By Jefferson Flanders

To borrow, once again, from newspaper columnist Jimmy Cannon: nobody asked me, but…

YOU COULDN’T BLAME JOE WILSON AND VALERIE PLAME WILSON for wanting to move to Santa Fe after the Washington Post editorial on the I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby verdict. The Post dismissed the Wilson-Plame case as “a Washington scandal remarkable for its lack of substance,” arguing that it was “propelled not by actual wrongdoing but by inflated and frequently false claims, and by the aggressive and occasionally reckless response of senior Bush administration officials — culminating in Mr. Libby’s perjury.”

As for Joseph C. Wilson IV, the newspaper opined that “{t}he former ambassador will be remembered as a blowhard…” responsible for sensational, but false, charges.

DAVID BROOKS CLOSED a recent column in the New York Times entitled “Yes, Those Were the Days,” with a graceful classical allusion: “But that’s the perpetual tragedy of life: the owl of Minvera flies at dusk. Wisdom comes from suffering and error, and when the passions dies down and observation begins.”

Minerva, as every schoolboy used to know, was the Roman goddess of wisdom and war, and her owl was seen as a symbol of wisdom. Brooks borrowed his conceit from the German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel who wrote in “Philosophy of Right” in 1820: “The owl of Minerva spreads its wings only with the falling of the dusk.”

Columbia University graduates should recognize that the Daniel Chester French statute of Alma Mater in front of Low Library as Minvera; an owl is hidden in the folds of the goddess’s cloak.

THE RELENTLESS SLIDE IN COMPUTER STORAGE COSTS helps drive the global high technology economy; quoting NPD, a market research firm, the New York Times reports that the retail price of a gigbyte of hard drive storage was $2.04 in 2003 and that last year it had dropped to 77 cents.

The Times further notes: “The average price for an external hard drive fell $141 last year, from $197 in 2003, while the amount of storage space on the drives doubled.” Proof positive of Kurzweil’s Law of Accelerating Returns?

SEEN: AD HEADLINE ON THE NEW YORK SUBWAY touting Manhattan MiniStorage: “Your closet is so narrow it makes Cheney look like a liberal.”

A LONG-TIME FRIEND WHO RECENTLY attended a gathering for King Abdullah II of Jordan mentioned that, in talking with the American-educated monarch, he had addressed him as “Your Highness.”

Chalk it up to a doggedly democratic world view, but I could only shake my head and give my friend a hard time; he defended himself by saying he was simply using an honorific, much as people address the president of the United States as “Mr. President.”

The difference, I argued, is that “Mr. President” is descriptive, while “Your Highness,” “Your Holiness,” or “Your Most Excellency” suggest a worshipful Old World deference that kings and religious leaders don’t deserve. I’m not wild about judges being called “Your Honor,” either. My friend did say he wouldn’t kiss the ring of the Pope.

The Mohawk chief Joseph Brant, who fought for the British against the American revolutionaries, is said to have refused to kiss the hand of King George III at his audience in 1785, telling the monarch: “I bow to no man for I am considered a prince among my own people. But I will gladly shake your hand.”

THE NATURAL TENSION BETWEEN CEO AND CFO was highlighted in an amusing Wall Street Journal article entitled “Sunny CEO, Gloomy CFO A Smart Mix.”

The Journal piece, by Justin Lahart, quoted several recent surveys in which American chief executive officers expressed optimism about the economic outlook and chief financial officers were, true to form, more cautious.

A Duke School of Business quarterly CFO survey had this gem, volunteered by a dour CFO skeptical of his boss’s upbeat prognosis: “CEO is a moron.”

ANN COULTER IS VERY HARD TO WATCH ON TV; what psychologists would call her affect is so jittery and edgy (just under her surface hostility) that she appears primed for a nervous breakdown. Or so it seems to me—or perhaps it is all an act to sell books and the “Ann Coulter” brand?

”THE WOOD” IS JARGON FOR A TABLOID FRONT PAGE HEADLINE; so far in 2007 the Boston Herald has featured some clever and arresting examples of these upper-case heds.

Take, for instance, the Herald’s sly main headline of February 19:


Followed by this kicker subhead: “Bridget’s pregnant and Tom’s Pals say he’ll do the right thing…he just won’t marry her.”

Or take the more recent headline (March 8th) about the ethical travails of Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick, a liberal Democrat:


And this subhead: “Deval begs ‘don’t give up on me’ as devotees weep in their lattes.”

In this case, the wood was promoting an amusing column by Margery Egan about Patrick’s disappointed so-called “moonbat” followers (for those who need the translation, a “moonbat” is an epithet for left-wing extremists.)

THE WORDS FOR THE WEEK COME FROM AUTHOR JESSAMYN WEST (a second cousin of Richard Nixon!): “It is very easy to forgive others their mistakes; it takes more grit and gumption to forgive them for having witnessed your own.”

Reprinted from Neither Red nor Blue

Copyright © 2007 Jefferson Flanders

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