This morning, I got an enormous, jam-packed email from and old army friend, James (Barney) Marsh, an economics professor currently doing an academic stint in Berlin, the city we both lived in for a couple years during our military tenure.
Reading the email made me realize how much I appreciated knowing people who could really think. Barney and I don't always see eye to eye on things, but his insistence on marshaling facts when making an argument and his ability to do so ... well, as I wrote him back, it's like swimming in chocolate mousse -- delicious, if sometimes overwhelming. Hot damn! There is someone who can think ... and think better than I can. I am content in the wake of such a person, in this case an old University of Chicago grad who hasn't stopped thinking.
A part of Barney's email consisted of a commentary on a clip I had sent him in which Bill Moyers offered his thoughts about latter day McCarthyism. For those of a certain age, Sen. Joseph McCarthy is a touchstone of disgust ... a man who ruined many lives as he beat his anti-communist drum in the 1950's and thereby elevated his political standing. A scumbag whose fear-mongering took some years to rein in. Moyers drew some interesting parallels and issued some implicit and explicit cautions.
Barney gave a somewhat testy counterpoint to Moyers. Not that Barney favored or would elevate McCarthy's slimy legacy, but rather that he wanted to gnaw the bone more thoroughly, give a wider context ...
I guess what I appreciated was a time when marshaling facts was more important than simply having an opinion about those facts ... a failing I am all to prone to in this blog-driven, slovenly-reporting era. To present a case based on available fact ... however selective the presentation ... and then let the reader draw his or her own conclusions.
Time passes and old men have a tendency to piss upwind.