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The first pages of Chapter X, headed as above, of Little Dorrit (pub. 1855-57), by Charles Dickens (1812-1870)

The Circumlocution Office was (as everybody knows without being told) the most important Department under Government. No public business of any kind could possibly be done at any time without the acquiescence of the Circumlocution Office. Its finger was in the largest public pie, and in the smallest public tart. It was equally impossible to do the plainest right and to undo the plainest wrong, without the express authority of the Circumlocution Office. If another Gunpowder Plot had been discovered half an hour before the lighting of the match, nobody would have been justified in saving the parliament until there had been half a score of boards, half a bushel of minutes, several sacks of official memoranda, and a family-vault full of ungrammatical correspondence, on the part of the Circumlocution Office.

This glorious establishment had been early in the field, when the one sublime principle involving the difficult art of governing a country, was first distinctly revealed to statesmen. It had been foremost to study that bright revelation, and to carry its shining influence through the whole of the official proceedings. Whatever was required to be done, the Circumlocution Office was beforehand with all the public departments in the art of perceiving--HOW NOT TO DO IT.

Through this delicate perception, through the tact with which it invariably seized it, and through the genius with which it always acted upon it, the Circumlocution Office had risen to over-top all the public departments; and the public condition had risen to be--what it was.

It is true that How not to do it was the great study and object of all public departments and professional politicians all round the Circumlocution Office. It is true that every new premier and every new government, coming in because they had upheld a certain thing as necessary to be done, were no sooner come in than they applied their utmost faculties to discovering How not to do it.

It is true that from the moment when a general election was over, every returned man who had been raving on the hustings because it hadn't been done, and who had been asking the friends of the honourable gentleman in the opposite interest on pain of impeachment to tell him why it hadn't been done, and who had been asserting that it must be done, and who had been pledging himself that it should be done, began to devise, How it was not to be done. It is true that the debates of both Houses of Parliament the whole session through, uniformly tended to the protracted deliberation, How not to do it. It is true that the royal speech at the opening of such session virtually said, My lords and gentlemen, you have a considerable stroke of work to do, and you will please retire to your respective chambers, and discuss, How not to do it. It is true that the royal speech, at the close of such session, virtually said, My lords and gentlemen, you have through several laborious months been considering with great loyalty and patriotism, How not to do it, and you have found out; and with the blessing of Providence upon the harvest (natural, not political), I now dismiss you. All this is true, but the Circumlocution Office went beyond it.

Because the Circumlocution Office went on mechanically, every day, keeping this wonderful, all-sufficient wheel of statesmanship, How not to do it, in motion. Because the Circumlocution Office was down upon any ill-advised public servant who was going to do it, or who appeared to be by any surprising accident in remote danger of doing it, with a minute, and a memorandum, and a letter of instructions, that extinguished him. It was this spirit of national efficiency in the Circumlocution Office that had gradually led to its having something to do with everything. Mechanicians, natural philosophers, soldiers, sailors, petitioners, memorialists, people with grievances, who wanted to prevent grievances, people who wanted to redress grievances, jobbing people, jobbed people, people who couldn't get rewarded for merit, and people who couldn't get punished for demerit, were all indiscriminately turned up under the foolscap paper of the Circumlocution Office.

Numbers of people were lost in the Circumlocution Office. Unfortunates with wrongs, or with projects for the general welfare (and they had better have had wrongs at first, than have taken that bitter English recipe for certainly getting them), who in slow lapse of time and agony had passed safely through other public departments; who according to rule, had been bullied in this, over-reached by that, and evaded by the other; got referred at last to the Circumlocution Office, and never reappeared in the light of day. Boards sat upon them, secretaries minuted upon them, commissioners gabbled about them, clerks registered, entered, checked, and ticked them off, and they melted away. In short, all the business of the country went through the Circumlocution Office, except the business that never came out of it, and its name was Legion.

Sometimes, angry spirits attacked the Circumlocution Office. Sometimes, parliamentary questions were asked about it, and even parliamentary motions made or threatened about it, by demagogues so low and ignorant as to hold that the real recipe of government was, How to do it. Then would the noble lord, or right honourable gentleman, in whose department it was to defend the Circumlocution Office, put an orange in his pocket, and make a regular field-day of the occasion. Then he would come down to that house with a slap upon the table, and meet the honourable gentleman foot to foot. Then would he be there to tell that honourable gentleman that the Circumlocution Office was not only blameless in this matter, but was commendable in this matter, was extollable to the skies in this matter. Then would he be there to tell that honourable gentleman, that, although the Circumlocution Office was invariably right and wholly right, it was never so right as in this matter. Then would he be there to tell that honourable gentleman that it would have been more to his honour, more to his credit, more to his good taste, more to his good sense, more to half the dictionary of commonplaces, if he had left the Circumlocution Office alone, and never approached this matter. Then would he keep one eye upon a coach or crammer from the Circumlocution Office sitting below the bar, and smash the honourable gentleman with the Circumlocution Office account of this matter. And although one of two things always happened; namely, that the Circumlocution Office had nothing to say and said it, or that it had something to say of which the noble lord, or right honourable gentleman, blundered one half and forgot the other; the Circumlocution Office was always voted immaculate, by an accommodating majority.

Such a nursery of statesmen had the Department become in virtue of a long career of this nature, that several solemn lords had attained the reputation of being quite unearthly prodigies of business, solely from having practised, How not to do it, at the head of the Circumlocution Office. As to the minor priests and acolytes of that temple, the result of all this was that they stood divided into two classes, and, down to the junior messenger, either believed in the Circumlocution Office as a heaven-born institution, that had an absolute right to do whatever it liked; or took refuge in total infidelity, and considered it a flagrant nuisance.

The Barnacle family had for some time helped to administer the Circumlocution Office. The Tite Barnacle Branch, indeed, considered themselves in a general way as having vested rights in that direction, and took it ill if any other family had much to say to it. The Barnacles were a very high family, and a very large family. They were dispersed all over the public offices, and held all sorts of public places. Either the nation was under a load of obligation to the Barnacles, or the Barnacles were under a load of obligation to the nation. It was not quite unanimously settled which; the Barnacles having their opinion, the nation theirs....

The Beehive--the executive wing in New Zealand's Parliament complex. Designed by Sir Basil Spence, who obviously had a nice sense of humour.

From Dune, by Frank Herbert (1920-1986)

The concept of progress is a defence-mechanism against the terrors of an uncertain future.

T. S. Eliot (1888-1965)

Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They do not mean to do harm. But the harm done does not interest them.

Ambrose Bierce (1842-c.1913)

Politics: A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles.

Politician: An eel in the fundamental mud upon which the superstructure of organised society is reared. When he wriggles he mistakes the agitation of his tail for the trembling of the edifice. As compared with the statesman, he suffers the disadvantage of being alive.

Aristocracy: Government by the best men. (In this sense the word is obsolete; so is that kind of government.)

Push: One of the two things mainly conducive to success, especially in politics. The other is Pull.

Administration: An ingenious abstraction in politics, designed to receive the kicks and cuffs due to the premier or president. A man of straw, proof against bad-egging and dead-catting.

Harangue: A speech by an opponent, who is known as an harangue-outang.

Idiot: A member of a large and powerful tribe whose influence in human affairs has always been dominant and controlling. The Idiot's activity is not confined to any special field of thought or action, but 'pervades and regulates the whole.' He has the last word in everything; his decision is unappealable. He sets the fashion of opinion and taste, dictates the limitations of speech and circumscribes conduct with a deadline.

Freedom: A political condition that every nation supposes itself to enjoy in virtual monopoly. The distinction between freedom and liberty is not accurately known. Naturalists have never been able to find a living specimen of either.

Liberty: One of imagination's most precious possessions.

Peace:  In international affairs, a period of cheating between two periods of fighting.

Vote: The instrument and symbol of a freeman's power to make a fool of himself and a wreck of his country.

Future: That period of time in which our affairs prosper, our friends are true and our happiness is assured.

All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed; second, it is violently opposed; third, it is accepted as self-evident.

That saying is is usually attributed to Schopenhauer (1788-1860), but recent research could not substantiate that, or assign it to anyone.

Schopenhauer did say something along those lines in the preface to the first edition of Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung (1818). In E. F. J. Payne's translation it reads: 'To truth only a brief celebration of victory is allowed between the two long periods during which it is condemned as paradoxical, or disparaged as trivial.'

Schopenhauer also made a very perceptive contrast between talent and genius (qualities rarely present at any level in government):
Talent hits a target no one else can hit; genius hits a target no one else can see.


Thomas Paine (1737-1809)

from Common Sense (1776):

Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness positively by uniting our affections, the latter negatively by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first is a patron, the last a punisher.

Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is a necessary evil... Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence; the palaces of kings are built on the ruins of the bowers of paradise.

Rights of Man Part I (1792):

There never did, there never will, and there never can exist a parliament, or any description of man, or any generation of men, in any country, possessed of the right or the power of binding and controlling posterity to the "end of time," or of commanding for ever how the world shall be governed, or who shall govern it;.....Every age and generation must be free to act for itself, in all cases, as the ages and generations which preceded it.

Man did not enter into society to become worse than he was before, nor to have fewer rights than he had before, but to have those rights better secured. His natural rights are the foundation of all his civil rights.

Natural rights are those which appertain to man in right of his existence. Of this kind are all the intellectual rights, or rights of the mind, and also all those rights of acting as an individual for his own comfort and happiness, which are not injurious to the natural rights of others. Civil rights are those which appertain to man in right of his being a member of society.

A constitution is not a thing in name only, but in fact. It has not an ideal, but a real existence; and wherever it cannot be produced in visible form, there is none. A constitution is a thing antecedent to a government, and a government is only the creature of a constitution. The constitution is not the act of its government, but of the people constituting a government....A constitution, therefore, is to a government, what the laws made afterwards by that government are to a court of judicature.

from the
Declaration of the Rights of Man and of Citizens:

I. Men are born, and always continue, free, and equal in respect of their rights. Civil distinctions, therefore, can be founded only on public utility.

II. The end of all political associations, is, the preservation of the natural and imprescriptable rights of man; and these rights are liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression.

III. The nation is essentially the source of all sovereignty; nor can any individual, or an body of men, be entitled to any authority which is not expressly derived from it.

XV. Every community has a right to demand of all its agents, an account of their conduct.

Agrarian Justice (1795):

The present state of civilization is as odious as it is unjust. It is absolutely the opposite of what it should be, and it is necessary that a revolution should be made in it.
'Democracy without morality is impossible' -- Jack Kemp

Boris Pasternak (1890-1960)

'Ordinarily, people are anxious to test their theories in practice, to learn from experience, but those who wield power are so anxious to establish the myth of their own infallibility that they turn their back on truth as squarely as they can. Politics mean nothing to me. I don't like people who are indifferent to the truth.'

(page 205 in the Folio Society edition).

From The Trial, by Franz Kafka (1883-1924)

After the dust of revolution has settled there arises the slime of a new bureaucracy.

A District of Columbia airport ticket agency collected some examples of why the US is in trouble:

1. I had a New Hampshire Congresswoman (Carol Shea-Porter) ask for an aisle seat so that her hair wouldn't get messed up by being near the window (on an airplane!)

2. I got a call from a Kansas Congressman's (Moore) staffer (Howard Bauleke), who wanted to go to Capetown. I started to explain the length of the flight and the passport information, and then he interrupted me with, 'I'm not
trying to make you look stupid, but Capetown is in Massachusetts .''

Without trying to make him look stupid, I calmly explained, ''Cape Cod is in Massachusetts, Capetown is in Africa .'

His response -- click.

3. A senior Vermont Congressman (Bernie Sanders) called, furious about a Florida package we did. I asked what was wrong with the vacation in Orlando. He said he was expecting an ocean-view room. I tried to explain that's not
possible, since Orlando is in the middle of the state.

He replied, 'Don't lie to me, I looked on the map and Florida is a very thin state!'

4. I got a call from a lawmaker's wife (Landra Reid) who asked, 'Is it possible to see England from Canada ?''

I said, 'No.'

She said, 'But they look so close on the map.'

5.An aide for a cabinet member(Janet Napolitano) once called and asked if he could rent a car in Dallas . I pulled up the reservation and noticed he had only a 1-hour layover in Dallas . When I asked him why he wanted to rent a
car, he said, 'I heard Dallas was a big airport, and we will need a car to drive between gates to save time.' (Aarghhh)

6.An Illinois Congresswoman (Jan Schakowsky) called last week. She needed to know how it was possible that her flight from Detroit left at 8:30 a.m., and got to Chicago at 8:33 a.m.

I explained that Michigan was an hour ahead of Illinois, but she couldn't understand the concept of time zones. Finally, I told her the plane went fast, and she bought that.

7. A New York lawmaker, (Jerrold Nadler) called and asked, 'Do airlines put your physical description on your bag so they know whose luggage belongs to whom?'

I said, 'No, why do you ask?'

He replied, 'Well, when I checked in with the airline, they put a tag on my luggage that said (FAT), and I'm overweight. I think that's very rude!'

After putting him on hold for a minute, while I looked into it. (I was dying laughing). I came back and explained the city code for Fresno, Ca. is (FAT - Fresno Air Terminal), and the airline was just putting a destination tag on
his luggage.

8. A Senator John Kerry aide (Lindsay Ross) called to inquire about a trip package to Hawaii ... After going over all the cost info, she asked, 'Would it be cheaper to fly to California and then take the train to Hawaii?'

9. I just got off the phone with a freshman Congressman, Bobby Bright (D) from Ala who asked, 'How do I know which plane to get on?'

I asked him what exactly he meant, to which he replied, 'I was told my flight number is 823, but none of these planes have numbers on them.'

10. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D) called and said, 'I need to fly to Pepsi-Cola, Florida. Do I have to get
on one of those little computer planes?'

I asked if she meant fly to Pensacola, FL on a commuter plane.

She said, 'Yeah, whatever, smarty!'

11. Mary Landrieu (D) La. Senator called and had a question about the documents she needed in order to fly to China. After a lengthy discussion about passports, I reminded her that she needed a visa.

'Oh, no I don't. I've been to China many times and never had to have one of those.'

I double-checked and sure enough her stay required a visa. When I told her this she said, 'Look, I've been to China four times and every time they have accepted my American Express!'

12. A New Jersey Congressman (John Adler) called to make reservations, 'I want to go from Chicago to Rhino, New York ....'

I was at a loss for words. Finally, I said, 'Are you sure that's the name of the town?'

'Yes, what flights do you have?' he replied.

After some searching, I came back with, 'I'm sorry, sir, I've looked up every airport code in the country and can't find a Rhino anywhere.

The man retorted, 'Oh, don't be silly! Everyone knows where it is. Check your map!'

So I scoured a map of the state of New York and finally offered, 'You don't mean Buffalo , do you?'

The reply? 'Whatever! I knew it was a big animal...'

Now you know why the Government is in the shape it's in!

Could anyone be this DUMB?


I don't write it, I just offer it for your consideration. Like manure, you just gotta spread it around.

We say we live on the earth, but it is truer to say that we live in the lower sky. What we do to it we do to ourselves. The sky, literally, *is* the limit, because it makes our boundaries. Mess it up and we mess up our lives.
Clean energy for a clean future--the sunlight and water economy: solar and hydrogen.