”

Reading “Humorists” is not itself quite a perfect and supreme experience, but it’s a pleasure to sit around the gently crackling fire that is Mr. Johnson’s mind.

Derek Jeter will use Yankees stand in negotiations as fuel to prove Brian Cashman and others wrong

By John Harper
The Daily News
Wednesday, December 8th 2010, 4:00 AM

TAMPA - After Derek Jeter had said his piece, after he'd made it clear how furious he was that his contract negotiation sold so many newspapers over the last few weeks, perhaps his most telling comment involved his view of the future.

Jeter admitted that getting the fourth-year player option in his new deal was vital to him, not so much for the money, he said, but to put off another contract negotiation as long as possible.

"For me it was the longer the better on this one," he said, "so I don't have to deal with this."

"So you're going to have another one of these negotiations?" he was asked.

"Four years from now," Jeter said. "And I promise you, you won't hear about that one."

If you want a snapshot of Jeter, that's it. After all the debate over his declining range and whether his poor offensive season is the start of a significant decline, Jeter is convinced he'll be playing for the Yankees in 2015 and beyond.

He didn't say he'd still be playing shortstop at that point, but then again, he didn't say that he wouldn't be either.

If nothing else, you have to figure that Jeter is more driven than ever to prove his point. He has always taken any perceived slights to heart, looking for and finding criticism in the media to use as motivation, but it's clear now that he will be fueled by anger directed mostly at GM Brian Cashman and the Yankee front office.

He blames them for not only turning his negotiation into a public spitting contest, but also for the perception that his contract demands were unreasonable.

"The perception was greed," he said of his position, "when it's really just a negotiation."

What Jeter didn't say is he is likely miffed, as well, that he had to give much more than the Yankees did to get a deal done. He didn't like settling for $51 million over three years plus the option year when he fully expected to be paid $20 million-plus for four or five years because of all he has meant to the franchise and because he believes he can play until he's 45.

The bottom line is that the Yankees made Jeter face reality - they're paying him more than his market value as a shortstop who will turn 37 next June and they weren't going to make the same mistake they made on Alex Rodriguez's contract.

And that probably made the captain as angry as anything.

Jeter, as has been well-documented, can be very unforgiving when he feels he has been betrayed. And though he wouldn't single anyone out Tuesday, he clearly feels that way about Cashman challenging him during the negotiations to go get a better deal from another team if he didn't like the Yankee offer.

But here's where it gets sticky. Cashman surely overreacted to agent Casey Close's comments to the Daily News, when Close called the negotiations "baffling," but Jeter can't stand there as he did Tuesday and say that his agent wasn't speaking for him.

"He can have his own opinion," Jeter said. "My job is to play baseball. His job is to negotiate."

Sorry, it doesn't work that way. The agent speaks for the player, so in that sense, Jeter has to take at least some responsibility for the negotiations getting out from behind closed doors.

In any case, it seems clear that some harsh words were exchanged when those doors were pulled shut again and a deal was finally struck. There was the five-hour meeting in Tampa and then Cashman, Hal Steinbrenner, and Jeter met on Saturday in New York.

"Any issues I've had with anyone, they've been addressed," was the way Jeter put it. "We've moved on."

Jeter had a right to be angry, and for someone who has been so guarded throughout his career, it was refreshing to see him reveal some true emotions.

On the other hand, he was being unrealistic if he thought he could ask for a five-year, $100-plus million contract at his age, coming off a subpar year, and think the negotiation wouldn't get messy, to use Hal Steinbrenner's prophetic word from a month ago.

Now the question is where the reality lies on the ballfield for Jeter. And, really, that's what is important here. Tuesday he said he considered his 2010 season "a hiccup," but admitted, "It's my job to go out there and prove that it was."

Jeter has more motivation than ever to do it. And after all the ugliness of the negotiations, that can't be a bad thing for a man who is convinced he has another contract negotiation ahead of him.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

There Is Still A Pearl In The Harbor

by Ted Nugent

Much ado is being made that John Lennon has been gone for 30 years.

Almost as important as Elvis and Chuck Berry, John Lennon revolutionized popular music. The Beatles transformed the music scene, turned the world of popular music on its ear. The colossal impact of the Beatles still reverberates strongly throughout the musical world. No doubt that John Lennon was a musical genius who inspired all of us who picked up an electric guitar ands enriched the lives of mankind beyond description.

I remember hanging my head in sorrow on the evening of December 8, 1980 when he was gunned down in New York City by terminal psycho whackjob Mark David Chapman.

John Lennon should be remembered for his musical genius, but his memory should not ever eclipse that of true heroes – the 2,400 brave men who paid the ultimate sacrifice on December 7, 1941, a date that President Roosevelt said would “live in infamy.”

I have been reminded for over a week on both radio and television that John Lennon will be gone for 30 years tomorrow, December 8. Alternatively, I have not read or heard a word in the previous week or two that 2,400 sailors lost their lives and 1,200 more were wounded 69 years ago today, December 7th.

The priorities of our media befuddle me.

There are few days in America's history that are critically important. December 7, 1941 is one of those days. It is a day to be remembered, revered and honored. It is as important as July 4, 1776; June 6, 1944; or September 11, 2001. December 7, 1941 matters.

December 7, 1941 is not only pivotal in the annals of American history but also in the history of the world. It was on this date that America entered WWII and began the long, bloody, four year struggle to save the world from Japanese and German brutality, tyranny and oppression.

Had the Greatest Generation failed to crush such abject evil, the world would look much different today. Quite possibly, there would have been no Beatles' music, no Strawberry Fields Forever, no John Lennon to immortalize.

Many of the sailors who perished 69 years ago today still rest beneath shallow waters in Pearl Harbor. Their tomb is the USS Arizona. Small droplets of oil from the fuel tanks of the USS Arizona still float lazily to the surface. These droplets of oil serve as a reminder of the Greatest Generation heroes who rest just beneath the surface of the water.

The USS Arizona memorial is a solemn, quiet place. The boats of talkative tourists become quiet as the boat approaches the memorial. When I was on the memorial years ago, few words were spoken by the tourists. Few cameras clicked though everyone had a camera.

Today, the mighty USS Missouri floats near the USS Arizona memorial. The USS Missouri is the retired battleship where the Japanese signed the surrender terms in Tokyo Harbor in August, 1945. May the USS Missouri stand guard forever over the USS Arizona and its sailors.

There are a few sailors left who were there that terrible Sunday morning 69 years ago when so many of their fellow sailors lost their lives and so many others wounded and permanently maimed. They should be honored at the Kennedy Center by the president.

The world has changed much in the last 69 years, but what will never change in the hearts and minds of Americans who care is that December 7th is a day that will forever live in infamy.

God bless all the warriors of Pearl Harbor. They will matter forever.

- Rock legend Ted Nugent is noted for his conservative political views and his vocal pro-hunting and Second Amendment activism. His smash bestseller Ted, White & Blue: The Nugent Manifesto, is now available at Nugent also maintains the Official Ted Nugent Site at

Pearl Harbor Day

Bigots and Terrorists in Portland

The city’s liberal establishment worries more about biased Americans than about would-be mass murderers.

By Ethan Epstein
December 6, 2010 5:00 P.M.

Portland — On the night of November 26, a 19-year-old Oregon State University engineering student named Mohamed Mohamud (pictured above) drove a van packed with what he believed to be explosives to Pioneer Courthouse Square, a downtown plaza known to locals as “Portland’s Living Room.” There, thousands of residents had gathered to light Portland’s Christmas tree as part of an annual holiday celebration.

Fortunately, the bomb Mohamud carried was a dummy: The supposed jihadist sympathizers from whom he had procured the weapon were in fact undercover FBI agents. When he tried to detonate the bomb, Mohamud was promptly arrested and charged with attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction.

Many Portlanders like to see their city as a place somewhat apart from the rest of America: a “greener,” more tolerant, more progressive burg, a city untouched by some of the uglier trends in global politics. Indeed, Portland withdrew from the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force some five years ago over civil-liberties concerns. Thus, the revelation that Portland was the target of a murderous jihadi has come as a profound shock to many residents.

Yet perhaps equally shocking has been the reaction of Portland’s ruling liberal establishment to this attempted mass murder.

It began the morning after Mohamud’s plot unraveled, when Portland’s mayor, Sam Adams, took to his blog to issue a stern warning to the citizens he governs. “I trust in Portlanders’ sense of fairness,” he wrote, before demonstrating the exact opposite. “Bad actions by one member of any group does [sic] not and should not be generalized or applied more widely to other members of that same group,” he lectured. “Otherwise, as part of the biggest racial group in Portland, European-Americans, producing many crimes daily, would be in deep trouble.” A day later, Adams fretted publicly about the danger of “knuckle-headed retribution.”

But it was not only Portland’s mayor who focused more on Oregonians’ supposed bigotry than on the fact that a terrorist had tried to murder thousands. Elisabeth Gern, a social-services coordinator at Catholic Charities, said publicly that she thought Somalis would be “attacked.” The Willamette Week, a Pulitzer Prize–winning Portland-based newspaper, worried about the “disconcerting effect on the Somali community.” Imam Mikal Shabazz, the president of the Oregon Islamic Chaplains Organization and Portland’s most prominent Muslim spokesman, said that “innocent Muslim-Americans are exposed to retaliation.”

Yet there has been only one apparently anti-Muslim crime: A fire was set in the middle of the night in the office of a mosque where Mohamud sometimes prayed as a student. (The FBI is investigating this act of vandalism and offering a cash reward for assistance.) Otherwise, Oregonians have shown marked support for the Muslim and Somali communities here. Hundreds of Christians, Jews, Muslims, and atheists marched in solidarity with Oregon’s Islamic community after the mosque was vandalized. Hundreds more held a vigil on the campus of Oregon State University to show support for Muslim students there in the wake of Mohamud’s arrest. So far, despite the histrionics, this has proved to be the backlash that wasn’t.

Other political and media elites here have taken to attacking the terror sting operation, the very foundation of the case against Mohamud. In the Portland Mercury, a popular weekly newspaper, journalist Denis C. Theriault asked, “Is it really a terrorist plot if no one was ever in danger and the men you’re plotting with — the handlers giving you cash, driving you around, and even building your bomb — are all (whoops!) government agents?” (The article was headlined “No One Was Going to Die.”)[1] On a blog on the paper’s website, the same writer said that “we have to wonder how else [terror stings] might be used — and what other kinds of crimes government agents will be asked to encourage Americans to try to commit before arresting them.”[2] Pat Birmingham, a prominent local defense attorney, said, “There’s a big question whether he had the mental makeup to do it on his own.” This line of argument has been picked up by some in the national media, most notably Glenn Greenwald of Salon.

Of course, the question of whether the FBI’s involvement crossed the line of entrapment will need to be examined during the trial. Yet arguments like the Mercury’s veer too far into the territory of exonerating the perpetrator.

According to the FBI’s affidavit on the case, Mohamud was once cautioned by an undercover agent that “a lot of children” would be attending the Christmas-tree lighting. “Yeah, I mean, that’s what I’m looking for,” he replied. Regardless of whether his bomb went off, Mohamud wanted to kill thousands.

But when faced with this man, the city’s liberal establishment worried mainly about vilifying Oregonians and perhaps exculpating the would-be bomber. Portland’s public officials and media figures do its residents a disservice by acting this way, especially now that it’s clear the city is not immune to the threat of terrorism.

— Ethan Epstein, a writer based in Portland, has written for the Weekly Standard, Slate, the American Spectator, and a variety of other publications.




Real Death Panels Are Coming Our Way

by Nat Hentoff

This article appeared in The Richomd Times-Dispatch on November 29, 2010.

Paul Krugman, Nobel Prize winner in economics and an influential New York Times columnist, also has a blog, "The Conscience of a Liberal." On ABC's This Week (Nov. 14), during a discussion on balancing the federal budget against alarming deficits, he proclaimed the way to solve this problem is through deeply cost-effective health care rationing.

"Some years down the pike," he said, "we're going to get the real solution, which is going to be a combination of death panels and sales taxes." That would mean the U.S. Debt Reduction Commission "should have endorsed the panel that was part of the [Obama] health care reform."

Sarah Palin was one of the first, and the most resounding, to warn us of the coming of government panels to decide which of us — especially, but not exclusively, toward the end of life — would cost too much to survive.

She was mocked, scorned from sea to shining sea, including by the eminent Paul Krugman for being, he said, among those spreading "the death penalty lie" as part of "the lunatic fringe." (Summarized in "Krugman Wants 'Death Panels,'" Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, Nov. 15.)

Soon after he had left the ABC studio, someone must have alerted Krugman that — gee whiz — he had publicly rooted for death panels!

Swiftly, on his blog, Krugman admitted he had indeed said those dreaded words, but:

"What I meant is that health care costs will have to be controlled, which will surely require having Medicare and Medicaid decide what they're willing to pay for — not really death panels, of course, but consideration of medical effectiveness and, at some point, how much we're willing to spend for extreme care."

"Extreme care," Professor Krugman? To be defined by government commissions, right?

Noel Sheppard of media watchdog Newsbusters was not fooled by the professor's attempt to extricate himself from embarrassment.

"As the government has deep budgetary problems," Sheppard reminded Krugman, "the cost-benefit analysis will naturally morph toward financial restraint thereby further limiting a patient's options and therefore his or her rights."

Are these Obamacare cost-benefit boards and commissions — for example, the so-called Independent Payment Advisory Board penetratingly judging Medicare's cost-effectiveness (without judicial review) — not going to determine whether certain Americans are going to continue living?

'Fess up, Krugman, you owe Sarah Palin an apology for so often scandal-mongering her. Also, professor, aside from the abortion wars, don't most Americans agree that the most fundamental of all our rights is the right to life? Not the government's right to our lives.

When you said "death panels" on that Sunday morning, you knew and meant what you were saying. As an economist dedicated to deficit-reduction you were not lamenting the coming of death panels. Clearly, you were affirming their inevitability under President Obama's determination to prevent government subsidization of "extreme care."

As you said on ABC, this is "reality therapy."

Wesley Smith, who has been the Paul Revere of investigating and documenting the radical root of Obamacare — government's invasion of the doctor-patient relationship — has revealed how far Obama's Medicare czar, Dr. Donald Berwick, intends to go in order to foreclose the great majority of our visits to our doctors' offices.

In his regular fact-based commentary ("Secondhand Smoke," Nov. 16), Smith's headline is: "Berwick Wants to Do Away With 80% of 'Dinosaur' Patient/Doctor Office Calls."

He reports that in Berwick's Escape Fire: Lessons for the Future of Health Care — which he wrote in his former role as head of the Institute for Health Care Improvement — Berwick promised us that "healing relationships ... can be fashioned in many new and wonderful forms if we suspend the old ways of making sense of care."

Huh? Which "old ways?" You may not have realized it, but, he emphasized, "the health care encounter as a face-to-face visit is a dinosaur." In the wondrous new world of immediate health care for everyone in need, Berwick writes, "I think it rarely means ... reliance on face-to-face meetings between patients, doctors, and nurses."

Have your computer ready, folks.

What's next, a death-clock countdown for your desktop?

"Tackled well," President Obama's cost-efficient physician-in-chief foresees, "this new framework will gradually reveal that half or more of such of our encounters — maybe as many as 80 percent of them — are neither wanted by patients nor deeply believed in by professionals ... ."

Am I a dinosaur in my apprehensiveness about troubling symptoms — and odds of survival — because I feel I need to talk face-to-face with another human being whose calling is diagnosis? As Wesley Smith says, speaking for me and, I expect, many of us:

"Doctors use face-to-face meetings for more than exams. Sometimes, a doctor [not a computer] can take one look at a longtime patient [or not longtime] and tell that something is amiss."

Because President Obama did not want Dr. Berwick to be subjected to probing questions at a congressional hearing, this czar of the future is a recess appointment, but he finally was inconsequentially heard. Will Obama, in 2012, turn out to be a recess president, in considerable part because of his messianic, unyielding devotion to Obamacare? Then, if he's in distress, when he's out of office, maybe Berwick will consent to care for him privately.

Presidents retain their health insurance for life, so Berwick will be appropriately compensated without being limited by Medicare rates. But will the next president and Congress rescue us from Obamacare?

- Nat Hentoff is a nationally renowned authority on the First Amendment and the Bill of Rights. He is a member of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, and the Cato Institute, where he is a senior fellow.

Added to on November 30, 2010

Diversifying C.S. Lewis

Among the Intellectualoids

By Hal G.P. Colebatch on 12.6.10 @ 6:07AM
The American Spectator

Political correctness has now raised its head is what one would have thought a stronghold of traditional Christianity -- the work of C.S. Lewis. To be precise, the new film of his Voyage of the Dawn Treader, one of the best-selling "Narnia" series of children's books.

The Dawn Treader is a revival of an old Irish form, the Immram, telling of a ship voyaging among islands, with the crew learning some lesson at each stopping place.

The imaginary world of Narnia is, of course, under the rule of kings who acknowledge the rule of its Creator, the good lion Aslan, an attempt by Lewis to make the idea of Christ accessible to modern children.

However, actor Liam Neeson, who provides the voice of the lion in the Dawn Treader, has claimed it is also based on other religious leaders such as Mohammed and Buddha.

In fact there is not the slightest doubt about Aslan's identity. In the first Narnia story, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, Aslan takes on the burden of guild and punishment for another, undergoes a kind of crucifixion and rises from the dead. Neither Islam nor Buddhism have remotely comparable episodes.

Following Lewis's conversion, the entire body of his writing apart from his purely scholarly work consisted of Christian apologetics of one kind or another.

He said on more than one occasion that his purpose behind writing the Narnia books was to introduce children to Christianity and to get the Christian message to them "past the watchful dragons" of modern secularism. He wrote of Aslan:

He is an invention giving an imaginary answer to the question, "What might Christ become like if there really were a world like Narnia, and He chose to be incarnate and die and rise again in that world as He actually has done in ours?"

Neeson was quoted as saying "he [Aslan] also symbolises for me Mohammed, Buddha and all the great spiritual leaders and prophets over the centuries. That's who Aslan stands for as well as a mentor figure for kids -- that's what he means for me."

Walter Hooper, Lewis's former secretary and a trustee of his estate, was quoted as saying the author would have been outraged: "It is nothing whatever to do with Islam. Lewis would have simply denied that. He wrote that the 'whole Narnian story is about Christ.' Lewis could not have been clearer."

Conservative Christian William Oddie, a former editor of the Catholic Herald, accused Neeson of "a betrayal of Lewis's intention and a shameful distortion."[1]

Although there are wicked witches and other supernatural evil creatures threatening the good kingdom of Narnia, the chief political and military threat to it is Calormene, the great and cruel empire to the south.

Lewis did not make the Calormenes identical with Muslims. It is probable that he deliberately made them different in important ways so the books would not be regarded as simply anti-Muslim tracts: the Calormenes worship a vulture-headed god called Tash and, unlike any Muslims, conduct human sacrifices. Their city has statues, which are forbidden in Islam.

However, it is equally obvious and quite unmistakable that they are meant to be Muslim-like: they are warlike, live in the hot, desert-like country, are swarthy, wear turbans and run the slave-trade. Their ruler, the Tisroc, practices polygamy and his prime minister is known as a chief vizier. The women live is harem-like seclusion.

The Calormenes government is Oriental despotism. The Tisroc is a capricious and merciless tyrant. ("Call back the pardon we wrote for the third cook. I feel manifest within me the prognostics of indigestion.") Insulting the Tisroc results, for one of his subjects, in a short life and a slow death. There are no Christian values in government.

The Tisroc, who regards "our subjects" as "vile," in The Horse and His Boy plots the death of his eldest son before the son can assassinate him, remarking: "I have eighteen other sons and Rabadash, in the manner of the eldest sons of kings, was beginning to be dangerous. More than five Tisrocs in Tashban have died before their time because their eldest sons, enlightened princes, grew tired of waiting for their throne."

The state of Calormene law is indicated by the fact that "there is only one traffic regulation, which is that everyone who is less important has to get out of the way for everyone who is more important." The Narnians, by contrast, though we do not hear much about their organized religion, try to live by Christian-like values and an idealized version of medieval chivalry, and to revere the Lordship of Aslan in actions as well as words.

The Calormenes regard peace with the Narnians as no more than temporary truces, are always trying to conquer Narnia and in the end, in The Last Battle, succeed. The Calormen names, such as Arsheesh, Ahoshta, Lasaraleen and Rabadash, are not specifically Muslim but have a kind of Arabic sound to them.

C.S. Lewis at work in his study at The Kilns, Oxford (The Marion E. Wade Center)

As Narnia represents the Christian and classical heritage of Europe (it has beings from classical pagan mythology such as fauns and dryads as well as "northern" fairy-tale creatures and talking animals), so Calormen represents perpetual the infidel threat to it. Buddhism, incidentally, is simply not mentioned in the stories at all (I am at least grateful that writing this has given me a chance to re-read them).

Further, it is made clear that Aslan-Christ is, under the Emperor-Over-Sea (God the Father), the only good God. No syncretism is possible. In The Last Battle a phony syncretic religion, running together Aslan and Task is concocted by Calormene crooks and slave-traders. A bewildered and exploited donkey wearing a lion-skin is presented as "Tashlan" to fool the Narnian animals into obeying the Calormenes. It is seen as a sign, literally, the "End Times" of terminal degeneration and decay ushering in the end of not just Narnia but Calormene and the whole Narnian-created universe.

The good Calormenes are saved at the end in The Last Battle not because Tash who they sincerely worshipped had any aspects of goodness, or identity with Aslan but because Aslan claims that any good action, even if done in another's name, is his own. Lewis made the same point in The Screwtape Letters, in which the demon Screwtape complained that God saved the souls of men who died in a bad cause "on the monstrously sophistical grounds that they were serving the best cause they knew." This is about as far from syncretism as it is possible to get.

Hal G.P. Colebatch's "Immram," Counterstrike, is being published by Australian publisher Imaginites.



Monday, December 06, 2010

Don Meredith: Remebering a great one, great times

By Tim Cowlishaw
The Dallas Morning News
Posted at 10:48 AM on Mon., Dec. 6, 2010

When my father moved from New Jersey to Richardson in 1963, our family traded in occasional trips to Yankee Stadium to see the best baseball team on the planet for Sunday afternoon jaunts to the Cotton Bowl to see...well, the only big league sports team in town.

Watching from the bleachers at the opposite end of the players' tunnel, we watched the Cowboys grow into the most entertaining team -- if not quite the best -- of the '60s. And if part of it was based on the original "Doomsday
Defense," the rest was all about Don Meredith throwing footballs to Bob Hayes.

Both are gone now. Hayes died before he was enshrined later than he should have been in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Meredith died this morning after a lengthy bout with emphysema. He was 72.

I first learned about the sometimes uneasy relationship between pro athletes and fans and the media through Meredith. Despite his prowess at the fact he was a homegrown star from Mt. Vernon High School and then SMU, Meredith always had his detractors in Dallas.

For years, some favored Eddie LeBaron at the end of his playing days over Meredith at the beginning of his. The club drafted Jerry Rhome out of Tulsa in the late rounds of 1964 and then Craig Morton of Cal with the sixth pick in 1965.

Surely, Coach Tom Landry would turn the reigns over to one of these two instead of Meredith, many critics thought. And Landry surely tried.

When Meredith played well and the team won, all was fine. When the team lost, it was almost always on Meredith. And the "boobirds'' could be heard loud and clear at the Cotton Bowl.

But the arrival of Hayes in 1965 set Meredith's career on a different track. The Cowboys became winners. They went to back-to-back NFL title games against Green Bay after the '66 and '67 seasons but came up short.

After Meredith played poorly, throwing three interceptions in a playoff loss to Cleveland in '68, that was it. Fed up with the criticism, the crushing playoff defeats, he just up and quit.

Imagine that. At almost the same age down to the month that Tony Romo is now, Meredith retired from pro football.

But two years later, he entered into a new career that made him more famous on a national stage than he had ever been as a Cowboy. As part of the three-man booth in ABC's new "Monday Night Football," Meredith became a legendary figure and a highly popular one for trading barbs with a man considered unlikable by so many, broadcaster Howard Cosell.

I was in the Cotton Bowl stands during that 1970 season when the Cowboys were in the process of losing a totally humiliating 38-0 game to the St. Louis Cardinals. In the second half, fans in the upper deck under the press box turned and shouted for Meredith to come play for Dallas.

'I'm not going down there,'' Meredith said.

As time has passed, the Cowboys quarterback position has come to be defined by its two Super Bowl winners -- Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman. And there's no question that their achievements stand highest above the rest.

But before they came along, Meredith wrote his name all over the Cowboys' record book and helped establish Bob Hayes as the greatest deep threat of his era and one of the best of all time.

His accomplishments in nine seasons with an expansion franchise have not been diminished even more than 40 years after he walked away from the game.

Dandy Don Meredith all "southern charm, folksy humor and good-ol-boy charisma"

By Tom Maurstad
The Dallas Morning News
10:23 AM Mon, Dec 06, 2010

Don Meredith, who died on Dec. 5 at the age of 72, was one of the first celebrity athletes, a prototype for a role that has since become a standard in the pop culture pantheon.

He was the Dallas Cowboys first star quarterback, playing from 1960-68. It's hard to imagine a more powerful platform to launch a celebrity career: leading what would become one of the most successful franchises in sports history on its way to becoming America's team through a decade marked by cultural revolution. And he had the all-American good looks and outsized personality to match the opportunity.

It presents a perfect snapshot of a moment in Americana to recall the two breakout media stars of that generation of NFL football: Dandy Don and Broadway Joe. Joe Namath, the playboy quarterback of the upstart New York Jets presented the flipside of celebrity manhood to Meredith's. Meredith was all southern charm, folksy humor and good-ol-boy charisma. Namath was a big-city bad boy through and through. They were tale of the country mouse and the city mouse brought to life and played out in the sports sections, magazine spreads and televisions of America.

Meredith never quite became the TV and movie star he seemed destined to become. Maybe the most important reason for this is that the starmaking system wasn't yet in place to facilitate such a transistion. There were no powerhouse agencies devoted to turning their athlete clients into entertainment superstars. There were no multimedia lifestyle brands like Nike ready to spend millions on cross-promotional campaigns to turn their athlete pitchmen into inescapable personalities. And with only three TV networks and a Hollywood studio system no longer the star-making machine it had been and not yet the free-agency system it would become, there were no trails blazed, no ready-made way for an high-profile NFL player to become a bankable entertainment brand.

So Meredith made do, did what was available: He was part of the classic Monday night triumvirate with Howard Cosell and Frank Gifford -- where Dandy Don made famous his classic bit of singing "Turn out the Lights, the Party's Over" when some turning-point play seemed to decide a game's outcome. He starred in some, mostly forgettable, made-for-TV movies (such as Mayday at 40,000 Feet!) and guest-starred on a procession of TV series through the 70s, most notably a recurring role as Det. Bert Jameson on Police Story.

But his most successful role was as himself, Dandy Don, the slow-talking but quick-witted country boy who became a big-city success story, and in so doing helped paved the way for the generations of athlete-celebrities who followed him.

50 years later, Don Meredith still has a song in his heart

The Dallas Morning News
12:48 AM CST on Monday, December 6, 2010

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story originally ran on Thursday, November 26, 2009

SANTA FE, N.M. – Smiling, he rises from his chair. His hair is gray and his legs are creaky, but there's no mistaking it.

It's Don Meredith.

"Hello, hello!" the supposedly reclusive ex-Cowboys quarterback bellows to his invited guest, a reporter no less.

So many questions beg, but Meredith, 71, just wants to be himself. Share witticisms. Croon country tunes. Raise his Snapple to offer a, well, colorful toast.

Don Meredith and his wife, Susan, photographed at home in Santa Fe on Oct. 28, 2009. (Brad Townsend/DMN)

Football doesn't enter the banter until Meredith is told of a nearing anniversary. On Nov. 28, 1959, he signed a personal services contract to play for a proposed NFL team that had no nickname, no coach and no other players.

From this seed sprouted the Dallas Cowboys.

"Son of a gun," Meredith chuckles. "I didn't know what 50 years felt like, but now I do."

In that other lifetime he was Dandy Don, the captivating SMU All-American from nearby Mount Vernon. He led the Cowboys to the 1966 and 1967 NFL Championship games, then rather inexplicably retired in 1969, at age 31.

Next he was Monday Night Football 's "Irrepressible One," as booth-mate Howard Cosell called him. Millions tuned in to hear Meredith needle Cosell, rhapsodize about parents Jeff and Hazel and Mount Vernon and belt "The Party's Over."

But after the 1984 season, he virtually vanished to Santa Fe and semi-retirement with his wife, Susan. He since has given few interviews, adding mystery and intrigue to an already compelling Texas folk tale.

But for Don and Susan, now married 37 years, the mystery is why anyone would begrudge them a normal life after Don's high-profile careers.

"After he retired from Monday Night, we took up tennis and golf, maybe watched a few Super Bowls because we had parties," Susan says. "Football kind of went away."

Ex-teammates don't seem surprised. Meredith was the guy who sang in huddles, read Hemingway, shot mid-70s in golf and strummed and sipped with Willie Nelson.

Over the decades, teammates grew used to his sporadic attendance at alumni functions, but his most recent absence was conspicuous. Meredith was the only living Ring of Honor member unable to attend the Sept. 20 christening of Cowboys Stadium.

He has emphysema. Oxygen therapy makes it difficult to leave home, so he sits in his den, conquering backgammon challengers. On this day he tests his visitor by playing a country song on his laptop.

"Know who that is?"


"That's Jeff and Hazel's baby boy."

The tune is "Travelin' Man," one of two that Meredith recorded in 1965. Laughing, he taps his feet and sings duet with his 27-year-old self.

I'm a travelin' man

Just a rollin' stone

These wanderin' feet

Have got to roam ...

Joseph Donald Meredith's adventurous path traces to April 10, 1938, the day he was born in Mount Vernon, 100 miles northeast of Dallas.

At 2,700, the town's population has doubled since Joe Don and older brother Billy Jack starred for the Tigers in the '50s. Hazel died in 1988, Jeff in 1991, but the family presence remains.

"Don Meredith Boyhood Home" reads a curbside sign at 616 S. Kaufman, where Hazel swung a tire from a pecan tree so her boys could hone their passing.

Town square fixture Meredith Dry Goods was where Jeff perched 6-year-old Don near the door and taught him to greet every customer by name.

Two billboards direct Interstate 30 motorists to the Don Meredith Exhibit, in the former fire station. The museum's 2006 opening coincided with Don's 50th high school reunion.

"He sat here on a tall stool for a good two hours, signing autographs," Mayor J.D. Baumgardner says. "Had 'em three-deep clear out to the curb."

Museum visitors learn that Meredith was salutatorian, acted in the school play and probably was most skilled in basketball.

As a 6-3 junior, he scorched Dallas' 1954 Dr Pepper Tournament with records of 52 points against Adamson and 164 points in five games. Mount Vernon toppled big-city Crozier Tech and Woodrow Wilson en route to the title.

In football, Don wore No. 88 like Billy Jack, who went on to play at TCU. Don's jersey, letter jacket, ABC blazer and 1971 sportscasting Emmy are among the exhibit's many artifacts. For decades, Don had kept most of them in storage.

That love I've had

Has set me free

And a travelin' man

It's made out of me ...

Contrary to perception, the Merediths don't live in a steel fortress guarded by a moat and Dobermans.

They reside in a two-story adobe in southern Santa Fe. Toy poodle Moses and spaniel-poodle mix Beau briefly sniff newcomers' shoes.

The home has little evidence of Don's playing days. The only photo of him in his No. 17 Cowboys uniform hangs in the master bedroom, above one of Susan during her modeling days.

"We were both 23, though we didn't know each other," says Susan, adding with a laugh, "That's better than we look now. Holy moly."

Don shows no inclination to talk sports until his visitor pulls out a folder full of 1950s and '60s newspaper stories. Thumbing through the pages, Meredith reads the headlines aloud.

"Brings back some old memories, boy I'm telling you," he says. "It does, it does. I thank you, thank you."

After noting Don's thin necktie in a photo of him signing with SMU, Susan exclaims: "Look, that's your real nose! You hadn't had 14 nose breaks." To which Don cracks: "I was almost too pretty to be a boy. That's what my mother said."

Dallas might have daunted some small-town kids, but for the thespian quarterback it was center stage.

The city had no major professional teams, sportswriters showered superlatives and "Southern Meredith University" regularly drew 50,000 fans to the Cotton Bowl.

And would you believe it? During Meredith's senior season, word came that Dallas might get pro football. Not just one team, but two.

SMU alumnus Lamar Hunt was forming the American Football League and would own the Dallas Texans. Dallasites Clint Murchison Jr. and Bedford Wynne applied for an NFL expansion team.

Naturally, both organizations coveted Meredith as a cornerstone and box-office draw. On Nov. 22, 1959, six days before Meredith's college finale at TCU, the Texans made him their No. 1 draft pick.

Meredith was engaged to Mustangs cheerleader Lynne Shamburger and had been accepted to SMU law school. Hunt invited Don and Billy Jack to his mansion for barbecued burgers.

Oops. Hunt forgot starter fluid, so he had the Meredith boys gather mimosa leaves. The backyard soiree failed to kindle Don's interest in the Texans.

Shortly before midnight on Nov. 28, hours after losing to TCU, Meredith signed a five-year, $150,000 personal services deal with Murchison.

"The contract read, 'If we get a National Football League franchise, we'd like for you to play quarterback,' " Meredith recalls. "I couldn't understand pro football, the idea that they were going to pay you money to play."

Indeed, times were simpler. The News ' story on the Dec. 20 Meredith-Shamburger wedding said the couple would honeymoon in Hawaii and live at 6617 Preston Road.

When Tom Landry was hired as the proposed team's coach on Dec. 28, he quipped, "All we've got is a coach and a pitcher, but that's a start."

When the sun goes down

And the shadows fall

The night winds howl

A lonesome call ...

On Jan. 28, 1960, NFL owners awarded Dallas its franchise. The $600,000 expansion fee was just four times what was owed the quarterback.

Heck, Meredith would even get to play home games in the familiar, friendly Cotton Bowl.

But on the first day of training camp, wide-eyed Meredith found the Cowboys' roster mostly composed of fellow rookies and other teams' scarred and tattooed castoffs. Cigarettes and alcohol were prevalent.

"I'd never tried either," he says. "I was introduced and really happy with both."

He remains grateful to veteran quarterback Eddie LeBaron, who tutored Meredith and took the brunt of punishment during the 0-11-1 first season: "Old Eddie. In some ways, he was more my coach than Coach Landry."

Gradually, Meredith earned playing time, not all of it valuable. In a 1962 home game, Pittsburgh's 6-6, 305-pound Eugene "Big Daddy" Lipscomb mashed Meredith's right ankle like an accordion.

Asked about the injury today, Meredith lifts his pants leg. His ankle bone is golf ball-sized. Susan says he has had multiple ankle and toe surgeries.

"It really wasn't that bad; it just didn't get any better," Don says. "It isn't in pain now, so I'm happy about that."

Meredith with former Cowboys' coach Tom Landry

He became starter in 1963, a year that also brought his first divorce, cascades of boos and a 4-10 finish.

Edgy Dallas no longer was just a college sports town. Perhaps some fans found entitlement in the flasks they snuck in. Some construed Meredith's easy nature as apathy.

"I can take boos for a bad game," Meredith told The News in 1964. "But I hate to think they're booing me because they think I'm dogging it."

Meredith quelled critics by earning NFL Player of the Year honors in 1966 and taking the Cowboys to the '66 and '67 title games. But losing to Green Bay by seven and four points, respectively, tormented the Dallas organization.

Then Cleveland upset the Cowboys in the first round of the 1968 playoffs, with Landry benching Meredith after two costly third-quarter interceptions.

Still, Meredith's July 5, 1969, retirement shocked many in Dallas, the city that once unconditionally adored him.

That day he said he no longer was fully committed and didn't want to shortchange anyone. But for 40 years, many have wondered whether the Meredith-Landry relationship soured, or whether Meredith simply tired of public criticism.

Neither was the decisive factor, Meredith says now. He says his second marriage was failing and he had three young children.

"All sorts of things were going around on my personal life. It just wasn't working, so I decided, 'Hell, I might as well try something else.' "

He tried working as a stockbroker until the Monday Night opportunity came in 1970, but it is little known that Meredith approached Cowboys president Tex Schramm about a comeback. He says he was surprised and hurt by Schramm's unenthusiastic response.

I'm up at dawn

Be on my way

Mister travelin' man

Where you gonna be today? ...

Meredith says he harbors no what-ifs about his Cowboys career. But it remains a painful subject for some of his teammates.

"He took too much of the blame, and I think the press blamed him way too much," says Lee Roy Jordan, a Cowboys Ring of Honor linebacker from 1963 to 1976.

"I'm disappointed that we – the coaching staff and all of us other players – didn't take a more responsible role in taking on some of that negative press."

Jordan contends that if Meredith had played longer, the transition would have been smoother for quarterbacks Craig Morton and Roger Staubach.

Jordan says he means no disrespect to Morton, but he believes that with Meredith, Dallas would have won the 1970 season's Super Bowl.

Instead, Baltimore prevailed in that infamous "Stupor Bowl" V, 16-13, despite committing seven turnovers to the Cowboys' four.

"Oh, yeah," concurs Staubach. "Meredith would have won Super Bowls eventually, if he had stayed."

Staubach was finishing his Navy service when he learned of Meredith's retirement. Weeks earlier, Meredith had invited Staubach to his house during a Cowboys quarterback camp. Staubach played behind Morton in 1969 and most of 1970 before leading Dallas to the '71 Super Bowl title. Even then, he felt he had inherited Meredith's era.

"Literally, I almost felt guilty being the quarterback," Staubach says. "That's how much the team admired him. Those guys, to a man, loved Don Meredith."

Yes, he was free-spirited, nocturnal and favored J&B Scotch, much like his NFL hero Bobby Layne . But former Cowboys running back Walt Garrison calls Meredith a shrewd play-caller and uncanny leader.

"People are so stupid," Garrison says. "Meredith took us to the big game twice, with not the best talent. We had great players, but we didn't have the nucleus Staubach had when he came in."

Jordan says Landry appointed him as Meredith's road roommate, bodyguard and chaperon from 1965 through '68. He is proud that Meredith still calls him "Roomie."

The only drawback, Jordan says, is the all-too-vivid memory of Meredith enduring broken ribs, a collapsed lung, at least two concussions – and jeers.

"He got beat up bad, man. He was the toughest son of a gun I've ever seen, and I think I've seen a lot of them."

Their careers didn't cross, but Staubach says Meredith often encouraged him. As the man who glamorized the Cowboys quarterback position, Meredith knew its burdens, perhaps more so than any of his successors. In August, Staubach offered to fly Don and Susan to late-Cowboys receiver Bob Hayes' Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony. They regretfully declined.

"I was going to have him on stage," Staubach says. "I was going to point to him and say, 'This is the guy who really should be up here for Bob.' "

In hindsight, Jordan says Meredith's retirement "probably ended up being the right step for him at that time of his life."

It allowed Meredith to join Monday Night Football and meet Susan a year later.

"The brightest ray of sunshine that you could have in a guy's life, she has been it for him," Jordan says. "She has stabilized Don's life, guided and helped him."

Last month, Jordan and his wife, Biddie, traveled to Santa Fe to visit and ask a favor.

Would Don consent to being honored next April 28 in Dallas, at a luncheon benefiting the Greater Dallas Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association? Meredith, who has had family and friends afflicted with the disease, agreed.

Jordan says "A Tribute to Don Meredith: An American Champion" has had an outpouring of commitments from Cowboys spanning the franchise's half-century.

"It's going to be a tribute like you've never seen," says Jordan, voice cracking. "I love that guy so much.

He has been such an important part of my life."

I walk alone

Under windswept skies

For a travelin' man

Alone till he dies

The song's last verse evokes an "aw" from Susan. Don laughs.

His recall is patchy these days, but he can describe the moment and date, April 17, 1971, of first seeing Susan, walking along New York's Third Avenue.

"I thought I was seeing a miracle. Then, after we met, I wondered where she'd been when I really needed her." They since have spent only 24 nights apart.

Of the 914 men who have worn a Cowboys uniform, there have been more acclaimed players than The Original. But none have been more well-known, eclectic or enigmatic.

Troy Aikman is having a solid broadcasting career, but Meredith attained cult status during 170 Monday Night episodes, plus the '75, '77 and '85 Super Bowls.

Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin have danced with the stars, but Meredith is the only known Dallas Cowboy to guest-host The Tonight Show, on July 30, 1975.

Don and Susan joke that he tanked the monologue because reading cue cards wasn't his nature.

He saved face by trading barbs with guest and pal Burt Reynolds.

In those days, the Merediths spent more time in their second home, in Palm Springs, Calif. Next-door neighbor Dinah Shore had him co-host her show for a year.

He endorsed Lipton tea, had a recurring role in TV's Police Story and starred in the '76 movie Banjo Hackett: Roamin' Free.

Of course, Garrison likes to tease that the flick wasn't actually released. It escaped.

Meredith hasn't conversed with many sportswriters in the last quarter-century, but he did perform Neil Simon's Odd Couple on stage with Monday Night partner Frank Gifford. Along the way, Don and Susan took up painting and traveled the world.

It's been quite a journey for Jeff and Hazel's baby boy. Meredith, wearing his Mount Vernon class ring, retrieves a photo of his parents from a bookcase.

"Isn't that a great picture? I'm very thankful. I'm very thankful about where I'm from and who I am."

Though he has been somewhat homebound since his minor stroke five years ago, he channels his competitiveness into FreeCell, a computer-based card game similar to solitaire.

The statistics show that Meredith has won 18,339 of 21,959 attempts, or 83 percent. Not to brag, mind you, but his top winning streak is 40 games.

The visitor asks if the Merediths would mind posing for a photo.

"Only if she'll sit on my lap," Don says.

At interview's end, Meredith asks for the reporter's notebook.

He draws a flower, sings "Yellow Rose of Texas" and signs his handiwork.

One last thing. Susan asks Don to play the song from the other side of his 45 rpm record. It is more cheery, she notes. More like him.

Meredith melody, past and present, again fills the room.

Them that ain't got it can't loo-oose

I'm servin' notice on the bloo-ues

I ain't gonna try to build my fortunes high

For them that ain't got it can't lose

The Narnia Policeman

Douglas Gresham, C. S. Lewis's stepson and co-producer of the Narnia movies, is the keeper of his stepfather's flame.

By Mark Moring
posted 12/03/2010 12:24AM

When 2005's The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe—the first film in the Chronicles of Narnia series—was being filmed in Prague, the American ambassador to the Czech Republic visited the set. Producer Mark Johnson introduced the man to co-producer Douglas Gresham, the stepson of C. S. Lewis who had the task of ensuring filmmakers got everything right. He was essentially his stepfather's eyes and ears on the project.

When the diplomat asked Johnson about Gresham's role, Johnson quipped, "Oh, he's to blame." They all had a good laugh, but Gresham knew it was absolutely true: "That just about sums it up," he says today. When Narnia fans complain about how the films—Prince Caspian released in 2008, and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader hits theaters on at midnight on December 9—have strayed from the books, Gresham is their first target.

We spoke with him recently about playing that role.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - NOVEMBER 30: Douglas Gresham attends the Royal World Premiere of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader held at The Odeon Leicester Square on November 30, 2010 in London, United Kingdom (Photo by Dave Hogan/Getty Images)

Some fans think you've allowed the filmmakers to stray too far from the books.

Well, I do my very best. I don't always win my battles, and I fight a lot of them. Some I win, some I lose, some I compromise. It's not an easy job. I'm not always diplomatic; sometimes I'm pretty blunt. Sometimes I get up people's noses and make a real nuisance of myself. But there are things I will insist on.

Like what?

It's often to do with the theological or moral messages. I'm not saying that Hollywood people want to take them out, but often they just don't see it or understand the significance. Jack [Lewis] was very conscious of the fact that in the twentieth century, Western societies had decided in their infinite stupidity to dispense with the great nineteenth century values that were so important—personal responsibility, commitment, courage, chivalry, courtesy. The Narnian Chronicles teach such things, so I fight for those fairly hard.

What have you fought for on Dawn Treader?

I'm not going to tell you, because that wouldn't be fair to the people who fought with me! But I will say this: Dawn Treader is all about what happens when you commit your life to Christ and how the Devil gets at you. It's about temptation and what you do about it.

There were early rumors that Eustace, after he becomes a dragon, would fight with the sea serpent. That's not in the book.

Some folks were attracted by the idea that the dragon—Eustace—would earn his redemption by having a huge fight with the sea serpent. But I don't think that earning one's redemption is possible. It's a free gift from Jesus. So that scene is not in the movie. That was a nonnegotiable point for me. [Since this interview, CT has seen the film, and would contest Gresham's assertion that the dragon Eustace doesn't have a "huge fight with the sea serpent." Looked pretty huge from our seat.]

Filmmakers look at making a movie entirely from a filmmaker's viewpoint. I have to be both filmmaker and Narnia watchdog, and balance the two. It's not easy; it's a lot of pressure. People rely on me to do everything I can as a Narnian purist to keep these movies accurate—and to keep them Narnian. And when I make mistakes, they let me know about it. It's me who copes with the flack, but that's what I'm here for.

What's been the biggest complaint about the films?

There are people who don't believe anything should be in the movie that's not actually in the book—including set design, scripting, anything you can think of. This is on the same level, to a certain extent, as people who say you shouldn't go to McDonald's because there are no hamburgers in the Bible. People take it to extremes.

Can you give an example?

There was a rumor [before Prince Caspian released] that Caspian was going to have a huge romance with Susan. We rejected that idea early on, but it really got people worried on the Narnia fan sites. Somebody finally asked me, "What's happening here?" I said, "Look, there are important things to worry about, like global warming. I suggest you pay more attention to them than whether there's going to be a romance between Caspian and Susan." I knew there wasn't going to be a romance, but I wasn't going to say so.

Well, they did make eyes at each other, and they kissed at the end …

Look. You've got a beautiful woman and a handsome guy in an adventure together. Let's face it: They are going to make eyes at each other. And of course they kiss goodbye in the last scene, because here's this woman that Caspian's become attached to and he's never going to see her again. End of story. I don't regard that as a romance. I agree that it shouldn't have been in the movie; I think it was nonsense. But it wasn't something I was going to dig my heels in and scream and bite the carpet about.

Because it wasn't one of the bigger themes, or a theology issue?

Exactly. It did annoy a lot of Narnian purists that these two teenagers should actually be the least bit attracted to each other. I think the purists were just as out of line as the people who put that scene in, which I think was unnecessary and rather silly.

You're being diplomatic in calling them "Narnia purists." Others have called them the Narnia police.

Well, I'm the Narnia policeman.

Some are concerned that a professing agnostic, Michael Apted, directed Dawn Treader.

Why would one be concerned? When Tony Hopkins played C. S. Lewis in Shadowlands, he had just played Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs. He said, "Playing C. S. Lewis did not make me want to become a Christian anymore than playing Hannibal Lecter made me want to become a cannibal." So why shouldn't an agnostic direct this? The temptation for a Christian director would be to put his own Christian beliefs to the forefront. An agnostic is probably a good choice in that he doesn't really believe that there is a God, but he doesn't really have an antagonistic agenda either. If the man was a rabid atheist, we might have more problems.

What are your hopes for people who see Dawn Treader?

I would like them to walk out of the theater delighted with the movie they've seen, and with a deeper understanding of temptation and how to deal with it.

Our review of the film will post on Thursday, Dec. 9.

Chesterton's Journey to Orthodoxy

By Anne Barbeau Gardiner
From the November 2010 issue of New Oxford Review

Chesterton and the Romance of Orthodoxy: The Making of GKC 1874-1908.
By William Oddie.
Oxford University Press.
401 pages. $50.

In Chesterton and the Romance of Orthodoxy, William Oddie retraces G.K. Chesterton’s journey from heresy to orthodoxy. It’s hard to believe, but Chesterton was raised a Unitarian and, in 1896, at age 22, still didn’t believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ. Yet only a few years later, at age 29, he confessed his belief in Christianity in public. And in 1908, at age 34, he published Orthodoxy, a work about “the nature of his faith and the origins of his own beliefs,” a work clearly in “the Catholic tradition — rather than some version of basic or ‘mere’ Christianity.” It would be fourteen years before he entered the Catholic Church, but at this point he had already “completed the intellectual and spiritual armoury with which he was to wage a one-man anti-modernist counter-revolution for the rest of his life.”

This book is a milestone in Chesterton studies, which are still in their infancy. Oddie displays an impressive mastery not just of GKC’s printed works, but also of his manuscripts in the British Library, catalogued by R.A. Christophers and first published in 2001. This catalog, Od­die remarks, has established a new foundation for all future GKC scholarship.

Chesterton’s childhood (1874-1883) was a happy one, filled with the “white light of wonder,” but it was George MacDonald’s The Princess and the Goblin, a fairytale about faith, that made the deepest impression on him. This tale, in which a princess in a castle is attacked from below by goblins and uses a magic thread as her guide, made “all experience a fairy-tale” and gave Chesterton a vision of things that his conversion later confirmed.

At St. Paul’s School (1883-1892) he was found to be “unusually unreceptive to instruction.” Yet there he made lifelong friends and founded the Junior Debating Club and its journal, The Debater, to which he was the “most prolific contributor.” In 1892 he won a school prize for an anti-Catholic poem on the supposed failure of St. Francis Xavier’s mission to the Indies. Half of the twelve poems he published in The Debater were about religion and were of the same bias. When Ches­terton’s family attended Sunday services, they went to hear the Rev. Stopford Brooke preach a religion of love unhampered by creeds, dogmas, and Church authority — all of which Brooke denounced as the roots of intolerance and superstition.

Yet, strange to say, side by side with the anti-popery he had sucked in with his mother’s milk, Chesterton developed a devotion to the Virgin Mary and an admiration for the Middle Ages that would last all his life. In 1892, at age 18, he wrote in defense of Dante and of the belief in the communion of saints. The next year, in “Ave Maria,” his last published poem in The Debater, he addressed the Middle Ages as “O dead worlds of valour and faith, O brave hearts that strove hard to be pure,” and invoked the Virgin as “thou blessed among women, great pureness and motherhood hail!” The emphasis on purity is notable here. His friends later recalled that GKC was an “exemplar” of purity for them. When the club and journal ended in 1893, so did GKC’s “happy and extraordinarily creative boyhood.”

In the next part of his odyssey (1892-1894), GKC wrestled with the devil at the Slade School of Art. The enemy appeared to him in the form of the “decadent” movement — a morally subversive aestheticism that put the highest value on subjective experience and wallowed in pessimism. This movement also fostered “homoerotic sexual behavior,” which GKC said twisted “even decent sin to shapes not to be named.” In his revulsion at the turpitude around him, he came close to a nervous breakdown, but he learned from this that it was necessary to engage in combat with the devil. Later he recalled that, at the time, “huge devils hid the stars.”

And so Chesterton’s turn to orthodoxy was triggered by “a vision of positive evil.” As he put it, “I dug quite low enough to discover the devil…. Perhaps, when I eventually emerged as a sort of theorist, and was described as an Optimist, it was because I was one of the few people in that world of diabolism who really believed in devils.” In “The Diabolist,” a story he wrote later about his time at Slade, he remarked that he was “becoming orthodox” because he had arrived at “the old belief that heresy is worse than sin.”

In these “silent years,” he wrote a lot in his notebooks but published nothing. He was observing the world around him, “the creation of that liberal philosophy in which he had been trained,” and he perceived that this philosophy was powerless against evil. He regained his joy when he embraced the doctrine of creation, along with the gratitude it inspired. He now saw that the purpose of life was “to dig for this submerged sunrise of wonder; so that a man might suddenly understand that he was alive, and be happy.”

From 1894 to late 1896 he continued to regard Jesus Christ as simply the “perfection of Mankind.” His anti-popery continued, a component of his religious liberalism and the French republican tradition he had embraced. But at the end of 1896, Oddie finds a great turning point in the manuscripts — “an affirmation that this Son of Man, though indeed the greatest of all Mankind, was also something very much more.” By this time, Chesterton had met his future wife, Frances, a woman raised in the school of an Anglo-Catholic convent. Soon after they met, he began to shift toward orthodoxy. When they were engaged in 1898, he wrote: “Here ends my previous existence. Take it: it led me to you.” They married in 1901, and, though unable to have children, they enjoyed an enduring relationship “of the mind as much as of the heart.”

In 1900 GKC became part of an Anglo-Catholic clerical group that included Charles Gore, later bishop of Birmingham and founder of Pusey House, and Henry Scott Holland, founder (in 1889) of the Christian Social Union. That year he also met Hilaire Belloc and was impressed by his “dazzling abilities as a public speaker” and “original reflections on his­tory and character.” In this year, he privately embraced not only the dogma of Christ’s divinity, but also the belief in miracles. He spoke of the “error of dogmatising against dog­ma.” When his book reviews for The Speaker were collected and published at the end of 1901, one critic attacked him for his use of paradox. GKC replied that paradox could be equated with common sense because “there really is a strand of contradiction running through the universe,” for example, that goodness involves the power to do evil.

The year 1903 was a landmark year for Chesterton. For the first time, he “publicly, persistently, and sometimes aggressively confessed his faith.” Taking the role of “a committed apologist,” he engaged in a “pitched battle” about Christianity with the founder and editor of The Clarion newspaper, Robert Blatch­ford. In an essay titled “The Return of the Angels,” which Oddie considers a key document for understanding GKC’s intellectual and spiritual journey, he wrote a “personal manifesto” about “his former loss of faith in, and his commitment to, the Christian religion.” He defended the faith as “a hypothesis which, once tested, can become a means of perception, making sense of what was previously obscure.” Since faith is a way of seeing, the only thing to argue about is what is visible to a man who is blind and to a man who can see. When they refuse to experience faith, rationalists refuse to “test it.”

By the time this controversy ended in 1904, Chesterton had defended creation, Christ’s divinity, the Incarnation, free will, original sin, and miracles. He already saw Protestantism “as being in a kind of alliance with the unbelief of Huxley and Blatch­ford.” There are also hints that he believed in the sacraments. Although his defense of Christianity seemed lighthearted, it would later prove “massively influential over such intellectual heavyweights as C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien.” GKC had now realized “not only the extent to which disbelief in the Christian religion had become endemic in English culture; but, much closer to home, he had come to understand how much he had now isolated himself from the presuppositions of nearly everyone in the literary and journalistic world of which he was now a recognized part.” He had committed the unpardonable sin in that age of having declared that something could be “absolutely true.”

In 1905, in a chapter of his book Heretics titled “The Importance of Being Orthodox,” Chesterton wrote that while modern educators tried to implement religious liberty without defining the nature of religion and liberty, “the men who killed each other about the orthodoxy of the Homo­ousion [i.e., the doctrine that Jesus was ‘of one substance with the Father’] were far more sensible…. For the Christian dogmatists were trying to establish a reign of holiness, and trying to get defined, first of all, what was really holy.”

Finally, in 1908, Chesterton reached the apex of his spiritual ascent. He published Orthodoxy, a work inviting comparison to John Henry Newman’s Apologia pro Vita Sua; a work designed to show “that Christian dogma is the very opposite of a constriction of the human spirit, [and] to set the Christian creeds flying in the wind like great banners above a conquering army of liberation.” In this work, consisting of an “intensely visual sequence of almost cinematic images,” GKC plays the part of Everyman: “Only a mind whose horizons were so unbounded, a mind, too, so entirely and instinctively prompted by natural humility, could so naturally and so convincingly have assumed the role of Everyman.” Here he argues that Christian doctrine is not forced on reality, but is the key that unlocks “life’s real meaning” and leads to truths like original sin: “There had come into my mind a vague and vast impression that in some way all good was a remnant to be stored and held sacred out of some primordial ruin. Man had saved his good as Crusoe saved his goods: he had saved them from a wreck.”

In the chapter “Paradoxes of Christianity,” we come to “the intellectual and dramatic summit of the book.” Here Chesterton explains how truth is “cumulative,” and “spiritual certitude is a matter of the accumulation of inferences rather than of direct rational proof.” He tells us about the thrilling romance of orthodoxy, how through two millennia of history the Church kept a dynamic “equipoise” between opposites. She couldn’t “swerve a hair’s breadth on some things if she was to continue her great and daring experiment of the irregular equilibrium. Once let one idea become less powerful and some other idea would become too powerful.” There had never been “anything so perilous or so exciting as orthodoxy. It was sanity: and to be sane is more dramatic than to be mad.” It is easy to be a madman, a heretic, or a modernist: “It is always simple to fall; there are an infinity of angles at which one falls, only one at which one stands.” He now envisioned the chariot of the Church flying through the centuries, “the dull heresies sprawling and prostrate, the wild truth reeling but erect.” Orthodoxy had never been “a static principle denying growth,” but rather “a dynamic principle defending sanity.”

Also in the year 1908 GKC wrote “The House of Christmas,” one more poem expressing his devotion to the Virgin Mary. His antipathy to Rome was now gone, for as he observed in Orthodoxy, “the very word ‘romance’ has in it the mystery and ancient meaning of Rome.”

- Anne Barbeau Gardiner, a Contributing Editor of the NOR, is Professor Emerita of English at John Jay College of the City University of New York. She has published on Dryden, Milton, and Swift, as well as on Catholics of the seventeenth century.