Notes from the culture war

Notes from the culture war March 5, 2013

I mean, call me a bigot.”

“I’m not a publicist or an expert in p.r. but I think it’s probably a bad sign when your rivals think it’s hilarious to read your book out loud in public.”

This is not a novel like 1994 [sic], it’s Common Core.”

“It has been my conviction that if a child is brought up on the Bible, and, if he consistently reads the Word of God as a young person, he will have all the sex education he needs. Why not let God teach our children about sex?

“But even were I to be done away with, those who are like me would remain.”

“I was so blown away by that long-winded, absolutely Tommy Chongish explanation of heterosexual sex that I almost missed getting angry when he next compares gay and lesbian relationships to alcoholism and sexual addiction.”

“Legal recognition of same sex civil marriage should not and will not require clergy of any faith or denomination to officiate at or recognize the religious status of same-sex marriages.”

“I had no mental ability to grasp that at all. I wasn’t given any space to love anyone who wasn’t heterosexual, and, for that matter, a Calvinist.”

“These folks can believe the separation of church and state is a communistic principle intended to undermine religiosity or they can believe the separation of church and state is a bedrock legal principle that guarantees and protects religious liberty for all. They cannot believe both.”

Narcissism thwarts the ability of the church to fulfill its mission by focusing on someone and something other than itself and its own needs.”

“This is not the Vatican. It’•s Melrose Place.”

“Now that the head of the Pontifical Academy for Life, the conservative cardinal of Cologne, and the German bishops’ conference have clearly distinguished between the morning-after pill as a contraceptive, and abortifacients, and have concluded that Catholic hospitals can morally administer the morning-after pill in cases of rape: how will the pastoral leaders of the Catholic church in the U.S. begin to repair the damage they have done by … spreading misinformation about the morning-after pill and Catholic moral teaching?”

“That’™s a big thing. That’™s a big surgery. You don’™t have any other organs in your body that are bigger than that.”

“Obviously, I oppose these efforts because they endanger women’s health and take away their freedom of choice. But I just wanted to point out that Alabama state Representative Mary Sue McClurkin is evil and stupid.”


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  • Lori


    Imagining a world that’s different from the world I observe isn’t laughable at all.   

    I agree with this in the world we currently inhabit. I don’t think it would necessarily remain true of imagining the nonexistence of heaven while in it. I certainly don’t think Jenny Islaner’s scenario is some sort of knock on imagination or its value.

  • That wasn’t the 1985 I read. ISTR the author of the 1984-sequel book is Hungarian.

  • I don’t think it would necessarily remain true of imagining the nonexistence of heaven while in it.

    Sure, I wouldn’t go as far as “necessarily,” either.

    That said, if you think there are good reasons to expect imagining the nonexistence of heaven while in it to be laughable, I’d be interested in those reasons.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I may be wrong and if so I apologize, but I think what they’re getting at is that it’s absurd to imagine the nonexistence of the chair I’m sitting in.
    (What chair?)

  • EllieMurasaki

    Reread that last line of mine, if you would.

  • Hth

    You mean if I said to you, “Imagine the room you’re in, only without that chair in it,” you couldn’t do it?  You couldn’t imagine where you might sit *if* the room didn’t contain that chair?  Or imagine yourself standing?  Or imagine a giant pink satin throne in its place?  You’d feel too absurd to complete this exercise in visualization?

    It’s not absurd to imagine a thing isn’t real when you know it is.  *That is what imagining means.*

  • The_L1985

    That is one of the sweetest things I’ve read in a while. :)

  • Anton_Mates

    For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers

    I wonder if you can peek out of the gates and see all these dudes loitering around and pulling miniature schnauzers out of their pimp hats?

  • stardreamer42

    I was thinking the same thing!

  • DorothyD

    I was thinking the same thing!

  • David Starner

    Jay Wexler in “The Odd Clauses: Understanding the Constitution Through Ten of Its Most Curious Provisions” discusses Norman Schwarzkopf getting knighted. (Reagan was retired when he was knighted, so it was legally moot.) Apparently when Christophre Hitchens started asking questions, he found that Congress made a pronouncement that might be interpreted as giving consent, but nobody really cared about the knighthood.

  • Nick Gotts

    Sorry to be an honours pedant, as a Brit who would like to see the whole ridiculous system swept into the dustbin of history, but:
    1) There’s an ambiguity in what you say about KBEs: to be clear, Commonwealth citizens awarded a KBE are entitled to a “Sir”; non-commonwealth citizens would get an honorary KBE, and are not, although even the British press often gets this wrong in the case of  the Irish citizen (not Sir) Bob Geldorf KBE.
    2) Christopher Monckton is entitled to call himself Lord Monckton. What he’s not entitled to do, but does, is describe himself as a member of the House of Lords; under the House of Lords Act 1999, most hereditary peers lost their right to sit in the Lords: a subset of 92 are now elected (from and by the whole lot) to sit there – the only hereditary peers  who are now members of that House, and the only members of that House who are elected! Monckton isn’t one of them.

  • Matri

    Oh, and it was written by someone named Hugh F. Pyle. You there, in the back, stop snickering.

    *collapses from laughter*

  • Carstonio

    I was confused when Led Zeppelin received Kennedy Center Honors, because I had thought of those as the US equivalent of the Order of the British Empire. While I enjoy seeing excellence in the arts rewarded that way, I still imagine Paul McCartney and Elton John in armor riding horses into battle against Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel.

  • I agree that this is what they are getting at; I disagree that it’s true.

    Sitting in a chair while imagining what it would be like if that chair didn’t exist isn’t absurd at all.

    More generally, imagining a world different from the one I observe isn’t absurd at all. That goes for chairs, for marriages, for jobs, for Heavens, for societies, for anything.

  • Ross Thompson


    Christopher Monckton can do that because he’s a British citizen and also the 3rd (hereditary) Viscount Monckton of Brenchley.

    Well, that’s what he claims. But his grandfather was a non-hereditary peer, and the title did not pass from there. Christopher Monckton does not use the styling “Lord” Monckton in Britain any more, because he’s received official notice that he will be prosecuted for impersonating a peer of the realm.

    But in America, that doesn’t apply, so he still uses the styling there.

  • Ross Thompson

    I can’t read the framers’ minds, but I doubt they’d have been any happier about American citizens flaunting foreign knighthoods than foreign baronies. That seems to me to be a quibble worthy of Nino Scalia.

    Possibly so, but if that’s the case, it seems odd that they were so imprecise in their wording. Legal imprecision is not notmally a thing associated with Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, et al. But everyone has an off day, so who knows?

    And, by that standard, all these Americans given honors by foreign governments (including Reagan) should have been disbarred from holding office. After all, even if Reagan can’t (under the laws of a country he’s not bound by) call himself “sir”, he can still add “KBE” after his name. And many other countries offer knighthoods to non-citizens that allow them to style themselves “Sir”: should an American politician who is granted the Danish Order of the Elephant be removed from office when getting a British KBE would be fine?

    Of course, the people who espouse these veiws generally claim that Obama should have been removed from office when he won the Nobel Peace Prize, because that’s awarded by the King of Sweden and is therefore a “foreign title or patent”, which I’m sure you’ll agree is stretching the point rather too far…

  • DavidCheatham

    Okay, to explain the ‘titles of nobility’ nonsense we have to go very very deep into the mind of insanity. It’s one of those perfect storms where they have literally gotten _every single fact_ wrong.

    The thirteenth amendment did not pass. This is, obviously, a failure of this entire theory.

    Although it’s worth pointing out that there’s a watered down version of the theory that doesn’t try to claim a nonexistent 13th amendment, but instead attempts to apply it just to lawyers who are politicians, using the part in the Constitution ..which ignore the fact the Constitution stops them from _accepting_ a title of nobility without permission, it doesn’t protect someone who has one from being elected.(1) Basically, to accept a title of nobility, you have to have it voted on, either by Congress if you’re already there, or the voters if you’re not. So that theory has _different_ stupidity than the one based on the thirteenth, and could only work if people got themselves in Congress and _then_ started calling themselves ‘esquire’.

    But, anyway, that’s not all the stupid. No, there’s much much more, for both of those theories.

    The things we’re talking about would stop people from _having_ titles of nobility, not falsely _claiming_ them. We have freedom of speech in this country, and even with that amendment hypothetically being passed it would be perfectly for me to claim to be a Duke or even the King of England. (As long as I don’t defraud anyone with that claim.) _Falsely_ claiming a title of nobility is not the same as actually having a title of nobility.

    But, wait, it’s even stupider than that. ESQUIRE IS NOT A FUCKING TITLE OF NOBILITY. It comes from ‘squire’, and if you’ve ever seen the animated The Sword in the Stone cartoon from the 60s, or the more recent Knight’s Tale, you are aware that squires are _not_ nobility. It’s originally was someone that worked as a right-hand man to nobility but was not noble themselves, and now simply what you call people who do _not_ have a title of nobility. It’s the _opposite_ of a title of nobility, and is in fact a nice way to offend someone with an actual title.  People in England, despite that country having laws against falsely claiming a title of nobility, can call themselves ‘Esquire’ all they want, and plenty of them do.

    I don’t even know how the fuck anyone thinks ‘esquire’ would be a title of nobility. To be a title, it has to appoint you _to a specific position_. Yes, even knights are appointed to a specific order. You can’t be some vague ‘noble’ unattached to a position or even a _country_.

    1) Incidentally, Obama _should_ have gotten Congressional authorization for the Peace Prize. It’s not a title of nobility, but that part of the constitution also covers ‘presents and emoluments’, which it is both. There might be an out as it was not actually the King of Sweden who gave it to Obama, it was the Noble Prize committee. The King was simply the one doing the ceremony. This is all now moot, however, as the president has been reelected.

  • DavidCheatham

    Oh, and, incidentally, as we apparently have some British people on the board, it would be very nice to have them explain how and why ‘esquire’ isn’t a title of nobility, right after they finish laughing.I’m not entirely sure I have the origins correct, because it’s based in some sort of class distinction I don’t really understand. Esquire is what you are if you have no title, but if you _are_ a member of the gentry? As opposed to gentlemen, who are…not members of the gentry? But this isn’t really applicable now, because the British don’t really recognize those distinctions anymore, and now people are esquires if you’re being polite or think they have a higher social position than you?But I do know that the entire concept of it being a ‘title’ is completely absurd to pretty much everyone in Britain. It is literally what people in Britain (Which is the only place there _are_ esquires.)  use to refer to people _without_ a title of nobility.

  • Isn’t the 13th Amendment one of the Reconstruction Amendments?

  • EllieMurasaki

    It is literally what people in Britain (Which is the only place there _are_ esquires.)

    Quite a lot of people whose names I see at work have ‘Esq.’ on their names and US addresses. I understand it’s a lawyer thing.

  • DavidCheatham

    I think you sorta missed the context of the conversation. Yes, lawyers in the US use it, that’s what we’re talking about.

    But it obviously isn’t a title under US law, and it isn’t one under British law (Or, I guess I should say, Commonwealth law.) where it originated. And there are no others places that there are esquires.

    Incidentally, anyone in the US can use ‘esquires’, although the courts seriously frown on anyone who is not licensed to practice law using it in association with giving legal advice, because people often make the assumption that lawyers are ‘esquires’.

  • Jenny Islander

     . . . Actually I was figuring that everybody in the studio, this being John Lennon we’re talking about, would be flying on hits of pot that would make mere Earthly doobies seem like smoking rope.

  • DavidCheatham

    Oh, and I forgot to mention _another_ stupidity in this entire concept: Even if ‘esquire’ was a title of nobility, and even if it was _actually_ granted to lawyers in this country by the bar (Which is not how titles can be granted)

    …so what? It’s titles of nobility by _foreign_ kings that are banned. The bar association is not foreign. Nor is it a king!

    So now we’re at, what, five stupidities on top of each other.

    1a) They think the US passed the thirteenth amendment or
    1b) They follow the watered-down version and don’t understand that the constitution only cares about the ‘accepting while in office’ problem, not the ‘elected while having’
    2) They think that someone falsely claiming a title of nobility is actually having one
    3) They think esquire is a title of nobility
    4) They think a local bar assocation is foreign.
    5) …and a King.

    Like I said, it is an _astonishing_ level of stupid piled on top of stupid. I mean, there are plenty of batshit crazy legal theories believed by the right, but most of them are just wrong in one actual particular (Like thinking there’s no law requiring people to pay income taxes, which just ignores, uh, that specific law) But this theory…holy shit, this theory is just _so_ impossibly wrong it’s amazing. It’s like coming to the conclusion that Genghis Khan was the 120th US president, and she presided over the moon in the 1500s.

  • Lori


    That said, if you think there are good reasons to expect imagining the
    nonexistence of heaven while in it to be laughable, I’d be interested in
    those reasons.   

    “I used to think this place didn’t exist, and now here I am. Boy was I silly then. Ha, ha.”

    This does not strike me as complicated.

    Again, I don’t think the original comment was, or was intended as, a knock on imagination or the sacredness of Lennon’s song or whatever discussion we’re having now.

  • Lori

    There is that.

  •  I think the reason it seems so nonsensical to you is that you’re trying to work from a premise through a series of logical steps to a conclusion. To understand how this argument works, you have to start with your desired conclusion (“The government of the US is not legitimate therefore I can do whatever the fuck I like, especially not pay taxes”) and work backwards to get to the justification.


    “I used to think this place didn’t exist, and now here I am. Boy was I silly then. Ha, ha.” This does not strike me as complicated.

    I completely agree that it’s laughable to think Heaven doesn’t exist while being in Heaven.

    To my way of thinking,  “imagine there’s no X” means something so different from “think X doesn’t exist” that I don’t even know how you
    get from one to the other, which is why I was so confused.

    Thanks for clarifying.

  • DavidCheatham

    Indeed. And there’s yet another stupidity, stupidity #6, that this would somehow void laws.Let us pretend that a large section of Congress and the President were, in fact, granted titles of nobility, and Congress did not authorize it. That would be grounds of impeachment of the President. That would be grounds for removal from Congress. Yes, that is correct.

    But the president can run around breaking the la, hell, he can run around shooting people and he’s still actually president until impeached and removed from office. And the laws he signs _are still law_.

    They’re trying to assert that such a person is not legitimately elected, or somehow _magically_ not in office at that point, but there is absolutely no such statement in the law. It simply says they _can’t_ do that, not that they instantly become Not-President or Not-Congressman when they do.

    And the idea that’s how it works is insane. There are no actions a President or Congressman can take that can remove them from office. None.  They are removed from office when _someone else does something_ in response to their behavior.

    Strictly speaking, tomorrow the president could renounce his US citizenship, nuke Washington, resign from office, and then commit suicide, and _he’s still president_ until Congress removes him office for one of those things. (Any of which would be valid grounds.) They are removed from office _solely_ because Congress says they are removed from office. That is the process.(1) That is how it works.

    The idea that somehow accepting a title of nobility magically and secretly removed people from office, thus making everything they does after that void, is so completely nonsensical it’s hard to explain. Once a president of Congressman are certified by Congress, and they swear in, they are, in fact, in their position until their term expires, until Congress removes them for whatever reason. Even if they ‘break the rules’.

    1) Unlike, for a unique example, the Pope, who resigns to no one, somehow. There actually was a big of odd confusion about that. Luckily, in the US, we have Congress as a body that is the authority for both the President and individual Congressmen, and can accept resignations and whatnot.

  • reynard61

    “These folks can believe the separation of church and state is a communistic principle intended to undermine religiosity or they can believe the separation of church and state is a bedrock legal principle that guarantees and protects religious liberty for all. They cannot believe both.”

    Well, I’d normally attribute it to “Cognitive dissonance“; but the Wikipedia article says that it’s a “feeling of discomfort when simultaneously holding two or more conflicting cognitions: ideas, beliefs, values or emotional reactions”, and I get the impression that they only feel discomfort that some kind of vaguely odd and unfamiliar religious-ey-type “something that The Other does” is being “imposed” on them from On High and they don’t like it one damn bit.

  • reynard61

    “I wonder if there has ever in the history of ever been someone who could deliver news with such supposedly dire implications through such a jolly smile without being severely reality-challenged.”

    Probably not. On an added note, did she strike anyone else as a cross between Delores Umbridge and The Church Lady? Creepy!

  • Nick Gotts

    I’m a Brit. “Esquire” used to be limited to “gentlemen” – but AFAIK there was no legal definition of who counted as a gentleman, at least by the 19th century. Any man who didn’t need to work for a living certainly counted, but I think those in “respectable” professions (doctor, lawyer, etc.) also did. The term gradually broadened until it meant nothing more than “adult male”. My father used to get letters addressed to “V.G. Gotts Esq.”, certainly as recently as the 1960s, but it’s now fallen into disuse – I don’t recall when I last saw it used.

  • Nick Gotts

    No, this is wrong. Monckton is the 3rd Viscount Monckton of Brenchley, and is entitled to call himself Lord Monckton. What he is not, since the House of Lords Act 1999, is a member of the House of Lords, and it is this over which he was warned: he was using the House of Lords crest (a crowned portcullis IIRC), which was illegal.

  • Unless they’re paper-trained.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     Does that mean any foreign country can remove our politicians from office by giving them titles, whether the politician wants them or not?  :)

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     The REAL 13th Amendment, yes.  These cranks are talking about their Secret Thirteenth Amendment, which was erased from history by Them because reasons.

  • Does that mean any foreign country can remove our politicians from office by giving them titles, whether the politician wants them or not?  :)

    My understanding of it is that the U.S. simply refuses to recognize noble title.  They could have any number of titles slapped on them and they would all be completely irrelevant.   

  • Tricksterson

    But the term Czar has been used for various appointees since the Nixon administration and in at least a couple of administrations since.

  • Tricksterson

    To me banning pets from heaven is just another reason to want to go to hell.

  • arghous

    I think I heard somewhere that Ayn Rand was working on a novel called 1994, wherein the hero imagines a boot stamping on a human face — forever, and really got off on it.

  • But the term Czar has been used for various appointees since the Nixon
    administration and in at least a couple of administrations since.

    And the “Obama phone” program was instituted under Bush.

    But truth doesn’t matter when you have truthiness on your side.

  • Rae

    I am SO converting to whatever religion offers me seasons 2-10 of Firefly in the afterlife!