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Parliament of Whores: A Lone Humorist Attempts to Explain the Entire U.S.… (1991)

av P. J. O'Rourke

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1,394169,589 (3.77)5
In 1988 the author moved to Washington to take a long look at our government and to find an answer to the question every American asks: What the hell do these guys do all day, and why does it cost so much money? In his Introduction, he proffers the theory that we are suffering under a dictatorship of boredom. Adopting the manner of a high school civics textbook, he covers the three branches of government -- legislative, executive, judicial -- in a section entitled "Money, Television and Bullshit."… (mer)

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O'Rourke tells it like it is (except that it has gotten even worse since he wrote this book). This would be funnier if it weren't so depressing. ( )
  datrappert | Nov 30, 2013 |
This is the most devastating critique of government since H.L. Mencken, although O'Rourke is short on constructive solutions to most of the problems he exposes.
O'Rourke spent considerable time following around an unnamed congressman. O'Rourke, quite correctly, argues we get a bargain for our money. The average congressman has a budget of around $550,000 for staff, salaries, and expenses. That works out to only about $1.00 per taxpayer in his district. That's pretty cheap considering all the gripes and whining he/she has to listen to for a living. The congressman has a staff of 9 employees. There aren't many businesses serving 600,000 that could survive with that small a staff, and the congressman makes far less than a "shortstop hitting .197."
A few more O'Rourkisms: "The Graham-Hollings bill [deficit reduction act was like trying to stop smoking by hiding cigarettes from yourself and then leaving a note in your pocket telling you where they are." His description of journalism: "Trying to find hair in a bowl of dough." He leaves us with the reflection that government may be a parliament of whores, but "in a democracy the whores are us. ( )
  ecw0647 | Sep 30, 2013 |
Now, it should go without saying that government is about more than dollars and cents. It is also about arrogance, stupidity, vanity, and the corruption of good intentions. (xxi - from the Foreword to the 2003 edition by Andy Ferguson)

I'm not sure I learned anything except that giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys. (xxiv - from the Preface)

I would be hard pressed not to enjoy a book with section headings such as, "OUR GOVERNMENT: What the Fuck Do They Do All Day And Why Does It Cost So Goddamned Much Money?" ( )
  JennyArch | Apr 3, 2013 |
My reactions to reading this book in 1991.

O'Rourke communicates a great deal of information about U.S. government. You find out exactly what the truly hard-working congressmen do all day. They work hard at giving short, frivilous speeches; at devoting time to serious and complicated issues -- for an hour or two at a committee hearing; at raising money, passing silly, expensive legislation; and reading cheat sheets on legislation prepared by staffers. And, last but not least, here the whines and complaints, and "give-mes" of thousands of people. He tells you exactly what's wrong with farm legislation , what went wrong with the Savings and Loans, why our war on drugs isn't serious, how the President does little, and the general whorishness of the American public in voting themselves benefits.

He cites the source of the remark about democracies only lasting until the majority of voters discover they can vote themeselves largess out of the public trough -- 18th century Scot historian Alexander Tytle. AARP, to O'Rourke, represents the ultimate special interst -- and we can, or will, all belong to. O'Rourke shows us the effects (all negative) of a war on poverty (and offers an interesting mathematical proof from the government's own figures -- that poverty doesn't exist). He talks about the hoax that is the federal budget.

O'Rourke is willing, amongst the hyperbole, to look at things in a new, valueable (even if at times deliberately absurd way) that is effective satire. He seems to be mostly libertarian but likes defense). However, he curiously complains about lack of regulation under Reagan. I think he sees the need for regulation in industries, like the S&L, that already operate under regulations but thinks most regulation counter-productive. To him, the world is often an unfair, miserable place -- and goverment intervention will only make it worse. ( )
  RandyStafford | Oct 28, 2012 |
I picked up this book, published in 1992, at the 2012 Gaithersburg Maryland Book Festival because it was FREE. It was well worth the price. Although I probably never would have bought it, it was a delightful read.

O’Rourke’s trenchant and acid observations about the American government, with a few exceptions, are at least as true today as they were in 1991. His descriptions of the conventions that nominated Bush I and Michael Dukakis are hilarious. For example, his description of the process of choosing a Democratic vice presidential candidate:

“Dukakis was considering Danny Ortega [the head of the Nicaraguan Contras, for those of you too young to remember] as a running mate, but Ortega’s Central American peace plan proved too similar to Ronald Reagan’s. So Mike went with the high-concept ticket-balancing choice of Lloyd Bentsen, who was two hundred fifty years old and a little to the right of Albert Speer. Actually, Dukakis wanted a Texan who was slightly more liberal, but George Bush was busy.”

O’Rourke considered himself a conservative in 1991, although today’s Tea Party might call him a lefty. He is critical of most aspects of government spending but he is willing to give credit where it is due. He commends the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) for its careful study of “unintended acceleration” supposedly experienced by owners of Audi 5000’s. He found that the professionals at the NTSB were not mere bureaucrats, but were sincere professionals who knew a lot about cars. They spent a lot of money to conclude that the unintended acceleration was almost surely caused by pushing on the gas pedal rather than the brakes, but they knew that a lot people who thought they could recover lots of money from Audi did not want to hear that.

Another form of governmental expenditure he approved of was the development and purchase of Aegis class missile cruisers, the operation of which he describes as follows:

“I couldn’t talk the captain into firing a missile for me, but he gave me a videotape of a test firing….Even in slow motion there was nothing slow about the missile launching. The flip lid whips open, and for a moment you see a bald top of something emerging in light and smoke, a high burlesque of a jack-in-the-box; then the ship’s deck is covered by a tower of blast and dazzle blanketing one bright, rising, white, fiery column—hell’s own hard-on. This (emphasis in original) is the way to waste government money.”

His principle message, however, is that a great deal if not most government expenditures are wasted. His description of the farm price support program should make your blood boil…and yet these ridiculous payments to rich farmers to refrain from growing crops and make the rest of us pay more for a food continue!

The biggest problem of government is that citizens all seem to want payouts of some kind, the biggest of which is social security, but no one seems to be willing to pay for them. He concludes:

“ All through history mankind has been bullied by scum. Those who lord over their fellows and toss commands in every direction…are the most depraved kind of prostitutes. They will submit to any indignity, perform any vile act, do anything to achieve power. The worst off-sloughings of the planet are the ingredients of sovereignty. Every government is a parliament of whores. The trouble is, in a democracy the whores are us.”

I can’t wait to read his description of the campaign for the Republican nomination of 2012, a book I sincerely hope he writes.

(JAB) ( )
  nbmars | May 27, 2012 |
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Författarens namnRollTyp av författareVerk?Status
O'Rourke, P. J.primär författarealla utgåvorbekräftat
Ferguson, AndrewFörordmedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
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What stops a man who can laugh from speaking the truth?
--Horace
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Preface
The subject of the book is goverment because I don't have to do anything about it.
What is this oozing behemoth, this fibrous tumor, this monster of power and expense hatched form the simple human desire for civic order?
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There's a whiff of the lynch mob or the lemming migration about any overlarge concentration of like-thinking individuals, no matter how virtuous their cause.
Feeling good about government is like looking on the bright side of any catastrophe. When you quit looking on the bright side, the catastrophe is still there.
Politics are a lousy way for a free man to get things done. Politics are, like God's infinite mercy, a last resort.
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In 1988 the author moved to Washington to take a long look at our government and to find an answer to the question every American asks: What the hell do these guys do all day, and why does it cost so much money? In his Introduction, he proffers the theory that we are suffering under a dictatorship of boredom. Adopting the manner of a high school civics textbook, he covers the three branches of government -- legislative, executive, judicial -- in a section entitled "Money, Television and Bullshit."

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