Friday, December 1

Olbermann's Special Comment on Gingrich

"Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." -- commonly attributed to Benjamin Franklin

Thursday, November 30


Oh, please. George Will, if you're going to attack Senator-elect Jim Webb of being "a pompous poseur and an abuser of the English language," study the English language yourself.

Let's take on the easiest criticism first -- that of Webb's alleged imprecise use of the English language. Will says:

"The most important -- and unfortunately the least debated -- issue in politics today is our society's steady drift toward a class-based system, the likes of which we have not seen since the 19th century. America's top tier has grown infinitely richer and more removed over the past 25 years. It is not unfair to say that they are literally living in a different country."


In his novels and his political commentary, Webb has been a writer of genuine distinction, using language with care and precision. But just days after winning an election, he was turning out slapdash prose that would be rejected by a reasonably demanding high school teacher.

Never mind Webb's careless and absurd assertion that the nation's incessantly discussed wealth gap is "the least debated" issue in American politics.

And never mind his use of the word "literally," although even with private schools and a large share of the nation's wealth, the "top tier" -- whatever cohort he intends to denote by that phrase; he is suddenly too inflamed by social injustice to tarry over the task of defining his terms -- does not "literally" live in another country. defines the word "literally" thus:

1. in the literal or strict sense: What does the word mean literally?
2. in a literal manner; word for word: to translate literally.
3. actually; without exaggeration or inaccuracy: The city was literally destroyed.
4. in effect; in substance; very nearly; virtually.

I think it's clear that definition #4 fits Webb's context very neatly. Does anyone not actually a member of the "top-tier" (and I think it's reasonable to count George Will among that class) really doubt that the wealthiest and best-connected of American society inhabit, IN EFFECT, a very different America, with a privileged experience unlike that of the rest of us?

As to whether "our society's steady drift toward a class-based system, the likes of which we have not seen since the 19th century" is "the least debated -- issue in politics today," is a "careless and absurd" assertion, as Will characterizes it, where's the proof that it's not? It's an ASSERTION. Again, let's resort to the dictionary:

1. a positive statement or declaration, often without support or reason: a mere assertion; an unwarranted assertion.
2. an act of asserting.
[Origin: 1375–1425; late ME assercion < L assertiōn- (s. of assertiō). See assert, -ion]

—Related forms
as‧ser‧tion‧al, adjective

—Synonyms 1. claim, contention, allegation.

Now let's take Will's third charge of misuse of language.

But notice, in the second sentence of Webb's column, the word "infinitely." Earth to Webb: Words have meanings that not even senators can alter.

As notes:

Main Entry: greatly
Part of Speech: adverb
Definition: considerably
Synonyms: abundantly, by much, conspicuously, eminently, emphatically, enormously, exceedingly, exceptionally, extremely, famously, glaringly, highly, hugely, immeasurably, immensely, incalculably, incomparably, incredibly, indeed, infinitely, inimitably, intensely, largely, markedly, mightily, most, much, notably, powerfully, remarkably, strikingly, superlatively, supremely, surpassingly, tremendously, vastly, very, very much
Antonyms: not at all, slightly

That takes care of the "imprecise language" charge, I think.

Now let's take a look at Webb's "absurd assertion": "America's top tier has grown infinitely richer and more removed over the past 25 years."

The Economist appears to give some support to Webb's allegation. Note this chart:

Jim Webb appears to best George Will on all counts, no?

Now finally, a word about the "incivility" of Webb's encounter with the pResident.

Wednesday's Post reported that at a White House reception for newly elected members of Congress, Webb "tried to avoid President Bush," refusing to pass through the reception line or have his picture taken with the president. When Bush asked Webb, whose son is a Marine in Iraq, "How's your boy?" Webb replied, "I'd like to get them [sic] out of Iraq." When the president again asked "How's your boy?" Webb replied, "That's between me and my boy." Webb told The Post:

"I'm not particularly interested in having a picture of me and George W. Bush on my wall. No offense to the institution of the presidency, and I'm certainly looking forward to working with him and his administration. [But] leaders do some symbolic things to try to convey who they are and what the message is."

Webb certainly has conveyed what he is: a boor. Never mind the patent disrespect for the presidency. Webb's more gross offense was calculated rudeness toward another human being -- one who, disregarding many hard things Webb had said about him during the campaign, asked a civil and caring question, as one parent to another.

What, precisely, has George W. Bush done to earn the respect of Jim Webb? Be president? Shades of the imperial presidency! Holy smoke, Webb didn't flip the man off, he merely declined to have his picture taken with him and reserved the right to discuss his son, a Marine serving in Iraq, with someone he believes honestly has that son's welfare at heart. I'm impressed with Webb, who refused to pose for a photo op with the pResident and thereby avoided any possibility that such a photo could be used to imply any endorsement of his foreign policy.

As for Bush "ask[ing] a civil and caring question, as one parent to another," as Will characterizes it -- if I were a parent whose child was placed in extreme danger by the decisions of another parent, ESPECIALLY one whose own offspring were at the same time partying in Argentina in celebration of their 25th birthdays, and asked by that parent, "How's your son?" I think I would be hard put not to spit in his face, or at least ask, "Want to compare our kids' relative sacrifices?" I think Webb was restrained in his reaction. "Caring," George? I think the Senator-elect has concluded, as have the majority of Americans, that Dubya cares more about himself and his so-called "legacy" than he does about the tens of thousands of American sons and daughters who have been killed or maimed in the pResident's ill-fated adventure in Iraq.

Man, I love this guy! Webb rocks.

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Tuesday, November 28


You know, when I was in my twenties -- married, an active church member, part-time music teacher and free-lance writer, starting a family with a husband who had a good, high-paying job and was taking Greek so he could read the New Testament in the original -- I'd often think that people like us, former hippies and Vietnam War-protesters now assuming responsible positions in society, would be the generation that changed American politics. We'd champion peace instead of war, we'd enact a rational drug policy, we'd explore spirituality in place of organized religion, we'd favor a more equitable distribution of wealth where labor was valued as well as management, we'd make environmentalism a priority and diminish the power of the gun lobby. Just as we and our fellows made child-bearing and -raising the center of our lives, I expected that we'd make education, including the serious study of philosophy and the arts, a primary focus. After all our college-era (and after) bull sessions in which all these things were espoused to almost unanimous acceptance, I believed that once the older generations died or phased out and we were the generation of power, this would be the result. What else were our musicians singing and speaking about all those years in the sixties and seventies?

It hasn't happened. Yet I found this story about John Hall (of Orleans fame), the first professional musician to be elected to the House, to be strangely comforting. If you're like me, you'll think it's nice to know that someone else didn't change priorities between youth and maturity.


Sunday, November 26


Veteran intelligence operative Ray McGovern paints a disturbing picture of Defense Secretary-designate Gates. Uh-oh. He turns out to be just another George Tenet. No, correct that. He was the precursor to Tenet. Not exactly what we need now, or have ever needed. When is the CIA going to revert to its original purpose, to give the president of the United States the unvarnished truth? Obviously, not under any Republican administration.

For if there is one distinctive hallmark of Eagle Scout Gates’ career, it is that he has always earned what might now be called the “Colin Powell Loyalty Patch”—loyalty to the next person up, whatever the content of their character.
Those of us who had front-row seat to watch Gates’ handling of substantive intelligence cannot overlook the manner in which he cooked it to the recipe of whomever he reported to. A protégé of William Casey, President Ronald Reagan’s CIA Director, Gates learned well from his mentor. In 1995, Gates told the Washington Post’s Walter Pincus that he watched Casey on “issue after issue sit in meetings and present intelligence framed in terms of the policy he wanted pursued.” Gates followed suit, cooking the analysis to justify policies favored by Casey and the White House.

The cooking was consequential. Among other things, it facilitated not only illegal capers like Iran-Contra but also budget-breaking military spending against an exaggerated Soviet threat that, in reality, had long since passed its peak.

I was amused to read in David Ignatius’ Washington Post column this week that Gates “was the brightest Soviet analyst in the [CIA] shop, so Casey soon appointed him deputy director overseeing his fellow analysts.” He wasn’t; and Casey had something other than expertise in mind. Talk to anyone who was there at the time (except the sycophants Gates co-opted) and they will explain that Gates’ meteoric career had mostly to do with his uncanny ability to see a Russian under every rock turned over by Casey. Those of Gates’ subordinates willing to see two Russians became branch chiefs; three won you a division. I exaggerate only a little.

To Casey, the Communists could never change; and Gorbachev was simply cleverer than his predecessors. With his earlier training in our Soviet Foreign Policy branch (and a doctorate in Soviet affairs no less), Gates knew better. Yet he carried Casey’s water, and stifled all dissent. One consequence was that the CIA as an institution missed the implosion of the Soviet Union—no small matter. Another was a complete loss of confidence in CIA analysis on the part of then-Secretary of State George Shultz and others who smelled the cooking. In July 1987 in the wake of the Iran-Contra affair, Shultz told Congress: “I had come to have grave doubts about the objectivity and reliability of some of the intelligence I was getting.”



It's been noticed that I've been neglecting the blog lately. Everything's okay, it's just been intense for ol' Motherlode the past couple of weeks. At work I've been consumed with deadlines and back-to-back meetings, throwing a baby shower for my secretary, and onboarding a new boss. At home it's been clean, cook and clean up again for a nephew's visit, Thanksgiving and my 23-year-old daughter's baby shower.

This was a particularly enjoyable Thanksgiving since The Sage decided he wanted to help cook Thanksgiving dinner this year. It was fun working side-by-side, and since he's a wonderfully inventive cook we've never had such fabulous mashed potatoes (his secret: neufchatel) and cranberry mousse. The kiddos couldn't believe dinner was ready before noon (it's usually close to 2 pm before it goes on the table). The rest of the menu? Two turkeys and three kinds of dressing, giblet gravy, ham and red-eye gravy, sweet corn pudding and rice and mushrooms (made by our middle daughter), asparagus with parmesan crust, sweet potato casserole, deviled eggs, green bean casserole, Mediterranean tomatoes, and for dessert, chocolate mousse and various pies, pralines and macaroons (the latter made by Grandmom). In addition to our original clan of mom, dad and five kiddos, we had Grandmom, the son-in-law and grandson, and the other two girls' boyfriends. We avoided the subject of politics at the table and just relived old memories of fun times.

I'm anticipating several more weeks of light posting as we look forward to the birth of our new granddaughter and prepare for the holidays, so let me just wish you all now a very merry Christmas, happy Hannukah and new year from our family. God bless.