- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Safire’s dictionary

“Thus you may want to look up the deeper meaning of the phrase ‘inside baseball,’ and then find yourself musing on the subsequent entry for ‘inside the Beltway,’ and perhaps be amazed to find, as I was, that this expression was partly launched by Vice President Bush on ‘Meet the Press’ in 1984. (He employed it in its original populist sense, to denote a topic that was of no interest to the broad masses, and thus additionally helped to establish it as a term used largely by Washington elitists who claim to know what it is that the Great Unwashed really do and do not care about.)… …

“The authorship of the celebrated Barry Goldwater phrases about extremism in the defense of liberty and moderation in the pursuit of justice may well have been ‘attributed to speechwriter Karl Hess’ but is much more likely to stand to the credit of Professor Harry Jaffa. ([William] Safire redeems himself here, though, by quoting Martin Luther King’s ‘Letter From a Birmingham Jail’ - ‘Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists’ - which was written a year earlier, and wondering how things might have been different if Goldwater had cited that.)

- Christopher Hitchens, writing on “Talking Politics: What are they really saying?” in the July 7 issue of the Weekly Standard

Pour, O pour …

“For most of its history, alcohol has been considered as much a food as a recreational beverage. The pyramid builders got a daily ration of one and one-third gallons of beer. In medieval Europe, every child, parent, and grandparent ‘drank every day, and usually several times each day’; even monks were allowed up to eight pints.

“While Christianity adopted wine as a central holy symbol, the Koran banned liquor entirely - and yet it was Arab chemists who perfected the science of distillation, which produced a liquid they compared to mascara - in Arabic, al-koh’l. During Prohibition, American moonshine-makers didn’t have time to age their spirits, so they faked the effect by adding dead rats and rotten meat.”

- Sam Anderson, writing on “A History of Hooch” in New York magazine on July 6

Cultural racism

“Like racial scientists with their idea of racial type, some modern multiculturalists appear to hold a belief in cultural type. For racial scientists, a ‘type’ was a group of human beings linked by a set of fundamental characteristics which were unique to it. Each type was separated from others by a sharp discontinuity; there was rarely any doubt as to which type an individual belonged. Each type remained constant through time. There were severe limits to how much any member of a type could drift away from the fundamental ground plan by which the type was constituted.

“These, of course, are the very characteristics that constitute a culture in much of today’s multiculturalism talk. Many multiculturalists, like racial scientists, have come to think of human types as fixed, unchanging entities, each defined by its special essence.”

- Kenan Malik, writing on “Identity Is That Which Is Given” on July 9 at the site Butterflies and Wheels

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