Saturday, June 21, 2008


[From the STMcC archive; 2006, November 19th]

Book: “PARLIAMENT OF WHORES” by P.J. O’Rourke; 1991

Grade: A -

“It is a popular delusion that the government wastes vast amounts of money through inefficiency and sloth. Enormous effort and elaborate planning are required to waste this much money.”
~ P.J. O’Rourke

Once upon a time, oh, about a year ago, I was on the john with my P.J. bottoms loitering around my ankles, and minding my own “business.” I had one of my Uncle John’s Bathroom Readers in my lap (Uncle John and the john were just made for each other) and I was reading a page that contained a lot of funny remarks related to politics. I noticed that the several excerpts that had been penned by one P.J. O’ROURKE elicited the greatest laughs from me, so I determined to find out just who this P.J. was and where he’d been my whole life. After a little surfing, I purchased his book, PARLIAMENT OF WHORES.

Just last week, I was on an America West flight to Northern Nevada. At the airport, after taking everything from me that one could never commandeer an airplane with, and making me remove my belt and shoes and self-respect, the powers that be somehow let me waltz onto the plane with PARLIAMENT OF WHORES in my hand – a very dangerous book. I mean, had I begun reading aloud, I could have convulsed the pilots, the flight crew, and the air marshal with laughter and taken control of Flight #522.

Instead, I read silently to myself, and laughed out loud every thirty seconds or so. This aroused the curiosity of the woman sitting next to me who asked what I was reading. I said, “Parliament Of Whores by P.J. O’Rourke” but somehow what she heard was, “Will you tell me your life’s story?” So she proceeded to tell me how she had gotten married at Lake Tahoe and bred dogs for a living. Or maybe it was that she earned her bread at Lake Tahoe and had married a dog. To be honest, I wasn’t paying that much attention, but merely trying to nod and smile when I thought it was appropriate, and stealing another sentence or two from O’Rourke’s book every time she paused between chapters in her oral autobiography. (She did offer me her little bag of pretzels, so at least I got something from her besides an earache.)

PALIAMENT OF WHORES is P.J.’s 1991 account of a journalist’s inside look at politics and how it affects American Life. And trust me, it’s no laughing matter, which is exactly why we must laught at it. It’s laugh or go postal, but since the postal service is tied to the federal government, it’s better that we laugh. P.J. says, “I have tried to present a factual – data-filled, at any rate – account of how this government works. Which is complicated by the fact that it doesn’t.” But if you think a journalist should instead be writing about things that are of greater interest to most Americans, P.J. did promise in the Acknowledgments that his next book was going to be about “Madonna’s Illegitimate UFO Diet To Cure AIDS And Find Elvis.”

On page 103, O’Rourke confesses that he is “a real Republican” but then adds, “unlike some current presidents of the United States I could name.” That unnamed “presidents” he referred to was, of course, George H. W. Bush. Now, it’s his equally un-Republican son, George W. Bush, who occupies The White House, proving that the apple doesn’t fall far from the Bush.

But don’t let the fact that P.J. is a Republican dissuade you from reading PARLIAMENT OF WHORES if you happen to be a Democrat because Ol’ P.J. absolutely grills EVERYONE in this laugh-out-loud book. And why not? The federal government has taken it upon itself to warn the nation that undercooked eggs and meat are unhealthy. And is raw government any better for us? It too deserves a good grilling, and P.J. is just the chef to do it!

Now, I can’t say that P.J. never misses the nail’s head and hits his own thumb. For example, on page 78 he states that the Supreme Court opening a session with “God save the United States and this Honorable Court” is a clear violation of the First Amendment to the Constitution. This is surprisingly sloppy reporting coming from a man who makes his living with words. The First Amendment says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” So, when did the Supreme Court become Congress? And since when is stating, “God save the United States and this Honorable Court” the establishment of a law? (And has anybody informed God that He is now bound by law to do these things?)

On page 119, P.J. questions the wisdom of the illegality of recreational drugs. I think keeping these chemicals out of the hands (and arms, and lungs) of as many people as possible is indeed wise. The only exception being those funny smelling “cigarettes” which my buddy at work, The Great L.C., and I agree should be treated in like manner as alcohol, for they have, if anything, even less potential for harm: Put 10 guys into a room with loud music and bottles and bottles of booze, and it’s sure that before the evening is over, one (or more) of those guys will get roughed up. But put the same 10 guys into the same room with the same loud music, and replace the booze with “wacky weed” and the only things that are gonna get roughed up are bags of potato chips.

But other than these rare disagreements, I found PALIAMENT OF WHORES to be wickedly accurate and whorribly humorous. Wait’ll you read the suggestions the author makes for reducing federal expenditures (“O’Rourke’s Circumcision and Budget Liposuction”), and the way he dissects the Special Interest Groups (“The Original Barrel Of Monkeys That Nothing Is More Fun Than”). This thing is simply a howl from one end to the other; the funniest book I’ve read in a very long time. Heck, one of the funniest books I’ve ever read at ANY time! It’s “seriously funny” like Mark Twain. And I am no more ashamed to have PARLIAMENT OF WHORES standing in my bookcase between “The Declaration Of Independence” and “The Heritage Guide To The Constitution” than I am to have Twain’s “Roughing It” standing between “Saloons Of The Old West” and “I Married Wyatt Earp.” Aw, well, you know what I mean.

In the final analysis – after his study of how our government works [sic] – O’Rourke concludes that what we suspected all along is true: “Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.” Nevertheless, watching P.J. T.P. the U.S. is the best cry you’ll ever laugh. I’ll be voting P.J. for President in 2008, even though he’s too smart to run . . . except away.

~ Stephen T. McCarthy

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