Archive for QOTW

Quote of the week

Glenn Reynolds takes the long view on capital punishment:

I’m skeptical of the death penalty’s administration because the criminal justice system is a disaster. But, assuming guilt, I don’t really care much about the morality of killing people. The nation-state is all about killing people. Its sole reason for existing is that it’s better at killing people in large numbers than any other form of human organization. If you don’t like the idea of the state killing people, you don’t like the idea of the state. If you don’t realize this, it’s because your thinking is confused.

If this perturbs you, ask yourself the question Reynolds hints at: “At what other function can the nation-state be legitimately deemed superior?” No matter what you come up with, it will be based on the power of coercion — at the point of a gun.

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Quote of the week

Forty-five years ago, there seemed to be no limits:

I watched with my grandmother’s second husband, a tall, thin, spare man born in 1900. He’d seen air travel when it meant doped canvas and spruce wood and gasoline engines that may or may not continue running and now he was sitting and watching a man land on the moon. When we heard “The Eagle has landed” that old man clapped me on the back and said that he envied me and what I was going to see, and that he wished he was going to be alive to know … what? … what would we discover … what wonderful things would we learn?

We never contemplated that the future doesn’t always bring progress. That knowledge is power and that power corrupts and that the glory of Rome was followed by the Dark Ages and the Library of Alexandria was burned by ignorant barbarians who, barbarians they may have been but they were victorious barbarians and if you can’t create then you destroy and loot the creation of others.

But boys and girls let me tell you one thing … it was a glorious day, back in ’69. Right there on live TV, out in public where the whole world could see.

Oh look, the Kardashians are on.

And that’s the way it is, Sunday, July 20th, two thousand fourteen. How far we have fallen.

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Quote of the week

The Ruling Class really, really hates not getting to rule:

Most of all, I think — they despise us for not giving a damn what they think particularly, and rejecting practically everything that they tell us to do — ride public transportation, move into urban stack-a-prole housing, give up eating meat (or much of anything else), and continuing to believe that we can raise our own children and sort out our own lives without self-elected nannies breathing down our necks 24-7. Very likely the well-manicured and delicate hands of the new ruling class itch for a whip to give us all a good thrashing for our temerity. Indeed — they are no longer our countrymen in spirit, any more than the Tory sympathizers who departed the American colonies two hundred years and more ago are.

Civil war, you say? Not a chance — of it being civil, anyway.

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Quote of the week

Your humble narrator, having previously contemplated continuing shortfalls in the Highway Trust Fund, has recommended an increase in the fuel tax, one of the less intrusive options available.

Congressmen don’t think like that. Jack Baruth quotes one, and gets at the heart of the matter:

“If all we did was set this up to collect the road fee, that’s actually a more expensive way to collect the fee. The gas tax is actually a very inexpensive tax to collect. But if we are able to have a platform that does all these other things, to share the costs, and give people a richer transportation experience, I think people will voluntarily make that transition.”

We’re missing all the air quotes, I think, let’s put them back in:

I “think” people will “voluntarily” make that “transition”

When you read “voluntarily” in modern wonk-speak, you can take that to mean “Any amount of resistance short of facing down the Bureau of Land Management with the local redneck militia,” and that’s what it means here as well. The motorists of America will be given a single option: GPS-based usage tracking tied to a central payment account that will also be debited for parking and traffic tickets. It’s perfectly easy to imagine a speed camera just sitting by the site of the road dinging every motorist who goes by at 1mph over the limit a nice, round five hundred bucks. And why not?

Naturally, the same government that manages to lose all the incriminating IRS emails will keep solid-gold-permanent records of your travels until the end of time. If they do it with the justly-reviled public-private partnership, those records will be sold to Equifax and your insurance company as well. With your travel and your Carnivore records, the government knows exactly who and what you are. In real time, they’ll be able to understand your entire life. Imagine the day when driving to an oncology clinic results in a sit-down with your company’s HR representative to discuss your future with the company. Or the day when your employer can simply buy a list of your whereabouts sorted to its particular interest. Or the day when parking your car outside a gun store every Sunday and walking across the street for ice cream results in the ATF visiting your house to discuss your gun-nut tendencies. Or the day when driving through known drug-sales areas results in a SWAT team tossing a flashbang into your child’s crib.

Note the ludicrous phrase “richer transportation experience.” Any “richer” experience, as defined in DC-speak, makes you poorer by definition: not only are the results not favorable to you, but you have to pay for them in the first place.

“Oh, Jack, you teatard anarchist commie libertarian,” you’re sighing. “How else are they supposed to address the Highway Fund problem?” Well, I would suggest that destroying the last vestiges of privacy and liberty in this country are not any less meaningful than keeping up the pace of road construction. I would also suggest that it’s not my job to come up with ideas as to how the government can easily accomplish its goals without trampling its citizens underfoot. But since you asked, I’ll come up with one: A ten percent tariff on cheap goods imported from China would add 50% to the existing Highway Fund tax level, enough to address all concerns for the foreseeable future.

Assuming, of course, you could get the idiots in Washington to spend it on that, as opposed to any of the useless crap they’d want to spend it on.

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Fark blurb of the week

Rolf Harris convicted of having young girls tie his kangaroo down.

(Linked to this. Check the shed for suspiciously tanned hides.)

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Quote of the week

Francis W. Porretto, on the country’s rapidly expanding “non-military” military:

In a nation where “laws” (and “regulations” enforced as “laws”) have proliferated so voluminously that even the most astute legal specialists cannot know them adequately, does “law and order” constitute a sufficient justification for a fully militarized police system?

An effectively nationalized police system?

Armed and armored by the Department of Defense?

Equipped with tools of surveillance beyond Orwell’s imagination?

Whose myrmidons are indemnified for any acts of wrongdoing no matter how dramatic?

If so, how do these United States differ in principle from North Korea?

After reading up on the DPRK’s Ministry of People’s Security, I’m inclined to think that the only substantive difference is volume.

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Quote of the week

Roberta X has had enough of our little pissing contests:

Once again, Larry Correia, John Scalzi and some nitwit I never heard of much are spatting. In a better world, I’d be able to say, “Boys! Go to your rooms,” but until I am elected Empress of All For Life, here’s a stopgap for the cheering hundreds, specifically those writing comments along the order of, “Yeah! $BAD _STUFF should happen to $GUY_I_DISAGREE_WITH! He’s bad and he should feel bad about it.”

Yeah, y’know what, Bucko? No. Not. This here is the United States of America and people are allowed to be right out there being WRONG, walking around and talking and spreading wrongness and bad advice everywhere. And dammit, that’s actually how most of us like it. Oh, we don’t want to sit next to ‘em on the bus, those wrong people who disagree with us, but if it’s the last seat left, we will, and most of the time, they’ll even scooch over a bit.

And unfuck you Left, Right or Center if you don’t like that. No, seriously: that attitude is The Real Problem. It’s the very same exact damn thing that led to riots by chariot-team boosters in Byzantium. I don’t expect it will change, really.

You can read some of the spattage for yourself if you’re so inclined. In the meantime, I await the rise of her empire.

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Fark blurb of the week

Therapist arrestedafter reportof sexualassault.

(Linked to this [warning: irritating popup survey].)

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Quote of the week

“If only” seems to bedevil all of us at one time or another. (If you’ve managed to avoid it thus far, you’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din.) Sometimes it goes like this:

I wish I were one of those “successful” bloggers. You know. The kind who can paint a pretty picture of their lives — they have lovely kids, they are super-good at their work, their hobby projects always turn out lovely and just as they planned them, they never seem to struggle or agonize. All their pictures are nice and none of them turn out to have a bit of the laundry basket peeking out in the corner of the picture of something else. When they bake bread, it looks like a picture in a cooking magazine. But I don’t have enough perfection in my life to be able to do that — it seems like my whole life is a big hot mess, and so all I can do is show the slightly-more-successful parts of the hot mess here. Maybe if I had a spouse or family close by or lots of close in-person friends I could talk about the stuff that bothers me instead of posting it here, I could be one of those serene bloggers who seems to have a perfect life. I don’t know.

Truth be told, I think the warts-and-all approach is much more appropriate, at least at this level, where you’re not counting on the daily bloggage to pay for your daily bread. I often wonder how much I’d have to scour this place if I were trying to make a living from it, instead of writing off some insignificant sum each year. (By “insignificant,” I mean “somewhere in the high two or low three figures.”) Besides, we have the example of Adobe Photoshop to guide us. In the smallest possible doses, it can shed light on important details. Overused, it creates a monster.

On the term “hot mess” itself, I like this below-the-top paragraph from Urban Dictionary:

No one set of guidelines can perpetually determine what distinguishes a “hot mess” from an above-average train wreck. Regardless of the circumstances, you know it when you see it; because they are typically conspicuous, and obviously they are always awesome.

And you know, if you’re going for a train wreck, you might as well go for above average.

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Quote of the week

David Warren’s conspectus — as distinguished from “prospectus” — for Canada’s Conservative Party:

If elected, we promise to do nothing. There will be no new initiative in any area of government. Should some foreign power threaten us, we shall smoosh them promptly. Should some other unforeseen event positively demand our attention, we shall respond in like spirit to make it go away. Such contingencies aside, we shall avoid enterprise of any sort. Instead, we shall devote our entire attention, not to doing, but to undoing things. And not just little things but big things; and not just a few notoriously rotten apples in the eyes of vested interests known to be unloved, but the whole apple pie, the whole bakery. We shall make the Tea Party in the United States look like a bunch of socialist whiners. We shall make the UKIP in Britain look like Europhiles. Our ambition, as we cling to power, shall be to undo every gratuitous Act of Parliament, or other superannuated government measure, going back to Confederation, if not to Champlain. We shall repeal legislation, erase regulations, close government departments, demolish the buildings, salt the earth on which they stood, fire and retire civil servants by the refugee shipload. We shall sack them on the beaches, we shall sack them on the landing grounds, we shall sack them in the fields and in the streets, we shall start with the CBC. Our motto shall be that of the Machine Gun Corps of the British Army in the Great War. (“Saul hath slain his thousands, but David his tens of thousands.”) We shall do this deliberately and persistently and remorselessly with no more attention to public opinion than will be necessary to lure our opponents into traps.

Inexplicably — or maybe not so inexplicably — the Conservatives chose not to adopt this as a platform.

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Quote of the week

This dates back almost a hundred years, and in so doing has dated not a whit:

The American of today, in fact, probably enjoys less personal liberty than any other man of Christendom, and even his political liberty is fast succumbing to the new dogma that certain theories of government are virtuous and lawful, and others abhorrent and felonious. Laws limiting the radius of his free activity multiply year by year: It is now practically impossible for him to exhibit anything describable as genuine individuality, either in action or in thought, without running afoul of some harsh and unintelligible penalty. It would surprise no impartial observer if the motto “In God we trust” were one day expunged from the coins of the republic by the Junkers at Washington, and the far more appropriate word, “verboten,” substituted. Nor would it astound any save the most romantic if, at the same time, the goddess of liberty were taken off the silver dollars to make room for a bas-relief of a policeman in a spiked helmet. Moreover, this gradual (and, of late, rapidly progressive) decay of freedom goes almost without challenge; the American has grown so accustomed to the denial of his constitutional rights and to the minute regulation of his conduct by swarms of spies, letter-openers, informers and agents provocateurs that he no longer makes any serious protest.

(From The American Credo: A Contribution toward the Interpretation of the National Mind, by H. L. Mencken, 1920.)

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Quote of the week

Relatively few QOTWs come with footnotes, but this particular version does have one, and it deserves inclusion:

While the Margaret Atwoods of the world worry about the Baptists enacting some horrible draconian theocracy here in the US*, it’s actually happening in other corners of the world. I guess over there it’s charming and ethnic and we shouldn’t judge them by our imperialistic Western standards. Why, one person’s flogging for an unapproved marriage is no different from another person’s $15 ticket for jaywalking!

* Both atheists and believers want to feel oppressed here, because oppression is the coin of the realm in 21st century America and can be traded for valuable cash and prizes.

Yep. Don’t even think about writing a memoir unless you can cite examples where you were victimized by The Man, or at the very least by The System.

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Quote of the week

Dead Pony Club labelBritain’s Portman Group, a trade group of brewers and distillers and such, is assigned the task of, says Wikipedia, “advocacy of responsible drinking and research into UK alcohol consumption.” And they will tell you that they were just doing their job when they ruled that BrewDog’s marketing campaign for its Dead Pony Club ale “encourages both anti-social behaviour and rapid drinking.”

BrewDog, the largest Scottish independent brewery, was suitably apologetic:

“On behalf of BrewDog PLC and its 14,691 individual shareholders, I would like to issue a formal apology to the Portman Group for not giving a s*** about today’s ruling.

“Indeed, we are sorry for never giving a s***about anything the Portman Group has to say, and treating all of its statements with callous indifference and nonchalance.

“Unfortunately, the Portman Group is a gloomy gaggle of killjoy jobsworths, funded by navel-gazing international drinks giants. Their raison d’être is to provide a diversion for the true evils of this industry, perpetrated by the gigantic faceless brands that pay their wages.”

It goes on from there.

(Via Fark. This is not even slightly related to Dead Pony Flying, a short-short story by, um, me.)

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Quote of the week

Two members of Congress who, you might think, ought to know better — until you remember that they’re members of Congress and therefore don’t know anything, better or otherwise — have proposed Federal regulation of photo manipulation. James Lileks says they’re aiming at the wrong target:

This still doesn’t address the real problem, does it? Advertising is the problem. Advertising holds up images of some ideal we cannot achieve, and thus causes aspiration, which ends in misery. Who among us hasn’t watched TV for half an hour, studied the ads like the revelatory playlets they are, then left the house to eat fried chicken, enlist in the Marines, buy a $47,999 car, and ask our doctor whether Vilevria is right for us? It’s all I can do after seeing an Oil of Olay ad to keep from running up to my wife’s drawer of potions, slathering the stuff on my face, and shouting HURRY UP AND DEFY THE RAVAGES OF TIME at my reflection. Ads are not suggestions. These are marching orders beamed directly into our quivering id, and we’ve no defense against them.

So we need to change the entire advertising paradigm: Companies will be permitted to show a picture of the product, and a monotone voice will describe its attributes as determined by an impartial board empowered to strike out any language that suggests that the consumption of this taco has any nominal advantage over the consumption of any other taco. The company will be allowed to assert that the “Mucho Fiero Grande” sauce has a more substantial “kick” than the competitor, based on lab analysis of the capsaicin content measured in Scoville units.

If you have a poor self-image because you don’t compare favorably to what you see in print or on television, you’re wrong; yes, you should have a poor self-image, not because you don’t own this or you don’t look like that, but because you’re credulous enough to think those things matter.

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Fark blurb of the week

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Quote of the week

The first truth about sex, says the Nightfly, is that it unites people:

Physically this is indisputable; as one moves through the physical to the mental and spiritual, it becomes easier to hide and mislead on this basic fact, but couples themselves know better. In fact, sex is often enough the result of couples who catch each other’s attention for other reasons. In situations where the physical is the primary motive, these other motives for spending time together frequently arise; those couples without these other bonds nearly always dissolve. Sex also frequently leads to couples preferring each other to anyone else, and both expecting and promising exclusivity — a thing that could not happen if the physical bond were the only one to consider, since there are always times where one or both partner is unavailable sexually. Also, sexual attraction naturally leads to people pairing off in as beneficial a match to themselves as they can arrange: not necessarily where the greatest sensual delights lie, either. Nor is satisfaction in a lover’s relationship exclusively gauged by those couples as the greatest degree of physical sensation. And it all leads to family units that people are willing to defend to the death against all comers. A happy home is something worth protecting, and not surprisingly people will speak up about and oppose proposals destructive to that happiness — whether the family or the proposal are liberal or conservative. People with families to protect unite across political and social strata to do it.

Of course, there are those who resist the very idea of progressing to the spiritual:

This is a major protection from all the other nonsense peddled as alternatives to healthy and fully-realized humanity. Society can hardly be remade along statist or Marxist lines with that sort of thing going on. Thus the major thing to do is to destroy families … a tricky proposition.

Then again, if you’ve promised your heart to the state, at least you’ll have a chance to be faithful: no one worth having will stand in your way.

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Quote of the week

Tony Woodlief, on the recent departure of Westboro Baptist Church founder Fred Phelps:

In truth, people like me need someone like Fred Phelps. He made me feel better about myself. I am as the Pharisee who gave thanks he was not the tax collector — a comparison to which some might object, on the grounds that in that story, the tax collector was a humbled man, aware of his sins and begging mercy.

But none of us knows what transpires in the heart’s final beating. We can never know until it is we who lay waiting for judgment, our hearts softened or hardened or indifferent. Perhaps Fred Phelps saw, in his final seconds, the cost of his life, the dreadful bloody stink of it, rising up to heaven. Perhaps he saw and he begged forgiveness. And perhaps — how scandalous to think it — he was forgiven.

And while the state of his heart is now a settled and secreted thing, perhaps mine turns, as well as yours, on whether we are willing to pray that it was so, that the likes of Fred Phelps could be saved from the sickness that consumed him. Perhaps such a merciful heart is, in the end, all that saves any of us from his sickness.

Which reminds us that justice, the legal concept, and Justice, the operation of the cosmos under divine guidance, share little more than a word.

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Quote of the week

And should Crimea fall into the Russian orbit once more? Swell, says Josh:

“Illegitimate”, huh? Illegitimate my arse. Do you even know the meaning of illegitimate, my dear European leaders? Something that is legitimate is something that is supported by the people. The referendum is supported by the people. Today, the people of Sevastopol, an autonomous town withing the autonomous republic of Crimea, have proposed a similar referendum. There are protests that BBC doesn’t show, of thousands of people waving Russian flags in Crimea, eager not to support, I’m quoting, “The Nazi Bandera government” reigning in Kiev. The referendum, my dear EU leaders, who have addled their minds with “liberal values” and oil, is legitimate. And guess what? Here’s a tenner saying the people of Crimea will vote for reuniting with Russia. Because it has always been Russian. Even after the 60s, up until 1992, it was pretty much Russian. So, after twenty years of being under Kiev’s yoke, Crimea wants back to Russia, to officially speak the Russian language, and pay Russian taxes. (Which are sweet, by the way. Hence my making business here.) The referendum is legitimate, and everyone who thinks otherwise, can unfollow me right now because I don’t have anything to say to you, even if I’ve known you for years. To you, I say, good-bye.

You must have meant, “illegal”, my dear European leaders. Of course, fighting for negro rights in France and gay marriage in the UK is far more important than actually learning how to speak. (No, it’s not.) Was the revolution in Ukraine legal? Nooo. Was the President’s impeachment legal, according to the Constitution? Noooo. Is there a President in the country to sign, or contr-assignate the laws the Parliament has passed? Noooo. Is the current “government” legal? No. But, here’s the thing, it’s only semi-legitimate. No part of Ukraine in the East supports them. The West does. Well, rule the West then. Good riddance. There’s nothing worth investing in there, anyway.

Now, I’m waiting eagerly for the referendum to pass and for Crimea to reunite with Russia once more. Then, I’ll celebrate not only St Paddy’s Day, but also a new open market. Which is very very good. And I swear, if the UK decides to deploy fucking troops in Crimea after its reunion with Russia, and I’m made to choose, I’m applying for Russian citizenship. My country, Scotland, is about to go downhill in September anyway. And Russia is one of the few countries that still holds the conservative values dear to my heart and is not fucking insane or high on liberal shit. After every high, there’s a cold turkey. Just reminding you.

I have every reason to believe he’s serious.

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Quote of the week

Lisa Paul was outraged by that Arizona bill, and explains why:

Here’s why I’m so adamant about fighting any law or bill that would institutionalize discrimination — especially if it allows Conservative Christians to impose their religious mores on others. I’ve been down that road. When I first moved to California, I worked at a company that I later found out was run by an Evangelical Christian CEO. My boss was a devout Mormon. When I announced to my co-workers that I was engaged, my boss called me into his office and gave me what I later found out from other female employees (former) was “The Talk”. He asked me when I was getting married and said, “And, of course, your husband won’t want you working after that.” When I said, I certainly did plan to work after marriage. He began to question me about when I planned to have children and tell me that married women should be home. I really needed that job. It wasn’t just important to my career, we’d just bought our first house together and needed every cent for the mortgage. Remember, this was Liberal California — although thirty years ago it wasn’t as Liberal and Silicon Valley was very much more a Boys’ Club. Could I complain or sue? I didn’t think upper management would stand behind me given that the CEO didn’t seem like a truly Christ-like Christian. (He would lead us in prayer at the company party for a profitable quarter!) I certainly didn’t have the money for an attorney. Besides, if a boss wants you gone, even if you have great performance reviews, he can find a way to do it — especially if there is tacit approval at the top management levels for that sort of behavior.

There is always a way to fire someone. It may take legal guidance or worse, but there is always a way.

I went through some scary weeks wondering if I should pretend that I’d broken off the engagement, at least until I could get another job. I was sick to my stomach that we were going to lose our house. In a Deus Ex Machina development, that boss got another job a few weeks after that and so did I. But no one should have to reconfigure their lives or fear for their financial security or career longevity because someone else is trying to impose his religious views on you. (And by the way, THAT is religious discrimination, not laws that prevent you from oppressing others.) Now, in the scheme of things, I’m not in a group that encounters a lot of discrimination. I’m sure the LGBT community and African Americans are laughing at this — and it is just a fraction of the discrimination those groups face. But that one brush sure brought home the helplessness and fear that is unmitigated by any hope that the system might have your back. That’s why I believe we should fight against even the tiniest chipping away of any protections that stop such discrimination. If you’ve never been a victim of any kind of discrimination, you probably need to step back and listen more than you talk on this issue. Because you have NO idea. If I’d been working in an Arizona where SB 1062 was the law, it certainly would have allowed my firing on the grounds that the CEO and my boss’s religious beliefs stated that married women should not work outside the home!

Governor Brewer, for whatever reason — I assume by default that the “reasons” in such matters are at best dimly related to the real reasons — chose to veto that bill.

The doctrine in question, if I remember correctly, reads something like this: “Hate the sin, love the sinner.” There’s no intermediate step that requires you to get up in that sinner’s face.

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Quote of the week

A short note to twentysomethings, by someone who long ago left that bracket:

We are not ready to be put out to pasture yet. We are not obsolete. We are still taking names and kicking ass. We’re writing the things you read, making the music you listen to, starring in the movies you watch, creating the apps you use, writing the code you never even think about but are dependent on.

We’re not too old to be or do anything. We’re not too old to be beautiful. We’re not too old to be relevant. What we are is old enough to tell you to simmer down, child. You may be 20 but with a little luck and good fortune you’ll make it 40 or 50 and be half as cool as we are. And then it will be your turn to tell some 20 year olds to stop telling you you’re too old.

Hey, we don’t even mind if you occasionally get on our lawn, for certain values of “occasionally” — and, I suppose, of “we.”

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Quote of the week

Tam explains the debt ceiling, starting with the reason why “debt ceiling” is an inaccurate term:

Why do they even call it a “limit” or “ceiling”, anyway? In aircraft terms, a “ceiling” is an altidude beyond which the plane cannot climb; in political terms, a “ceiling” is just any one of a series of ever higher points on a curve that went asymptotic long ago.

In the world of personal finance, credit card limits work because your credit card magically stops being able to buy stuff when you reach them. Congress, on the other hand, just tells the cashier “Run it again, it’ll work,” and it does!

Come to think of it, we have customers who believe in that mantra with all their flinty little hearts.

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Quote of the week

A retiring teacher blames the state education bureaucracy for making her profession unbearable for her successors:

Dear State Department of Supposed Education: Just a note to let you know that you and the person who has initiated the stream of useless, unnecessary, counterproductive and completely senseless paperwork, data, and time-filler are killing my younger teacher friends and teaching associates. I am watching the sadness, stress, and tears. You see, I know that my 35 years of teaching has been sound, productive and inspiring. I felt it. I lived it. My students grew up with it. They learned from it. They are successful because of it. They are happy adults and earning wonderful livings. And I never entered a single digit of data but the grade they earned. But my younger counterparts have to put up with your insane, meaningless, time and energy-sapping nonsense that inspires no one and is killing the spirits of these fine, dedicated individuals, but more importantly, the spirits of the children whom we lead.

It occurs to me that the state is probably being “persuaded” (for which read “coerced”) to do these things by the Feds, so if you’re with the federal Department of Education, this very likely applies to you too.

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Quote of the week

I know, it’s only Wednesday, but we’re not going to top this description of a quadrennial revulsion:

The annual State of the Union pageant is a hideous, dispiriting, ugly, monotonous, un-American, un-republican, anti-democratic, dreary, backward, monarchical, retch-inducing, depressing, shameful, crypto-imperial display of official self-aggrandizement and piteous toadying, a black Mass during which every unholy order of teacup totalitarian and cringing courtier gathers under the towering dome of a faux-Roman temple to listen to a speech with no content given by a man with no content, to rise and to be seated as is called for by the order of worship — it is a wonder they have not started genuflecting — with one wretched representative of their number squirreled away in some well-upholstered Washington hidey-hole in order to preserve the illusion that those gathered constitute a special class of humanity without whom we could not live.

It’s the most nauseating display in American public life — and I write that as someone who has just returned from a pornographers’ convention.

A friend of mine, before the “event,” said that she didn’t subject herself to such things anymore:

I used to, believing “This is something grownups are supposed to do.” Now I look to see what’s on Cartoon Network instead.

Which makes perfect sense, since Cartoon Network, unlike the participants in SOTU, has effective adult supervision.

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Quote of the week

We used to call them “grammar schools.” Grammar, of course, is no longer au courant as an area of study, inasmuch as it presumes that some people’s language might be superior to the language of others. But that’s not the greatest loss:

The problem is one of fundamentals. American schools — grammar schools — once taught the fundamentals of the American approach to government: individual freedom; constitutionally limited government; the sanctity of free enterprise and private property; the guarantees of the Bill of Rights. Schoolchildren learned about the insights of John Locke and Adam Smith, and why they constituted important advances in human thought. Without those things, comprehending the American way of governance sufficiently well to articulate it is impossible — and a large majority of Americans lacks those things today.

He who lacks appreciation for the moral imperative and the practical case for freedom will fall back to other “values.” He’ll defend whatever crumbs he can beg from the Omnipotent State as his “by right,” even if they must be snatched from the mouths of persons just like him. He might never discover what he’s been denied. He might never learn the principles that built the country he inherited … and which he and so many others lack the wit, and possibly the will, to sustain.

I would add only that those who survive a secondary education these days are likely no wiser than those who learned nothing in the primary.

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Quote of the week

Jamie Kitman, New York bureau chief of Automobile Magazine, writes in the February ’14 issue about the difficulty of being a left-of-center car buff:

Many of my more extreme fellow travelers on the left end of the dial disdain any interest in cars, much less full-blown habits like mine. Automobiles, they’ll tell you, are vulgar, polluting mechanical expressions of the will to power and male sexual insecurity, hence emblematic and highly beloved of the patriarchal, capitalist war machine.

“Well, duh!” I reply. But cars are useful, sometimes essential, and often a lot of fun.

Critics on the right brand me and my kind as freedom-suffocating communists, because we like cars but believe the law ought to require that air and water be clean, that cars be safe, and that manufacturers who break those rules or are found guilty of gross negligence in the design and manufacture of dangerous machinery and fuels ought to be held accountable.

The tricky part here is coming up with a definition of “safe” — or, for that matter, of “gross negligence.”

Okay, there’s one thing trickier: finding a suitably female counterpart to some phallic sports job like Jaguar’s original E-Type.

Then again, in my neck of the woods, both men and women tend to drive humongous trucks or cars that try their darnedest to look like humongous trucks; there are, of course, parts of the country that find this practice somewhere between inscrutable and inflammatory.

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