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Currant Events

Re: Lawrence Henry’s Fruitcake:

Perhaps if I had encountered Lawrence Henry’s Mom’s fruitcakes I would now have a less melancholy view of the only food item I know of with an atomic weight heavier than iron (tastes about the same as iron too). As I haven’t sampled Mrs. Henry’s creations, and in fact have never encountered an edible fruit cake, I share our society’s jaundiced take on this holiday disaster.

I’ve never been able to swallow a piece of fruitcake — though I’ll admit I’ve not tried in many years. I endorse all the possible uses of fruitcake listed in Henry’s column, and herewith add my own — speed bump (we would actually save money using fruit cakes for speed bumps because we wouldn’t have to repair them every few decades).

Some years back in a holiday poll — I forget which company took it, but it was a real poll (as Dave Barry would say, I’m not making this up) — fruit cake finished behind “no gift at all” in Americans’ list of gift preferences. Who says Americans don’t have perspective on things?

Calvin Trillin once said that he’s convinced there is and has always been only one fruitcake in the United States. Not many fruitcakes as is popularly but mistakenly believed. He explained that people give this one fruitcake away so quickly that its speed of movement creates the impression that there are many fruitcakes. It’s a fanciful theory I admit, but I don’t believe we should dismiss it out of hand.
Larry Thornberry
Tampa, Florida
P.S.: If Mrs. Henry truly produced tasty fruit cakes, she deserves the Nobel Prize in cooking and makes Julia Child look like your average hash house fry cook by comparison. She’s a national treasure and should at least have her own commemorative stamp. We should have turned liver over to her long ago, as it’s clear this great American never backed down from a challenge.

At last, someone else in this lonely world who will confess the REAL “love that dare not speak its name” — fruitcake! My personal variation is the regal, majestic Plum Pudding, replete with suet, sherry, brandy and rum.

I have found that, properly embalmed in a bath of spirits for a full month, a hot pudding drenched in blazing brandy and slathered with hard sauce will win over all but the steeliest hearts. It will also, alas, clog up those same hearts with cholesterol. Still, it is a small price to pay.
Andrew Batten
Melbourne, Florida

My father always sent a fruitcake to everyone on his Christmas list, including himself. They were made by the Collin Street Bakery of Corsicana, Texas. When I served in the U.S. Navy my mates and I always had a better Christmas dinner because of his gift.

The Collin Street Bakery fruitcake is delivered in a metal container that is very useful for storing spare nuts and bolts, odd size widgets, soda crackers and whatever. It is always heartwarming to walk into my tool shed, rummage through the can from 1961 (or whenever), and be reminded of my father.

One of my daughters makes delicious fruitcakes every Christmas. I freeze them, seems to work in retaining the moisture and taste.

Mr. Henry, go ahead and make your fruitcake. Send it to me.
Nelson Ward
Ribera, New Mexico

I make Lizzie’s, which is a fruit cake cookie, and they go over bigger than the whole cake. Don’t know why, since they taste the same.
Elaine Kyle

I remember fruitcakes. My Grandmother, Mother and Aunts all made them, each a little different and then slowly phased out of the Christmas festivities. Definitely an acquired taste.

Of course “fruitcake” is also a term describing anyone a little out of phase with reality.

Considering he is outrageously “heavy,” “liquor soaked,” and has just enough blather to “bind” his brain together, could we use the term for Teddy Kennedy?
Jim Woodward
Fruitland, Maryland

I enjoyed Mr. Henry’s ode to the lowly fruitcake. Like him, I also have great memories of the fruitcakes my mother used to make (and still does) around the Christmas holidays. Along with her Christmas cookies, these confections were the highlight of Christmastime for me as a boy. (OK, the presents were the highlight, but the fruitcakes and cookies were close behind.) I’m not sure where my mother got her recipes from, but she makes two types of fruitcakes. One is the more traditional dark variety, with dates, chopped nuts, candied fruit and so forth. The other is a light version, with coconut, candied fruit and ground walnuts. (The coconut variety was always my favorite.) These were nothing like the gloppy agglomerations of candied fruit you get commercially. Indeed, they were more like quick breads (such as banana bread or pumpkin bread), not heavy at all. My mother still sends me a couple fruitcakes each year. When I have the time, I also make some, using her recipes. I remember taking some to my in-laws one Christmas early in my marriage, but I had no takers. (My wife’s family also doesn’t like pumpkin pie — go figure.) It wasn’t until I became an adult that I realized that most people, apparently, have very negative views of this Christmas delight. Their loss. Thanks, Mr. Henry, for a very pleasant stroll down memory lane.
Steve Cianca
Dublin, Ohio

Re: Lawrence Henry’s fruitcake lament — should he decide to make one just for old times’ sake, he’d better be prepared for the “sticker shock.” The cost of candied fruits today compared to his mother’s day is right up there where the air is rarefied. And no self-respecting fruitcake should be attempted unless the raisins, dark and golden and currants have soaked in really good brandy for a few days. You put those unmarinated currants in your fruitcake and they will take on the character of peppercorns in the slow baking process.

The Joy of Cooking folks are right. The less batter the better the cake. Cheap cakes are “cakey” and take on that dusty taste that have given good fruit cakes a bad rap. Batter is cheaper than fruit and any time you economize, you’re bound to ruin something. I make mine in September, wrap them in cheese cloth soaked in brandy and inject the cakes with brandy frequently. I keep them in a huge lard can I got from a bakery years ago. Just opening that can to minister to the needs of my cakes is an intoxicating experience. Well, if you were locked in a can for three months being force-fed Courvoisier, wouldn’t you be pretty mellow?

Fruitcakes made with a lavish hand — lots of good, moist fruit and Texas pecans (I have mine shipped from Richardson, Texas) and candied cherries adorning the top are a labor of love and a thing of beauty and no jokes are made about mine. One other thing fruitcake novices don’t seem to know — fruitcake is to be sliced thinly — not served like a hunk of birthday cake. Anyone finding themselves trying to gag down a huge, dry wedge of “cakey” cake and thinking “this is fruitcake?” well that is what brought on the fruitcake jokes.

If you are going to try your hand, get a really old recipe. If you don’t, you run the risk of somebody’s improvising with kiwi fruit and pine nuts and maybe a little trail mix and Gatorade or yogurt. How can they ruin it? Let me count the ways.

The Collin Street Bakery in Corsicana, Texas, comes close to a good Southern home-made fruitcake. But not close to mine.
Diane Smith
South San Francisco, California

Perhaps Mr. Henry will take heart in my account. I long ago inherited a fruitcake recipe from a great-aunt, via my mother. I’ve made it off and on over the years. Two years ago, I got the fruitcake “bug” and made a batch or two. I inquired of one or two people if they would like a fruitcake. It is, after all, still a somewhat expensive item to make and I didn’t want to give one to someone who loathed the very idea. Everybody I asked immediately responded that they loved fruitcake and would love to have one of mine. Everybody to whom I gave one absolutely raved about it. I mentioned making the cakes to several other people who requested the recipe and promptly made their own. They, too, raved about the cakes. So now I find myself making three and sometimes four batches at holiday time. Each batch makes three 8″x4″x3″ cakes.

This past Christmas one of my fruitcakes even made it to Mexico when an acquaintance took one to a family celebration. All is not lost, Mr. Henry — there are still fruitcake lovers out there, probably a lot more than you think. Keep the faith and keep on enjoying fruitcake!
P. Burke
Lompoc, California

Re: David Holman’s Lizza’s Ideological Blinders:

Why is it that Northerners are always going to such great pain to broadly paint the South and Southerners as racists?

I’m beginning to think that most of these fools have never been south of the Mason-Dixon Line…or have been down and back real quick so as not to become tainted with manners and maybe a little patriotism. Or are they upset that so many black families migrated northward in search of jobs thereby upsetting their white supremacy in the cities? Or is it that typical Northern Liberal superiority complex? And what the heck has Senator Allen ever done to this twit? Why not a piece on “Sheets” Byrd, or is being a former Klan member and using the “N” word on national television a tad to much for this clown to wrap his brain around?

I believe race relations in the South are really far better than in the North. That nasty old empirical evidence at play again.

Case in point. While living in Savannah in the mid-nineties I had the great good fortune to hear Justice Clarence Thomas speak at a Church in the historic district. The audience was standing room only and by percentage of Savannah’s population well represented by blacks and whites, men in coats and ties, women in skirts and dresses… respect! One of my co-workers had on his cowboy boots, as always, and spit shined.

Second point. The bars and restaurants I frequented always had a racial mix interacting… no lone tokens. I compare and contrast where I live now and our Eastern Shore has a way to go.

I could cite other observations including my racially mixed upper middle class neighborhood but brevity speaks.

And the flag, the flag, the flag… always the flag. These libs truly need to just get over it! The North won, last I remember. Let us Southerners have our flag, we don’t fly it above Old Glory. Just because a few fools and malcontents use it for nefarious purposes (same could be said about Old Glory) is no reason to impugn the entire South, and it is NOT a racist statement to the majority of us.
Jim Woodward
Fruitland, Maryland

I would be inclined to say let articles like Lizza’s be repeated over and over, and featured front page above the fold. The more such articles with their sneering elitist tone, the more votes that Sen. Allen picks up, especially in southern and western Virginia. I predict that Sen. Allen will win re-election this year by a margin that will be envied by many GOP candidates. Come 2008, someone will have to go a long way if they hope to move me off the Allen for POTUS bandwagon.

Go, George, go. Don’t change nothing. You are the closest to St. Ronald the Reagan that I see on the horizon.
Ken Shreve

Good work, Mr. Holman!

Umm, let’s see now… “The story line is written in advance, and square details fill the round holes.” Yep, I’d say that’s pretty similar to what they accused Bush and Blair of doing, based on the Downing Street memo, of making the intelligence fit the decision to go to war. Oh well, it’s not like anybody’s died or anything… yet.
Mike Showalter
Austin, Texas

I grow weary at the Left’s pallid attempts to smear anyone it does not like or views as a Republican “comer.” The left that used to make political/philosophical points is reduced to finding Blockbuster receipts in garbage cans, describing footwear, etc….

In any event, you refer to the Confederate flag in this piece. Strongly suspect the flag was actually the Confederate battle flag as most would not recognize the actual Confederate flag. This is not a small point as it clearly recognizes the bravery and tenacity of the Confederate Army — which almost, on several occasions, won the war…
Bruce Karlson
Navarre, Florida

Bravo to David Holman for a very fine article regarding “Lizza’s Ideological Blinders.”

Keep up the good work!
Wes Gainey
St. Joseph, Minnesota

This is in response to David Holman’s “Lizza’s Ideological Blunders.”

Mr. Holman, I agree with you wholeheartedly on every point. However, as a lifelong Alabama native, I must make a minor correction: We’re called Alabamians, not Alabamans.

Of course, I’m kidding, though we are indeed Alabamians. Your defense of Senator Allen is fantastic, and I look forward to reading the bona fide profile.
Cory Adair
Tallassee, Alabama

David Holman’s online piece on George Allen omits mention of Sen. Allen’s alleged penchant for personal, physical violence. That is a very troubling charge, especially when leveled by a family member. I have not read his sister’s book, Fifth Quarter, but I plan to. If those facts are true, do you really want this guy making nuclear war decisions?
Peter Metrinko
Chantilly, Virginia

David Holman replies:
I will never think of the Confederate battle flag or Alabamians the same. Thank you for the compliments and pointers.

As for my omissions, I wasn’t defending or explaining all Allen’s character as depicted in Lizza’s article. There are a few points here: 1. I don’t think everything in a candidate’s past is fair game, especially based on family tell-all books. Sen. Allen declines to challenge her account, which to me is a sign of class because that would only escalate in a public forum what is properly a family dispute. 2. You’re welcome to your own opinions about Allen’s character in light of his sister’s book. Since the charges are out there, please educate yourself. (Though I wonder why a concerned Virginia resident didn’t read her book when it came out during Allen’s 2000 Senate campaign.) 3. Speaking personally, I hope I’m not judged in 30 years based on fights with my brothers — we fought hard.

Re: Philip Klein’s It’s Time:

“With the nation now divided between those who are pro-Iraq War and anti-Iraq War, those who support Bush and those who hate him, the film helps us remember that we’re all in this together.”

Yeah, we are in this together and that seems to be the problem. It means that some among us have to recognize evil. But that also means making a choice, between dealing with it, or hoping the world is big enough to explain it away. The latter is choice we no longer have.

The feel-good leave me alone types, the commie-lefty-libs, and sub-culture folks who enjoy American life, leisure, and luxury, resent the surcharge of freedom assessed to them. They are blaming Bush for reminding them of what citizenship really means. Before 9/11, life was easy, non-confrontational, and routine, like a magazine article, a PBS documentary, something far, far away. The violence elsewhere in the world was just a water cooler topic, with a discussion of a Seinfeld episode to take the edge off.

Well it looks like America has enemies, because a free nation and a free people reflect the utter damnation of the despotic miserable life these terrorists are too scared to overthrow in their own wretched countries. So, what’s a free nation to do? We go there, and rather than nuke them, we expend tremendous blood and treasure to depose their vermin, and GIVE THEIR citizenry a second chance on life.

That is compassion. We cannot let the Americans who perished on 9/11 down.
P. Aaron Jones
Huntington Woods, Michigan

Re: Mr. Klein’s review of United 93, his assessment is most accurate and timely. I hope the film plays here in Europe as well for it would appear that September 11 is undergoing a transformation. Over a year ago, a high-ranking official of the IAEA, addressing an international meeting, referred to 9-11 as “the incident in New York.” In other cases, the word “terrorist” has been dropped and only the word “attacks” is being used. Is this a casual dismissal of the horrific terrorist attacks of 9-11 or merely a recession into the consciousness of the public? Given the opportunity, like-minded terrorists would perpetrate the same type of acts again and would have learned to confiscate the cellphones of passengers also. Too soon? I doubt it!
Vienna, Austria

Re: Andrew J. Coulson’s Florida’s Wright Stuff:

So close, why not go all the way?

Instead of an amendment “explicitly allowing representatives to consider alternative educational options,” why not an amendment making Florida’s educational system 100 percent voucher-driven? Let’s not wound the dragon, let’s slay it, butcher it, smoke it and have lunch.
Mark Stewart
Jacksonville, Florida

Now, I haven’t ever been to journalism school or anything, but damned if I’m going to bother finishing any article whose lede is about torturing dogs, written by some think-tank libertarianoid who apparently thinks it’s funny.
Doug Welty
Arlington, Virginia

Re: Niall Stanage’s Going Back to Euston:

It seems to me that this article demonstrates that there still exist a few liberals in the mold of Senator and Vice President Hubert Humphrey, that is to say sensible, sane, good-hearted folks that simply tend to disagree with my preferred policy choices. I would also include Sen. Scoop Jackson, but I am not sure that it would be accepted that he was liberal, even though I would consider him one.

Again, I am stunned that I have not read or seen this Manifesto discussed endlessly on the nightly news shows and in headlines in the New York Times. Yep, sure I am.
Ken Shreve

Re: Reid Collins’s Supply and Demand:

I have a degree in economics from UCLA. I know about the law of supply and demand. It works in product markets where substitutes exist. It fails in inelastic markets.

For example, if beef triples in price, chicken sales increase. That demonstrates the price-elasticity of beef, relative to a substitute: chicken. If beef prices go up, demand for beef goes down (opposite directions, hence elastic), as some folks’ appetites go for chicken. Dinner is still dinner, but with a different meat.

One inelastic price/demand behavior is driving to work five days a week. Regardless of fuel prices, my work commute is constant. If gas falls to $1 per gallon, am I likely to start working weekends? When gas prices jump to $6, will I work only one day a week?

Unlike beef and chicken, there is no ready substitute for my job that I can trade between on a daily basis. If I worked close to a public transport station, I could triple my commute time, but since I don’t have as much time with family as I would like, I will pay for it at the pump.

Reid Collins is right: I will supply the money demanded for gas and Maryland electricity.
Newt Love
Annapolis, Maryland

People will pay. When I was in Germany last month, regular was about $6.00 a gallon. The roads weren’t as full as ours, but they sure weren’t deserted. People will give up their Schapps before they give up their private auto.

Re: Andrew Cline’s Pumped Out:

I agree with Mr. Cline that federal gas taxes should be repealed and pork barrel spending should be eliminated. However, I am disturbed by Mr. Cline’s lack of comments on why are we offering tax breaks to oil companies at the same time they are making record profits? Two wrongs do not make a right and both issues should be addressed. Something stinks and you should report on both sides of this issue that hurts the middle and lower class working Americans.
Tom Thurin

Re: Larry Thompson’s letter (“Switching Sides”) in Reader Mail’s Empty Tanks:

Wow! Tell us how you really feel, Larry, and don’t hold back. I am in full agreement that Mr. Bush is 180 degrees wrong on his handling of the illegal alien situation, however, I am not sure that a vote for Hillary Clinton, and a Senate with Ted “Oldsmobile” Kennedy as senate majority leader is the answer. I too am frustrated with President Bush’s wrongheaded attitude toward the problem, and I also believe that if he fails to awaken to the drums of the majority of working people in this country, he will do irreparable harm to the country that he is sworn to defend and preserve.

At the same time, I am not sure that impeachment, imprisonment, and shower rape are in order for him. I know that many of us out here in the boon docks are trying to decide whether the President’s stand on this matter is one of principle, or one of political chicanery. I for one would like to think that he is merely wrong on the issue rather than duplicitous. As for the problem itself, the ridiculousness of “Reconquista” and public marches and protests by people who should be busy doing “the jobs that Americans won’t do” will probably do enough to derail the proposed amnesty without secure borders movement in our cowardly congress. Oh, and by the way, wasn’t this tried by the Oldsmobile Kid 20 years ago, and if I’m not mistaken, isn’t this one of the MASSIVE reasons for the problem as it exists today?
Joseph Baum
Garrettsville, Ohio

Re: Michael Tomlinson’s letter (“The Value of the Southern Man”) in Reader Mail’s Empty Tanks:

This will be the second letter I’ve written in appreciation of the reader Michael Tomlinson’s wisdom and historical reminders. The first didn’t make the editor’s cut.

This man has it 100 percent correct. In rebuking some of us justifiably upset conservatives, (me especially) he puts into perspective the presidency of Ronald Reagan that some of us have come to “Camelotize” or canonize, pick your adulatory choice. I intend no disparagement of the great Ronald Reagan, but Mr. Tomlinson is right to chastise us for our lack of perspective vis-a-vis the actual records of Reagan v. Bush 43. As he wrote in an earlier missive, despite our growing frustration with the White House and the Congress, defeat in 06 is not an option. While Bush and Congressional Republicans may at times drive us crazy, the national Democrats are downright loathsome. Mea culpa for slipping into this very trap only a short 24 hours ago.

For an exclamation point, Mr. Tomlinson gives us an historical reminder as to the presidency of the “great” FDR. While Bush is being trashed by the duel dimwits, Harry Reid and Dick Durbin, for our being in Iraq longer than our involvement in WWII, (a testament to their historical and intellectual acuity), Mr. Tomlinson reminds us that it took FDR almost a decade to get us out of the Great Depression and only managed that because WWII saved his floundering presidency. Lest we also forget, it was the Kennedy patriarch, ole Joe, Ambassador to the Court of Saint James, who advised FDR that Britain was a lost cause and that the Nazis would be in Piccadilly Square within 30 days. It appears that there’s no generation-skipping stupidity when it comes to the Kennedy clan. So thanks Mr. Tomlinson, please feel free to remind us again and again when we lose perspective of what’s really important.
A. DiPentima

Re: Mark Coppenger’s The Curious Rationale for a “Day of Silence”:

I have just read your post “The Curious Rationale for a “Day of Silence.” I check out your site from time to time. As an independent I have always been interested in many sides of the issues we face today.

I must say though in reading this piece that it is filled, as I to often find in the conservative and liberal ranting, the use of assumptions stated as fact. Between this and the hypocrisy on both sides it leaves us in the middle or those of us trying to make a non-emotional decision no place to stand.

A brief example: but it is virtually inconceivable that Chapin would prove equally open and respectful toward faith traditions denouncing homosexuality and promoting sexual purity.

“Inconceivable” to anyone? Did he contact the school to ask them or is this just another assumption stated as fact? I guess I have to assume it’s the latter.

“Will Chapin girls who admire homosexuality relate to…”

Again misstated. Are they actually teaching the girls to admire or merely to respect the reality that many people are different. See how it shows the prejudice of the writer by the choice of the words he uses. Don’t get me wrong I’m a hunting rural living straight male. But when I read such biased drivel I don’t believe I actually get the message that was intended. The only point of view I got from this is the writer is religious and probably homophobic. (Note the “probably” I’m trying not to make assumptions)

This is a perfect example of the problems facing us in the country today and the fact that neither side can communicate due to everyone assuming they are right leaving no room for compromise. Everyone seems to be living in a black and white world when fifty years of life has shown me the truth lies in the grey areas.
Joe McD

Re: Jed Babbin’s Jail Time:

I was reluctant to weigh in on the CIA, NSA, Congressional, McCarthy, et al. leaks. But I will anyway.

There has been much debate over the last decade of whether the U.S. should maintain its traditional isolationist philosophy or adopt a more global outlook. This debate still rages within this society and especially within the enormous labyrinth of government bureaucracy. It is very much a part of our society today. Personally, I feel that debate was settled pretty definitively on September 11, 2001 on the side of globalism. To do justice to this debate would take far too long to discuss at this time. So, I will confine my comments to the narrow issue of leaking classified information.

If you take a bureaucracy heavily loaded with career employees who were hired by superiors with an isolationist mindset and you add the Robin Hood mystique of the anti-government whistle-blower (Watergate, Iran Contra, etc.), you get the current crop of “leakers.” They view the actions of the current administration as being evil and they wish to expose that evil to the light of day. The only thing wrong with that is the fact that, at the present time upon this planet, the Bush administration is not the enemy of the United States of America. Our enemies are located outside the borders of our country, not in the White House.

These people with their Alice in Wonderland outlook fail to realize that there is a real, live shooting war going on in the world. And that the people being shot at are their fellow Americans. There are people in positions of power in other countries who have publicly stated their intent to do as much harm as they can to this nation, her people and her interests. They are the enemy and should be treated as such.

Terrorist suspects sitting in cages in Guantanamo keep Americans safe. Intercepted telephone calls from suspected terrorists overseas, as well as in this country, keep us safe. “Secret” interrogation facilities in friendly countries overseas keep us safe. Why? Because intelligence obtained in these operations allow us to neutralize enemy attacks before they happen. This keeps our children from being blown up in school, or at the pizza parlor, or at their local soccer match, or at the airport or pretty much anywhere at all. It allows us to concentrate on the more important problems in life, such as $3 a gallon gasoline.

So to all the “whistle-blowers” out there who do not mind placing their fellow citizens at risk to “protect” us from imagined civil rights threats I hope you like the accommodations at Leavenworth. Fortunately, my sentiments are shared by a significant portion of the electorate.
Michael Tobias
Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

Re: Ben Stein’s Greetings From Rancho Mirage:

Please forward my sincere gratitude to Mr. Stein for putting words to the sentiments that flow through the veins and hearts of so very, very many. My sweet wife and I pray daily for our troops and the others that stand between us and the harm that others might want to bring upon our great nation.

I think I will include Mr. Stein in my prayers now for his eloquence in stating what should be on the lips of every person that is or could possibly call himself or herself an American.
Jerry S. Christensen
Retired teacher

Thanks, Ben. I wish the whole world could read your letter.

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