Throwback Thursday: Quoting Awful People

Joseph Sobran was a real duckweed…

This week for the Throwback I’d like to send you deep tom catch this 2014 gem that I really enjoyed writing. This Derby is not only a remonstration against weaponizing perceived intelligence when such is a very slippery target, but how you should also undertake due diligence to identify who you are quoting. Because you shouldn’t quote Joseph Sobran without understanding who he was…

Now the person who shared this with me was a well meaning sort, hardly an arch conservative. So it is odd to me to see him sharing something that originated from someone like Joseph Sobran. Why odd? Because the late Michael Joseph Sobran (February 23, 1946 – September 30, 2010), or Joe Sobran to readers of his syndicated columns, was hardly an insignificant figure in the history of American ideas. Conservative pundit and walking Godwin’s Law infraction Pat Buchanan called Sobran “perhaps the finest columnist of our generation”. Ann Coulter called him “the worlds greatest writer, the G.K. Chesterton of our time.”  A columnist at National Review magazine from 1972 until he was asked to leave under charges of anti-semitism, Sobran described himself as a “paleo-conservative”, although in 2002 he announced his shift to “Libertarianism”, in fact he was a fellow at the Ludwig Von Mises Institute. Also a pro-life, anti-war Catholic (he opposed the Iraq War), Sobran hardly fits neatly into any particular ideological box, and I’m sure a careful reading of his works would find even a died in the wool big government liberal like myself nodding along in agreement.

And the basic premise of the meme is still shitty, we have remedial classes in college because more and more people have access to higher education than when old Joe was a freshman…

100 years ago, an education past the elementary school level was almost exclusive privilege of the middle and upper class white males. And the type of education that Sobran is extolling, focusing on the classics and obviously college preparatory was even more exclusive (and still is in most of the USA). The vast majority of teenage Americans 100 years ago were already working, either on the farm or low skilled manufacturing work by the time they would have been learning Latin and Greek in Joe’s mythical Classics High.
On the flip side of the meme, yes a large number of college freshmen are now taking remedial courses in English and Mathematics. And that certainly seems bad on its face. But remember, a post secondary degree of some sort is necessary for more and more jobs in our economy. Record numbers of high school graduates are enrolling every year. Is it wasteful for so many of our students to be in remedial classes, especially since many of them don’t even realize their deficiency until they are already enrolled? Of course it is, and there is plenty of room for healthy debate on how to best bring those numbers down, (hint: eliminating the Department of Education is probably not on the healthy debate menu.) But remedial classes will always fulfill a vital role in bridging the gap between unready and ready for college, especially considering how much educational achievement can be affected by factors outside the students control such poverty, an important consideration in a society suffering from vast income disparity.

Click on over and check out the whole thing. Every click brings us closer to smuggling this cat back from Hawaii…

Throwback Thursday: Ten Rules for Dating My Daughter

I found a better image since then!

To celebrate the internet tradition of Throwback Thursday, I am going to use this space to link back to a piece of writing I’m especially proud of. Today I’d like to take us back to the winter of 2013 as I fumbled for a framing device to use when writing about the toxic stew of bad parenting advice and practice that burbled in the fever swamps of social media. Something about gratuitous but playful smashing done for as much the spectacle as the lesson learned. Something uniquely American, somehow wholesome and at the same time kinda bonkers.

Thus was born the very first Internet Meme Demolition Derby, 10 Rules for Dating My Daughter. The post opens with what I consider the Derby Manifesto…

Back in Ye’ Olden Days of the Internet the email listserv was the preferred method of disseminating crackpot conspiracy theories, junk science, apocalyptic prophecies and nonsensical grandmotherly “advice”.  But listservs were clumsy devices, with slow response times and undependable circulation. Plus your intended audience needed to actually click on the email, a dicey proposition if the recipient doesn’t know you well. You could be a Nigerian Prince for all Aunt Sally knows!


Today, because we live in the FUTURE we have left behind such primitive tools.  Thanks to Blogs, Twitter, Google+ and especially Facebook,  we now have the ability to share our most offensive, sloppily formed, bigoted, insensitive notions with EVERYONE who is still talking to us. Crazy Uncle Liberty downloads some pearls of wisdom from Glenn Beck University? Share it with EVERYBODY!  Do kids these days need to seriously pull up their pants, stand up straight, go to church and get off everyone’s lawns? You can tell EVERYBODY!   Have parenting advice for all of those people out their doing everything wrong and thus assuring the downfall of our once great society?  YOU HAVE A VOICE! We have taken the time honored art of standing on a street corner and shouting at strangers and plugged it in to the Information Superhighway!


Of course there’s a downside… once you set your Internet Meme free, be it inflammatory blog post, snarky hashtag, or pithy Facebook image, it’s no longer under your control. Your traitorous liberal nephew, your feminist  ex-roomate or your free spirited gay cousin might find it, carefully analyze it, then smash into a smoking pile of wreckage in Internet Meme Demolition Derby!!!

The original image. Truck Stop Chic

I’ve fiddled back and forth with the format since then, depending on the meme in question, whether it is heavily image or text dependent etcetera. But in general it looks like this…

So I think we can all agree that we have a serious contender here for “Father of the Year”.  There are, of course so many things wrong with this picture.  There’s the antiquated patriarchal notion that a father must ward off his daughters suitors, perhaps whilst in shining armor. There’s the fairly icky habit of referring to any young woman who is old enough to go on a date as “my princess”. There’s the paranoia of someone who would treat his daughter’s dates as if they are all potential members of Al-Quaida.

 And last but not least the threat of violence implicit throughout, as if ones position as “paterfamilias” grants one the right to dish out vigilante justice.  And the worst part is that he probably does think of himself as Father of the Year material.  Big parts of the USA are still filled to the brim with folks who think like this about their daughters.


Your kids aren’t your property, folks. They are your responsibility. Certainly part of that responsibility comes in the guise of protector. And I understand the impulse to protect your kids from harm, both physical and emotional.  Heck, no one is even asking you to approve of all of your dating age children’s romantic interests. If you have a bad feeling about Kenny The Boy Who Hangs Out Behind The Record Store,  you should probably share that with Definitely Not Your Princess.  But if you are interested in raising your kids up into functioning adults then you have to allow them to grow.  And part of growth is making mistakes.  Part of growth is getting your heart broken, picking the exactly wrong guy/girl, making poor choices and learning from them. And part of finding Mr. Right… or at least Mr. Right Now, is having the freedom to make those choices on your own. To know that when your kid does find someone they like that their parents will treat that someone with dignity and respect.

And if you respect their decisions they are much more likely to respect your opinion when you feel you need to talk about whether dating a meth dealer is a smart life decision.

Click on over to the original to get the whole gist, give the Grounded Parents some needed clicks. Every bit of ad revenue gets us closer to buying surfing lessons for this dog!