The Real News of the Month

December 2003
Volume 10, Number 12

Editor: Joe Sobran
Publisher: Fran Griffin (Griffin Communications)
Managing Editor: Ronald N. Neff
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  -> The Passion according to Gibson
  -> The Passing Scene
  -> Taxation through the Ages
  -> Sacraments and Sodomy
Letters to the Editor
List of Columns Reprinted in This Issue


The Passion according to Gibson
(page 1)

{{ Material dropped from features or changed solely for 
reasons of space appears in double curly brackets. 
Emphasis is indicated by the presence of asterisks around 
the emphasized words.}}

     After following the months of controversy, I was 
invited to attend a special preview screening of Mel 
Gibson's film THE PASSION, a reenactment of the 
Crucifixion, with Jim Caviezil as Christ and a large cast 
of little-known actors speaking entirely in Aramaic and 
Latin. The film {{ as I saw it }} was still incomplete, 
awaiting final editing for its February release.

     First, as to the controversy. One liberal Catholic 
critic, who hadn't even seen the film, flatly predicted, 
after reading an early script, that THE PASSION will 
"incite violence" against Jews. Preposterous. It's the 
most distressingly violent film I've ever seen, all 
right; but virtually all the violence is directed against 
its principal character. And far from inflaming the 
audience, the film shows physical cruelty as unspeakably 
ugly. {{ When the screening ended, the preview audience 
sat in stunned, chastened silence. }}

     Caviezil isn't the candied Christ Hollywood usually 
offers, but an earthy and believable man. We first see 
him in the dark garden of Gethsemane, praying in deep 
anguish. He is in terror of the ordeal to come. But he 
knows it must come. I was reminded of Chesterton's remark 
that whereas other religions praise God for his infinite 
power, goodness, justice, and mercy, only Christianity 
has given him credit for courage.

     After his arrest, we see Jesus brought before the 
pompous, opulently dressed Sanhedrin, who are determined 
to convict him on any pretext. He maintains his dignity 
and speaks sharply. But of course the verdict is 

     Then we see him taken before Pilate, the most 
complex character in the film. Bald and stocky, with 
protruding ears, he seems a reasonable man who wants to 
govern responsibly. He knows Jesus is innocent and he 
doesn't like the situation; he must deal with unruly Jews 
on both sides. Hoping to appease the mob without 
capitulating, he orders Jesus to be scourged.

     The whipping seems to go on forever, and is the most 
painful part of the film to watch. The Roman soldiers 
whip Jesus mercilessly, mocking him as they do their work 
with relish and glee. {{ His back is in ribbons and the 
floor is smeared with his blood. }} Just when it seems 
that cruelty has reached its limit, the soldiers bring 
out their nastiest whips, with metal-tipped thongs to 
tear his flesh even worse. Then they place a crown of 
thorns on his head, pounding it to draw blood from his 

     Pilate is outraged at his men's excess, just as he 
is disgusted by the Jewish leaders' legalism. He makes no 
secret of his feelings, and you find yourself hoping he 
will call a halt. But his appeasement hasn't worked, and 
the crowd's mood is dangerous. Reluctantly, while trying 
to disown responsibility, he collapses and turns the 
exhausted Jesus over to be crucified.

     Throughout, Gibson uses flashbacks to show Jesus in 
childhood, in affectionate conversation with his mother, 
and in familiar Gospel scenes, including the Last Supper. 
The physical details are abundantly and arrestingly 
observed. The world of the Gospels seems palpable, and 
the false notes are few (maybe the final version will 
correct some of them).

     {{ Jesus staggers and falls several times as he is 
forced to carry his cross to Golgotha. The Crucifixion 
itself, though also bloody, is relatively brief.

     Gibson also shows, to great dramatic effect, the 
agony of Mary as she watches her son being tortured to 
death. We see the Apostles, terrified, demoralized, 
bewildered, abandoning Jesus almost as if there is 
nothing else they can do. They still don't realize that 
this is what he was he was preparing them for all 
along. }}

     Nothing remotely like THE PASSION has ever been 
filmed. I can only say that it leaves me at a loss for 

The Passing Scene
(page 2)

     In his November 6 speech to the National Endowment 
for Democracy, President Bush proclaimed "a new policy, a 
forward strategy of freedom in the Middle East." Equating 
"democracy" with "liberty" and "freedom," he said America 
will promote democracy throughout the region. The speech 
is confusing to read, a melange of lofty generalizations 
that would embarrass Woodrow Wilson; and of course Bush, 
unlike Wilson, doesn't write his own speeches, which 
makes it hard to gauge his sincerity. How much of this is 
the ventriloquist, and how much the dummy? Nothing is 
defined very well, but "democracy" is contrasted with 
"dictatorship" in a rhetorical melodrama of ideas, in 
which platitudes and half-truths mingle to encourage the 
public to nod in numb assent. Bush said nothing about 
weapons of mass destruction, barely mentioned terrorism 
or national security, and avoided any reference to 

*          *          *

     Good economic news: a recovery is under way. We're 
told that this will boost Bush's chances for reelection. 
And no doubt it will. But why is the Federal Government 
-- and specifically the president -- responsible for 
general prosperity? Shouldn't the market take care of 
itself? Part of the Franklin Roosevelt myth is that the 
New Deal ended the Depression, when in fact (as 
conservatives used to agree) it aggravated and prolonged 
it with its (unconstitutional) interference. Why does 
everyone now assume that the state is in charge of our 
economic life?

*          *          *

     THE JESSICA LYNCH STORY, Rick Bragg's authorized 
account of the ordeal of America's most famous and 
beloved woman soldier, reveals that she was sexually 
assaulted by her captors in Iraq. She disclaims being a 
hero: "I'm just a survivor," she says modestly. Well, 
thank God she did survive; but her experience vindicates 
all misgivings about putting women in combat.

*          *          *

     The elevation of the openly, actively homosexual 
Gene Robinson to Episcopal bishop is tearing his church 
apart. Should we be surprised? Two churches in New 
Hampshire are already seeking to be transferred from 
Robinson's authority to that of a New York diocese; a 
Nigerian Anglican archbishop has announced that he won't 
attend any future global conferences in which American 
Episcopalians participate. It seems the worldwide 
Anglican communion still includes many members who 
openly, actively practice Christianity.

*          *          *

     Partial-birth abortion, as it's called, is so 
nakedly nasty that you marvel that anyone could defend 
it: the child's brain is sucked out, its skull crushed, 
on the verge of birth. Both sides agree on one thing: it 
follows from the very logic of legitimating abortion. If 
a mother has the moral right to have her unborn child 
destroyed, she has that right from conception to the last 
moment before birth. If she doesn't have the right then, 
she doesn't have it at all. Give the abortion-lovers 
their point: they are perfectly correct to fear that if 
killing the child is banned in the ninth month, it may be 
a slippery slope toward banning it at *any* moment after 

*          *          *

     The pro-war newsletter "catholic eye" features, in 
its October 29 issue, insulting comments on Cardinal Pio 
Laghi for reiterating the Vatican's opposition to the war 
on Iraq. Since the cardinal was speaking for his boss, 
shouldn't the sarcasm be directed against the old pope 
himself? Come to think of it, why not rename the 
newsletter "republican eye"?

Exclusive to the electronic version:

     Howard Dean, seeking the Democratic nomination for 
president, ran afoul of his rivals by saying in a 
candidates' debate that he wants to broaden the party's 
appeal to the South -- specifically, to "guys with 
Confederate flags in their pickup trucks." All the other 
candidates immediately agreed that it was a reprehensible 
thing to say. Actually, it was the most refreshing thing 
any Democrat has said in decades. If only he meant it.

*          *          *

     Pressure from angry conservatives has caused CBS to 
cancel its movie THE REAGANS, a portrait of the marriage 
of Ron and Nancy. Bits of the script quoted in the press 
did sound unfair to the couple, and I can't blame Mrs. 
Reagan for being upset. But with a pair of sensitive 
performers like James Brolin and Judy Davis in the title 
roles, how bad could it be? Sometimes I wish 
conservatives would keep their shirts on.

Taxation through the Ages
(pages 3-5) 

     I've told this story before, but I'll tell it again. 

     In the summer of 1965, when I'd just finished my 
freshman year in college, I was reading a little book 
called THE LAW -- a long pamphlet, really -- by the 
nineteenth-century French legislator Frederic Bastiat, 
when I was riveted by a single sentence: "Look at the 
law, and see if it does for one man at the expense of 
another what it would be a crime for the one to do to the 
other himself." 

     In Bastiat's view, government, beyond the strictest 
limits of justice, became "organized plunder," a device 
by which "everyone seeks to enrich himself at the expense 
of everyone else." In other words, government itself 
tends to become the very evil it is supposed to prevent: 
crime. But it confuses people because it enacts criminal 
acts under the forms of law. 

     The simple insight rocked me. It upset my faith in 
my country and its basic justice. If Bastiat was right, 
the United States was already profoundly corrupt. It took 
me years to come to terms with this idea. Today it seems 
to me almost self-evident. I marvel that anyone with 
common sense thinks otherwise. 

     This means, for openers, that taxation is a gigantic 
system of fraud, robbery, and extortion. Most taxpayers 
receive nothing to justify the amounts they are forced to 
pay. Yet it's the taxpayer, not the ruler, who is treated 
as a criminal suspect and required to "confess" his 
earnings and holdings. The ruler isn't penalized for 
anything he does to the taxpayer. 

     This fact makes me wildly indignant, and I'm 
frustrated and baffled that so few Americans share my 
feelings. We are being robbed and cheated on an 
astonishing scale. 

     Once, during a radio interview (I've been known to 
repeat this story too), I was asked, "Why don't you ever 
criticize big business the way you always criticize big 
government?" I answered, "I'm not forced to do business 
with General Motors. If I do so voluntarily, I get a car 
for my money. But I am forced to do business with the 
government. Every year I'm forced to pay it roughly the 
price of a new car. And I've never seen that car. Someone 
else gets it." 

     Bastiat, a devout Catholic, reasoned about the state 
from a natural law philosophy. He concluded that the 
state violates the most basic principles of natural 
justice. Once you start thinking that way, you can hardly 
avoid thinking of politics as a largely criminal 

     At some level, most people know this 
intuitively. I think this accounts for the huge 
popular appeal of THE GODFATHER. We are all taught 
that the government is there to protect us from 
criminals. THE GODFATHER audaciously reverses our 
civics lessons: it shows us a benign master criminal who 
will protect us from the corrupt government. This is 
another sentimental myth, of course -- unlike real 
mafiosi, Don Corleone never extorts "taxes" from 
shopkeepers in the form of protection money -- but it has 
enough truth to seize our imaginations. 

     But the state's myth still prevails, and we submit. 
Most people see nothing questionable about state 
taxation, and politicians complacently assume their right 
to take our wealth. 

     Some Oklahoma politicians, for example, are 
currently in a tax-boosting mood. They want to raise 
taxes of all sorts -- income taxes, sales taxes, property 
taxes, excise taxes, you name it. 

     According to the National Taxpayers Union, the 
average Oklahoman *already* pays more in taxes -- 
Federal, state, and local -- than for food, shelter, 
clothing, and transportation *combined.* This amounts to 
26.5 per cent of per capita income. 

     How much is enough? What is the limit? At what 
point, short of taking 100 per cent of our earnings, do 
our rulers feel they are taking too much from us? 

     The obvious answer is that they recognize no limit. 
The subject never comes up. They view the taxpayer as an 
inexhaustible resource. 

     And why shouldn't they? The sad fact is that the 
American taxpayer is a remarkably passive creature. He 
merely grumbles at conditions far more oppressive than 
the tyranny that drove his ancestors to rebel against 
British rule in 1776. 

     One of the chief complaints of the American colonist 
was that he was taxed without his consent. Yet by today's 
standards, his taxes were amazingly low. Precise figures 
are hard to come by, but in 1764, for example, the 
average American was taxed by the Crown at the rate of 
sixpence per year. That is not a misprint. Six pennies 
per year. One penny every two months. Even adjusting for 
inflation, that is a pretty light tax burden. Today's 
children pay more than that in sales taxes. 

     And the British were cautious about raising taxes. 
Even a slight tax increase, as on a commodity like tea, 
could bring the colonies to a boil. 

     The Americans knew that a principle was at stake. 
Unlimited taxation could mean slavery. That is why they 
tried, at every turn, to nip it in the bud. 

     Under slogans like "No taxation without 
representation," Americans fought for independence and 
established their own governments. They thought 
self-government was their bulwark against tyranny and 

     But the problem turned out to be more complex. Even 
elected officials found it easy to abuse the taxing 
power, and self-government could be as predatory as 
foreign rule. Senator John C. Calhoun remarked that the 
most surprising thing experience in government had taught 
him was that it was easier to raise taxes than to cut 

     The Lincoln administration imposed the first Federal 
income tax to meet the costs of the Civil War. But again, 
by our standards the rates were amazingly low: the basic 
rate was 3 per cent, with a top rate of 5 per cent. Even 
so, after the war the U.S. Supreme Court soon ruled that 
a Federal levy on incomes was unconstitutional. 

     In 1913 the Federal Government surmounted this 
obstacle by winning a constitutional amendment 
authorizing taxes on incomes. No upper limit was set, but 
most Americans were unaffected. "Incomes" were narrowly 
defined; an unmarried taxpayer had to make about $50,000 
(in today's money) to pay the tax at all; and the top 
rate, a mere 7 per cent, reached only the very rich. It 
wasn't until after World War II that most Americans paid 
income taxes, but then the rates rose to their current 
punishing levels. And in recent decades most states have 
imposed income taxes too. Other taxes have also increased 
at dizzying rates. 

     At nearly every step, the government has had its 
way. Taxpayers have mounted only sporadic resistance, in 
what are often called "tax revolts." The phrase is 
significant. If our rulers are really our "servants," as 
self-government implies, why are the wishes of the ruled 
considered "revolts"? Can we "revolt" against our own 
servants? Or have they really become our masters? 

     The question answers itself. We might also ask, At 
what point does taxation become confiscation, theft, and 
even involuntary servitude? Our rulers -- we may as well 
say our masters -- never address this point. The Ruler of 
the universe asks only 10 per cent of our wealth. Our 
earthly rulers won't settle for such a modest share. They 
consider us "greedy" for wanting to keep more of our own 
money; they consider themselves "compassionate" for 
wanting to take more of it -- 20 per cent, 40 per cent, 
why not 80 per cent? 

     If the politicians had any respect for our rights, 
our property, our liberty, even our dignity, they would 
impose taxes only reluctantly, and they would acknowledge 
some just limit. They would act as if the money they take 
and spend is *our* money, to be used for the common good 
of all, and not for buying the votes of special interests 
and government dependents. In short, they would recognize 
that taxation is a *moral* issue, not a mere political 
convenience to be exercised arbitrarily and 

     I know of only one history of taxation, Charles 
satisfactory book; the writing is uneven, some of its 
judgments are open to question, and the subject is far 
too vast to cover in 530 pages. But it's about the only 
book dealing with the topic for the general reader, and 
it's full of fascinating information and anecdotes, 
backed by a basic wisdom. 

     Adams isn't categorically against taxation. He 
thinks there are "good" taxes as well as bad ones, and he 
argues, for instance, that the Roman Empire fell because 
it wasn't collecting taxes efficiently. He blames tax 
evasion for its demise, but blames its policies for 
fostering evasion. 

     Nevertheless, his narrative makes it hard to deny 
that "organized plunder" has been the very lifeblood of 
most states throughout history. In most times and places 
taxation, like slavery, was simply taken for granted as 
an inescapable fact of life; now and then there have been 
tax revolts, just as there have been slave revolts; and 
at times, especially since the Christian era, taxation 
has been recognized as presenting serious moral problems. 

     Aside from the Roman Empire, Adams thinks states 
have usually destroyed themselves through overtaxation. 
Greed is almost the defining mark, not of the capitalist, 
but of the state. Ingenious rulers have found a thousand 
ways, from slavery to debasing money to tariffs to 
exacting tribute, of appropriating others' wealth. At the 
same time, they fail to foresee how their own oppression 
will breed tax resistance. 

     Adams finds abundant records for this. In fact, many 
important archeological discoveries have been of tax 
inventories. The fabled Rosetta stone is essentially a 
tax record. "A large percentage of all ancient documents 
are tax records of one kind or another," he writes. "The 
day may come when historians will recognize that tax 
records tell the real story behind civilized life.... 
They are basic clues to the way a society behaves." After 
reading his swift review of history, you can hardly doubt 

     Taxation has always been big business, the biggest 
business of government. Hebrew complaints about the 
"oppression" of the Egyptian pharaohs seem to have been 
chiefly about the taxes imposed on them, which often 
amounted to, and were hard to separate from, slavery. 
(The Egyptians were cruel taxers, even sending scribes 
into every home to make sure people weren't preparing 
their food with untaxed cooking oil!) Sometimes we hear 
of taxation so casually that we hardly notice it, as in 
the Gospel accounts of Joseph and Mary going to Bethlehem 
to submit to a great Roman tax census. 

     As Adams sees it, history is largely the story of 
men's constant efforts to get the wealth produced by 
other men, with politics and the state as the main means 
of acquisition. It's amazing that this ever-present 
dimension has been so slighted in most history books. Men 
have fought for power for many reasons, but the strongest 
has always been their own enrichment. It's hardly too 
much to say that the story of taxation is the story of 

     Adams sees Old Testament history as the constant 
struggle of the weak Jews against powerful predatory 
neighbors, Egyptian, Babylonian, Persian, Assyrian, 
Greek, and Roman. Losing a war, or avoiding one, meant 
paying tribute. (We tend to read words like "tribute" 
without grasping their concrete meaning.) 

     In the often deadly game of politics, tax exemptions 
and immunities as well as taxes were key weapons. 
Exemptions were irresistible privileges and definers of 
social class; Islam owed much of its original appeal to 
its offer of tax immunity to converts. This sufficed to 
lure the great majority of Christians and Jews in the 
Middle East, still heavily taxed by the dying Roman 
Empire, to the Muslim faith. But in time, Muslim rulers, 
having run out of taxable infidels, became eager taxers 
of their own people, and Islam lost its zeal even in its 
own domains. "Islam ceased to spread when converts were 
not offered a tax break." Conversion had become a tax 
"loophole" that worked only too well. 

     In the Middle Ages, struggles between Church and 
state were usually over taxes and the authority to tax. 
Stern moral limitations inhibited taxation, especially 
new and "unheard of" taxes ("exactio inaudita"). Rulers 
who raised taxes were widely regarded as wicked tyrants 
who "incurred sin and would be punished by God." But 
churchmen sometimes had greater taxing powers than 
secular rulers. 

     Like Rome, argues Adams, the mighty Spanish Empire 
finally broke down because it taxed too many too much and 
was unable to enforce its demands on a resentful 
population. But one of his most original chapters says 
that Aztec Mexico fell to the tiny forces of Cortes 
because of its own short-sighted greed in taxing its 

     Adams likewise sees taxation, not chattel slavery, 
as the issue that precipitated the American War Between 
the States. His sharp reading of Lincoln's first 
inaugural address confirms this. (He has developed the 
argument further in another book.) 

     Only one country, as Adams tells it, has gotten it 
right: Switzerland. The Swiss have kept their government 
under control pretty well, in great part because they 
have had the wisdom to keep the taxing power and the 
spending power under separate agencies. He says this 
practice also preserved English liberty for a long time, 
but the vaunted American constitutional separation of 
powers overlooked this crucial distinction. The U.S. 
Congress taxes *and* spends. So we lack checks and 
balances where we most need them. Moreover, the Swiss 
federal government can't raise taxes without a popular 
majority, which is usually denied. The Swiss taxpayer, 
unlike the American, has learned to defend himself. 

     According to Adams, America's downfall may come 
gradually through its failure to control and limit the 
taxing power. A nominally "federal" system is in vain 
when the spending and taxing powers are combined and 
centralized. It's at least a provocative idea; but if his 
book teaches anything, it's that Swiss wisdom isn't 

     A version of this piece was presented as a 
     speech to the Oklahoma Council of Public 
     Affairs ( in September 2003.

Sacraments and Sodomy
(page 6)

{{ Material dropped from features or changed solely for 
reasons of space appears in double curly brackets. 
Emphasis is indicated by the presence of asterisks around 
the emphasized words.}}

     Andrew Sullivan has established himself as the most 
eloquent voice of "gay" Catholics in the American media. 
He recently wrote a piece on the op-ed page of the NEW 
YORK TIMES to bewail what he {{ chooses to call }} the 
Church's "hostility" to homosexuals.

     "How can I worship at the altar of intolerance?" he 
asks. "For the first time in my own life," he goes on, "I 
find myself unable to go to Mass." He insists that he is, 
and will always be, a Catholic. Still, "It would be an 
act of dishonesty to enable an institution that is now a 
major force for the obliteration of gay lives and loves; 
that covered up for so long the sexual abuse of children 
but uses the word 'evil' for two gay people wanting to 
commit to each other for life." He speaks of his "tears 
of grief and anger," his "distress," his "anger and 
hurt." "There are moments in a spiritual life," he 
concludes, "when the heart simply breaks."

     The immediate provocation for all this was the 
expulsion of a homosexual couple from a parish choir in 
the Bronx after they had gotten a civil marriage license 
in Canada and announced their union in the TIMES. That 
is, they had broken some long-standing rules of the 
Church and had publicized the fact. So the Church, in its 
intolerance and cruelty, had excluded them. "Gay people 
are the last of the untouchables. We can exist in the 
church only by silence, by bearing false witness to who 
we are." Gay people are denied "any outlet for their 
deepest emotional needs." Sullivan concedes that "this 
will not change as a matter of doctrine," but that 
doctrine was "never elaborated by Jesus."

     How can one fail to sympathize? Sympathy is called 
for. But so is reason. You must certainly pity the man 
whose sexual desires doom him to a life of loneliness, 
frustration, and social disapproval. This is also true of 
the pedophile to whom Sullivan adroitly and tactfully 
alludes (though without facing the analogy, which could 
be fatal to his case).

     You might even extend a bit of sympathy, if you've 
any left to spare, for the Church authorities, whose 
duties include enforcing ancient standards of moral 
conduct, which have suddenly come under attack. These 
standards apply to everyone; they aren't particularly 
aimed at homosexuals. But the bishop who does apply them 
to homosexuals, in today's climate, can expect to be 
publicly accused of "intolerance" and "hostility," in the 
pages of our newspapers, by lugubriously self-dramatizing 

     {{ Not all desires are "needs." Does a pedophile 
"need" sexual relations with children? Was the woman 
taken in adultery satisfying a "need"? What led or drove 
her to adultery? Was her husband cruel and unfeeling? }}

     Of course Jesus didn't specifically condemn sodomy. 
He had no reason to. The moral standards, the ones it 
still falls to Catholic bishops to preach and enforce, 
were known to everyone. Sexual relations were confined to 
marriage. {{ Nobody suggested it should be otherwise. }} 
It was taken for granted that the sexual appetite was 
unruly, but it was up to each person to practice 

     What is new and insidious is the custom of 
discussing people of a particular inclination as a 
persecuted minority. Sullivan falls into this habit 
without explaining why homosexuals should be an anomaly. 
No doubt it pains him that the Church still frowns on 
sodomy, but why should moral law yield to hurt feelings?

     Over the centuries, Catholic moral theologians have 
tried to figure out how the moral law applies to all 
sorts of situations. It's not as if *only* homosexual 
acts were singled out for censure, though this is just 
the impression Sullivan tries to create -- or rather, he 
makes it sound as if Church teaching were directed 
against homosexual *persons,* which of course it never 
was. Catholic doctrine, large and impersonal, was never 
determined by mere "hostility." It's childish to suggest 
that it was. You might as well accuse the Church of 
"hostility" to masturbators.

     But that, finally, is the problem with Sullivan's 
argument: its utterly self-absorbed childishness. He 
can't admit that a principle may be at stake; he demands 
that the moral law {{ itself }} be altered to accommodate 
homosexuals. The "doctrine" he objects to, he says, "was 
constructed when gay people as we understand them today 
were not known to exist." Actually, they *didn't* exist. 
There was no such thing as a {{ vocal }} "gay community," 
and people didn't use such phrases as "multiple sexual 
partners." (Imagine your grandfather referring to Grandma 
as his "sexual partner"! Worse yet, imagine her 

     Sullivan doesn't quite demand that the Church 
recognize "gay marriage," but he clearly resents its 
strong opposition to it. But again he fails to say what 
social end, besides sparing homosexuals' hurt feelings, 
would be served by blessing such unions, which, in the 
nature of things, aren't really marriages at all. As 
Lincoln is said to have asked, how many legs does a dog 
have if you count its tail as a leg? Four -- because 
calling a tail a leg doesn't make it a leg.

     If Sullivan is really as attached to the Church as 
he says he is, he might reflect that one reason for its 
hold on him, and millions of others, is precisely that it 
refuses to follow the absurdities of fashion. It claims 
no *authority* to call a tail a leg. To do so would be, 
in fact, an act of the very arbitrary authority he 
accuses it of exercising now.


SHARED PRINCIPLES: Urged on by President Bush, 
Republicans in Congress have cut a deal with the 
Democrats on prescription drugs for seniors that would be 
the biggest expansion of Medicare, ever. "We have come to 
an agreement on principles," says Senate majority leader 
Bill Frist of Tennessee. Exactly. (page 5)

SILVER LINING: Let's not lose our perspective when 
Federal spending, deficits, and the total debt are 
reckoned in trillions of dollars. Trillions may sound 
like a lot, but at least we aren't talking about *real* 
dollars. (page 8)

GIFT IDEA: The Massachusetts court's ruling in favor of 
same-sex matrimony has inspired dire predictions from 
conservatives. Here's mine: henceforth gerbils will be 
offered as wedding presents. (page 9)

WHODUNIT? JFK's murder is still, in the opinion of 
millions, unsolved. For me the key fact is that Lee 
Harvey Oswald didn't flatly deny all involvement in the 
crime; he called himself a "patsy," suggesting that he 
knew he'd been used. (page 11)

Exclusive to the electronic version:

RETROSPECT: It's now 40 years since John Kennedy's 
assassination! The JFK mystique remains amazing. Popular 
polls still rank him a "great" president, despite his 
short and undistinguished tenure. Me, I'll go so far as 
to rank him the least obnoxious of the Kennedy brothers.

UNLIKELY LIBERALS: Four former heads of Shin Bet, the 
Israeli security forces, have denounced the hard-line 
tactics of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon against the 
Palestinians, which they call futile, immoral, and 
dangerous to Israel itself. Having had to do Sharon's 
dirty work, they agree that it's failed even on its own 

JUDICIAL REVOLT: The supreme court of Massachusetts has 
ruled that the state legislature must revise the legal 
code to certify same-sex unions as marriages. A lawyer 
for the victors calls the decision "common sense." I 
guess it is, in Massachusetts. Unless, that is, the 
lawmakers can finally summon the nerve to do a bit of 

reactions of five viewers to an advance screening of THE 
PASSION. Four of the five -- two Jews (one a rabbi), two 
Catholics (one a priest) -- found it anti-Semitic. The 
fifth, a young black woman (presumably Protestant), found 
it fair and said it had "an incredible impact" on her. 

(pages 7-12)

* Limbaugh the Lawbreaker (October 14, 2003)

* "Compassion" and Talk Radio (October 16, 2003)

* Clarifying Premises (October 21, 2003)

* Airbrushing History? (October 23, 2003)

* Lansky's Complaint October 28, 2003)

* Implied or Usurped? (October 30, 2003)


All articles are written by Joe Sobran

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