The most curious social convention of the great age in which we live is the one to the effect that religious opinions should be respected. Its evil effects must be plain enough to everyone. All it accomplishes is (a) to throw a veil of sanctity about ideas that violate every intellectual decency, and (b) to make every theologian a sort of chartered libertine. No doubt it is mainly to blame for the appalling slowness with which really sound notions make their way in the world. The minute a new one is launched, in whatever field, some imbecile of a theologian is certain to fall upon it, seeking to put it down. The most effective way to defend it, of course, would be to fall upon the theologian, for the only really workable defense, in polemics as in war, is a vigorous offensive. But the convention that I have mentioned frowns upon that device as indecent, and so theologians continue their assault upon sense without much resistance, and the enlightenment is unpleasantly delayed.
There is, in fact, nothing about religious opinions that entitles them to any more respect than other opinions get. On the contrary, they tend to be noticeably silly. If you doubt it, then ask any pious fellow of your acquaintance to put what he believes into the form of an affidavit, and see how it reads … “I, John Doe, being duly sworn, do say that I believe that, at death, I shall turn into a vertebrate without substance, having neither weight, extent nor mass, but with all the intellectual powers and bodily sensations of an ordinary mammal; … and that, for the high crime and misdemeanor of having kissed my sister-in-law behind the door, with evil intent, I shall be boiled in molten sulphur for one billion calendar years.” Or, “I, Mary Roe, having the fear of Hell before me, do solemnly affirm and declare that I believe it was right, just, lawful and decent for the Lord God Jehovah, seeing certain little children of Beth-el laugh at Elisha’s bald head, to send a she-bear from the wood, and to instruct, incite, induce and command it to tear forty-two of them to pieces.” Or, “I, the Right Rev._____ _________, Bishop of _________,D.D., LL.D., do honestly, faithfully and on my honor as a man and a priest, declare that I believe that Jonah swallowed the whale,” or vice versa, as the case may be. No, there is nothing notably dignified about religious ideas. They run, rather, to a peculiarly puerile and tedious kind of nonsense. At their best, they are borrowed from metaphysicians, which is to say, from men who devote their lives to proving that twice two is not always or necessarily four. At their worst, they smell of spiritualism and fortune telling. Nor is there any visible virtue in the men who merchant them professionally. Few theologians know anything that is worth knowing, even about theology, and not many of them are honest. One may forgive a Communist or a Single Taxer on the ground that there is something the matter with his ductless glands, and that a Winter in the south of France would relieve him. But the average theologian is a hearty, red-faced, well-fed fellow with no discernible excuse in pathology. He disseminates his blather, not innocently, like a philosopher, but maliciously, like a politician. In a well-organized world he would be on the stone-pile. But in the world as it exists we are asked to listen to him, not only politely, but even reverently, and with our mouths open.
H.L. Mencken, The American Mercury, 1930-03; first printed, in part, in the Baltimore Evening Sun, 1929-12-09.
August 28, 2016
August 24, 2016
Looking back, I think my parents had more fun than I did.
That’s not how it was supposed to be. My parents belonged to the Greatest Generation; they grew up in hard times. My mom was born in Colorado in an actual sod hut, which is the kind of structure you see in old black-and-white photographs featuring poor, gaunt, prairie-dwelling people standing in front of what is either a small house or a large cow pie, staring grimly at the camera with the look of people who are thinking that their only hope of survival might be to eat the photographer. A sod hut is basically a house made out of compressed dirt. If you were to thoroughly vacuum one, it would cease to exist.
My mom, like my dad, and millions of other members of the Greatest Generation, had to contend with real adversity: the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, hunger, poverty, disease, World War II, extremely low-fi 78 r.p.m. records and telephones that — incredible as it sounds today — could not even shoot video.
They managed to overcome those hardships and take America to unprecedented levels of productivity and power, which is why they truly are a great generation. But they aren’t generally considered to be a fun generation. That was supposed to be their children — my generation, the baby boomers.
We grew up in a far easier time, a time when sod was strictly for lawns. We came of age in the ’60s and ’70s, the era of sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll. We were cool, we were hip, we were groovy, man. We mocked the suit-wearing Establishment squares grubbing for money in their 9-to-5 jobs. We lived in communes. We went to Woodstock. We wore bell-bottom trousers, and we did not wear them ironically.
Dave Barry, “The Greatest (Party) Generation”, Wall Street Journal, 2015-02-26.
August 22, 2016
Sarah Boesveld interviews interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose:
And how’s your beer-pong game?
Are you kidding me? My beer pong game is AMAZING. We had a huge beer-pong tournament at Stornoway [in May] for the university campus clubs, and they were all in their little suits and stuff. We were like, “Take off your ties! Relax!” We set up this huge beer-pong table in the kitchen and there must have been 60 people shoved in there. I kicked BUTT. I crushed them, those poor kids. They were like, “How are you so good at beer pong?”
How are you so good at beer pong?
I said to them, “Here’s the big secret: Don’t drink the beer.”
This interview has been condensed and edited.
H/T to Small Dead Animals for the link.
August 19, 2016
No one in this world, so far as I know — and I have researched the records for years, and employed agents to help me — has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby.
H.L. Mencken, “Notes On Journalism”, Chicago Tribune, 1926-09-19.
August 15, 2016
Lisa de Moraes explains why the cast and crew of the new CBS comedy are being attacked on social media for their insensitivity to the plight of Millennials:
War broke out today between millennial media and the cast and creators of CBS’ new comedy series The Great Indoors, in which Joel McHale stars as an adventure reporter who becomes boss to a group of millennials in the digital department of their magazine. […]
It started when EP Mike Gibbons, who noted that 40 is the new 80, mentioned that CBS focus-grouped the pilot, and the millennial in the group said he did not like it because of the jokes about millennials being coddled, too sensitive and thin-skinned. The woman running the focus group, Gibbons said, clarified: “So, you were offended by millennials being portrayed as too sensitive.”
A Millennial Media Member interrupted Gibbons. “I’m a millennial myself. How are we so coddled, and what about our overly politically correct workplace bothers you?” she asked, like she meant it to sting.
Stephen Fry, who co-stars as the charismatic founder of The Great Outdoors magazine, who is a world traveler, explorer and adventurer, jumped in to note there is “an element of coddling” and “an element in which you have it tougher than the generation before.”
Another media member, non-millennial, asked Gibbons if he was “worried” that the show would be dismissed as “middle-aged white guy complaining about his lot in life and having to deal with millennials.”
Joked Gibbons, “Our show is going to make America great again”.
“So you are the Trump show?” Non-Millennial Media Member snapped back. “I’m just seeking clarification.”
“Irony comes through in print, right?” Gibbons quipped.
H/T to Small Dead Animals for the link.
Tiffany knew what the problem was immediately. She’d seen it before, at birthday parties. Her brother was suffering from tragic sweet deprivation. Yes, he was surrounded by sweets. But the moment he took any sweet at all, said his sugar-addled brain, that meant he was not taking all the rest. And there were so many sweets he’d never be able to eat them all. It was too much to cope with. The only solution was to burst into tears.
Terry Pratchett, The Wee Free Men, 2003.
August 10, 2016
In the Guardian, Jonathan Lynn and Antony Jay provide a new minister with the wisdom of Sir Humphrey Appleby:
Sir Humphrey The first thing to understand is that there is a European Council and a Council of the European Union.
Minister They’re not the same thing?
Sir Humphrey No. The European Council, whose members are the 28 heads of state of the 28 member states, defines the general political direction and priorities of the European Union whereas the Council of the European Union, on the other hand, develops the EU’s common foreign policy, in so far as there is any, and security policy, concludes international agreements and adopts the EU budget.
Minister Who’s in charge?
Sir Humphrey That’s an interesting question. The president of the European Council is in office for 30 months and is in charge of preparing the agenda and chairing the meetings of the European Council, whereas the presidency of the Council of the European Union is held only for six months each, by rotating states, hardly enough time for a part-time president to get his feet under the desk. Which is probably the idea.
Minister So who really runs Europe?
Sir Humphrey Another interesting question. Well done, Minister! The European Union is run on an intricate and sophisticated system based on an hierarchical structure of interlocking and overlapping jurisdictions designed to separate the powers whilst reinforcing the authority of the departments, institutions and agencies who collectively and separately control and supervise the diverse activities of the Union and its associated organisations. So Europe is not run by the president of the European Council or the Council of the European Union but by the president of the European Commission, who is akin to prime minister of Europe because he is elected for five years and heads a cabinet government whereas the president of the Council, on the other hand, is not elected but appointed, and presides over the meetings of the Council, which is not the cabinet.
Minister Who are the members of the European Council?
Sir Humphrey The European Council’s membership consists of the heads of member states while the Council of the European Union, on the other hand – which is often still referred to as the Council of Ministers – is the real voice of EU member governments, adopting EU laws and coordinating EU policies. Sometimes it is just called “the Council” in the interests of clarity. And they’re not even trying to be funny.
Minister It’s called the Council.
Sir Humphrey Yes – but the Council of the European Union should not be confused with the European Council nor with the Council of Europe – nor the Council of Ministers, which is also sometimes just called “the Council”, although it is not the same Council as the other Council and is in fact not an EU body at all.
July 25, 2016
“They think written words are even more powerful,” whispered the toad. “They think all writing is magic. Words worry them. See their swords? They glow blue in the presence of lawyers.”
Terry Pratchett, The Wee Free Men, 2003.
July 24, 2016
Published on 23 Jul 2016
Time for another glimpse into the mind of Indy Neidell.
July 20, 2016
Flashman […] describes a scene where an English vicar preached to the sepoys (native Indian soldiers) on the Parable of the Prodigal Son, through a native (Muslim) NCO interpreter, who made fun of the story:
“There was a zamindar, with two sons. He was a mad zamindar, for while he yet a lived he gave to the younger his portion of the inheritance. Doubtless he raised it from moneylender. And the younger spent it all whoring in the bazaar, and drinking sherab. And when his money was gone he returned home, and his father ran to meet him, for he was pleased — God alone knows why. And in his foolishness, the father slew his only cow — he was evidently not a Hindoo — and they feasted on it. And the older son, who had been dutiful and stayed at home, was jealous, I cannot tell for what reason, unless the cow was to have been part of his inheritance. But his father, who did not like him, rebuked the older son. This story was told by Jesus the Jew, and if you believe it you will not go to Paradise, but instead will sit on the right-hand side of the English Lord God Sahib who lives in Calcutta. And there you will play musical instruments, by order of the Sirkar. Parade — dismiss!”
Flashman said he had never felt so embarrassed for his church and country in his life.
John Derbyshire, “A Reader Proposes An Anti-Cuckservative Reading List–Starting With FLASHMAN”, VDARE, 2016-07-05.
July 18, 2016
Moreover, as Somerset Maugham said, only a mediocre writer is always at his best, to which one might add that mediocrity is necessary for us to know what the best actually is. Mediocrities therefore perform a valuable service; they also serve who only stand and act routinely.
Some are born mediocre, some achieve mediocrity, and some have mediocrity thrust upon them. I don’t want to boast, but whenever I have sat on a committee, which I have always tried to avoid, my mind suddenly runs to unaccustomed platitudes, and I hear myself saying the most obvious and self-evident things as if they were revelations. There is something about a committee that fosters mediocrity; on a committee, one becomes as individual as a lemming and as colorful as Pravda.
Theodore Dalrymple, “Rise of the Middling”, Taki’s Magazine, 2016-07-09.
July 15, 2016
The Laundry, of course, is the unofficial name of the British occult secret intelligence service. Here, “Bob Howard” recounts the sudden organizational panic triggered by the unexpected change of government after the Brexit vote in CASE NIGHTMARE BLOND.
July 14, 2016
I have to admit, I’ve never minded being the only Jew in a room full of anti-Semites. To be surrounded by people who sincerely believe you have preternatural inborn powers and abilities is actually quite the ego boost. When dealing with the segment of the alt-right that isn’t terribly fond of folks of the Jewish persuasion, I take absolutely no offense at any barbs thrown my way. Frankly, I can’t understand why that sawed-off pip-squeak egotist Ben Shapiro doesn’t join me. He was always the type to pick and choose his friends for maximum ego-stroking. He ought to migrate to the alt-right; you’ve never been verbally fellated until you’ve been accused of being an evil, all-powerful, world-controlling demigod.
Hell, the alt-right won’t even let me cop to mistakes. When I tell some of my “fans” that, as a neocon, I supported the invasion of Iraq under a very mistaken belief that the outcome would be much better than it was, I’m always told, “Save them lies for the sheeple. You know damn well you Jews planned this whole thing — ISIS, anarchy, the refugee crisis, all so’s you can flood the West with mud people and build your damn ‘Greater Israel.’ Jews don’t make mistakes; they always know what they’re doing.”
Well, you got me there, crackerbarrel. Can’t put anything past you. We Jews are way too smart to ever make a clumsy misjudgment of such massive significance.
David Cole, “Prom Night Trumpster Babies”, Taki’s Magazine, 2016-06-30.
July 5, 2016
I propose that it shall be no longer malum in se for a citizen to pummel, cowhide, kick, gouge, cut, wound, bruise, maim, burn, club, bastinado, flay, or even lynch a [government] jobholder, and that it shall be malum prohibitum only to the extent that the punishment exceeds the jobholder’s deserts. The amount of this excess, if any, may be determined very conveniently by a petit jury, as other questions of guilt are now determined. The flogged judge, or Congressman, or other jobholder, on being discharged from hospital — or his chief heir, in case he has perished — goes before a grand jury and makes a complaint, and, if a true bill is found, a petit jury is empaneled and all the evidence is put before it. If it decides that the jobholder deserves the punishment inflicted upon him, the citizen who inflicted it is acquitted with honor. If, on the contrary, it decides that this punishment was excessive, then the citizen is adjudged guilty of assault, mayhem, murder, or whatever it is, in a degree apportioned to the difference between what the jobholder deserved and what he got, and punishment for that excess follows in the usual course.
H.L. Mencken, “The Malevolent Jobholder”, The American Mercury, 1924-06.
July 1, 2016
On behalf of the United States of America and the Department of Defense, I wish our partners in North American defense a very Happy Canada Day.
We have long stood on the same team, as allies, except for the War of 1812, which was 200 years ago and no one really remembers that anymore. I certainly don’t spend a lot of time thinking about how insane it would be to ever trust a Canadian, and definitely never think about how fast and easy it would be to grow the United States from 50 states to 60.
This day celebrates over 148 years of a united Canada, one of the most peaceful, democratic and stable nations on Earth. You are an example to the world, and we as Americans celebrate alongside you, not to keep an eye on what you’re doing to make sure you don’t start building a coalition to say, bombard Baltimore Harbor again, but because the lessons of the past make us stronger together. And really, we should be even closer together.
Canada Day recognizes the day in which three independent colonies united as one Canada. America, too, is a nation of independent colonies, united under a shared vision of liberty and justice for all. If one were to really think about it, it would make a lot of sense to have a larger America, from sea to shining Arctic sea, and really it probably would have happened a century ago if some of the colonies wouldn’t have started backing the British, even after they interfered with Atlantic shipping.
We could have called it, I don’t know, “Amerida” for a while, but honestly United States of America is a great name so I think we’d just go for that. Occasionally I toy around with thinking about how we could have solved that bi-lingualism burden Canada has. Like Montreal, Atlanta was a beautiful, old world city too — until November 16, 1864. I think we’d get rid of that quirky metric system, too. If you ask me, freedom isn’t divisible by ten. But that’s certainly not the kind of thing that I’d think about on Canada Day. Canada Day is a joyful day for celebration.
“Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter”, “SECDEF: This Canada Day, We Are Totally Over War Of 1812”, Duffelblog, 2015-07-01.