John Farr: ‘I write a weekly column for called GRACK! and in the current edition I quoted from your recent column about the Attorney General and calico cats. In response I received the following email:

<< Any sense of journalistic integrity dictates that when making a claim such as this, you must cite some sort of credible reference [like Time or Newsweek or the New York Times]. A random website currently does not constitute such a reference. >>

‘I thought I would ask you where you learned the details about the calico cats and their significance to our current attorney general.’

☞ A very fair question. I’ve written for a variety of magazines over the last 30 years, including a column in TIME for several years, and have some appreciation of the need not to publish allegations as true unless I’ve checked them out. I got this odd story from someone who was definitely in a position to know and then confirmed it with someone else, also in a position to know.

That said, it’s certainly possible that Ashcroft doesn’t actually believe calico cats are signs of the devil, even though his aides said he does. And it’s possible that his aides were kidding, or overly sensitive, when they discussed covering the naked statue.

Then again, the Attorney General does not hide his deep religious faith – one need only read his remarks at Bob Jones University to get some appreciation of that – and a lot of deeply religious people do believe in a heaven and a hell and the devil. So it may not be as odd as the story of Nancy Reagan consulting her astrologer before letting Ronnie make important decisions. Who knows?

Clearly, what matters are not any superstitions John Ashcroft may harbor, but the various initiatives coming out of his office. As I read and listen to wiser minds than mine about the military tribunals and related curtailments of civil liberties – noting the criticism that has come from conservatives and liberals alike – I get the distinct impression he’s gone too far. And, as I wrote last week, I deeply resent his taking time out from the war on terrorism to try to overturn California’s medical marijuana referendum and Oregon’s twice-passed assisted suicide referendum. It’s fine for him to choose to suffer, but I don’t want him choosing that for me.

Separately, for those who have time to read it, I thought this story in Saturday’s Washington Post brought home some of the vague allegations of ‘discrimination’ we hear about with a concrete example from the 9/11 tragedy. A billion dollars has poured in to help the loved ones of the victims – unless you are a particular kind of loved one. (Happily, even here progress if being made).


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