18 December 2010

Celebration of a Golden Age

And it’s now the second day of Saturnalia, that old-time Roman feast where masters and slaves changed places and presents and feasting were the order of the day. I had a piece partly written with those pedantic references to forgotten authors that you’ve come to expect, but my system crashed and nothing seems to be left of it. Sic transit and all that. I don’t know that I care, really; maybe next year I’ll manage to do something a bit more coherent. Or not. At this point I’m tired and I really don’t care.

According to Macrobius (I think it was) what was originally a one day festival (17 December) got expanded to seven days in part due to the calendar change introduced by Julius Caesar in 9955 HE (46 BCE) on the advice of the shadowy Sosigenes of Alexandria. You see, he expanded December from 29 to 31 days and thus threw off the date of Saturnalia, which was originally fixed at 14 days before the Kalends of January, but then changed to 16 days before the Kalends. Some people continued to celebrate the XIIII Kal Jan date, now 19 December, while others the XVI Kal Jan date (17 December), and with two dates for Saturnalia it’s easy to see how the 18th got thrown in as a kind of bonus, like the Friday after Thanksgiving in the good old USA. But this doesn’t explain the extension for another four days, unless maybe people just plain felt that after getting the autumn field work done, it was time for a party.

It matters not. Personally I don’t trust ancient explanations of ancient feasts; they all have the stench of ad-hocery about them. I doubt very much that the ancients knew that much more about them than we do; their origins were probably as lost to them as to us.

The thing about Saturnalia, though, is the evocation of a long-lost Golden Age, presided over by Saturn, where distinctions of rank did not exist, where the earth gave forth its abundance without the need of labor, where justice reigned. A time before Prometheus brought fire to man or Pandora opened that goddamn box.

In a way, I suppose, there was a golden age. Gold is one of the easiest metals to work, and one of the first discoveries in metallurgy must have been the magic of gold. It’s not the most useful of metals, but damn is it pretty. And it’s not like the other rocks. The discovery could even have been pre-agricultural, when hunters and gatherers roamed the earth, and division of labor was pretty much restricted to the gender division that humankind seems to have had from before the beginning. Distinctions of rank may have depended on who was the strongest, or who had the most success in the hunt, or the gather, or whatever. A golden age of sorts, though not exactly, well, Eden.

The mythical golden age is much cooler, and it’s hard to fault the attempts to recreate it with that peace-on-earth good-will-toward-men spirit that was the stuff of Saturnalia. Present-giving, candle-lighting, gambling, free speech, masters waiting on their slaves—good times, good times. But it isn’t real, and when Saturnalia ends, all that stuff goes back in the box till the next year. Still, as Statius observed:
For how many years shall this festival abide! Never shall age destroy so holy a day! While the hills of Latium remain and father Tiber, while thy Rome stands and the Capitol thou hast restored to the world, it shall continue.

13 December 2010

The Self-Blinded Leading the Sighted

God, it’s St. Lucy’s Day already, meaning that the holiday season is considerably advanced, and I don’t have a thing to wear. St. Lucy—bah. You may remember Lucy as the psychotic medieval woman who ripped her own eyes out and sent them to an admirer as a gift. Apparently the guy said he liked them, or something like that. Those were the days, my friend. One of those gay little old-time legends that brighten the spirits in this dark time of year.

Well, my spirits were brightened, anyway, by this strange piece—an instance of the blind presuming to instruct the sighted on the meaning of color. Some Yakima lady named Kara L. Kraemer, it seems, was so incensed by somebody daring to observe that US law was not based on the Bible and never should be, that she set out to instruct him by delivering a few choice quotations from the Founders that she’d apparently dug up from some moldering trash heap somewhere, and—you guessed it, knowing me—she’s included a couple of familiar fakes among them. And, no surprises here either, those that aren’t fake are absolutely irrelevant to the point. Nice job, lady.

She’s got John Dickenson comparing the proposed Constitution to the Bible, in that both have come under attack; she’s got James Wilson repeating the old legal maxim (shot down by Jefferson) that Christianity is part of the common law, and James McHenry pleading for the establishment of a private Bible society in Maryland. She’s got Carroll of Carrollton arguing that people won’t be virtuous on their own without the threat of “wicked eternal misery” or the promise of “good eternal happiness” to goad them on. (He was taking a swipe at the excesses of the French Revolution, by the way.) She’s got Sam Adams comparing the American revolution to the Reformation: “Our Fore-Fathers threw off the Yoke of Popery in Religion; for you is reserved the honor of levelling the popery of Politicks” (a portion of the passage that she omits, incidentally). And she’s got two fakes and one dubious entry: the Washington “god and the bible” concoction, the Patrick Henry “religionists” misattribution, and the dubious Patrick Henry story about the Bible being worth more than all the other books put together that rests on third-hand testimony from an anonymous source. Not a good showing from somebody who pretends to be combating ignorance.

If I were to make a recommendation to Kara Kraemer, it would be that if she wants to combat ignorance she should start with the person closest to her—herself. But like St. Lucy, I’m sure she knows better.

[Update: The article linked to here has changed since I first wrote and then replied to a comment here. The original introduction read only:
In honor of National Bible Week and to combat Stiefel's statement of ignorance, I offer the following quotes from our founders in regard to the Bible:
This is what I was making fun of, not the present more elaborate introduction that gives a coherent (though flawed) explanation for the quotations that follow. The author has also corrected the information about the one Patrick Henry statement, though she has incorrectly attributed the fake Washington "God and the Bible" quotation to Paulding's book (which even if correct would not be a reliable source, what with it being an undocumented children's book and all). Had I first seen the article in its present state I wouldn't have responded as I did, or indeed at all. sbh]

30 September 2010

Things Are Getting Bad Here

Obviously I’m hoping for the best, but I’ve never been much good at hope. Dark ominous clouds are more my speed than silver linings. Tomorrow comes a meeting with a lawyer which may determine our future—whether we can continue on here as a household, or whether we lose our family home in what appears to me to be plain theft on the part of the bank holding our mortgage and Fannie Mae. I’m dispirited and depressed and things look very black to me at the moment. They may look better to me in the morning, but they may equally well look much worse.

The thing is, we followed the bank’s instructions exactly—and yet somehow we appear to have lost our home, all without going through any of the steps supposedly required by law. I can’t deal with this right now, but the stress is one reason I haven’t been keeping up, even in my usual feeble manner, entries in this blog. I have pieces in the hopper (either for here or Fake History) on Benjamin Rush’s prophetic dream, of an unknown life of Jesus discovered over a century ago in a Tibetan monastery, of a new and even more degenerate form of “Forsaken Roots,” on my preparations for blogging about Mark Twain’s Autobiography when the first volume is finally released in November, an update on the fake Washington quotation about governing without God and the Bible, a fuller account of the fake Madison “ten commandments” quotation that may given some indication of how a brief phrase in the Federalist Papers about the nature of American institutions turned into a paean to Mosaic law, on some oddities of the New Testament text, and so on and so forth. It’s just my heart isn’t in any of this right now, what with the van by the river future I’ve always dreaded closing in on me and all.

05 September 2010

A Death-Bed Testimonial

One of the things about doing something for a long time—in this case, running down historical sources that have been badly annotated—is that after a while you start developing a sort of eighth sense for these things. There’s a moment when you open a box of documents and you suddenly get a sense that this is a hot source, or alternatively you see a quotation (for example) that just plain looks fishy, that has a bad odor about it, so to speak. (I have no sense of smell myself, so I’m going by literary descriptions of what smell is like here, but I think I’m using the concept correctly.) You see it, and something about it triggers the BS detector. It may take a bit before you can identify the specifics of it, why it’s cool, or it’s iffy, or whatever, but you get the sense of it before the logic takes over.

I got that feeling today (well, yesterday, technically) when looking at an (alleged) Andrew Jackson quotation. I’ve seen it before, but it never struck me as out of the ordinary until now. Here it is, as related by Frederic William Farrar in the introduction to a collection of his lectures on the Bible:
”That Book, sir,” said the American President, Andrew Jackson, pointing to the family Bible during his last illness, “is the rock on which our Republic rests.”
Well, that seems reasonable (and I hear this in Johnny Standley’s “It’s in the Book” voice). It is kind of a cliché however, the dying man’s tribute to the book of books and all that. Patrick Henry supposedly lamented while dying that he’d never had time to read the Bible properly—this despite his seeming familiarity with its language and content. One of my favorites in this genre came from a visiting scholar at the Institute for Antiquity and Christianity in halcyon bygone days—one of the great nineteenth century biblical expositors lay on his death bed. This man had spent his life explicating the dark passages of the Hebrew text, he knew the cognate Semitic languages the way a mail carrier knows the diurnal route he’s traveled for decades, and he now lay facing the Great Unknown. A minister sat by the side of the nearly unconscious scholar, reading to him the sonorous words of the KJV Psalm 23. Something about the language caught the dying man’s attention, and his eyes opened. “That, sir,” he is supposed to have said, “is an egregious mistranslation,” and so passed on into the void.

Did it happen? I doubt it very much, but, you know, what a way to shuffle off this mortal coil. I should be so lucky. I’ll probably exit mumbling incoherently the name of every drummer for the band that became the Beatles (anybody else remember Tommy Moore?) or trying to recall the date of the third quarto of Romeo and Juliet. But what about this rock upon which our Republic rests line?

Well, there’s nothing beyond that that really leaps out at you. The language and sentiment seem to be in accord with what little I know about Ol’ Hick’ry, one of my least favorite American presidents. But I don’t find it in the biographies immediately available to me, or in standard collections of quotations, or any other source that might give me a lead to where it came from.

And maybe that’s what bugs me about it—the company it keeps. It always seems to turn up with rather disreputable associates—the Washington “impossible to govern” bit, Jefferson’s “cornerstone” and Penn’s “ruled by tyrants” snippets—bastard pieces of flotsam floating in on the tides of history, parentless, abandoned, unknown. And when an alleged source does turn up for it, it inevitably turns out to be bogus. Yeah, Jackson said or wrote the rest of it, but not that saying. It intrudes where it obviously isn’t wanted like an uninvited party guest, and ends up tossed onto the pavement by the bouncer of hard documentation.

It turns up in haunts frequented by the usual suspects—A Lawyer’s Examination of the Bible, The Highest Critics vs. the Higher Critics, Testimonies of American Statesmen and Jurists to the Truths of Christianity, and Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States—to name but a few. This last may well be the oldest source available for the incident; there are several accounts that turn up in the year 1864, and this is the only one of them to give a source. The author, B. F. Morris, gives a sketch of the last scenes in Jackson’s life written (he says) by John S. C. Abbott, a clergyman. The sketch concludes as follows:
During his last illness, to a friend he pointed to the family Bible on the stand, and said,—

“That book, sir, is the rock on which our republic rests. It is the bulwark of our free institutions.”
Yes, I see, the testimony of an unnamed friend, the bane of this sort of literature. There’s no chain of custody, no evidence of transmission. How did the story get from the “friend” to the Reverend Abbott? Even if we had the “friend’s” account directly it would still be second-hand testimony. Did he get it straight from the “friend”? In that case we’re looking at third-hand testimony—but Abbott doesn’t say that. And this is the best scenario. Or did Abbott get it from somebody who got it from the friend (fourth-hand testimony)? However you look at it, this is not good.

But Andrew Jackson did have some nice things to say about the Bible during his final days, and these rest on solid second-hand evidence taken from a contemporary diary, which is as good as it gets for anything short of a recording or written record by the subject. This comes from the 29 May 1845 entry in the diary of William Tyack, a family friend and visitor during Jackson’s final days, as quoted by James Parton in his Life of Andrew Jackson (volume 3, p. 673):
The Bible is true. The principles and statutes of that holy book have been the rule of my life, and I have tried to conform to its spirit as near as possible. Upon that sacred volume I rest my hope for eternal salvation, through the merits and blood of our blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
The next day Tyack observed (p. 674):
His Bible is always near him; if he is in his chair it is on the table by his side; when propped up in bed, that sacred volume is laid by him, and he often reads it . He has no power, and is lifted in and out of his sitting posture in bed to the same posture in his chair.
So, yeah, it sounds like he could have said it, that stuff about the Bible being a rock and a bulwark and all that. Trouble is, he could have said a lot of other neat things too, and absent evidence, we really have no basis for saying that he did say them. This little factoid may be legit, but it needs some proper ID before it can be admitted to the club of history. In the meantime it’s going to have to wait outside, with the pretenders and the wannabes. It’s the way things work in the academic racket.

03 September 2010

Letter Thanking a Friend for a Pleasant Visit

Dear Myrtle,

You don’t know what the past few days have meant to me. The climate, the beautiful island, all the wonderful, wonderful people—your friends—are a page of my life that I shall never forget.

And your father was wonderful about the dent I put in his car. Please tell your mother that when I get to China, I shall find her another Ming vase to replace the one I broke.

In short, this week-end was wonderful.

With love,
[signature here]

[From a collection of model letters found in a 1949 college notebook]

02 September 2010

Autumntide, or, Faux Summer

And now we have entered the season I like to call Autumntide, the eighth of the year centered on the autumnal equinox. Faux Summer. Back-To-School-A-Thon. Not a favorite time of mine, but that’s only from ancient bad memories. It has a back to work feel to it, even now. The heat is gone, as it were, and there is a new, well, something anyway, to look forward to.

The weather is playing along with all this, having dropped from blazing sun to a damp cooler vibe, suitable for the new beginning. Oh, yeah, I know for all of you who started school on a quarter system this is still summer, but I never did. K-high school, Reed and Pitzer, the new school year’s always started right at the beginning of September. I should be over it, really, what with all the years that have gone by since the last time I set foot in a school, but the old rhythms remain.

Maybe I should move.

28 August 2010

And So It Goes On and On and On

Another clueless clown, calling himself GTAVC5947, posted this message today:
Disclaimer: I am an agnostic, and have been so for several years. However, I feel a pressing need to put delusional liberals in their place:

James Madison and John Hancock:
“We Recognize No Sovereign but God, and no King but Jesus!”

John Adams:
“The general principles upon which the Fathers achieved independence were the general principals of Christianity… I will avow that I believed and now believe that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God.”
“[July 4th] ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty.”
“I have examined all religions, as well as my narrow sphere, my straightened means, and my busy life, would allow; and the result is that the Bible is the best Book in the world. It contains more philosophy than all the libraries I have seen.”
“We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

Benjamin Franklin:
“God governs in the affairs of man. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid? We have been assured in the Sacred Writings that except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it. I firmly believe this. I also believe that, without His concurring aid, we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel.”

Alexander Hamilton:
“For my own part, I sincerely esteem it [the Constitution] a system which without the finger of God, never could have been suggested and agreed upon by such a diversity of interests.”
“I have carefully examined the evidences of the Christian religion, and if I was sitting as a juror upon its authenticity I would unhesitatingly give my verdict in its favor. I can prove its truth as clearly as any proposition ever submitted to the mind of man.”

James Madison:
“We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We’ve staked the future of all our political institutions upon our capacity…to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.”

It goes on and on and on and on....
And so it does. Regular readers will notice some familiar frauds here—the Madison “ten commandments” concoction for one, and the “No king but Jesus” invention for another—though the addition of James Madison is a nice touch. When somebody else asked for the source of the quotations he was referred to the Eads Home Ministry site (not exactly a primary source) and was advised to google them. And somebody else said that they couldn’t be fake because they turned up in more than one source.

That’s not the way to do it, people. If you aren’t prepared to cite the actual source of your quotation, you shouldn’t present it at all. The burden of proof, remember, is always on the claimant. And that does mean a primary source, not a conveniently unavailable book (say Liberty, Cry Liberty) or a collection of unsourced quotations on somebody’s website. Remember, anybody can set up a website, and as far as I can tell, just about anybody actually does. And multiple sources? Give me a break. You only need one source, the place where (say) James Madison actually wrote it—otherwise you’re just pissing into the wind.

But, as a public service, I’ll provide the sources for the above collection of random quotations, with the portions used by our quoter bolded. Let’s start with the genuine ones. First, John Adams:
The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward, forevermore. [Letter to his wife, 3 July 1776]
A little cherry-picking here, but the quotation is essentially legitimate. John Adams was mistaken as to which day would be celebrated; we’ve decided on the fourth rather than the second, but Adams was no prophet. He certainly came close enough with his “shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations”, right?

And a second John Adams quote is close enough for jazz, maybe:
Philosophy is not only the love of wisdom, but the science of the universe and its cause. There is, there was, and there will be but one master of philosophy in the universe. Portions of it, in different degrees, are revealed to creatures. Philosophy looks with an impartial eye on all terrestrial religions. I have examined all, as well as my narrow sphere, my straitened means, and my busy life would allow me; and the result is, that the Bible is the best book in the world. It contains more of my little philosophy than all the libraries I have seen; and such parts of it as I cannot reconcile to my little philosophy, I postpone for future investigation. [Letter to Thomas Jefferson, 25 December 1813]
Again, a little fakery, but all things considered, I’m inclined to forgive GTAVC5947 as a fellow agnostic. And a third John Adams quotation is pretty much dead on, though stripped of its vital context:
But should the people of America once become capable of that deep simulation towards one another, and towards foreign nations, which assumes the language of justice and moderation while it is practising iniquity and extravagance, and displays in the most captivating manner the charming pictures of candor, frankness, and sincerity, while it is rioting in rapine and insolence, this country will be the most miserable habitation in the world; because we have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other. [Letter to the officers of the First Brigade of The Third Division of the Militia of Massachusetts, 11 October 1798]
And now GTAVC5947 draws from Benjamin Franklin’s famous plea for prayers at the Constitutional Convention:
I have lived, sir, a long time, and, the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth—that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, sir, in the sacred writings, that “except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it.” I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed, in this political building, no better than the builders of Babel. We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded; and we ourselves shall become a reproach and by-word down to future ages.
Interestingly GTAVC5947 doesn’t bother to mention that virtually nobody went along with Franklin on this, and that group prayers were not a feature of the convention.

The next legitimate one comes from a letter Alexander Hamilton wrote in defense of the proposed Constitution:
For my own part, I sincerely esteem it a system, which, without the finger of God, never could have been suggested and agreed upon by such a diversity of interests. I will not presume to say that a more perfect system might not have been fabricated; but who expects perfection at once? [17 October 1787]
No complaint here, except perhaps as to what relevance it has.

The next couple of quotations are borderline-fake. The first consists of a few phrases cherry-picked from one of John Adams’ letters that give a misleading impression of what he wrote, and the second consists of some mangled second-hand reminiscences long after his death of things Alexander Hamilton supposedly said.
Could my answer be understood by any candid reader or hearer, to recommend to all the others the general principles, institutions, or systems of education of the Roman Catholics, or those of the Quakers, or those of the Presbyterians, or those of the Methodists, or those of the Moravians, or those of the Universalists, or those of the Philosophers? No. The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence, were the only principles in which that beautiful assembly of young men could unite, and these principles only could be intended by them in their address, or by me in my answer. And what were these general principles? I answer, the general principles of Christianity, in which all those sects were united, and the general principles of English and American liberty, in which all those young men united, and which had united all parties in America, in majorities sufficient to assert and maintain her independence. Now I will avow, that I then believed and now believe that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God; and that those principles of liberty are as unalterable as human nature and our terrestrial, mundane system. I could, therefore, safely say, consistently with all my then and present information, that I believed they would never make discoveries in contradiction to these general principles. [Letter to Thomas Jefferson, 28 June 1813]
It was the tendency to infidelity he saw so rife that led him often to declare in the social circle his estimate of Christian truth. “I have examined carefully,” he said to a friend from his boyhood, “the evidence of the Christian religion; and, if I was sitting as a juror upon its authenticity, I should unhesitatingly give my verdict in its favor.” To another person, he observed, “I have studied it, and I can prove its truth as clearly as any proposition ever submitted to the mind of man.” [John Church Hamilton, History of the United States, volume 7]
For more on the first see this entry at Fake History, and for more on the second see my previous entry here, "Posing in the Moonlight." [Update: Or this entry at Fake History.]

And finally the two out-and-out fakes. The first, usually attributed to either an unnamed minuteman or to John Adams and John Hancock, is apparently a very modern invention:
We Recognize No Sovereign but God, and no King but Jesus!
Almost certainly no older than the twenty-first century, there is not the slightest evidence that John Adams, James Madison, or John Hancock ever said such a thing. It was a slogan of the Fifth Monarchy Men, a century before the American revolution. (Though an unknown demonstrator is said to have shouted something like it during the Stamp Act riots in Philadelphia.) For more, see this entry at Fake History.

The last is the classic fake quotation so much beloved by Christian Nationites and popularized by David Barton:
We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future of our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for self-government: upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.
The words the capacity of mankind for self-government come from Madison, the rest is an interpretation of what Madison supposedly meant by it, as expounded (for example) by Dean Clarence Manion in a pamphlet from the early fifties.

So now let me bid a fond farewell to one more clueless clown, whose failed attempt to "put delusional liberals in their place" ran aground on the shoals of a heap of out-of-context, second-hand, misquoted, badly-researched bits of wreckage dumped by bamboozled zombies who accidentally created a snare for the unwary. Thanks for playing, my fellow agnostic, and better luck next time.

21 August 2010

Quotation of the Day

The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.

20 August 2010

Phil Brennan: Reporting from Fantasyland

Over at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub, one of my favorite blogs, Ed Darrell has spotted an online editorial so clueless I couldn’t help but take a few potshots at it as well. The author, Phil Brennan, worries about what would happen if the birthers were successful in their quest to have President Obama declared ineligible if “it turns out that Obama can’t come up with a legitimate birth certificate showing that he was indeed born on U.S. soil in what was then the territory of Hawaii” in 1961. According to the provisions of the Constitution, he claims, all bills signed by Obama and all appointments made under Obama would be nullified, “John McCain would be declared the legitimate President of the United States and Sarah Palin the Vice President starting with Inauguration Day, 2009,” and to top it all off “there would be blood in the streets as the labor union and the rest of the thuggery that supports him would erupt in violence”.

Now I don’t really expect any sense or sanity from a birther—and Brennan in earlier outbursts shows that he has drunk deep of that particular flavor of Kool-Aid™. In one he writes that the location of Obama’s birth “remains questionable. Proof of United States Citizenship hasn’t been provided”—this despite the fact there is an accessible public record of his Hawaiian birth. (Why do they think states place birth notices in local papers, anyway?) But this clueless clown thinks that Hawaii was a territory in 1961—this despite the fact that his own claims about his personal history show he must be old enough to remember Hawaii becoming a state, as I am. (Hell, I remember our school proudly unfurling its new forty-nine-star flags just after Hawaii became a state, rendering them obsolete before they could even be properly displayed.)

And Brennan worries about strange things. The Republicans, he thinks, may blow their chances this year by being too cooperative with the Democrats. (In what alternate universe does this Brennan live?) If Universal Health Care was already in effect, he writes, he, Brennan, would now be dead, thanks to its Death Panels, a necessity when health care will be rationed. (Does he really think health care isn’t rationed now?) He imagines that the “climate change threat” is “non-existent” and that any effort to prevent disaster will “drive millions of American jobs overseas and impose crippling costs upon the American people” (and yet the temperatures keep on rising). Brennan in fact is far more worried about the possible “eruption of the simmering mass of magma that is edging slowly upwards beneath the caldera at Yellowstone National Park” which will “devastate much of the U.S., spreading massive clouds of volcanic ash across a huge swath of the nation” thus causing a “new ice age” resembling “what we know as the Little Ice Age which occurred between the 16th and the 19th centuries”.

This self-described veteran reporter seems to have problems distinguishing probable from improbable, and fact from outright fantasy. Suppose, for instance, that Obama were to be determined (for whatever reason) to be ineligible to serve as president. In that case the Constitution does not specify in some strange Ruritanian fashion that the state must revert to a villain, no matter whom, but rather provides that the vice president (in this case Joe Biden) would assume the office. Nor would laws and appointments suddenly become null and void as in some bizarre Y2K scenario nor would chaos reign.

Get a grip, Phil. Take your medications. There are no bomb-throwing Bolsheviks waiting in the wings to execute the royal family. Oh, and by the way, the “Little Ice Age” has been greatly exaggerated. You could look it up, if that didn’t get in the way of your, uh, journalism.

07 August 2010

Stan Freberg Presents...

When I was growing up my family was always ahead of the crowd, or else way behind it. We were one of the first in our neighborhood to get an automatic dishwasher, for example, and we were among the last to get a television. (I don’t think my father actually believed in television till he became chief engineer for a Portland television station in the eighties.) For many years we were the only family I knew (outside the radio business) to have a tape recorder in the house, and we were definitely the only family I knew where the children were allowed to play with it. Friends would come by to record their voices and hear them played back at them so they could giggle hysterically at the result. (As a matter of fact my whole second-grade class made a field trip to our house just to be recorded and listen to the playback.) When I started a band in imitation of Spike Jones around fifth grade or so we often recorded the ongoing mayhem for our own entertainment.

To save wear and tear on our records, as well as to create anthologies of favorite pieces, my father used to make tapes bearing typed labels like “Mostly Eddie Lawrence” or “KOS and chipmunks.” One of them was titled simply “Mostly Stan Freberg.” This one was a collection of comedy singles by the great satirist, Stan Freberg, interspersed with songs—I think. It’s been a long time. I’m pretty sure it had Freberg’s version of “Yellow Rose of Texas” (lampooning Mitch Miller), “The Great Pretender” (targeting the Platters), and “Rock Island Line” (aimed at Lonnie Donegan). Oh, and I’m quite sure it contained the Lawrence Welk takeoff as well.

Now I have to say that as a kid I didn’t necessarily know the originals of the people Freberg targeted, but I still found the situations funny. Lawrence Welk patiently explaining to Larry Hooper why he couldn’t perform the same song that the Lennon sisters had just sung for example (“I’m sorry, that number has been taken”) and receiving the resentful reply, “Well, I’ll sing ‘The Funny Old Hills,’ then.” Harry Belafonte desperately trying to placate his over-sensitive bongo drummer by leaving the room to do his calypso shouts. Ben Franklin trying to avoid Thomas Jefferson, who wants him to sign some kind of declaration of independence—“Too late—he’s seen you. We’ll have to let him in.” Lonnie Donegan explaining to a skeptical A&R man why the recitation is so important—“Well, it makes a difference to the sheep.” A witch replying to a protest by another character that the piece had to have a happy ending: “Why? This isn’t the Shirley Temple Storybook.”

At his worst Freberg could be clichéd (“The Lone Analyst”), obvious (“Which is the Girl and Which is the Boy”), or preachy (“Yulenet”) but at his best (interviewing the abominable snowman about his choice of footwear, say, in a devastating satire on celebrity interviews, or discoursing on the unreasonable demands of wives as Hermann van Horne, Hi-Fi expert, who will deny their husbands new speakers to buy shoes for the children or perhaps a second dress) no-one can touch him. Few even come close. George Washington clashing with Betsy Ross over the design of the American flag (“Stars? With Stripes? … I deliberately said polka dots”), Johnnie Ray coming apart during the performance of the parody “Try” (where the single word “more” manages to stretch itself out over a full two measures), Freberg offering to show the door to a sleazy record promoter (played by the inimitable Jesse White) and receiving the reply, “No, I’ll just slide out under it”—so many unforgettable moments.

Thanks, Stan—and, oh, by the way, happy birthday.

16 July 2010

Sing It, Fat Lady!

Today’s question comes from a long-time reader (hi, Mom!) who wants to know where the expression “It ain’t over till the fat lady sings” comes from. The expression has been around for a bit, at least since the empty eighties, and it’s roughly equivalent to the old proverb, “It ain’t over till it’s over,” attributed to the well-known cartoon character, Yogi Berra. It means apparently that nothing is settled until all the accounts are totaled up, or something like that.

It’s a good point. I remember years ago as a backgammon game wound down my opponent wanted to throw in the towel, seeing that I clearly had the game won at that point. Like an idiot I pointed out that things were really closer than they looked. “If you were to throw double sixes on the next roll,” I said (and boy have these words stuck with me), “and I were to say get a two and a one on my next, well you could easily win the thing.” And much to my chagrin (I should have kept my mouth shut) my opponent did in fact throw double sixes on his next roll, and I got a two and a one or something equally useless on mine, and I ended up losing. It really ain’t over till it’s, well, over.

But the fat lady—where the hell does she come in? Personally, I first remember hearing the expression shortly after I left college, during the reign of the late unlamented Ronald McReagan, Czar of all the Americas. It was a punch-line to a joke I no longer remember, but the set-up was rather like the old Homer and Jethro routine, where the pair wanders into an opera to get out of the rain thinking they were going to see a western, and instead forty-seven people sung without a horse in sight. Hekyll nudges his buddy during a pause and asks, “Is it over yet, Jekyll?” And his buddy replies, pointing to the soprano, “Nah, it ain’t over till the fat lady sings.”

So, maybe, it was a bit of belated Green Acres style humor to enlighten the tedium of those dark days when nuclear holocaust lurked just around the corner. Poking fun at the rubes, as it were. Even those of us who wouldn’t be caught dead creeping into an opera house get the joke. But—but—how do sports come into it? Don’t we usually hear it in connection with some sporting event—a dramatic cliffhanger of a ninth-inning foos- or kickball spectacular? “And there he goes, [I hear this in Billy Crystal’s Howard Cosell voice] bobbing and weaving down the stretch, shedding backstops like ninepins into the goal zone and it’s all over!” “Well, Ed, [comes the reply] there’s still two seconds left on the clock and anything can happen. Remember, it ain’t over till the fat lady sings.”

Okay, well, according to the nearest thing we have to absolute truth written by a roomful of monkeys hitting random keys (full disclosure: I too am a Wikipedia editor) it came about something like this. Ralph Carpenter (described as a Texas Tech sports information director) and Bill Morgan (presumably the nineteenth century baseball player) were calling a game of some sort “in the SWC tournament finals” early in 1976. The score was 72-72, and the dialog went like this:
Bill Morgan: Hey, Ralph, this … is going to be a tight one after all.

Ralph Carpenter: Right. The opera ain’t over until the fat lady sings.
Bill Morgan still remembered the incident in 2006. He believed that Carpenter came up with it on the spur of the moment. “Oh, yeah, it was vintage Carpenter. He was one of the world’s funniest guys.”

A couple of years later it turned up again, after a basketball (is there such a game?) contest in April 1978 between the “San Antonio Spurs” and the “Washington Bullets”. Broadcaster Dan Cook observed after the Spurs victory that “The opera ain’t over till the fat lady sings,” meaning that a single victory didn’t determine the outcome of the series.

Now if you’re like me you may well be wondering, what the hell does opera have to do with sports? (Well, other than the fact that I personally detest them both.) Why would an opera metaphor end up as a sports cliché? And also, you know, the fat lady pretty much sings throughout the opera. It’s not like the soprano waits till the end before she sounds off. It’s sort of an ongoing thing.

Well, there is an alternative explanation out there, and in this one the fat lady has a name—Kate Smith. Yes, that Kate Smith, the songbird of the south, whose function in the world (if we believe the supply-siders) was to sell Studebakers and Jell-O, is supposed to be the fat lady of the cliché. She, goes the story, used to finish off sports events of some kind (something called the “World Series” is often mentioned) by singing Israel Isidore Baline’s patriotic hymn “God Bless America” to a no-doubt attentive crowd trying to beat the rush to the exits.

Smith, who weighed a ninth of a ton in her prime, could certainly have been described as a “fat lady,” so that’s one point in the story’s favor, but the rest doesn’t work very well. First, the singing, if any, is usually done at the beginning of sports events, and in fact on those occasions when she did sing for games (more typically a recording was used), it was before the game began. There was even an expression, a reference to the one under discussion, that “It ain’t begun till the fat lady sings.” And also—well, if she did sing at the end of the game, then “it ain’t over till the fat lady sings” wouldn’t actually be true, as the game would have ended before the fat lady sang. Truth may be expecting a lot from a cliché, but still, there are limits to artistic license, aren’t there?

Now I should warn you that this isn’t going to be one of those pieces where at the end I triumphantly announce Aha—it was Jacques Mallet du Pan, writing in The Virginian, and he did it with the Lead Pipe! No, on this one I’m as Clueless as the next guy. But I’ve got to say that neither of these explanations cut it. They both stink of folk etymology, after-the-fact retrojections into the unknown. Campfire stories. Legends.

Is there another option? Well, another story has it—and like the Kate Smith tale I picked this one up surfing the interwaves—that it’s an old Southern proverb that originally ran “Church ain’t over till the fat lady sings.” You see, this explanation has it, in Southern churches services ended with a song usually sung by choir members who (we may suppose) were specially selected for their weight. It was only when these ladies had warbled their best shot that the doors were opened and the parishioners allowed to finally leave, no doubt giving thanks to whatever God they still believed in after all that.

This explanation has at least one merit—church services do indeed use music to cue the audience as to when to stand, when to sit, and when to beat a hasty retreat. I personally examined many church services on this very point for a college paper I wrote for an anthropology class (Music in Culture), and that one fact stands out very clearly in my memory. Music was liminal, a delineator used to separate events. But I don’t see how the fat lady gets into it. Singing, sure, church choirs are even a cliché themselves. But unless, say, Southern Baptists have some special fat-lady tradition I don’t see how the saying is relevant. And again—in my personal observation music is used in church services throughout—not just at the end. It don’t fit—and if it don’t fit, you must acquit.

Apparently quite a few people have written on the subject, but nobody seems to have hit the nail squarely on the thumb. If anybody has something resembling evidence on the subject, let me know. Or write it up in Wikipedia. It has a whole article on the subject.

30 June 2010

Picking on the Clueless pt XXX

Picking on the Clueless

Over at my other blog, Fake History, I get a certain amount of traffic, and even an occasional commenter. Yesterday some guy calling himself “David d” left a comment on my entry about a quotation falsely attributed to George Washington:
What students would learn in American schools above all is the religion of Jesus Christ.
I pointed out there that the fake is based on something George Washington did say during a difficult meeting with a delegation of Delawares intent on preserving the peace with the Euro-American colonists:
You do well to wish to learn our arts and ways of life, and above all, the religion of Jesus Christ.
Nothing here about students, American schools, or the like of course. As I pointed out in my entry it would be an unlikely topic for George Washington to have commented on, given the circumstances of his time and place. I noted that as the “American schools” quotation is fake, and apparently recent, I felt no need to research its actual provenance, beyond noting that the earliest source Google Books could come up with was a 2006 book by a guy named Bob Klingenberg.

Now this David d got all bent out of shape about this simple declaration, and he showed up crowing:
You really need to learn to perform some due diligence before you write of things you no [sic] very little about.

You misleadingly wrote, “The fake quotation is very modern, probably twenty-first century in origin. I’ve made no special effort to run down its history; the oldest reference Google Books turned up was from 2006, in a book called Is God with America? by Bob Klingenberg (p. 188)”

That set off the “truth alarm”. So I did just a little research NOT using google which many believe has a liberal bias programmed into its search engines. And found a reliable source going back over 70 years. Nice try.
Now I have to say that that would have been interesting. Not impossible by any means, but interesting. Some fake quotations do indeed lurk for long periods of time in obscure corners of the intellectual web, before springing out to ensnare the unwary. And reliable sources sometimes do transmit unreliable information.

But this was not such an example, alas. No, David d was so colossally inept that he got caught in a trap of his own making. His reference for the fake quotation? It was Fitzgerald’s edition of Washington’s papers, the very source I linked to in my entry, and it did not contain the fake quotation at all, but only the genuine one, as I’d already explained ad nauseam.

What the hell was David d thinking (assuming that that isn’t giving him too much credit)? Did he suppose that nobody would check up on him? Fitzgerald’s edition is actually online, so there is no difficulty in checking it out. I can only assume that our clueless clown was just making things up and hoping nobody would actually call him on his bluff. Clearly his claim to have done “just a little research” was a vast overstatement, unless his definition of “research” is “bullshitting”.

Now David d adds a crowning touch to his display of ignorance and incompetence. Allow me to let him hang himself with his own words:
You know a big problem I have with many skeptics and naysayers is their willful ignorance on many topic that they pretend to know something about.

Read the facts man!


Peace out.
Ah, yes, the infamous Wallbuilders site, the source of so many lies and misinterpretations. That’s really convincing.

But—and this is the cream of the jest—David d apparently never bothered to check out his own link. Because Wallbuilders does not back him up on this fake, not in the least. What’s given at his link is the same genuine quotation given by Fitzgerald and by my own site, and not the fake quotation at all.

Epic fail, David d—and, by the way, I don’t believe for a moment that you are really the homeschooling advocate whose name and email address you’re using. I took a brief look at his site and I doubt that he’d be either as incompetent or as, well, illiterate as your comment is.

Peace off, man.

23 May 2010

Insomniac Dreams

I’m awake now, when I should be asleep. Irrelevant images run through my head—an uncaring doctor scrawling the wrong dosage on a clipboard, Spiderman taking on the Vulture with a broken arm, a small white dog running excitedly around in the back yard. I’d like to bury these images in the darkness of unconsciousness, to not think and not worry. But I’m worrying about my little dog, and I’m also worrying about how in hell I’m going to pay for her surgery. Nothing is ever simple, it seems.

Earlier this week Zephyr, our miniature American Eskimo dog, started losing energy and stopped eating. It was really noticeable Tuesday, when I hand-carried our ballots to the drop box, a longish walk but nothing out of the ordinary for Zephyr and me. We weren’t even half the way there when Zephyr began hanging back and refusing to continue; I was beginning to think I might have to carry her. (Where is Spiderman when you need him?) At one point some North Portland denizen stopped to ask, “You all right, man?” I was—it was my dog that was the problem.

By Thursday it was obvious that she was in some sort of difficulty, though she was still enthusiastic about going on walks and willing to eat special treats. She was just getting tired too easily and not eating her regular food. Not eating her regular food isn’t totally surprising—she’s learned that people will give her treats or scraps of food for doing tricks, and there are a lot of people in the house, so many opportunities for begging. Honestly, I just figured she was pigging out on treats and I’d need to watch her more closely. But her slowing down—well, she is approaching eleven (next month), people pointed out, and maybe she’s just beginning to feel her age.

But damn it, old age doesn’t normally creep in between say Thursday (when she was running ahead of me, tugging on the leash, chasing squirrels, generally excited), and say Tuesday (when she was dragging behind me, wanting to go back home, ignoring other dogs, and generally listless). That’s comic-book country, where Dr. Doom invents some sort of aging ray to incapacitate our hero. I had the same sort of argument—and with the medical authorities at that—when my father was dying. “He’s just old,” one alleged physician told me when I wanted to know why he suddenly couldn’t get around, couldn’t remember things, couldn’t function. Well, he hadn’t been “old” two weeks before when he was working on the KOBP transmitter, tools in hand, sharp as ever. You don’t get old overnight, damn it. (Although it feels like it sometimes.)

So Friday we got an appointment with our veterinarian (whom we haven’t been seeing as regularly, damn it, since the money got tight) and managed to get her there, my grandnephew and I, thanks to my brother (his grandfather). And that’s when things turned nightmarish.

My little dog had a condition called pyometra, which apparently is essentially an infection of the uterus. It is, it seems, extremely dangerous, and the treatment of choice is immediate removal of the organ—rather like appendicitis, I guess. (It is, of course, obvious that I am not a physician—actually, I barely remember what little anatomy I learned in school.) But it’s Friday night, and I have sixty dollars in my pocket and my credit union is closed till Monday, and I can’t get hold of anybody who might be able to help.

So emergency treatment was out of the question. Even though my grandnephew’s parents had now arrived and taken over, neither of them had resources available for the task, and we all bombed on the credit-rating front. (I apparently have no credit rating of any sort, as I’ve never bought anything on payments. Go figure.) Our own veterinarian could handle it, but not that night, so we ended up scheduling surgery for the next day and then went home to spend the night sleeping fitfully in the music-room while sort of taking turns watching the dog to make sure that nothing ruptured during the night.

Well, she seemed fine—if I hadn’t seen the x-rays I would never have guessed that she was in serious trouble. Zephyr seemed fairly pleased with all the attention, and when I put my shoes on to head out in the morning she got excited, figuring that we were going for a walk or ride. She was happy with the trip there, and only mildly concerned when I handed her over to go off for her operation. She watched me to make sure I thought it was all right, and I attempted to be reassuring. My niece and grandnephew and I had originally planned to hang around till the operation was done, but once we’d put Zephyr into their hands all the tiredness seemed to catch up with us, and we broke for home and sacked out, did laundry, and tried to catch up with other activities that had abruptly come to a halt. The basement drain backed up—well, actually it’s the main outflow for the entire north side of the house, but it shows up as the bathroom drain backing up—and my nephew and I snaked it out.

Somewhere in there we got the call that the operation had been successful, that the uterus was greatly enlarged (it weighed four pounds—this from a twenty-four pound dog), and that it had come out cleanly and successfully. We could pick Zephyr up in the afternoon.

We did. We were actually waiting for her in the same place we’d handed her over, and Zephyr seemed unsurprised to see us—she actually seems to be taking the things that are happening to her in stride a lot better than I am, though of course she’s on drugs. We’d had an earlier discussion on how to handle Zephyr’s recovery, and we’d decided that my grandnephew’s father should look after her for the moment, his house not having stairs, other pets, and suchlike hazards. We were hoping to get Zephyr to urinate before we took her anywhere, but once outside she walked determinedly over to a car—not ours as it happened—and indicated that she wanted to go home now. We took her to our car, where my niece’s cat River was waiting (Zephyr and River for some reason seem to be fond of one another); River was obviously pleased to see Zephyr, and Zephyr clearly recognized River, though once she was in the car she seemed mainly to want to rest.

When we got home Zephyr seemed to acquire a sudden burst of energy and would have leaped down if my grandnephew hadn’t caught her and gently lifted her to the driveway. Zephyr sniffed the lawn with interest, picked a place, and finally peed—which was reassuring, in a way. She then lay down in the grass, so I gathered her up in my arms and carried her onto the porch. She lay quietly in my lap, but was very interested in the people that passed by periodically along the sidewalk, and the household residents that came out to check on her. She wanted off my lap after a bit, and alternated between standing up on the porch, and lying back down again. I think she wanted to be up and about, but her exhausted body wouldn’t bend to her will, strong though it is.

We hung around there waiting while my niece got stuff ready for the drive and my grandnephew decided between finishing his weekend here or staying with Zephyr. (He decided to stay with Zephyr, which meant cutting short his stay, but also that there is somebody else to keep an eye on the dog during her recovery.) Both their pet cats (River and Tiberius) remain here in my care. River is surly—she likes rides, Zephyr, and my niece—but it’s probably for the best. River went outside with me for a walk in the evening, but she spent it jumping into mud-puddles and getting wet and muddy. Once I got her back inside and she’d dried off she came downstairs and tried tapping the keys on my keyboard with her paw while watching the screen; I don’t know why unless she was trying to figure out what I find so interesting about the activity. She kept tapping the F1 key, which brings up a help screen—it looked purposeful, but was no doubt coincidence.

Anyway, after looking after the pets that are here, I sacked out, visions of hospitals and waiting-rooms dancing through my head. I slept well—at least till I woke abruptly and the day’s worries returned. I really ought to be asleep now—well, I suppose I’d be waking up fairly soon at this point—but I’m worried about my puppy. And I’m worried about the goddamn bill for this operation. It would be something if Spiderman and Iron Man and the rest really could come to our rescue. A pipe-dream perhaps, but—I can’t help wondering if maybe those silver-age comics I have stashed away are worth something.

16 May 2010

Very Bad News

There are only a handful of intelligent, skeptical, rational bloggers out there who can also write well—and who are equally at home with portraiture via scalpel or meat-cleaver. One of them is Dan J of Relatively Unrelated, whose relatively recent web log has rapidly become a favorite of mine. I admit, one reason is that he seems to share my enthusiasm for picking on the clueless, as his posts on the woman who was trying desperately to get by on only $300,000 a year (“I’d like to welcome some people to the real world, but they aren’t here yet”) and the writer for Renew America who describes biology as the science of magic and madness (“Congratulations and Kudos to RenewAmerica.com”) show. Or the way he recalls the glorious life and cruel death of one of my favorite historical figures (“Sometimes Persecution ends in Death: Remembering Giordano Bruno”). And how he neatly eviscerates certain primitive theologians who masquerade as scientists in pieces like “What is Biological Evolution? (and Why Do Creationists Not Understand the Answer)” and “Your Religion is Not Science”. And who can forget his depiction of the despair of poor troglodytes forced the consider the possibility they may have to someday treat gay, lesbian, or transgendered people as, well, people (“Won’t Someone Please Think Of The Bigots?!?!”), or the pitiful attempts at something resembling rational thought by the delusional (“How Fucking Thick are These People?!?!!?”), done with equal facility and a kind of foul grace. And there was his savage demolition of a certain internet troll who masquerades as a concerned christian—I couldn’t find it at the blog, so maybe it was on one of the comment threads he’s also contributed to. (As a matter of fact it was his comments somewhere or other that led me originally to his blog.) Clarity—he likes to cut through the bullshit to zero in on the actual point of an argument—succinctness—a point I’d dwell on in a three-part series Dan J disposes of in a sentence or two—and the willingness to call a spade a fucking shovel (as somebody once called it) are the hallmarks of his writing.

He hasn’t been writing much lately. On 28 March we had this note:
Yes, I’m still here. I haven’t been feeling well lately, which leaves me with little enthusiasm for making posts that scathingly blast one thing or another. Back to the doctor on April first, then maybe I can get back on the road to posting regularly.

Well, I’m in no position to criticize, with my erratic performance here at Rational Rant, and god knows I haven’t been feeling well either, what with horrific panic attacks and sporadic vision loss (apparently visual migraines but not entirely reassuring). Still, I’ve been looking forward to Dan J’s posts resuming—and now I learn from a post by Jason Thibeault (“That Helpless Feeling”) that he has more pressing things to worry about: he “likely has lymphoma. He’s been getting the runaround from a clinic for the past two weeks in that country with ‘the greatest health care system in the world’, America.”

Damn. I don’t know what to say. Part of it is the fucking uncertainty, of course—I looked up lymphoma on various internet sites, but nothing there has any meaning without knowing its type or how developed it is, or for that matter even if it’s lymphoma at all. We’ll just have to wait and see. (And of course Dan J may not wish to share his medical situation with the world at large; please forgive me if I’m intruding here.) But the personal catastrophe aside—and that is by far the most important part of it of course—anything that takes a voice like Dan J’s from the Babel of the Blogosphere is to be regretted. It’s very bad news. And I hope that proves to be transitory and temporary, and Dan J is once again up eviscerating the demons of unreason soon, and not just for the sake of his friends and family and acquaintances, but also for those of us who value the all too few voices of reason and sanity in a world increasingly hostile to both.

13 May 2010

"Son, Let's See Your Identity Card"

The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press has just released an appalling new survey that says that nearly three-quarters of Americans polled approve of a law requiring all Americans to carry documents showing that they are in the country legally. Two-thirds think the police should be allowed to detain anybody who does not have such a document on him or her.

Now I have to say that this requirement is something I’ve always thought of as characteristic of a police state. I don’t even have such a document, unless you count my certificate of live birth, and I normally keep that locked away safe somewhere. I sure as hell don’t carry it around with me. Is the government supposed to issue some sort of new universal ID card certifying to our citizenship? Or are we all supposed to get passports? Or what?

For no good reason I’m reminded of somebody’s—James Thurber’s maybe—description of a scene from a French novel set in the American Old West. The setting is a small town somewhere in the southwest. A stranger has arrived, and people are wondering who exactly the newcomer is. Some of the townsfolk are convinced that he’s the notorious Billy the Kid. The sheriff comes by, listens for a moment, and then says, “I’ll settle this.” He strolls over to the newcomer, and says to him, “Son, let me see your identity-card.”

The humor in this is that nothing of the sort could possibly occur on American soil. And yet, and yet, apparently damn near three-quarters of the American people now think these sorts of police powers are just dandy. The American Way incarnate. Prove that you’re a citizen on the sheriff’s demand, or spend the night in jail—or however long it takes till you can get a copy of your birth certificate mailed out to you.

Actually I don’t think appalling begins to cover it. What are we trading our rights for, here, exactly? What the hell are we so afraid of? I’m just asking—because I, for one, don’t see anything whatsoever to justify this level of response. As somebody-or-other is supposed to have once said, anybody who trades in his liberty for a little gilt-edged security deserves to be walled up in a dark cell with the rats and the spiders—or words to that effect. If America can’t do better than this, it doesn’t deserve to survive. And it probably won’t.

07 May 2010

Pete Tchaikovsky’s Blues

P. I. Tchaikovsky came up here one day
With something he called the “Swan Lake Ballet.”
Man, what a drag! It was real bad news,
Till we changed it to “Pete Tchaikovsky’s Blues.”
Allen Sherman, Peter and the Commissar

When I was young I used to celebrate—well, observe, anyway—my heroes’ birthdays. 15 February was Galileo’s birthday, for example, and I usually made a point of observing something celestial with a telescope, even if it was only the girl next door. (Okay, we didn’t actually have a girl next door—on the one side we had a vacant lot with an abandoned or burnt-down house, depending on the year, and on the other a gravel pit.) For some reason it always seemed to be overcast on Galileo’s birthday. It didn’t stop me from dragging out my telescope and trying to observe something, though. 7 May was Tchaikovsky’s birthday, and at least one year my mother baked him a cake and we threw him a party—though I think that was also partly because it was the last day of our extracurricular Spanish class. Anyway, whatever the reason, I have a photograph of me and my friends gathered around Tchaikovsky’s birthday cake to prove it. Or prove something anyway.

I don’t know when I first discovered Tchaikovsky—it seems like I’ve known his music all my life. The first piano concerto, the sixth symphony, Romeo and Juliet, even the Nutcracker—these were the soundtrack to my life at one time. I was listening to the Nutcracker when the Columbus Day Storm knocked our power out. (My memory tells me that I was doing homework at the time, but as it was a Friday, I’m very much inclined to doubt that.) I was blown away by the (reconstructed) seventh symphony in the early hours of the morning when it was played on KPFM’s all-request Music Out of the Night. The third movement of the sixth symphony inspired me to an act—well, anyway, I have many memories associated with the Russian composer’s music.

One of the curious things about the library at John Rogers school (K-6) is that it actually had interesting books in it. It had at least two books about Tchaikovsky, one of which was the story of his relationship with his long-time patron, Madame von Meck. At least one of them, maybe both, were open about the composer’s homosexuality, a subject that usually didn’t come up in the 1960s, at least not when children (such as myself) were present. I learned that Tchaikovsky suffered from horrendous bouts of depression, that he had irrational fears, that he was downright neurotic in many ways, if not actually psychotic. Artistic temperament is one thing, but a story that stuck in my mind over the years is the one about his first attempt to conduct a piece in public. As he faced the orchestra he became overwhelmed with the belief that his head was about to fall off and rolling down into the string section, something that would no doubt cause considerable alarm and confusion among the musicians. To prevent that eventuality, he grasped his head firmly with one hand, while with the other he gestured with the baton to direct the orchestra. It worked; at least he managed to keep his head and get through the piece without mishap, but his unusual conducting style became the subject of some comment. It wasn’t until decades later, when reading a review of his performance in the New York Herald, that he began to think he might not be utterly incompetent as a conductor. The reviewer noted his self-effacing manner, but added that he was a changed man when he took the baton and showed his entire mastery of the orchestra and control over the piece. It was only then that he began to think that he was not as bad as he’d always thought he was.

Okay, I probably have it all wrong—this is stuff I read as a child filtered through many years of memory fog and dust. But I felt affection for the guy who created the music that moved me then, and I enjoyed celebrating—or at least remembering—the day of his birth. “How old is Tchaikovsky?” my father asked one 7 May long ago as we sat at the table for breakfast.

“I don’t know,” I answered, not having figured it out.

“Well, what year was he born?” asked dear old Dad.

I always knew the dates of everything; my memory was sticky like that, but put on the spot I couldn’t remember that particular information at that particular moment. I knew Tchaikovsky was a younger contemporary of Lewis Carroll (1832) and Mark Twain (1835), but the year of his birth escaped me. Then something came to me—the number thirteen. You see, I’d learned a trick for testing divisibility by three and had been randomly checking out numbers that came to my attention—

“I don’t remember the actual date,” I answered cautiously, “but I do remember one thing. When you add the digits of the date together they total thirteen.”

My father stared at me. “Okay,” he said, “I always thought that kind of thing was so implausible when it came up in one of those mathematical puzzles in Scientific American. It’s so obviously a device—people don’t talk like that in real life. That’s not how people’s minds work. It’s one thing coming from Martin Gardner; I don’t expect it from my own family.”

Since then I’ve never forgotten the year of Tchaikovsky’s birth. He’s 170 today. Happy birthday, Pyotr Ilyich.

29 April 2010


I could not be wearier
Life could not be drearier
If I lived in Siberia
Eartha Kitt (from New Faces of 1952)
I’m slowly recovering from a bad bout of terror when it looked as though my bank account was going to self-destruct, thanks to the non-appearance of expected money, and I’m having trouble typing as Tiberius, my grandnephew’s adopted feral cat, bit me earlier today when I gently suggested that he should not sharpen his claws on my grandmother’s heirloom quilt, but that’s par for the course. Nothing to write home about. As I get older these things just take a lot more out of me, I guess.

I’ve been chasing shadows trying to run down enough information to put together a brief biographical sketch of Dean Clarence Manion, one of the shapers of the modern conservative movement, whose Manion Forum first introduced the likes of Barry Goldwater to a nation-wide audience. This guy was important, damn it—not that I’m an admirer, mind you. But he was a major figure in 1950s America, spoken of as a possible Supreme Court justice even, a best-selling author—and as far as Internet resources are concerned, he might as well never have lived.

I remember these guys, the old right-wing radio crowd. I used to hear them a lot, especially if my father was driving us somewhere. Dear old dad was a radio engineer, you see, and we always had to have his station on, no matter what garbage was being aired at the moment, so he could monitor the signal quality, and respond instantly if something went wrong. Sometimes we’d abruptly pull off to the side of the road to a pay phone so he could call in to the station over some oddity in the transmission; in the meantime I’d be stuck listening to some crazed evangelist or right-wing commentator hawking his social or political nostrums. Dan Smoot, Billy Graham, Ronald Reagan—I used to listen (unwillingly) to them all, fascinated by them in the way you feel passing some grisly car wreck. You don’t want to look at the carnage, but somehow your eyes refuse to cooperate.

Oddly I find that I have a certain nostalgic fondness for them today, remnants of a shattered dream, political heretics to mainstream American politics. Their cause rooted in denial of reality, denial of rights to those perceived as different, denial of a fair deal to the hard-working men and women who supported them, unjust and unjustified, they nonetheless tirelessly worked on behalf of the wealthy and the powerful to carry out their designs. How well they succeeded in written in the nerves and sinews of the last quarter of the twentieth century. If free America finally goes down, they will have had much to do with its corruption. And their story should be told; it is a part of the great tapestry of our history.

09 April 2010

Posing in the Moonlight

Ah, yes, another rant against the clueless. I’m sorry about that—but this guy illustrates something that really bothers me about this whole tribe. I’ve noted previously how people in comment threads who claim to rely on primary sources give themselves away by citing fake quotations, and the other day a perfect example of the species made an appearance in a thread at a topix.net forum. Calling him- (or her-) self Akpilot, he (or she) made a set of assertions so blindingly ignorant that one commenter suggested he should “read a few biographies of our first presidents as well as the members who helped draft the Declaration of Independence and Constitution.” Akpilot claimed in reply:
Actually, biographies are riddled with errors and the personal opinions of the writter [sic]. I much prefer reading the actual writtings [sic] of the founders, I find you get a much clearer picture of them that way... You may want to try this yourself as well. [ellipsis in original]
What makes this claim absolutely hilarious is that he had given examples of his “reading the actual writtings of the founders” some comments earlier, and, as you might expect, they included a number of fake quotations—the 1956 “religionists” quotation falsely attributed to Patrick Henry, for one, and the “ten commandments” quotation falsely attributed to James Madison, for another. His use of these shows Akpilot for the poseur he is—he sure as hell didn’t get them from “reading the actual writtings of the founders”.

So, just for the fun of it, let’s see what else our poseur has to offer. He starts off with an alleged John Adams quotation:
The general principles upon which the Fathers achieved independence were the general principals of Christianity… I will avow that I believed and now believe that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God.
While our poseur doesn’t give a source, it’s a mangled section from a letter Adams wrote to Thomas Jefferson (28 June 1813), part of a famous series. Quite a bit has been silently omitted in this twisted version. Here’s what Adams wrote:
Could my answer be understood by any candid reader or hearer, to recommend to all the others the general principles, institutions, or systems of education of the Roman Catholics, or those of the Quakers, or those of the Presbyterians, or those of the Methodists, or those of the Moravians, or those of the Universalists, or those of the Philosophers? No. The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence, were the only principles in which that beautiful assembly of young men could unite, and these principles only could be intended by them in their address, or by me in my answer. And what were these general principles? I answer, the general principles of Christianity, in which all those sects were united, and the general principles of English and American liberty, in which all those young men united, and which had united all parties in America, in majorities sufficient to assert and maintain her independence. Now I will avow, that I then believed and now believe that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God; and that those principles of liberty are as unalterable as human nature and our terrestrial, mundane system.
The words in bold were those cherry-picked to give a false impression of what John Adams was saying. If our poseur in this case was also the cherry-picker, then he is guilty of deliberately misrepresenting Adams; if not he remains a mere poseur, guilty only of passing off somebody else’s misrepresentation as his own.

Next our poseur quotes part of a famous quip John Adams wrote in a letter to Thomas Jefferson (19 April 1817)—an item so well-known that no special research in “the actual writtings of the founders” is required:
Twenty times in the course of my late reading have I been on the point of breaking out, “This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it!!!” But in this exclamation I should have been as fanatical as Bryant or Cleverly. Without religion this world would be something not fit to be mentioned in polite society, I mean hell.
This is a great passage for quote-miners; anti-religion types can quote the “no religion” portion, and Christian Nationites the “not fit to be mentioned” piece, but either way, they’re distorting the meaning of the original. Thomas Jefferson’s reply is not as often quoted. He wrote (5 May 1817):
If by religion we are to understand sectarian dogmas, in which no two of them agree, then your exclamation on that hypothesis is just, “that this would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it.” But if the moral precepts, innate in man, and made a part of his physical constitution, as necessary for a social being, if the sublime doctrines of philanthropism and deism taught us by Jesus of Nazareth, in which all agree, constitute true religion, then, without it, this would be, as you again say, “something not fit to be named even, indeed, a hell.”
Having quote-mined Adams Akpilot moves on to Benjamin Franklin's well-known speech in favor of prayers at the Constitutional Convention:
In the beginning of the contest with Britain, when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayers in this room for Divine protection. Our prayers, Sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered… do we imagine we no longer need His assistance?
This (for once) appears to be fairly quoted, as the larger context shows:
In the beginning of the Contest with G. Britain, when we were sensible of danger we had daily prayer in this room for the divine protection.—Our prayers, Sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a Superintending providence in our favor. To that kind providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? or do we imagine that we no longer need his assistance? I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth—that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid?
The vote arose during a critical point at the Constitutional convention, and there was some discussion of the question, but no vote was actually taken, and the matter was allowed quietly to die. Franklin’s manuscript notes:
The Convention, except three or four persons, thought Prayers unnecessary.
I wonder why our poseur left out that item of information.

Next up Akpilot cites a saying attributed to Alexander Hamilton—a quotation in which he cruelly betrays his limitations as a scholar and student of the Founders. His version reads:
I have carefully examined the evidences of the Christian religion, and if I was sitting as a juror upon its authenticity I would unhesitatingly give my verdict in its favor. I can prove its truth as clearly as any proposition ever submitted to the mind of man.
This item first appeared in this form (“evidences” instead of “evidence” and no ellipsis between the first and second sentences) in Stephen Abbott Northrop’s 1894 A Cloud of Witnesses (p. 208). Northrop in turn attributed to Famous American Statesmen by Sarah Knowles Bolton (1888, p. 126). She gave it like this:
To a friend he said: “I have examined carefully the evidence of the Christian religion; and, if I was sitting as a juror upon its authenticity, I should unhesitatingly give my verdict in its favor. … I can prove its truth as clearly as any proposition ever submitted to the mind of man.”
Note that evidence is singular, and especially note the ellipsis. That ellipsis was a bit dishonest; these are not parts of the same quotation, but two different stories jammed together. They come from John Church Hamilton’s voluminous account of his father’s life and times (volume 7, p. 790):
It was the tendency to infidelity he saw so rife that led him often to declare in the social circle his estimate of Christian truth. “I have examined carefully,” he said to a friend from his boyhood, “the evidence of the Christian religion; and, if I was sitting as a juror upon its authenticity, I should unhesitatingly give my verdict in its favor.” To another person, he observed, “I have studied it, and I can prove its truth as clearly as any proposition ever submitted to the mind of man.”
The first item is attributed to the “Reminiscences of General Morton” (presumably Jacob Morton, 1761-1836); the second is unattributed. As both anecdotes are related by his son, we may hope that they reflect Hamilton’s attitude as his son understood it, but they are second-hand at best. They are not Hamilton’s words directly, but only words attributed to him. And our poseur didn’t get them from the son—as his misquotation shows—but only from some late and derivative source.

Akpilot follows this with a mangled version of a resolution by the Massachusetts provincial congress for 15 April 1775 calling for a day of fasting and prayer. He has attributed this to John Hancock, possibly because Hancock was president of the provincial congress at that time. The actual resolution read:
Resolved, That it be, and hereby is, recommended to the good people of this colony, of all denominations, that Thursday, the eleventh day of May next, be set apart as a day of public humiliation, fasting, and prayer; that a total abstinence from servile labor and recreation be observed, and all the religious assemblies solemnly convened, to humble themselves before God, under the heavy judgments felt and feared, to confess the sins that have deserved them; to implore the forgiveness of all our transgressions, a spirit of repentance and reformation, and a blessing on the husbandry, manufactures, and other lawful employments of this people; and especially, that the union of the American colonies in defence of their rights, for which, hitherto, we desire to thank Almighty God, may be preserved and confirmed; that the Provincial, and especially the Continental Congress, may be directed to such measures as God will countenance; that the people of Great Britain and their rulers may have their eyes open to discern the things that shall make for the peace of the nation and all its connections; and that America may soon behold a gracious interposition of Heaven, for the redress of her many grievances, the restoration of all her invaded liberties, and their security to the latest generations.
Another stunning example of Akpilot’s vast knowledge of “the actual writtings of the founders” follows, when he quotes (and slightly misquotes) a 1956 writer as Patrick Henry:
It cannot be emphasized too clearly and too often that this nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religion, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason, peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here.
The story of this bit of trash appears elsewhere; in my view only an idiot would be taken it by it. I can guarantee that our poseur didn’t get it from reading the Founders; it was first attributed to Henry in the 1980s.

Now next our poseur actually gets something right—he quotes a portion correctly from John Jay’s well-known letter to John Murray, Jr., of 12 October 1826. The paragraph in question:
Almost all nations have peace or war at the will and pleasure of rulers whom they do not elect, and who are not always wise or virtuous. Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty, as well as the privilege and interest, of our Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.
But our poseur returns to his old ways with the next one, and it’s a doozy. Yeah, it’s the tired old fake Madison quote about the Ten Commandments—and he manages to give it a bogus source as well: “1778 to the General Assembly of the State of Virginia”. (Actually the only genuine bit comes from the Federalist Papers.” He quotes it like this:
We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We’ve staked the future of all our political institutions upon our capacity…to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God. [1778 to the General Assembly of the State of Virginia]
Now I’ve never seen it exactly in this form before, but it’s still the same old fraud publicized by libertarian economist Frederick Nymeyer in 1958. And Akpilot has actually omitted virtually all of the only genuine Madison phrase in the whole piece—“the capacity of mankind for self-government”. This is about as low as it could get. It looks bad for our self-styled expert on the Founders.

Still, he recovers a little ground with his final two (basically genuine) quotations from Dr. Benjamin Rush. Dr. Rush, you may recall, was the guy who thought that the dark skin of Africans was a form of leprosy, and looked forward to the day it could be cured. Dr. Rush’s essay entitled “A Defence of the Use of the Bible in Schools” (written before 1798) included this passage:
…I lament, that we waste so much time and money in punishing crimes, and take so little pains to prevent them. We profess to be republicans, and yet we neglect the only means of establishing and perpetuating our republican forms of government, that is, the universal education of our youth in the principles of christianity, by means of the bible; for this divine book, above all others, favours that equality among mankind, that respect for just laws, and all those sober and frugal virtues, which constitute the soul of republicanism.
Other than mangling the end with a silent omission, our poseur did pretty well on that one. Earlier in the piece Rush had written about “the eternal and self moving principle of LOVE,” and our poseur now backs up to catch his comment there:
It concentrates a whole system of ethics in a single text of scripture. “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another, even as I have loved you.” By withholding the knowledge of this doctrine from children, we deprive ourselves of the best means of awakening moral sensibility in their minds.
By omitting the first sentence and substituting “[the Scriptures]” for “this doctrine” Akpilot makes it look as though Rush were talking about the Bible in general, rather than one doctrine in particular, but otherwise the text is fairly quoted.

Now I’ve got to say that for a person who spends a lot of time reading the words of America’s Founders, this is a piss-poor showing. Some of these quotations are now so putrid even the loons won’t touch them. Personally, I don’t think Akpilot is ready to read serious biographies of the Founders. Not up to speed, yet—far from it. I think he should start with some popular histories of the time, something that would give him the feel for the times. Then, maybe, he could move on to some light biographies, and start working his way through some of the key essays of the Founders—portions of Franklin’s autobiography, perhaps, and some of the Federalist Papers. Once he knows his way around a bit, then he could start on some serious works. And then at last, if all goes well, he’ll have some chance of making sense of whatever out of the vast array of papers left us by the Founders he chooses to read.

Anyway, it’s worth a shot.

There are a lot of people out there who have actually spent their time reading the actual writings of the Founders and Framers and (for that matter) their opponents. Not only reading them, but locating them, editing them, and making them available for people to investigate and learn from. Akpilot would do well to actually learn from them, and not just pose as somebody who has. Especially with an effort so lame as that one.

02 April 2010

Quotation of the Day

...what can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.

24 March 2010

Principles for Quotations (by Martin Porter)

You may have seen the following quotation attributed to Edmund Burke (1729-1797):
The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.
Google Books shows an example from a book called Commonism that came out in 1957 (and a quick check of library holdings confirms that a book with that title did come out at that date), but it appears to have been popularized by its inclusion in the 14th edition of Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations (1968). According to They Never Said It, the 1989 compendium of fake quotes, misquotes, and misleading attributions by Paul F. Boller, Jr., and John George (which unfortunately is not always accurate itself) Spiro Agnew speechwriter William Safire challenged Bartlett’s editor Emily Morrison Beck on the source of the speech, and she suggested it might be a paraphrase of something Burke said in a speech on 23 April 1770:
When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.
Safire apparently called this a “pretty long stretch”, and that does seem to be an accurate observation.

In January 2002 Martin Porter (‘All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing’ (or words to that effect)) did an interesting piece on the variations this quotation had undergone on the web, and on his inability to trace it back to any original source by Edmund Burke. This essay is well worth reading by anybody interested in the uncontrolled transmission of texts, but a follow-up piece (Four Principles of Quotation) contains four rules that ought to be taken into account by anybody passing on a(n alleged) quotation. These are:
(1) Whenever you see a quotation given with an author but no source assume that it is probably bogus.

(2) Whenever you see a quotation given with a full source assume that it is probably being misused, unless you find good evidence that the quoter has read it in the source.

(3) Whenever you make a quotation, give the exact source.

(4) Only quote from works that you have read.
Ah, yes, words to live by.

28 February 2010

Quotation of the Day

...we make stupid decisions when we’re innocent. That’s the nature of innocence. The innocent doesn’t yet understand consequence ... Faith like a child is highly overrated. Not to mention dangerous.

14 February 2010

Quotation of the Day

I’m bothered by these “God is beyond science” and “God is an untestable hypothesis” claims. No. If you can’t describe clearly the nature of something, it isn’t beyond science. It’s beneath it. It isn’t a hypothesis. It’s incoherent rubbish.

07 February 2010

Quotation of the Day

A salute to the two University of Akron scientists whose research contributed to a study reporting that some dinosaurs had feathers and stripes. The credits go to assistant biology professor Dr. Matthew Shawkey and postdoctoral fellow Dr. Liliana D'Alba. Lamentably, some dinosaurs without stripes and feathers were left out of the evolutionary process and wound up in the U.S. Senate.

02 February 2010

Further Fake Quotation Sightings

This site is a bit unusual for the large number of fake quotations it presents on one page. On the assumption (perhaps over-optimistic) that they are merely misinformed and not actively trying to deceive, I sent them the following statement:

I would like to recommend the elimination of manufactured quotations from your site. The following quotations are all fake:

“What students would learn in American schools above all is the religion of Jesus Christ.”
- George Washington

“It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.”
- George Washington

“Oh, eternal and everlasting God, direct my thoughts, words and work. Wash away my sins in the immaculate blood of the Lamb and purge my heart by Thy Holy Spirit. Daily, frame me more and more in the likeness of Thy son, Jesus Christ, that living in Thy fear, and dying in Thy favor, I may in thy appointed time obtain the resurrection of the justified unto eternal life. Bless, O Lord, the whole race of mankind and let the world be filled with the knowledge of Thee and Thy son, Jesus Christ.”
- George Washington, Prayer

“ ... a neat edition of the Holy Scriptures for the use of schools.”
- United States Congress 1782

“The Congress of the United States recommends and approves the Holy Bible for use in all schools.”
- United States Congress 1782

“The highest glory of the American Revolution was this: it connected, in one indissoluble bond, the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity.”
- John Adams

“There is a book [the Bible] worth all the other books ever printed.”
- Patrick Henry

“It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great Nation was founded not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
- Patrick Henry

“We recognize no sovereign but God, and no King but Jesus.”
- John Adams and John Hancock

“We have staked the whole future of our new nation, not upon the power of government; far from it. We have staked the future of all our political constitutions upon the capacity of each of ourselves to govern ourselves according to the moral principles of the Ten Commandments.”
- James Madison

“Religion [is] the basis and foundation of Government”
- James Madison

There are plenty of genuine quotations available without adulterating history with these transparent frauds.
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