Mukasey, Orwell, and Bradbury

Keith Olbermann notes, with great dismay, that Michael Mukasey chose to hang a portrait of George Orwell in his office (the other portrait is Chief Justice Robert Jackson, which makes me quite happy).

This would be the original Reuters story. The operative part would seem to be the AG’s insistence that he esteems Eric Blair, AKA Orwell, for the clarity, not the subject, of his writing.

I’m still not sure I haven’t gotten a very specific "Your Worst Fear Suddenly Materializes In Real Life As A Matter-Of-Fact Wire Story" moment going on here. Or maybe it’s some sort of "You’ve Been A Good Boy: Here Is Six Weeks Worth Of Jokes, No Lifting Involved" thing.

For the record, I’m willing to take Mukasey at his word–that he esteems Orwell for the clarity of his prose and, just as importantly, for his understanding of the way politics demeans language.

In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of the political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism., question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Defenseless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements. Such phraseology is needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them.

I also fancy, with absolutely no basis, that Mukasey might also value the Orwell of Homage to Catalonia, in which Orwell described his experience fighting fascism in Spain. The book is a narrative of how an idealistic fight founders on the real ugliness of ideological struggle and war, how even individuals fighting a just war with good intentions will fall victim to the human failings of their allies.

I take some comfort in the notion that this Attorney General, presiding over the last year of the corrupted expression of purportedly idealist neoconservatism that is the Bush Administration, might recognize that politics corrupts language and ideological purity always cedes to corruption.

But then, I don’t know how to square that understanding with the way that Mukasey answered a question I recently asked, whether or not he supports the re-nomination of Stephen Bradbury (via Marty Lederman).

He can also expect to be questioned in the hearing about the White House’s renomination this week of Steven G. Bradbury to run the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel as an assistant attorney general.

The new nomination was seen as a snub to Senate Democrats who had called for the White House to find another candidate for the job after the disclosure in October that Mr. Bradbury, who is running the office without Senate confirmation, had written classified legal memorandums in 2005 that authorized the use of interrogation methods that human rights groups define as torture.

“Steve Bradbury is one of the finest lawyers I’ve ever met,” Mr. Mukasey said when asked if he supported the White House move. “I want to continue working with him.”

I mean, on its face, this is quite plain. Mukasey has no problem with the tactical or ideological implications of Bradbury’s renomination, he’s happy to work with Bradbury even while he promised to review the OLC opinions Bradbury wrote justifying torture. And, as Lederman suggested to me via email, perhaps Bradbury helped Mukasey during the nomination process.

But I’m struck that this self-declared fan of the clarity of Orwell’s prose didn’t answer the question. Do you support the White House’s nomination of Stephen Bradbury, he was asked. Rather than saying "yes" or "no," Mukasey instead asserted that "Bradbury is one of the finest lawyers I’ve ever met." Only marginally more clear than Mukasey’s response to the question, "Is waterboarding torture?"

Mukasey apparently assigned the DOJ speechwriter to read Orwell’s essay. I’d suggest to the Senate Judiciary Democrats that, if Mukasey still sounds like he hasn’t reviewed his own favorite essay when he comes before them this week, they ought to remind him.

122 replies
  1. CasualObserver says:

    “…politics demeans language…”

    “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques”

    I don’t know if this is an example of demeaning language. I guess I don’t view it that way. To be effective, language must be plastic, mutable, like clay, so that it can be moulded and shaped as desired. So I’d propose that language coming out of this administration isn’t demeaned, but rather simply is an accurate reflection of the thinking and intentions of those who issue the language. They are market-tested, focus-grouped, cut-and-polished, lies.

    • TheraP says:

      Boy, I take issue with this point:

      To be effective, language must be plastic, mutable, like clay, so that it can be moulded and shaped as desired.

      “To be effective”…. to what end? A great deal of manipulation is predicated upon slippery language.

      What is this effectiveness you’re talking about? Language is a tool. Speech is a tool. Thinking is a tool. “Effectiveness” is in the eye of the beholder.

      Tell me you aims, your ethics, your values. Let me see your thinking, your behavior. Use the tools available to build your case, whatever you case may be. But please use language and thinking that are clear, not muddy, and let’s keep discourse, if possible, in a realm where we can work toward understanding one another, not hoodwinking each other.

      Wish I had more time to elaborate at the moment. But I leave this issue in the capable hands of many who frequent this blog.

      • CasualObserver says:

        Boy, I take issue with this point:

        Let me try to express it another way. I was trying to say that I don’t view WH double-speak (”clear-skies”) as demeaning english as a written or spoken language. Rather, I see their language as an accurate reflection of the content, character, and intentions of the administration.

        • TheraP says:

          language as an accurate reflection of the content, character, and intentions

          Not sure I saw that concept at all in your first comment. Nevertheless, I have selected that phrase you used, which I think I can mostly agree with. (see my analysis and amendment below)

          I have selected just that phrase, because it can be applied across settings and people. And it suggests, and I would agree, that one can assess the character and intentions of someone by taking a look at how they speak. Actions would be the “content” – IMHO – and they too reflect a person’s character and intentions. Or you could think of “speech” as another kind of action, in which case you’ve subsumed both into the same category… and then you use that to assess character and intentions.

          It is upon this basis, I believe, that we judge a candidate or an office holder or anyone at all.

          Words matter, as I’ve said before. They matter a great deal.

          Not to rule out other things that matter, such as images, behavior, etc.

          @ 11: watercarrier4diogenes, thanks for the link

          • CasualObserver says:

            Not sure I saw that concept at all in your first comment.

            I guess I’m viewing ’speech’ or ‘language’ here very dispassionately. I’m arguing (and agreeing with you) that speech is a tool, used for transmitting information. That first post was reacting to EW’s use of the word ‘demeaning’. I don’t think language can be ‘demeaned’, any more than can, say, gravity can be. Language and speech–per se–is not good, or bad. It simply is.

      • watercarrier4diogenes says:

        Somewhat OT, but a response to your comment in a thread yesterday about a brain chip. Took a while to find this as the author co-wrote it under a synonym for reasons unknown.

        INTERFACE by Stephen Bury (Neal Stephenson)

        Written in 1994, but when I first encountered it, the 2004 election cycle was in full swing. Chilling parallels throughout.

      • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

        IIRC correctly, Eric Blair (aka, George Orwell) illuminated how the English language allows verbs (action words) to be… ‘disempowered’, become ‘deactivated’ as they are altered into nouns (subject words).

        This has some very serious cognitive implications, and if I had a magic wand, I’d grant Mukasey more time with reading researchers, neurologists, and child development researchers. Since that’s not possible, I’ll have to content myself with commenting on a blog…

        Reminder — nominalizations work like this:
        Considerations of Mukasey’s views on Orwell were analyzed in a discussion on a thread at EW’s today.

        (In other words, when a verb is shifted into it’s noun form, we say it has been ‘nominalized’):
        consider –> consideration
        analyze –> analysis
        discuss –> discussion

        What Orwell intuitively grasped, but lacked the research evidence to drive home was actually a point that neurology and reading research may help explain — it is ‘cognitively onerous’ for most brains to recognize, interpret, process, and synthesize text that contains a lot of nominalizations. If Orwell were writing today, when fMRI machines can take photos of a brain caught in the act of reading, he might have some good, photographic evidence to support his claims.

        It’s hard for the brain to process nominalizations because they’re abstract, and they seem inert. They make the brain fall into ’snooze mode’. (And if I were a John Woo, or participating in a system of amoral behavior, I sure wouldn’t want anyone to wake up and pay attention, so as Orwell noted, heavily nominalized text is quite useful for masking power.)

        To elucidate the issue of the ’snoozy brain’: draw me a picture of what ‘considerations’ look like … are they square? round? purple?
        Although your brain may conjure up the spectre of someone with a furrowed brow, that image is NOT a ‘consideration’. You literally cannot draw what a ‘consideration’ looks like, so the brain continues in its snooze.
        Try to sketch ‘discussion’, or ‘analyzed’.
        More brain snooziness…
        Although we can draw people discussing, or analzying — we cannot draw ‘a discussion’, nor can we draw ‘an analzyed’.

        When the brain is in ’snooze mode’ the eyes glide over the mess of nominalizations, a bit like this: ‘yadda, yadda, Mukasey, yadda, Orwell, yadda, yadda, yadda…. today.’ Yawwwwn… (think I’ll go change the oil in the car…)…

        In contrast, denominalized, the sentence might look like this:
        Mukasey’s views on Orwell were discussed, considered, and analyzed on a thread at EW’s today.

        Okay, stuff is happening! The parts of the brain that involve motion, activity, wake up just a tiny bit — as if it shifts into something closer to this: ‘oh? they’re discussing? they’re analyzing? what’s happening? I wanna know; I’m curious! I’m gonna wake up and pay attention!’

        I’ve no idea what Mukasey’s interest in Orwell stems from, nor what it means.
        But if he veered off and read some recent reading research, or some of the implications of neurology for how people process information, he’d implement writing courses at DoJ.

        Law is made of words.
        When those words are nominalized, or when a high portion of them are terms that are extremely ambiguous, it’s a reasonable bet that people do criminal, stupid things because they literally don’t understand the linkages between cause and effect. They’re unanchored.

        I am not excusing John Woo, nor Addington, nor any of those wretches for one instant.
        But I would strongly that they are part of a very dysfunctional system that has some grim, if intriguing, implications for a cluster of topics that cohere around ethics, legal writing, neurology, and reading research.

        EW, and other commenters, thanks for once again indulging my too-long, too detailed comments. You all deserve to be canonized for your saintly patience.

          • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

            Sigh… that part where I thanked you for ’saintly patience’…?

            Will have to ponder JohnLopresti’s comment further before making comments.

        • masaccio says:

          That is really interesting. Years ago, my law partner and I decided that we would never use adjectives or adverbs in our briefs. Instead, we focus on finding the right verb, active voice, and tuned to the points we are making. Later, we stopped using “nominalized” words, not knowing that term, because they seemed weak and didn’t work with our verbs. We try to use the brief to convey the technical points of law and use oral argument to convey the emotional aspects of the case. This keeps our technical writing short, and, we think, it holds interest for the reader.

          • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

            Massacio, I sure don’t want to hijack this thread, but believe that it is very much on topic to respond to a couple of points you make…

            First, I don’t have the luxury of access to an fMRI machine, nor do I have the luxury of doing research; but I’m finally starting to get damn envious of those who do ;-))
            Consequently, I don’t have the luxury of confirming the evidence of what I might conject in what follows… (You have now been warned.)

            I’ve a hunch that you win most of your legal cases, and I’d guess that simply from what you write about your use of VERBS.

            Your astuteness in focusing on VERBS (action words), drives other thought processes, and forces your brain to FOCUS on key issues, related topics., and causal linkages. In other words, using VERBS probably helps you ‘think more efficiently, think more productively’.

            The research now supports pretty broadly different TYPES of cogntive processes: different parts of our brains process linguistic information (those of us who read and speak English do this roughly within an inch of our left ear), and imagery is processed in a different … ’subnetwork’. The questions then revolve around where in your brain the info gets processed, and how efficiently you process that info.

            To simplify atrociously, but make things more manageable:
            Think of your ’snoozy brain’ reading nominalizations. Think of a dim, slightly pulsing set of neurons somewhere near your left ear, running up into your forehead, then down to the middle of your brain (the emotional region). The brain’s just not very active, and also — at least equally important — not very much of your brain is active.
            Snoozy even in the ‘linguistic’ regions.
            When you are done reading, you probably don’t have a very clear recollection of what you read -it’s just not all that important. It’s just not… memorable BECAUSE you didn’t really process it all that much in the first place…

            This is getting really long, so I’m going to break for a new comment –
            With a quick, sheepish, blushing apology.

            But I truly believe that what EW is saying in her post — about the linkages between reading and writing and THINKING — are critically important, so I hope my attempts to elaborate may be tolerated… 8-0

            • masaccio says:

              The great thing about this site is that we don’t have to apologize for having long, complicated thoughts. Those not interested don’t have to read them, and the rest of us can learn.

              The odd part for me (see my 22), is that I still use adverbs and adjectives and weak verbs and nouns in ordinary speech, and in first drafts, 20 years into the project. I try to prune them out of comments and they show up anyway. There must be something comforting about that easy flow of drivel.

              • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

                Actually, from what I’ve seen of the reading (and writing) processes, that’s the smartest thing that you could possibly do.

                Think of it like this: when Picasso started a painting, he didn’t just start with the ballerina, or the bull. He had to daub a bit, mix up the colors, play with shape and form.

                You’re smart to just start off, and then prune later.
                Too many people think they have to get it right straight from the start, but that is self defeating. It’s the PROCESS and the persistence that are critical, from all that I’ve been able to glean.

                Yes, EW is enormously tolerant…
                I’ve sometimes wondered whether we’re her little research project…?
                But complex ideas take a bit of writing to ferret out, don’t they.

                My thoughts would be better for some editing, but… what the heck….

                • masaccio says:

                  I don’t have any data either, but this feels right. I see it as the result of years of effort, going way back, all the way to high school, and Brother Donald Burkhart:

                  The most beautiful sentence in the English language: “The snow was piled on the fencepost.”

        • TheraP says:

          Wonderful comments. I draw the same distinctions you’ve drawn, but think of them as “action language” (which promotes a sense of agency, responsibility for actions) versus “jargon” which can obfuscate and make a person “appear” to be saying something while really… as you say, putting us to sleep. (alternatively they appear to know whereof they speak… but the jargon makes it clear they can mouth words… but are stringing meaningless phrases together… and really don’t have a handle on the topics they’re addressing)

          I read and reread Animal Farm as a child and I think it seeped into my sense of right and wrong. Along with so much else of course.

          While I read EW’s comment (prior thread) about Hillary’s campaign thus far being “brilliant,” for myself I find the attacks and counterattacks – and the language distortion involved in them – to be disturbing in a way that I can’t completely explain. Maybe the Rorschach (this is the correct spelling!) comment is due to things like this. Some find them brilliant. And others are put off in the same way they feel put off by Rovian tactics. And it’s got something to do with language and being confused by the twists and turns… at times attacking… later distorting an attack.

          Yes, there is much to learn from neuroscience, from unconscious factors, from linguists and philosophers of language. This is very complicated.

          But we all know clarity when we read it and hear it. And we all can recognize propaganda, obfuscation, manipulation … even if we can’t always pinpoint what is disturbing in the language.

          The wisest people I have ever met communicate very simply.. and in simply words can say a great deal.

          At the same time there are manipulative people, bent on gaining an edge through confusion or domination. I honestly haven’t thought these things through much until this very thread. But I am convinced that what we are discussing right now, the conversation that EW started on this thread, is very, very important. Crucial, I think, to getting back to the Rule of Law versus the “rule of rove” – or whatever term we come up with that encapsulates both law-breaking and language-distortion for the purpose of gaining subtle control over voting behavior (whether of citizens or legislators) as well as legal judgments. There is something so dangerous and insidious that we are attempting to understand and counteract.

          • earlofhuntingdon says:

            “Rule of Rove” is a good name that highlights the junction among Orwell, the abuse of language he observed being practiced by most governments, including his own, and the office of the chief law enforcement officer of the United States.

            Orwell observed that governments abuse language in order to obscure their actions and avoid consequences for them. That’s not just a feature of the Cheney/Bush presidency, it’s a defining characteristic, particularly as it applies to the Department of Justice.

            That puts Mukasey on the hot seat for prominently displaying Orwell’s image next to Justice Jackson’s. The juxtaposition promises reform; it may also be a smarmy in-joke among neo-cons. Mukasey may imagine himself able to resuscitate the DOJ’s law enforcement role, and he may be working hard to clean up its staffing, procedures and prosecutorial choices. But what we see from the outside continues to be newspeak about waterboarding, FOIA, FISA, Congressional inquiries generally, and the purported power of the president to ignore whatever laws irritate him most.

          • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

            Wholeheartedly concur that this is a very important topic… didn’t mean to spend my day here, but yikies… this thread hits on something that really needs much more discussion.

        • phred says:

          Thanks for that wonderful explanation of nominalization and denominalization. After all these years, I now know why scientific journal articles are such snooze-fests. One must keep a handy supply of chocolate and coffee at all times in my line of work ; )

          • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

            Well.. good academic journals aren’t snooze fests.
            If you want good science writing, try Rachel Carson or Matt Ridley. Or Natalie Angier (at NYT).
            They’ll make you see it all in your imagination, easily!

            • phred says:

              I wasn’t referring to science writers. I was referring to peer-reviewed research articles written by scientists. Perhaps journals in your field have editors (for language and style), they don’t tend to in mine. So the writing can be pretty painful, it all depends on the author. Some are great writers. Others are just awful — they do good work, just write about it poorly. It’s all a bit of a pig in a poke.

              By the way, just caught up on the whole thread and I do doff my cap to you for such an excellent discussion of language and brain response. I suddenly find myself with an urge to go sign up for a writing class ; ) I imagine the rest of you would appreciate it, if I did…

        • bigbrother says:

          To cover the intended criminal or immoral action nomimalization language is used to speak at the mass media podiums. NPR is an example as part of the “liberal media” as Fox is defined by some neocon fundies.
          Hence criminals can be approved by the elctorate when described in nominal terms. The Axis of Evil and like terms, the color coding of security alerts to distract from negative press are some propaganda tools.
          A tipping point in nominal language is reached when heinous crimes like Abu Grad and Gitmo raw torture is exposed.
          Mukasey cannot define the administrations behavior as torture, after all CIA head George Tenet went on MSM prime time and said passioantely ‘we do not torture’…in the same speech he justified it by saying how horrible the enemy was…personalized it by pointing out his friend was killed in the twin towers.
          I think nominalisation language is common in our institutions. The spanking that hurt the deliverer more than the recipient…is a kind of sickness in thought that was exposed in the 60’s as corporal punishment.
          Bushco has elevated the art form with a lot of help. It is mind boggling to hear a decent sort defending this war, torture etc. based on patriotism ei. the flag lapel is a must for politicos.
          The manipulation of honest dialogue or intent is at the core…the end justifies the means.
          Law is made of words.

          When those words are nominalized, or when a high portion of them are terms that are extremely ambiguous, it’s a reasonable bet that people do criminal, stupid things because they literally don’t understand the linkages between cause and effect. They’re unanchored.

          The underlying code of humanitarian behavior…fairness, empathy and the eclectic host of socializing morals/ethics would warm you that something is rotten in Denmark.
          It does mask the bad thought or behavior is a way that pictures of torture will exposes. To expose the intent of the obfuscator is not enough…the immoral are only influenced by pain. To say Ken Lay who was a role model for business sucess did not know his actions were criminal was denial much like an addict who does not want to stop as the rewards are to great. For those folks who are also can deal withstand pain..stronger behavioral discipline is required. Our universal educational system attempts to educate the middle class but 6 billion people is a real challenge. Lot of work.
          In the new corporate slavery model they do a nice job of nominalizing the language to create a whole culture called the “corporate culture” where skills in lying, obfuscating, deception, risk taking are highly valued “management” skills.
          One example is the creative financial instrument like derivitives (CDO)and many more new financial tools that allow for books to be cooked. ANother is the bubble econ. The nominalization language is translated into numbers. We are now at warp speed in nominal languages.
          Good post and comments. Pardon my poor exposition.

  2. cobernicus says:

    An admirer of Orwell seems a perfect fit for this administration, which is reaching new heights in the development of Newspeak.

    • bmaz says:

      I think you are mistaking George Orwell (Blair) for the horrors of which he wrote as a warning to us all. When it comes to omniscient and oppressive government, a true fan of Orwell would be fine; unfortunately, our government is being run by fans of the fictional horrors Orwell wrote about.

  3. Loo Hoo. says:

    This from Tom Dispatch in June of 2004:

    “Congress lacks authority … to set the terms and conditions under which the president may exercise his authority as commander in chief to control the conduct of operations during a war…Congress may no more regulate the president’s ability to detain and interrogate enemy combatants than it may regulate his ability to direct troop movements on the battlefield. Accordingly, we would construe [the law] to avoid this difficulty and conclude that it does not apply to the president’s detention and interrogation of enemy combatants.” (From a 56-page memo, “Detainee Interrogation in the Global War on Terrorism” written by a legal team for the Secretary of Defense on the eve of the Iraq War.)

    “Congress shall have the power … to declare war and make rules concerning captures on land and water … to define offenses against the law of nations [and] to make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces.” (From the Constitution, David G. Savage and Richard B. Schmitt, Lawyers Ascribed Broad Power to Bush on Torture, the Los Angeles Times)

  4. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Excellent catch and critique, EW.

    Mukasey’s choice of Orwell seems as descriptive of his department as the Shrubster’s decision to closely identify himself with A Charge to Keep, a painting that the ever inquiring Mr. Bush wrongly believes shows Methodist missionaries crossing the Alleghenies on horseback. In reality, it depicts a horse thief a few clouds of dust ahead of the law and cowboy justice.

    Mukasey’s choice of Orwell/Blair is remarkable for its intentional ambiguity. He either rebukes his president, predecessor, department and staff. Or, he admits his department’s Orwellian mission to be the Ministry of Truth. His credulous description of the reasons behind his choice suggests the latter. But the purposeful ambiguity adds to the mystery of this passive-aggressive functionary, rather like his knowing that water boarding is torture, but choosing never to say it out loud. His actions remind me of the scores of lawyers who advised the Catholic hierarchy for decades about how to deal with their “altar boy” problem.

    • looseheadprop says:

      Mukasey’s choice of Orwell/Blair is remarkable for its intentional ambiguity. He either rebukes his president, predecessor, department and staff. Or, he admits his department’s Orwellian mission to be the Ministry of Truth.

      Kinda like Hillary describing herself as a Rorchack (p?) test, people project onto to her depnding on thier own internal view.

      I wonder i Mukasey’s case, if it is not a bit of both: recognition and rebuke?

      • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

        BTW: If you read much neurology or psych research, it sure looks like Hillary is absolutely correct about being a Rorhsach.

        Personally, I’d have a better hunch about Mukasey if I knew what kind of literature he reads. If he’s read Coetzee (”Waiting for the Barbarians“) or Makine (”Dreams of My Russian Summers), or Bulgakov (“The Master and Margarita”) or any of the Russian novelists, then I’d wager he’s being slyly ironic and reminding himself of what he’s really up against.

        It’s no accident that Scott Horton at Harper’s covers literature, as well as legal issues. They overlap. Hugely.

        (Quick! Someone tell Condi Rice!
        Scott Horton recently reported that Condi doesn’t read novels; how anyone can possibly be ‘a Soviet expert’ without a good,solid background in Russian lit, plus a lot of continuous reading of ongoing literature is simply not consistent with what we know about the development of expertise. I think TheraP will support me on this point. )

        Shit, I’m no Russian lit major, but even I know about the importance of Russian lit, for Chrissakes (!).
        I’ll bet Hillary knows it, too.
        No wonder the wingnuts hate her ;-))

  5. fgator says:


    it probably is hard for the average lit major to fathom the many dimensions of George Orwell, and in particular the twisting of science and fantasy.

    But a few quotes show his mind’s breath:

    “All the war-propaganda, all the screaming and lies and hatred, comes invariably from people who are not fighting.”

    “But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought”

    “Every war when it comes, or before it comes, is represented not as a war but as an act of self-defense against a homicidal maniac.”

    “For a creative writer possession of the “truth” is less important than emotional sincerity.”

    “If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.”

    I would hope that AG Michael Mukasey shows the face of Orwell for the reason that one I love dearly hangs this next quote by him above his bunk, for Orwell can make sense of this crazy world we live in.

    “We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm. “

    The progressives/liberal/democrats would have more to worry about if AG Michael Mukasey hung a portrait of Rudyard Kipling.

  6. Larry says:

    Have you lost your senses? Orwell is widely (though not universally) regarded as paragon of moral uprightness in the political sphere, as well as an unusually down-to-earth, gifted writer. While the Mukasey we know may have little or no right to associate himself with that Orwell, fondness on Mukasey’s part for that Orwell almost certainly was what he had in mind. Where the heck is ambiguity in this — that is, in Mukasey’s intent? Also, some people seem to be stuck on “1984″ as the only thing that Orwell brings to mind. Even if that were so, “1984″ is as far as could be imagined from an endorsement of the society it depicts. “Animal Farm,” anyone?

    • skdadl says:

      Well, yes and no. Orwell was spooked enough by what he saw of Comintern duplicity in Spain that he was willing to name names during and after the Second World War, which bothers even many of his admirers, on both the right and the left, and he has many of both. His essay on politics and the language is brilliant, and I suppose that should be what matters.

      I’m a bit more bothered to read that the man who couldn’t give a straight answer to the questions about waterboarding is appropriating the legacy of one of the Nuremberg prosecutors. I don’t think that’s a good sign at all, although I sit to be corrected by anyone who knows Justice Jackson’s record. Appropriation is the problem, though, and I think that Orwell would have recognized that. Ambiguity dons the mantle of the unambiguously virtuous? Very worrisome.

      • MrWhy says:

        We don’t know why Mukasey chose these portraits to hang in his office. Perhaps someone should ask him.

        However, they could easily serve as reminders of how, regardless of the nuance and complexity and ambiguity of some aspects of life, at bottom, there are moral principles, some of them enshrined in the constitution, which should inform the AG in his role.

        So, maybe his intent was to (mis)appropriate their symbolism, maybe not.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Perhaps someone should ask him.

          The dilemma is that a reply delivered in newspeak generates a Nixonian event. It would not mean what its words ordinarily mean to those who don’t speak newspeak, which is the purpose of speaking newspeak, thereby deceiving without lying. Which is a favorite way to avoid perjury and stay out of jail.

          On the recurring theme of what Hillary sees in Rorshach’s ink blots, I have no clue or interest. Bill’s friends around the campfire, however, probably would love to know what he sees in his ink blots.

          • skdadl says:

            That is the question. Don’t ask Mukasey what he thinks of Justice Jackson — that will just elicit sentimentalisms.

            Ask Mukasey to answer some of the questions that Justice Jackson answered. There’s the test.

      • radiofreewill says:

        What Jackson confronted at Nuremburg was Hitler’s Weltangschung – “world-view” – or the Ideology Adopted by him and his followers – the “goal” of Loyalty.

        What he was ’seeing’ in the parade of defendants was the clash of two “worlds” – 1948 Rule of Law juxtaposed against 1984 Orwell.

        One of the ‘qualities’ I find that distinguishes good Judges from great Judges – and ianal or a Judge, jmho – is the ability to ’see’ into the very essence of the issue. Reggie’s got it – it’s absolutely beautiful to watch him work.

        Mikey may have it, too. In an ‘Administration’ where no one is allowed to ‘talk’ – pictures may say more than a thousand words…

        • radiofreewill says:

          And, to complete EW’s imagery – Mukasey’s treatment of Bradbury will ’show’ which side of the equation [Orwell v Jackson] he comes down on.

          If Mukasey ’sponsors’ Bradbury, he’s:

          – a book burner (Fahrenheit 911) – Minion of BushCo and the Ministry of ‘Truth’

          If Mukasey ‘rejects’ Bradbury, he’s:

          – an Authentic First Responder (Real 911) – Upholder of the Rule of Law, Standing on Jackson’s broad shoulders

          Stay tuned…

  7. earlofhuntingdon says:

    “Enhanced interrogation” is a direct translation from the original German, “verschaefte Vernehmung”, a term the Nazis used in official documents to describe their torture of prisoners, obfuscating who did what to whom, on whose orders. It was useful because, being good Germans, Nazi bureaucrats kept detailed records of everything they did. Those records, ultimately, led many of their leaders to prison or the hangman – which explains, in part, Mr. Cheney’s disdain for public records (as opposed to those he keeps in his Tweety-sized safe).

    Enhanced interrogation is classic Orwellian newspeak. It suggests a positive, polite treatment of those from whom you would like to learn a little more. It avoids creating a mental picture of what might be involved. In reality, it refers to torture, but with the blood, sweat, puke, fear and excrement washed away before they reach the pages of the public record.

  8. earlofhuntingdon says:

    On the discussion between TheraP and CasualObserver, I think the Bushistas use of language does describe their purposes, but only indirectly. They have abused language as much as the environment, the treasury, the middle and lower classes, and world order. They have stripped words of their meaning – the definition of “newspeak” – and explanatory value. That leaves only the ability to manipulate the thoughts of others who are still trying to make their words correspond with their usual and customary meanings, and still trying to make their school civics version of government and authority match what they see in Washington.

    Regarding Larry’s comment, a man who assumes a position requires him to avoid admitting that waterboarding is torture may be a fan of Orwell/Blair’s prose; he isn’t following his politics.

    • CasualObserver says:

      …They have stripped words of their meaning – the definition of “newspeak” – and explanatory value.

      Yes, exactly.

      That leaves only the ability to manipulate the thoughts of others who are still trying to make their words correspond with their usual and customary meanings,…

      Well, I imagine there have been mutliple reactions to their Orwellian speech. Some have been fooled no doubt. Some have been confused. But clearly many others have experienced a deep revulsion, including myself. I think the one that really sent me personally over the edge was the “Patriot Act”.

      Again, in my view, the empty, condradictory language style that this Admin. has chosen to use is itself data, or information, that is encoded in their communications, and reveals a lot about them.

  9. merkwurdiglieber says:

    Mukasey’s roommate at Yale was Joe Lieberman, so who knows what he
    really thinks via the Orwell portrait… all kinds of mischief has
    been done in his name, but something seems out of place for this
    legal scholar to have a political writer as his icon rather than
    Holmes or Brandeis. His refusal to answer simple questions under oath
    seem sketchy as well, something tells me his selection of Orwell is
    a send up, a neocon inside joke for us to decode.

  10. JohnLopresti says:

    My instict was for juxtaposition of the thinkers in those two frames. I thought Jackson too subtle in Youngstown 1952, and Orwell a figure of his own difficult time; though many folks cite the important writings of those two prominent individuals. In a school near Guernica I took a literature class by a professor whose brother and family in 1937 had been from that town a short distance from the university; in my youthful student days this served as an early glimpse of how families forget the effects of civil society in strife. As long after 1937 as the mid to late 1960s, the winners of that rebellion opted to leave a national university’s buildings unrepaired many years after peace had taken sway; students in that institution could see artillery pocked buildings across the road from the letters and sciences faculty, a mute and stark reminder of what thought control portends. A lot of the issues fueling that divisive time of civil war in Iberia remain beneath the surface in western societies still, though we are fortunate to have had the Orwells, Tolkiens, Hemingways, to help us see meaning in the hopes and concerns that matter in those days to thoughtful people and writers.

    Maybe Mukasey simply aspires to a direct style, and favors that in RHJackson’s writing from the bench. But I think the pairing of Jackson to Orwell’s memory is a way of depicting the difficulty of extracting intent and meaning from the specious writings it is Mukasey’s responsibility to review in his new post. Nevertheless, it is probably worth memorializing once again the contorted prose Mukasey has authored, in this example a 172pp effort following his AGnomination hearing. The passage cited below responds to the majority chair’s first question. Leahy has talked in his written followup interrogatory about brutality in jails, and has selected from a list of tortures the one Leahy considers most illegal, among a set of tortures all of which are illicit under many laws in this country and internationally as well. Mukasey writes the following dissimilating parsing to disappear Leahy’s humane perspective:

    < <<br />
    …As I testified, any discussion of coercive interrogation techniques necessarily involves a discussion of and a choice among bad alternatives. I was and remain loath to discuss and opine on any of those alternatives at this stage for the following three principal reasons: First, I have not been made aware of the details of any interrogation program to the extent that any such program may be classified and thus do not know what techniques may be involved in any such program…Second, for the reasons that I believe our intelligence community has explained in detail, I would not want any statement of mine to provide our enemies with a window into the limits or countours of any interrogation program we may have in place…Third, I would not want any uninformed statement of mine to present our own professional interrogators in the field, who must perform their duty under the most stressful conditions, or those charged with reviewing their conduct, with either a threat or a promise that could influence their performance in a way inconsistent with the proper limits of any interrogation program they are charged with carrying out.
    >> at pp2-3

  11. Rayne says:

    Maybe I was in the corporate world too long — but my first thought when I heard about the pictures was, “Jeepers, doesn’t he have pictures of his wife and kids to hang?”

    He’s making a statement, it’s pointed. What is it that a Jew of Belarussian heritage would say in hanging these pictures?

    Perhaps we’re parsing too finely. Actions speak louder than words — or pictures. We’re talking about the American Jew of Belarussian heritage who dismissed a case by Holocaust victims’ families in deference to this administration’s preference for “voluntary resolution” of Holocaust claims, and the same man who’s defended the Patriot Act.

    • TheraP says:

      Perhaps we’re parsing too finely.

      This is the result of so much secrecy in the bush labyrinth
      . We are left to parse words and images and the breadcrumbs, representing secret behaviors, in an effort to see the real picture. So much has gone wrong and been kept secret. We are in such darkness that we are reduced to “reading the tea leaves” to use the apt name of rOTL.

      And it is just this kind of task that EW seems so well suited for. And excellent sleuths have been attracted to this task, like iron filings to a magnet.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      “Jeepers, doesn’t he have pictures of his wife and kids to hang?”

      Exactly. I’m sure Mukasey has them, but he’s chosen not to make them a part of his office. For someone whose job in enforcing the law is to balance personal liberty and communal, family, security, that’s worrisome. That he appears content to sit on his branch, grinning like the Cheshire cat, rather than speak plainly about waterboarding and other topics, is more worrisome still.

      My hope is that he imagines himself to be more effective at implementing reform because he’s working quietly and thereby avoiding neo-con flack. My surmise is that he needs a bigger boat, and that Cheney and his acolytes, like Bradbury, won’t let him near the things that most need reform, regardless of how unassuming he may be.

    • fgator says:

      Few people hang their family on a corporate office wall. Usually they go on the desk or a shelf near the desk.

      The exception of course is the Painting of the Founder!!

      • Rayne says:

        Maybe in your part of the corporate world. In mine, the mugs of family on the wall serve as a talisman to uppermost management: Look! I still have balance in my life, I’m not married to my job! and more unofficially, sotto voce, Look! I’m not gay!

        Granted, they’ll also hang pics of their trophy fish and vacation escapades, as well as plaques acknowledging some superficial recognition. A few folks at upper echelons might hang real art — I think I blew an interview once because I couldn’t take my eyes off a spectacular Leroy Nieman behind a CEO’s desk (hung opposite his family’s pictures that he could see from his desk).

        But Orwell and Jackson? Just plain weird. I can’t think of a single lawyer’s office I’ve ever been in where they’d have hung something like these.

        And no, I can’t say I’ve ever been in a manager’s office where they had a pic of the founder. There used to be a collection of portraits along the passageway to the executive wing at a Fortune 50 company, all of the CEO’s going back to the founder spanning 100 years. They took them down and moved them into the executive wing after they heard that persons of color referred to that area as the “Hall of Dead White Men”.

  12. TheraP says:

    EW and John Lopresti have both referred to the Spanish Civil War today.

    On a hopeful note, the current Socialist Prime Minister of Spain is the grandson of someone shot by the Falange. And his willingness to seek unity and not revenge is something we could all study. It’s not the only example in history or literature. But to me, it comes back to the Rule of Law. The importance of seeking to redress wrongs through legal means, means which are out in the open, which imply some kind of personal transformation and desire to take the high road.

    What a wonderful thread!

  13. NoBlood4Hubris says:

    What’s so bad about putting up a picture of George Orwell? Old Keith seems to be mistaking the writer for the characters he creates. Yikes.

  14. NoBlood4Hubris says:

    “In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible. . . . Political language . . . is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”

    (Politics and the English Language, George Orwell)

    • MrWhy says:

      From the Reuters article which prompted Olbermann:

      Jackson also had memorable sayings. “The price of freedom of religion, or of speech, or of the press, is that we must put up with a good deal of rubbish,” he once wrote.

  15. bmaz says:

    GOOD NEWS! bmaz to become the next Tom Brady! Okay, an aging, 5′8″, balding, crabby Tom Brady, but still….

    Add Victoria’s Secret models to the horde of Super Bowl week’s celebrities. Adriana Lima, Selita Ebanks, Izabel Goulart and Karolina Kurkova will host an invitation-only gifting suite from noon to 6 p.m. Feb. 1 and 2 at Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain.

    Walking distance from my front door. Got to get an invite to this!

  16. pdaly says:

    I realize I posted this in a thread below that may not get as many visitors. (also I just cross posted at

    It’s slightly OT for here, but I was struck by the dates of the auction of the US 700mHz broadband.
    Wondering if there is some way to connect it to telcom immunity and eavesdropping on Americans.

    from Wikipedia (my bold):

    “The United States 700 MHz FCC wireless spectrum auction is being conducted by the FCC and started on 24 January 2008 for the rights to operate the 700 MHz frequency band in the United States. The details of precisely how the auction will take place has been the subject for debate between several telecommunications companies, including Verizon Wireless, AT&T, and startup Frontline Wireless, as well as the internet giant Google. Much of the debate has swirled around the “open access” requirements set down by the Second Report and Order released by the FCC determining the process and rules for the auction. All bidding must be commenced by 28 January by law. The auction will be named Auction 73.”

    • Rayne says:

      Some of us have been acutely aware for some time of that 700Mhz auction in the background.

      If a non-telecom company acquires that bandwidth AND they can offer a communications system that’s outside the existing telecom system, the telcos are going to hurt. BADLY.

      I personally do not believe it’s coincidence that there is so much pressure on immunity right now. Lawsuits coupled with a massive threat to income is a death threat to the business model of telcos — and likely to some cable providers, too.

      • pdaly says:

        Yes, I was thinking since the existing telecom companies are likely making billions in secret contracts with the NSA/government to hand over customer data, what better incentive is there to a company looking at a new investment vehicle (the 700 MHz spectrum) than to have the government guarantee immunity going forward.

        Of course, this assumes the current administration believes in the invisible hand of the free market and not is some back room secret deal…

        Maybe Bush/Cheney want to preemptively make sure that the law protects executive branch spying on all Americans even if another Qwest comes along (Google are you game?)

        • Rayne says:

          There’s a massive quid pro quo going here; the telcos could reveal all, but in exchange for their silence, they get protection from the administration and their bought-and-paid-for members of Congress. The administration and Congress could do the right thing and let the truth emerge about the domestic spying, but the public might be so angry that they’d kill off the telcos through lawsuits and a change to any other emergent form of communications that would make the telcos obsolete.

          This is the reason why we have not seen pervasive, cheap WiFi across the U.S., why we are so backwards compared to other countries. The telcos have not needed more money; they have all they need, but they have become like the oil companies (oligopolistic, yes?). Just how much profit do they need? At what point will they actually turn around and spend the money on new product research?

          Only when there is a paradigm shift in competing products, a complete leapfrog in technologies.

            • Rayne says:

              Yeah, T/W’s still living in the past. That business model will only work for a very small group of people — the folks who are the lightest consumers of the internet, and the ones who are shrinking in number every day. That’s the oldest segment of users.

              As time passes, the youngest segment of the population use more, not less internet, and they won’t pay by use. Witness their use of text messaging; they hate plans that are restrictive on numbers of messages. This is a user base that is completely wired, all the time, keeping tabs on their peeps by Twitter and organizing activities by social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook. They consume their media by cellphone; it’s why the iPhone was an instant hit, made their media of choice even more condensed and portable.

              They also know the value of their attention; that’s where businesses should be looking for value. T/W’s model actually encourages a limit to attention, rather than increasing it. Quite stupid, really, but then they didn’t understand the AOL proposition, either. This is the kind of dinosaur that should die and make way for better models, right up their with telcos.

  17. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    So several comments earlier, I tried to express the idea of your dimly lit, slightly pulsing, snoozy brain reading nominalizations – and not even bothering to remember what you’ve read.

    Well…does the brain always look like that when it’s reading?
    Sometimes, more areas ‘light up’ and they have a lot of energy lighting up those neurons.

    So now, imagine a brain that’s lighting up brightly near the left ear, with neurons lighting up in the back of your head as well (where you recall and process visual content, images), and more neurons are lighting up in regions inside your forehead, and — because you’re having some sweet thoughts — the ’sweet thought’ neurons light up and probably thread up through your forehead and then wind back down sort of near the center of your skull to where it’s likely that your emotions are ‘processed’.

    So instead of a snoozy, dimly pulsing left side low-energy snooze, you have –
    A wildly lit up, lots of activity in lots of brain regions, enjoyable experience.
    My term for this brain symphony is ‘good novel’.

    How does a good novel trigger all this activity? How can so much neurological commotion be triggered by the sight of mere words?

    To elucidate: think of a place that you’ve visited and really love.
    I’ll offer an example:
    Suppose your novel is set in St Petersberg, Russia. Suppose that you’ve actually been there, you’ve walked along the river and through the streets. You remember a good meal at a small, dimly lit restaurant; perhaps you have a painting on your wall purchased on the streets and you recall with pleasure working with a translator to try and understand why the artist painted the picture, who it’s of, etc, etc.
    Further suppose that a main character in that novel reminds you of a good friend… someone you really have many associations with — it’s the number of associations, and the sort of associations, that are key factors.

    So as you read this wonderful novel, your mind conjures up memories of your walks along the river in St Petersberg…

    Now stop.
    The river and the scene you have lighting up your visual cortex in the back of your brain is NOT ON THE PAGE! It’s only in your memory… but no sooner do you pick up that novel, than you are ’swept away’… in large part b/c your brain is making so many associations with info that you already have stored inside your brain.

    Well, there’s part of the explanation for why your brain is lighting up all over the place.
    But it does NOT explain what THAT LANGUAGE is triggering so much activity.

    To elaborate on the point that I think EW is making — what is it about THAT LANGUAGE, the language of that novel, that is so evocative, that so clearly helps you think about cause, effect, consequences, nuance…?

    The answers almost certainly lie in grammar and syntax. (We’ll leave vocabulary aside for the moment.)

    A novel is written to convey action, to convey events, to convey changes… so there are lots of verbs/sentence in most novels. (And if there aren’t, then I suggest you put that novel down and move on, but I digress…)

    But if your writing doesn’t use many verbs, there’s not much action.

    So back to your mention of how you approach legal writing…

    Using verbs with care is probably helping you FOCUS your thoughts on the key, relevant factors. Because you are not using nominalizations to go all wishy-washy and ‘brain snoozy’, you are better able to keep that focus as you think through the complications, issues, and details of the legal case and the arguments that you must build.

    Using VERBS already requires your brain to link to neurons that do MORE than simply process sounds — using verbs almost certainly moves the neuron activity out of the left region or your brain, and off into your cerebellum, and to other regions. (The cerebellum is a big mystery, but it is hugely important for music, rhythm, movement, and we don’t yet know how complex it is.)

    Using VERBS probably helps you to synthesize, and crystalize cause/effect because now you are building a more cohesive, ‘active’ cognitive structure (which you call a ‘case’ or an ‘argument’).

    So if I’m a client in need of a lawyer, do I want you representing me?
    Or someone with a snoozy brain?

    I’ll take you in a heartbeat (and hope that I can afford your services ;-))

    I’ll finish in a final comment below…

  18. Loo Hoo. says:

    Wow. This from

    On the matter of foreign policy, Bush’s use of the term “democracy” is truly Orwellian. On the one hand, he fashions a unilateral foreign policy that rejects dialogue and collaboration with other major powers while “promoting” democracy in Iraq with bombs, a brutal military occupation, and what Herbert calls in the Times, “an exercise in extreme madness, an absurd venture that would have been rich in comic possibilities except for the fact that many thousands of men, women and children have died, and tens of thousands have been crippled, burned or otherwise maimed.” (21) In a display of extreme arrogance and hypocrisy, Bush seems undaunted in lecturing President Vladimir Putin of Russia on the virtues of democracy, all the while currying favor with some of the most virulent authoritarian regimes in the world, including Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Afghanistan. It is difficult to understand why the media, intellectuals, educators, and other citizens do not robustly challenge and take to the streets in protest when Bush uses the rhetoric of democracy to defend his foreign and domestic policies. What is one to make of his statement in a speech at National Defense University in which he said, “It should be clear that authoritarian rule is not the wave of the future; it is the last gasp of a discredited past”? (22) Surely he cannot be referring to his own record of policies that undermine civil liberties: promoting torture and other human rights violations at Abu Ghraib and other prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan, plundering the environment in the interest of corporations, aligning his government with right-wing religious extremists who are working to eliminate the separation between church and state, and endorsing a foreign policy that is utterly militaristic and empire-driven.

    It will be fun to listen for this kind of language during the SOTU.

  19. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    Finishing up, to Massachio’s question…

    Verbs help your brain ‘wake up’ and they probably help you focus on the key factors that drive your argument. They also prompt you to be far more connected to ’cause/effect’.

    It’s as if your thought process can produce more coherence; you’re not distracted by meaningless details, and you’re focusing on first, next, last.

    Unlike Woo’s woozy, snoozy text, you’re using language as a tool to focus on action, weigh the consequences of action, evaluate which actions matter, and prioritize actions.

    It’s like the difference between a glob of gnarled up string (John Woo’s writing), as distinct from a tightly spun ball of yarn (your thoughts, ordered by actions).

    One coheres; the other doesn’t.
    (I mention this b/c from what I’ve read, Woo’s ‘arguments’ are internally inconsistent; therefore, they are not coherent.)

    One confuses; the other clarifies.

    Nominalizations can be very useful in a delicate situation when someone’s been stupid, or an ass. Because then you can say things like, “The discussion we should have next is how you’d like to reprioritize…’

    So nominalizations can be useful tools for smoothing difficult, and/or painful situations.
    But they’re too often abused, and they’ve become the beer, potatoe chips, and onion dip of too much American thought.

    If you look at memos, emails, and communications written by good managers, they tend to have more verbs, and fewer nominalizations. Good physicians are extremely good communicators, and they’re generally explaining very complex things to their patients in pretty simple, pared-down language.

    But EW’s post read in part:
    I take some comfort in the notion that this Attorney General…might recognize that politics corrupts language and ideological purity always cedes to corruption.

    I don’t think that ‘politics’ always, or inevitably, corrupts language.
    But you don’t get corrupt politics without corrupting language.

    And you can’t clean up corruption, and corrupt politics, unless you speak the truth, presumably meaning ’stuff that is verified by real life experience’.

    Truth, IMHO, generally favors verbs. And avoids nominalizations unless the situation calls for delicate diplomacy and non-confrontational phrasing.

    Otherwise, verbs are a lens to seeing actions, and the consequences of our actions, far more clearly. So using them in legal language is a very moral thing to do.

    • TheraP says:

      Here’s a thought re verbs. Verbs are easy to “image.” And since language is in the left hemisphere and our right hemisphere tends to process via images, verbs give us an “active image.” “Table” a noun isn’t active. It’s not much of an image. But use it as a verb, “to table a motion,” for example, and you get a whole image and underlying meanings associated with it. So perhaps then verbs are much richer in terms of what they convey and also in the way that “lights up” more areas of the brain. Then, we could bring intentionality into it… and that brings in frontal lobe functioning as well, with planning and carrying out a plan, assessing how far one is from the intended result, for example. Like “tabling” a motion is really part of a whole sequence of events… thus you can image this and you get a sense of a plan of which this one action is only a part.

      I too apologize for too many posts on this thread. And maybe going to far afield. But again, we’re in the dark. We’re searching. We’re making judgments. And we’re trying to find a way out of this labyrinth we’ve been taken into by the “rule of rove.”

      Yes, rOTL, your image of Picasso is exactly what I’ve described. It lights up the whole brain!

      • readerOfTeaLeaves says:


        1. Looks like i have more background in biological/anatomical psych than you do? (But psych isn’t my field; I just steal from it shamelessly ;-0
        – 1.a. not all writing is processed in the left (verbal) regions; only alphabetical languages that rely solely on sound/image correspondence.
        – 1.b. Chinese, Japanese, Korean, (and older languages like Akkadian and Egyptian) incorporate pictographs, and those are processed in the visual cortext (back of the head) + also combining with the left verbal processing areas. Not sure about Arabic; would have to check, but I think it’s closer to 1.b.

        2. I may have made too strong an argument that verbs are always ‘better’; it’s ‘nominalization stacks’ that need to be eradicated (e.g., ‘considerations under discussion by the committee that made recommendations…. blehblehblehwhoblehknowsblehwhatblehIblehmeanblehevenIdon’t… garbblish, gunky text) is like tangles in a thread, or snarls in a filament..

        3. Some nouns are imagable, and their images are very powerful. (If I type ‘codpiece, you’ll think ‘ of Bush May 2003 strutting on that aircraft carrier – it’s certainly imagable. Perhaps more imagable than the verb ‘nudge’, which implies only a very soft, delicate, tiny motion)

        4. Your use of table (noun) is quite imagable; table (verb) as part of a process, as a means of structuring a sequence of actions, is intriguing. I can’t draw table as a verb, but I agree that it is associated with ‘motion’ or ‘time/space’. Interesting.
        If I had the fMRI machine of my dreams, I’d have someone go in and read both meanings ;-))
        – 4. a. My off the cuff hunch is that table (noun) would light up both auditory (left ear regions) and visual cortext (back of the brain). But if it were not a particularly notable table; if only a table in passing, then not much neural notice of that word. If, on the other hand, two people were having mad, hot sex on said table, then more attention would be paid… more neural activity focused on ‘table’.
        – 4. b. As a verb… probably activate the left (auditory) regions, plus other regions involved in planning (frontal lobes, I’m with you there!) and also more in the cerebellum someplace. But again, the amount of focus probably depends on how badly you want that legislation tabled. If you’re not all that interested, not so much neural energy.

        4. So nouns can be depicted (person, place, thing).
        But nominalized nouns cannot be drawn; and a text full of them is just hard to read, and even harder to recall. IMHO, they’re a symptom –
        – ** either people don’t know what they’re talking about,
        – ** OR they’re trying to inflate their own authority,
        – ** OR ELSE they’re not willing to be truthful (b/c they’re trying to pretend that nothing really happened, which is how they ignore problems, or claim that no harm occurred. So anyone who does this intentionally should be held accountable, because it’s verbal fraud.

        But I should stop before EW bans me, and before pdaly accuses me of flagrant afflatulus @< | 8^0</p>

        • TheraP says:

          Well, truth be told the brain works as a unit. So I agree with your analysis. I defer to it.

          One added thought. The “rule of rove” tries to appeal to the emotions that are unconscious… in the middle of the brain. We’ve been talking about conscious thought… and how various areas carry our ideas, visualize them, and yet integrate them.

          It’s been fun. I doubt we’ll be banned. We’re Dems. We’re encouraged to think! And thinking leads us off onto interesting pathways.

          I salute you, rOTL. And now…. we return to our regular programming.

          Take it away… MadDog, bmaz, and others!

          • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

            The “rule of rove” tries to appeal to the emotions that are unconscious

            Yeah. Rove does like to appeal to emotions, particularly by using images. But pictures can lie at least as effectively as words, huh? (Perhaps even more so.)

            Interesting thread.

            • bmaz says:

              Interesting thread indeed. I am just proud to associate with such a diverse and talented group of folks; it really is a pleasure.

              rOTL – You mentioned “background in biological/anatomical psych”. Is that your background at some point? I ask kind of out of whimsical curiosity. My actual major as an undergraduate was in exactly that. I always called it neurobiology so people would understand what it was, because it was a fairly new program as a recognized major at the time (I was one of a handful of the first degreed graduates in it at my college). The handbook/syllabus called it “physiological psychology” which I always thought was lame and nobody understood.

        • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

          If it’s Canadian bacon w/ pineapple, please share. I’ll look for it to come through my LCD panel shortly … upper right corner’s about the only place there’ll be enough empty screen space to toss it through, so please aim wisely ;-))

  20. dipper says:

    Orwell:“If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.”
    This is not a happy thought!

  21. pdaly says:

    I have a word I would like to misappropriate.

    afflatus (noun), pronounced uh-FLAY-tus
    current proper definition is a divine imparting of knowledge or power : inspiration

    as in:
    “Bush insists that his decisions are the result of afflatus, not hard work.”

    In Latin, afflatus refers to the act of blowing on or breathing on.
    Cicero used the word afflatus to compare the appearance of a new idea to a breath of fresh air.

    Well, here’s my take on the word afflatus. It reminds me of the medical term “flatus,” which is ‘gas exiting the ass,’ in so many words.

  22. CasualObserver says:

    “Race Trumps Gender!!!”

    This is an actual quote from CNN news coverage of SC primary this evening. Within seconds of the polls closing, to boot.

    I take it all back. It IS possible to demean language…

  23. GregB says:

    Politicd cleary demeans language. You would think a shitheely, douchebaggy asswipe like Mukasey would know that.


  24. phred says:

    defense of the indefensible

    Late to this thread, in part because I spent an invigorating afternoon at a membership meeting of the ACLU. So now I pop over to read what’s up here at EW’s place and the first thing I see is a post on the use of political speech as defending the indefensible. What is so astonishing about this, was having just heard a fine speech given by Rachel Maddow at the ACLU event that centered around the idea that indefensible policies can be changed. It was a wonderfully optimistic speech that catalogued the ways in which BushCo has tried to defend the indefensible and drew on Rachel’s own past successes in confronting the indefensible and helping to change such policies. She also talked about the lack of debate that has occurred during the Bush years as such indefensible policies were put into place. The discussion was always an after-the-fact defense rather than a full and open debate of the policies prior to implementation.

    I don’t know if Rachel reads your work EW, but great minds are clearly thinking along the same lines. It is privilege to hang out here with you folks. And Rachel’s optimism this afternoon was a much needed shot in the arm. Now, off to read the thread and see what I’ve missed…

  25. JohnLopresti says:

    bmaz is lucky it was not the reputed philosophical psychology much bruited as a new entrant into the quadrivium. The opening post allusion to the cause celebre in Iberia is one which gravitates my literary sensibility to some roots of that clashing epoch, as did the Orwell contemplation, a lot of those ingenious folks having been part of the 1890s born generation. I placed an unusual link to Lorca @my19; here is another for the versed polyglot, to an early novel which presciently depicted what later became in part the theater of the absurd; in passages it has ding-y raps about the importance of ratiocination as balanced against the contrarian nihilism so popular among some lesser stalwarts of the generation, with apologies to the literarian experts nearby; Unamuno revised the litanies of lunacies over several editions, eventually purging any reference to army, but the residual concatenations are tragicomic, also a characteristic of the generation variously expressed; e.g. search for metafísica, but there are lots of hilarious searchworthy terms beside that. Well, Mukasey might have hung portraits of Nietzche and Edgar Allen Poe; and I agree Holmes and Brandeis would have been an excellent choice, but perhaps it would be too outre to honor Rehnquist or Rehnquist’s mentor Goldwater or even B-1 Bob Dornan; the subject has to have passed and received honor in death and legend, though a smiling image of Chuck Schumer would be an appropriate guardian, as well, if properly framed.

  26. Hugh says:

    Just wndering by. Obviously Orwell does no write as clearly as Mukasey thinks because Mukasey has completely missed Orwell’s point.

  27. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    Wow, that is remarkable, bmaz.
    Not my field, but I have taken a number of courses in it (one of them atrociously taught, so thank God for good textbooks, BTW). I remember being just stupified that a class on brains and learning could be so terribly presented. What an irony 8-p

    I kind of stumbled into an interest in brains, by way of some teaching experiences where I was baffled by why people had so much trouble learning (both adults and kids). Then, I began working on environmental issues and was baffled that adults could behave in very self-defeating, short-sighted ways. (I know several functionally illiterate adults who have made millions of dollars from actions that — from a biological perspective — are death-producing. Because they make so damn much money (it’s obscene!) they refuse to acknowledge that their actions are harmful. To make matters worse, local bankers and local (weenie) electeds think these guys are hot stuff, so they take their advice. And the cycle continues, spiraling to more destructive levels… In other words, the stupidity grows exponentially (and with it, the dangers… ).

    My interest in ‘brains’ came out of interests in teaching, learning, software development, and working on environmental (health) issues. I couldn’t figure out why people would do things that were/are going to kill them. (And us.) So I figured the best place to start ferreting out some reasonable hunches would be neuroscience.

    Hence, my interest in brains… the more you know, the more there is to know…
    What a remarkable background for a lawyer. Cool.

  28. Hugh says:

    Whether Mukasey intended it or not, his choice of Orwell is ironical. If you read back through Mukasey’s confirmation testimony, he tacitly backed the entire Bush extra-Constitutional agenda. Mukasey is Bush, just with slightly higher literary pretensions. As was pointed out in a post last night, Bush identifies with a Western painting which he thought was of a minister but which was, in fact, of a horse thief. That is the kind of dimwitted low comedy that exemplifies Bush. It is stupid in a stupid way. Mukasey is more refined though no less wrong in his choice of icons. Orwell would be horrified by Mukasey’s use of legalisms to defend anything as deceitful and totalitarian in its intent as the Bush/Cheney Administration.

    Bush, Cheney, and the Republicans tell us that we must wage wars to have peace, that we can only support our troops by leaving them to die in quagmires, that we must give up our freedoms to be free, that anyone who disagrees with them is evil or weak, that torture is not torture, that rich powerful corporations must be protected from their lawbreaking because they can not afford it but that children should not receive healthcare because their parents really could afford it if they wanted to, that for our nation to be strong the rich must be made richer, and that the law is what the Decider says it is.

    In short, it is not Orwell but the Orwellian that Mukasey is honoring. Does he understand this? Of course not, if he did, he would never be a part of this Administration. Bush would never have offered him the post, and he would never have accepted it.

  29. fgator says:

    I think that there is over analysis of the AG’s wall.

    The man is old. His life is written all over the place. That is a better picture of his thinking than a wall hanging.

    He may even rotate pictures. I do every few months.

  30. 4jkb4ia says:

    “Race Trumps Gender”

    That is entirely painful. The moron journalist should have read some of the NYT stories where some of the more religious black voters were hesitant about voting for a woman.

  31. Neil says:

    “Defeating telecom immunity will keep alive the lawsuits that will almost certainly reveal to some extent what the Government did in illegally spying on Americans over the last six years or, at the very least, produce a judicial adjudication as to its illegality. And, in turn, the effects from that could be extremely significant. Because victories are so rare, it’s easy to get lulled into believing that none of these campaigns are ever effective and that citizens can never affect any of it, which is precisely why it’s so important to remind ourselves periodically of how untrue that proposition is. Glenn Greenwald

  32. bigbrother says:

    US Constitution is more than an old document…it is in fact a social philosophy of group behavior and the constraints that compliment the actions and being part of a society as a guide to enable behavior that benefits all those acting within and without our societies bounds.
    it was I surmise the hope of the founders to encourage the best possible outcome for all…they missed on bond slavery and racism.
    A healthy discussion in a formal setting of the sucesses and failures in implementing the intention of the framers…who were not always in concert, would be envigerating to the democratic process. Lincoln updated it with the emancipation proclamatio…I wish I was better informed but my good sense, when engaged, does see that the generality or seeming ambiguousness of the constitution leaves us with the choice of interpretetion and strictness or lack thereof…where the neocons have pushed the envelope…God rules however that is to be interpreted their bad.
    Legislaive proceedure is clear and as Senator Dodd points out was badly abused to oppose aa healthy debate on FISA…Monday should be a long day. SOme thing are without question,,the intended freedoms derived from the ratification were established in battle. For this administration to violate thaat trust is treason.

    • bmaz says:

      Wrong. The deciderer commander guy has decreed that the Constitution is just “a damned piece of paper”. that was not a joke or offhand statement; that is their operative mindset.

  33. Neil says:

    Q: Is waterboarding torture?

    A: Waterboarding is one of the finest forms of enhanced interrogation known today.

      • phred says:

        Waterboarding is one of the finest most productive most reprehensible and useless forms of enhanced interrogation known today.

      • Neil says:

        Waterboarding is torture.

        Torture is unconstitutional.

        Torture is a forbidden by treaties to which the USA has joined – ratified Congress and signed by the President.

        Syria tortures. Egypt tortures. USSR tortured. East Germans tortured. Does the USA torture?

  34. bmaz says:

    Big Brother @88 raised the issue of derivitives. Day before last I was talking about the economy with a friend, discussing why the problems seemed so much worse this time than in the past. One word became the central focus of discussion. Derivitilve. Here is a definition:

    “An asset that derives its value from another asset. For example, a call option on the stock of Coca-Cola is a derivative security that obtains value from the shares of Coca-Cola that can be purchased with the call option. Call options, put options, convertible bonds, futures contracts, and convertible preferred stock are examples of derivatives. A derivative can be either a risky or low-risk investment, depending upon the type of derivative and how it is used.”

    Now, what is described in this definition are the traditional options and futures markets, which have always been a minority part of financial markets, but the underlying stocks and raw materials were always the vast majority and backbone. The deregulation and expansion of ability to form and trade in these derivitive instruments occurred early in the early 1980s with the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Acts and imposition of the Monetary Control Act of 1980, and has continued progressively ever since. It was an undercurrent goal of a core group of Republican business and financial interests (to be fair, Clinton did nothing to abate it and he was smart enough to see and understand it at the time). We all saw the effects in relation to the savings and loan scandal, but few realized that the same acts that allowed the savings and loan mess were also being carried out and applied to the whole financial market. Thus Enron was enabled and, to some extent the dot com rush and crash as well.

    Instead of clamping down on the root problem on the grand scale and re-regulating, to prevent this nonsense, we have done nothing but idiotically wait for the next iteration of the same horse manure and then react to only that small piece of the problem when it rears it’s ugly head. Each time, we bail ourselves out of one deregulation nightmare by ginning up a new one. Every time it is because we have allowed our economy to be driven by an ever more derivitive market structure instead of bricks, mortar, family farming and substance. However, with the relentless export of manufacturing and middle and lower middle class jobs overseas, and the death of family farming, each time the root problem becomes more serious and pervasive.

    There should have been a serious reckoning after the savings and loan scandal, and after that the dot com collapse, but instead the Bush folks exacerbated the problem by further enabling and pushing the derivitive manipulation of mortgage and other credit markets. And it engendered multiple layers of derivitives, each layer masking the risk that was increasing at an exponential rate. Now the economy is based on this false house of cards and it is falling. Unlike in the past, however, when we still had the bricks, mortar, factories, manufacturing etc., there is, relatively speaking, nothing underneath the house of cards. The foundation is nowhere near as strong as it used to be. That is what is different now.

    We drove our derivitive based economic existence over a bridge too far and are now stuck on the wrong side of the river of reality. With a collapsed bridge behind us. Are we now addressing the root problem? Of course not; our pea brain President and glad handing, say and do anything to placate the public and keep themselves in office Congress are going to deficit spend hundreds of billion of dollars to idiotically give everybody $600 dollars so they can buy a meal at Appelbees after buying a new TV at WalMart. Brilliant; that ought to work.

    • phred says:

      Thanks for that bmaz. This is exactly why any stimulus package should be based on something productive (improving infrastructure, investing in domestic green technology development, etc.) rather than on something consumptive. The “go shopping” mantra has run its course. We desperately need to rebuild the middle class, a productive stimulus package would give that process a healthy jump start.

      OT — bmaz and Neil, I’m not sure that we have a troll proliferation problem so much as a troll split personality problem. fgator and wcsally are the same person (go check out the end of the Chris Dodd thread. Their use of bold makes me suspect that fgator and wcsally may be split personalities of JodiDog. While I don’t mind the house troll, I do object to dishonest trolls. EW, I would vote to ban fgator and wcsally. Those of us who use pseudonyms should still be expected to represent themselves honestly. And if fgator and wcsally are JodiDog’s imaginary friends, then I would change my vote to ban Jodi too.

    • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

      bmaz, IMHO, citizens need to support FBI fraud investigators, particularly during this election cycle when the politicians might actually listen.

      Why is it that the Bushies haven’t pushed for more FBI fraud investigators…? What economic misdeeds would they prefer remain hidden? Does anyone besides me find it odd that the same administration that is so gung-ho to use the military to defend oil, can’t seem to push for more FBI fraud investigators?

  35. wavpeac says:

    Language is a symbol system created by man. Human beings make their biggest mistake when they confuse the symbols with the artifact. This is where flexibilty exist. The map is not the territory and when we lose sight of this, when we treat symbol as artifact, when we confuse map with territory, judgment with fact, we make our gravest errors in navigating reality.

    • TheraP says:

      The map is not the territory and when we lose sight of this, when we treat symbol as artifact, when we confuse map with territory, judgment with fact, we make our gravest errors in navigating reality.

      Thank you for this excellent reminder, wavpeac. I was going to post a few thoughts related to the exchange of comments (above) with rOTL. But your comment puts mine in a very helpful context.

      I realized – in the middle of the night – that to some degree rOTL and I were talking about slightly different things, while anchoring each to brain studies. He was discussing the written word and MRI research. I was thinking more about speech and internal thought and anchoring my ideas to the kind of psych testing that neuropsychologists do (not my expertise, but I do have some training in that and am not at all up to date).

      In any case I’d like us all to take into account the wise comment of wavpeac. No one can really understand the brain or what actually goes on (though we try through various means, scientific and philsophical). We can image it using an MRI. We can do psych testing and compare known brain damage or brain problems to the way people actually behave when confronted with problems to solve. We can tease apart how language works, as did Wittgenstein or Chomsky. And we have to consider that reacting to a written stimulus or a picture is different from the kind of tasks presented in the real world as well as what psych testing tries to assess through an objective means.

      Also, there is a huge difference between how someone might attempt to influence us through propaganda or advertising versus how we live our lives and plan activities or make choices between competing values or simply make use of a practiced or unconscious series of behaviors or cognitive routines to get things done or work out problems.

      The wonderful sharing that EW encourages here by posting on different topics and encouraging a respectful exchange of ideas is exemplified in this thread. Some comments have spun off to examine interesting side issues. Others have continued to chew away at the main questions. And none of this can really be “mapped” adequately nor can we capture the beauty of individuals working together for the common good across time and space – as happens here. We can try. But how easily we end up speaking of different things, even without realizing it. How easily we mistake map for territory. Or fact for judgment. Though a community like this one, barring the troll nuisance which is like static, does a pretty good job of correcting itself and keeping on a common trajectory toward ends which are good, using means which are fair and open and not manipulative.

  36. wavpeac says:

    Whoops. Somehow, this part of my thought was left out of the post above.
    “This is where flexibility in thinking must occur”. We must be able to make interpretations with the awareness that our own interpretation cannot be accurate or right.

  37. fgator says:


    I have posted this more or less already in the thread you mentioned.

    I JodiDog had already been banned probably by those very blogger minders you address here, Neil and bmaz.

    The trauma of being carded out so to speak probably caused an Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) which I am not used to yet, thus the mistake.

  38. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    bmaz, not sure whether you’ve read Kevin Phillips’ ”American Theocracy”. I’ve actually never finished it, he makes a very convincing case that the fundamental dysfunction at the heart of the US economy is going to end The American Century (if that Tipping Point has not already been passed) quite soon.

    Phillips documents pretty convincinly that during the 1980s and 1990s, the US economy became fundamentally tied to creating, marketing, selling, and servicing debt. The fancy term for this was that we were ’a financial services economy’. Bank loans, home equity loans, car loans, boat loans, credit card loans…. huge numbers of people have been making their living selling, reselling, packaging, marketing, and securing loans, and other ’paper’ forms of wealth – including derivitives.

    CONTRIBUTING to that fundamental economic instability — using loans as a fundamental economic sector — the increasing economic inequality in the US over the same period of time is striking. The two factors (economic inequality; a larger percentage of the economy based on debt) are fundamentally linked.

    We’ve been living on sand since the late 1970s, and ReaganBush only got us deeper into trouble (long term) in their short-term efforts to control the oil that was supposed to save our economy. The most patriotic thing Clinton and Gore did was pay down US debt. But with the constant attacks on him, Clinton didn’t have the power to fundamentally alter the dangerous economic posed by Reagan-era economic inventions like derivitaves.

    But we’re in huge trouble at this point, and this may be the ’wave that breaks’ the existing structures (time will tell).
    Think of a wave that starts fairly shallow, then the next wave is about 2x the height of its predecessor; then the next is 4x the height of it’s predecessor; the next approximates 16x the height of its predecessor… There’s only so much energy that can build up in any kind of wave before it demolishes whatever is in its path… it’s just the nature of things.

    I’m not saying that the cycle’s current crash will be absolutely financially catastrophic; because I’m not entirely sure. But that wave has become increasingly large, and unstable, as each economic boom/bust cycle has grown exponentially larger than its predecessor.

    The only way that I see out of this mess is to figure out the kind of leadership that can move a Green Economy forward; it wouldn’t look like the one we now have, but two years from now a whole lot of people may be willing to give it a try. The existing stuctures are not sustainable. (And I didn’t have to study biology or chem to know that, nor did you, I’ll reckon.)

    • bmaz says:

      Yeah, that is pretty much what I see also. I have not read the Phillips book, I’ll put it on my list. We got a pretty good look at the S&L crisis here as not only are we a land and construction economy, but the poster child for the mess, Charlie Keating, was based here. I have friends, and one former law partner, that were involved in various aspects of the Keating collapse and subsequent criminal case (which, as much as I totally loathe Charlie Keating, I thought was somewhat bogus); so I got a decent bead on what caused it all, but I didn’t grasp any clue that the same type of systemic crap was also invading other areas of finance and the economy. didn’t really pick it up on the dot com deal either (although that is arguably somewhat distinguishable). Being somewhat of a dolt, I didn’t really start picking up on the immense economic inequality being festered and the house of cards nature of what was going on until maybe a year or two after 9/11. Unless we do it on the back of another artifice though, I cannot see how the current ills are kept at a minimum and everything goes back to hunky dory status. The bricks and mortar, and farming (we forget about that sometimes), base just isn’t there like it used to be. I agree that going green and using that as the new base model may be the best solution but I still worry about how we do it without the manufacturing base. I guess we build a new one. It will be impossible as long as the “shareholder investment class” and the big business moguls hang onto the “maximum profit for me now” thought process they are so currently ingrained with. The real shame is that 9/11 was the traumatic moment in time when all of this should have been dealt with; the country was momentarily unified and was open to a patriotic push to change and fortify ourselves economically as well as militarily. That moment was, of course, not just squandered; but far worse, cravenly exploited for exactly the opposite, exacerbating the already present problems and weaknesses geometrically.

      • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

        [9-11] was, of course, not just squandered; but far worse, cravenly exploited

        Agree completely.

        As for your point about the farm base…. The quickest comment would be: see the movie “Michael Clayton” (which, BTW, is nominated for Best Picture this year).

        The farmers, orchardists, ranchers and their families that I know are stoic — almost to the point of being like the little Spartan boy of Greek legend, who died because he remained silent while a fox ate his liver. Several of the farm families that I know have burned through equity, been hit by horrendous health problems, yet stoically gone about their business, uncomplaining as long as they can continue to get their bank loans. But several have been humiliated by banks, and had to sell their goods and properties at auction. What does a 50-something dairy farmer do once he’s had to sell his farm/heritage/dreams…?

        Most of the farmers of my acquaintance have deep religious faith. What they do is so risky, and the forces against them are so huge, that those without a very strong belief system simply can’t stay in it. No matter how hard those farmers work, they don’t make anything close to what a successful realtor or mortgage broker rakes in. We live in unjust times.

        Wm Ockham @110 — perhaps Mukasey’s tragedy is also like the stoic Spartan boy. Impassive, while Bush, Cheney, Addington, and their apparatchiks eat his soul because they can count on him to keep their dark secrets. I don’t understand how ’silence’ can be deemed to be courageous in such a situation, but I do recognize the tragedy.
        Thx for the excellent Language Links.
        It turns out that there yours is not the only name on that website that I am familiar with; interesting coincidence.

  39. WilliamOckham says:

    I guess I read this a little differently than most here (or KO for that matter). To me, this reeks of classic Greek tragedy. Aristotle says:

    Tragedy is a form of drama exciting the emotions of pity and fear. Its action should be single and complete, presenting a reversal of fortune, involving persons renowned and of superior attainments,and it should be written in poetry embellished with every kind of artistic expression.

    We have Mukasey, who brings symbols of his admiration for Jackson and Blair, into the office he attained, and can retain, only by explicting violating the ideals of his heros. Even if you fundamentally disagree with his political and legal views as I do, you can still pity the spectacle of a decent and honorable man becoming an apologist and enabler of war criminals. Everyone should fear what this means for our democracy. I would like to think that anyone who understands Blair and Jackson would be immune to the lure of selling one’s soul for a short stint as AG. Are there really no conservatives left with a moral compass (save Bruce Fein)?

    • bmaz says:

      No. Fein is it; maybe Barr to a lesser extent. I honestly cannot think of any others. Okay, Jack Danforth too. Really what others are there?

  40. WilliamOckham says:

    Let’s see if I can make this personal bit of bragging sound on topic.

    If the use and abuse of language interests you and you can put up with a bit of professional linguist jargon, the Language Log is a great blog. I recently achieved one of my life goals by getting a mention there. I will warn you that you really have to be a total language nerd to get much out of the site.

  41. Minnesotachuck says:

    bmaz @ 110, WO @ 112:
    Another two are John Dean and Egil Krogh, both ex-Watergate figures. It might have been Dean, but someone I read recently stated that any principled conservative has by definition left the Republican Party.

    • bmaz says:

      I don’t know so much about Krogh any more as i simply have not heard or seen much, but i certainly will take your word for it; as to Dean, good call, I guess i didn’t even think about him because he really seems to have walked away from all of that.

  42. Minnesotachuck says:

    rOTL @ 120: Your take on farmers and ranchers is dead on. And your mention of the legend of the Spartan boy brings to mind a totally unrelated post yesterday by Shelley Batts on her science blog, Retrospectacle, in which she describes an nasty insect called the Human Bot Fly. She includes an horrific picture of a human brain partially hollowed out and eaten by a HBF larva.….._insec.php

    Think of the Bush, Cheney et al as the Bot Flies of American Democracy.

    • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

      OMG!! I first wondered whether that image of the brain had been Photoshopped, but I fear that it is authentic. (shudder!)

      Good to hear that someone else shares my perspective on the farm tragedies in US. I think that I read (via one of Bob S’s links) that this year former State Dept officer Mark Grossman (who’s name keeps coming up with respect to selling nuclear secrets) is pulling down $3m/year at the Cohen Group. What more need be said about the ironies of our age? (Screw your fellow citizens; make a fortune. Work hard, keep the faith, and be poisoned by pesticides while being financially screwed.)

      But I think of those farmers as “Samwise” types; they’re too sane to be corrupted by The Ring of Power, too decent to screw their friends, and too humble to draw attention to their accomplishments. I still hold out hope that the collected gravity of their decency will prevail over arrogant expedience; time will tell.

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