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I have just had one of the more pleasant weekends for a year or more…

The Australian Taxpayers Alliance (who they? Ed.) held what they hope will be the first, of many, Friedman Conferences in Sydney and I went to listen in.

Train to Sydney, slept in a pretty grungy backpackers, and spent the time talking.

Saturday night was the dinner night, and a good time was had by all. While eating, the people on one side were discussing G. B. Shaw, and G. K. Chesterton, and on the other I was talking to people about state vs common law regulation, and the issues around the two approaches.

I thought to myself, we’re not on Queenslands sunny Gold Coast anymore Toto.


  1. Paul Marks says:

    Chesterton was a complex man – he had good ideas and bad ideas.

    Shaw is simple – he was a swine (but with the gift of the gab).

    State regulation – well we all know that ends up a hopeless mess.

    Common law – depends on the judges. A lot of the good stuff in Common Law was actually imported from Law Merchant (the voluntary judgements of arbiters that parties agreed on in commercial law) – now that should tell people that……

    Still good it was a Taxpayers Alliance conference.

    I am wary of “Libertarian” conferences. The last one of those I went to (only a few days ago) I got threatened with death for having the wrong facial expession – a speaker (some young lad) was going on about the glories of “Social Justice” (which he refused to define, but seemed to think gave him the right to threaten people with a firearm – no I am not making that up, although I doubt he has ever actually used a real firearm) I had the “wrong” facial expression and so anoyned one of his supporters. I did not react with great peace and love to all this.

    Still lesson learned – never go to listen to a subhuman piece of excrement give a talk. You may go in thinking it is going to be a laugh – but it ends up being torture.

    I doubt you had anyone like that at your Taxypayers Alliance conference.

  2. Julie near Chicao says:

    By Gad, Cats, you’ve been reading your Thurber! “Who he? — Harold Ross, per J.T. :>)!

  3. CountingCats says:


    Well, I read Walter Mitty, and I have enjoyed his cartoons, but no, otherwise I am not well read on Thurber.

    Why do you say that?

    The only reference I put in there was to Judy Garland.

  4. Julie near Chicao says:

    Thurber wrote a marvellously witty, informative, and entertaining book–a page-turner and not to be missed!–entitled The Years with Ross, about founder Harold Ross’s stint as editor of The New Yorker during its glory years, when Thurber and Alexander Woollcott (of Algonquin Roundtable fame) and many other notables wrote for it.

    [Alexander Woollcott, Thurber reports, once said "I'm the best writer in [New York], but I have nothing to say.” (NY? “The country”? “The world”? “The best living writer in English”? — I forget exactly, but A.W. did accord himself some superlative or other.) And if you haven’t seen it, the play The Man Who Came to Dinner, by George S. Kaufman, is pure fiction, but its protagonist, Sheridan Whiteside, is presumably modelled on Woollcott. It’s hilarious to read, and the 1942 movie starring Monty Woolly as Whiteside, with Bette Davis and Ann Sothern, is a gass. Oh–Jimmy Durante is in it too. My only gripe has always been that I think Miss Sothern’s and Miss Davis’s roles should have been reversed.]

    “Who he?”:

    Ross was not about to have any misstatements in his magazine, so his writers were accustomed to seeing their copy returned decorated with queries and corrections in red pencil. Thurber says, for instance, that if Ross saw a name he didn’t recognize, back would come the piece with the notation in red: “Who he?” Apparently this happened even with persons whom most of the literati (or glitterati–Ross was a down-home sort, I think) thought well-known.

    Apparently he even knew grammar and syntax. He once said, “I know about poetic license, but I don’t think there’s a license to get a word wrong.”

    He was death on less-than-stellar writing. Thurber says he never had a lunch with Ross that didn’t end with Ross’s statement, “I must get back to the office and reject.”

    He had a list of guidelines for his editorial staff. I believe this one was the finale: “Try to preserve the author’s style, if he is an author and has a style.”

    Anyone who pushes ink or pixels around in the hope of creating something readable is likely to find Ross’s comments interesting.

    ….And that is the story of “Who he?”

    Everyone should trudge on over to Amazon and see if you can’t find a used copy of this not-to-be-missed work. Enjoy! ;)

    James Thurber. The Years With Ross. Boston: Little, Brown, 1959. ISBN 0-06-095971-1 (2001 reprint).

  5. Julie near Chicao says:

    PS. Cats–I know that you may be a little confused when you leave the Land of Felines–but–Judy Garland never played Toto that I know of! [-Hyuk hyuk hyuk ;) ;)

  6. John Galt says:

    A former collegue of mine is from Kansas. Nice people living rural lives.

    When Dorothy says “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas any more.”, she ain’t kidding.

    I know, ‘cos I’m a friend of Dorothy. :-)

    By the way Julie – where is Chicao? Mexico or Latin America I presume?

  7. Julie near Chicao says:

    Ayee, Julio–t’is here Chica, she don’ know, but she ain’ Near There anyways.

    (It’s not so bad here, but when it happens over at Perry’s Place I get put on probation till somebody gets around to reading the Spambot’s dredgings. :( )

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