AUSTIN, Texas -- I got out the quote-box for today's column, on the theory that we could all use a little more insight and humor at this season than one measly journalist can provide. I suppose you could call this a cheap column, but I prefer to think of it as sharing some of the gifts of 40 years of reading with you. Happy holidays to all.

Margaret Thatcher cited this tablet from ancient Egypt as a model of bureaucratic brevity: "Apollonius to Zeno, Greeting. You did right to send the chickpeas to Memphis. Farewell."

"These capitalists generally act harmoniously and in concert to fleece the people." -- Abraham Lincoln in the Illinois Legislature, January 1837.

Rep. Emmanuel Cellar would intone: "Consistency is like a stagnant pool. It breeds vipers in the mind."

"Any idiot can face a crisis: It is this day to day living that wears you out." -- Chekhov.

"Neither charm nor patience nor endurance has ever wrested power from those who hold it." -- Frederick Douglass.

H.L. Mencken on the prose of one of another of our presidents who had some difficulty with English: "Setting aside a college professor or two and half a dozen dipsomaniacal newspaper reporters, (Warren Harding) takes first place in my Valhalla of literati. That is to say, he writes the worst English I have ever encountered. It reminds me of a string of wet sponges; it reminds me of tattered washing on the line; it reminds me of stale bean-soup, of college yells, of dogs barking idiotically through endless nights. It is so bad a sort of grandeur creeps into it. It drags itself out of the dark abysm of pish, and crawls up to the topmost pinnacle of tosh."

Russell Baker, 1987: "We honor ambition, we reward greed, we celebrate materialism, we worship acquisitiveness, we commercialize art, we cherish success and then we bark at the young about the gentle arts of the spirit. The kids know that if we really valued learning, we would pay our teachers what we pay our lawyers and stockbrokers. If we valued art, we would not measure it by its capacity to produce profits. If we regarded literature as important, we would remove it from the celebrity sweepstakes and spend a little money on our libraries."

Bob Eckhardt, on the occasion of the Texas legislature voting to cut off aid to illegitimate children: "I am not so much concerned about the natural bastards as I am about the self-made ones."

"The point that I'm constantly making is that people don't understand the difference between being solemn and being serious. There is a kind of Teutonic mind which you find not just in Germany and Switzerland, but also in America, which thinks that you have to be solemn if you are being serious. But in fact solemnity is, I think, in many ways the enemy of the kind of process of learning that comes from being open because solemnity is allied with pompousness." -- John Cleese, British actor.

Abbie Hoffman: "Sacred cows make the tastiest hamburger."

"The only kinds of fights worth fighting are those your are going to lose, because somebody has to fight them and lose and lose and lose until someday, somebody who believes as you do wins. In order for somebody to win an important, major fight 100 years hence, a lot of other people have got to be willing -- for the sheer fun and joy of it -- to go right ahead and fight, knowing you're going to lose. You mustn't feel like a martyr. You've got to enjoy it." -- I.F. Stone.

"It is one thing to say with the prophet Amos, ‘Let justice roll down like mighty waters,' and quite another to work out the irrigation system. Clearly there is more certainty in the recognition of wrongs than there is in the prescription for their cure." -- William Sloane Coffin.

"Man is the only animal that laughs and has a state legislature." -- Samuel Butler.

Marianne Moore: "It is a privilege to see so much confusion."

"A time comes when silence is betrayal. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government's policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought, within one's own bosom and in the surrounding world." -- Dr. M.L. King Jr.

The enemy is not conservatism. The enemy is not liberalism. The enemy is bulls---." -- Lars Erik Nelson.

"Status quo is Latin for ‘the mess we're in.'" -- A Texas farmer.

"In fact, all these books merely add up to three questions. (1) Who benefits? Who profits? (2) Who rules the rulers? (3) What the hell will they do to us next?" -- A character in "The Red Fox."

To find out more about Molly Ivins and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at COPYRIGHT 2002 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.