Too Clever

A scorpion and a frog meet on the bank of a stream.
The scorpion asks the frog to carry him across the stream.
The frog asks, “How do I know you won’t sting me?”
The scorpion says, “Because if I do, I will die too.”

The frog is satisfied, and they set out.
But in midstream, the scorpion stings the frog.
The frog feels the onset of paralysis and starts to sink;
He knows that they are both about to drown,
but has just enough time to gasp “Why?”


Replies the scorpion: “It is my nature...”

— From Aesop’s Fables

There are a pair of unbelievable English words that  mean the same thing.   It’s just incredible, but — acting interchangeably and as the same word — I posit that they are probably the most often incorrectly used words in American English.

These two most incorrectly used words are “unbelievable” and “incredible.”  These words mean, literally, “not to be believed.”  If someone says that their child is “an incredible child”, I feel like asking: “So, did they speak 12 foreign languages and win a Nobel Prize by age 6?  Did they successfully command the sun to rise in the west today?”

My 1975 Websters has no entry whatsoever, not even under the “un-” listings with a “believable” listed in a lengthy table of verbs and adjectives that follow.  My 1947 Funk & Wagnalls does list “unbelievable”, but only as the opposite of believable; which means that it is unacceptable as truth.  Finally, in my 2001 Random House Unabridged dictionary, “unbelievable” makes its own full appearance: too dubious or improbable to  be believed.  And a second definition, which now seems to be the hyperbolic and generally accepted definition appears as well: So remarkable as to strain credulity.  In other words: at the very limit, and perhaps a bit beyond, of what one could believe.

I live in Boulder county, in Colorado, where “The One’s” name is still spoken in solemn, reverent tones. One suspects it is likewise in many other communities … as it is with various of my friends and family, who yet devoutly remain — current revelations notwithstanding — fervent that “He” (who promised the most honest and transparent administration ever [1]) can do no wrong.

For them it is truly unbelievable that three — count ’em three — crises of ethics have hit “The One’s” administration lately.  For those of you buried under rocks and moon-eyed over “The One”:

  • Bengazi: Sworn testimony reveals that the administration knew from the very first moments that: 1) it was, in fact a coordinated terrorist attack on the US consulate; 2)the administration’s state department had been warned for months that there was insufficient security for the Libyan diplomatic team; and 3) The administration had the military and CIA “stand down” while the attacks were underway.The administration hid these facts, carefully crafting statements that would protect the president and his administration as the November elections approached.  Employees were threatened and demoted for challenging this apparently unethical approach.
  • IRS-gate.  The IRS, an armed branch  [2] of the administration’s treasury department, intentionally and specifically single out organizations with viewpoints that are probably contrary to the administration’s ideology.  These organizations were subject to intense and exceptional scrutiny and delays. This occurred for up to two years.
  • Justice department essentially spied on the AP (Associated Press) to get electronic communication information. In a hugely rare political gesture, this was defended by Republican Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell.  And maybe that’s why this is the one that could hang over the One’s administration.  The MSM distrusts Republicans, especially McConnell.  The Left Wing radio shows love to accentuate the *CON* in his name as he is con-man, as are all Republi-CONs.

The media spinners are spinning credible stories about how Republicans are to blame for Bengazi (budget cuts) and for the disaster that followed (carefully releasing their own versions of communications).  It is, after all, all politics.  All that notwithstanding, the administration will skate relatively free on this one.  Yes, four people died and there was a very non-transparent cover up.  But in the end, it will be deemed a mistake, incompetence, trying to do too much.

And the spinners are craftily spinning away on the IRS issue too.  This too definitely happened, and IRS officials definitely either lied or were (almost) unbelievably corrupt <grin>.  Still this is too far down from “the One” to pin on him — although the top does set the tone.  As the same spinners used to enjoy saying when Reagan was in the White House: The fish stinks from the head down.

It is the spying on the AP thing that might be the cross the administration has to bear for three more years.  This country loves its 1st Amendment Rights, so much so that we allow people to burn the flag, fly Mexican flags above the Stars ‘n’ Stripes, and call corporations people.  We love freedom of the press.  In Reno v ACLU, the Supreme court ruled that the internet effectively gives us unlimited freedom of speech; and since anyone can publish on-line (like this post), by extension there is almost unlimited freedom of the press.

It will be interesting to see how the press, especially the AP and the Washington Post which has the legacy of Woodward and Bernstein to uphold, carries this out.  In what could spawn an awkward partnership, there is evidence that the Administration may have used the power of government to spy on Fox reporter James Rosen.

Of course the Obama administration — like the Scorpion — turned out to not be the squeaky clean nice guys we wanted to believe.  D’oh. He’s a politician.  And he’s a product of the Chicago political machine. It is, rather, very believable that he has an enemies list, uses the levers of power to his political benefit and to torment his enemies, tries to control the press, is furtive and choreographs cover ups of negative events. It’s very credible that he’d funnel billions of dollars in pro-green projects to political supporters who bundle millions of dollars in campaign support, and make high level presidential appointment to extremely wealthy insiders. Big deal.  What did you expect?

Unconsciously, when reading a written piece or listening to someone speak, I critically count up things like the use of “incredible” and “unbelievable.”  I leniently permit a single use of the word — you are permitted to strain my credulity, but only once.

Here is my once.  Don’t you find it incredible and unbelievable that Republican leader Mitch McConnell publicly defended the president’s eagerness to find out how the AP gets its information?  Given this political manna, I’m sure the Republicans will find a way to screw it up, and The Teflon One will wiggle away.  Now, that’s believable.



Joe Girard (c) 2013



2 thoughts on “Too Clever”

  1. Steve Rolfe

    I have a different point of view on these issues. All three are mountains made out of molehills. One only needs to compare these situations with others from previous administrations to see how lowly these transgressions really are. It is a testament that the Obama adiministratoin has had so few and so small transgressions that these are seeing so much attention.

    Benghazi – There is no cover up. Mistatements were made. They were corrected within days. That there was insufficient security is clear.

    IRS – A backwater office overloaded attempts to do the right thing, but errors in judgment. Clearly anything with “TEA Party” in its name is not tax exempt. The scandal is that any of them were approved. Remember when someone gets an exemption that means the rest of us pay more than our fair share of taxes.

    AP – The loudest screamers about this are those that fully supported the Patriot Act. Someone leaked exceptionally secret and important information about terrorists. That person’s action was arguably treasonous and certainly illegal. Justice’s actions are legal and should be legal. We should not confuse attempts of the government to withold information that should be available with attempts to withold information that must be secret. The AP got what it deserved. It demeaned its crediblity by publishing information that

    Summary – There is a famous dictum, “One should not attribute to conspiracy what incompetence explains.” No organization is perfect. We should all learn from these situations and hope each of the organizations does better in the future. None of them rise to a systemic nature. In fact, none of the situations was known to anyone in the Whitehouse at the time they occured and none were directed by the Whitehouse. All of them are receiving the kind of “sunshine” and criticism that will assure these things are not repeated. Democracty requires a sense of decorum and respect by all sides to be effective. When that breaks down, as it has, then democracy is in danger.

    1. Joe Post Author

      Well said Steve. And I agree that anything that is political like Tea Party corporations should not have tax exempt status. For that matter, neither should Media Matters, the ACLU, ….

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