You know what, Tim, I’m not going to answer that question. This is serious business. And you, sir, are a disgrace. You have in front of you a group of accomplished, talented leaders, one of whom will in all likelihood be the next president of the United States. You can ask them whatever you want. And you choose to engage in this ridiculous gotcha game, thinking up inane questions you hope will trick us into saying something controversial or stupid. Your fondest hope is that the answer to your question will destroy someone’s campaign. You’re not a journalist, you’re the worst kind of hack, someone whose efforts not only don’t contribute to a better informed electorate, they make everyone dumber. So no, I’m not going to stand here and try to come up with the most politically safe Bible verse to cite. Is that the best you can do?
The rest of the post is all about what a smug, self-important phony Russert is, and how the influence of Timmeh and other talking-head morons like him is making our electoral process a joke. Of course, we already knew that, but it’s still a pleasure to read someone state it so clearly.
Okay, so I’m still not sold on Edwards as a campaigner, and I was disappointed with the way he let Amanda Marcotte and Shakes twist in the wind when the right wing flying monkeys began their sorties, but it does look like he “gets” it. In 2004, it was his “Two Americas” narrative about the cruel economic inequalities in this country, and this year he put his finger solidly on the root cause:
[T]he truth is the system in Washington is corrupt. It is rigged by the powerful special interests to benefit they very few at the expense of the many. And as a result, the American people have lost faith in our broken system in Washington, and believe it no longer works for ordinary Americans. They’re right.
As I look across the political landscape of both parties today — what I see are politicians too afraid to tell the truth — good people caught in a bad system that overwhelms their good intentions and requires them to chase millions of dollars in campaign contributions in order to perpetuate their careers and continue their climb to higher office.
I saw the chase for campaign money at any cost by the frontrunner in this race — and I did not join it — because the cost to our nation and our children is not worth the hollow victory of any candidate. Being called president while powerful interests really run things is not the same as being free to lead this nation as president of a government of the people, by the people, and for the people….
And what has happened to the American “can do” spirit? I will tell you what has happened: all of this is the result of the bitter poisoned fruit of corruption and the bankruptcy of our political leadership.
It is not an accident that the government of the United States cannot function on behalf of its people, because it is no longer our people’s government — and we the people know it.
This corruption did not begin yesterday — and it did not even begin with George Bush — it has been building for decades — until it now threatens literally the life of our democracy.
While the American people personally rose to the occasion with an enormous outpouring of support and donations to both the victims of Katrina and 9/11 — we all saw our government’s neglect. And we saw greed and incompetence at work. Out of more than 700 contracts valued at $500,000 or greater, at least half were given without full competition or, according to news sources, with vague or open ended terms, and many of these contracts went to companies with deep political connections such as a subsidiary of Haliburton, Bechtel Corp., and AshBritt Inc.
The long slow slide of our democracy into the corporate abyss continues unabated regardless of party, regardless of the best interests of America.
We have a duty — a duty to end this.
I believe you cannot be for change and take money from the lobbyists who prevent change. You cannot take on the entrenched interests in Washington if you choose to defend the broken system. It will not work.
It is extremely important to get this idea into the mainstream. The fact is that our political system is rigged so that ordinary citizens have as little influence as possible. It’s not the gays or the immigrants or the abortions that are dragging the country down, it’s a political system where the money that delivers votes is more important than the voters who cast them.
Apparently Edwards acquitted himself well in the debate yesterday, so hopefully that will give him a little extra oxygen to get his message out. If he can strengthen his antiwar position to full withdrawal, and highlight Hillary’s hedging on withdrawal and awful Kyl-Lieberman vote, he can pick up the progressives who are deserting Obama, and maybe peel off some of Hillary’s support as well.
I still like Dodd, who looks like more of a leader and a warrior to me, but his position on driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants is disappointing. Not sure if this vaults Edwards over him in my estimation yet, but the gap is definitely narrowing.
I used to think that it didn’t really make much difference whether a House or Senate seat was held by a fake Democrat or a real Republican, and the only benefit of the latter was if they got there by beating one of the former. I don’t want Democrats to believe that acting like Republicans is the key to electoral victory, you see. I would, however, prefer to retain a majority in at least one house, so that Democrats will have subpoena power to investigate the Bush administration’s many crimes.
But the latest anti-progressive Democratic outrage (by Harry Reid this time), solidified a change of my mind. I now believe that fake Democrats are far, far worse than real Republicans, regardless of how the latter got there. My reason is very simple, and very cynical: They poison the Democratic brand. They feed the destructive narrative that there’s no real difference between the two parties, they’re all corporate whores, so why bother voting for either of them.
On the surface, it sounds like I’m willing to cede control of the Congress to the Republicans for the sake of marketing, but the Democrats have already ceded that control – what more do we have to lose?
In addition, I am starting to believe that subpoena power is very much a mixed blessing: On the one hand, yes, Waxman and Leahy have uncovered a lot of administration horrors. But on the other hand, they have been unable to get beyond the Sternly Worded Letter and Unheeded Subpoena phase of their investigations. The real dirt remains covered, and the many criminals of BushCo. remain unaccountabilized.
The resulting message is that Republicans are corrupt, and Democrats can’t do anything about it. That’s not exactly an inspiring Election Day pitch: “We’re counting on you to get rid of the Republicans, because we sure can’t!”
Better Democrats, please.
2 commentsOctober 31st, 2007 at 07:30pmPosted by Eli
Former Colorado parks director Lyle Laverty’s confirmation to a top post in the U.S. Interior Department was pushed through the Senate on Monday while a member blocking the vote was home tending to his wife and newborn twins.
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., for seven months had opposed Laverty’s confirmation as assistant secretary for fish and wildlife and parks, demanding that Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne address ethical lapses within the department.
On Friday, Wyden’s wife gave birth to twins, and the senator was in Oregon on paternity leave Monday when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., scheduled the vote.
“I am fuming,” said Scott Silver, co-founder of Wild Wilderness, an Oregon forest advocacy group. “If an effort was made to go around Wyden, knowing that he was with his wife in the hospital just becoming a father of twins, that is truly shameful.”
Wyden publicly placed a hold on Laverty’s nomination days after it was announced by President Bush in March.
Wyden’s office was notified Monday of the call for a vote, “and it was clear that Sen. Wyden had not lifted the hold,” said his chief of staff, Josh Kardon.
Reid on Oct. 4 addressed Vice President Dick Cheney on the Senate floor, saying he was working to clear Laverty’s name for the job that oversees the National Parks Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
“But I have been unable to do that,” Reid said, according to the Congressional Record. “We have a member on our side with whom I have worked all afternoon. We thought we had it done once, but it did not work out. I am confident, though, it will work out.”
Reid is not only imitating Republicans on policy, but also on tactics. (Only against other Democrats, however.) It is absolutely disgusting that the Democrats tolerate a Majority Leader who is tough on progressives and soft on Republicans.
I don’t just want Reid out of the leadership, I want him out of the Senate.
This week, some helpful hints on how to get rid of annoying ghosts:
If you are one of the estimated 3.6 percent of the population plagued by otherworldly houseguests, the following tips will help you exorcise your spectral pests once and for all.
o Be Mean. Ghosts hate to be teased. If you knew the ghost when it was alive, dredge up the most embarrassing moment of its life and taunt it unmercifully.
o Shower in a Bathing Suit. Many spirits will haunt your home hoping to catch a glimpse of some skin, so cover up!
o Become a Slob. The afterlife is quite tidy, by all accounts, and ghosts can’t stand grime. Don’t do the dishes, leave dirty underwear lying around, and eat chili, lots of chili (especially if the phantom is haunting your toilet).
Now that’s Weekly World News you can use.
2 commentsOctober 31st, 2007 at 07:18amPosted by Eli
Digby has a great post titled “The Art Of The Hissy Fit,” about how the Republicans use transparently fake outrage to intimidate and emasculate Democrats, making the Democratic party look smaller and weaker every time they cave in, and they always cave in.
When you are attacked by a hypocrite, by someone accusing you of the very thing that they themselves are guilty of, it’s not enough to simply stand your ground. You have to counterattack. You have to call them on their hypocrisy, remind everyone that their offenses against civility and decency are far, far worse than yours. I recommend that the Democrats memorize and practice these three little words, which must be incorporated into every response to phony Republican outrage:
HOW. DARE. YOU.
Go ahead, try it. Who knows, you might even like it.
2 commentsOctober 24th, 2007 at 07:55pmPosted by Eli
So here’s Hillary, being interviewed by the Guardian’s Michael Tomasky, on the hot-button topic of executive power:
Tomasky: If you become president you’ll enter the White House with far more power than, say, your husband had. What is your view of this? And what specific powers might you relinquish as president, or renegotiate with Congress – for example the power to declare a US citizen an enemy combatant?
Clinton: Well, I think it is clear that the power grab undertaken by the Bush-Cheney administration has gone much further than any other president and has been sustained for longer. Other presidents, like Lincoln, have had to take on extraordinary powers but would later go to the Congress for either ratification or rejection. But when you take the view that they’re not extraordinary powers, but they’re inherent powers that reside in the office and therefore you have neither obligation to request permission nor to ask for ratification, we’re in a new territory here. And I think that I’m gonna have to review everything they’ve done because I’ve been on the receiving end of that. There were a lot of actions which they took that were clearly beyond any power the Congress would have granted or that in my view that was inherent in the constitution. There were other actions they’ve taken which could have obtained congressional authorization but they deliberately chose not to pursue it as a matter of principle.
Tomasky: I guess I’m asking, can a president, once in the White House, actually give up some of this power in the name of constitutional principle?
Clinton: Oh, absolutely, Michael. I mean that has to be part of the review that I undertake when I get to the White House, and I intend to do that.
This is all well and good and everything, but I have to ask the question: Why wait until you get to the White House? You have a pretty good idea of what powers the Bush administration has grabbed, so why not perform that review now, and then tell everyone what you intend to roll back, rather than just saying that you’ll “review” it?
Sure, there’s probably some stuff no-one even knows about, but there’s no reason you can’t say, “Of the executive powers that I know about, here’s what I would change. There are probably some powers that this administration has assumed in secret, and I will look at those very thoroughly and very skeptically when I take office.”
How hard could it be?
5 commentsOctober 24th, 2007 at 03:35pmPosted by Eli
So without further ado, here is In Praise of the Sphincter Ani, from the introduction to an article by W.C. (no, really!) Bornemeier in The American Journal of Proctology. It is not, as I had remembered it, a poem, but the adulation is no less glowing:
Of all the structures in the area one stands out as the king. You can damage, deform, ruin, remove, abuse, amputate, maim or mutilate every structure in and around the anus except one. The structure is the sphincter ani. There is not a muscle or structure in the body that has a more keenly developed sense of alertness and ability to accommodate itself to varying situations. It is like the goalie in hockey… always alert.
They say man has succeeded where the animals fail because of the clever use of his hands yet, when compared to the hands the sphincter ani is far superior. If you place into your cupped hands a mixture of fluid, solid and gas and then, through an opening at the bottom try to let only the gas escape you will fail. Yet the sphincter ani can do it. The sphincter apparently can differentiate between solid, fluid, and gas. It apparently can tell whether the owner is alone or with someone, whether standing up or sitting down, whether its owner has his pants on or off. No other muscle in the body is such a protector of the dignity of man, yet so ready to come to his relief. A muscle like that is worth protecting.
Now what other blog are you going to find this kind of hard-hitting yet edifying content on?
1 commentOctober 24th, 2007 at 12:44pmPosted by Eli
“I’m rooting for the Red Sox,” the Republican presidential contender told a Boston audience on Tuesday, just a few T stops from Fenway Park.
“I’m an American League fan, and I go with the American League team, maybe with the exception of the Mets. Maybe that would be the one time I wouldn’t because I’m loyal to New York.”
“Somehow it makes me feel better if the team that was ahead of the Yankees wins the World Series,” he told a group of mostly local reporters in explaining his sudden backing of the Red Sox, “because then I feel like, well, we’re not that bad.”
Later, at a town hall meeting in Lebanon, N.H., Giuliani yukked it up with a couple of audience members who were wearing Sox caps. “If I keep looking at that hat, I may start crying,” he said to chuckles, before adding, “Good luck to the Red Sox!”(…)
The GOP front-runner insisted his sudden conversion to Red Sox fandom was “not just because I’m here in Massachusetts.”
“In Colorado, in the next week or two, you will see, I will have the courage to tell the people of Colorado the same thing, that I am rooting for the Red Sox in the World Series,” he said.
I’m sure Yankee fans will be very comforted by Rudy’s consistency.
While swaggering through an insincere photo op somewhere in the general vicinity of the Giant Fire, surrounded by living props firefighters who are desperately needed elsewhere, President Bush will announce that he will retaliate against Fire’s cowardly assault on America by attacking Earth, Air, and Water.
Oh wait, he already has.
More seriously, my sincere best wishes to the people of Southern California. This is just horrible – 500,000 people evacuated, 1200 homes gone, probably 7 dead (so far). Jeez.
2 commentsOctober 24th, 2007 at 07:29amPosted by Eli
There were a pair of fascinating articles about dreams in today’s NYT Science News – one about regular dreams, and one about nightmares.
The common theme is that dreams are our brains’ way of Working Through Stuff. And between the two articles, it appears that that’s happening in two different ways. Part of it is simply processing the events of the day, a kind of triage process that sorts through the experiences and thoughts of the day and moves the relevant stuff from the sphere of immediate experience and short-term memory into the sphere of long-term memory, knowledge, and skills. Kind of like transferring photos from your digital camera to your hard drive, or more generically, from a capture device to a storage device. And as all of this material flashes through your sleeping brain, some of it bleeds through and turns into dreams.
The other part of it, which is more prone to generating nightmares, is the unconscious brain’s attempt to grapple with unresolved issues. My gut feeling on this is that it’s a mechanism that we’ve outgrown. I think we’re supposed to somehow work through and resolve these issues in our sleep so we can focus on what we need to do during the day (look for the passage about “fear extinction memories” in the nightmares article), but our lives have simply become too complex to be sorted out while we sleep. But the brain thrashes through it all the same, and it probably even gets mixed together with the stream of data getting copied into main memory, recombining in new and different ways.
I also really liked this description of what happens physiologically when we’re in REM sleep, and how it affects the nightmare experience:
When slipping into REM sleep, Dr. Levin said, “the whole brain changes.” “Neurochemically, it’s like the Fourth of July,” as cortical precincts shift colors in scanning images to indicate arousal or quiescence, he said, adding, “The limbic system becomes incredibly active, much more so than when you’re awake, which is why you’re emotionally on edge in dreams.”
Blazing with particularly patriotic fervor in the limbic system are the amygdala and anterior cingulate cortex, constituting what Steven H. Woodward, a psychologist at the V.A. hospital in Menlo Park, Calif., terms the brain’s “axis of fear.” At the same time, the prefrontal cortex, seat of rational thought and critical reasoning, is on lunch break, Dr. Levin said, “which is why you can have a dream where something has 4 heads and 12 legs, and you think, ‘No problem, what’s next?’”
Also relatively tranquilized is the primary visual cortex, recipient of visual signals from the outside world. The secondary visual cortex, however, which helps process and interpret those signals, remains alert. It is here that the fabulous imagery of dreams probably arises, said Tore Nielsen of the University of Montreal, as the secondary visual cortex strives to decipher the signals ricocheting through it, many of them internally generated, and to splice them into some approximation of a coherent whole.
Other sensory and motor systems remain active in REM, including those that would normally control the arms and legs, which is why motion figures prominently in many dreams. But if you often feel frustrated, as though you can never get to where you’re going, well, you can’t.
As it happens, one vigilant player in dreaming is a small region of the brainstem that paralyzes most of the body, preventing you from physically acting out your dream. People with neurogenerative diseases that disable this brainstem disabler can end up injuring themselves during extreme dream-driven actions. Most cases of sleepwalking occur in non-REM sleep, when the body is not paralyzed.
“This issue has real implications for the country. It captures all the American people’s anger and frustration not only with immigration, but with the economy,” said Rep. Rahm Emanuel (Ill.), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus and an architect of the Democratic congressional victories of 2006. “It’s self-evident. This is a big problem.”
House Democrats are so concerned that they have resumed talks on a new legislative push, even though the collapse of an immigration deal in the Senate this spring has left virtually no chance that a final bill can be passed in this Congress.
But even in the early stages of this renewed effort, negotiations have only underscored the party’s problems. Some Democratic leaders want what they call a “mini bill,” emphasizing border control, penalties on firms that employ illegal immigrants and stronger efforts to deny illegal immigrants government benefits. But Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez (D-Ill.), the point man on the bill, said he will never accept a measure that does not include a pathway to citizenship for the 12 million undocumented workers in the country.
“For the American people, and therefore all of us, it’s emerged as the third rail of American politics,” Emanuel said. “And anyone who doesn’t realize that isn’t with the American people.”
It’s only a matter of time before someone decides to combine third rails and start drafting immigrants.
Seriously, this may be a new low in stupidity for the Democrats. Why would they want to piss away the advantage with Hispanic voters that the GOP just handed them? I mean, it’s not like Dubya and his Intimidating 24% Approval Rating is bullying them into it this time.
4 commentsOctober 23rd, 2007 at 09:12pmPosted by Eli