‘Liberty alumni and Virginia pastor Colby Garman tweeted on Monday night that the events which brought Falwell down “are not the public fall of a Christian leader into sin.”’

“They are the unmasking of a long-standing hypocrisy that has fed off the resources and goodwill of a Christian institution while despising the truths it was established to uphold.”

Rev Garman nails it.

My student, Kate Golcheski…

… who now lives in Virginia, told me about Liberty University‘s plans for a snow-free ski hill some time ago.

It’s become a reality. Ski Channel reports:

And on the seventh day, God Skied.

Liberty University, the largest evangelical Christian university in the world, will soon be home to the first Snowflex, snow-free ski hill in the U.S. Snowflex was a quantum leap forward for carpet skiing. The technology was invented in the U.K. in 1993 and has since been installed in a handful of facilities in Europe. The first Snowflex tiles, plastic mats that closely simulate the sensation of snow, were installed above Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia on May 1st. The 110 vertical-foot slope should be open by the summer.

Jerry Falwell, one week before his death, talked about why he wanted to remake the bald hill above the university into an all-year-round ski hill. “There are no beer bashes at Liberty, and no coed dorms, but it doesn’t have to be a monastery. We’re breaking the stereotype that Christian education is synonymous with boredom.”

Surely there will be new tricks and their corresponding trick names whose genesis will be traced back to the dry hills (pun intended) of Liberty University. How about a Jesus Air, Nicodemus Flat Spin, Switch Judas 180, or a Mute Lazarus?

The Crucifixion of J.

With all this Christian love for a president who makes all ordinary sinners look like amateurs, it’s no wonder that Falwell — the president of Liberty University, which was founded by his dad, the legendary Southern Baptist pastor and televangelist — thought it was no big deal to unbutton his pants a little. … [But] Falwell was asked to take an indefinite leave of absence from his job at Liberty University. …

[T]he American right no longer feels any need to justify their will to power with over-the-top moralizing. Dominance has become its own justification. 

So it’s not surprising that Falwell got a little lackadaisical about pretending to believe all that crap he’s been preaching about the virtues of sobriety and chastity. And more than a little dopey that the board of Liberty University is trying to act offended and going through the ritual of asking him to step aside.


Jerry died for their sins!


Although UD‘s fascinated by Autonomies, a dystopian Israeli film, she’ll never watch it. She’s triggered by images of female slave cultures. But what’s amazing about this imagination of an Israel that devolved into bloody secular/religious civil war thirty years ago and is now entirely balkanized between a strict haredi sect territory in and around Jerusalem, and a modern territory in and around Tel Aviv, is that at least one important Israeli intellectual says dystopia shmystopia! It’s a great idea and let’s get going on it!

The series is very clever, with bracing realism (a smuggler makes an excellent living smuggling porn and pork into Haredi Autonomy), but what it’s really about, if you ask ol’ UD, is the horror of surrender to theocracy. Israel has only itself to blame for decades of cynical accommodation to massed ignorant fools who think every offense against liberty and dignity they commit comes stamped with God’s Approval; no wonder Israel’s artist class now depicts the tragicomic walls within walls within walls within walls location that place has become. You don’t reason with the lord’s anointed; they don’t do reason; they’re pre-reason; they’re non-reason; they’re anti-reason. Let them ride roughshod over your democracy and hey look ma no democracy.


[Israeli media conglomerate] Keshet is also in the early planning stages of an English-language adaptation of the format, set in the United States and using America’s own blue state-red state divide as a substitute for the original Israeli plot.

Oh really? Oh reallllllyyyy? So let me tell you something, Buster. Happy to have you do that; plan away. But the overlay ain’t working for me.

Let’s see. Half of America is dirt poor (the other half is unimaginably rich); no one there has any occupational skills and anyway everyone refuses to work because keening over religious texts will feed their children. So their children are starving. They don’t believe in the germ theory of disease so coronavirus is killing everyone over sixty. Anyone interested in their territory is making a play for it since except for a small group of secular mercenaries no one fights. Daily street riots rage between teenyweeny ultraorthodox sects headed by senile warring rabbis. Women are totally absent from the world. There aren’t any. No one knows where they are; where they went. There aren’t any.

This is totally cool drama-wise for sure. I just don’t think we can manage it. I’m seeing plenty of yahoos waving Confederate flags, yes. Absolutely someone’s breaking into a gender theory class at Oberlin waving an AK-47. I’m not saying our blue-red state divide is without dramatic potential. I’m saying we just totally do not measure up.

The University as Tinpot Dictatorship

There aren’t that many of these, and most of them are religious institutions. Yeshiva University has long been the standout, ruling over its students (especially its women) with an iron morality fist (would you expect any less from a school whose behavioral models have included Bernard Madoff, Ezra Merkin, Ira Rennert, and Zygi Wilf?). In 2011, when a woman student published a sex survey, she immediately lost her housing scholarship. Around the same time, another woman student published a short story with mild sexual content in a campus publication. The paper was shut down. AND sex filters were imposed on all male students’ computers. Not females’ of course! Because females don’t read… or, uh… write about sex.

And there’s the curiously named Liberty University, whose duce has generated lots of news copy lately. UD thinks The Onion captures the situation there best.

The other source of tinpottery is the southern jock school whose Dear Leader knows when you are sleeping. He knows when you’re awake. He knows when you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness’ sake! U Alabam’s Shahanshah Nick Saban has been in a snit because his subjects don’t go to the blowout football games (they’re always like 70 – 0) he puts on for their entertainment, or if they go they get bored and leave early… and then you know, out in tvland, viewers all over the country see them empty seats and Saban’s embarrassed etc. So the school now tracks its students’ movements:

Alabama is taking an extraordinary, Orwellian step: using location-tracking technology from students’ phones to see who skips out and who stays.

You better not be in the fucking library when you’ve been told to sit on a bleacher in 100 degree heat for hours of grinding nothingness!

But just as in other Orwellian regimes the population rebels, so in ‘Bama, the frat boys have been identified as the avant-garde of the resistance:

[It will] not be long before pledges are conscripted to hold caches of phones until the fourth quarter so their fraternity brothers [can] leave early.

Plenty of precedent for this, mes petites. Remember clickers?


UD thanks Dave.

“[H]is words are getting far more attention than they deserve.”

A British/Iranian woman writes the most sensible of the millions of words already written about Boris Johnson having compared women in burqas to letter boxes and bank robbers. UD made the same point she’s making – about the greater wisdom of ignoring his words – in this post.

Shappi Khorsandi writes:

Every part of the burqa/letterbox furore is about political warfare. Johnson knew exactly how to rattle the left and it’s working. Now we are calling Rowan Atkinson a “racist”…

The comedian is now denounced as racist because he pointed out that Johnson was attempting to be funny. And, yes, attempting to be offensive. Atkinson: “All jokes about religion cause offence, so it’s pointless apologising for them.” And remember: All of this was in the context of Johnson agreeing with people on the left that there should be no burqa ban.

As the denunciations and investigations and apology-demands escalate, sensible and humane people, like Khorsandi, will direct us to what we should be thinking about:

Today, in Iran, women are risking their liberty by publicly taking off their hijabs in protests against the forced covering. Shaparak Shajarizadeh was handed a two-year sentence for protesting in Iran against the hijab. She was released on bail in April and has now apparently left the country as exile is preferable to living in a country where speaking your mind leads to arrest.

I wish those who are now calling Rowan Atkinson a “racist” left and right on social media would show more solidarity and generate more publicity for women like Shaparak.

Let the ridiculous Boris Johnson dustup have the effect of directing our attention where it belongs: To the millions of women in countries all over the world suffocating under the veil.


In other words: These are the words that deserve our attention — written by the late great Christopher Hitchens.

[W]e have no assurance that Muslim women put on the burqa or don the veil as a matter of their own choice. A huge amount of evidence goes the other way. Mothers, wives, and daughters have been threatened with acid in the face, or honor-killing, or vicious beating, if they do not adopt the humiliating outer clothing that is mandated by their menfolk. This is why, in many Muslim societies, such as Tunisia and Turkey, the shrouded look is illegal in government buildings, schools, and universities. Why should Europeans and Americans, seeking perhaps to accommodate Muslim immigrants, adopt the standard only of the most backward and primitive Muslim states? The burqa and the veil, surely, are the most aggressive sign of a refusal to integrate or accommodate.

UD’s Day

I had to be on the Red Line to Dupont Circle to meet my friend and former student Carolyn and her boyfriend for noon lunch at Bareburger. They live in Zurich and are in DC for a few days.

Mr UD dropped me at Grosvenor metro rather early, and it occurred to me that I probably had time to give blood at the National Institutes of Health Blood bank. Medical Center metro is the next stop after Grosvenor, so I had to decide quickly.

It was an extremely beautiful spring day – cloudless blue skies and lilac trees in flower – and this stirring setting jarred against the dark reading I’d been doing that morning — my friend Hal Sedgwick’s lengthy, meticulous description of his wife Eve’s nineteen years of breast cancer. I was in the middle of his account, reading a paragraph here and a paragraph there, in bed, at the breakfast table, and now on the train.

And somehow the combination of this painful reading, and my having, a few nights ago, watched the three-part PBS series on cancer, propelled me straight over to NIH.


I give blood at NIH because my father spent his career there, and I guess it’s a form of communion. Certainly it’s a form of nostalgia, walking the long spartan corridors with random Impressionist posters slapped on their walls.

When the documentary began describing Nixon’s war on cancer in the 1970’s, I recalled Dad’s remarkable luck and timing: Government money poured into his lab in those days. A 1974 New York Times article mentioned some of what he and his colleagues were up to.

In the United States the National Cancer Institute’s Dr. Herbert J. Rapp has obtained some success by injecting BCG directly into tumors. His experimental procedure is to inject tumor cells into the flanks of a guinea pig. After six days the animal will die from the spread of the tumor cells even if the original tumor is removed. However Dr. Rapp found that if on the fifth day he injected BCG into the animal, the tumor would disappear in 60 to 70 per cent of the guinea pigs.

My father had it all, I thought, as I pulled out my passport to show the NIH security officer. I often say this to myself – My father had it all. – because I often try to figure out why a man with four healthy children, a loving wife, and one of the world’s best, most meaningful jobs, committed suicide.

I clipped my laminated identification card (they got my photograph from the passport) onto my jacket and boarded a campus (NIH has always called its grounds the campus) bus to Building Ten. Its enormous lobby now houses a clothing and jewelry market! Last thing I thought I’d see in that space.

“What size shirt do you want?” You score a free shirt with a message on it about the importance of giving blood just for checking in at the NIH bank’s front desk. I got one big enough for Mr UD, but felt vaguely guilty about taking it, since it seemed to me likely I’d fail one of the many tests you have to pass before they let you give blood.

Amazingly though, UD sailed through one after another challenge: blood pressure, blood iron, pulse, temperature; and she aced the written exam too. So no weaseling out of it.


UD‘s MO when she actually gets to the couch and the nurse pressing and pressing and pressing her veins has always been exactly the same. She pops over to the little recovery room and selects the stupidest gossip magazine she can find. The trick is to be so utterly distracted by What Really Happened on Brad and Angie’s Plane that one fails to notice a needle going in. This approach has always worked for me.

Once the needle settled, I felt comfortable enough to chat with the nurse who sat beside me for the duration. She yawned and said her commute was getting to her. “I live in Baltimore. Have to get up at 5:30 in the morning. Traffic’s real bad. But this area – Bethesda – is completely unaffordable.”

I looked at my very dark red blood as she took the pouch away. I marveled at its color.


Back on the metro, I returned to Hal’s unflinching and sorrowful account. He drew to a close as my train approached Dupont.

On Wednesday April 15th I rented a car and drove to the Liberty Grove Crematorium in New Jersey. It was a simple place, rather industrial in character, but very tidy and clean. After a while Paul Giffone arrived (with a station wagon I think) with Eve’s body in a plain cardboard coffin which he unloaded with the help of the man at the crematorium. Together they placed the coffin on a kind of gurney. At my request they opened the coffin so that I could see Eve one last time. I had brought a Tibetan necklace of colorful felt beads that I had bought for Eve at the Rubin Museum’s holiday craft fair the previous December and that Eve was happy with. I placed the necklace inside the coffin, resting on Eve’s chest. Then they closed the coffin, wheeled the gurney up to the door of the furnace, and moved the coffin onto a kind of conveyor belt which carried it into the depths of the furnace. They closed the door of the furnace and went into the adjacent office leaving me alone, as I had asked. I don’t remember how long I was there – maybe an hour or so. I read aloud the text of the Sukavati, which T had given me. Then I recited the mantra of the Heart Sutra many times. At some point in my recital I had a distinct feeling, with no real sensory component, of a kind of expansion emanating from the furnace into the room and beyond. It seemed to me as though something was being released from Eve’s body, which was no longer there, and expanding into space. It felt to me like an expanding bubble that would just keep on expanding and expanding. It wasn’t an experience I had anticipated or would attempt to explain but the feeling of liberation was real.

UD used to be lectured, on a regular basis, at academic conferences…

… on the absurdity and evil of Richard Rorty, one of her heroes (along with Albert Camus, George Orwell, Christopher Lasch, Iris Murdoch, and Christopher Hitchens). He was simple-minded, non-transgressive, jingoistic, a stick in the mud. Dull, naive, like his pragmatist hero, John Dewey.

You should read way-transgressive Slavoj Zizek, Margaret, and get out of the Rorty rut.


Slavoj Zizek has announced that he would, if he were an American citizen, vote for Donald Trump.

Like the West Coast Straussians who come at the problem from the right, Zizek’s so disgusted by what he imagines “liberal democracy” to be, he wants someone – anyone – to fuck it up but good.


Rorty? In his naive chauvinistic way, Rorty spent his career defending liberal democracy as the best thing we’ve got and utterly worth defending with all our heart.

Here he defends it against — Zizek.

Zizek starts off from a Lacanian account of desire and says that ‘The problem with this liberal dream is that the split between the public and the private never comes about without a certain remainder’ and that ‘the very domain of the public law is “smeared” by an obscure dimension of “private” enjoyment.’ He goes on to ‘locate in a precise manner the flaw of Rorty’s “liberal utopia”: It presupposes the possibility of a universal social law not smudged by a “pathological” stain of enjoyment, i.e. delivered from the superego dimension.’

I do not see that political liberalism need presuppose anything of the sort. I imagine that ressentiment, as well as the mild form of sadism which is intrinsic to Kantian notions of obligation, will go on forever – or at least as long as there are judges, police, etc. But I should think the question is whether anybody has any better ideas for a legal and political system than the liberal, constitutional, social democratic one. I can find nothing in Freud, Lacan, Zizek, Derrida [and others on the radical left] which persuades me that anybody does.


Rorty’s enjoying quite the posthumous vindication. Post-Trump, his name is everywhere. He is widely seen as having anticipated and analyzed more clearly and compellingly than most the rise of Trumpian conditions in the United States. In particular, people are citing these three paragraphs:

[M]embers of labor unions, and unorganized unskilled workers, will sooner or later realize that their government is not even trying to prevent wages from sinking or to prevent jobs from being exported. Around the same time, they will realize that suburban white-collar workers — themselves desperately afraid of being downsized — are not going to let themselves be taxed to provide social benefits for anyone else.

At that point, something will crack. The nonsuburban electorate will decide that the system has failed and start looking around for a strongman to vote for — someone willing to assure them that, once he is elected, the smug bureaucrats, tricky lawyers, overpaid bond salesmen, and postmodernist professors will no longer be calling the shots. …

One thing that is very likely to happen is that the gains made in the past 40 years by black and brown Americans, and by homosexuals, will be wiped out. Jocular contempt for women will come back into fashion. … All the resentment which badly educated Americans feel about having their manners dictated to them by college graduates will find an outlet.

Jennifer Senior, in the New York Times, rightly notes that, like Lasch, Rorty looked with dread upon the emergence of a “cosmopolitan upper class which has no …sense of community with any workers anywhere,” but lives instead in an exceedingly pleasant, totally insulated, white-noisy bubble.

This group included intellectuals, by the way, who, [Rorty] wrote, are “ourselves quite well insulated, at least in the short run, from the effects of globalization.”

No current group of academics embodies this truth better than those law professors who continue to enjoy high salaries, low course loads, and assorted perks despite so deep a crisis in their profession that astonishingly few people are applying to law school. Critics like Brian Tamanaha and Paul Campos have had a field day with these professors.


In the book of Rorty’s everyone’s talking about lately – Achieving Our Country (1998) – he makes his critique of what he calls ‘spectatorial’ radicals in the academy more explicit:

When one of today’s academic leftists says that some topic has been ‘inadequately theorized,’ you can be pretty certain that he or she is going to drag in either philosophy of language, or Lacanian psychoanalysis, or some neo-Marxist version of economic determinism. Theorists of the Left think that dissolving political agents into plays of differential subjectivity, or political initiatives into pursuits of Lacan’s impossible object of desire, helps to subvert the established order. Such subversion, they say, is accomplished by ‘problematizing familiar concepts.’

Recent attempts to subvert social institutions by problematizing concepts have produced a few very good books. They have also produced many thousands of books which represent scholastic philosophizing at its worst. The authors of these purportedly ‘subversive’ books honestly believe that they are serving human liberty. But it is almost impossible to clamber back down from their books to a level of abstraction on which one might discuss the merits of a law, a treaty, a candidate, or a political strategy. Even though what these authors ‘theorize’ is often something very concrete and near at hand – a current TV show, a media celebrity, a recent scandal – they offer the most abstract and barren explanations imaginable.


Dissolve enough agency and you end up marooned on Slavojnia: the most abstract and barren island imaginable.

Ten Bucks A Speech

Ten bucks to miss
Ted Cruz on campus,
A bargain at
Twice the price.

Ten bucks to stay
Clear of his presence
And do something
Much more nice.


Students were aware of the rule. One of them posted about it on her Facebook page. Citing another student, she wrote, “Students will either attend Convocation and lend to the illusion of widespread support for Sen. Cruz, or they will be subject to administrative punishment — specifically, four reprimands and a $10 fine — if they are absent.”

Intellectual Quotient

My definition of an intellectual is someone who can listen to the William Tell Overture without thinking of the Lone Ranger.

It’s not clear, from Googling around, who originated this line, but I thought I’d use it to begin a kind of Part Two of my post the other day about the nature of a serious university education.

UD can’t listen to the Overture without thinking of a 1960 tv ad for Lark cigarettes. Have a Lark have a Lark have a Lark Lark Lark…


In an opinion piece titled “The Slow Death of the Intellect,” Jonathan Jansen, a South African professor, laments the absence of an intellectual culture at his country’s universities. He describes such a culture as featuring

critical activities (film, drama, seminars, special lectures, open debates, musical performance, architectural display, critical dialogues, scholarly book launches, thoughtful protests — more about this later — and speakers) that together act to encourage, excite and evoke thoughtful discussion and deliberation.

An intellectual culture in this sense is a felt experience, not localised events in isolated parts of that campus. It is not busyness but quality activities that breed curiosity, creativity and dissent.

“Felt experience” is I think the most important part of this — all of the critical activities share a certain characteristic seriousness and energy; they act together, as Jansen says, to provoke people’s curiosity about the world, to draw them into disciplined thought and discussion, and thus to create an environment of collective reflection.

You could think of it by invoking a couple of other statements about intellectuality, the first from Oliver Wendell Holmes:

The main part of intellectual education is not the acquisition of facts but learning how to make facts live.

And the second from Jacob Bronowski:

To me, being an intellectual doesn’t mean knowing about intellectual issues; it means taking pleasure in them.

Making them live; taking pleasure in them; this is the felt experience Jansen’s getting at: A real university campus feels different from any other place because everywhere there’s a seductive, perceptible, pensive buzz. All around you, people are being changed by new thought, led forth, as the word educate has it, from wherever they were before they entered university culture.

Jensen notes the irony that apartheid, and the galvanizing, widely shared moral debate it generated, turns out in an odd sense to have been good for universities. Now, “with the anti-apartheid motif gone, there is no longer a higher appeal to organise, mobilise and cement intellectual cultures on campuses anywhere.” In its place, “creeping managerialism [has] turned the scholarship of teaching and inquiry into a parade of ‘measurable units’ used by university bureaucracies to satisfy the constant demands for numerical accountability.” Bad presidents, “ignorant of the purposes of the university and the threats to it,” have also done their bit.

Jansen goes on to propose reasonable and unsurprising changes — a new, rigorous liberal arts curriculum; a critical mass, on each campus, of intellectually serious professors who would organize seminars and invite speakers and do other things to energize moribund schools… But he knows the task is daunting, that “building cultures is not the same thing as changing a curriculum or erecting a new lecture hall.”

Indeed, “intellectual culture” will always be a rather inchoate idea; but we know of its intense attractiveness to people: Students at Harvard and Princeton routinely complain of its lack on their campuses, and they’re at two of the best universities in the world.

Clearly we’ve all got in mind here some sort of ideal, an entire way of life, a deep and rich existence, in which our minds and bodies and hearts and souls are constantly and delightedly roused by the pleasure of transformative thought.

UD thinks the heart of this ideal involves our conviction that when we’re thinking most excitedly and authentically, we’re actually feeling what it feels like to be free.

Come again?

Liberty, according to my metaphysics is a self-determining power in an intellectual agent. It implies thought and choice and power.

John Adams seems to point here to the connection between the intensest moments of free inquiry in our lives (these moments take place for most of us during college) and the felt experience of personal and political freedom itself. At the heart of intellectual culture is the radically free exercise of the human mind. It is hard to think of a more seductive prospect.

“The refusal to exist as a person.”

Jean-Francois Copé, “majority leader in the French National Assembly and the mayor of Meaux” attempts, in the pages of the New York Times, to explain.

… The visibility of the face in the public sphere has always been a public safety requirement. It was so obvious that until now it did not need to be enshrined in law. But the increase in women wearing the niqab, like that of the ski mask favored by criminals, changes that. We must therefore adjust our law, without waiting for the phenomenon to spread.

The permanent concealment of the face also raises the question of social interactions in our democracies. In the United States, there are very few limits on individual freedom, as exemplified by the guarantees of the First Amendment. In France, too, we are passionately attached to liberty.

But we also reaffirm our citizens’ equality and fraternity. These values are the three inseparable components of our national motto. We are therefore constantly striving to achieve a delicate balance. Individual liberty is vital, but individuals, like communities, must accept compromises that are indispensable to living together, in the name of certain principles that are essential to the common good.

… [I]n both France and the United States, we recognize that individual liberties cannot exist without individual responsibilities. This acknowledgment is the basis of all our political rights. We are free as long as we are responsible individuals who can be held accountable for our actions before our peers. But the niqab and burqa represent a refusal to exist as a person in the eyes of others. The person who wears one is no longer identifiable; she is a shadow among others, lacking individuality, avoiding responsibility…

Professor Captures Large Lizard

Judging from my dog’s excitement, plus the general population of rabbits, I think we’ve got a nest of rabbits under the deck out back.

I’m okay with rabbits, as I’m okay with deer. Sure, these guys eat plenty of garden. The deer behead the lilies, the rabbits shred the hosta. But UD, despite her ‘thesdan locale, isn’t your basic suburban neatnik with groomed grass and worries about upkeep. Walk by her house and you’ll see a pretty well-tended garden with a natural lawn. But avoid the back. Broadly speaking, it looks okay, because it’s lush and green and forested; but UD does little with it, and the animals in the adjacent woods are having a field day.

The most amazing thing she’s seen
back there was a mink.


She has also seen coyotes.

She saw plenty of lizards in Key West (UD‘s just back from living there for three months), but of course you don’t see them in colder climates — unless they’re an escaped pet.

Betty Moran said she stepped onto the rear patio of her Libertyville [Illinois] home Friday, hoping to spend a quiet afternoon reading a summertime novel when she first saw the unwanted visitor.

Staring back at her was a two-and-a-half foot-long lizard, its long, blue forked tongue fully extended.

“I jumped up on the picnic table,” said Moran, 66, her face hinting at a fear that lingers days later. “I ran inside, slammed the door and called my neighbor.”

Although the leafy expanses lining St. Mary’s Road are not where one expects to find an exotic reptile, the Morans say their coldblooded guest has found a home beneath their front deck.

“We thought that it might be an iguana, but then I saw it eat a mouse in a single gulp,” she said. “Then on Saturday it was sunning itself on our deck, looking into the house and scratching on the window.”

Sam Sweet, professor of Zoology at the University of California Berkeley, identified the animal as an African savannah monitor lizard through photos taken by the Morans.

“It appears to be someone’s pet that escaped after being well cared for several years,” Sweet said Monday. “My guess is that the publicity will reunite it with its owner. Savannah monitors are really harmless – just pick it up.”

The Libertyville Police Department loaned the Morans a cage to trap the lizard. Hamburger and apples lay on a plate, untouched.

Jim Moran, 68, performed a ‘tap-dance’ on the deck in an attempt to flush out the lizard, but to no avail.

“When he saw me over the weekend, he didn’t seem overly concerned,” he said.

Monitor lizards are intelligent and adaptable reptiles known for their venomous bites and quick-whipping tails. They are native to Africa, Australia and Southeast Asia, where they can grow up to seven feet in length. Despite their strengths, monitors are tropical lizards and a few chilly nights can quickly push them to the brink of death.

Sweet said people should contact organizations like the Chicago HERP Society when they encounter strange reptiles not native to the area.

“What happens all too often is that people hit the panic button and call the police who decide it is a problem and shoot the animal,” he said. “People should instead contact these organizations and somebody will try to find a good home for it.”

So while the Morans are pleased to know the monitor is probably domesticated and therefore harmless, don’t expect them to welcome it with open arms.

“I’d rather face a lion than this lizard; reptiles are not my thing,” said Betty Moran. “In my dreams, I’ve been hoping that the coyotes can have a feast.”


A few days later…

Libertyville’s most-wanted lizard was finally captured Wednesday afternoon.

College of Lake County Professor of Biology Mike Corn was called to the residence of Jim and Betty Moran after the African savannah monitor lizard was discovered sunning itself on the rear patio.

After a brief search of the property, Corn reached into a bush and came out holding the two-and-a-half-foot-long lizard.

“This lizard is very tame and was undoubtedly someone’s pet,” Corn said. “It is a growing young adult with healthy fat reserves.”

Everything from hamburger and hard-boiled eggs to sardines [has] been placed in steel cages around the home for weeks, but the trap-savvy lizard had eluded capture and likely remained burrowed in soil beneath the deck.

Wednesday’s muggy weather and a strong appetite for mice and chipmunks ultimately drew the wayward reptile to the surface.

“He gulped down a mouse the first day I saw him and I’ve only seen one chipmunk around here in the past two weeks,” Betty Moran said.

The well-fed lizard seemed at ease stretched out on Corn’s left arm and allowed careful hands to stroke its scaly skin.

For now it has been transported to the College of Lake County, where it will be cared for and displayed for biology classes.

“These lizards are active hunters – this one has been surviving on mice and small chipmunks,” Corn said. “We are fortunate because tropical lizards like this would have a real tough time surviving in this area’s autumn climate.”

The Morans were glad that the lizard had found a better home, although they appreciated the rodent control the coldblooded carnivore provided their property.

“Now all the neighbors will want monitor lizards to take care of their mice problems,” Jim Moran joked. “It’s a beautiful and fascinating little animal and I was truly amazed by how tame it was.”

Betty Moran said she’ll return to what was an ordinary summer until the lizard showed up June 26.

“Now I can go outside without worrying about what I’ll see in my peripheral vision,” she said. “I just hope I don’t find any of its eggs.”

Thomas Edwards, a good writer, was the reporter on both stories.


Update: Are you kidding?

But Can They Still Use…

… the Snowflex?

Liberty University is pulling the plug on the campus Democratic Party club, saying the group stands against the conservative Christian school’s moral principles.

The Lynchburg school founded by the Rev. Jerry Falwell formally recognized the group in October. But club president Brian Diaz told The News & Advance of Lynchburg that he was notified via e-mail last week by vice president of student affairs Mark Hine that the university was revoking its decision.

Hine said the club must stop using Liberty’s name, advertising events and holding on-campus meetings. Violators could be reprimanded under the school’s conduct code and students could face expulsion after accumulated reprimands.

Associated Press

Baltimore, Bethesda, the Chesapeake Bay…

… wherever she lived growing up in Maryland, UD can recall her parents laughing at the state song, authored during the Civil War by a secessionist.

Sen. Jennie Forehand was attending a conference of Southern lawmakers some years ago when Maryland, My Maryland, the state song, began playing at a ceremony.

An impassioned Confederate-era poem set to the tune of O Tannenbaum, the song takes a particularly exclamatory turn at the end: “She is not dead, nor deaf, nor dumb – Huzza! She spurns the Northern scum! She breathes! She burns! She’ll come! She’ll come! Maryland! My Maryland!”

“People were laughing at it,” said Forehand, a Montgomery County Democrat, “They were asking, ‘What in the world is this all about?'”

Forehand told the story yesterday as she tried to persuade lawmakers to change their tune about the state song. The Senate hearing was packed with Confederate re-enactors, amateur historians, teachers and a seventh-grader who said she loves the state song, which taught her the meaning of “despot.”

For more than 50 years, lawmakers have periodically tried to dethrone Maryland, My Maryland, written in 1861 by James Ryder Randall and codified as the state song in 1939. Randall, 22 at the time, penned the lyrics after learning that his former college roommate had been killed in a Pratt Street riot between Confederate sympathizers and Union soldiers from Massachusetts, the history goes.

Many of those testifying yesterday said they were present seven years ago, the last time Forehand unsuccessfully tried to do away with Randall’s words. She wants to replace them with a more pacifist version written in 1894 by John T. White, an Allegany County teacher.

“I feel like a victim’s family who has to show up again and again for parole hearings,” Linda Atwell, a history buff who lives in Frederick County, told the committee.

Hyattsville resident William F. Fronck said Forehand’s motives were “an insidious spiritual virus called political correctness.”

Fronck and others argued that the song is a history lesson that should not be wiped away. Some called attempts to sanitize the lyrics a “Stalinist” revision of past events.

“This song is our history,” said self-described historian and author Daniel Toomey, who brought along an original copy of the Randall poem.

But opponents of the song said it misrepresents Maryland – “The Free State” – and unfairly portrays only one side of the Civil War.

“It’s a bitter and abusive diatribe written to incite revenge,” said William Moulden, a teacher who lives near Annapolis.

Respected state archivist Edward C. Papenfuse wants to see the song go. “While Randall deserves recognition as a Maryland poet, he was decidedly partisan and bitter, a strong advocate of slavery and secession,” he wrote in a letter to Forehand…


The despot’s heel is on thy shore, Maryland!
His torch is at thy temple door, Maryland!
Avenge the patriotic gore
That flecked the streets of Baltimore,
And be the battle queen of yore,
Maryland! My Maryland!

[The despot is Abraham Lincoln.]


We dedicate our song to thee,
Maryland, my Maryland,
The home of light and liberty,
Maryland, my Maryland.
We love thy streams and wooded hills,
Thy mountains with their gushing rills,
Thy scenes — our heart with rapture fills —
Maryland, my Maryland.


Here’s something clever. How about instead of wooded hills you simply switch the first letters of gushing rills?

We love thy streams and rushing gills,
Thy mountains with their gushing rills…

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