Politics postsSunday February 23, 2014
'Henny Penny, When the Sky Fell' is Tamarian for ... ?
Ring a bell? In April 2003, when the press reported all the looting occurring in Baghdad after the fall of Saddam Hussein, then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld didn't think it important. He said, “Stuff happens.” He talked about seeing on TV news the same shot of a man stealing the same vase over and over again. He said, “Is it possible that there were that many vases in the whole country?” The press corps, to its discredit, laughed along with him.
Rumsfeld also said, “And it was just Henny Penny, the sky is falling.”
Henny Penny, of course, is another name for Chicken Little, the central figure in a folk tale about false hysteria over imminent doom. Rumsfeld was suggesting that the press, which tends to go negative, or at least sensational, was being hysterical about the looting. The world wasn't coming to an end. Things in Iraq weren't bad.
Except they were. Allowing the looting—of not only stores and buildings but national museums and archives—was the U.S.'s first toward losing the peace; toward losing, as we said in an earlier war, the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people.
Watching “No End in Sight,” I guess I turned that phrase over in my head until it wound up in the past tense, where it sounded distinctly Tamarian. For the non-“Star Trek” geeks in the crowd, Tamarian is a language of metaphor where historical or mythological incidents mean everyday things. So “Sokath, his eyes uncovered” means understanding. “Temba, his arms wide,” means a gift. And “Shaka, when the walls fell,” means failure.
And “Henny Penny, when the sky fell”?
It means the opposite of Henny Penny. It means when an authority figure dismisses an imminent doom that is in fact about to occur. It means when an authority figure dismisses the evidence at hand for the storyline in their head.
It means the sky is about to fall.
Heckuva job, Rummy.
Why the Presidency Keeps Flip-Flopping Between Parties
I recently came across this quote from Karl Rove, which he said in The New Yorker in 2001:
As people do better, they start voting like Republicans ... unless they have too much education and vote Democratic, which proves there can be too much of a good thing.
It's cute, kind of funny, but focus on the first part for a moment. I think there's some truth there.
As people do better under Democratic presidents and policies, e.g., Bill Clinton's, they begin to vote Republican. But as they do worse under Republican presidents and policies, e.g., George W. Bush's, they rush to the Democrats to save them. Then they forget again and down the line vote Republican again.
Thus the presidency keeps flip-flopping between parties. Inevitably.
If I were an optimistic man, I'd say we'd wise up one day. If I were an optimistic man.
“I believe Ham Rove is right ... ”
Major Burn on Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK)
Jill Lepore is increasingly my favorite writer on staff at The New Yorker. This is from her recent piece, “Long Division: Measuring the polarization of American politics,” which is locked online, available only to subscribers. So subscribe already.
Lepore talks up the data compiled by scholars such as Warren E. Miller of the University of Michigan, whose research has been funded in part by a grant from the National Science Foundation's Poliltical Science Program, inaugurated in 1966. She says the research suggests that both voters and legislators are more polarized than at any time since the U.S. Civil War. Then she writes:
What's really going on could be anything from party realignment to the unraveling of the Republic. It's hard to know, though, what with a polarized Congress keen to defund the very scholarship that might cast light on the matter. [Sen. Tom Coburn, R-OK, who introduced legislation to abolish the Political Science Program] is untroubled. “The University of Michigan may have some interesting theories about recent elections,” he allowed, “but Americans who have an interest in electoral politics can turn to CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, the print media, and a seemingly endless numnber of political commentators on the Internet.” This is a little like saying, when your kitchen is on fire, that it's O.K. because, in a cupboard above the stove, you keep fifty boxes of matches.
Dibs on the Heist Movie
From The Economist, Nov. 23:
The world’s rich are increasingly investing in expensive stuff, and “freeports” such as Luxembourg’s are becoming their repositories of choice. Their attractions are similar to those offered by offshore financial centres: security and confidentiality, not much scrutiny, the ability for owners to hide behind nominees, and an array of tax advantages. This special treatment is possible because goods in freeports are technically in transit, even if in reality the ports are used more and more as permanent homes for accumulated wealth. If anyone knows how to game the rules, it is the super-rich and their advisers. ...
The goods they stash in the freeports range from paintings, fine wine and precious metals to tapestries and even classic cars. (Data storage is offered, too.) Clients include museums, galleries and art investment funds as well as private collectors. Storage fees vary, but are typically around $1,000 a year for a medium-sized painting and $5,000-12,000 to fill a small room.
How to Win Political Arguments in Your Sleep
Stupid political arguments have invaded my unconscious.
Last night I dreamed I was at work, but not my work, where me and a colleague were schmoozing a couple of loudmouths from the South. They were big, brash types who acted as if they knew it all; as if they had secret information we weren’t privy to. At one point I asked them where they were from. “Texas,” said the more heavyset man. Where in Texas? I asked. “You know Texas?” he asked. “Florida, Texas. Near Dallas.”
My dream self thought the place sounded familiar but I couldn’t quite place it.
“Did they make a movie set there or something?” I asked.
The heavyset man cocked his head knowingly. “Movie? No, not a movie. History. You watch the news? You pay attention to what’s going on in the world?”
He began to go on about in Texas this and in Texas that, and I was nodding politely; then he launched into an anti-Obama argument. He claimed Obama was an illegitimate leader, a usurper, etc. etc., and my colleague was stunned but silent, so I looked over at the man and laid my cards on the table.
“Yeah, I know about Obama. I volunteered for his campaign in 2012. I donated $3,000 to his campaign.”
The dude came back with in Texas this and in Texas that, and the conversation quickly devolved, and the main thing I remember was being on top of the dude, my finger in his face, and saying the following:
“You may be from Texas, and they may do things a certain way there, but now you’re in Seattle. And in Seattle? I’m the conservative.”
When I woke up I thought it wasn’t a bad line for a dream, if a bit cheesey. I’m sure I’ve heard it in a similar context before.
Interpretations welcome. Particularly “Florida, Texas.”
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