As every school child knows, it was Sir Francis Bacon in 1597, writing in “Maxims of the Law,” who first propounded the timeless dictum, “verba ita sunt intelligenda ut res magis valeat quam pereat.”
Or, as the unschooled among us would have it: “When explaining a given subject, it is important to clarify rather than confuse.”
Bacon’s ancient adage for clear and commonsense usage is quoted in the full citation of this week’s Little Pulitzer Award for Belletrist Reporting, which honors John Myers for his splendid blog post, “Brown Interview: Pensive, Upbeat, More Latin.”
Beyond his tres drole headline, not to mention the characteristic resourcefulness with which he scored what appears to be the press corps’ only end-of-session one-on-one with Governor Gandalf, Myers furthered the interests of Krusty Classics Reference scholars everywhere, preserving for the historic record Brown’s latest Latin locution:
The 73-year-old chief executive summed up the hard work of politics via the Latin phrase Ad Astra per Aspera, which he said means, “To the stars through the thorns.” (In Kansas, apparently, they see Brown’s translation of “thorns” as the word “difficulty,” but the point is the same.)
It is to Myers’ further credit that he conscientiously took the time to check out Brown’s somewhat esoteric, if lilting, English translation. “Ad Astra per Aspera,” which is more commonly translated as “a rough road leads to the stars,” serves as the definitional motto for a host of organizations and institutions around the world, from the Duchy of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, the city of Embu-Guacu, Brazil and the South African Air Force to the Keila-Joa Boarding School in Turisalu, Estonia, California State University-East Bay and University High School in Fresno.
And of course you don’t need us to tell you it appeared on the right side shoulder patch in “Star Trek Enterprise,” was the battle cry of the Martian Imperial Commandos in Kurt Vonnegut’s “The Sirens of Titan,” and was uttered by Neil Patrick Harris in episode 18, season 4 of “Doogie Howser, M.D.”
As the boys in the Department of Timeless Learning and Phony Erudition are always saying, “Scientia Ipsa Potentia Est.”
Must read of the week: Jacob Weisberg over at Slate cuts through the endless fog of self-important fulmination, ersatz analysis and just plain silly speculation that have accounted for countless hours of cable babble and the wholesale slaughter of Lord knows how many trees since Tuesday’s Iowa caucuses with a no-nonsense declaration of what is undeniable to all with eyes to see: “Face It: Romney’s the Nominee.”
Yeah, we know that Newt is threatening to go all Lord Voldemort on Mittens (the only thing Gingrich is missing for the job is money); that Rick Perry had an epiphany while out for his morning jog about winning South Carolina (no word yet on whether any animals were harmed in the making of that fantasy); that Jon Huntsman is promising a big surprise in New Hampshire (one Mormon ex-governor with 32 Abercrombie catalog kids is plenty, thank you); that a handful of self-delusional evangelical Taliban types still harbor wing nut notions of getting together to push Rick Santorum across the finish line (wait until women voters discover he wants to allow states to outlaw birth control). And that goes for all the hot air being expended on crackpot scenarios about a “brokered convention,” too, a naïve and fevered notion that surfaces every four years and has produced such noted leaders of the free world as Presidents Dick Gephardt, Wesley Clark and Lamar Alexander:
We journalists are sorriest of all, because Romney coasting to victory is a weak story. Were the press any other industry, cynicism about its self-interest in promoting marginal challengers would prevail. Local television stations…count on election-year revenue bumps from political advertising in important primary states. If the nomination contest is effectively over by, say, the time of the Michigan primary on Feb. 28, valuable money will be left on the table.
But for reporters, rooting for the underdog, any underdog is really a matter of wanting a more dramatic story. The straight-laced front-runner winning Iowa and New Hampshire before securing the nomination early on does not count as a compelling narrative. Hence the media’s pretense of taking seriously a succession of nonviable candidates with outlandish views. Rick Santorum is not, under any circumstances, going to be the GOP nominee.
This confluence of motives amounts to an insider conspiracy to resist the obvious.
Calbuzz sez: Live with it.
Have you no shame? Jon Stewart’s takedown of CNN’s thoroughly embarrassing caucus night performance was uncharacteristically soft and incomplete, given the astonishing level of incompetence, unprofessionalism and self-indulgent sophomoric grabass on display from the “Best Political Team on Television.”
For those fortunate enough to have missed the CNN crew yuk-yukking it up late into the night for the benefit of their own amusement, Huffpost media man Jason Linkins’ much stronger mash-up indictment did the job first and better.
BTW, is there a more worthless talking head on cable than CNN new girl Erin Burnett, who distinguished herself Tuesday by cracking herself up with her own lameness in using one of the many over-the-top touch screen gee-gaws the network felt compelled to trot out for reasons that remain utterly mysterious?
Since her debut show a few months ago, when Burnett bravely defended the interests of the 1% by openly mocking Occupy protesters on camera, her show has remained cringe inducing. At its best, it rises to the level of derivative tedium, consistently lacking focus, intelligence and insight, not to mention original content. Memo to CNN suits: Give this airhead the hook, and let Soledad O’Brien have a shot in prime time.
Wake us when it’s over: Speaking of media bores, please spare us further coverage of Keith Olbermann’s latest adolescent tantrum, this time against the suits at Al Gore’s Current TV, who were foolish enough not only to give the witless windbag full sway over their news coverage, which is viewed by about 12 people, but also equity in the company.
Steadily working his way down the career ladder, Olbermann has become the Lindsay Lohan of the news business, acting out his obviously severe psychological problems in public one embarrassing spectacle after another as he heads inexorably for the loony bin, or worse.
ABC (Always Believe Calbuzz): Don’t look now, but Obama’s approval rating in the Real Clear Politics poll average has drawn even, 47-to-47, and his re-election chances at Intrade are now over 51%. Toldja.