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The direct and selfish exploitation of a feudal era has been transformed in the modern age into a juridically constrained and almost disinterested state kleptocracy. Today, a finance minister is a Robin Hood who has sworn a constitutional oath. The capacity that characterizes the Treasury, to seize with a perfectly clear conscience, is justified in theory as well as in practice by the state’s undeniable utility in maintaining social peace—not to mention all the other benefits it hands out. (In all this, corruption remains a limited factor. To test this statement, it suffices to think of the situation in post-Communist Russia, where an ordinary party man like Vladimir Putin has been able, in just a few years as head of state, to amass a personal fortune of more than $20 billion.) Free-market observers of this kleptocratic monster do well to call attention to its dangers: overregulation, which impedes entrepreneurial energy; overtaxation, which punishes success; and excessive debt, the result of budgetary rigor giving way to speculative frivolity. –“The Grasping Hand: the modern democratic state pillages its productive citizens,” Peter Sloterdijk, City Journal
When is it okay to call a Jew banker a Jew banker? (hint: during a recession);
when is it okay for a writer to tell another writer “you suck and so does your writing?” (hint: guess always and you’re close);
when is it okay for a gay soldier to say he or she is a gay soldier? (hint: after the issue has been thoroughly “studied,” used as a campaign wedge by frightened Obama Democrats, and denounced by sexually-confused Republicans)
The one thing you expect from your dog is unconditional love and tail wags at the end of the day. There’s something kind of heartbreaking about coming home from work, from providing the income to make the house function, and being hated and feared when you walk in the door. So I thought maybe Dave the dog was beaten up by a man at some point, right? But male friends would come over, friends who look like me, and Dave would be fine. It was just me. My dog hated me. Fortunately, I had one last card to play. There were health and safety reasons, concerns about the dog population, and I didn’t want to have to do it. And yet, there was one move that I could use on him that I didn’t think he could use on me: removal of testicles. Dave was not neutered when we adopted him, and I was confident that if this behavior was an alpha-male thing, well, a little scalpel work ought to take care of that nicely…. I expected a certain amount of calmness to have set in after Dave’s procedure. I thought he’d be docile, a sort of cat-dog…. Then the barking started. Loud, shrill, frightened, it came in the same familiar staccato bursts, even though Dave was still somewhat sedated and disoriented. It was like being verbally assaulted by some sort of sleepy incoherent hippie eunuch. –“The Dog Who Hates Me,” John Moe, New York Times
Prior to Craig Claiborne’s tenure at the Times, reviews in newspapers and elsewhere had often been looked upon suspiciously by the dining public, seen more as a reflection of a publication’s advertising aspirations than a straightforward analysis of a restaurant’s virtues. Published regularly from 1935 through the mid-1950s, the Duncan Hines guides, known as Adventures in Good Eating, had been something of a national standard. They were at least partly the work of Hines, a traveling salesman of printing paper and ink, who undertook to tell other travelers where to eat, using prose that verged on puffery. Of the Oregon Caves Chateau in Oregon Caves, Oregon, the guide reads, in its 1944 edition, “Without the hospitality of the Sabins, this place would still be nice indeed. When you add their personalities, it makes it ‘tops.’ The Chateau is lovely, and unusual.” This is the totality of the review, and quite typical. One can only imagine how the hosts had fawned over the reviewer. –“Everyone Eats: But that doesn’t make you a restaurant critic,” Robert Sietsema, Columbia Journalism Review
If you learn that sex can be so bad you would call it rape does that make you a qualitative researcher? Clearly not;
but then again, if you attend a panel at Davos, it’s completely acceptable for you to have a stupid opinion on a complex issue;
so how is that fair? well, nothing is, really, and it doesn’t have to be, particularly when it comes to writing contests: (Claire Messud: “Here’s the deal: men, without thinking, will almost without fail select men. And women, without thinking, will too often select men. It’s a known fact that among children, girls will happily read stories with male protagonists, but boys refuse to read stories with female protagonists.”)
Trudy Lieberman reports on the failed promise of the Affordable Care Act, Sarah A. Topol explores Ukraine’s struggle for a national identity, Dave Madden spends a week in Hollywood’s toughest comedy club, and more
Number of insect fragments allowed by the FDA in a standard jar of peanut butter:
It emerged that, in trying to count her rings, marine geologists had accidentally killed a 507-year-old clam named Ming.
A resident of Chalk Level Township in Missouri discovered the bodies of three dogs packed inside dog-food bags.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”