Atheists, Muslims and Mormons led the list of groups viewed by Americans as the least like themselves in terms of basic beliefs and values, according to a national survey by the Institute for Jewish & Community Research.
Two out of three adults questioned said people "who do not believe in religion" were unlike them. Nearly six in 10 -- 56 percent -- saw Muslims as different from themselves. Fifty-six percent also viewed Mormons as holding values and beliefs markedly dissimilar to their own.
In contrast only one in three viewed Jews or Christian fundamentalists as being different, and fewer still rated blacks, Latinos or Catholics as embracing values that were dissimilar from their own.
Why are Mormons viewed as being so outr? Is it that the church once sanctioned polygamy a long time ago? Or could it be that the church's strictly enforced ban on alcohol and tobacco use makes Mormons seem out-of-step with the typical American?
"It would be nice to imagine that people think members of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints live in a way that others aspire to, but I'm not certain that's what we're seeing here," said Wes Andersen, spokesman for the church's office of international and governmental affairs in Washington.
THE NAME GAME: "Does everybody who works for a think tank have a weird name?" our keen-witted editor asked after reading last week's items about the Atlantic Council's Banning Garrett and the Council on Foreign Relations' Princeton N. Lyman.
Immediately the scales fell from our eyes. Everywhere we looked we found such names as: Bertrand M. Patenaude, Williamson M. Evers, H. Lyman Miller and Timothy Garton Ash, all with the Hoover Institution. At the Center for Strategic and International Studies: Porcher L. Taylor III, Stanton H. Burnett and Bates Gill. Brink Lindsey does his thinking at the Cato Institute.
"This raises, intriguingly, the old issue of nature v. nurture," said our colleague Gene Weingarten, a connoisseur of exotic handles who has made ridiculing people's names into an art form in his weekly Post magazine humor column.
"There are really only two possibilities here, and they are diametrically opposed," he said. "On one hand, it is possible that having a pretentious name encourages a person to seek an appropriately pretentious occupation. That is the more benign explanation. Alternatively, it might mean that there are genes for pretentiousness, and that they are tragically passed along to an innocent, along with his name, by parents pretentious enough to have come up with the name in the first place."
His conclusion: "I believe in a just God who does not cavalierly visit plagues upon innocents. I go with the first explanation."
For the other side of the story, we turned to the Heritage Foundation's Jim Weidman -- who immediately turned the tables on us.
"Oh puh-leeze!" Weidman wrote in an e-mail. "This from [columnists] whose publisher is Boisfeuillet Jones Jr.?" [For the record, we believe "Boisfeuillet" is a magnificent name.] "I don't think that tanks house a disproportionately high number of folks with funny names. There's a disproportionately high number of funny names wherever you look."
And anyway, names reveal nothing "about a person, the person's vocation or the person's employer," Weidman said. "At worst, they indicate that even doting parents can be unwittingly cruel."
PARTY ANIMALS: Staff and friends of the New America Foundation and the Atlantic Monthly shared a champagne toast last Tuesday evening to celebrate their collaboration on this month's issue of the magazine, focused on the "The Real State of the Union."
Among the guests at NAF President Ted Halstead's Dupont Circle brownstone was NAF board chairman and Atlantic correspondent James Fallows, Atlantic managing editor Cullen Murphy, and Gates Foundation senior policy adviser Stefanie Sanford, who described herself as a "big fan" of New America. Asked if she was funding the Gen X think tank, Sanford answered, "Not yet."
Sen. John Breaux (D-La.), who spoke earlier at a NAF/Atlantic event at the National Press Club also stopped by. "You think senators are busy, but I said 'There's a party tonight' and the senator said, 'Let me check my schedule,' " Halstead recounted in a toast.
"Hey, I'm from Louisiana," Breaux explained.
PEOPLE: It's a bump up for leaders of the Center for Democracy and Technology. The board has named CDT founder Jerry Berman as president, and promoted Deputy Director James X. Dempsey to executive director. CDT has also hired Lara Flint as staff attorney covering national security and civil liberties. Flint comes from Jenner & Block.
The National Center for Policy Analysis has chosen Michael F. Cannon to fill the newly created position of government affairs director. Cannon came from the Senate Republican Policy Committee, and has also worked at Citizens for a Sound Economy.
The Council on Foreign Relations' Walter Russell Mead has been awarded the Lionel Gelber Prize for his book "Special Providence: American Foreign Policy and How It Changed the World." Mead will receive the award, worth $ 30,000 Canadian, in Toronto on Jan. 29.
The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy has hired Jeff Krehely from Atlantic Philanthropies Inc. as research director. Krehely has worked at the Urban Institute's Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy.
Have news about think tanks, policy-oriented foundations or nonprofits? Want to make fun of our names? E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.