This Ruthless World

Adventures in absurdity

Archive for the month “December, 2012”

Another Modest Proposal: How To Solve The Newport Beach Dock Tax Crisis The Real-American Way

Gustave Doré, "The Childhood of Pantagruel" (1873)There was a custom in France during the times of the Ancien Régime of having low-born commoners — peasants and petty townsfolk — watch the King eat. For Louis XIV, who instituted this custom, inviting the poor masses to witness the majesty of the courtly dinner was merely one sensible way of promoting the cult of royal personality in an age before television, photography or daily journalism. Ironically, in the process of making his monarchy great and increasing the magnificence of the French Court, the Sun King essentially destroyed his country, plunging most of its people into decades of intense poverty (and ultimately, nearly a century of political turmoil, of which the Revolution was only the beginning). As the great bulk of the population got poorer and more desperate, while its ruling elite felt increasingly entitled to have the commoners finance every luxury imaginable, this tradition of royal display took on a decidedly sinister connotation. It surely seems bewildering to us why the King, his wife, and his nobles, all dressed magnificently, would gorge themselves on twelve-course meals of game, seafood, exotic fruit and fine pastries in full view of the multitude of their bedraggled subjects, who had paid for all of that and couldn’t even afford bread for themselves and their families. But if you asked the last Ancien Régime King, Louis XVI, about it, he would probably tell you that he was performing a public service; that the spectacle of the royal feast was ultimately more valuable to all his starving subjects than the feast itself was to him. Hence, it was only fair to make the starving subjects pay for it.

Far be it from me to suggest that the twenty-first-century America is anything like pre-revolutionary France (yet), I was reminded of this bit of historical trivia just before Christmas, when certain owners of yachts docked in Newport Beach, California threw a hissy fit over having their (comically low) docking rents raised to pay for necessary and long overdue repairs to the docks. Read more…

Shocked, But Not Surprised: The Sandy Hook Massacre

Vasily Vereshchagin, "The Apotheosis of War" (1871)I’ve been having real difficulty trying to write something about the Sandy Hook massacre. The circumstances of what happened are terrifying for anyone to contemplate, but when you have a small child, like I do, the horror hits home in a way that’s hard to describe. Mostly, I’ve found that I don’t know what to say, except to repeat that I am horrified, and that only leads me to the dark but inevitable conclusion that there is no way to completely prevent this kind of thing from happening, so we can live happily on autopilot. That said, I really don’t know how anyone can deny with a straight face that Adam Lanza would have had a much, much harder time killing all those people and all those kids if he didn’t have access to firearms designed for the maximum efficiency of killing.

My writer’s block broke when I saw this shit: a prominent Tea-Partier blaming the massacre on the existence of public schools, teachers’ unions, government bureaucracy, and most astoundingly, sex in movies and on television. I had no doubt, of course, that some reactionary, hypocritical nincompoop was going to write something like that sooner or later, but actually seeing the words on the screen changed my despair to anger. Bottom line, while almost everything that’s been offered so far as a reason for Adam Lanza’s actions is speculation and conjecture, one thing is certain: we have a culture that inspires a thirst for blood in a fairly significant number of individuals, some of whom go so far as to kill a bunch of people (whilst others, like Judson Phillips there, contend themselves with vicarious thrills).

So what is this “culture of violence”? Read more…

Adventures in Women’s Lib: I’d Rather Take Cash, Thank You

TheyAlsoServeWhen I started practicing law eleven years ago, the profession was — I realize it now, in retrospect — on the crux of a major change.

The legal trade was one of the last holdouts against women’s encroachment on the “man’s world,” and litigation, in particular, was still decidedly a sausage fest. If I went to a deposition, I was usually the only woman in the conference room, apart from the stenographer and maybe the witness. If I entered a courthouse through the entrance reserved for attorneys, the court officer would often gruffly order me into the public line before I had a chance to display my court ID. In the courthouse, I was clearly a member of a small minority. There were still, at that time, old-school gentlemen-lawyers shuffling to and fro, cranky old men who started practicing back in the 1940’s, when some states still didn’t allow women to be admitted to the bar at all, or even to sit on juries. When they happened to be in a good mood, these men would patronize and condescend to you in truly quaint ways, that would seem tacky even in a plot for Mad Men. But most of the time, they were cross, loudly complaining about all these girls in the courthouse and bemoaning the death of law as a dignified profession.

How the world has changed, and how quickly! Read more…

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