Saturday, March 1, 2008

Obama's bizarre claim

Dan Riehl catches Barack Obama pandering to paranoia:
"If there is an Arab-American family being rounded up without benefit of an attorney ..."

Say what? I'm having a hard time believing any such thing ever happened, but it surely doesn't happen routinely. Note that Obama uses the specific wording "Arab-American family" -- not an individual, not someone here on a work or student visa, but an Arab-American family, a phrase which to me signifies actual U.S. citizens, or at least long-term legal "green card" residents.

If any such persons indeed have been "rounded up without benefit of an attorney," Obama's campaign had better be prepared to provide their names and documentation of their case, because otherwise he's making a very harmful and irresponsible accusation.

It's almost as if he's trying to hand the nomination to Hillary.

UPDATE: Atlas Shrugs makes an obvious point: "CAIR would be screaming bloody murder."

My son, teen rock legend

Bob, one of my 15-year-old twin sons, demonstrates an original composition:

OK, so it's not to my taste -- I'm more into classic rock and R&B -- but I give the boy credit for having basically taught himself to play. Bob practices constantly, and while non-guitarists may not have noticed, he's learned "back-picking," which effectively doubles his speed. He reads tablature. Now, if I can just get him to learn the old classics by Chuck Berry, Little Richard, The Beatles, The Stones ... sigh.

Bob's twin brother Jim also plays (guitar, bass and a little bit of keyboard), but right now Jim's more into fixing up his old Dodge truck and talking to his girlfriend. You know how that goes.
This photo shows Bob (L) and Jim (R) together. They're both smart and funny and good-looking. Some things are just hereditary, I guest.

Adios, Tim Goeglein

"I've been plagiarizing all my life. It's called learning."
-- Hunter S. Thompson

The discovery (for which Nancy Nall deserves credit) that White House aide Tim Goeglein plagiarized material in columns he published in his hometown paper has led to his resignation:
A longtime aide to President Bush who wrote occasional guest columns for his hometown newspaper resigned on Friday evening after admitting that he had repeatedly plagiarized from other writers. ...
The aide, Tim Goeglein, had worked for Mr. Bush since 2001, as a liaison to social and religious conservatives, an important component of the president’s political base. ...
“This is not acceptable, and we are disappointed in Tim’s actions,” a White House spokeswoman, Emily Lawrimore, said Friday morning, hours before Mr. Goeglein resigned. “He is offering no excuses, and he agrees it was wrong.”
Mr. Goeglein, 44, is little known outside Washington. ...
With Mr. Bush traveling to his ranch in Crawford, Tex., for the weekend, the White House issued a statement late Friday saying that the president was disappointed and saddened for Mr. Goeglein and his family.
“He has long appreciated Tim’s service,” the statement said. “And he knows him to be a good person who is committed to his country.”
Mr. Goeglein had been publishing guest columns on the opinion page of The News-Sentinel in Fort Wayne [Indiana] for more than a decade, according to the paper’s editor, Kerry Hubartt.
Plagiarism is unacceptable in any context, but it's simply inexplicable that anyone would plagiarize for a column. Almost by definition, the columnist is expressing his idiosyncratic perspective, or else -- in the case of a news-oriented columnist like Robert Novak -- reporting exclusive information. To use the format of a personal column as a venue for plagiarism strikes me as utterly nonsensical.

Surely, Goeglein must have some explanation. Perhaps the column for the Indiana paper was just an attempt to maintain a print presence in his hometown, so that when his White House gig ended, he'd still be a known quantity (and valuable commodity) back home.

Whatever the reason, it was an unworthy abuse of the press, and a fraud perpetrated on readers.

More reaction at Outside the Beltway, Hot Air and Memeorandum.

Ron Robinson on Buckley and bias

Thursday evening, Young America's Foundation President Ron Robinson was at the Magic Gourd restaurant in Washington to teach an activism seminar for members of the George Washington University YAF chapter.

Robinson's presentation was about the nature of media bias, but his mind was clearly on the recent death of William F. Buckley Jr., the "conservative icon" to whom Robinson paid tribute on the YAF Web site:
"William F. Buckley Jr. was the founder of the modern YAF movement and a longtime friend of Young America's Foundation. The staff and board of Young America's Foundation send our thoughts and prayers to his family and friends."
While waiting for the event to begin, Robinson talked to me about what a tremendous loss Buckley's death is for the conservative movement. Later, during his remarks to the GWU students, he related anecdotes about Buckley, including the National Review founder's famous 1965 response when asked what was the first thing he would do if he won election as mayor of New York City: "Demand a recount."

Robinson told the GWU students that Buckley would be proud of the work their YAF chapter was doing on campus. And while even liberals praised Buckley at his death, it wasn't always so, the YAF president reminded the students. When he was in high school, Robinson said, one of his teachers told him Buckley was "more dangerous than Hitler."

The notion that conservatives are dangerous and menacing is propagated chiefly through the news media, and Robinson's presentation consisted of more than 100 slides showing covers of Time and Newsweek magazines, contrasting how liberal and conservative figures were portrayed. A November 1994 cover of Time featuring Newt Gingrich with the headline, "MAD AS HELL," was one example.

"How did you become a conservative?" Robinson asked the GWU students. "I bet it wasn't because of an overload of conservative teachers or professors. I bet it wasn't because of anything you saw on ABC, CBS, NBC 'Nightly News.' I know it wasn't because of anything you saw on the cover of Time or Newsweek."

With the assistance of Ron Robinson, YAF's national headquarters staff and local supporters, the George Washington University YAF chapter -- led by seniors Sergio Gor and Iris Somberg -- is becoming a model for conservative campus activism nationwide. Thursday's seminar was attended by more than 30 members, including freshman Joe Sangiorgio, whose notes on Robinson's presentation were essential to the preparation of this report.

A featured post at Memeorandum -- thanks!

Friday, February 29, 2008

Of Drudge and duty

Reaction to the Drudge Report's revelation that Prince Harry was serving in Afghanistan (the prince has now been withdrawn) includes some unusual discussion of "journalism ethics" -- with quotation marks that are quite necessary, I think.

Of course, Prince Harry's willingness to serve his country is entirely admirable, and the fact that the Drudge scoop led to Harry's withdrawal is to be lamented. Still, I can't go along with this suggestion from my friend Jeff Quinton of the Inside Charm City blog:
Since Drudge really isn’t that necessary anymore for news, and his scoops are few and far between anymore, why not drop Drudge? Remove his link from your website, de-link him from your blog and don’t link to him.
No. And not because I endorse what Drudge did. Rather, I think whatever blame there is in this matter must fall on Drudge's source. The sources were presumably parties to the agreement that kept details of the prince's deployment out of the news for three months.

It was the sources who broke the agreement. Drudge was never part of that agreement. Someone had a duty to keep this quiet, but that someone was not Matt Drudge.

Who leaked it to Drudge, and why? That's an interesting question, though I doubt we'll ever know the answer. I've never known Drudge to burn a source. But if you're looking for someone to blame in this affair, you need to ask yourself who that source might have been, and why they told Drudge.

Truth is a journalist's ultimate defense. When I was starting out in this business more than 20 years ago, my editors would tell me, "As long as you've got your facts straight, they can't touch you." For all the talk about how the New Media revolution has changed everything in the news business, that Old School rule still holds.

Of course, a smart journalist quickly figures out that he needs to earn his sources' trust, and that the ability to keep a secret -- making sure what's off the record stays off the record -- is essential to building a relationship of trust with those sources.

Drudge is no dummy. Reverse-engineering this Prince Harry story, I would bet that Drudge's source was someone in the British press corp who was eager to report on Prince Harry's Afghan adventure, but who was constrained by the agreement to keep his deployment secret. Therefore, the source tipped Drudge in order to blow away the agreement.

That's just a guess and, like I said, we'll probably never know the facts. But I still say that it is the source, and not Drudge, who bears the responsibility for this leak.
Linked at Newsbusters and Memeorandum -- thanks!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

On cleavage

Writing in Smart Set, Jessa Crispin reviews The Meaning of Sunglasses by Hadley Freeman, quoting her thus:
“Show me a woman with a good three inches of cleavage on display, and I’ll show you a woman who, rightly or wrongly, has little faith in her powers of conversation.”
Well, I wouldn't presume to know what a low neckline says about a woman's self-image, but I have always found the display of cleavage problematic in the workplace. Whatever a woman may choose to wear to a party or to the beach is her own private choice; but what she wears to the office affects everyone there.

In Washington, the term "skinterns" was coined a few years ago to describe the bare-as-you-dare way styles favored by some female interns. It's mind-boggling what some of them consider appropriate or acceptable for office wear.

On the one hand, I am sympathetic to the interns' plight, recalling what it was like to try to put together a week's worth of business attire when I first graduated college. These interns are mostly college juniors and seniors who probably can't afford to go to Lord & Taylor or Macy's and buy a whole wardrobe of power suits and nice dresses (which will be out of fashion by the time they graduate, anyway).

On the other hand, the display of cleavage in the workplace is completely inappropriate and unprofessional. It's distracting and annoying. Even if you've got cleavage worthy of admiration, displaying it at the office will only incite envy among your female colleagues, while causing your male colleagues to fear that you're attempting to entrap them in a sexual-harassment suit. (Trust me, guys do worry about that kind of stuff.)

Please, ladies, reserve the display of decolletage for your disco dates, and save those strapless sundresses for Sundays in the park. Even if you want to draw the interest of some fellow at work, baring your bosom is not the best way to do it.

Remember: If you dress in the way that leaves nothing to the imagination, you'll only attract guys with no imagination.

Masonic conspiracy in Russia?

My friend Matt Keller called my attention to this story in the Moscow Times:
Perhaps nothing in Russia can whip up public hysteria like the notion of a Masonic conspiracy to take over the country. The word "democrat" has also become a widely pejorative term, and long hair on men is certainly a no-no for much of the Russian public.
Now meet Andrei Bogdanov, the presidential candidate with long, curly hair who heads up the country's largest Masonic lodge as well as the Democratic Party of Russia.
At 38, Bogdanov is Russia's youngest-ever presidential candidate, and he is running a long-shot campaign in the March 2 election that First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, President Vladimir Putin's preferred candidate, is all but guaranteed to win.
Bogdanov's party is also widely seen as a Kremlin-controlled project to draw votes away from actual opposition candidates and give voters a tame liberal option.
But Bogdanov says he is truly optimistic that he can eventually draw widespread support among young voters -- despite his Masonic background and cascading locks.
"We are working for the future," Bogdanov said in an interview this week at his party's headquarters in central Moscow. "A new generation of voters will emerge soon with a better knowledge of Freemasonry and with fewer prejudices about it -- and about the long hair."
Kind of funny, given all that the Russians have to worry about, that Bogdanov's long hair and Masonic membership would generate such concerns.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Bill Buckley, R.I.P.

Alas, he died working in his study. (Via Memeorandum.)

When I was growing up in Douglas County, Ga., I used to read Buckley's columns in the Atlanta Journal. For a boy 11 or 12 years old, reading Buckley was a splendid educational experience because I was so often forced to look up those fancy words he liked to use.

Years later, in the mid-1990s, when I was beginning to reconsider my loyalty to the Democratic Party, one of the first conservative books I read that helped change my mind was Buckley's classic Up From Liberalism -- first published in 1959, the year of my birth.

Buckley meant so much to the conservative movement. He was not only a magazine publisher, author and columnist, but for years in the 1950s and '60s, Buckley was the most public face of conservatism. He'd go on "The Tonight Show" or some other TV program and -- with his superbly honed skills of rhetoric and logic -- represent in fine fashion the movement he helped to build.

His jut-jawed aristocratic demeanor and his British-influenced locution conveyed an upscale sensibility that helped make conservatism appealing and respectable in an age when liberal spokesmen otherwise dominated the public discourse.

He will be missed.

UPDATE: Here's Buckley debating Noam Chomsky in 1969:

UPDATE II: Jimmie at Sundries Shack was also influenced by Buckley:
Between National Review magazine and his indispendable weekly Firing Line television shows, Buckley filled my teenaged mind with facts and arguments that required me to read a lot more than I already was just to keep pace.
Just so, Jimmie. Just so.

This is cool

When you Google this phrase from The Breakfast Club, the first return is to my blog post from February 2007. A banner year at the Bender household ...

Restoring hope for marriage

The Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute is having a contest for college students to win a hope chest:

The prize (you guessed it--a fabulous, authentic, cedar-lined hope chest filled to the brim with fun, fancy and frivoulous items that any newlywed would would envy) not only celebrates marriage, but makes the man-hating feminists crazy!
Deadline is March 14, and you can read the details here. The prize will go to the student who signs up the most of her fellow students to receive the 2008 "Luce Ladies" calendar, featuring such conservative stars as Michelle Malkin:

Blogging at Wendy Shalit's "Modestly Yours" site, Princeton student Cassandra DeBenedetto writes:

CBLPI is encouraging women to set their sights (and hearts) on marriage instead of sex.
Common misconceptions about medieval marriage law and customs associate hope chests and dowries with women being devalued as property. In reality, these traditions carried with them no such degradation. Hope chests were simply used to store the hand-made goods and other items that a woman wished to bring to her future marriage. Essentially, a hope chest was part of her preparation for those first couple years of marriage, and, as the name suggests, symbolized her hope in marriage.
Very true, although I hope Miss DeBenedetto will see the error in her phrase "marriage instead of sex." It's not an either/or proposition. Sex is quite nearly essential to marriage. Setting your sights on marriage certainly doesn't mean you're not interested in sex; it just means waiting 'til you say "I do" before you ... well, before you do.

Perhaps Miss DeBenedetto would have said "marriage instead of promiscuity" or "marriage instead of fornication," but she probably didn't want to sound judgmental.

Me, I've got no such compunction. I'm a married father of six, my eldest child is an 18-year-old college sophomore, and I know I wouldn't want her whoring around like some of these girls do.

Being judgmental is part of a parent's job. And part of the problem affecting young people nowadays is that parents are failing at that job, because it's politically incorrect to speak the blunt truth about certain things.

Debating about nothing

Last night's Democratic debate (via Memeorandum) was merely about tactics, beginning with a discussion of the mutual finger-pointing between Hillary and Obama over whose health-care plan would provide the most coverage for the most people.


I reject the idea that it is vitally significant who "won" that debate. Hillary and Obama are agreed on the only important question: Who is responsible for your health-care costs? They answer in unison: Not you.

Here is Hillary from last night's debate:
You know, health care reform and achieving universal health care is a passion of mine. It is something I believe in with all my heart. And every day that I'm campaigning, and certainly here throughout Ohio, I've met so many families -- happened again this morning in Lorain -- who are just devastated because they don't get the health care they deserve to have. (Emphasis added.)
"Deserve"? In what sense does anyone deserve health care? Health care doesn't just materialize out of thin air. Doctors and nurses require years of training, hospitals and offices must be built and maintained, drugs must be developed, manufactured and tested, etc. These are the things that, added together, we call "health care," and they cost a lot of money. So the question is, who's going to pay the bill?

Ultimately, it makes sense for the cost to be paid by the person receiving the care. He chooses what medical goods and services he wants, and because he's paying the bills, he has an incentive to choose wisely.

But if health care is an entitlement and a right -- if someone can be said to "deserve" a certain amount of medical goods and services -- then there is no longer any incentive to thrift, no reason for the individual to be careful in his health-care choices. This is the biggest reason why health-care costs have spiralled out of control in recent years: Third-party-payer systems that encourage people to go to the doctor's office (and take the prescribed medicines) without regard to the ultimate cost.

Some of the most important health-care choices, such as eating well and exercising regularly, are neglected because people know they can get "free" medical treatment if they ruin their health. Go to a buffet restaurant sometime and watch as hugely obese people fill their plates with red meat and other fatty foods -- that is what is driving the so-called "health-care crisis" in America. And both Obama and Hillary, by advocating universal health care (i.e., government-run, taxpayer-funded socialized medicine) are only promising to make things worse.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Pelosi's partisan priorities

Rep. Trent Franks, Arizona Republican, is steamed at the misplaced priorities of the Nancy Pelosi Democrats:
Almost 2 weeks ago, the House of Representatives adjourned for vacation after House leadership decided to allow the Protect America Act to expire rather than bring the Senate's version to a vote, which would have passed easily. Then today, in its first official act since adjourning for vacation, the Democrat leadership of the House Judiciary Committee decided to subpoena a former Secretary of State from Ohio whose only offense was to politely decline an invitation to appear at a hearing. I find it absolutely appalling that Democrats are choosing to sacrifice our first responsibility, which is providing for the protection and security of the American people and our troops abroad whose security desperately depends on foreign intelligence -- and instead are focusing on yet another political goose chase for the sake of partisan politics.
If Pelosi & Company are trying to ensure that their tenure as the House majority is a short one, they're doing a good job. Even the Associated Press can't help noticing how ridiculous they look:
With a week to go before a new round of critical presidential primaries, the hearing in Congress showed just how much lingering suspicion remains among Democrats over the last two presidential elections.
Democrats on the subcommittee won a vote authorizing a subpoena for Kenneth Blackwell, a Republican and Ohio's top election official in 2004, the year many Democrats charged that their supporters were being discouraged from voting. The state's 2008 presidential primary takes place next Tuesday.
Republicans on the panel derided the subpoena effort as a waste of time.
The alleged "voter suppression" is nothing of the kind. In fact, such complaints occur almost exclusively in Democrat-dominated urban precincts and are not the result of Republican malice, but of incompetent election officials in those precincts.

Oh, it's Tuesday, isn't it?

Having been out of the country for two weeks -- and nearly incommunicado for most of that time -- I lost track of U.S. politics, but it seems like y'all kept things interesting in my absence.

As I had predicted from the get-go, liberals would keep giving Crazy Cousin John the softball treatment right up until he had the GOP nomination locked, and then they'd unleash the dirt machine. Don't say you weren't warned.

On the Democratic side, it looks like Hillary's got it nailed, despite Obama's surging popularity. If she's managed to hang in this far, she's not going to blow it now.

But ask me if I care. I don't. I really don't.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Bryan, Michelle &

For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?
-- Hebrews 12:6-7 KJV
* * * * *
Last week, I called Bryan Preston to tell him about an upcoming news opportunity and was surprised to hear that he was leaving Hot Air to take a job with Laura Ingram, as Michelle Malkin announced Sunday. (Junkyard Blog reacts here.)

Bryan and I got to be pretty good buddies back in the summer of 2006, and he sometimes answered the phone at odd hours when I'd call to vent my spleen or pass along a tip. Bryan was kind of a night owl like me. I had a 70-mile commute from Hagerstown to Washington and would often use the time to talk news and politics on the cell phone. When you're commuting 15 hours a week, it's best to try to get some work done while you're driving, and Bryan was one of the guys I'd call most often.

"Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue," I'd often say when things got stressful at The Washington Times, quoting the famous line spoken by Lloyd Bridges in "Airplane."

Like Bridges' character, Steve McCroskey, sometimes we do or say crazy things when our jobs become stressful. To anyone who takes pride in his work, it always seems irrational and unjust when you're working as hard as you can and still not getting the kind of results you want. Sometimes (and I've experienced this myself several times) you get chewed out for taking the initiative and trying to do the best for your company.

When you find yourself in one of those career cul-de-sacs, when it seems like you're living some absurdist nightmare scripted by Ionesco or Sartre, it is small comfort to remember that God is sovereign, that there are no accidents, and that God's will for your life is being worked out for you, if only you'll be patient.

Perhaps godless people have an easier time in such situations, since without God there can be no duty, and without duty there can be no honor. Bryan is an honorable man and a sincere Christian, and when things weren't working out for him at, it was hard for him to talk to me about it. He could not betray the trust conveyed to him. For the longest time, Bryan bit his tongue and didn't let on that there was "a disturbance in The Force," a phrase from "Star Wars" I like to use to describe such situations.

I learned of the disturbance in The Force for Bryan accidentally -- because I learned from another source about a seemingly inexplicable decision where a non-answer was, in a sense, an answer. So since last fall, I've been very sympathetic to Bryan's predicament, which was so similar to what I faced at The Washington Times before I resigned in January.

Something I learned from my experience, and something I think Bryan also sees, is that we need to learn to face difficult circumstances with calm confidence. I am a poor excuse for a Christian, but I have faith in the power of prayer, and when things were bleak for me at The Washington Times, I always knew that this was a job my wife and I had prayed I'd get. If it wasn't going right, there had to be a reason.

After many hours of enforced meditation on this theme, I came to two important conclusions:
  • Any apparent conflict between one's self-interest and one's honor is only apparent. It is never in one's interest to act dishonorably.
  • If things aren't going right for you and you can't find anyone else to blame, try looking in the mirror and saying to yourself: "It is all my fault."
Well, it seems there has been a happy ending for Bryan -- a win-win where he goes out smiling, without burning any bridges, and can now find a new employee who better fits what they need for their company.

When Christians get chastised, we need to learn to be grateful for the lesson, and not complain.

Return of The Muzungu

OK, I'm back from Africa and trying to decompress from the intensity of the experience. Some of the stuff that happened seems like a wild fever dream at this point.

Africa was great. Kampala, the capital of Uganda, is lovely in February, and any tourist will be assured a splendid time if, after landing at Entebbe International Airport, he catches the shuttle bus to the luxurious Kampala Serena Hotel, a five-start resort to compare with any in the world. (If you're down at the poolside lounge, your waiter might be my friend Robert. Tell Robert to bring you a cheeseburger and a Bell Lager, the preferred beverage of famous international correspondents.)

I didn't go to Uganda as a tourist, but as a professional journalist. My services had been contracted and half the fee had already been received. Getting the other half is contingent on the publisher getting 70,000 words by May 1. That should be no sweat, honestly, though when worried friends would warn me about the dangers of my intinerary, including a planned visit to Sudan, I'd play it off with a joke: "I'm not worried about the Sudan. It's the deadline that I'm worried about."

People don't always get my jokes, which is why I nearly didn't get out of Heathrow International in London ("random search," my foot!) and why Her Majesty's government provided security all the way to Dulles International, where I eluded their cordon to reach American soil, thus regaining my rights as a U.S. citizen including, thank God, my Fifth Amendment right to remain silent.

As bizarre as that may sound, the reality was even weirder. Perhaps an old Cockney joke summarizes it best:
Q. What's the difference between crazy and eccentric?
A. 'Bout 'alf a million a year, I'd say.
I'll try to update later to explain. For now, I'm just trying to decompress and recover my emotional equilibrium.

Thursday night, Feb. 21, I was present as veterans of the Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA) held a send-off party for Sam in Kampala, prior to his return to the States. It was a warriors-only tribal celebration, and the two Dinka tribesmen present for the party asked Sam (whose father was half-Cherokee) to share his own tribal customs.

So next thing you know, I'm the civilian eyewitness as Sam is war-whooping and doing a Cherokee dance, while the Dinka are doing their thing, the Acholi are doing theirs ... it was a stone-cold gonzo moment.

If you want to learn more about Sam's work -- among other things, his ministry runs the largest orphanage in Sudan -- check out his Shekinah Fellowship World Missions site. If you want to help with Sam's work, I promise you'll be blessed if you write a check (even if it's only $10 or $20) payable to "World Missions" and mail it to:
World Missions
P.O. Box 131

Central City, PA 15926
Today, if I understand correctly, Sam is out in Los Angeles. He's about to be hugely famous. Like I told Sam at breakfast one day last week, "Dude, you're going to be an action figure by Christmas." That may sound like a joke. It's not. I can easily picture the boys and girls telling Santa to bring them a Sam Childers action figure (complete with a classic '47 Harley) for Christmas.

Trust me. In college, I majored in drama (shout-out to my Alpha Psi Omega brothers and sisters at JSU!) and when it comes to method acting, Sam could give Lee Strasberg some lessons, because Sam never has to ask himself, "What's my motivation?" He's 100% about the job, he's always focused on completing the mission, and he has a low tolerance for distractions.


I see my good friend Jimmie at The Sundries Shack has linked -- thanks Jimmie.

I got 7 hours sleep yesterday, which is the longest stretch of sleep I've had in weeks. Looking back over the past several weeks, I realize I have been running at full-throttle overdrive since at least mid-January. The valves were starting to rattle a bit, frankly.

Anyway, after sleeping from 3 until 10 p.m. yesterday, I got up and checked e-mail and Facebook for a while. Then at 2:30 p.m., I hopped in my car (the black KIA Optima I call my "Korean Jag" because its lines look vaguely like a Jaguar) and ran to Wal-Mart with a shopping list of supplies I'll need to organize this book project.

With the copious notes and recordings I got during the Uganda trip -- plus the first drafts of four or five chapters, totalling about 20,000 words, and piles of printed notes by Sam -- we should easily hit this deadline on time and under budget.

Seven hours sleep and a bit of time to unwind have restored my confidence. I have an appointment today at 9:45 a.m. with Dr. Cantone, who said he wanted to see me when I got back to find out if I had any problems with the medications he prescribe me for the Africa trip.

Short answer: Hell, yes.

I was taking the anti-malaria medicine once a day as prescribed, as well as the antibiotic (since I had a respiratory infection) and the pain pill (because the cough was painful). When I got off the plane at Entebbe, I felt stressed-out from a nicotine fit, but as Sam later said, he thought I must be on some serious drugs

The situation became weird beyond words on the return flight to London's Heathrow Airport, where we missed our connecting flight and were laid over until the next day. To say that the Brits are security-conscious about their aviation is to engage in a classic English understatement. But I'll say no more about that, except to say that when I finally made it through customs at Dulles and headed for the exit, I felt like what Jethro Bodine would call a "double-naught spy," having made a narrow escape.

(MUSIC CUE: Johnny Rivers, "Secret Agent Man")

Shaken, not stirred

Not only was my wife waiting for me at the international arrivals gate at Dulles, but she had with her our pastor, Vladimir Corea. Hugs were exchanged, and we headed to the pastor's car.

My checked baggage hadn't made it to Dulles with me (just a coincidence, I'm sure), but Sam had warned me about that possibility, so everything essential was packed into the large nylon flight bag I'd purchased in the duty-free shop at Entebbe. (Yeah, I kept the receipt.)

We rolled out of the airport, with my wife in back and me riding shotgun. I mentioned what Sam had said about the potential hallucinogenic side effects of the anti-malaria medication. Pastor Corea said, "Oh, yeah, that happens all the time. We've had missionaries completely trip out on that stuff. It can be bad, man."

Right. It was as if I'd been through what Tom Wolfe once called "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test." And I'd passed the test.

So the storm was over and now I looked forward, like my buddy Scott said, to "Fair wind and God speed." But I'll keep praying.