Sift Quotes of 2014

There underlies a dictate of natural justice more imperious and ancient than any bargain between man and man, namely, that wages ought not to be insufficient to support a frugal and well-behaved wage-earner. If through necessity or fear of a worse evil the workman accept harder conditions because an employer or contractor will afford him no better, he is made the victim of force and injustice.

– Pope Leo XIII, Rerum Novarum (1891); used 1-6

Saying global warming isn’t real because it’s cold out is like saying the sun isn’t real because it’s dark out. Ezra Klein; used 1-13

Our system of government is built on the premise that our liberty cannot depend on the good intentions of those in power; it depends on the law to constrain those in power.

– President Obama, Friday at the Department of Justice; used 1-20

Average people in America think government doesn’t work. Think again.
Government actually does work. It works for the people who pay it to work for them.

– Hedrick Smith, NH Rebellion rally
Nashua, NH, 1-24-2014, used 1-27

There is nothing more destructive than a ruling class that simultaneously has too much power and is genuinely convinced it’s being persecuted. That is the situation we have now. And history has shown that’s a very unstable equilibrium indeed.

– Chris Hayes, All In 1-30-2014; used 2-3

Be humble about the limitations of your good intention. If someone is hurt or triggered by your words, it isn’t because they failed to understand your intentions. It is because your intentions don’t have the power to shape the meaning of your words in the larger social world.

– Feminist Hulk, “How to Like Woody Allen on Facebook“, used 2-10

If I had ever been here before
I would probably know just what to do.
Don’t you?

– David Crosby, “Déjà vu” (1970); used 2-17

It may be well and proper, that a man of worth, honesty, industry, and respectability, should have the rank of a white man, while a vagabond of the same degree of [negro] blood should be confined to the inferior caste.

– Justice William Harper of the South Carolina Supreme Court
State v. Cantey (1835); used 2-24

As Christians, our most deeply held religious belief is that Jesus Christ died on the cross for sinful people, and that in imitation of that, we are called to love God, to love our neighbors, and to love even our enemies to the point of death. So I think we can handle making pastries for gay people. … I fear that we’ve lost not only the culture wars, but also our Christian identity, when the right to refuse service has become a more sincerely-held and widely-known Christian belief than the impulse to give it.

Rachel Held Evans
back in 2012, I recommended Evans’ book Evolving in Monkey Town; used 3-3

The Left is making a big mistake here. What they’re offering people is a full stomach and an empty soul.

– Paul Ryan at CPAC, 3-6-2014; used 3-10

The risk of a drift toward oligarchy is real and gives little reason for optimism

– Thomas Piketty, Capital in the 21st Century; used 3-24

The record of thousands upon thousands of people arrested in this way is everywhere in the South. In the fall, when it was time to pick cotton, huge numbers of black people are arrested in all of the cotton-growing counties. There are surges in arrests in counties in Alabama in the days before, coincidentally, a labor agent from the coal mines in Birmingham is coming to town that day to pick up whichever county convicts are there. 

– Douglas Blackmon,
Slavery By Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II; used 3-31

And this system is one that I think in many ways needs to be understood as brutal in a social sense, but fiendishly rational in an economic sense. Because where else could one take a black worker and work them literally to death, after slavery? And when that worker died, one simply had to go and get another convict.

– Prof. Adam Green,  University of Chicago
quoted in Slavery By Another Name; used 3-31

I will decide every case based on the record, according to the rule of law, without fear or favor, to the best of my ability. And I will remember that it’s my job to call balls and strikes and not to pitch or bat.

John Roberts (2005); used 4-14

Clearly, when one holds constant net interest group alignments and the preferences of affluent Americans, it makes very little difference what the general public thinks. … [A]dvocates of populistic democracy may not be enthusiastic about democracy by coincidence, in which ordinary citizens get what they want from government only when they happen to agree with elites or interest groups that are really calling the shots.

– Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page
Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens” (2014); used 4-21

The newspapers shout a new style is growing,
but it don’t know if it’s coming or going,
there is fashion, there is fad
some is good, some is bad
and the joke is rather sad,
that it’s all just a little bit of history repeating

– the Propellerheads “History Repeating“; used 4-28

These days the House Republicans actually give John Boehner a harder time than they give me. Which means orange really is the new black.

– President Barack Obama
Saturday night at the White House Correspondents Dinner; used 5-5

Climate change is not a distant threat. It is affecting the American people already. On the whole, summers are longer and hotter, with longer periods of extended heat. Wildfires start earlier in the spring and continue later into the fall. Rain comes down in heavier downpours. People are experiencing changes in the length and severity of seasonal allergies. And climate disruptions to water resources and agriculture have been increasing.

Dr. John Holdren, presidential science advisor; used 5-12

We never know the worth of water, until the well is dry.

Thomas Fuller, Gnomologia #5451 (1732); used 5-19

We inherit our ample patrimony with all its incumbrances; and are bound to pay the debts of our ancestors.

– Timothy Dwight “The Charitable Blessed” (1810); used 5-26

The last slaveholder has been dead for a very long time. The last soldier to endure Valley Forge has been dead much longer. To proudly claim the veteran and disown the slaveholder is patriotism à la carte.

– Ta-Nehisi Coates “The Case for Reparations” (2014); used 5-26

Other people’s bodies and other people’s love are not something that can be taken nor even something that can be earned — they can be given freely, by choice, or not. We need to get that. Really, really grok that, if our half of the species ever going to be worth a damn. Not getting that means that there will always be some percent of us who will be rapists, and abusers, and killers.

– Arthur Chu, “Your Princess is in Another Castle“; used 6-2

NED STARK: Make peace with the Lannisters, you say? With the people who tried to murder my boy?
PETYR BAELISH: We only make peace with our enemies, my lord. That’s why it’s called “making peace”.

Game of Thrones; used 6-9

Anyone who was there [in Iraq] can tell you we had the conflict won. John McCain on Friday, 6-16

You know nothing, John McCain. – paraphrase of Ygritte, from Game of Thrones; used 6-16

Errare humanum est, sed perseverare diabolicum. (To err is human; to persist is diabolical.)

– Seneca (quoted Friday by Paul Krugman); used 6-30

Thinking one’s religious beliefs are substantially burdened—no matter how sincere or genuine that belief may be—does not make it so.

Sonia Sotomayor; used 7-7

I’m the guy doing my job. You must be the other guy.

President Obama, referencing a line in The Departed; used 7-14

Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt.

Exodus 22:21; used 7-21

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

– “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus; used 7-21

No one wakes up in the morning and says “I think I want to be in poverty today” or “I want to apply for food stamps”, [or] wakes up with the enthusiastic goals of sitting in the county assistant’s office or waiting in the pantry line.

Tianna Gaines-Turner; used 7-28

The only place where [climate change] denial is anything credible any longer is here in Congress, where money from the fossil fuel industry still has such a pernicious effect.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI, last Tuesday in the Senate); used 8-4

Everybody talks about affordable health care, Syria, Ukraine, or the children at the border. The real issue is our institutions aren’t working. That’s one of the reasons we’re unable to deal with these other questions.

Senator Angus King (I-ME, quoted in Saturday’s NYT); used 8-4

The court finds that even those doctors who support abortion, who have training in abortion, and who would be willing to withstand the professional consequences of performing abortion would not agree to perform abortions because the threat of physical violence and harassment is so overwhelming.

Judge Myron Thompson of the U.S. court for the middle district of Alabama (8/4/2014); used 8-11

terrorism, noun: The use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims. Oxford Dictionaries; used 8-11

As a white person in the U.S., I am conditioned from birth to see whiteness as safety — white neighborhoods, white people, white authority figures. My lived experience, my conversations with people of color, and my study of history have shown me over and over that this is a wild and cruel perversion of the truth. But the cultural conditioning is strong. Unless I fight it every day, white superiority seeps into my brain in slow, almost undetectable ways.

– Rev. Meg Riley, “Up to Our Necks“; used 8-18

Ferguson is a city located in northern St. Louis County with 21,203 residents living in 8,192 households. … Despite Ferguson’s relative poverty, fines and court fees comprise the second largest source of revenue for the city, a total of $2,635,400. In 2013, the Ferguson Municipal Court disposed of 24,532 warrants and 12,018 cases, or about 3 warrants and 1.5 cases per household.

– Arch City Defenders, “Municipal Courts White Paper“; used 8-25

Is [St. Louis County] particularly bad in terms of the quotient of police officers who act like this? Or is this just normal, and we just happened to have the cameras pointed there?

Chris Hayes; used 9-1

>Arabs could be swung on an idea as on a cord. … They were incorrigibly children of the idea, feckless and colour-blind, to whom body and spirit were for ever and inevitably opposed. … They were as unstable as water, and like water, would perhaps finally prevail. Since the dawn of life, in successive waves they had been dashing themselves against the coasts of flesh. Each wave was broken, but, like the sea, wore away ever so little of the granite on which it failed, and some day, ages yet, might roll unchecked over the place where the material world had been, and God would move upon the face of those waters. One such wave (and not the least) I raised and rolled before the breath of an idea, till it reached its crest and toppled over and fell at Damascus. The wash of that wave, thrown back by the resistance of vested things, will provide the matter of the following wave, when in the fullness of time the sea shall be raised once more.

– Lawrence of Arabia, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom (1922); used 9-8

The terrible reductive conflicts that herd people under falsely unifying rubrics like “America,” “the West,” or “Islam” and invent collective identities for large numbers of individuals who are actually quite diverse, cannot remain as potent as they are, and must be opposed. … Rather than the manufactured clash of civilizations, we need to concentrate on the slow working together of cultures that overlap, borrow from each other, and live together in far more interesting ways than any abridged or inauthentic mode of understanding can allow. But for that kind of wider perception we need time, and patient and skeptical inquiry, supported by faith in communities of interpretation that are difficult to sustain in a world demanding instant action and reaction.

– Edward Said, preface to the 2003 edition of Orientalism; used 9-8

Both [world] wars were fought, really, with a view to changing Germany. … Yet, today, if one were offered the chance of having back again the Germany of 1913 — a Germany run by conservative but relatively moderate people, no Nazis and no Communists, a vigorous Germany, united and unoccupied, full of energy and confidence, able to play a part again in the balancing-off of Russian power in Europe … in many ways it wouldn’t sound so bad, in comparison with our problems of today. Now, think what this means. When you tally up the total score of the two wars, in terms of their ostensible objective, you find that if there has been any gain at all, it’s pretty hard to discern.

George Kennan, American Diplomacy (1951); 9-15

Conservatives love to vilify anyone who doesn’t want to immediately throw down as “appeasers”. But when you’re dealing with terrorists whose aim is to bait us into overreaction, and you oblige them, aren’t you the appeaser?

Bill Maher; used 9-29

We are seduced into thinking that the right to choose from a menu is the essence of liberty, but … the powerful are those who set the agenda, not those who choose from the alternatives it offers.

– Benjamin R. Barber, Consumed; used 10-6

People exaggerate spectacular but rare risks and downplay common risks.

Bruce Schneier, Beyond Fear; used 10-13

As there is no evidence that voter impersonation fraud is a problem, how can the fact that a legislature says it’s a problem turn it into one? If the Wisconsin legislature says witches are a problem, shall Wisconsin courts be permitted to conduct witch trials?

Judge Richard Posner; used 10-20

Human felicity is produced not so much by great pieces of good fortune that seldom happen, as by little advantages that occur every day.

– Benjamin Franklin; used 11-3

A good story is always more dazzling than a broken piece of truth.

– Diane Setterfield, The Thirteenth Tale; used 11-10

It is better to know less than to know so much that ain’t so. Josh Billings
(ironically, the line is usually attributed to Will Rogers or Mark Twain; used 11-17

You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.

Leviticus 19:34; used 11-24

Neither in this country nor in England has the suspect under investigation by the grand jury ever been thought to have a right to testify or to have exculpatory evidence presented.

Supreme Court Justice Anton Scalia; used 12-1

There’s never enough evidence to convict a white man of a crime against a Negro.

– Aaron Henry, a black businessman
interviewed in the CBS News report “The Search in Mississippi” (1964); used 12-8

We have caused a thorough search to be made by the most competent authority in Richmond; and while many indictments are found against black men for rape of white women, none exist, in the history of our jurisprudence, against white men for rape of black women. And this, not because there would have been any difficulty in making the indictment lie: but because, as the most experienced lawyers testify, the crime is unheard of on the part of white men amongst us.

– R. L. Dabny, A Defense of Virginia and the South (1867); used 12-8

If the moral calculation is simply, “Did the ends justify the means?” it’s hard to see why we even bother with laws in the first place.

Chris Hayes (Wednesday); used 12-15

No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.

The United Nations Convention Against Torture (1984); used 12-15

Should any American soldier be so base and infamous as to injure any [prisoner] … I do most earnestly enjoin you to bring him to such severe and exemplary punishment as the enormity of the crime may require … for by such conduct they bring shame, disgrace and ruin to themselves and their country.

George Washington (1775); used 12-15

The purpose of Newspeak was not only to provide a medium of expression for the world-view and mental habits proper to the devotees of Ingsoc, but to make all other modes of thought impossible. … This was done partly by the invention of new words, but chiefly by eliminating undesirable words and by stripping such words as remained of unorthodox meanings, and so far as possible of all secondary meanings whatever.

— George Orwell “The Principles of Newspeak” (1949); used 12-22

Hindsight is always 50-50. — NFL quarterback Cam Newton; used 12-29

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