Commonplace 2004


John Gregory Dunne said he did not believe that writers ought to talk very much about writing and he did not believe that much needed to be said about them after they were dead. “I agree with William Faulkner,” he remarked, “who once said that a writer’s obituary should read, ‘He wrote books, then he died.’”                                                                                                                               (Obituary of Dunne, NYT, January 1)

‘Although Mr. Eagleton remains vague about what his longed-for absolute truths would look like, he writes that an ethical society can only happen under socialism, “in which each attains his or her freedom and autonomy in and through the self-realization of others.” And he defends Marxism against the familiar litany of critics. “If you want the most trenchant account of Stalinism you have to go to Marxism, not liberalism,” he said. “Stalinism wasn’t, from our point of view, radical enough. Long before Tiananmen Square the mainstream Marxists were saying the Soviet system is a travesty. You can’t build communism in backward conditions. You need international support. You need a society with a liberal democracy. Marx always saw socialism in continuity with middle-class democracy.” So what is his advice, specifically? “Get out of NATO. Get rid of capitalism. Put the economy back into public ownership.”’      (NYT, January 3, 2004)

‘He accepted Valéry’s dictum “A poem is never finished, only abandoned”, to which he added his own comment “It must not be abandoned too soon”.’            (Humphrey Carpenter on Auden, in ‘W.H. Auden: A Biography’)

‘Statistics are like bikinis. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital.’                           (attr. to the late business professor Aaron Levenstein; NYT January 11)

‘If you’re not for raising the minimum wage you don’t deserve to call yourself a Democrat’.                                                                                                                     (Senator Kennedy, as reported by Adam Clymer, in ‘Edward M. Kennedy: A Biography’)

‘Like many intellectuals, Nehru had, as Tharoor says, a “lifelong tendency to affirm principles disconnected from practical consequences”.’         (from Ian Buruna’s review of Shashi Tharoor’s Nehru, NYT, January 11)

“Life was a constant battle against sin disguised as pleasure. Of Sir James Stephen, Leslie Stephen’s father, it was said that he ‘once smoked a cigar and found it so delicious he never smoked again.’”                                                                                 (From Robert     Skidelsky’s The Revolt Against the Victorians, in The End of the Keynesian Era)

Two problems with metric conversion:

1) What kind of photograph do I send?  We require one photograph, taken within the last 6 months. It can be black and white or colour but must be taken against a light background, full face and without a hat. The size should be approximately 45 x 35mm. Digital photographs can only be sent in, if they are of professional quality.                              (From the UK Embassy website in Washington)

2) Please furnish two photographs which are:

* identical, taken within the last 6 months and a good likeness;                                         * 2″ x 2″ (50cm x 50cm) square with at least 1/2″ space between the top of the head to the top edge of the photograph;                                                                                 * printed on high quality photographic paper or on OLMEC paper if digitized;                  * untrimmed;                                                                                                                 * on white or-off white background, either black and white or color.                                                                                                               (From the US Embassy website in London)

“I consulted the strictest moralists to learn how to appear, philosophers to find out what to think and novelists to see what I could get away with. And, in the end, I distilled everything down to one wonderfully simple principle: win or die.”  (Christopher Hampton (Merteuil, in “Dangerous Liaisons”))

‘We had a very brisk talk of Russia: such a hotch-potch, such a mad jumble, Maynard [Keynes] says, of good and bad. Briefly, spies everywhere, no liberty of speech, greed for money eradicated, people living in common, yet some, Lydia’s mother for instance, with servants, peasants contented because they won land, no sign of revolution, aristocrats acting showmen to their possessions, ballet respected, best show of Cézanne and Matisse in existence. Endless processions of communists in top hats, prices exorbitant, yet champagne produced, and the finest cooking in Europe. Then the immense luxury of the old Imperial trains; feeding off the Tsar’s plate. One prediction of theirs, to the effect that in ten years’ time the standard of living will be higher in Russia than it was before the war, but in all other countries lower, Maynard thought might very well be true.’                                                                (Virginia Woolf’s Diary: entry for 24th September, 1925)

‘French foreign affairs expert Thierry de Montbrial told me [William Safire] that this moment reminded him of a joke; Mikhail Gorbachev was once asked how – in one word – he would sum up the Soviet economy. “Good,” he said. The he was asked how – in two words – he would sum up the Soviet economy: “Not good,” he said.’                                                                                                                                             (NYT, January 29th)

‘Don Mattingly, Mr. Berra and Mr. Ford were at an Old Timers Day at Yankee Stadium and the scoreboard flashed a list of prominent people who could not attend the game because they had passed away. The trio walked off the field, and Mr. Berra turned to the others and said. “Boy, I hope I never see my name up there.”    (NYT, January 29th)

Texas: Charges in S.U.V. Vandalism  Four teenagers have been charged with criminal mischief in the vandalism of almost 50 sport utility vehicles.     One of the four complained of ‘arrogant ladies” who drove the vehicles rather than less costly cars, the police said.’ [shades of Orwell and his ladies in Rolls-Royces]      (NYT January 29th)


Some names for Brugada Syndrome (deadly arrhythmias of the heart, caused by a mutation of the SCH5a gene, which controls the flow of sodium into heart cells, named after Dr. Pedro Brugada, a Dutch cardiologist): “bangungot” (Tagalog for “nightmares”); “lai-tai” (in Thailand, “widow ghosts);  “pok-kuri” (in Japan); SUDS (“sudden unexplained death syndrome”, by The United States Center for Disease Control, in 1981, after investigating symptoms of death among young men from Southeast Asia). May be related to SIDS (“sudden infant death syndrome”).                                                                                                 (NYT Science Report, February 10th)

Comments on Communism, etc. from the Letters Page:

“No matter how perniciously the Communists implemented their vision of the world, communist ideology – unlike racism – is intensely humanistic and premised on helping those oppressed by society.”

“Communism, like Nazism, offers a utopian millennial creed that appeals to a certain type of individual found in any segment of society – the sort Eric Hoffer dubbed the ‘true believer’. Nazi dogma, however, is more limited in its potential appeal, being focused on those of a particular ethnic caste. Thus it is not nearly as effective as communism, which has always had a larger retinue of useful idiots.”

“Unlike Nazism, the communist ideal had nothing whatsoever to do with the suppression or extermination of individuals based on their differences from the ‘believers’. Communism is a perfect system for perfectly equal individuals. True, the prosecution of the communist ideal led to incredible suppression of individuals, but the evils of communism were in the prosecution, not the ideal.”

“Stalin’s regime did cause millions of tragic, unjustifiable deaths, but the ism Rauch ought to blame is totalitarianism. Stalin never practiced anything that could seriously be called communism; nor did anyone else in Russia from 1917 to 1989.”

“Whether one categorizes them as rightists or leftists, capitalists or communists, there are many kinds of authoritarian leaders and governments, and morally they range from one end of the spectrum to the other.”

“Like it or not, therefore, our post-World War II freedom and prosperity in the West are in part a result of the successes of communism [because of Stalin’s effectiveness as an ally of the US and Britain]. This is not to excuse the wrongs of communism, or to wish for its return, but we must remember our debt to this failed experiment.                                                                                     (from Letters in Atlantic Monthly, March 2004)

“The thirties were the heyday of the Stalinist toff, the languid upper-middle-class Englishman for whom, after public (private) school, the rigors of Bolshevism were a breeze.”                 (Mark Steyn in The Imperfect Spy, Atlantic Monthly, March 2004)

“The Cold War armies were not great armies, because all the decisions were made by generals and politicians. In great armies the job of generals is to back up their sergeants. That’s just my opinion, but I know I’m right.”                                                                                                          (Colonel Tom Wilhelm, quoted in Atlantic Monthly, March 2004)

“And yet the English character has changed very little, if at all. The General Strike of 1926, with which the last part of this trilogy begins, supplied proof of that. We are still a people that cannot be rushed, distrustful of extremes, saved by the grace of our defensive humour, well-tempered, resentful of interference, improvident and wasteful, but endowed with a certain genius for recovery. If we believe in nothing else, we believe in ourselves.”                                                          (Preface to A Modern Comedy, by John Galsworthy)

“Suppose your friends came into power, Michael – in some ways not a bad thing, help ‘em to grow up – what could they do, eh? Could they raise national taste? Abolish the cinema? Teach English people to cook? Prevent other countries from threatening war? Make us grow our own food? Stop the increase of town life? Would they hang dabblers in poison gas? Could they prevent flying in war-time? Could they weaken the possessive instinct – anywhere? Or do anything, in fact, but alter the incidence of possession a little? All party politics are top dressing. We’re ruled by the inventors, and human nature; and we live in Queer Street, Mr. Desert.”                                                                                                             (Sir Lawrence Mont, in Chapter I of The White Monkey, by John Galsworthy)

“The subconscious mind! Fads! Fads and microbes! The fact was this generation had no digestion. His father and his uncles had all complained of liver, but they had never had anything the matter with them – no need of any of these vitamins, false teeth, mental healing, newspapers, psycho-analysis, spiritualism, birth control, osteopathy, broadcasting, and what not.”                                                              (Soames Forsyte, in Chapter XII of The White Monkey: cf. Mencken’s Genealogical Chart of the Uplift)

“The French philosopher Ernest Renan once said that a nation is ‘a group of people united by a mistaken view about the past and a hatred of their neighbors’.”                                                                             (Ethan Bronner, in the New York Times, February 20th)

“Probably all the inhabitants of left alive by the Saxons were called Brown. As a fact, that’s all tosh, though. Going back to Edward the Confessor, Miss Collins – a mere thirty generations – we each of us have close on a thousand million ancestors, and the population of this island was then well under a million.”                                                                                                 (Aubrey Greene, in The White Monkey, Book 2, Chapter 7)

“And there started up before him the thousand familiars of his past – trees, fields and streams, towers, churches, bridges; the English breeds of beasts, the singing birds, the owls, the jays and rooks at Lippinghall, the little differences from foreign sorts in shrub, flower, lichen, and winged life; the English scents, the English haze, the English grass; the eggs and bacon; the slow good humour, the moderation and the pluck; the smell of rain; the apple-blossom, the heather, and the sea. His country and his breed – unspoilable at heart!”                                  (of  Michael Mont, in The Silver Spoon, Book 1, Chapter 3)


“In the Loving case a mixed-race married couple was charged with violating Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act. The judge who sentenced the couple wrote: “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangements there would be no cause for {interracial} marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.”                                                (from the New York Times, March 1st)

“The fact that many black Christians are both politically liberal and socially conservative makes them frustratingly difficult to pigeonhole in an environment in which, may pundits contend, voters are cleanly split along ideological lines. Many blacks opposed to gay marriage, for example, support equal rights for gays as a matter of economic justice. And the prize often generically referred to as “the black church” is actually a diverse collection of historically black denominations and congregations that covers a wide range of theological and social beliefs.”                       (from the New York Times, March 1st)

“After five-and-a-half years of marriage, he was sure that mentally Fleur liked him, that physically she had no objection to him, and that a man was not sensible if he expected much more.”                                (of Michael Mont, in Swan Song, Part 1, Chapter 17)

“He would make a bet that the passions of the English in 3400 A.D. would still be: playing golf, cursing the weather, sitting in draughts, and revising the prayer-book.”                                                  (of Soames Forsyte, in Swan Song, Part 2, Chapter 13)

“Education’s free; women have the vote; even the workman has or will soon have his car; the slums are doomed – thanks to you, Forsyte; amusement and news are in every home; the Liberal Party’s up the spout; Free Trade’s a moveable feast; sport’s cheap and plentiful; dogma’s got the knock; so has the General Strike; Boy Scouts are increasing rapidly; dress is comfortable; and hair is short – it’s all millennial.”                                                                                             (Sir Lawrence Mont, in Swan Song, Part 3, Chapter 6)

“The secret to living well is to die without a cent in your pocket. But I seem to have miscalculated.” (In obituary of Jorge Guinle, Brazilian playboy, in NYT, March 6)

“The singing ceased, and Soames again lifted up his chin. He sat very still – not thinking now; lost, as it were, among the arches, and the twilight of the roof. He was experiencing a peculiar sensation, not unpleasant. To be in here was like being within a jeweled and somewhat scented box. The world might roar and stink and buzz outside, strident and vulgar, childish and sensational, cheap and nasty – all jazz and cockney accent, but here – not a trace of it heard or felt or seen. This great box – God-box the Americans would call it – had been made centuries before the world became industrialized; it didn’t belong to the modern world at all. In here everyone spoke and san the King’s English; it smelt faintly of age and incense; and nothing was unbeautiful. He sat with a sense of escape.”             (of Soames Forsyte, in Swan Song, Part 3, Chapter 12, in Winchester Cathedral)

“Arnold Bennett turned up in his Rolls-Royce, commenting to Vi Sauter, ‘You know I never thought I would be seen dead in a thing like that: and here I am going about in a great Rolls.’”           (quoted in Catherine Dupré’s John Galsworthy, p 269: cf. Orwell)

“The moral is that your money is safer with greedy companies than needy companies, so long as they have to compete with your business. It is a fallacy that the less money everybody else makes, the more there is for you.”                                                                                                             (Christopher Fildes, The Spectator, p 27, February 28th)

“During the war, at a time when his love life was in disarray, he [Cyril Connolly] once said to me: ‘I’ll never believe in any woman again. I’ve been perfectly faithful to two women for five years, and now both of them have been unfaithful to me.’ He certainly did not mean to be funny.”               (Stephen Spender, in The Thirties and After, p 221)


The bigger the tomb, the smaller the man.                                                                                                                                        The weaker the case, the thicker the brief.                                                                                                                                                  The deeper the pain, the older the wound.                                                                                                                                         The graver the loss, the drier the tears.

The truer the shot, the slower the aim.                                                                                                                                                  The quicker the kiss, the sweeter the taste.                                                                                                                                               The broader the crime, the vaguer the guilt.                                                                                                                                               The louder the price, the cheaper the ring.

The steeper the climb, the sheerer the slide.                                                                                                                                               The higher the odds, the shrewder the bet.                                                                                                                                                The rarer the chance, the blinder the risk.                                                                                                                                                   The colder the snow, the greener the spring.

The braver the bull, the wiser the cape.                                                                                                                                                       The shorter the joke, the surer the laugh.                                                                                                                                                         The sadder the tale, the dearer the joy.                                                                                                                                                           The longer you live, the fewer your years.

By Samuel Hazo, in Atlantic Monthly, April 2004, p 100

“The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles” (First line of The Manifesto of the Communist Party, by Marx and Engels).                                      “The history of mankind is the history of ideas” (Ch. 6 of Epilogue to Socialism, by Ludwig van Mises)



Clement Atlee was once asked by a young man what the difference was between Democrats and Republicans in America. ‘Jobs. That’s what the difference is, jobs,’ replied Mr Attlee with customary terseness.                                                                                                                                       (Dean Godson in the Spectator, 20 March, p 11)


“Thank goodness he’s a speaker for those of us (a k a liberals) who care about the environment, health care, foreign policy, deficits and jobs.”                                                                                                                   (Letter in New York Times Magazine, 4 April)

“FDR expropriated all the privately held gold in the United States by executive order. He plowed inconceivable sums into Soviet-style public-works megaprojects; tripled federal taxes; gave unionized labor new privileges (often simply by looking the other way at its racketeering and violence at the expense of poorer and non-unionized workers and the indigent; supported farmers by paying them to destroy crops amidst unprecedented material want; created the first American payroll taxes amidst unprecedented unemployment; imposed a national code of industrial production and schedule of industrial wages; and stacked the Supreme Court with judges who make contemporary liberals look like Newt Gingrich. If this was a conservative President, the word must have changed meaning since I was a wee tot.”                                                                         (Colby Cosh, reviewing FDR’s Folly, by Jim Powell in the American Spectator, April)

“Mr. McAuliffe, a Florida native, said: “I have been assigned Marx four times at Brown [University]. Adam Smith? Not even once.”                                                                                                                                  (report on the Liberal Arts in the New York Times, April 3)

“Mr. Kerry did not speak, but he took communion and was welcomed by the minister, the Rev. Gregory Groover, who declared, “We’re thankful that there’s going to be a revolution in this country.”                                                          (New York Times, April 5)

“Even if you have a badly functioning economy – which in many ways we still do – it is always possible to make it worse by government initiatives.” (Sir Peter Middleton, when Head of the Treasury, as reported by Christopher Fildes in the Spectator, 3 April)

“H-2B jobs have no relation to the U.S. jobs being lost to outsourcing,” Mr. [Ted] Kennedy said in an e-mail response to a reporter’s questions. “The jobs are highly local and supplement the work of permanent U.S. employees. They’re temporary jobs with low pay and few or no benefits, and American workers aren’t willing to accept them.”                                                                                                                        (New York Times, April 10)

“… and meanwhile wealth continued to pour in from all corners of the world into his house, and to pour out again over the four seas, doing his will, and no one in the world, not even the chief victims of that wealth, hated it as the little Lithuanian did, and no one in the world – not even of them who had seen most of that wealth – hungered bestially for it as did he.”                    (from A Little Conversation in Hertfordshire, by Hillaire Belloc)

“Who have we become?” Maureen Dowd asks plaintively, bemoaning the disappearance of “the ingenious individualist who gets around the system and faces down the drones” (“Our New No-Can-Do Nation,” column, April 11). What is most telling in the answer is that only one of the five “best” American characters Ms. Dowd lists, Abigail Adams, was a real person — and she died in 1818. The other four — Tom Sawyer, Bugs Bunny, Jimmy Stewart’s Jefferson Smith and Indiana Jones — are fictional heroes. When we, as a nation, look in the mirror, we see an illusion fabricated from the imagination of our novelists and Hollywood filmmakers. What our enemies see is a different image, one weighed down by bureaucracy, political infighting and a breathtaking lack of accountability. Until we begin to measure up to the image we hold of ourselves, we will not win the battle against terror.”            (letter in New York Times, April 17)

“I have always regretted the fact that a good memory often prevents one thinking for oneself.” (p58) “I soon found too that a good memory was a handicap to the thinker: to know the thoughts of others prevents one from thinking – to think is a special accomplishment, and has to be especially cultivated.” (p528) “When you have done this once [written your thoughts on authorship before reading Schopenhauer’s The Art of Literature] and then read Schopenhauer’s essay, you will appreciate his distinction between those who write for money and those who write because they have thought deeply on some subject and have something original to say. You will probably end where he begins, that writing for money is the moral disease of literature.” (p529)                                                                                     (from My Life and Loves, by Frank Harris)


“The fact that people don’t know me doesn’t mean that I am interesting.” (Lucian Freud, interviewed by telephone by Michael Kimmelmann, in the New York Times, May 4)

“Racial qualities have made against ready acceptance of sweeping socialist proposals of regeneration. The individualistic temper of the typical Englishman, his sturdy self-reliance and readiness to fight for his own hand, coupled with an instinctive respect for his social superiors, his uneasy distrust of long views and theoretical completeness, his insular prejudice against mere foreigners’ ideas – passing latterly – his proneness to compromise and to muddle through, have long been regarded as bulwarks of the existing order.”                                  (Socialism : A Critical Analysis, by O.D. Skelton, 1911, p 283)


“The real threat, he says, is a $45 trillion hole in America’s budget, caused by the 77 million baby-boomers who will very shortly start claiming Medicare benefits. By the time they have all retired, America’s elderly population will have doubled and the population of taxpayers supporting them will have gone up by only 15 per cent.                  This, he suggests, is fiscal catastrophe so staggering in its badness, and so baleful in its loomingness, that the only reason there isn’t panic in the streets is that it hasn’t really sunk in: America is in denial. You can’t blame it. According to one set of calculations, plugging the hole would require either raising payroll tax by 95%, cutting Social Security by 56%, or cutting federal discretionary spending by, um, 100 per cent, to zero. Try taking that to the polls, Senator Kerry.”                          (Sam Leith , in review of Colossus: The Rise and Fall of American Empire, by  Niall Ferguson, Spectator, 1 May)


“Perhaps the most depressing characteristic of the Brussels mentality is its urge to meddle. It is a prime example of what I call the first law of bureaudynamics. The desire to regulate becomes self-perpetuating, because bureaucrats who are not seeking to introduce further controls are clearly not doing their job.”                                                                           (Antony Beevor, in Britain vs. the Eurocrats, New York Times, May 10)


“There is no such thing as spontaneous public opinion,” Beatrice Webb, the great British leftist, once said. “It all has to be manufactured from a center of conviction and energy.” (in article in New York Times, May 18, by John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge)


“Religion per se seems to me a barbaric superstition… The clergymen who do any good don’t pay too much attention to religion. They teach people the conduct of life, and on the whole in a high and noble way.”                                       (letter from A.H. Pierce to William James, 13 March 1897, quoted in William James, by Gerald Myers)


“Oakeshott rejected two fundamental nostrums of modern politics, which have become more topical and controversial since his death. The first was the notion that it was the proper function of the state to see to the satisfaction of human wants….    The second nostrum was related to the first. Oakeshott did not accept that it was the function of universities to equip people for economically productive life. Their function was to enable individuals to improve their understanding of the world.”                                                                                                                                   (Jonathan Sumption, in review of What is History? And Other Essays, by Michael Oakeshott, in the Spectator, 15 May)


“The sexual ferment at adolescence is plainly due to conventional inhibitions quite as much as to natural impulses, and that is also true of the unhealthy sexual obsessions of celibates. Havelock Ellis once made the suggestion that an easy way to get rid of it would be to let adolescents experiment at will, and so reduce themselves to normalcy. This suggestion was far too sensible to be taken seriously, though it had the support of the practice of many savage tribes, who permit their children to disport freely, and believe it is beneficial. A boy or girl arriving at maturity with no sexual experience behind him or her is still an adolescent, psychologically speaking, and the adolescence thus carried into adult years may be very persistent. It forms a poor foundation for normal sexual life, and is probably the cause of many family catastrophes.”                                                                                                                        (H.L. Mencken’s Notebooks (Minority Report), No. 85)


“The government cannot make sure everyone can have a job,” said Min Tang of the Asian Development Bank’s office in Beijing. “The government’s role is to create an environment. Whether a person gets a job – that’s really a market decision.”                                                                                            (Report in New York Times, 28 May, p A3)





“What could improve London theater? Without pause, Mr. Gray said. “It’s capitalism, profit and loss, and there’s not much you can say about that.” On the other hand, there is “the subsidized theater, which has altered the equation,” except in his own case. He has had trouble connecting with Britain’s major theaters. “If only I’d had a gift for basic diplomacy,” he says in his book, he might “at least have got my plays returned more speedily by Trevor Nunn,” then director of the National Theater.                                                                          (Simon Gray, the fertile playwright, in between holidays in Barbados with his fellow-socialist Harold Pinter, interviewed in the New York Times, June 1)


“I have recently engaged in a debate on the difference between human rights and citizens’ rights; I always advocate citizens’ rights, because mankind is not an entity which could potentially guarantee your rights, whereas the nation is an entity where it is possible.”                                                                                                (Vaclav Klaus, president of the Czech Republic, interviewed by John Laughland, in an article in the Spectator, 29 May)


“He [William James] grew up in a circle in which heresies were more gladly tolerated than orthodoxies. Men like his father and his father’s friends who were attracted to Fourierism, communism, homeopathy, women’s rights, abolition, and spiritism were not likely to have any prejudices on mediumship, clairvoyance, mesmerism, automatic writing, and crystal gazing.”   [shades of Mencken’s Uplift]                                                  (Ralph Barton Perry, in The Thought and Character of William James, 2: p 155)


“Ultimately, all land shall be resettled as state property,” Mr. Nomo [Zimbabwe’s land minister] was quoted as saying Tuesday in the government-controlled newspaper The Herald. “It will now be the state which will enable the utilization of the land for national prosperity.”                                                                                  ( New York Times, June 9)


“Presentations for this case are expected to continue for several weeks, and could require some of Merrill Lynch’s top executives to travel to Croydon, the hardscrabble south London suburb where the employment’s tribunal is meeting.”                                             (report on Merrill Lynch sexual discrimination case, New York Times, June 9)


“The Western misreading of the Soviet system was largely the product of a simple reflex. The Soviet order – indeed, the practice of Communism everywhere – was seen as a form of ‘progressive” hostility to Western politics and, particularly, economics. It seemed to represent a new system that had rid itself of the market of exploitation. Whatever its doubtless temporary – or invented – faults, it stood for a better world.

The Holocaust stood clearly as a monstrosity from the start. The communist record was more blurred, more polymorphous; and for a long while it retained remnants of its initial luster (something that National Socialism never enjoyed outside Germany). As a result, many Western intellectuals, though no longer approving, remained non-judgmental for many years.

There will probably always be an alienated intelligentsia, especially in tolerant, democratic societies. But the extent to which this stratum was penetrated, misled about reality; and to some degree fanaticized by Moscow’s manipulations is striking. William James wrote that philosophical opinion is largely a matter of temperament. This applies to political and other types of opinion as well. The sort of temperament we have seen during the twentieth century, combining at its worst a blend of zealotry and unteachability, can be found in earlier eras. It will doubtless always be lying in wait for us. Knowledge of its recent embodiments, although useful, will not eradicate it. The evil will, alas, simply take new forms.”                                                     (Robert Conquest, in review of Stalin: The Court of the Red Tiger in July/August Atlantic Monthly, p 165)


“Creating jobs and distributing money to the poor is not easy,” he said, as if sharing the nugget of some great revelation. This pronouncement, however obvious to others, struck him as profound enough to merit repetition. He leaned forward. He raised his right index finger. “If creating jobs and distributing money were easy, someone else would have done it, and I wouldn’t have gotten to the presidency.”                                                                                    (President Lula da Silva of Brazil, in the New York Times, June 25)


“To of the drunken viragos began to attack me with their boards full of nails. While I was wondering how one defended oneself against this type of attack, one of the ladies among us went up to the police and suggested that they should defend me. The police, however, merely shrugged their shoulders. ‘But he is an eminent philosopher,’ said the lady, and the police still shrugged. ‘But he is famous all over the world as a man of learning,’ she continued. The police remained unmoved. ‘But he is the brother of an earl,’ she finally cried. At this, the police rushed to my assistance.”                                                      (Bertrand Russell’s account of Pacifist meeting, in Portraits from Memory, p 29)


“I was much cheered on my arrival by the warder at the gate, who had to take particulars about me. He asked my religion, and I replied ‘agnostic’. He asked how to spell it, and remarked with a sigh: ‘Well, there are many religions, but I suppose they all worship the same God.’”                     (Russell on entering prison, in Portraits from Memory, p 30)


“Psychologically there are two dangers to be guarded against in old age. One of these is undue absorption in the past. It does not do to live in memories, in regrets for the good old days, or in sadness about friends who are dead. One’s thoughts must be directed to the future, and to things about which there is something to be done. This is not always easy; one’s own past is a gradually increasing weight. It is easy to think to oneself that one’s emotions used to be more vivid than they are, and one’s mind more keen. If this is true it should be forgotten, and if it is forgotten it will probably not be true.


Some old people are oppressed by the fear of death. In the young there is a justification for this feeling. Young men who have reason to fear that they will be killed in battle may justifiably feel bitter in the thought that they have been cheated of the best things that life has to offer. But in an old man who has known human joys and sorrows, and has achieved what ever work it was in him to do, the fear of death is somewhat abject and ignoble. The best way to overcome it – so at least it seems to me – is to make your interests gradually wider and more impersonal, until bit by bit the walls of your ego recede, and your life becomes increasingly merged in universal life. An individual human existence should be like a river – small at first, narrowly contained within its banks, and rushing passionately past boulders and over waterfalls. Gradually the river flows wider, the banks recede, the waters flow more quietly, and in the end, without any visible break, they become merged in the sea, and painlessly lose their individual being. The man who, in his old age, can see his life in this way, will not suffer from the fear of death, since the things he cares for will continue. And if, with the decay of vitality, weariness increases, the thought of rest will not be unwelcome. I should wish to die while still at work, knowing that others will carry on what I can no longer do, and content in the thought that what was possible has been done.”        (Bertrand Russell, Portraits from Memory, p 51)


“During the first ten years of their marriage, Mrs. Webb would remark at intervals, ‘as Sidney always says, marriage is the wastepaper basket of the emotions.’”                                                                                       (Bertrand Russell, Portraits from Memory, p 105)




“Bagehot speaks somewhere of men he knew in the City who went bankrupt because they worked eight hours a day, but would have been rich if they had confined themselves to four hours.”                                       (Bertrand Russell, Portraits from Memory, p 200)


“There is a reason for the general deterioration as regards liberty. This reason is the increased power of organizations and the increasing degree to which man’s actions are controlled by this or that large body. In every organization there are two purposes: one, the ostensible purpose for which the organization exists; the other, the increase in the power of its officials. The second purpose is very likely to make a stronger appeal to the officials concerned than the general public purpose that they are expected to serve.”                                                                    (Bertrand Russell, Portraits from Memory, p 224)


“I do not think it can be said that democracy, always and everywhere, is the best form of government. I do not think that it can be successfully practiced among totally uncivilized people. I do not think its is workable where there is a population of mixed groups which fundamentally hate each other. I do not think it can be introduced quite suddenly in countries that have no experience of the give and take that goes with government. If every compromise is viewed as a surrender of principle, it is impossible for rival groups to make a bargain representing a middle point between their respective interests.”                                                                               (Bertrand Russell, Fact and Fiction, p 106)


“As the music swelled and died, I felt the force, I understood the nobility of socialism. I felt its claims to moral superiority over other more selfish, more pessimistic systems of economics and government. I saw the appeal of socialist theory to what is best, most virtuous and most optimistic in human nature. Yes, I know – you do not need to tell me –that it wouldn’t work, and didn’t work. I spent my political youth arguing and working against collectivism. I would do it all again, I know the score. I know those brave soldiers were betrayed; I know the credulous peasants starved; I know the enthusiastic workers were exploited in stupidly run industries. I know that a corrupt elite traded on these beliefs to gather for itself the very privileges and luxuries which socialism had been meant to strip. I remember the last scene in Animal Farm. It’s just that, for a moment, I glimpsed what it had meant to be, and felt uplifted by all the hope and intelligence in that vision, and by a feeling of shame at having all my life felt only derision, only anger, only fear in the face of the socialist prospectus.”                                                                                                       (Matthew Parris, ‘Another Voice’, p28 in The Spectator, 3 July 2004)


“America is a nation state. It is not meant to be a sort of world government in embryo, not meant to be a last provider of justice or security for the entire world.”                   (Daniel McCarthy, assistant editor at the American Conservative, in NYT, 17 July)


“Ms. Lewitzky, who was politically active all her life, was called before a hearing of the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1951 and asked to identify acquaintances who might have been members of the Communist Party. She declined to supply names, giving the punning reply, “I am a dancer, not a singer.”

(Obituary of Bella Lewitzky, dancer, in NYT, July 19)




“By 1960, Mr. Milosz had tired of his life amid leftist intellectual squabbling in France. Years later he would speak with acerbity of those in Western Europe who continued to regard the Soviet Union as the hope of the future, particularly those ‘French intellectuals who considered that only a man who was insane could abandon his position as a writer in a people’s democracy in order to choose the capitalistic, decadent West.”                                                                              (Obituary of Czeslaw Milosz, in NYT, August 15)



To the Editor:                                                                                                                          You say abolishing the Electoral College will improve American democracy. Democracy is three wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner.                               Thank goodness the framers created a republic, with the Electoral College being one of the sheep’s key defenses.

Samuel O. J. Spivy
Kinderhook, N.Y., Aug. 29, 2004                                          (NYT Letters, September 1)

Stalin the Problem or the Solution?                                                                           “Lyubov Pavlovskaya, 53, expressed a longing for security, even if it meant a loss of freedoms. “I think what is happening is because of a power vacuum,” said Ms. Pavlovskaya, who saw the bomb explode outside the Rizhskaya station and returned there on Wednesday. “I did not live under Stalin, but I think if Stalin were alive things would be different.”                                                                            (NYT, September 2) “Chechen hostility to Russia goes back centuries, to the days of tsarist conquest and subjugation. The quarrel turned even more venomous after Stalin deported the entire Chechen population at gunpoint to Central Asia in 1944. Hundreds of thousands of deportees died of cold and hunger. Those who tried to stay behind were executed.”                                                                                                      (NYT Editorial, September 4) “Putin said the country is weak and defenseless, and that’s true,” said Yuri Rublyov, 20, a student who was handing out fliers offering free coffee at a downtown cafe. “Under Stalin, something like this never would have happened.”                   (NYT, September 6)         “At the close of World War II, Stalin had the entire Chechen nation exiled to Kazakhstan for alleged collaboration with the Nazis.                             After the school siege, there was much muttering in the streets that under Stalin such atrocities would not have occurred.”                                                      (Richard Pipes, Op-Ed in NYT , September 9)

“Though I have traveled much, I am a bad traveler. The good traveler has the gift of surprise. He is perpetually interested by the differences he finds between what he knows at home and what he sees abroad. If he has a keen sense of the absurd he finds constant matter for laughter in the fact that the people among whom he is do not wear the same clothes as he does, and he can never get over his astonishment that men may eat with chopsticks instead of a forks or write with a brush instead of a pen. Since everything is strange to him, he notices everything, and according to his humour can be amusing or instructive. But I take things for granted so quickly that I cease to see anything unusual in my new surroundings. It seems tome obvious for the Burman to wear a coloured  paso that only by a deliberate effort can I make the observation that he is not dressed as I am. It seems to me just as natural to ride in a rickshaw as in a car, and to sit on the floor as on a chair, so that I forget that I am doing something odd and out of the way. I travel because I like to move from place to place, I enjoy the sense of freedom it gives me, it pleases me to be rid of ties, responsibilities, duties; I like the unknown; I meet odd people who amuse me for a moment and sometimes suggest a theme for a composition; I am often tired of myself, and I have a notion that by travel I can add to my personality and so change myself a little. I do not bring back from a journey quite the same self that I took.”

“Did he go through Burma and not see how the British power was tottering because the masters were afraid to rule, did he not meet judges, soldiers, commissioners who had no confidence in themselves and therefore inspired no respect in those they were placed over? What had happened to the race that had produced Clive, Warren Hastings, and Stamford Raffles that it must send out to govern its colonies men who were afraid of the authority entrusted to them, men who thought to rule the Oriental by cajolery and submissiveness, by being unobtrusive, by pocketing affronts and giving the natives powers against their masters? But what is a master whose conscience is troubled because he is a master? They prated of efficiency, and they did not rule efficiently, for they were filled with an uneasy feeling that they were unfit to rule. They were sentimentalists. They wanted the profits of Empire but would not assume the greatest of its responsibilities, which is power.”

“I cock a snook at the historian of the Decline and Fall of the British Empire. On my side I venture to express the wish that when the time comes for him to write this great work he will write it with sympathy, justice, and magnanimity. I would have him eschew rhetoric, but I do not think a restrained emotion would ill become him. I would have him write lucidly but yet with dignity; I would have his periods march with a firm step. I should like his sentences to ring out as the anvil rings when the hammer strikes it; his style should be stately but not pompous, picturesque without affectation or effort, lapidary, eloquent, and yet sober; for when all is said and done he will have a subject upon which he may well expend all his pains: the British Empire will have been in the world’s history a moment not without grandeur.”                                                                                                                                              (Somerset Maugham, The Gentleman in the Parlour, iv)

“I think that a mere four elements – solipsism, debt, litigation, and hype – could easily explain about 90 percent of human activity.”          (Cullen Murphy, Atlantic Monthly, October)

“At Eton with Orwell, at Oxford with Waugh,                                                                  He was nobody afterwards and nothing before.”                                                       (Cyril Connolly on himself, quoted in Journal and Memories, ed. Pryce-Jones, p 292)

“My idea of hell is a place where one is made to listen to everything one has ever said.”                                                     (Cyril Connolly, in The Evening Colonnade, p 345)

“Michael Gove [of the Times] put a more coherent case, pointing out that the war on terror is not a war of our choice. “Just as we appeased in the 1930s because our leaders operated in the shadow of the first world war, so we appeased in the 1990s because our leaders operated in the shadow of Vietnam.’ Terrorists drew the conclusion that we were weak, and were emboldened like the dictators of the Thirties.”                                                                  (Michael Vestey, reporting on Straw Poll, in the Spectator, September 11)

“What advice, then, would I give to someone forced – for no one could be wiling – to become a reviewer? Firstly, never praise; praise dates you. In reviewing a book you like, write for the author; in reviewing any other, write for the public. Read the books you review, but you should need only to skim a page to settle if they are worth reviewing. Never touch novels written by friends. Remember that the object of the critic is to revenge himself on the creator, and his method must depend on whether the book is good or bad, whether he dare condemn it himself or must lie quiet and let it blow over.”       (Cyril Connolly, in Ninety Years of Novel-Reviewing (1929), from The Condemned Playground)

“I would prefer to have a close season, no new novels to be published for three years, their sale forbidden like that of plovers’ eggs. And nobody under thirty should be allowed to write one – it is amusing to apply this age-canon and see how well it works out, how little would be lost to us. But above all, I should like to see an enormous extension of the censorship – not simply libel and obscenity would be taboo, but whole landscapes, whole strata of our civilization would become unmentionable. Schools and universities, all homes with incomes of between three thousand and three hundred a year, words like Daddy, love, marriage, baby, birth, death, mother, buses, shops – I particularly dislike both the shopping expedition (she looked at her list, let me see, two bars of soap, three bars of chocolate, but already the huge store had overwhelmed her with its Oriental mystery – it was an Arab bazaar, Eunice decided rapidly as she paused before a chinchilla mantilla. Seven yards of demi-rep the list continued”) – and those horrible bus-rides, when the stars are so close, and the young man treads on air (“he was getting nearer, Pimlico was a forgotten dream, Fulham and West Brompton passed unheeded – supposing she should be out? ‘Fares please’ shouted the conductor for the third time. ‘Fourpenny to heaven,’ he answered unthinking”), and picnics, and going for walks, and conversations in pubs, and all novels dealing with more than one generation or with any period before 1918 or with brilliant impoverished children in rectories or with the following regions, which I understand are going to be preserved from novelists by the National Trust: the Isle of Wight, the Isle of Purbeck, Hampshire, Sussex, Oxford, Cambridge, the Essex coast, Wiltshire, Cornwall, Kensington, Chelsea, Hampstead, Hyde Park, and Hammersmith. Many situations should be forbidden, all getting and losing of jobs, proposals of marriage, reception of love-letters by either sex (especially if they are hugged closely and taken up to attics or the familiar seat in the apple tree), all allusion to illness or suicide  (except insanity), all quotations, all mention of genius, promise, writing, painting, sculpting, art, and the phrases “I like your stuff,” “What’s his stuff like?” “Damned good,” “let me make you some coffee”, all remarks like “darling, I’ve found this most wonderful cottage” (flat, castle), “Ask me any other time, dearest, only please – just this once – not now,” “Love you – of course I love you” (don’t love you) – and “It’s not that, it’s only that I feel so terribly tired.”                                                                    Forbidden names: Hugo, Peter, Sebastian, Adrian, Ivor, Julian, Pamela, Chloe, Enid, Inez, Miranda, Joanna, Jill, Felicity, Phyllis.                                                                            Forbidden faces: all young men with curly hair or remarkable eyes, all gaunt haggard thinkers’ faces, all faunlike characters, anybody over six feet, or with any distinction whatever, and all women with a nape to their neck (he loved the way her hair curled in the little hollow at the nape of her neck.)”                                                            (Cyril Connolly, in More About the Modern Novel (1935), from The Condemned Playground)

“Maybe spending more on high-tech health care isn’t so bad after all. Wring inefficiency out of the system where you can, advises Mr. Cutler, the Harvard economist, but get used to it.                                                                                                                             ‘Having longer, higher-quality lives is a luxury that we as a society can increasingly afford,’ he said. ‘What’s wrong with that? What would you rather be spending it on? More plasma TV’s?’”                                                           (New York Times, September 26)

“In his book The Elmhirsts of Dartington, Michael Young maintains that Dartington as an experimental community was based upon four myths:                                               The Educational Myth – that mankind can be liberated through education;                         The Cultural Myth – that a new flowering of the arts can transform a society impoverished by industrialization and secularization;                                                              The Arcadian Myth – that a community which draws the best elements from town and country can provide in Ebenezer Howard’s words, a ‘joyous union’ from which will spring new hope, new life, a new civilization;                                                                              The Humanist Myth – that the efficient operation of agriculture and industry, at least on a small scale, can be reconciled with a pervasive concern for the individual human being.                                                                        (Michael Straight, After Long Silence, p 33)

“We rented an elegant house in Mayfair [in 1932] from the writer P.G. Wodehouse. As a parting gesture, he gave a dinner in our honour to which he invited his glamorous friends. He raised his glass to toast us, and when the ladies had departed, voiced his conviction that Hitler and Mussolini were strong leaders who deserved our wholehearted support.”                                                                     (Michael Straight, After Long Silence, p 47)

“I felt ashamed of the privileges that the students took for granted. I told my gentleman’s gentleman that I could not keep him any more.                                                                       ‘Am I charging too much? He asked. I was paying him four dollars a week.          ‘I just don’t believe in being waited on,” I said.                                                        ‘But sir, if young gentlemen like you don’t employ us, what’s to become of us?’                ‘I don’t know.’”                        (Michael Straight, After Long Silence, p 59)

“Richard Crossman once said to me, ‘Our political attitudes are determined by our point of entry into politics,’ His own point of entry, he added, was Germany in 1932. He might have joined the extreme right, he said, had he not seen them both in action in Berlin.”                                                                (Michael Straight, After Long Silence, p 234)


“In an article written in 2000, he [Abdul Ladif Padram] recounted watching from a hideout as the Taliban burned thousands of books from the Hakim Nasser Khosrow Balkhi Cultural Center in the main public square in Kabul.                                                         ‘It was as if Genghis Khan, disguised as Mullah Omar (the Taliban leader, had entered the city with his army to repeat the most tragic event of our history,’ he wrote, referring to the Mongol sacking of the mosque and library in Bukhara. The one common trait the three tyrannies that have dominated Afghan society – Mongol, Communist, and Taliban – was their hatred of books, he wrote.”                                  (New York Times, p A4, October 2)

Episcopalian Hell                                                                                                                      “’There could be a range of particular explosions,’ in various regions of the United States, said Timothy F. Sedgwick, professor of Christian Ethics at Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, an Episcopal institution. ‘I think all hell could break loose, and there could be a host of legal actions.’”               (New York Times, p 21, October 3)

“The evangelist Pat Robertson said Monday that President Bush could lose the backing of evangelical Christians if he did not support Israel’s claim of sovereignty over all of Jerusalem. If Mr. Bush ‘really gets serious about taking east Jerusalem and making it the capital of a Palestine state, he’ll lose virtually all evangelical support.’ Mr. Robertson said at a news conference.’ They’ll form a third party before they’ll support that.’”                                                                                           (New York Times, p A6, October 5)

“The word “socialism” is used for ideological purposes in order to manipulate the favorable mass emotions attached to the historical socialist idea of a free, classless, and international society and to hide the fact that the managerial economy is in actuality the basis for a new kind of exploiting, class society.” (James Burnham, The Managerial Revolution, p 122)


“In the new form of society, sovereignty is localized in administrative bureaus. They proclaim the rules, make the laws, issue the decrees. The shift from parliament to the bureaus occurs on a world scale.” (James Burnham, The Managerial Revolution, p 148)


“In British politics there used to be a standard test for candidates for prime minister: Would you want to go on a tiger hunt with this person? That is, would this candidate kill the tiger or try to reason with the tiger?”  [cf. Boulte and Major Vansuythen in Kipling’s Under the Deodars]                                                       (Tom Friedman, NYT, October 21)

The Prime Minister: I should thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman for his support, which was, as ever, generous, on Iraq. On today’s evidence, I cannot say that he would be someone with whom one would want to go tiger shooting.”                                                                                                                       (Hansard, April 19, 2004)


“A Texas governor, Miriam “Ma” Ferguson, barred the teaching of foreign languages about 80 years ago, saying, ’If English was good enough for Jesus Christ, it’s good enough for us.’”                                  (Reported in NYT, “God and Sex”, October 23)


“He [Amory B. Lovins] said that eventually the United States would turn to strategies that would minimize oil use, and quoted Winston Churchill’s adage that America could always be relied upon to do the right thing after it had exhausted all the alternatives.”                                                                                                           (NYT, October 24)



Sit at, consec teur adipis cing elit, 10

a diam no nummy nim euismod tin-

cindit looret dollore man 20 a ali                    (NYT October 27)


“Many of the [honor] killings go unreported or are not investigated. They are rampant in backward rural areas beset by poverty and iliteracy and still dominated by feudal standards. In the southern province of Sindh, under a centuries-old custom known as karo kari, family or tribal members kill men and women even at the suspicion of having illicit relations.”                                                                                   (NYT, October 27)


“In the old days in the service, when a senior officer came on a tour of inspection it was soemtimes advised to leave some little thing for him to find wrong, for instance a bit of rope hanging down somewhere, always known as an Irish Pendant (has our MoD banned the expression yet?). If the ship was in good shape, once he had found his Irish Pendant and harrumphed, the great man could address the ship’s company, tell them what good chaps they were, have a couple of gins with the captain and officers, and then be piped over the side until next time.”               (John Parfitt, in review of The Command of the Ocean; A Naval History of Britain, 1649-1815 by N.A.M. Rodger, Spectator, October 23)


“President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria praised Africa’s Anglican bishops for opposing same-sex unions and the appointment of homosexuals as bishops, saying gay ‘tendencies are clearly unbiblical, unnatural and definitely un-African.’”        (NYT, October 28)


“English politicians, unless they are Jews, to succeed must look and speak like bookies or like clergymen.”                                   (The Thirties, p 170, by Malcolm Muggeridge)


“If the Nazi government decided that it would help the cause of German conquest to allege that twice two made five, then the whole German Press and wireless would be devoted to announcing this discovery, and mathematics could go and hang itself.”                                                                               (A Faith To Fight For, p 50, by John Strachey)




“The textile quota system violated all the principles of trade that prohibits [sic] discrimination against suppliers,” said Will Martin, lead economist of the development research group at the World Bank. “If you want a market economy, you have to allow things to change. Textiles moved from England to New England and to the Carolinas. It’s hard to blame China for using the same market forces to build its own industry.”                                                                                                    (The NYT, November 2, p C10)


“Two Episcopal priests face possible punishment from the church after it was discovered that they were leaders of a local society of Druids, people who follow a pre-Christian practice of worshipping the sun and venerating Earth. While directing parishioners in Malvern and Downingtown, the priests, the Rev. Glyn Ruppe-Melnyk and the Rev. William Melnyk, a married couple, were also spiritual guides to local Druids. After national Christian groups accused the Episcopal Church USA of promoting paganism, the Melnyks – in Druid circles, she used the name Raven, he the name Oak-Wyse – wrote letters of apology, saying they ‘recanted and repudiated’ their connection with Druidism.”                                                                        (The NYT, November 3)


“The answer is that there is more than one kind of slavery, and to Orwell the intellectuals were subjected to was probably the most insidious. Living what is called the life of the mind, they often lacked the touchstone of actuality to keep their judgments closer to the common-sense standards of most people. The ivory tower becomes a mausoleum. Then, too, they are enslaved by their own sense of superiority. Since they are cleverer than most, it follows that they and their followers are always right. The lies and deceptions of one group are thus taken up by others, and they become willing followers of leaders whose chief interest is in establishing their own power.”                                                                              (William Steinhoff, in George Orwell and the Origins of 1984, p 139)


“I never thought I would sympathize with a communist, particularly as unreconstructed a one as Oleksandr Paradovsky, who believes that communism would have been all right if party bosses had not lost touch with the masses.”                                                                                              (Radek Sikorski, in Yearning to Breathe Free, Spectator, 6 November)


“A controversy on the compatibility of Christianity and Socialism led to Lord Rosebery’s momentary emergence from retirement to remark that the two were clearly in direct opposition, Christ’s teaching being, ‘”What is mine is thine,” and the teaching of Socialism, “What is thine is mine”’.                    (Malcolm Muggeridge, The Thirties, p 119)

“In the West, you don’t get in any trouble if you tell the truth, but you still can’t do it. Not only can’t you tell the truth, you can’t think the truth. It’s just so deeply embedded, deeply instilled, that without any meaningful coercion it comes out the same way it does in a totalitarian state.”                                                                                                                (Noam Chomsky, in May 2004, quoted in The American Spectator, November 2004)


“That’s why I like feeding the rat. It’s a sort of animal check-up on myself. The rat is you, really. It’s the other you, and it’s being fed by the you that you think you are. And they are often very different people. But when they come close to each other, that’s smashing, that is. Then the rat’s had a good meal and you come away feeling terrific. It’s a fairly rare thing, but you have to keep feeding the brute, just for your own peace of mind. And even if you did blow it, at least there wouldn’t be that great unknown. But to snuff it without knowing who you are and what you are capable of, I can’t think of anything sadder than that.”                                                                                                              (Mo Anthoine, quoted in Al Alvarez’s Feeding the Rat, Adrenaline Classics, 2001)


“People under dictatorships, it has been well said, are condemned to a lifetime of enthusiasm. It is a wearing sentence. Gladly they would burrow into the heart of their misery and lick their wounds in private. But they dare not; sulking is next-door to treason. Like soldiers weary unto death after a long march, they must line up smartly for parade.”                                               (Eugene Lyons, Assignment in Utopia, p 341)


“My own belief is that England is the mother of all revolutions – the Protestant, the parliamentary, the industrial, the communist, the sexual and the Thatcherite – and when the guillotine’s blade as dropped on Louis XVI’s head, it was in conscious imitation of the fate meted out a century earlier, across the channel, to Henriette-Marie’s husband.” (John Laughland, in review of Alistair Horne’s Friend or Foe, Spectator, 27 November)


“Maurice Oldfield, when head of MI6, was asked by Jim Callaghan what his job was for. ‘My job, Secretary of State,’ Oldfield replied, ’is to bring you unwelcome news.’”                                                                        (Phillip Ziegler, in review of Hutton and Butler: Lifting the Lid on the Workings of Power, edited by W.G. Runciman, Spectator, 27 November)




“Revolutions are prepared by dreamers”, he said. “And I always recall 1917: They are carried out by fanatics, and exploited by scoundrels.”                                           (Report on President Kuchma of Ukraine, New York Times, December 6)


“The English long ago discovered that all government is evil, and that the best way to endure it is to treat it as a suspicious character, watching it at very step.”                                                                                                          (H.L. Mencken, Minority Report, 42)


“The task of the leaders is not put into effect the wishes and will of the masses. The task of the leaders is to accomplish the interests of the masses. Why do I differentiate between the will and the interests of the masses? In the recent past we have encountered the phenomenon of certain categories of workers acting against their interests.” [reminiscent of Democratic complaints after the 2004 Election]                                                          (Janos Kadar, Hungarian Communist leader, in 1957, quoted by Robert Conquest in Reflections on a Ravaged Century, p 41)


“Discussion in Marxist terms reminds me of Peter de Vries’s remark about someone being profound only on the surface, while deep down remaining superficial.”          (Reflections of a Ravaged Century, by Robert Conquest, p 42)

{From the Internet: In one [which?] of his hilarious novels, Peter de Vries has a character say ‘Oh, superficially he’s deep, but deep down, he’s shallow!’}


“We need to be a party that stands for more than the sum of our resentments. In the heartland, where I am from, there are doubts. Too often, we’re caricatured as a bicoastal cultural élite that is condescending at best and contemptuous at worst to the values that Americans hold in their daily lives.”                                                                                                                      (Democratic Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana, to a NYT reporter)


“It seems to be agreed that an atheist can be a good man, and that his oaths and promises are no less trustworthy than those of other people.” (from entry in The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, which he edited) “There is no God, there is no life after death, Jesus was a man, and, perhaps most important, the influence of religion is by and large bad.” (in current issue of magazine Free Inquiry)                                                                                                                  (obituary of Professor Paul Edwards, in NYT, December 16)


“The detestation of ‘quaintness’ and ‘picturesque bits’ which is felt by every decently constituted Englishman is, after all, a very insular prejudice. It has developed naturally, in self-defence against arts and crafts, and the preservation of rural England, and the preservation of ancient monuments, and the transplantation of Tudor cottages, and the collection of pewter and old oak, and the reformed public houses, and the Ye Olde Inne and the Kynde Dragon and Ye Cheshire Cheese, Broadway, Stratford on Avon, folk-dancing, Nativity plays, reformed dress, free love in a cottage, glee singing, the Lyric, Hammersmith, Belloc, Ditchling, Wessex-worship, village signs, local customs, heraldry, madrigals, regional cookery, Devonshire teas, letters to the Times about saving timbered almshouses from destruction, the preservation of the Welsh language, etc. It is inevitable that English taste, confronted with all these frightful menaces to its integrity, should have adopted an uncompromising attitude to anything the least tainted with ye oldness.”                                                               (Children of the Sun by Martin Green, p 229)


“It was ‘shameful,’ he [Anthony Lake, national security advisor in the Clinton administration] added, that his administration refused to employ the term ‘genocide’ for a period of six weeks.

‘It was based on the belief that if you used the word, then you’re required to take action,’ he said. ‘They didn’t go the sophistry route – using the word and finding a way to weasel out of it. Now in Sudan, we’re wriggling out of its meaning. Which is more unattractive? I don’t know.’”                      (Report on Hotel Rwanda, in the NYT, December 20)


Red-Faced Logic from the Florida Tomato Committee, as It Tries to Stifle a Tastier Tomato

“After Procacci Brothers reapplied for an exemption last month, the committee wrote: ‘These requirements serve to ensure customer satisfaction and improve grower returns. Not holding the UglyRipe tomato to these same standards defies orderly marketing and provides it unfair, undue marketing advantage.’”                   (NYT, December 21)


The War of Ideas, as Reflected in The Listener, 1935

“I should like to correct one point in Miss Agnes Headlam-Morley’s article on Russia in THE LISTENER for November 13. In connection with the relations of town to country she justly pointed out the difference in voting power of peasant and worker. Unfortunately, Miss Hedlam-Morley’s facts are out of date by a year. During the period when industry was socialised but agriculture still in private hands that voting system was in force. But since the success of the collectivization of framing this has no longer been necessary. Accordingly the differential voting was abolished by decree, and at the next Congress of Soviets, peasant and worker will vote on the same basis. There could be no better evidence of the success of the agricultural policy of the Soviets.”                                  (letter in The Listener, 27 November 1935, from R. P. Vintner, of Cambridge)


“In your issue of November 6, Miss Agnes Headlam-Morley states that Germany is now under a Fascist dictatorship. May I draw your attention to the fact that the author of the article has made a mistake which is common, but scarcely excusable, in England? Fascism and National Socialism are direct opposites. Fascism has arisen from the power of a majority who have seized government; National Socialism began in a democratic manner and is based in Germany on a majority of 90 per cent., who in a time of stress – as in the days of the old Roman consulships – conferred extraordinary powers on a man whom they admired. The Führer himself, in his May speech, declared that, although parliamentary procedure had been abandoned, a democracy in the highest sense was being organized, which certainly allowed special powers.

Also the writer must know that there are profound differences between Fascism and National Socialism and they only present an outwardly similar aspect to the superficial observer. National Socialism is founded on a new religious socialism similar to the brother hood of the early Christianity; and it is the first movement that has succeeded in banishing hunger and cold from a great nation. Nationalism, as Germany understands it, is also keenly opposed to imperialism, because nationalism preaches the right to individual life of a people within its own boundaries, and the right of self-government for these nations.”                                                                                                                           (letter in The Listener, 27 November 1935, from P. M. Ernst Behrens, of Hamburg)


“If the human brain were simple enough for us to understand it, we would be too simple to understand it.”                                                                                                         (Remark made by one of the pharmacologists who developed Prozac, NYT, undated)


“Your salary is designed to keep you sullen but not mutinous. If you’re satisfied, it’s too high. If you quit, it’s too low. The right amount is somewhere between these two limits.”                                                                               (from letter in the NYT, May 1993)

Trouble for the Rest of Us

“There is a genuine fear in many people’s minds that the whole race relations industry does give preferential treatment to those of ethnic origin.”                                                                                       (John Carlisle, Tory MP for Luton North, Times, undated)


“What garlic is to salad, insanity is to art.”                                                             (attributed to the sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, in a letter to the NYT, October 1993)


“Sir John Templeton once wrote that we do equal harm when we take offense as when we give offense.”                                                            (letter in Wall Street Journal, undated)


“The tragedy of modern man is not that he knows less and less about the meaning of his own life, but that it bothers him less and less.”                                                                                                                               (attributed to Vaclav Havel, in NYT, undated)


Goldwater’s Rule: “A lead out of turn should always be accepted; if an opponent is so confused that he does not know whose lead it is, he is probably equally confused about the right card to lead.”                      (New York (bridge) Tournament director Harry Goldwater)


“When you’re young, there’s sex. When you’re old, there are books.”                                                                                                          (the bibliophile Dr. Levine, NYT, undated)


“In Eastern Europe, the fact that two peoples share one citizenship,, sometimes even one language, has done little to blur cultural differences. ‘For a Slovak it is as hard to identify with a Czech intellectual as it is for a Texan to identify with a British gentleman’, said Boris Lazar, professor of philosophy and a member of Public Against Violence in Slovakia.”                                                                                                (NYT, 1989)


“If an ordinary person is silent about the truth it may be a tactical maneuver. If a writer is silent, he is lying.”                               (attributed to Jaroslav Seifert, Czech poet, in 1956)


“When you love a woman you don’t beat about the bush, you throw her on the sofa.”                                                                                (advice given by Mussolini to the shy and reserved Pirandello, in obituary of Marta Abba, Pirandello’s protégée, in NYT, undated)


“The story goes that After President Harry S. Truman finally got by the Soviet guards to see Stalin at Potsdam, after World War II, he asked Stalin why he had not been let in. Stalin said his guards had orders to keep all non-Soviets out. Mr. Truman asked why Stalin had not changed the orders. Stalin reportedly replied grimly that in Soviet Russia, ‘We do not change the orders, we change the guards.’”                    (NYT, undated)


“Even so, Lord Grade will never again be the force in entertainment that he was before the failure of his dream movie, ‘Raise the Titanic’. It cost $36 million to make and took in only $8 million at the box office. ‘In actual fact,’ Lord Grade recalled recently, ‘It would have been cheaper to lower the Atlantic.”                         (NYT, undated)


“For Strauss the composer, I take my hat off. For Strauss the man, I put it on again.”                                                         (Toscanini on Richard Strauss, NYT, undated)


“The trial of Alfred Packer is the most famous 19th-century criminal case in Colorado. At the sentencing, the judge uttered the following comment, ‘Packer, there was only five Democrats in this county, and you et ‘em all.’”                    (letter in NYT, July 1986)


“If Churchill had had a speech writer in 1940, Britain would be speaking German today.”                                                                         (a Mr. Humes, in NYT, undated)


“You can’t overthrow the government of a country whose name you can’t pronounce.”                                                                                                     (a US senate staffer, on William Casey’s pronunciation of Nicaragua as ‘Nicawawa’, Business Week, undated)


“The government has lost the confidence of the people. So it is necessary to elect a new people.”                                                                                      (attributed to Bertolt Brecht at the time of 1953 workers’ uprising in East Berlin in 1953, NYT, undated)


“G. K. Chesterton remarked that the English should have instituted an annual Thanksgiving Day, to celebrate the fact that the Pilgrim Fathers had left.”                                                                                                                                               (NYT, undated)


“My wise friend Floyd Norris says there’s a basic law of the market; When you get rich, it’s because you’re smart. When you get poor, it’s because someone cheated you. Just as Enron embodied the stock-market delirium on the way up, it will, now that the euphoria is over, be the scapegoat for all those smooth talkers who convinced us dummies that we could be rich.”                                            (NYT, William Safire?, undated)


“Illness denotes lack of talent” (attributed to Busoni, The Listener, 11 July 1985, p 29)


“To be perfect, you only lack dying in the ring.”                                                                                                       (Ramon del Valle-Inclan, playwright, to Juan Belmonte, matador)


“If you are a composer, you don’t belong to the tradition, you own the tradition.”                                                                          (Sir Harrison Birtwhistle, in NYT, December 25)


“It proves that it’s better to be rich than poor, but that being an official is even better than being rich.”                                                                                                                       (Wen Jiabao, on Chinese officials throwing their weight around, in NYT, December 31)

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