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I try to keep a fairly close eye on the emergence of boilerplate,  new clichés,  or verbal tics like when "impacted" came to mean "had an impact on,"  or when everyone suddenly started saying "make no mistake" or "at the end of the day."

It's possible that I've just missed this one,  but something struck me about the WaPo story that quoted the "senior official involved in policy since the 2003 invasion." Has the verb "absorb" in a transfigurative sense become one of these "dynamic" buzz words,  or is it a verbal peculiarity of one man in particular?

WaPo, August 14, 2005:

"What we expected to achieve was never realistic given the timetable or what unfolded on the ground," said a senior official involved in policy since the 2003 invasion. "We are in a process of absorbing the factors of the situation we're in and shedding the unreality that dominated at the beginning."

Press Briefing, August 9, 2002:

One is, the Soviet Union was a nuclear power, as were we, and we developed a way to deter each other and dissuade each other from -- we persuaded the Soviet Union that they could not endlessly expand their empire by absorbing other countries.

Lehrer News Hour, PBS, September 18, 2002:

And as one looks at the world and sees this new security environment and sees the nexus between weapons of mass destruction, terrorist states and terrorist networks and reflects on last September 11, reflects on our vulnerability as free people and how many people can come into our country and do things in our country and how available today biological weapons and chemical weapons and indeed elements of nuclear weapons are today, what one would say is that if we want to live in a more peaceful world, if we want to avoid that kind of a catastrophe, our country has to recognize that new security and recognize that absorbing that blow, waiting for it and absorbing it and then having the investigation afterward is not a preferred option.

[. . .]

If you were talking about a conventional capability your standard of evidence would be one thing. You say well, we can absorb that. If you're talking about an unconventional capability, one has to be very careful about saying you're going to absorb it.

DefenseLINK News, September 27, 2002:

"How do you defend yourself against a terrorist?" [he] asked rhetorically. "Do you absorb the attack and then decide to do something about it?"

He said in the past, with conventional weapons, countries could afford to absorb a blow and lose hundreds or thousands of people. "Today, the question people are debating ... is how do you feel about absorbing a blow with a weapon of mass destruction, and it's not hundreds or thousands of people (killed), but it's tens of thousands?" he asked.

Interview with NBC affiliate WXIA, Atlanta, GA, September 27, 2002:

That different circumstance it seems to me forces us to think about the meaning of war. How does one defend itself against a terrorist? Do you absorb the attack and then decide to do something about it? What about the historic concept of anticipatory self defense? When one sees a threat developing to do something to deal with that? Preventive action.

[. . .]

Today the question people are debating properly is how do you feel about absorbing a blow that is from a weapon of mass destruction and it's not 100 people or 1,000 people but it's tens of thousands of people?

Press Briefing, November 13, 2003:

What hasn't evolved is our desire to transfer sovereignty to the Iraqi people and security responsibilities to the Iraqi people at a pace that they're comfortable with and capable of absorbing those responsibilities for themselves.

Testimony before the 9-11 Commission, March 23, 2004 (pdf):

Terrorism is a form of warfare, and must be treated as such. As with other forms of conflict, weakness invited aggression. Simply standing in a defensive position, absorbing blows, is not enough. Terrorism must be deterred.

The person speaking in each of these quotes is Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

The MOQUOL--I Can Save You, America!

Originally posted to Dr Tom More on Sat Aug 13, 2005 at 10:51 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  interesting (3.66)
    That's actually pretty fascinating.  Inconclusive, but still....good work.
  •  Strong analysis (4.00)
    This is good enough to me to imply that at the least WaPo's source was someone in close contact with Rumsfeld who picked up this routine verbal oddity of his, but more likely you're right that it's Rummy himself.
    •  RumSpeak (4.00)
      The oddities of Rumsfeld's mode of expression will be one of the legacies of this period.  it used to be the stuff of SNL, but nobody finds it amusing any longer.

      It is late, late in the day for Rummie to finally be "absorbing" the situation in Iraq, when half the nation has been waving flags and offering dire warnings for the last two years to alert these dolts to the obvious downsides to this situation.   Now it appears that we've created "Greater Shiistan" and helped bury the progressive movement in Iran, leaving Iran far, far more dangerous than it was in previous years.  Absorb that yet, Secretary Clueless?

      It would be most interesting to go back and take a look at Rumsfeld's business career, to see how effective he was in leading his firm, as compared to how much effect he had by trading on his political connections.  In other words, was he an effective administrator, or just a glib and glorified bagman like Cheney was at Halliburton?

      •  I do miss the SNL when it (none)
        was good.  When Frankin was writing for it.  Now it really, really sucks.  I never watch it; it is obliterated by the Daily Show.
        •  SNL (none)
          Yep, especially when there is so much "fodder" for political satire lately. SNL's comments that they were focusing more on popular culture last season seemed odd when - as the Daily Show has so brilliantly shown - there is so much material out there.
      •  But, but . . . (none)
        as Herr Plotzenfuhrer Dumsfeld has said, "A lot of bad things that could have happened haven't happened [ - at least not yet]".

        The name is not the thing named, the map is not the territory. -- Gregory Bateson

        by semiot on Sun Aug 14, 2005 at 08:19:06 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Yes (none)
      Often tight-knit organizations themselves have certain commonalities of expression.  I remember working in an investment bank in the 90s and noticing that everyone used the same phrases repeatedly ("going forward," "having said that...", "you're a stud!", etc.)

      However, I also remember that Klein was fingered as the author of Primary Colors on the basis a lexical analysis, so this is definitely a legit methodology, although of course the case is still a bit thin.

      Really interesting though!

    •  yeah, that one's Rumsfeld (none)

      He has a way of sloganeering and using management consultant "power" language or imagery that isn't hard to pick up on.

      Some of the rest of the article is quotations from Rice, I believe.  She has this way of phrasing things when she's trying to circumlocute blunt language, that is utterly characteristic.

      There is a source or two I don't recognize in there too.  (Some of it sounds like Cheney, but Cheney has two or three 'tiers' of language he uses- only one of them is really distinctive.)  But this thing is largely a Rumsfeld/Rice "collaboration".

      Renewal, not mere Reform.

      by killjoy on Sun Aug 14, 2005 at 07:36:43 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Very interesting (none)
    I wonder if you're correct.
    •  I think so. (none)
       I have been cringing while our resident psychopath minced words for years, and it sure sounded like him to me. And so I would say that,
        "What we expected to achieve was never realistic given the timetable or what unfolded on the ground,"
      is the splash of the first rat abandoning the sinking ship.
  •  great amazing work (4.00)
    wow. nice catch. wapo is, along with the nyt and others, dragging us down and trying to make us believe that they are honest(yes im laughing as well). thanks. great job

    It's ok to be stupid if everybody else is.

    by mkf on Sat Aug 13, 2005 at 10:57:05 PM PDT

  •  Don't'cha just LOVE GOOGLE?? (none)
    Good sleuthing.

    I but it.

  •  Didn't Rumsfeld claim... (4.00)
    ...that he "tried" to resign not once, but twice, after the Abu Gharib scandal broke? Supposedly, he "couldn't" resign because Bush "wouldn't accept it."

    Of course, that's a crock of shit--no one can "prevent" you from resigning, but it would be sickeningly fascinating to be a fly on the wall at the White House these days (well, Crawford, anyway).

    It's a shame Richard Clarke doesn't have the inside scoop any more--"Against All Enemies" gave a disturbingly real portrayal of what was said, done and not done around the 9/11 events...

    •  Remember, this is Bush/Cheney (none)
      Usually, Administration officials can retire to a nice, cushy job in the private sector. But Bush and Cheney have so many ties to the private sector, in precisely the areas that would hire a former SecDef, that they could easily threaten to blacklist him if he doesn't "stay the course." I'd bet anything that there is nobody willing to do that job at this point, so it's Rumsfeld or bust. The Administration will twist his arm as hard as they need to to keep him where he is.
      •  well, (none)
        I'm willing to bet none of them will need to retire to a "job".

        In other news, Iraqi auditors found another $1 billion dollars missing...
        •  But not US money (none)
          If you read about that carefully, you will find that it was Iraqi money. So, while disturbing and NOT surprising, at least it wasn't MY money. Like the other 9 BILLION!

          I may not agree with what you say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it. -Voltaire

          by baracon on Sun Aug 14, 2005 at 07:36:59 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  And Rumsfled (4.00)
        and Cheney go back together to the Nixon administration. They've been working their evil in tandem for a long, long time.

        Death has a tendency to encourage a depressing view of war. -- Donald Rumsfeld

        by Mnemosyne on Sun Aug 14, 2005 at 05:16:33 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  I thought that (none)
      when you're at that level, you serve at the  pleasure of the president. You can offer your letter any number of times...but he has to accept it.

      Reno tried to offer hers right after Waco. Clinton refused her letter...she remained.

      Most of the time the letter is accepted only when the pressure is from the boss for you to turn your letter in.

      But my dad made an interesting point. There are times when all of the cabinet level folks have to turn in letters so that the cabinet changes can happen...usually it's between the two terms.

      So one of those times could've been at that point.

      "Computer. End holographic program...Computer? Computer?"

      by kredwyn on Sun Aug 14, 2005 at 12:36:27 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Attempted resignation (none)
      I'm glad to see someone comment on Rummy's comical description of his "frustrated attempts at resignations."  I was mildly puzzled that no one else laughed out loud at the time, but the papers all reported it with a straight face.  It's one thing to speak of such a letter as an offer of resignation, as in "I'll resign if you think I should."  But Rummy said he'd "tried" to resign, suggesting that he was somehow prevented from doing so by the fact that the President didn't "accept" his resignation.  He's perfectly free to say "I quit" and walk out.  But he makes it sound like he's being held captive and forced to perform the duties of the Secretary of Defense against his will.  What a piece of work he is!  (Or piece of something, anyway...)
           As you said, I long for the days when this was still just funny.  Now it's turned into a distorted national nightmare.
  •  Whoa (4.00)
    If true, that's a significant development. It reminds me of the one time I've actually felt sorry for that piece of crap: When Sen. Kennedy asked him if it wasn't time for him to resign, and Rumsfeld replied, sadly, that he'd already tried to.

    He's clearly trapped, and he probably fears that he's being set up as a fall guy in case things really go to Hell, because he knows as well as anyone that nothing is Bush's fault, ever. Or Cheney's for that matter.

    Neither one of them will listen to reason, so it's time to start leaking.

    The coup is falling apart, and the knives are coming out. I wonder who's next?

  •  What this might mean... (4.00)
    is that we are moving from the flypaper strategy to one more like a sponge policy.  By taking on the properties of a sponge, we now "absorb" everything.

    If you try to pick up on commone D.C. verbiage, does anyone else use Cheney's "if you will"??  As in "last throes, if you will?"

    Let justice reign though the heavens tremble

    by Viceroy on Sat Aug 13, 2005 at 10:59:23 PM PDT

    •  And when you think "absorbant"... (4.00) think of...TOILET TISSUE. Fruedian slip? Since Bush's incompetence has gotte this county in really deep sh#t?
    •  "If you will" is a hedge phrase (4.00)
      I had a colleague who used "if you will" all the time. He was a stunningly incompetent man who was often in over his head during conversations. He used "if you will" at the end of his sentences when he was not sure about the accuracy of what he was saying. This fits with Cheney's use - he wanted to plant the idea of "an insurgency in its last throes" out in the idea-sphere, but knew inside it was not accurate.  

      "Democracy begins in conversation." - John Dewey

      by TxTiger on Sun Aug 14, 2005 at 01:53:15 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks! (none)
        Yeah, I've always took it to mean "if you will allow me...[to say something outrageous]" which could either be 'speaking truth to power' (as in a British servant addressing a particularly stupid Lord) or, as you suggest, as a feeling of insecurity like "if you will merely allow me to speak."  Cheney appears to use it as "if you will allow me to say something which I and you know to be untrue (or politically incorrect) but which moves the political discussion further towards support of my brazen policy."  Sadly, I think Cheney has completely transformed the meaning to the latter meaning.

        Let justice reign though the heavens tremble

        by Viceroy on Sun Aug 14, 2005 at 10:10:42 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  sponge ? sponge ? (none)
      Don't you drag SpongeBob into this ! He didn't start this mess ! He has enough on his hands in Bikini Bottom. So to speak...

      Let's get some Democracy for America

      by murphy on Sun Aug 14, 2005 at 04:23:03 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Absorb is a strange word in itself (none)
        Absorb is almost a "passive" word, as if there was nothing you could do about absorbing.  One stands there and things come into your body/mind/psyche/consciousness.  It implies that you don't realize it at first.  You have to absorb it first.

        A person who "absorbs" things could be searching for things to "absorb" which would be more active than passive but one never knows the pleasure or pain of what they've absorbed until one has already done the absorbing.

        As I write, I have images of someone going through life trying differenct edible things.  One gives provides a nutritional effect but you don't realize that until you've absorbed it.  Another poisons you but you don't realize it until you've absorbed it.  So, absorbtion itself has a life of its own over which the one doing the "absorbing" takes a chance on.

        If this is true, is it no surprise that our administration would be full of "absorbers" willing to take the chance that their actions might produce pleasure or pain.  

        Also, to absorb something means you've either never experienced it before so you can't predict its outcome or you've ignored your experience before so you can ignore what seems like common sense.

        "The Absorbant Bush Administration". They blindly go about their business, absorbing its effect in its wake as we've sat in horror already knowing the plausible outcome.

        How irresponsble given the debth of responsbility intrinsic in leading a nation.

        •  he needs odor eaters stink absorbers (none)

          Be a Carville, not a Colmes

          by seesdifferent on Sun Aug 14, 2005 at 08:49:06 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Absorb (none)
          Additionally, I get the sense that this word is used in a way that implies that little change will result. As in absorbing blows. The same dynamic applies in reference to absorbing ideas. Net effect: zero. It is a macho attitude dressed up with consultant-speak. In my days as an environmental consultant, "Impacted" was the accepted synonym for "Contaminated".


          "Be happy in your work" - Col. Saito

          by Prester John on Sun Aug 14, 2005 at 09:21:55 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Gingrich always says, (none)
      "it's remarkable." Both Cheney and Gingrich use "Frankly, . . . " a lot. Mark of a liar, that, IMHO.

      The name is not the thing named, the map is not the territory. -- Gregory Bateson

      by semiot on Sun Aug 14, 2005 at 08:27:55 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Are You Sure (none)
    Rummy isn't really Sponge Bob?
  •  fine detective work (4.00)
    it will take me a while to absorb it all.
  •  Thanks all . . . (4.00)
     . . . very much.

    The MOQUOL--I Can Save You, America!

  •  You know... (3.50)
    Rumsfeld was Ford's secretary of defense (and chief of staff before that). He knows what it's like to rake the coals of a burnt-down administration and something tells me that he's realized that this time, he's trapped INSIDE the house.
  •  Rummy is Just Peddling the Line. (none)
    Rumsfeld is just moving the goalposts so Bush can declare victory.  Thus, IMHO, nothing significant about the identity, though your find is excellent and I may well be wrong...

    And sorry for my diary, which is right behind yours.  I waited but nobody was putting one up so I bit.  Murphy's Law.

    •  it'll be a great victory speech (none)
      "we are successfully spreading Islamic influence throughout the region; we have united two old enemies in friendship, Iran and Iraq, and encouraged Iran to be more responsible for its own defense against potential invaders. We have provided protection of women from solar radiation."

      Be a Carville, not a Colmes

      by seesdifferent on Sun Aug 14, 2005 at 08:53:51 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  A linguistic fingerprint! (4.00)
    And the phrase "absorbing the factors" is so unusual that Google only found 10 hits for it, most seeming to relate to mathematical equations.

    Any comments on the use of unreality? I think of unreal as being an American word, in Ireland we would say not real. In the US, one commonly hears "that is unreal!" as an exclamation, meaning something is amazing or ridiculous. But I never heard unreality used as a noun except in the US and I think I've only heard it recently here or maybe I haven't been listening very well. Is it in fairly common use?

    •  unreality (none)
      It's been around a long time, and not just in the US.  The philosopher John Ellis McTaggart, who was a Brit, wrote an article entitled "The Unreality of Time" in 1908.  Google "McTaggart + unreality".

      *Springsteen for President*

      by hrh on Sun Aug 14, 2005 at 12:08:19 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Slam on Bush (none)
      There is clearly tension between the White House and the Pentagon.  Maybe Rumsfeld's gotten a little more in touch with the reality-based community and is growing impatient with his Bubble Boy?
    •  It is a word in American English (none)

      But as a semantic choice and choice of philosophical point of view, it tends to point to people whose cultural or intellectual upbringing is Germanic or Slavic.  In this particular, sorta Hegelian, intellectual elaboration it tends to be German in origin.  (See, for example, the way Henry Kissinger talks/thinks out loud.)

      This particular elaboration of the mode is consistent with the emphases Rumsfeld has in interviews on TV.

      Renewal, not mere Reform.

      by killjoy on Sun Aug 14, 2005 at 07:47:29 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  i hadn't noticed... (3.75)
    but at the end of the day it's just a word. perhaps i haven't yet absorbed the implications of your diary and the like. i do enjoy the imagery of rummy absorbing things like an enormous blob of gelatinous funk, and such!

    (i used to have such a pet peeve for verbal cliches!)

    •  there is one important implication (none)
      Rumsfeld and the Pentagon seem to be trying to cushion the fall, with "struggle" and "withdrawal", but Bush is resisting, with "war" and "no withdrawal scheduled". This is the third major shift in a month, coming from DoD. If this leak had come from the WH, it might mean that Bush is getting the idea. But coming from Rummy, it COULD be three strikes and out for the Donald.

      So there is a greater than zero chance that after the constitution comes out, Rumsfeld will declare that his part of the campaign has been successfully completed and Bush has accepted his resignation.


      Be a Carville, not a Colmes

      by seesdifferent on Sun Aug 14, 2005 at 09:01:00 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Yep, must be Rumsfeld (4.00)
    As we know,
    There are known absorbables.
    There are things we know we can absorb.
    We also know
    There are known unabsorbables.
    That is to say
    We know there are some things
    We cannot absorb.
    But there are also unknown unabsorbables,
    The ones we don't know
    We can't absorb.
  •  Before I... (4.00) your diary, I'd read the quote from the "senior...yadda yadda yadda..." and I THOUGHT it sounded like Rummy. There's also a rhythm that comes through, even in a transcribed quote, that closely resembles my former congressman, of whom I asked my first journalistic question back in junior high school.
    Anyway, I think you're right, IMHO.

    "When the winds of change blow hard enough, the most trivial of things can become deadly projectiles." --

    by Newton Snookers on Sat Aug 13, 2005 at 11:44:06 PM PDT

  •  Shedding the Unreality (none)
    I tried the same thing with the phrase "shredding the unreality" and Condi Rice. I didn't get far because according to Google nobody has ever put those words together in the history of the internets. "Unreality" yielded a bit more fruit - I found Rice parroting it back to an interviewer. Who goes around saying "unreality"?

    Maybe someone wants to cross reference "absorb" and "unreality". How many unnamed sources do you think are cited in the WaPo piece? Because I know how many named Bush administration officials appear - zero.

    I said it. I meant it. I stand by it. - Major Paul Hackett

    by joejoejoe on Sun Aug 14, 2005 at 12:12:29 AM PDT

    •  shredding the unreality (none)
      "nobody has ever put those words together..."

      Because it doesn't make any sense.  Rummy is the only one who talks in this nonsense doublespeak that  means nothing. He is infuriating to listen to.

      I'd like to shred the unreality that we have a normal human being for a SecDef.

      Ken Salazar (D-CO), who said he'll vote for the Flag Desecration Amendment, needs to hear from us.

      by OLinda on Sun Aug 14, 2005 at 07:33:01 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Unless the leaky official wants us ... (none)
    ... to think it's Rumsfeld by using one of his speech mannerisms.

    It's been done before.

    "I don't do quagmires, and my boss doesn't do nuance."

    by SteinL on Sun Aug 14, 2005 at 12:15:27 AM PDT

    •  Too subtle! and a bit derivative. (none)
      Occams Razor.

      It'r RUMMY - simultaneously lowering the goalposts AND  doing a bit of CYA and he games the system.

      When dealing with the insane, the best method is to pretend to be sane. - Herman Hesse

      by jpwillis on Sun Aug 14, 2005 at 01:13:14 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Oh, I don't doubt for a moment ... (none)
        ... that Rumsfeld would like to "disassociate" himself from the worst run war ever, it's just that there is no way he can do that. This will be dumped on his doorstep and all over him fairly shortly.

        It's been a fracas from day one, and all due to his hubris.

        But going by just one word, though used by him, is slight evidence. He launched the term "robust" for instance, which is now being used by just about everyone who wants to be in on the lingo. Likewise, his term absorb/absorption could have been picked up, or used to divert attention from the true source.

        However, Rumsfeld is in trouble now. The Struggle against/War on terror dispute had him crying uncle when Bush told him to get things straight; Rice is taking authority away from a DoD gone blind and Iraq is going down the drain.

        In the near future, Rumsfeld's madman charge on Baghdad will be called what it truly is: one of the most unwise military maneuvers ever. Why? You do not race deep into enemy territory, commence to do what the US has been doing inside that territory, and then expose your personnel to the possibility that any morning now, three million Iraqis could be coming for your soldiers, and they are far away from home.
        (But that was a diversion).

        As you will see from my Sig-line, I am no Rumsfeld fan.

        "I don't do quagmires, and my boss doesn't do nuance."

        by SteinL on Sun Aug 14, 2005 at 03:22:05 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Just to pick nits... (none)
          "Robust" has been around longer than Rummy.

          It's been common in the software industry for at least 20 years, and is a pretty straight translation from the German robuster.

          Not that it's very important, but I use the word and the thought that I have something in common with Rumsfeld, well, I was already nauseated after last night, but that's just ralph inducing.

          "What is wanted is not the will to believe, but the wish to find out, which is the exact opposite." - Bertrand Russell

          by Mad Dog Rackham on Sun Aug 14, 2005 at 07:09:33 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I'm not saying he invented it ... (none)
            But Rumsfeld uses it liberally. "Robust response" - "robust attack", etc.

            And it became catchword used by commentators and others who wanted to make it apparent they were in on DoD speak.

            "I don't do quagmires, and my boss doesn't do nuance."

            by SteinL on Sun Aug 14, 2005 at 08:30:29 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  I know exactly how you feel (none)
            about having something in common with Rumsfeld. When I read in the Post that he owns a dachshund, I shrieked with the pain of association.

            If Jesus came back and saw what's going on in His name, He'd never stop throwing up. -- Frederick, in "Hannah and her Sisters"

            by Hastur on Sun Aug 14, 2005 at 08:38:25 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Unabomber (4.00)
    Nice detective work. As you may recall, this is how they caught the Unabomber.  They allowed him to publish his "Manifesto" so that somebody, somewhere, might find clues. And that is just what happened, as Kaczynski's brother noted similar turns of phrase and structural patterns between the Unabomber and his brother, and turned him in.

    And I know it's not fair to compare Rumsfeld with the Unabomber: both have been responsible for the deaths of innocent people, but Rumsfeld's record of carnage is thousands of times higher.

    •  excellent (none)
      Remember "The Medium is the Message?" Many times the identity of the leaker is more important than the leak. For example, a close examination of Murray Waas' recent piece at American Prospect, which has no "news" of any import leads to the conclusion that Judith Miller's team is trying hard to get her out of jail. That is big news. Her lawyer Abrams will be on CNN tomorrow evening.

      Be a Carville, not a Colmes

      by seesdifferent on Sun Aug 14, 2005 at 09:10:13 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  A shot across the bow of Condi Rice (4.00)
    Is Rummy losing the ear of the Boy King at the expense of Princess Condi? This article makes a lot more sense if it's meant as a thumb in the eye of the Secretary of State by an old-school power hack like Rumsfeld.

    Think about it - we could still keep the bases on a pay as you go basis with an allied corrupt Shia strongman on the payroll. Rumsfeld has to be wetting his pants that democracy will align Iraq with Iran. Rice is chanting "peace, freedom, freedom, peace" to Bush and he is loving it because he gets to play Jesus.

    And remember this golden Rumsfeld oldie? He was never all that in love with democracy in Iraq in the first place:

    "[L]et's say you tried to have an election and you could have it in three-quarters or four-fifths of the country...[B]ut in some places you couldn't because the violence was too great? Well, so be it. Nothing's perfect in life, so you have an election that's not quite perfect. Is it better than not having an election? You bet," Rumsfeld quipped.

    We used to assume the tension between Powell and Rumsfeld. Maybe this article is about Rumsfeld's version of things at the expense of the happy squad in Crawford.

    I said it. I meant it. I stand by it. - Major Paul Hackett

    by joejoejoe on Sun Aug 14, 2005 at 12:40:45 AM PDT

    •  Just as the DLC is Ramping Up for War... (none)
      I can't help but think that as the DLC (Biden, Clinton, Joementum, Kerry, The New Republic, etc.) are endlessly beating the drums for more "boots on the ground", 100,000 new troops in the force, "muscular" deployments, kill more terrorists, etc., the Rethugs are getting ready to become the peace party--just in time for the 2006 interims and 2008. Imagine that. This sounds like Rummy, but I think it is designed, as EVERYTHING is designed by Rethugs, to retain power at any cost. After all they want to eradicate the Estate Tax for the richest 1% before the other taxpayers realize they've been fleeced again. Call it a Rethug "peace dividend" for the 2006 elections. So...get ready for them to pull the rug out from under Dem "tough guys", and declare victory in Iraq. Democrats as a party had the anti-Iraq war high ground for the taking, a winning long term stance, but our fearful "leaders" may give this advantage up too. A Party of this persuasion deserves to lose.  

      Bush/Rove: Co-Conspirators in an On-Going Criminal Enterprise

      by vetfordean on Sun Aug 14, 2005 at 07:13:22 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  re: declaring victory in Iraq (none)
            "So...get ready for them to pull the rug out from under Dem "tough guys", and declare victory in Iraq. Democrats as a party had the anti-Iraq war high ground for the taking, a winning long term stance, but our fearful "leaders" may give this advantage up too. A Party of this persuasion deserves to lose."


        The sociopaths in this administration WILL spin it whichever way they think will work. Stop it now, please, I want to get off.

    •  Trust me (none)
      Condi whispering in Dumbya's ear is more pursuasive than Rummy...........................

      Be a Carville, not a Colmes

      by seesdifferent on Sun Aug 14, 2005 at 09:11:47 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Repeat (none)
    "fine detective work"

    YOU have uncovered our ( senior official involved in policy since the 2003 invasion) unnamed source.

    Good work.

  •  Yes, content analysis of word patterns... (none)
    is a commonly used tool in some of the social sciences. Intelligence analysis uses it as well. It's even being used in the study of literature, for example in trying to figure out Shakespeare's "real" identity. We all use our own linguistic expressions, and they are difficult to get rid of because they are the brain's default programming. One has to consciously overide the default pattern if one doesn't want to use it. The fact that we have this and the uncommon use of "unreality" that another poster picked up on is interesting...either Rummy or a close associate as another poster pointed out.

    What just drives me nuts is that so many of us KNEW THIS WOULD HAPPEN. So many knew the situation being painted was naive if not false. Even their own independent intelligence agencies were saying that this would happen. The administration descended into a classical groupthink pattern.  

    The situation is much too tragic for "I told you so's". When I read this Washpot article I was just almost brought to tears.

    The Greeks knew that hubris is the cornerstone of tradegy. We all need to reread them.

    Making the world a little better place can be fun.

    by gradinski chai on Sun Aug 14, 2005 at 01:36:14 AM PDT

    •  Smash and Grab politics (4.00)
      No plans for the future. Ever: Smash a window, grab the loot, and see what you get to keep.

      Hurl brick, snatch high court?
      Jac Versteeg

      Will the Bush administration ever give up smash-and-grab politics? It's doubtful, since that's the way President Bush came to power. His election machine threw a rock through the window of states' rights and pulled out a one-time-only U.S. Supreme Court decision. Now the Supreme Court could be the focus of another smash-and-grab case.

      What is smash-and-grab politics? Get what you can while the getting's good, and the consequences for everyone else be damned. It's the attitude that says tax cuts for the wealthy are justifiable even in the face of war and record deficits.

      Smash-and-grab extends to environmental policy. President Bush's best friends and biggest backers are in the oil and energy businesses. Does it matter if expanded drilling in Alaska is harmful, won't produce much oil and is a poor policy compared with conservation? No. Get what you can while you can.

      it turns out that war also is a good vehicle for smash-and-grab politics. Bush-administration friend Halliburton seems to be stuffing its pockets with as much gusto as any Iraqi who went on a looting binge after Baghdad fell. Democrats have been insisting that the Pentagon get some of the money back. Well, as Halliburton execs might explain, giving some back would be bad, but giving some back would be better than having to give all of it back. So grab, and see what you get to keep

      •  I've been saying precisely this for years (none)
         - not to take away from your comment in any way. It needs to be said more and more. Thanks for reminding us. It's a good, simple - and true - description of how these "people" (I use that term loosely, it might include some chimeras of humans and reptiles or simians) work for us.

        The name is not the thing named, the map is not the territory. -- Gregory Bateson

        by semiot on Sun Aug 14, 2005 at 08:50:56 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Strong circumstantial evidence (none)
    but not conclusive.  Still, nice research.
  •  Can't be Rumsfeld (none)
    I think he is intelligent enough to see reality. But his pride and hubris get in the way.

    No way he is admitting defeat!

  •  Thanks, Random House (none)
    absorb, v.t.,
    1. to suck up
    2. to engage wholly
    3. to occupy completely
    4. to take up by chemical action
    5. to take in without echo, recoil, or reflection
    6. to accept or purchase in quantity
    7. to swallow

      "Today the question people are debating properly is how do you feel about absorbing a blow that is from a weapon of mass destruction and it's not 100 people or 1,000 people but it's tens of thousands of people?"

    Tomorrow's vocab word is "absorptance,"
    (the ratio of the amount of radiation absorbed by a surface to the amount of radiation incident upon it.)

    C'mon suckers, shall we absorb another "blow"?

  •  Lexical Analysis (none)

    "I would expect Osama to celebrate 911 with a concert, not us." -- DJ Adequate

    by bink on Sun Aug 14, 2005 at 04:34:59 AM PDT

  •  I know it is not your main point, (4.00)
    but my pet peeve is the way so many nouns are becoming verbs.  Here are the most annoying, aside from your "impact" example.

    1.  People are referencing sources instead of making reference to or referring to them.

    2. Numbers are trending upward instead of being on an upward trend.

    3.  Information evidences a conclusion rather than providing evidence for it.

    Oh yeah, nice catch on the Rumsfeld thing.  Maybe when he gets fired as Secretary of Defense for the United States we can get him to be Secretary of Defense for English Grammar.  He can help us stop the verb creep.  Or maybe he is just a verb creep.

    So I see only tatters of clearness through a pervading obscurity - Annie Dillard

    by illinifan17 on Sun Aug 14, 2005 at 05:47:40 AM PDT

    •  I cringe with you (none)
      In a previous job, I was often asked to "partner" with my manager or someone else on a project. The  verbifying didn't help to "incentivize" me.


      Let the great world spin for ever down the ringing grooves of change. - Tennyson

      by bumblebums on Sun Aug 14, 2005 at 07:17:51 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  My response to linguistic pet peeves. (4.00)
      A lot of us have examples of things like this that annoy us.  But as a linguist, I have to say: languages are only stable when they're dead.  As long as a language is in use by a large enough group of people, it is in a constant state of flux.  And parts of speech becoming other parts of speech is one of the ways English (and other languages) have always added new words.  For example, verbs can be turned into nouns by doubling the last consonant and adding -er: if you swim, you are a swimmer; if you run, you are a runner, and so on.  In the examples you cite above, nouns becoming verbs by adding the gerund (-ing) or 3rd person singular (-s) suffixes to them.  When these kinds of transformations have "rules" governing how they are accomplished, that's a sign that they are a regular feature of the language.

      All of this to say: the changes we notice are actually a sign of the English language's vitality and strength.  If this stuff ever stops happening, it means our language is dying.  Maybe that will help it seem less annoying to you . . . maybe not.

      As for the diary itself, good detective work!  If it is Rumsfeld, as seems likely, too bad he didn't get on the reality bandwagon a little sooner.

      All of life is an unanswered question, but let's still believe in the dignity and importance of the questions. - Tennessee Williams

      by Leslie in CA on Sun Aug 14, 2005 at 07:28:34 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Agree...up to a point. (none)
        Yes, new words and new uses for existing words make the language more robust. The underlying problem, far more important, is how Bush's cabal has used the language against us by twisting words to deceive the public, and to use "management-speak" to its ultimate purpose-to drain away any sort of accountability for their actions.

        "Newspeak"--it only took 20 years longer than Orwell predicted.

        "There are times in politics when you must be on the right side and lose." John Kenneth Galbraith

        by susanp on Sun Aug 14, 2005 at 07:52:06 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Sure. (none)
          No question that's a serious problem, though I see it as a separate issue, myself.

          All of life is an unanswered question, but let's still believe in the dignity and importance of the questions. - Tennessee Williams

          by Leslie in CA on Sun Aug 14, 2005 at 08:09:57 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Actually, what I find so irritating (4.00)
        about these usage variations is not so much whether they are valid or not, as how popular, permeating, over-used, clichéed, and grating they quickly become.

        And this also goes for plain ol' "regular" words, which suddenly become all-purpose fillers for any number of more appropriate or descriptive synonyms. An example? "Awesome". It would seem, from what I've been hearing and reading over the past few years, that "awesomeness" has overtaken America.

        Totally awesome.

        "Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it." - Mark Twain

        by Donna in Rome on Sun Aug 14, 2005 at 08:48:51 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  EXACTLY, language is DYNAMIC (none)
        though I also agree with Donna that what is so annoying is not the evolution of language, it is the overuse of certain phrases or turns of phrase.  and I also agree with the poster who mentioned corporate speak; corporate speak starts out as nearly empty, and then is (despite its patent lack of value) so overused as to become undeniably meaningless, almost immediately.  

        evolution of language as ugly?  please.  these words only sound "ugly" because they're new.  take for example the words used for (among other things) chicken parts, like leg and breast - they were once thought too ribald, too ugly, which is why the phrases light and dark meat were coined.  leg was simply too racy so breast?  fuggedaboudit.  

        my pet peeve, though?  irregardless.  ARGH!

        No matter how cynical you become ... you can never keep up.

        by LegalSpice on Sun Aug 14, 2005 at 09:35:05 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Read the short story (none)
      "Blued Moon" by Connie Willis, in her collection Firewatch. It's about just this kind of mangling (with all due respect to the linguist who posted on linguistic dynamism, some things are just ugly) of language.

      If Jesus came back and saw what's going on in His name, He'd never stop throwing up. -- Frederick, in "Hannah and her Sisters"

      by Hastur on Sun Aug 14, 2005 at 08:46:01 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Superb analysis (none)
    That is EXACTLY the analysis by which they identified Joe Klein as the "anonymous" author of Primary Colours.

    Oh when the frogs. . Come marching in. . Oh when the FROGS COME MARCH-ING IN!

    by pontificator on Sun Aug 14, 2005 at 06:45:34 AM PDT

  •  Mr. Absorb ... very good get. (none)
    Sounds like you caught SpongeDonNoPants trying to hide behind a rock in the aquarium.

    The rhetoric of the right wing is being fixed around the policy of disinformation.

    by MoronMike on Sun Aug 14, 2005 at 06:55:52 AM PDT

  •  Two versions of Absorb- Pre and Post -Invasion (4.00)
    Liked the diary a lot. As I read the quotes, I guessed Rumsfeld about 1/2 the way through.

    Nice catch on the details to identify an unnamed source. Rumseld speaks in a very unusual rhythm also.

    Most of your quotes are from the time leading up to the war in Iraq and promote a policy of action against an imagined attack- acting to repel rather than absorbing. Absorb being a weakness or a passivity in the face of a threat.

    The quotes after the war was launched use "absorb" to denote caution, slowing down of the process, metting out- as in allowing the Iraqis to absorb the responsibilities of a democracy.

    So he actually switched his usage of absorb in the context that it was given.

    Thus, if he would have used his post-invasion version of absorb in the pre-invasion time period, absorbing the threats of terrorism would have meant hindering their action, softening the "sharp point", muffling the strength of the attack - protecting people and things from the attacks of terrorist through containment and insulation.

    A whole different policy.

    •  Not sure I agree on the two versions. (none)
      But, in any event, if one considers that Iraq was no threat before the invasion, then the rejection of the past strategy, based on the assumption that a first strike could be "absorbed" and retaliated against successfully, leads to the question of where the strike is going to come from.  It wasn't Iraq then and it isn't Iraq now, even if the country has become a magnet for a host of minor terrorists.

      The answer, I would argue, is China.  Going into Iraq it was expected that the demonstration of US prowess would act as a warning to other nuclear powers (specifically China, Russia, India, little Pakistan) that they had better not mess with us.
      This is the expectation that the un-named source for the WaPo story now considers unrealistic.

      But, what he's still not addressing is the other half of the scenario--the real reason for going into Iraq.  Because the real reason all along was to establish a PERMANENT US presence on the Arabian Peninsula, a series of military bases on which our nuclear weapons would reside unchallenged and make it clear to the nuclear powers in the area, that any effort to launch their arsenal in the US direction would be countered on the spot.

      The question that Rummy and his cohorts do not want asked or answered is "what did the US want from Saddam Hussein that he didn't let them have, despite the bribes in the eighties, the defeat in Kuwait, the threats in the nineties and, finally, the determination to depose him?"
      Why is the US surprised that the various factions in Iraq are not in favor of a strong federal government regulating a federal system?  Because they were sure that once Saddam was gone, the new government would let them have their bases.  If the territory is carved up into autonomous regions, the US is unlikely to get the bases it wants, if only because the Sunni and the Shiites cannot agree to a permanent Western presence on Arab soil.
      As the dictator of a secular government, Saddam Hussein could have done it, but he knew his people would not put up with having the infidels in their midst.  This truth the anonymous source for the WaPo story seems not to have absorbed.

      3-D Republicans=division, deceit, debt

      by hannah on Sun Aug 14, 2005 at 07:36:40 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  shedding unreality (none)
    Shed unreality?  Give me a break!

    "We are in a process of absorbing the factors of the situation we're in and shedding the unreality that dominated at the beginning."

    How do you shed unreality that dominated at the beginning?  

    Doesn't that just mean we are in the process of  backtracking out of our lies?

    Ken Salazar (D-CO), who said he'll vote for the Flag Desecration Amendment, needs to hear from us.

    by OLinda on Sun Aug 14, 2005 at 07:14:02 AM PDT

    •  As a snake sheds a skin (none)
      that once protected yet now no longer fits the purpose: scratch it off and slither away. That's how he sheds unreality.
    •  Yes, or in other words, (none)
      translated it would be:

      "We are in a process of (finally) recognizing the real facts of the situation we're in and starting to (finally) see the light."

      "Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it." - Mark Twain

      by Donna in Rome on Sun Aug 14, 2005 at 08:38:57 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  but it's Rummy's unreality (none)
    From the Frank Rich column in adigal's diary (front-paged by Armando):

    "he [Bush] had let Mr. Rumsfeld publicly rebuke the Army's chief of staff, Eric Shinseki, after the general dared tell the truth: that several hundred thousand troops would be required to secure Iraq."

    Still, I wouldn't put it past him to try to shift the blame for the debacle.

    •  this is their classic strategy (none)
      next thing, they'll be blaming Shinseki for not advising them on the number of troops that'd actually be needed... reality to the contrary, notwithstanding.

      No matter how cynical you become ... you can never keep up.

      by LegalSpice on Sun Aug 14, 2005 at 09:37:17 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Excellent! and very true. (none)
    I have found that people have their own buzz words & phrases they repeat without thinking, this premise is very true- I once traced a rumor back to the source this way, because the repeaters weren't smart enough to rephrase the rumor, and kept using the original phrasing and words of the instigator, wo had a particular way of mis applying adjectives.

    We should use this analysis on more of Rummy's output, to see what else he is putting out.

  •  Brilliant work! I wonder though - (none)
    Is there a possibility that WaPo has been intentionally using that word in their quotes of this "senior official involved in policy since the 2003 invasion" - so that someone would eventually pick up on it?  My understanding of 'deep background' attribution is that the reporter has a certain amount of latitude when quoting.  Would WaPo insert the word 'absorb' more often than it's been actually used, to provide a heads-up to its readers?

    Ah, probably not.  I've just been so depressed at what WaPo and the NYT have turned into, that I'm probably clutching at straws.  They used to be newspapers, you know.  Not monied special interest flaks.

    But anyway, Dr More, thank you.


  •  Impact was a verb long ago (none)
    Much as the use of "impact" as a verb grates on my ears also, I believe I looked up the question some years ago only to find that "impact" was used in past centuries as a verb before it ever came to be used as a noun.
  •  That is a good point. (none)
    When I'm writing, I find that I tend to use certain catch phrases, certain words with out intending it.
    If the Washington Post is taking from certain sources and even quoting them. (However unnamed they might be...) then a consistently used phrase could easily be a dead give away.
    I like it.
  •  leaking (none)
    I still can't imagine Rummy leaking in the leak sense. I think this is a planned, wanted leak to get started on the lowering of expectations and easing into the fact that Iraq is lost.

    Ken Salazar (D-CO), who said he'll vote for the Flag Desecration Amendment, needs to hear from us.

    by OLinda on Sun Aug 14, 2005 at 08:03:06 AM PDT

    •  One person whose expectations the leaker (none)
      wants to lower is Bush.  Leaking as an anonymous source is one way to get a point of view to Bush that he won't tolerate learning straight from the horse's mouth.
  •  absorb this (none)
    Even Rummy can't ignore these grim realities.
    Killings of members of the Iraqi security force have tripled since January. Iraq's ministry of health estimates that bombings and other attacks have killed 4,000 civilians in Baghdad since Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari's interim government took office April 28.

    Holy shit.

    "I believe in vengeance" -- Harry Reid

    by fightcentristbias on Sun Aug 14, 2005 at 08:12:03 AM PDT

  •  Very interesting, but (none)
    One thing I noticed when working in a corporate environment: when the boss uses a phrase, it spreads like a virus.

    I bet it's not Rummy, but someone who works for him.

  •  Newsweek Koran story? (none)
    Didn't a lot of people think Rumsfeld was the source for Newsweek's story about the Koran being flushed at Guantanamo?
  •  Damn, that's pretty interesting (none)
    How did you figure that out? I mean it's not conclusive but the use of the word in that sentence does seem a bit out of the ordinary. Like someone else said, it could be an aide who has picked up the word being around Rumsfeld so long. Still, interesting.
  •  Absorb THIS, Donald! n/t (none)

    "...psychopaths have little difficulty infiltrating the domains of...politics, law enforcement, (and) government." Dr. Robert Hare

    by RubDMC on Sun Aug 14, 2005 at 08:33:39 AM PDT

  •  hey rumsfeld (none)
    would ya like failure fries with that?
  •  Body Politic as an Amoeba (none)
    Absorbing indeed. Ingestion of facts by getting proximal to them and letting osmosis drive the information transfer. If it sounds slow, it is. That's why some organisms never exceed one cell in size. Obfuscation by reduction to a microscopic political landscape. Regular folks can't fathom it, they need a microscope.

    Fox News is a propaganda outlet of the Republican Party - DNC Chair Howard Dean

    by easong on Sun Aug 14, 2005 at 09:44:52 AM PDT

  •  Excellent observation. (none)
    You have a keen ear.
  •  Here are another couple (none)
    From's archives (because they are named as a source for the original Fort Worth Star Telegram article of March 23, 2003):

    "For some, the massive volume of television ... and the breathless reports can seem to be somewhat disorienting. Fortunately, my sense is that the American people have a very good center of gravity and can absorb and balance what they see and hear."

    And another, from a article of December 24th, 2002 dealing with North Korean nuclear ambitions:

    U.S. officials, including Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, have scoffed at North Korea's claim that it will use the reactor for energy purposes.

    "They don't need a nuclear power plant. Their power grid couldn't even absorb that," Rumsfeld said during a press briefing on Monday.

    Rumsfeld likes that word.  A lot.  Just google "rumsfeld absorb" and you'll find he relies heavily upon it.  I'm definitely sold on Dr. Tom More's theory.

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