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Affronts and Provocations
National Review Online ^ | Aug.25 2003 | John Derbyshire

Posted on 08/25/2003 5:22:52 PM PDT by NortNork

Affronts and Provocations Christians in America.

You have to excuse me. I'm a new American, not yet quite up to speed on national attitudes and approaches to things like, oh, Constitutional jurisprudence. Any time one of these church-state controversies blows up, I read the arguments pro and con, scratch my head a bit, then pull out my handy Cato Institute pocket edition of the U.S. Constitution, and try to figure out what all the fuss is about. In that noble document, I read the following:

Article VI: "...no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."

A bit further on I read this:

Amendment I: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..."

Far as I can see, that's pretty much it. I mean, that's all the U.S. Constitution has to say on the topic of religion.

Well, as I said, these things come up in the news once or twice a year, and each time it happens I pull out my Constitution, read those clauses, and ask myself, about whatever situation has come up: "Is a religious Test being required as a Qualification to some Office or public Trust under the United States?" Then I ask myself: "Is there any indication, sign, hint, or smidgeon of evidence here that Congress is attempting to make a law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof?" And guess what, gentle reader: In every case, in every single blessed case to which I have applied these tests, the answers have come up plain as eggs: No, and No.

So it has been with this flap over Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore and his Ten Commandments monument. SCOAL, like its big brother SCOTUS, has nine justices altogether. The other eight have overruled Chief Justice Moore on the monument, a 4-foot-high, 5,280-pound slab of granite with the Commandments clearly inscribed on it, set in the lobby of the State Supreme Court building here. They say the monument has to go. Alabama's attorney general Bill Pryor says so, too, though with regret, and some words of support for Moore. Pryor is up for a federal judgeship. He's having trouble getting confirmed because he's a conservative and a Christian, and Senate Democrats hate conservatives and hate Christians. Apparently in no mood to make things even worse for himself, Pryor has said that while he personally can't see anything wrong with "Roy's Rock," this is not a proper occasion for civil disobedience; and that even if it were, a chief justice is not the proper person to take the lead in such things.

Like other church-state stories, this one sailed easily through my pocket-Constitution test. Nobody has suggested that Roy Moore is lobbying Congress to pass a law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; nor does it seem that he demands those state officers under his control to recite the Nicene Creed as a condition of getting or keeping their jobs. Case closed. That slab of granite in the lobby? What about it? What harm is it doing?

Let's see what Roy Moore's opponents have to say, as to why they think the rock is illegal. Judge Myron H. Thompson of the Federal District Court, who has been presiding over the case, said that Roy's Rock is "nothing less than an obtrusive year-round religious display." So it is; but obtrusive year-round religious displays in state courthouses are prohibited in the Constitution... where? Martin Redish, whom the New York Times describes as "a Northwestern University law professor," extruded the following: "It's quite clear that the Ten Commandments are being used as a clear message of governmental support for a religious institution." Which institution would that be, Prof? The Church of Moses?

Now you may, of course, say that the Ten Commandments monument will give offense to someone or other. I can't fathom why anyone — other than dedicated polytheists, idolaters, blasphemers, and so on — should take exception to the Ten Commandments per se, but given the petroleum-vapor flammability of American sensibilities in this day and age, when "you people" is considered to be an insult of staggering audacity, and telling a woman she is pretty is more or less equivalent in law to stomping on her face with cleated golf shoes, I feel sure there are indeed people who will take offense at the Decalogue. So what? There is no Constitutional right to be preserved from offense, even when passing through a government building.

I myself, for example, take grave offense when I walk into the passport office on Manhattan's Fifth Avenue and see all the signs directing me here or there in English and Spanish. Don't you have to be a citizen to get a passport? And is not a citizen either native-born or naturalized? And if native-born, has the citizen not attended American schools, with instruction in English? Or if naturalized, has he not been tested for English proficiency as part of the naturalization process? Who, then, are these passport applicants who need directions in Spanish? No one can tell me, and I am severely offended thereby, though I believe that I shall probably survive the offense with mind and body intact. This is not a trivial example, either. The underlying issue here is far graver, of far greater moment to the life and future of our country than anything happening in Roy Moore's courthouse. Perhaps I should get the ACLU on the case. Ha ha ha ha ha!

What is really going on down in Montgomery is, of course, another battle in the bitter, hate-filled (never thought I'd find use for a lefty phrase like that — watch out for "mean-spirited") war against Christianity. One of the principal features of American life, which jumped out at me at once when I came to live here, and which I have observed with fascination ever since, is the seething, foam-flecked detestation that large sections of U.S. society feel towards Christians and their faith.

You see this all the time. You saw it in the John Ashcroft nomination hearings, when an op-ed piece in USA Today — written by the paper's former Supreme Court reporter — asked incredulously: "Can a deeply religious person be attorney general?" (A mere 40 years ago the sub-editor would have inserted an "ir-" in front of "religious," for fear that otherwise the question would make no sense to readers.) You see it in the endless stalling of approval for Christian nominees by Democratic senators. (If I were George W. Bush, my next nominee for a federal judgeship would be the most passionately devout Hindu, Buddhist, Zoroastrian, or Muslim I could find. Then I'd sit back in front of the TV and watch Chuck Schumer's head cave in.) And you see it in the horizon-to-horizon buffalo stampede beneath which is trampled to death any elementary-school teacher temerarious enough to ask her pupils to say a prayer for the country in time of crisis.

A lot of this is just naked snobbery. Some more of it is Jewish anti-Christianism. (All right, all right, I know we're not supposed to talk about this, but isn't it true? Lots of Jewish Americans are brought up to associate Christianity with pogroms, discrimination, and the atrocities of the Crusaders. Naturally they're anti-Christian.) Some of it is special-interest opportunism: pro-abortion and homosexualist zealots, for instance, see devout Christians as enemies to be defeated and humiliated whenever an opportunity arises. Some small part of it, I will grudgingly allow, may be actual principled belief in the idea, as wrong-headed as it seems to me, that U.S. law absolutely forbids any association whatsoever, in any shape or form at all, between government and religion, that latter term defined as broadly as it possibly can be.

I should like to make a modest suggestion. I think I am the right person to make it, belonging to neither of the fiercely interested parties. I am a Christian, and therefore obviously not one of the Christ-hating party. On the other hand, I am not a fundamentalist or an evangelical. In fact when I say anything in my columns about religion, I generally manage to tick those people off, and bring down on myself a hailstorm of scathing, scornful, or pitying e-mails. (Let me tell you, you have not plumbed the full depths of the phrase "holier than thou" until you have written about your own observances on a conservative website.) You could say I am reasonably impartial on this one. So here's my suggestion.

Huge numbers of Americans are Christians who take their religion very seriously indeed. A Gallup poll last December found 46 percent of us describing ourselves as evangelical or born-again Christians. That a lot of Americans, very nearly half. A lot of really good citizens, too. I mean, though I don't have numbers on this, it seems to me a pretty solid bet that any index of personal or social dysfunction you care to name — crime, delinquency, teen pregnancy, drug addiction, AIDS infection — is way lower among that 46 percent than it is among the other 54 percent.

The United States of America in this year of Our Lord 2003 is, I venture to observe, not so abundantly endowed with patriotism, good citizenship, self-restraint, marital fidelity, teen chastity, the spirit of communal self-help, and willingness to educate one's own children, that we can scoff and sneer at a group that embodies those virtues in far higher concentrations than can be found among, say, law professors, or Hollywood megastars, or U.S. senators.

So here is my suggestion to Judge Myron H. Thompson, Northwestern's Professor Pointyhead, Chuck Schumer, the ACLU, and all the rest of the Christ-purgers: Leave Christians alone. They are your fellow citizens — and, as citizens, better than average. Stop insulting them. Show a little respect. Stop enraging them. Stop picking on them.

I am generally cautious about finding malign motives in the actions of thoughtful, respectable people. The more of these church-state kafuffles I read about, however — and it came to mind in the recent noise about "gay marriage," too — the more I get the feeling that a lot of the driving energy behind modern liberalism is the desire to affront and provoke Christians. If I am right about this, I'd like to ask liberals: Why do you want to do this to your fellow Americans? Why the affronts? Why the provocations? Is there really some issue here so momentous that it is worth your creating all this rancor and division? What actual harm is Roy's Rock doing to any American? What, actually, is your point?

As I started out by saying, I am no authority on jurisprudence. It may be, for all I know — I really can't see it, but it may be — that there really are sound Constitutional grounds for your never-ending campaigns to scrub every last jot and title of religion from our public places. But just take a look at our country.

There is a war on: People who hate America are working day and night to destroy us. Just a few months ago they murdered 3,000 of us, and brought down two of our noblest buildings. Manufacturing jobs are long gone, and middle-class paper-shuffling jobs are following them fast. Public-sector unions are pillaging our state treasuries to fund their 50-90 programs (retire at 50 on 90 percent of your salary). Meanwhile, trial lawyers are chewing their way like termites through the private sector. We have 13 million illegal immigrants scoffing at our laws and helping themselves to the welfare provisions that citizens have spent their lifetimes funding through taxes. Two million of us are currently in jail, and the one-eighth of our population that is black supplies one-half of those inmates. Our education systems are collapsing under absurd demands that "no child be left behind" — everyone must be above average! — and hundreds of thousands of citizens have fled those systems in disgust to school their kids at home. Our universities are in the hands of nihilist ideologues who hate their own nation, culture and ancestors. The political system has seized up, impossible-to-cut spending programs crashing head on into impossible-to-raise tax rates. Drop a cigarette butt into some power generator in Cleveland and you can shut down the northeastern U.S.A. for a day. A North Korean nuke has been smuggled across the Mexican border and hidden in a filing cabinet on the 102nd floor of the Sears Tower. (I made that up, but if it hasn't actually happened yet, it won't be long.)

And action to deal with all these problems is massively hindered by the fact that we can't even talk about them in public for fear of being branded with one of the half-dozen modern equivalents of the scarlet letter — "racist," "nativist," "elitist," "profiler," and the rest of the idiot schoolmarmish cant we hear from the guardians of our public virtue.

In short, we are going to hell in a hand basket here, and all you liberals can think of is to jab your finger in the eyes of 46 percent of your fellow citizens over some footling dubious point of Constitutional law? Just ask yourselves — please, please, ask yourselves: Is Roy's Rock really a proper target for my zeal, my energy, my passion, my money? Is my reaction to it in any kind of proportion to any harm it might conceivably do?

One hundred and forty years ago, one of the giants of British politics was the social reformer and big-L Liberal William Ewart Gladstone. The mathematician Augustus De Morgan caused some mild hilarity in London by pointing out that the great man's name was an anagram of "WILT TEAR DOWN ALL IMAGES?" Is that — tearing down all images — actually the program of modern American liberalism? Does it not occur to you liberals, not even for a passing instant, that by purging all sacred images, references, and words from our public life, you are leaving us with nothing but a cold temple presided over by the Goddess of Reason — that counterfeit deity who, as history has proved time and time and time again, inspires no affection, retains no loyalties, soothes no grief, justifies no sacrifice, gives no comfort, extends no charity, displays no pity, and offers no hope, except to the tiny cliques of fanatical ideologues who tend her cold blue flame.


TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: antichristianbias; johnderbyshire; scoal; scotus; tencommandments

1 posted on 08/25/2003 5:22:52 PM PDT by NortNork
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To: NortNork
Great Read! Seperation of church and state is an abridgement of Gods rights.
2 posted on 08/25/2003 5:28:54 PM PDT by exnavy
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To: NortNork
Interesting take.
3 posted on 08/25/2003 5:31:54 PM PDT by tet68
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To: NortNork
A vigorous, two-handed bump to the top for another masterpiece by Derbyshire. Why is it that these English imports -- Derbyshire and Steyn -- use the King's English so much better than us Americans? Maybe because they were brought up and educated more in the classics -- surrounded by the words of those who used the King's English well.

We have our own set of such writers. Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, Madison, Henry. But we are not exposed to them in our educations because they are, after all, "dead white males." Alas.

Congressman Billybob

Latest column, "In the Justices We Trust?" posted on FR and ChronWatch, other publication to come.

4 posted on 08/25/2003 5:38:45 PM PDT by Congressman Billybob ("Don't just stand there. Run for Congress." www.ArmorforCongress.com)
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To: NortNork
BTTT
5 posted on 08/25/2003 5:40:10 PM PDT by Texas_Jarhead
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To: NortNork
"Is a religious Test being required as a Qualification to some Office or public Trust under the United States June 16, 2003

No Catholic Judges Need Apply

BOSTON, MA - Your Catholic Voice President Ray Flynn has sent urgent “wake-up” emails to 150,000 YCV members urging them to support the confirmation of Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor to the US Court of Appeals.

“To deny Bill Pryor a seat on the Appeals Court because he is a faithful Catholic is anti-Catholic bigotry pure and simple,” Flynn said. “Attorney General Pryor has all of the qualifications for confirmation. He is a man of integrity with outstanding legal background, and the judicial temperament to serve the nation.

“I pray we haven’t reached the day in the United States when faithful Catholic lawyers cannot serve on the bench because they are faithful prolife Catholics?

6 posted on 08/25/2003 5:43:09 PM PDT by Capt. Tom (anything done in moderation shows a lack of interest -Capt. Tom circa 1948)
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To: NortNork; Miss Marple; risk; kattracks; NutCrackerBoy; Chancellor Palpatine; Tauzero; lugsoul
An oustanding essay. Those who are not Liberal moles may want to take this to heart. Those who are, are in our prayers for we are instructed to love our enemies. But, Lord, it's hard.

Love and peace.
7 posted on 08/25/2003 5:51:01 PM PDT by moneyrunner (I have not flattered its rank breath, nor bowed to its idolatries a patient knee.)
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To: NortNork
These articles are interesting because in my old home town of La Crosse, Wisconsin there is currently a flap going on about a ten commandments statue in a public park. Some atheists complained, and the statue was to be moved. The land where the statue is located was purchased by the Lions Club whose building was across the across the street, but that wasn't good enough for a federal judge named Crabb who ordered the monument moved out of the park anyway. Is this not the federal government unconstitionally involving inself in state matters? Nobody is forced to look at the monument. I should add like Derbyshire I'm a Christian but hardly a fundamentalist nor even a church-goer. Neither is my fiancee who agrees with me and she's a Democrat to boot, but so what. The statue hurts no one. Our country was founded by people who were very religious and based our laws and constitution on the ten commandment. What's next? Remove in God we trust from the currency? These atheists have to get a life.
8 posted on 08/25/2003 5:51:31 PM PDT by driftless ( For life-long happiness, learn how to play the accordion.)
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To: moneyrunner
A most excellent piece. Spot on. Thanks for the ping.
9 posted on 08/25/2003 6:16:48 PM PDT by Tauzero (My reserve bank chairman can beat up your reserve bank chairman)
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To: NortNork
I stumbled onto this essay earlier today. I've been a "freeper" for a while now, and this is the first article I actually tried to post (unsuccessfully, I might add).

THANK YOU for posting this....and a great, big BTTT!

The essay is a great read~~~and a must save!
10 posted on 08/25/2003 6:17:36 PM PDT by Right_in_Virginia
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To: driftless
"...this one sailed easily through my pocket-Constitution test."

Well, from what I can tell, it does pass through the Constitution easily enough. On the other hand, if you would consider that this is taking place in Alabama, you might have the wisdom to consult the Constitution of Alabama. But, as you obviously did not, I have saved you the trouble:

Section 3: "That no religion shall be established by law; that no preference shall be given by law to any religious sect, society, denomination, or mode of worship; that no one shall be compelled by law to attend any place of worship; nor to pay any tithes, taxes, or other rate for building or repairing any place of worship, or for maintaining any minister or ministry; that no religious test shall be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under this state; and that the civil rights, privileges, and capacities of any citizen shall not be in any manner affected by his religious principles."

Now, if you would be so kind as to read the text I have put in bold, you will see that it is against the Constitution of Alabama to place the Ten Commandments outside the courthouse, as it shows preference to the Christian religion. The reason it shows preference to the Christian religion, if you could not understand, is because it has taken a symbol/article held sacred by a particular religion and placed it in a building that concerns the judiciary system of that state.

"Our country was founded by people who were very religious and based our laws and constitution on the ten commandment."

As a matter of fact, many of our founding fathers were not "very religious". Thomas Jefferson, for starters, is not thought to be a Christian; far from it, in fact. Benjamin Franklin also struggled with Christian values. Both of these men were the core of those that helped form the foundations for our nation. I will admit that many of our predecessors of this country were Christian, but many of the key people of that era were not.

11 posted on 08/25/2003 6:38:06 PM PDT by CBSmall86
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To: dixiechick2000; WKB; wardaddy; bourbon
Derb hits one out of the park. Here's a sample. You guys gotta read the whole thing, though.

There is a war on: People who hate America are working day and night to destroy us. Just a few months ago they murdered 3,000 of us, and brought down two of our noblest buildings. Manufacturing jobs are long gone, and middle-class paper-shuffling jobs are following them fast. Public-sector unions are pillaging our state treasuries to fund their 50-90 programs (retire at 50 on 90 percent of your salary). Meanwhile, trial lawyers are chewing their way like termites through the private sector. We have 13 million illegal immigrants scoffing at our laws and helping themselves to the welfare provisions that citizens have spent their lifetimes funding through taxes. Two million of us are currently in jail, and the one-eighth of our population that is black supplies one-half of those inmates. Our education systems are collapsing under absurd demands that "no child be left behind" — everyone must be above average! — and hundreds of thousands of citizens have fled those systems in disgust to school their kids at home. Our universities are in the hands of nihilist ideologues who hate their own nation, culture and ancestors. The political system has seized up, impossible-to-cut spending programs crashing head on into impossible-to-raise tax rates. Drop a cigarette butt into some power generator in Cleveland and you can shut down the northeastern U.S.A. for a day. A North Korean nuke has been smuggled across the Mexican border and hidden in a filing cabinet on the 102nd floor of the Sears Tower. (I made that up, but if it hasn't actually happened yet, it won't be long.)

12 posted on 08/25/2003 6:41:52 PM PDT by Yudan (Leave it to a Dimwitcrap to bring a knife to a gunfight.)
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To: CBSmall86
PREAMBLE We, the people of the State of Alabama, in order to establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, invoking the favor and guidance of Almighty God, do ordain and establish the following Constitution and form of government for the State of Alabama:

Same Constitution, sport. Maybe your creative interpretation isn't the orginal intent?

13 posted on 08/25/2003 6:51:04 PM PDT by moneyrunner (I have not flattered its rank breath, nor bowed to its idolatries a patient knee.)
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To: Yudan
Good Stuff BTTT
14 posted on 08/25/2003 6:54:51 PM PDT by WKB (3!~ ( You can hear it anywhere but only here can you tell the world what you think about it))
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To: CBSmall86
Moses received The 10 Comandments 1300 years before the birth of Christ. It shows preference to the Christian Religion?
15 posted on 08/25/2003 7:10:24 PM PDT by NortNork
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To: CBSmall86
that no preference shall be given by law to any religious sect, society, denomination, or mode of worship

Of course, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Alabama would tend to dissagree with you on the meaning and applicability of the state constitutional provision. Your argument also brings up the interesting question of "What is a federal court doing ruling on interpretaion of a State Constitutional provision, most especially concerning the practice of the highest Court in that state?"

as it shows preference to the Christian religion. The reason it shows preference to the Christian religion, if you could not understand, is because it has taken a symbol/article held sacred by a particular religion

Actually several major religions, representing most of the people of the world outside of Asia, and many there as well. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam for starters, and I believe one or two others, all have Moses and the ten commandments as centrally important.

In any event, The tablets are put as examples of Law, not neccessarily religious law. The Supreme Court of the United States has Moses and the tablets depicted on both the inside and outside of their building.

16 posted on 08/25/2003 7:13:48 PM PDT by El Gato
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To: CBSmall86
Did you mean to reply to me? I did not make the remark about passing the constitution test. And I was not referring to Alabama in any event. That's up to the people of Alabama.
17 posted on 08/25/2003 7:16:34 PM PDT by driftless ( For life-long happiness, learn how to play the accordion.)
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To: CBSmall86
Jefferson is commonly considered a "deist", not a Christian. However, "far from it" is hardly accurate--see his rewriting of the Gospels.

I agree with your thrust, but I also disagree with your notion of the Founders' vision of religion and state. Eleven of the first thirteen states had state churches. The Founders thought that states could do what they wished.

Of course, those notions became in extremis after the second American Revolution of 1860-1865.

18 posted on 08/25/2003 9:27:19 PM PDT by jammer
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To: driftless
Is this not the federal government unconstitionally involving inself in state matters?

I refer you to the last paragraph of my post #18. The 10th Amendment is moribund.

19 posted on 08/25/2003 9:29:42 PM PDT by jammer
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To: Congressman Billybob
Why is it that these English imports -- Derbyshire and Steyn -- use the King's English so much better than us Americans?

Honorable Billy Bob, it should be we Americans. In other words, better than we Americans do. Please accept my correction in the spirit it was given -- to be of utmost help and support. I am sure that you will kindly return the favor one day soon :-)

20 posted on 08/25/2003 10:16:34 PM PDT by risk
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To: risk
On this post you are absolutely correct. I read Supreme Court cases with the same accuracy that you just read my (high-speed) posting grammar. LOL.

However, posting as Congressman Billybob I made a different error. It should have been "us'ns" rather than "us" perhaps. The grammar of bad grammar is not well established.

Billybob / John

21 posted on 08/25/2003 10:58:45 PM PDT by Congressman Billybob ("Don't just stand there. Run for Congress." www.ArmorforCongress.com)
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To: CBSmall86
Most of the founders actually were quite dismissive of Roman Catholic doctrine. This is often misinterpreted to be a disbelief in Christianity. Jefferson and Franklin were Christians but did not really affiliate with any denomination.

As for the rest, Madison, Washington, Sam and John Adams, Hamilton, etc. They were all affiliated with Christian denominations.
22 posted on 08/26/2003 12:41:04 PM PDT by GulliverSwift
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To: Yudan
I finally had the time to sit down and concentrate on this great piece by Derbyshire.

To sum it up in one word---AWESOME!

You were right...he hit this one out of the park!

Definate bookmark...

One more thing...
"kafuffles"
I love that word! ;o)

Thanks so much for the ping!
23 posted on 08/26/2003 8:17:52 PM PDT by dixiechick2000 (Consiousness: That annoying time between naps.)
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