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Henry: Making Sense of Spokesweenies and the Value of Precedent

Mike Henry
Mike Henry

Yesterday I heard a spokesweenie for an executive branch agency announce with pride and conviction that the agency was implementing an “unprecedented” plan to combat something bad. An hour later a legislative spokesblowhard described proposed legislation as “unprecedented.” I’m sure it’s just me, but wouldn’t we want to do something that’s been tried before and worked instead of blazing new trails into parts unknown?

History has shown us that new initiatives, though unprecedented, don’t always work out so well, to-wit:

El Escorial near Madrid, Spain. 1588. SpokesMuchacho Hernando da Silva announced yesterday that King Phillip II, using unprecedented storm predictive technology, has given the thumbs up to his Armada fleet to regroup in the North Atlantic to continue the assault on his Godless sister-in-law Queen Elizabeth’s British fleet…

Waterloo, Belgium. 1815. SpokeSommelier Yves Saint Mauritius revealed earlier today Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte has begun an unprecedented pre-emptive strike against British General Wellington’s forces massed atop Mount-Saint-Jean Escarpment…

Little Big Horn, Montana. 1876. In a riverbank press conference this morning, SpokeSoldier Elbert Longknives reported that General George Custer will use the unprecedented strategy of “circling the wagons” to defeat the Lakota, Cheyenne, and Arapaho warriors in what is expected by Custer to be a turning point in the Great Sioux War. Longknives added that General Custer described Chief Crazy Horse’s predictable opposition to the unprecedented plan of attack as “just crazy.”

Berlin. 1944. National Socialist Supreme Leader Adolf Hitler’s SpokesGlockenspielGotterDammerUng, Hans Gruber, commented on press inquiries concerning der Fuehrer’s unprecedented decision to concentrate Nazi defense forces at Calais in anticipation of the Allied invasion across the English Channel…

Reykjavic, Iceland. 2010. SpokesDrunkard Astrikur Mjollnir pooh-poohed private sector predictions that the Eyjafjallajokull Volcano would soon erupt and cause major interruptions in transatlantic flights. “I am announcing today two unprecedented actions by the ruling party. First, government scientists will be totally transparent in revealing the data underlying our unprecedented conclusion that Eyjafjallajokull is currently quiescent and will remain so. Second, your Icelandic governing party will start an unprecedented drive to eliminate excess L’s, J’s, and K’s from our nation’s language…”

In contrast, the United States Supreme Court, considered by our Founding Fathers to be the “least powerful” branch of government, renders important decisions that are “precedented,” i.e., based on previous case law. At least that’s what they claim. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m all in favor of trying new things. The other night, I was trying to talk my wife into…uh, never mind. I’ll fill you in on that some other time, when we’re alone.

Michael Henry is a writer in Oxford. A graduate of Tulane and Virginia Law School, Henry published his seventh novel, Finding Ishmael, in April 2014.

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