JOHN STOSSEL GETS A SPECIAL ROMAN FJM TREATMENT

Full disclosure: I'm doing sloppy seconds on John Stossel's stupidity. Jim Wright has already taken a whack at this column (structured around a reference to my favorite book to boot) but he made what I believe is the fatal mistake of attempting to take it seriously. Mr. Wright appears to be what is known as a "mature adult" who addressed the fundamental flaws with Stossel's woefully inaccurate rant. As I am not similarly encumbered, let's man the Pants Shitting Joke cannon and fire at will!

There's not much I need to say to introduce John Stossel. He is a stupid person who writes stupid things for a stupid audience that pays well to be told the stupid things it wants to hear. He also has a stupid mustache. He looks an awful lot like Geraldo, but wingers seem to like him a bit more because he isn't Messican. He also went to Princeton. Keep that in mind when you're reading his take on Roman history. He has written a book with the hi-larious title, No We Can't and recently wrote this piece "Are We Rome Yet?" The council of 12 year old boys that workshops titles for him might be in line for a raise!

Unfortunately, the fall of Rome is a pattern repeated by empires throughout history … including ours?

Oh, hello! I didn't expect to see you there.

That's John Stossel beginning his piece, seemingly in the middle of a thought. I'm just going to get all the Serious Things out of the way up front, if that's alright.

The Roman Republic and the Roman Empire are two very different historical entities that failed for very different reasons. Further, the Empire was divided into halves that were essentially autonomous by 100 AD. I'm no expert on ancient Rome so I'll leave deeper criticisms of this point to more capable hands, but I did want to acknowledge the bleedingly obvious: that John Stossel, Princetonian and journalist regularly featured in major media outlets, obliterates all of these distinctions.

A group of libertarians gathered in Las Vegas recently for an event called "FreedomFest." We debated whether America will soon fall, as Rome did.

In other news, NORML met to discuss whether America needs stricter laws against marijuana.

I wonder if Nevada's prostitutes get hazard pay for working during "FreedomFest." The mind reels at what they must get asked to do once the donors from FreedomWorks and Glenn Reynolds' comment section get shitty drunk on Crème de Menthe and hit the Strip on their travel expense accounts.

For any of Stossel's readers, I recommend the Cat House in Ely, NV. They're realty accommodating, so they'll write up a receipt for your four-way Albuquerque Wagon Wheel in the Latex Room as a deluxe breakfast buffet. The accounting department will never know your secret!

Historian Carl Richard said that today's America resembles Rome.

Someone found similarities between two governments? How hard is it to cherry-pick some things that make any two societies or states "resemble" one another?

But I don't know Dr. Richard, and I'll assume that his analysis goes deep enough to make some valid points. I'm certain you'll treat his academic argument with all the complexity and nuance that the subject deserves, John.

The Roman Republic had a constitution, but Roman leaders often ignored it. "Marius was elected consul six years in a row, even though under the constitution (he) was term-limited to one year."

False. The Roman Senate voided that law because the city was in imminent danger of being sacked by loosely organized tribes of vandals. John Stossel, you are a very stupid person. And can we get a fucking Pulitzer for his editors on this one, too? There's more than enough glory in this sentence for everyone to share!

Sounds like New York City's Mayor Bloomberg.

No. It does not sound like that at all, not even a tiny little bit. The only similarity is that Stossel is wrong about both of them being re-elected "illegally". Marius was a quasi-dictator, a Missing Link that connected the Republic to the Empire that it would become. Michael Bloomberg is a mayor. A mayor of a city that isn't even the capital of its state. New York City is an exceptionally important city, sure. But Michael Bloomberg has about as much political power, in the grand scheme, as Eric Garcetti. That's the mayor of LA. You have never heard of him because the mayor of some big city in which you do not live is not politically relevant.

"We have presidents of both parties legislating by executive order, saying I'm not going to enforce certain laws because I don't like them. … That open flouting of the law is dangerous because law ceases to have meaning. … I see that today. … Congress passes huge laws they haven't even read (as well as) overspending, overtaxing and devaluing the currency."

Hmm. I wonder how Dr. Richard and his quote-sampler felt back in 2002 when Congress was passing laws it didn't read. This is one of those hare-brained conservative talking points (for their harelipped voting base, appropriately enough) that turns something that has been political reality forever (i.e., teleprompters, presidents going on vacation) into a partisan crisis. Congress doesn't read the 10,000-page bills it passes? I wonder when that began? Must have been 2009, right?

The Romans were worse. I object to President Obama's $100 million dollar trip, but Nero traveled with 1,000 carriages.

It's non-sequitur time!!!!!one!!!!11!!!

I remember when George Bush made foreign visits. He went without the Secret Service on an old steamship – the SS Torpedo Magnet – because he was too austere to fly Air Force One. In fact he sold the plane and replaced it with a DC-3. He also acted as his own secretary and conserved water by never changing or washing his clothes. He shit nickels into a special cleaning tank at the U.S. Mint but truth be told, they came out so clean that you could pretty much put a warm, fresh one right in your mouth without suffering any ill effects.

Those were the days. Then this uppity negro came along and started flying everywhere First Class and probably bringing along a whole team of chefs so he could have fried chicken in every country.

Tiberius established an "office of imperial pleasures," which gathered "beautiful boys and girls from all corners of the world" so, as Tacitus put it, the emperor "could defile them."

Oh, I see where he's gonna go with this. He's going to compare this to the huge harem of kids that Obama keeps in the Rose Garden for raping. And he'll probably bring up Michelle Obama's "Open Wide, Kids!" initiative, to limber the kids up for all the raping. You know, Stossel might be right. I really see the parallels here.

Emperor Commodus held a show in the Colosseum at which he personally killed five hippos, two elephants, a rhinoceros and a giraffe.

You guys remember when Obama appeared at the Super Bowl to toss the coin and to kill five hippos, two elephants, a rhinoceros, and a giraffe? I was like, come on. Even by American standards this is a bit much.

We're so much like Rome, it's eerie.

To pay for their excesses, emperors devalued the currency. (Doesn't our Fed do that by buying $2 trillion of government debt?)

AND LIKE THAT, IT ALL COMES TOGETHER. STOSSEL LEADS YOU OVER THE RAINBOW, AND THEN SHOWERS YOU IN GOLD AT THE END.

Nero reduced the silver content of coins to 95 percent. Then Trajan reduced it to 85 percent and so on. By the year 300, wheat that once cost eight Roman dollars cost 120,000 Roman dollars.

The Stossel Proof of Inflation, ladies and gentlemen. Years from now you will remember where you are and what you were wearing when John Stossel proved that inflation is a thing.

Side note: Isn't it great to watch libertarians struggle to write anything without it turning into some sort of rant about fiat currency? Enough about the president I was talking about in the last sentence, kids. Let's get to my pet obsession.

The president of the Foundation for Economic Education, Lawrence Reed, warned that Rome, like America, had an expanding welfare state. It started with "subsidized grain. The government gave it away at half price. But the problem was that they couldn't stop there … a man named Claudius ran for Tribune on a platform of free wheat for the masses. And won. It was downhill from there."

First of all, yes. Please tell us what a hack from an obscure right-wing think tank has to say about this.

Second, this is so ahistorical that I can barely wrap my mind around how fucking stupid it is. Let's include the next part before I elaborate…

Soon, to appease angry voters, emperors gave away or subsidized olive oil, salt and pork. People lined up to get free stuff.'

OK.

The Roman government was giving this stuff away because the city and the society were on the brink of complete collapse. The supply chain through which people would ordinarily get these things – presumably in exchange for money, which is worth something before societies are beseiged by barbarian tribes and nearly destroyed – ceased to exist.

This is like complaining that the government gave free food to people in Oklahoma City after tornadoes destroyed their community, or to victims of Hurricane Katrina. Rome was an extremely advanced society for its time, but it was not exactly a modern industrial one. If the harvest failed, everyone fucking starved. If invading tribes burned the crops, ditto. It's not like Romans had the option of going to Costco and were simply too lazy to do it.

Oh why in the hell am I wasting my time trying to explain this to John Stossel. Look, this entire comparison is ludicrous. Just ludicrous. Trying to compare two governments that existed 1800 years apart, and a modern and pre-modern society, is the kind of thing that only very stupid people do to try to prove some tired, hacky ideological point.

Sure, John. Rome fell because of the nanny state creating dependency and entitlement. Maybe it was the Moors, amirite? *WINK*

As inflation increased, Rome, much like the U.S. under President Nixon, imposed wage and price controls. When people objected, Emperor Diocletian denounced their "greed," saying, "Shared humanity urges us to set a limit."

Just randomly leaping from point to point here, aren't we.

So, to be clear, he doesn't want the government to give them food. He also doesn't want the government to cap prices on food so that PEOPLE CAN BUY IT THEMSELVES. He wants a pure, libertarian market to exist. 1700 years ago. While an ancient civilization is disintegrating. Clearly that dominated the thoughts of political leaders like Diocletian. "Yes, but what about markets?"

Doesn't that sound like today's anti-capitalist politicians?

No. Not in the least little bit. Name one of Today's Policians who has proposed price controls. Name one who has proposed giving away free food to whoever gets in line for it. Name one thing Congress or this president have done that even remotely resembles or approaches either of these things.

Diocletian was worse than Nixon. Rome enforced controls with the death penalty – and forbid people to change professions. Emperor Constantine decreed that those who broke such rules "be bound with chains and reduced to servile condition."

*presses palms to mouth*

*FART NOISE AT TREMENDOUS VOLUME*

Eventually, Rome's empire was so large – and people so resentful of centralized control – that generals in outlying regions began declaring independence from Rome.

We see what you did here, John. Just don't you dare try to leave without taking Mississippi and South Carolina. That aside, don't let the door hit you in the ass. Build a great big fence on the border. We don't want your kind coming up here to go to hospitals.

At FreedomFest, Matt Kibbe, president of the tea party group FreedomWorks, also argued that America could soon collapse like Rome did.

Yes, let's hear from the president of the fucking Tea Party.

Why are we even paying attention to the Tea Party anymore? How have they been relevant in the last three years? Covering the Tea Party is like covering Tiger Woods at this point – there's no longer any reason to do it and no one in the media is entirely sure why they do it, but it's a habit at this point so they just go with it. The Tea Party's greatest contribution to American politics has been to cost the Republicans a number of winnable Senate seats. Keep up the good work, assrockets.

"The parallels are quite ominous — the debt, the expansionist foreign policy, the arrogance of executive power taking over our country," says Kibbe. "But I do think we have a chance to stop it."

LOCK AND LOAD! WOOOOOOOOOOO!

Also, please visit FreedomWorks.org and have your credit card ready to donate. The Tea Party has a plan to stop this, but they need your help! The first 500 donors will receive a tote bag with the FreedomWorks logo (two elderly people beating a Hispanic man with walkers).

That's a big difference between today's America and yesterday's Rome. We have movements like the tea party and libertarianism and events like FreedomFest that alert people to the danger in imperial Washington and try to fight it. If they can wake the public, we have hope.

Yeah, the Tea Party and this circular pud-pull of libertarian bag men in Las Vegas is a real honest-to-god freedom fighters' movement. What bold, heroic souls. The history books will tell tales of how Francis Marion crawled through the swamp on his belly to thwart the hated British Army during the American Revolution, and how John Stossel and a bunch of interns from FreedomWorks got the special Convention Rate at Circus Circus – they just love the retirment home-meets-FEMA Camp atmosphere – and watched the D-List stars of the right wing media give canned lectures to a room full of like-minded white guys.

The triumph of liberty is not inevitable, though. And empires do crumble.

And rain does make things wet. And eating too much cake gives you a stomach ache. And cutting your hair makes it shorter. And reading what John Stossel writes when he's 20 minutes out from his deadline and he clearly doesn't give a shit anymore because he knows his editor won't care and that his audience will pretty much lap up anything and applaud him by slapping their diabetic, Twizzler-sticky hands together and shouting "YOU TELL'UM, JAWN!" makes you dumber.

Rome's lasted the longest. The Ottoman Empire lasted 623 years. China's Song, Qing and Ming dynasties each lasted about 300 years. We've lasted just 237 years so far — sometimes behaving like a republic and sometimes an empire. In that time, we've accomplished amazing things, but we shouldn't take our continued success for granted.

If the Tea Party is our only hope to keep the republic together, then fuck the republic. Grab a sledgehammer and follow me to the dam. It's time to wash this all away. A republic that could only be saved by reverting to theocracy, oligarchy, and militarism is not worth saving. Sane people look at the medicine these people want to administer and think, "I'll take my chances with the disease."

Freedom and prosperity are not natural. In human history, they're rare.

Thinking of an ending is hard, isn't it, John?

Just the other day, I had a really nice apple.

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52 Responses to “JOHN STOSSEL GETS A SPECIAL ROMAN FJM TREATMENT”

  1. Big Sister Says:

    Over the top.

  2. Arslan Says:

    Another comparison of America to Rome? How fresh and original!

    Also, this:

    "At FreedomFest, Matt Kibbe, president of the tea party group FreedomWorks, also argued that America could soon collapse like Rome did."

    Yeah, dipshits like him have been saying that for something like 30 years, possibly more. All that time it was "just around the corner." It's like every right wing conspiracy theory- UN invasion, martial law, total gun grab. Just around the corner, just after one more mass shooting or terrorist attack. Just around the corner for 30-40 years.

  3. Neal Deesit Says:

    I think the Roman FJM Treatment is waaay too good for Stossel. You shoulds called a coupla hard, pipe-hittin' niggers, to go to work on him with a pair of pliers and a blow torch. You shoulda got medieval on his ass.

  4. anthony Says:

    Congratulations, you've been John Stosseled to death! Oh yeah!

  5. Mingent Whizmaster Says:

    I would vote for 'stosseled' or 'stosselized' to describe
    what Mr. Stossel did to his nominal subject matter,
    except that the ideas which led him to write his essay
    were themselves pre-stosselated. My mind is too weak
    to grasp it. Thanks to 'Gin & Tacos' for providing a
    cogent summary.

  6. c u n d gulag Says:

    Great take-down, Ed!

    Stossel's an angry man, because he's never gotten over the fact that when he was a young man, he wanted to be a porn star – but failed.

    He failed, because, though he could grow the requisite porn-star mustache – and a damn fine one at that – when he showed up at the set for his audition, and took his pants off, they asked if he could make anything else grow, because they shot the movies with camera's, not microscopes.

    But he's found the perfect job now.
    The size of his "package" doesn't matter. Porn audiences are far more demanding than ancient white Teabaggers.

    And, porn audiences get bored if you keep doing things the same way, over and over, again.
    They want something new and exciting! "Wow, I never thought of THAT! Two girls, a trampoline, AND a donkey! Honey, send the kids to your mom's, we're going to be using their trampoline tonight. And see if your kinky friend is free tonight. Hmm… Now let me take a look at craigslist, to see if anyone nearby is renting out a burro."

    Teabaggers want the same old missionary-position political commentary – where when Conservatives get on top, they f*ck the Liberals to death.

    And you can't say anything new to the old white folks, or you'll confuse the stupid – if not kill them, outright.
    Why do you think the Sunday bloviation fests have the same guests on, week after week, month after month, and year after year?
    Someone new, someone more Progressive, might create a mass extinction of old white people – mostly men.
    And what network booker, wants to have that on his/her conscience?

  7. xynzee Says:

    Wonder if he was sharing some beer bongs with Sarah while in Vegas.

    I always thought that the reason Rome collapsed was that it had grown too far beyond its means, constant war, social and financial inequality, slave economy…

    Hmmm… yup 'Muraka!

  8. Buckyblue Says:

    If this is Rome then I WANT MY CIRCUSES!!!!!

    How about we're like Rome because the Patricians were greedy ass MFers who would gouge the poor when ever they could. The gov't grain program (you could get a Nero phone too, from ACORN, natch) came about because the grain shortages made the Patrician 'job creators' take advantage of the situation and jack up the prices so high that half of Rome would starve while the other half was selling off their children so they didn't. Rome gave them grain so that the plebs wouldn't go on a rampage and kill every asshole with a toga. The BIG difference between us and Rome is that when the plebs had had enough, they burned shit down and killed some of the greedy assholes where we hold conferences and blame the poor for their shitty situation.

  9. Anonymouse Says:

    What is the current wingnut obsession with the Constitution? Bush called it a "God-damned piece of paper" and they cheered, but now that there's an "uppity negro" in the White House, suddenly they imagine all kinds of things.

  10. Ten Bears Says:

    But you have got to admire how he danced around the homophob take that we've been hearing for… oh, thirty years now. Not one mention. Pretty damn good for nine hundred words.

    (I think I've figured out why these bozos – Stossel, VD Hansen et al – only publish once a week: that's how long it takes them to put together nine hundred words in a somewhat coherent form. I wonder if they practice in front of a mirror?)

    In my long but limited understanding of history Vandals is a proper noun, a label applied to a diverse group of people somewhat unfied… "Vandals sacked Rome"… and therefore capitalized.

    No fear.

  11. Jimcat Says:

    @Buckyblue, who says: "If this is Rome then I WANT MY CIRCUSES!"

    We've had them for years, only now they're called "television".

  12. SonofOslo Says:

    I'm still amazed that there was a unit of currency called the "Roman Dollar," and that one of Nero's carriages cost over 100,000 Roman Dollars. That's where the outrage over Nero's carriage collection verses Obama's trips, right?

    On the other hand, you could buy a carriage with an unspecified unit of wheat…

  13. jazzbumpa Says:

    @ Buckyblue

    Jimcat got to it first, but . . .

    If this is Rome then I WANT MY CIRCUSES!!!!!

    A non all inclusive list

    NFL

    Nascar

    Country Music

    Roller Derby

    Jerry Springer

    Birtherism

    Faux Noise

    You're welcome
    JzB

  14. JohnR Says:

    The really cool thing is, Stossel's a Widely-Respected Intellectual in his circles. These guys are the Secret Fifth-Column Termites gnawing away the very Wooden Foundations of our Republic! I wonder how you get a gig like his – I bet I could do it in my sleep.

  15. Dan E Says:

    Gawd, when I read this I could just imagine John's nasally, kinda whiny voice. He always manages to sound like a wimpy teenager complaining to his parents that all his friends have cars so why won't they buy him one.

    Oh, and this is my favorite FJM ever.

  16. Bucky Says:

    Hilarious… I love it when goombahs like Stossel or Jonah Goldberg get all intellectual in the shallow end of the pool…but why not save your readers aggravation and doubt and italicize either Stossel's rantings or your rantings?

  17. Major Kong Says:

    Huh. I thought all this time they'd been telling us that Rome fell because of teh gays or "decadence" or something like that?

  18. Mo Says:

    I have Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire on my Kindle.
    I have yet to read it.
    Partly because I know how it ends.

    But I guess I'll have to wade into it on the Hawaii vacay, if only for the pleasure of reading 18th century prose blame Christianity for the decline of civilization.

    Somehow that bit never gets mentioned by the mouth breathers gasping and goggling about the Fall of Rome.

    Which empire carried on in Constantinople – as a Christian empire, no less – for nearly a thousand years, btw. No one seems to mention that, either.

  19. c u n d gulag Says:

    JohnR,
    Sure, you could do it in your sleep.
    I could, too.
    Many commenters here could.

    But if we have a conscience, could we even get to sleep?

  20. Fmguru Says:

    As someone who has just finished all 190 episodes of "The History of Rome" podcast, and who is working his way throught the follow-on "History of Byzantium" podcast, I really can't express in words just how dead wrong Stossell is in literally every single statement he makes about Rome.

    More generally, the problem with the whole "decadence and welfare and multiculturalism -> Rome falls" argument is that it doesn't explain how the eastern half of the empire managed to survive and at times thrive for another thousand years after the decaying shell of the western empire collapsed, even though it had the same culture and same religion and same social order. Rome lasted from 776 BC to 1453 AD, more than 2200 years – if America really is following in Rome's footsteps, we have a couple of milennia before the ceiling falls in.

    (Anyone with a long commute or regular gym workouts and an interest in the subject should check out "The History of Rome" podcast. Highly, highlu recommended, and the price can't be beat.)

  21. cromartie Says:

    Yeah, dipshits like him have been saying that for something like 30 years, possibly more. All that time it was "just around the corner." It's like every right wing conspiracy theory- UN invasion, martial law, total gun grab. Just around the corner, just after one more mass shooting or terrorist attack. Just around the corner for 30-40 years.

    Will that happen before or after Jesus returns?

  22. Ed W. Says:

    Sarah Hoyt, back off, because *John Stossel* is Spartacus.
    He is Spartacus because G&T made fun of him on the internet.
    And because of Benghazi.
    And because of Fast 'n' Furious.
    But mostly because G&T made fun of him on the internet.

  23. Senex Inanus Says:

    It can't be overlooked that one reason the poor of Rome needed subsidized grain is because of widespread use of slave labor in consolidated estates that supplanted smaller farms. The ex-farmers, forced to sell out because the low labor costs undercut them, made their way to the city, where they were unable to find sufficient work, again because of slave labor. So we can see that the better parallel is that an unbridled pursuit of lower labor costs has unintended and disastrous consequences.

  24. Tommy Says:

    Thank you for introducing me to Stonekettle. Mr. Wright's spot on the docks of Blogistan will now be a regular stop.

  25. Bob Says:

    "STOSSEL LEADS YOU OVER THE RAINBOW, AND THEN SHOWERS YOU IN GOLD AT THE END."
    Ok, now I have to go take a shower. A regular one that is – using only water.

  26. J. Dryden Says:

    Dear Mr. Stossel: A heads-up–the screaming sound you just heard was that of the tombs and graves of Livy, Tacitus, Suetonius, Plutarch, Gibbon, and Syme being wrenched open by their aggrieved occupants, so that they may lurch forth and seek out He Who Has Blasphemed Their Hallowed Work.

    (Now if *that's* not a movie, I don't know what is.)

  27. mk Says:

    My favorite ill-conceived Rome comparison comes from Richard Nixon in some newly released audio tapes (see here: http://americablog.com/2013/08/audio-nixon-gay-all-in-the-family-aristotle.html).

    Here's the man himself, talking about Rome and homosexuality:

    Ehrlichman: Now that

  28. mk Says:

    Ehrlichman: Now that’s real family entertainment, isn’t it?

    Nixon: The point that I make is that goddamit, I do not think that you glorify, on public television, homosexuality! You ever see what happened, you know what happened to the Greeks? Homosexuality destroyed them. Aristotle was a homo, we all know that. So was Socrates.

    Ehrlichman: But he never had the influence that television has.

    Nixon: The last six Roman emperors were fags. You see, homosexuality, immorality in general, these are the enemies of strong societies. That’s why the communists and the left-wingers are pushing it. They’re trying to destroy us.

  29. Mike N. Says:

    Holy Effing Roman Empire, is this a screed of shite. Roman dollars? The emperors trying to please "voters"? Free pork?

    He forgot the fact that at least one of the Emperors, Septimus Severus, was African. And their traditional religion dissolved into *gasp!* Christianity!

    To complain that Marius violated the Constitution is queer, because the definition of the Roman Republican Constitution is: "not a constitution."

    One complaint, Ed: The Empire really wasn't two autonomous halves until Constantine, ca. 300 AD. In 100, we still have Trajan, then Gibbon's favorite century (to Aurelius). Things get nuts after that, but East/West isn't an issue for a while.

  30. what the karp?!? Says:

    I sure do love a good apple

    'Murica

  31. evodevo Says:

    Wingers seem to have a tenuous grasp of history – ANY history – US, Roman, whatever. One of the contributing factors in the fall of western Rome was the fact that after Christianity was declared the official religion, slavery was abolished. This pretty much destroyed the economic underpinnings of the western empire, which depended on slave labor and a constant flow of booty/taxes from conquered territories. Another factor they are ignorant of is that those "invading barbarians" were, for the most part, CHRISTIAN ( though of a heretical sect, the Arians). Hmmm … if I were to use the same criteria as wingers, I would take that as an indication that the Fall was due to …. the rise of CHRISTIANITY.
    Oh, wait .. it was probably a more complicated situation than that, with numerous factors interacting with a changing environment, and requires a lot more nuanced analysis.
    But that is not the Winger Way, grasshopper.

  32. Jim Wright/Stonekettle Station Says:

    Mr. Wright appears to be what is known as a "mature adult"

    In my defense, I did use the word "fuck" gratuitously.

  33. NickT Says:

    "Further, the Empire was divided into halves that were essentially autonomous by 100 AD."

    Wildly wrong, to put it kindly. The division between the Eastern and Western empires is a 4th/5th century AD phenomenon.

  34. Robert Says:

    Dang. I'm drunk AND high, and he still makes no sense to me.

  35. Davis X. Machina Says:

    90% of the population of the Empire were scratch farmers, or their familiae.

    The urban stuff we read about, and see in movies, and that provided the lion's share of the physical artifacts that survive, that's the froth on the top of the kettle.

    For every one guy getting a dole from the praefectus annonae, there were 19 others out there chasing a plow. Like China, up until very recently, or India.

    Ancient Rome was almost the furthest thing from the US one could imagine.

  36. John Says:

    "(for their harelipped voting base, appropriately enough)"

    Been reading your blog for a few years, so I guess I should be thankful for gaining some free time back. I know you are too intelligent to not already understand this, but just in case you really are as ignorant as this comment suggests. Birth defects like cleft lip do not affect a person's voting preference or more generally their personality at all except of course the effect of having this kind of ugliness directed at them their whole lives. That was quite a punch to gut.

  37. Glen h Says:

    The problem with this whole Roman comparison is that Rome didn't exist. Don't get me wrong, there was a state based at Rome over that period that controlled the Mediterranean basin, but… What we know about the Western Roman Empire politically and socially comes mostly from a handful of texts preserved in Christian monasteries over the dark age.
    Obviously these monks are never going to have any axes to grind against the early emperors, are they? And an author like Suetonious ( possibly sacked from the Imperial retinue because of an affair with the Empress) would never play the role of a Classical Kitty Kelly, would he?
    In fact relying on most surviving contemporary texts to reconstruct Rome is a little like reconstructing modern America from Fox News broadcasts.

  38. yokosuka14 Says:

    When will we put our petty bickering aside and start taking the growing Visigoth threat seriously?!?!?!?!?!?

  39. Matt Says:

    Emperor Commodus held a show in the Colosseum at which he personally killed five hippos, two elephants, a rhinoceros and a giraffe

    So I guess that makes Ted Nugent the modern equivalent…

    BTW, mad wingnut pointz to Stossel for *not* noticing that both Rome and the US have another thing in common: an increasingly stratified society where a huge chunk of the top is both unwilling to pay for the maintenance of the state AND hypnotized by extremist Christianity.

  40. Carrstone Says:

    Now that you, Tribune of the Plebs-like, have dealt with Stossel and his comparison (in your opinion anyway, I presume), I'm searching to see where you prove that it ain't so. Being picky, picky, picky just doesn't cut it.

  41. drouse Says:

    "Assrockets"? What does Hindraker have to do with this. He's an entirely different hack. Although his screeds are indistinguishable from Stossel's. I swear, they must have fill in the blanks rants put out by AEI. In coloring book form. I bet their hate it when they knock over their sippy cups and smear the crayon.

  42. drouse Says:

    Sorry, left out editors in that last sentence.

  43. don Says:

    Ed, you might consider taking back the "hare-lipped" part. I know it sounds good with "hare-brained", but one means idiotic and ill-conceived and the other means birth defect that in no way affects intelligence or media preferences.

  44. Chris Says:

    I feel like your writing takes a nose dive with posts like this. Perhaps it's just the nature of refuting such a wacko. But i swear when I started reading this blog the takedowns were more cool headed and surgical. The name calling and descriptions of fart noises are fun to write I'm sure, but it doesn't make for intelligent reading.

  45. Chris Says:

    Oh, and the hair lipped comment came off as kind of a dick thing to say.

  46. giri Says:

    BRAVO! BRAVO!

  47. giri Says:

    And yeah, do take back the "hare-lipped" comment. You're too smart for that shit.

  48. Benny Lava Says:

    I would just like to point out that Stossel's argument about inflation totally invalidates the goldbug fetish for a "hard" currency based on precious metals. Oh look they can be debased and cause inflation too!

    Stossel. Limbaugh. Beck. Why are they so often Germans?

  49. John Danley Says:

    John Stossel is Spartacus! Stupid and Furious.

  50. cromartie Says:

    John Stossel, if memory serves, has a house down on the Outer Banks that keeps getting destroyed by hurricanes. He frequently gloats about how the federal flood insurance program keeps rebuilding his house for him, and how absurd this is.

    Like most conservatives and libertarians, he fails the basic smell test: live your values and apply them consistently.

  51. Tim Says:

    It's ancient Rome and Greece all rolled into one, what with all the gay marrying.

  52. Shamash Says:

    You made me look up "Albuquerque Wagon Wheel" to see if there was something I was missing out on, and I'm disappointed to see there is no such thing. I demand you invent same and describe it in detail.

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