Re: Alberto Gonzales in Esquire

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Was he talking about criminal investigations or about Congressional investigations into the firings themselves?


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 12-10-09 11:28 AM
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Yes, Minivet gets it - it was Congressional investigations that were to be quashed.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 12-10-09 11:30 AM
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On preview, pwned by 1. To whit:

I read the excerpt differently. I thought he was referring to congressional investigations of the firings -- that he was saying: "We should have stopped the firings once it became clear that, with a Democratic majority in Congress, the Repubs couldn't stop the majority in Congress from investigating the firings." That kind of political maneuvering goes on all the time. I didn't think he was admitting that somehow the firings were to stop the fired US attorneys from conducting criminal investigations.


Posted by: bill | Link to this comment | 12-10-09 11:30 AM
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I mean, criminal ones as well, but Gonzalez is (incredibly brazenly) referring to Congressional oversight.

Pretty damning statement about Congressional Republicans, but we knew that.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 12-10-09 11:30 AM
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Now walk it back, LB.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 12-10-09 11:31 AM
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3 also pwned by 2. An avalanche of pwnage.


Posted by: bill | Link to this comment | 12-10-09 11:33 AM
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Huh. Fair enough, but that takes it from an absolutely direct confession to an only slightly more oblique confession -- if they should have recognized that firing the attorneys was a bad idea because they couldn't stop Congress from investigating it, isn't that a confession that they knew what they were doing was wrong?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-10-09 11:34 AM
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Minivet's reading sounds plausible, but I kind of want to jump all over you for this:

I get that there are political reasons not to prosecute, but can we get some public acknowledgment that the man's confessed to a crime?

Why exactly should we accept the idea that not prosecuting someone who has publicly confessed to a serious crime should be justificable based on "political reasons"? I mean, fine, I can come to terms that this is the reality, but the more we shrug resignedly, the more certain that the reality is perpetuated.

(Yeah, I realize you probably agree with that. Okay, I'll quit ranting.)


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 12-10-09 11:37 AM
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I do think that 7 is basically right. But Gonzo's been so successfully shunned (wasn't he literally unemployed for about 2 years?) that I don't think he has much to lose.

Which isn't to say that President Palin won't nominate him for SCOTUS.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 12-10-09 11:39 AM
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Correction made, and drat you all. But even read correctly, as the annoying lot of you clearly have, it's very close to a confession. I'd love to see this one prosecuted.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-10-09 11:46 AM
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I'm too lazy to read 18 U.S.C sec 1503 (see: too lazy to write the proper symbol), but it didn't seem to me as if it was a violation of that particular statute. Even so, he seems to be admitting, if obliquely, that their motives were political, especially with his comment about Rove.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 12-10-09 12:06 PM
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Since it wasn't clear from my last statement, let me say that I meant that their motives in firing the U.S. attorneys were political.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 12-10-09 12:08 PM
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Well, what do you mean by 'political'? If you mean 'with the intent of affecting particular criminal investigations', I think that's criminal.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-10-09 12:12 PM
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Maybe not particular criminal investigations, but setting the stage for future changes in policy direction. Now everybody does this when there's a vacancy, but firing non-political civil service employees seems like a big deal to me. It rejects long-standing civil service norms. Damn it, there must be a law against it.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 12-10-09 12:31 PM
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Maybe not particular criminal investigations, but setting the stage for future changes in policy direction.

For US Attorneys, that sort of political motive is absolutely kosher. That's why each President gets to appoint his own US Attorneys, and conventionally doesn't allow many (if any) holdovers from the prior administration. The reason the Gonzales firings looked as if they had a more particular motivation was that all the US Attorneys fired were already Bush appointees, and could be assumed to be on board with the Bush policy agenda.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-10-09 12:36 PM
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My belief is that they were not only trying to influence specific investigations and more generally put loyalists in the posts, but also set a precedent for the Administration to routinely appoint USAs without taking Senators' recommendations as is customary. Thus, it made sense that Republican congressmen wouldn't be too eager to help them out. (Maybe if they were in the majority, they would have been good little lambs.)

I wonder, though, if the fracas is making it seem somehow illegitimate for a new President to appoint all new USAs; that would be an undue backlash.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 12-10-09 12:52 PM
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I know that it's kosher when there's a vacancy, but would it be okay if you fired one mid-term, because you didn't like his or her past investigations, even if s/he was otherwise competent.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 12-10-09 12:53 PM
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but would it be okay if you fired one mid-term, because you didn't like his or her past investigations, even if s/he was otherwise competent.

I'm actually not sure about whether the President has power to fire a US Atty, rather than pressuring them to resign. But assuming that firing and pressuring to resign were the same thing, I'd call it okay if the disagreement were a broad policy disagreement. If you, the President, have a stated goal of cracking down on financial crime, and the US Atty is devoting 80% of the office's resources to prostitution busts, I'd think firing was legitimate. And vice versa -- the President thinks morals is the most important priority, but the US Atty wants to go after embezzlement.

But that's different from approving/disapproving of specific targets of investigation, which is not a legitimate reason to fire a prosecutor.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-10-09 1:02 PM
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16 in an interesting idea. Not enough Regent grads out toiling in the vineyards of local Republican politics, so if you want to Xtianize law enforcement, you need to draw them from Main Justice. Rather than having senators recommend their girlfriends.


cc max-style
[Oh, right, he's a Dem.]


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 12-10-09 1:07 PM
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19: What if it was not an ongoing investigation, but a past investigation which had involved friends of the president?


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 12-10-09 1:11 PM
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The U.S. Attorney situation is about the government firing attorneys who refused to pursue criminal charges for overtly political reasons. God knows the U.S. has always been fucked up, but this country is becoming increasingly unrecognizable to me.

I get that there are political reasons not to prosecute

LB has been insufficiently mocked for this comment. God knows Unfogged has always been fucked up, but this blog is becoming increasingly unrecognizable to me.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 12-10-09 1:47 PM
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Can I stipulate that that comment was not a statement of belief that prosecution is inappropriate, but a statement that I'm not naive enough to think that prosecution is remotely likely? Descriptive, rather than normative.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-10-09 2:02 PM
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LB has always been soft on wrongdoers. She says she doesn't actively want them to burn eternally in the flames of hell; so long as they're kept from doing any more damage, she's, like, mellow about the whole thing. Admirably practical, but some of us with more petty souls would like to see a little more writhing.

LB, sorry if I've remembered that wrong.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 12-10-09 2:04 PM
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[typically stupid ToS drivel deleted]


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 12-10-09 2:42 PM
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She says she doesn't actively want them to burn eternally in the flames of hell; so long as they're

thrown from the roof of a building while still on fire.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 12-10-09 2:46 PM
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I can't believe I'm substantively engaging here, but I hadn't recalled any of the fired US Attorneys being Democrats. Part of the scandal was that they were all Bush appointees.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-10-09 2:46 PM
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Not enough time to writhe, says I.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 12-10-09 2:46 PM
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Yes, Bush appointees who insisted on behaving ethically.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 12-10-09 3:26 PM
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I assume that 26 is a response to something now deleted. In the tag on 19, I'm referring to a December 2009 scandal.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 12-10-09 3:29 PM
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thrown from the roof of a building while still on fire.

Havin' fun at the party!


Posted by: bill | Link to this comment | 12-10-09 4:02 PM
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Can I stipulate that that comment was not a statement of belief that prosecution is inappropriate, but a statement that I'm not naive enough to think that prosecution is remotely likely?

I knew you intended it that way, of course, but it still rubs me the wrong way.

Outrage is cheap and easy, hence my enthusiastic indulgence in it, but really, some things ought to be recognized as beyond the pale whenever they are discussed. Alberto Gonzalez, John Yoo and the Catholic Church (to pick another example that bugs me) are big problems, but so is the political climate that allows them to move on from their crimes with relative impunity. "I know that political realities preclude the extradition and prosecution of Bernard Law, but at least he had to resign as archbishop." No, no, no.

I understand the urge to torture people - and I understand the reality that it's sometimes going to happen with impunity regardless of official policy - but I would almost never say so, because absent a lot of explanation, this sort of "understanding" has a normative impact. Moynihan made a useful point about defining deviancy down.

I see that this reads like a call for obligatory expressions of pro forma outrage when certain topics come up. I'm prepared to endorse that reading. You could offer in your defense that this comment ought to be read in the context of every other comment you've made on this subject - or, for that matter, in the context of your professional commitment to the rule of law. While acknowledging the existence of those contexts, I'm explicitly rejecting their relevance.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 6:41 AM
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If we ever acknowledge the existence of political realities, are we not monsters?

Funny, I was just thinking about how stupid I find that attitude.

"The art of the possible is not enough! We must demand the impossible!"

Okay, coach.

"We must say the same thing over and over and over, lest our tiny minds lose track of our true beliefs, and we cheerfully sign on to Obama's secret plan to nuke the moon."


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 6:47 AM
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...we cheerfully sign on to Obama's secret plan to nuke the moon.

Stimulus. And it goes to people who can create mathematical models without crashing the whole economy. Plus, nuking the moon is a very cost effective way of letting future aliens (or Earthlings after a dark age) know that we were able to build good rockets.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 6:54 AM
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It can be done!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 6:55 AM
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34: It must be done. If they give the stimulus money to me, I'll just blow it on home repairs and cheese.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 6:57 AM
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Probably foreign cheese, too.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 6:58 AM
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And illegal immigrants for my home repair.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 6:59 AM
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I'm making a bumper sticker. "NO BRIE FOR MEXICANS: NUKE THE MOON"


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 7:01 AM
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I'm thinking why not aim big. If we can send probes to Mars, we can nuke it. I'm thinking multiple nukes to make a giant "USA" on the surface.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 7:04 AM
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NUKE THE SUN


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 7:08 AM
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Starring Bruce Willis and Matt Damon's friend who used to date J Lo.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 7:09 AM
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I endorse 31.

"The art of the possible is not enough! We must demand the impossible!"

What we choose to characterize as "possible" and "impossible" has, I think, a real impact on what is or isn't possible. It's like telling your kid he'll never amount to anything -- nurturing that belief helps fulfill that prophesy.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 7:33 AM
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What we choose to characterize as "possible" and "impossible" has, I think, a real impact on what is or isn't possible.

Wow, I'd never thought of that! Actually what's probably happening is that Rahm Emmanuel trolls unfogged threads, and if every single commenter doesn't say at a all times what their ideal outcome would be, he lets out a sigh of relief, reassured that he can compromise away every single core democratic belief.

But no, you're right. Every discussion of politics must of necessity be sheer, obdurate advocacy in endless repetition, lest goodnight moon -- forever!

It's like telling your kid he'll never amount to anything -- nurturing that belief helps fulfill that prophesy.

I've also seen that movie.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 7:50 AM
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It's like telling your kid he'll never amount to anything -- nurturing that belief helps fulfill that prophesy.

So, to come back to this briefly, did you really mean to say that 31 applies because people interested in progressive change are directly comparable to a five-year-old struggling at youth soccer? Because that certainly seems to be the implication.

I'm (sort of ) a grownup! I can simultaneously want something and realize that it may not happen -- that it may not happen for reasons that I can understand, even. I would love to find a community of similarly advanced thinkers. No idea where to look, though.

Or maybe I need to read The Secret so as to understand that the power of positive thinking can imprison torturers?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 8:04 AM
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Sifu, I think there are roles to play for people who'd like to push the process in a particular direction. I personally think 'this is not politically impossible because if you can frame it this way, some reservation among x population are substantially reduced' is a whole lot more effective that 'you're a charlatan, everyone who believed in you is a fool, and I'd rather see Sarah Palin in office than support you for a minute more.'

There's room for grown up advocacy.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 8:14 AM
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Sifu, you can be a real prick sometimes.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 8:19 AM
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And there's room for 'I'll see you in court.'

I'm not impressed with the current Administration's defense of the delisting of the wolf in Montana and Idaho. Our federal judge here declined to enjoin this fall's wolf hunt, finding that although opponents were likely to succeed on the merits, they could not show irreparable harm. (To the population as a whole -- obviously, on an individual wolf level, death is irreparable).

One would like to hope that a mature opponent* would see 'not likely to win' on what is a pretty defrential review, and maybe withdraw the agency action under review.


* I'm not involved in the litigation; opposing in my capacity as a citizen/human.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 8:21 AM
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Oh, I totally agree. Forceful advocacy for the strongest possible measures to undo, reveal and atone for our country's transgressions against human rights are vitally important. I just find the idea that nobody can ever acknowledge that it might be difficult to accomplish absurd and counterproductive. If you want to change political realities you have to make an attempt at understanding them. Saying "we must demand that action be taken immediately" every time the issue comes up just makes you seem impotent.

Now, if unfogged were a single-issue advocacy blog, I would expect the maximalist stance, and I would expect no crack in the facade of powerful statements demanding action. On the other hand, I wouldn't read that blog, because (a) I'm not the target audience, and (b) it's f'in' boring as shit to read tireless advocacy all the time.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 8:21 AM
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48 to 45.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 8:22 AM
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Sifu, you've been getting really worked up lately when people have complained about Obama not being liberal/progressive/left enough, and now when people are not willing to make peace with the political realities of the Bush administration's bad actions. You seem prickly and defensive about these topics. Are the DFHs of Unfogged really so in need of condemnation? Or are you just trolling?


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 8:24 AM
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pf--I'm pretty sure that Law would have been prosecuted if he'd stayed in the U.S.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 8:26 AM
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(It has to do with the definitions in the Endangered Species Act. Can you use state lines to arbitrarily define a population of an animal? The answer is obvious -- it's completely ridiculous to say the a wolf becomes more or less endangered when she steps across a line inside Yellowstone Park, much less that she has become part of one population rather than the other. The Bush Admin adopted the state lines as boundaries, because they needed to separate out the inferior regulatory structure in Wyoming -- you can only delist a population if there's adequate state regulations in place. So they made it a different population, although Yellowstone sits in all 3 states, and wolves travel all over outside the park in all 3 states.)


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 8:28 AM
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I endorse 48.1 and 46.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 8:30 AM
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And apparently, it's better politically to lose in court than to step up and do the right thing.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 8:35 AM
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50: I actually think I've been rather restrained. Moony, cheap idealism masquerading as forceful consensus bugs me, and I think far too often on the left-leaning internet people mistake an unwillingness to contemplate politics as it is for an admirably principled stand on morality.

The only thing I can think of that would genuinely help this country move more quickly in a progressive direction is structural reform of the senate, and nobody anywhere with any power is seriously suggesting that, so what the fuck can we do but be grateful for small victories?

All that said, you should take the mere fact that I'm commenting in this thread as strong evidence that I agree with the vast majority of what's being said. I would go yell at my ideological opponents but honest-to-god right-wingers generally make me so angry I can't type.

It was one of the more problematic elements of my tenure at the poor man, frankly. I couldn't bear to wallow in the utter fucking rank idiocy of the rightbloggers, so I'd read lefty blogs instead and get irritated by things there, which wasn't what I wanted to do with a platform like that.

On the other hand, this is an unfogged comment thread. Active as this place may be, this is about eighteen floors and three sub-basements away from anywhere even close to where it would need to be to move the Overton window at all, so I feel somewhat more comfortable pointing out the occasionally endemic magical thinking, even when it occurs among my political allies.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 8:38 AM
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eighteen floors and three sub-basements

This does cut both ways -- just like we're not going to move the Overton window much here, it's also pretty unimportant whether Unfogged readers are realistic or deluded about what's politically possible. I've got sympathies on both sides -- I'm interested in talking about politics as it is, which involves a certain amount of focus on what's actually likely to happen, rather than what should happen. But the Overton window stuff is important as well -- not for us so much as for anyone with a broad public audience.

There, that was waffly enough, right?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 8:45 AM
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endemic magical thinking

Would it be more magical thinking to ask that you might could attempt to entertain the tiniest bit of a possibility that the people you are "engaging" with are actually expressing a slightly more sophisticated thought than "Forward this indignant to 20 friends and tomorrow we'll all have ponies and rainbows!" I'm not annoyed that you think outrage is impotent. I am annoyed by the condescending rhetorical hyperbole which has treated pf's and my comments as infantile.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 8:45 AM
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Or maybe I need to read The Secret so as to understand that the power of positive thinking can imprison torturers?

I'm compelled to admit that, stripped of the snark, this is a pretty reasonable restatement of my position. The law was perfectly adequate to keep torture from becoming the official policy of the United States. What changed is the way people think.


Posted by: polticalfootball | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 8:46 AM
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just like we're not going to move the Overton window much here, it's also pretty unimportant whether Unfogged readers are realistic or deluded about what's politically possible

Oh, I completely agree. My complaint in terms of unfogged threads is that it's boring and unedifying to hear a legion of people express the unity of their strongly held belief that various things which aren't going to happen should happen. Whatever else obtains, it would be nice (This is for me personally, of course. Others may feel differently.) if unfogged wasn't boring.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 8:49 AM
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Whatever else obtains, it would be nice (This is for me personally, of course. Others may feel differently.) if unfogged wasn't boring.

I believe strongly that various things like this aren't going to happen but should happen.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 8:51 AM
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55.2 And the reason nobody is suggesting it is because you'd need to consent of most of the states which get disproportionate political power by the Senate in order to change the Senate.

Or, to make your point further, the U.S. political system is designed to require a supermajority or a great deal time to enact any significant change. This was a deliberate act on the part of the drafters of the constitution. This has often deeply annoyed both sides when they are in power and greatly encouraged them when they are not. However, even in the middle of the Depression, FDR couldn't get his own party to go along with too much weakening of the brakes on change. That's because a great many people think "This highly lagged process will keep me from really shafted if we lose the next election."


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 8:53 AM
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57: infantile's a strong word, but childish, certainly.

By all means do not take my feelings on your comments as a larger commentary on your person. You are charming, intelligent and accomplished, I'm sure, none of which is relevant to what I was saying.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 8:53 AM
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I strongly endorse 60.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 8:54 AM
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62: Well that's certainly an effective way of shutting down actual conversation.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 9:02 AM
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The most effective way of shutting down actual conversation is to try to sell Amway.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 9:03 AM
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The most ineffective way of shutting down conversation is to personally visit everyone's computer and close their Unfogged window.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 9:06 AM
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Clearly, you've never even tried automatic weapons fire.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 9:06 AM
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I would go yell at my ideological opponents but honest-to-god right-wingers generally make me so angry I can't type.

Lately I've been getting not angry, but at least flustered with center-left people I've talked to about Afghanistan. I hear a lot of things like "well, Afghanistan is a complicated problem to solve, so who am I to criticize Obama and the military for their decisions?" Or "I'm not exactly happy with the thought of sending tens of thousands more troops, but it's not as if I know a better answer!" And I sort of stammer things about how sending an army to solve a country's problems is rarely a good idea, or about the number of civilians we're murdering, or about how maybe our policy could involve buying up opium for medical purposes to try to inject some wealth and goodwill into the country. But I keep running into the same attitude of "but it's a messy country and we can't possibly understand it, so why should we question the wisdom of the experts?" It's frustrating, because for me the sense is first that military intervention is a terrible idea, which never helps; figuring out if there is some sort of non-military intervention in Afghanistan that can help stabilize the country seems secondary. But for the people I've discussed this with, pulling the military out seems to be something they only want to consider if presented with some wonkish idea about how we can "fix the problem" in another way. There's some sort of fundamental assumption that differs between the way they see the issue and the way I do.

But what might be a little less futile is converting the sort of liberal-leaning centrist group of people who are receptive to more liberal ideas but have these odd starting assumptions that we must, for instance, "solve the Afghanistan problem". I'm not sure if the way to deal with these people is to try to understand policy options that might do that, or to try to convince them that their basic worldview that the U.S. must solve the world's problems is deeply flawed.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 9:06 AM
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64: if you think I was too hard on your views then defend your views! You can be sarcastic back to me, if you want. I can definitely take it.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 9:06 AM
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Dammit, I stripped out a sentence when editing that. "A little less futile" than engaging actual right-wingers or bickering, as in this thread, among people who basically agree on the bottom line.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 9:08 AM
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68.2: that's how I find a lot of my conversations (with e.g. my mom's peer group) going in my offline life. It's possible, but boy is it a slow process.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 9:11 AM
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I've got sympathies on both sides -- I'm interested in talking about politics as it is, which involves a certain amount of focus on what's actually likely to happen, rather than what should happen. But the Overton window stuff is important as well -- not for us so much as for anyone with a broad public audience.

Or in its milder form, for oneself -- that is, if you get too, too hung up on focusing on "the possible" you'll probably trend towards underestimating what falls into that bucket, which is just bumming yourself out for no reason.

But I also get irritated at the line of argument (not really on display in this thread) that goes: how dare you be insufficiently ideologically pure, just because you don't think it will get anyone anywhere! The further the advocated position is from anything the speaker is in a position to bring about, the more annoying. (What is better about embracing bloody revolution vs. not, if either way all you are actually going to do is your grocery shopping?)


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 9:11 AM
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There's some sort of fundamental assumption that differs between the way they see the issue and the way I do.

I've got some sympathy for them, and would have quite of a bit of sympathy if I trusted the judgment or good faith of any of the people in a position to be treated as experts. Given that we've already got a huge army in Afghanistan, it seems really very possible that differences in what we do with it that are small compared to the difference between invading and not invading (what I mean is that I wouldn't use this sort of argument to justify invading and occupying a country at all; entertaining it is contingent on the fact that we're already there) might have substantial good or bad effects. So if someone I trusted said "Look, we're there already, six more months of doing [X] will help a lot and then we can leave," I might buy it.

But the problem is 'someone I trusted'. Anyone with the credentials to claim expertise on this sort of stuff also seems likely to be an insane warmonger. At which point I throw up my hands and say 'bring 'em all home, now.'


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 9:12 AM
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Lately I've been getting not angry, but at least flustered with center-left people I've talked to about Afghanistan. I hear a lot of things like "well, Afghanistan is a complicated problem to solve, so who am I to criticize Obama and the military for their decisions?"

Yes, this is just disheartening/disconcerting. I guess I do think there is something worthwhile about a little impotent rage here and there.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 9:13 AM
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What is better about embracing bloody revolution vs. not, if either way all you are actually going to do is your grocery shopping?

Speak for yourself, Foxy! My grocery shopping is both a direct and radical blow for the permanent revolution of the proletariat and a reappropriation of the signifiers of my objectification. You're just not trying hard enough!


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 9:23 AM
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three sub-basements away from anywhere even close to where it would need to be to move the Overton window at all

I endorse all sorts of ineffectual political actions. I vote, for instance, and I think you should too. So on this level, I do disagree with you directly.

But I'm not just talking about the big-picture Overton Window aspects of this. There's a little Overton Window - the one in our own heads - and I think it's helpful to watch it for slippage.

I remember the day of the Iraq invasion. I said to someone, "You know, I've got a lot of problems with this, but if I've got to pick one or the other - invade or not - on balance, I think the invasion is the right thing to do."

This is, obviously, an embarrassing thing to admit. My view wasn't merely stupid, but profoundly immoral. So how did I arrive there? I existed in a culture that had become inured to certain kinds of outrage. It was possible in those days - among liberals, mind you - to talk at length about the case for war without always emphasizing that war would result in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, and the ruination of millions.

I no longer say things like, "Had I been a slave owner in the antebellum South, I would have set 'em free."

Okay, sure, it's true that I didn't have any impact on the course of the war. I can take some solace from that. It's not my fault. But for me at least, there are other important issues at stake.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 9:24 AM
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75: Your paper must print better coupons than mine. The closest I ever get to helping the proletariat is 50 cents off.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 9:25 AM
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if you think I was too hard on your views then defend your views! You can be sarcastic back to me, if you want. I can definitely take it.

Meh. PF can argue with you if he wants. I've grown steadily less inclined in my old age to engage people who dismiss my thoughts as "childish."


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 9:28 AM
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I existed in a culture that had become inured to certain kinds of outrage. It was possible in those days - among liberals, mind you - to talk at length about the case for war without always emphasizing that war would result in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, and the ruination of millions.

I'm pretty sure every culture that has ever existed is this type of culture.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 9:29 AM
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I was thinking how much better the world would be if we could get a recording of Di, Sifu, and PF singing Miracles. Di should sing the Marty Balin part, and I'm confident that Sifu could hit those Grace Slick high notes.

No really, it's be great.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 9:32 AM
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77: My coupons are for guns, not butter.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 9:36 AM
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76: I certainly don't disagree that each of our individual attitudes has an impact. In fact, that's part of what has me so frustrated lately. Activist Democrats strike me as utterly disconsolate -- they feel betrayed by Obama, on issues such as the failure to prosecute bushies -- and because of that it seems extremely likely to me that the Democrats are going to get killed in the midterms. Now, I'm not saying it's not legitimate to be disappointed in how little has happened (I am, too!) but one thing about our political environment as currently structured is that it's incredibly fucking hard to move things in a positive direction. Is it possible that Obama's a total sellout, that Taibbi's right, that this is the worst of all possible worlds? That we, as a polity, have been had? Sure, I guess. Is it rather more likely that he's basically a consensus-building center-left politician who is trying as best he knows how to implement whatever small parts of the Democratic party platform that he can? I think so. We may consider rather more to be within the realm of the possible than the Obama administration does, but I tell you what, whatever's possible now there'll be a hell of a lot less possible if the GOP gains a bunch of seats next November.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 9:38 AM
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81: We can't buy guns at our grocery stores. We can't even buy beer at our grocery stores.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 9:38 AM
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Is it rather more likely that he's basically a consensus-building center-left politician who is trying as best he knows how to implement whatever small parts of the Democratic party platform that he can?

This basically reflects how I feel. I don't really get the widespread disillusionment that people often express. I think I just consider it great that we're inching in more-or-less positive directions.

OTOH, I feel utterly incapacitated when I think about people trying to undo the good stuff. I can't really discuss politics with people with whom I disagree.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 9:41 AM
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82: This is the sort of thing where I'm repeating, rather than having checked, the conventional wisdom, but weren't we pretty definitely going to lose a bunch of seats anyway, both because the incumbent's party tends to lose some in the midyears, and because big gains tend to roll back at least somewhat.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 9:46 AM
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85 -- Cf 2002 and 1994.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 9:50 AM
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Ugh, it's going to take forever for the comment thread to get there. Just tell us?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 9:54 AM
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Also, unemployment is going to be sky-high in November 2010 (a Goldman Sachs report says it will peak in summer 2010). Unemployment would be lower if the stimulus had been bigger and less focused on tax cuts and more on high-multiplier spending, and part of the reason the stimulus was unsatisfactory was a political decision Obama made not to seek a bigger, less tax-cutty stimulus. He has also made the political decision not to seek a second stimulus or to push for using leftover TARP funds for stimulus rather than deficit reduction. He and his economic team made a political decision not to use populist anger to enact strict regulations on the financial industry, including consumer protections. We're a long way from joining Britain and France in levying a 50% tax on banker bonuses, a move that I can't help believe would win Obama votes. (Even just proposing it and letting the Republicans filibuster it to death would be popular.)

Is Obama stuck in the trademark Democratic defensive crouch, or is he pursuing a policy agenda he more or less believes in?


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 9:56 AM
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it's not legitimate to be disappointed in how little has happened (I am, too!)

It has only been 10 months. Ten months. Just about every day, I see something like new drinking water standards for schools. If I get four years of one big change a year (health care, climate change, education and, I dunno, food?) and near daily small changes that I like, I'll call him a success.

(That said, I want more on gay rights, wish we weren't extending Afghanistan and wish he were doing whatever CharleyCarp thinks we should do about Guantanamo.)


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 9:57 AM
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And to another part of 82: Activist Democrats strike me as utterly disconsolate -- they feel betrayed by Obama, on issues such as the failure to prosecute bushies -- and because of that it seems extremely likely to me that the Democrats are going to get killed in the midterms.

Here, I'm one of those people, and I'm in a hard moral/psychological spot. Obama's screwing up some stuff (mostly on the detainee issues, as well as the escalation in Afghanistan) which makes it hard for me not to think of him as, well, an authoritarian/militarist maniac, somewhat less so than Bush, but bad enough that I have a really hard time thinking of him positively in any broad sense. I don't care if his positions on those issues are 'consensus center-left positions', they're past wrong into revolting.

But, on the other hand, he's moving policy back in the direction of some things I can agree with. So it's one of those, "He's a bastard, but he's our bastard," situations, and I'm just not sure how to handle it, either publicly or in my own head.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 9:57 AM
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87: The tooth fairy isn't real. You have to spend your own money when you kid starts to upgrade to Tooth 2.0.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 9:57 AM
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88 to 82.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 9:58 AM
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Is it possible that Obama's a total sellout, that Taibbi's right, that this is the worst of all possible worlds?

It is not possible that Taibbi is right about anything, ever.

OT: If I never read another SFF book review that uses the word "awesome," I will be quite happy.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 9:58 AM
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If I never read another SFF book review that uses the word "awesome," I will be quite happy.

This suggests an easy and reliable route to happiness. I find just looking at the covers and reading a paragraph works pretty well.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 10:00 AM
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94: "The greater the percentage of the cover with naked female flesh, the worse the book" seems to work fairly well.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 10:01 AM
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90: well, look, my instinct when looking at the American position in the world is to say that we're fucked, and absent a level of progressive leadership and change -- not just domestically, but internationally -- that we're not going to get we're going to remain fucked, and we're going to mess up a whole lot of the rest of the world with us on the way down.

On the other hand, that's a recipe for utter political disengagement, which doesn't help anybody. And I'm often wrong. So I choose to believe that if we pick our battles and vote for our bastard rather than the other bastard, we stand some small chance of making some things better for some people some of the time. So that's where I hang my hat.

I keep thinking about the sausage-factory analogy; it's become a cliché, but I think it's worthwhile to really examine it. You take an intelligent, inquisitive, charming animal, slaughter it, take its asshole and armpits and bile ducts and grind them into a stinking mass of bile and gore, and then at the end of it you have something that tastes pretty good but isn't really very good for you. That's exactly the process! That's the best outcome possible from politics. If you can't stomach that, why follow politics in any detail at all? Only because the alternative is worse.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 10:04 AM
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Unemployment would be lower if the stimulus had been bigger and less focused on tax cuts and more on high-multiplier spending, and part of the reason the stimulus was unsatisfactory was a political decision Obama made not to seek a bigger, less tax-cutty stimulus.

That's true! Why did he make that political decision? Did the stimulus have to pass the senate?

He has also made the political decision not to seek a second stimulus or to push for using leftover TARP funds for stimulus rather than deficit reduction.

That's not true! Just today they floated a trial balloon suggesting that the extra TARP money get used for small business loans.

We're a long way from joining Britain and France in levying a 50% tax on banker bonuses, a move that I can't help believe would win Obama votes. (Even just proposing it and letting the Republicans filibuster it to death would be popular.)

That's true! But you'd still have to get a majority of Democrats, and you wouldn't get meaningful financial reform, something that may (possibly, outside chance, it's dicey) actually happen at some point during Obama's term.

Is Obama stuck in the trademark Democratic defensive crouch, or is he pursuing a policy agenda he more or less believes in?

Why are those the only two options?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 10:07 AM
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96: Oh, I'm happy to vote for 'our bastard'. I just have a hard time talking about him approvingly.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 10:12 AM
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96: My disagreement with you is in what constitutes and enables "...a level of progressive leadership..."

Without relentless bitching from below the leadership has no countervailing force pushing back against the seductions of the existing power structure. Making unrealistic demands not only moves the Overton window, it also helps keep the leadership aware that the base needs to be thrown a bone every once in a while.

Bitching that Obama isn't progressive enough may be unrealistic in practice, but the effect is to keep him aware that he needs to deliver at least something the DFHs want if he plans on being a two term president. The danger is that ideological purity trumps getting *anything* done, which is where the right appears to be headed currently, but they've still managed to dilute health care reform and keep financial regulation on hold for the time being.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 10:15 AM
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It'd be easier to talk about him approvingly if you're a very-nearly a single issue voter, and he's doing OK on that front.

(Also, you guys got blase about having a black president pretty fast.)


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 10:15 AM
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What I am unable to get over is how, from the years 2001 through 2009, a 60-vote majority was not necessary in order to pass things through the Senate, and now it is.

It is not possible that Taibbi is right about anything, ever.

Has he ever written anything that wasn't true?


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 10:16 AM
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(Also, you guys got blase about having a black president pretty fast.)

That doesn't matter.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 10:17 AM
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Activist Democrats strike me as utterly disconsolate -- they feel betrayed by Obama, on issues such as the failure to prosecute bushies

I'm one of these. Digby argues persuasively that the failure to go after Nixon and his crew led in a pretty straight line to GWB.

I even sympathize with the Republicans on this issue, and agree with them that the failure to nail Clinton really puts this country at grave risk for future White House blowjobs.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 10:17 AM
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Also, you guys got blase about having a black president pretty fast.

That's still something I'm delighted by, in terms of what it says about race relations in the US (not that everything's perfect, but it's a good sign.) But it's not something that Obama himself gets credit for, if you see what I mean.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 10:17 AM
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Also, you guys got blase about having a black president pretty fast.

I don't see presidents.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 10:18 AM
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98: not just vote for, though. Be happy for. Because holy shit it could be (it recently has been!) so very, very, very, very much worse. I mean, some few small things are moving in a positive direction! Democrats might pass a bill expanding health care some people some of the time maybe! Holy shit! That's a fucking sea change! Honestly!

We aren't approving new mountaintop mining permits! The EPA acknowledges that CO2 is a pollutant! The vice president is no longer an unelected dictator ruling over life and death from his airborne supervillain lair! I mean damn that makes me want to cry it's so awesome!

People complain about Obama not moving fast enough on gay rights, and indeed, he should move much faster. But Bill fucking Clinton fucking signed the DOMA.

Of course none of this weighs, really, if you're making an absolute calculus of horrible vs. non-horrible things about the way this country is governed. But look at anything but the margin and you'll make yourself both crazy and useless.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 10:19 AM
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55.last and 59 to 99.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 10:22 AM
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Possibly a little glibly.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 10:22 AM
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106: I'm with you all the way until the last sentence. And then I look at the last sentence and think "Well, I'm voting for Kang. He's better than Kodos, and anything else is just throwing away my vote."

But I don't really have a position in this argument. I have a set of things that upset me that I can't reconcile.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 10:23 AM
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it's not something that Obama himself gets credit for

It was his decision to be black and have a funny name that put us in the position of having a black president today.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 10:24 AM
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110: No, that was the decision of the Nazi eugenicists who grew him in a top-secret Nairobi laboratory.


Posted by: Tom Scudder | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 10:26 AM
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99 -- Excessive bitching leads to triangulation. Or anemia. The trick is to find the right balance.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 10:26 AM
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109: "abortions for some, tiny american flags for others" is a policy I could get behind.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 10:27 AM
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107,108: Fair enough. Bitching here is good practice for bitching in places where it matters, though.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 10:28 AM
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112: You think there's been excessive bitching on the part of progressives?


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 10:29 AM
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Be happy for.

I'm not signing up for anything that requires me to be happy for a president who gets the Nobel Peace Prize a week after deciding to escalate a war in a little country halfway around the world. If what I say and do doesn't affect anything anyway, I'm going to hold on to my ineffectual outrage.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 10:31 AM
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I don't care if his positions on those issues are 'consensus center-left positions', they're past wrong into revolting.

See, this is how these things ought be discussed. I'm a particularly big fan of maintaining the distinction between "wrong" and "past wrong into revolting." It's a distinction that is too-often blurred.

But, on the other hand, he's moving policy back in the direction of some things I can agree with. So it's one of those, "He's a bastard, but he's our bastard," situations, and I'm just not sure how to handle it, either publicly or in my own head.

I actually am not much conflicted about this. In Congress, I'd be happy to see any Democrat who supports Obama's objectionable positions get strongly primaried from the left. In the general election, I'd support any Congressional Democrat over any Republican (or any Naderite splinter). Period.

The same for Obama. I'd support a serious challenge from his left in a primary (though it gets complicated when you ask me to define "serious"), and there's nobody I'm aware of that I'd support over Obama in the 2012 general election.

Glenn Greenwald is pitch-perfect on this stuff, in my opinion.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 10:32 AM
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It was his decision to be black and have a funny name that put us in the position of having a black president today.

The being black thing is so cool, that it tends to obscure the fact that he's a black guy with a name that invokes both of the villains that Republicans had used so successfully to scare Americans silly.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 10:45 AM
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Ya, my general feeling before the election was "Okay, a black guy might some day be elected President - maybe even tomorrow. But it'll be a black guy named Colin or Harold, not a black guy named Barack."


Posted by: Tom Scudder | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 10:47 AM
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Obama's inability to be a left-liberal warrior doesn't really disappoint me, because, absent a well-organized popular political base that has the means of forcing him in that direction, it was never going to happen. What disappoints me is that all the grass-roots energy and organization that went into getting him elected (and the 2006 Congress before him) didn't carry over into pushing for an actual progressive agenda once there was a Democratic majority. Instead, Wall Street, the insurance lobby, and the military have been the only forces exerting effective pressure for concessions in proposed policy.


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 10:54 AM
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I'm slightly dispirited. The main thing that bugs me is that he didn't push for enough of a stimulus, and I think he's overly concerned with the deficit given the current state of the economy.

I'm quite dispirited vis a vis my state. I miss Teddy, and the people we got to choose between were pretty sad. And now, Kerry is our Senior Senator which sucks. Kennedy's staff used to provide basically on point answers to questions, and they were excellent on constituent services. Kerry doesn't care. But we don't do primary challenges. I can't help thinking that we could do so much better here.

Also why must my Congressman be such an obfuscating douche? Is he actually dumb or just too smooth? Again, why can't we do better?


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 11:01 AM
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Come to think of it, we've got a year. Is there anyone respectable keeping a list of vulnerable either way Congressional races where we should be giving money/volunteering, either in Democratic primaries or in the general?

After all, the campaigning this blog did for Tom Geogeghan was terribly effective.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 11:11 AM
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122.2: just think how many more people can pronounce his name correctly than could before.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 11:17 AM
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Fivethirtyeight is tracking the races, of course, but I haven't seen much evidence of the blogospheric fundraising apparatus really getting going.

No need to give money to Coakley, I'd wager.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 11:19 AM
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I don't really get the widespread disillusionment that people often express. I think I just consider it great that we're inching in more-or-less positive directions.

I think the general consensus is that a Hillary Clinton admin would be doing more or less exactly what this one is (at least wrt the major sources of liberal discontent). Now consider that, during the primaries, liberals seemed to feel quite strongly that it was important that BHO become president rather than HRC. From that, I think it's very clear whence the disillusionment comes.

If HRC were president, doing the same things Obama's doing, liberals would be pissed. With Obama, that pissed-off feeling is funneled instead into disillusionment, but it's not because liberals have changed their positions; they just hoped that BHO would be closer to their positions than he is.

I'll say this: I was not at all swirly-eyed, but I still found plenty of reason to think that BHO would be better - esp. on civil rights and, to a lesser extent, economic issues - than he has been. His background features a number of elements* that put him fairly far outside the Beltway consensus, and so it was reasonable to think that he would be less hidebound. But there've been few substantive initiatives where you think, "Evan Bayh never would have done that."

*specifically the community organizing/conflict resolution stuff - I'm not talking about biography


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 11:19 AM
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125: Perhaps. I personally preferred Obama because I felt like having only two families dominate the white house since 1988 (and be submissive in the white house since 1980) was not democratic.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 11:25 AM
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If I get four years of one big change a year (health care, climate change, education and, I dunno, food?)

That would make me happy, too, but at this point I don't think you'll get any of that. I mean, you'll get window dressing and/or terrible legislation on 2 or 3, but I don't think that the Senate can or will pass climate change legislation that will make a difference, and I don't believe at this point that BHO has the least interest in pushing good ed reform.

Note, of course, that I fingered the Senate there. Part of the frustration, certainly on my part, is that BHO refuses to spotlight the structural failures of the Senate. I don't know why he is satisfied to see the Senate destroy his presidency, but he clearly is. His initiatives are hopelessly watered down, and the public is getting pissed, but he doesn't seem to care that they will blame him and vote for more obstructionist Republicans.

Any deep-game theories about why Obama is silent about the dysfunctional Senate will be dismissed as childish.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 11:27 AM
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be submissive in the white house since 1980

OMG Nancy and Poppy with a ballgag!


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 11:27 AM
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in the Conservatory.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 11:28 AM
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115 -- Yes, I think it's a contributing factor to the differences in enthusiasm for voting in 2010 between party members that the pollsters are seeing.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 11:30 AM
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You know how deep is game is? Obama's like "okay, the senate is obstructing my legislative priorities. I wish that things were different! However, I have no constitutional or popular leverage which I could use to fix the structural problems with the Senate, and if I want any legislation to pass during my term, I should probably not pointlessly antagonize the small-state Senators who would be most affected, who currently run the Senate, and with whom I must work extremely closely."

I mean that's some seriously deep strategic thinking. That's like the long-term slow-game singularity, right there.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 11:33 AM
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"how deep his game is"


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 11:34 AM
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That's true! Why did he make that political decision? Did the stimulus have to pass the senate?

He proposed a stimulus that he thought was adequate, telling people, publicly and privately, that it was the right size. President Collins then declared that it was $100B too big.

Do you think that Collins carefully calculated that the appropriate size was exactly $100B less than Obama's proposal, and that if he had proposed $20B more, she would have demanded a $120B cut? Do you really fucking think that? Because if you don't, then you should admit that Obama proposed too little, apparently unfamiliar with the concept of "haggling."

I would also note that his offhand reference to a health care plan that costs "around $900B" ended up setting a hard ceiling for negotiators. All of the evidence indicates that he had no intention of setting a ceiling, and that the number he mentioned was intended as nothing more than a placeholder - the White House had no $900B package in mind. It's as if he has no idea how the Senate operates at all.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 11:35 AM
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Ya, my general feeling before the election was "Okay, a black guy might some day be elected President - maybe even tomorrow. But it'll be a black guy named Colin or Harold, not a black guy named Barack."

I always assumed it would be someone with a name like "Barack Obama" rather than "Harold Washington", because it would have to be a descendent of recent African immigrants rather than a descendent of slaves.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 11:39 AM
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Obama has power to do arm-twisting with Senators that he doesn't seem to be using. Also, the Treasury has had enormous discretion on a range of financial issues over the past year or so.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 11:39 AM
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No offense, Heebs, but I always though the position in 126 was childishsilly. In fact, if anything, electing Obama just disguises how deeply nepotistic/dynastic our system is.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 11:41 AM
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Is there a way that small-state Senators could possibly be more obstructive than they are now? There's no way they could have any more leverage than they do now under the current rules, no matter how "antagonized" they are, so I say no.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 11:41 AM
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His game is so fucking deep that he helped Lieberman get reelected.

Your position - that BHO is, by definition, governing at the very left edge of the possible using the most brilliant strategies and tactics possible - is, hmm, there's a word I'm thinking of....


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 11:43 AM
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Is there a way that small-state Senators could possibly be more obstructive than they are now?

Yes. If Obama said something that Sifu thinks he shouldn't.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 11:44 AM
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You know how much you and I know about the actual negotiations between the White House and the Senate?

I mean, what are you relying on, the reporting of the Washington press corps? Some Senator's aide anonymously told some reporter that Obama is an ingenuous nitwit with nobody on his staff who understands how negotiations work, they credulously repeated it, you read it, and here we are.

I mean, the guy hired half the white house on their ability to work with Congress. Do you really, really think that somehow none of those people understood that there would be negotiation involved in the stimulus, and that a bunch of centrist wankers would want to cut arbitrary amounts off of the bill?

You know what would have happened if it had been reported that Obama said (said privately) that the stimulus was $100b bigger than he really thought was necessary? (a) There would have been a holy shitstorm, and (b) Collins would have demanded a two hundred billion dollar haircut -- or more!

The level of incompetence you're willing to ascribe to people who have taken on (thus far with some small success) some of the hardest legislative battles in decades is a little bit amazing to me.

Is it possible that they could have gotten more stimulus? Maybe! I don't fucking know. Maybe they got rolled. But they sure as shit knew they were going to face pushback on whatever number they proposed.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 11:44 AM
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Your position - that BHO is, by definition, governing at the very left edge of the possible using the most brilliant strategies and tactics possible - is, hmm, there's a word I'm thinking of....

A straw man? Maybe that's what you're looking for.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 11:44 AM
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I've been so many places I've seen some things (Yes, I have)
I know that love is the answer (Yes, it is)
Keeps holding this world together (Oh, yeah)
Ain't nothing better, ain't nothing better (Nothing's better)
And all the answers to our prayers
Hell, it's the same everywhere (Just the same now)
Nothing ever breaks 'cept the heart (Love's a game now)
Only your tears give you away (Ain't it a shame now)


Posted by: Marty Balin | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 11:45 AM
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Also, with the Senate being what it is, Obama had no choice but to nominate a conservative Republican to be in charge of the most important job-creating position in America.

No. Choice.

Don't say that he did, because he didn't. It's Ben Nelson's fault.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 11:45 AM
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But they sure as shit knew they were going to face pushback on whatever number they proposed.

And therefore proposed something that was inadequate before the first negotiation.

BTW, 140 is an excellent reproof to 141. Thanks.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 11:47 AM
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144.last: it's not like I clearly stated my position in this very thread, or anything.

Is it rather more likely that he's basically a consensus-building center-left politician who is trying as best he knows how to implement whatever small parts of the Democratic party platform that he can? I think so. We may consider rather more to be within the realm of the possible than the Obama administration does, but I tell you what, whatever's possible now there'll be a hell of a lot less possible if the GOP gains a bunch of seats next November.

Whoah! Where did that come from? SUPER WEIRD!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 11:50 AM
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And therefore proposed something that was inadequate before the first negotiation.

Dude, you didn't hear about the first negotiation. You didn't hear about the first 20 negotiations. Communications probably started on the question of the size of the stimulus the week after election day, I guarantee you. The story of the Senate is one of backroom deals made quietly, and press leaks that are designed to advance one agenda or another. It's an almost entirely opaque legislative body. You honestly think that you're getting the full picture by reading reporting on the subject?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 11:54 AM
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I can hear windmills and rainbows whenever you talkin' to me (Never say never)
I feel like swirling and dancing whenever you're walkin' with me
You ripple like a river when I touch you (Let me touch you)
When I pluck your body like a string (Show you what I mean)
When I start dancing inside you Oh, baby, you make me wanna sing


Posted by: Marty Balin | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 11:58 AM
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146: The only problem here is that we've got outside experts saying that the stimulus was way, way too small, and the initial proposal. So, you're right that we have no idea how the haggling went, or what Obama's real initial position was, but in the best case scenario (his secret initial position was pretty good, he just lost the negotiation), he's still moving the conversation away from reality. If he'd publically initially asked for a bigger stimulus, we'd be in a better position now to try and get more.

And of course, while you're right that we really can't know what all the underlying issues and processes are, we can only judge his performance based on what we do know.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 12:06 PM
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148.2: of course. And what we know was the outcome of the negotiation, that was a stimulus that was too small. So he didn't get done what needed to happen. But it's impossible to judge why that happened; incompetence, nerves, an impossible Senate, a plan for secondary stimulus, an honest belief that it could have been smaller than it was, political calculations: who knows?

I mean, I feel like they've definitely fucked some things up. And again, there are a lot of issues where I feel like they could have pushed farther faster, and I don't really know why they didn't.

I'm just leery of taking reporting on how these things play out at anything like face value. Like on health care, it's pretty tough for me to believe they haven't basically had a game plan all along, and that things have been working approximately like they imagined they would.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 12:14 PM
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That's is all inside trading stuff, though. I expect that no matter what, and same with the health care reform. But where Taibbi is absolutely, 100% accurate is that the entirety of our economic policy has been turned over to fucking Goldman Sachs and Obama put not one progressive whatsoever anywhere within driving distance of a position of influence on that. Couple that with the terrible civil liberties and military stuff and, well, partial wins on stimulus spending and maybe health care seem like some weak tea.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 12:46 PM
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On the military stuff, I really hate holding on to Gates as the Secretary of Defense. Politics means something, and ideology means something. If an area of policy is important to an administration, you should staff it with your own people.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 12:48 PM
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151. This.

I have heard from many people inside DoD who thought that keeping a Republican in charge was evidence that Obama was sensible about national security. Gates has said things that Cheney hates. That is good. But the idea that Democrats can't do national security has taken hold.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 12:52 PM
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Defensive crouch?


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 12:56 PM
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the idea that Democrats can't do national security has taken hold.

The SecDef has been a Republican for 13 straight years now, including all of Clinton's second term.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 1:01 PM
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No offense, Heebs, but I always though the position in 126 was childishsilly. In fact, if anything, electing Obama just disguises how deeply nepotistic/dynastic our system is.

I am a deeply silly person.

What I mean is, I felt there were no substantive differences between Clinton and Obama. I just liked Obama's message of hope and change non-Clinton-non-Bushness.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12-11-09 1:22 PM
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150: he might be right about some things, but Tim Fernholz at TAP is less than convinced.

I like this quote:

Is it disconcerting that employees of the financial industry make a ton of money? Yes. Is it the revolving door between Washington and Wall Street problematic? Yes. Does the Administration take it too easy on the banks? Absolutely. Are White House advisers too centrist for progressive tastes? Sure. But when you try and tell that story with a lot of lies and innuendo, and misunderstand the basic policies that these people are producing, you don't hurt them. Now anyone who criticizes the Administration will just be lumped in with Taibbi's meandering conspiracy. (Sidenote, I thought it was Goldman Sachs we all had to be worried about?) The problems Taibbi tries to describe aren't some kind of ridiculous cabal. They come from group-think and structural influences and as a result of a complex interplay of interests and institutions; the policies they produce aren't either good or evil, they're in need of analysis to determine which help regular people, which hurt them and how to change the latter into the former.

A bit wonky-centrist even for me, but I still like it.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-12-09 7:43 AM
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What I mean is, I felt there were no substantive differences between Clinton and Obama.

I largely felt like Clinton was Obama

- plus greater enthusiasm for a particular flavor of nanny-state nonsense that I know I loathe

- plus an awkward track record on health care reform that seemed likely to lead to an even more defensive crouch than everyone else was going to have

- minus even the chance of surprising me by resisting our old friend "triangulation"

- plus Bill Clinton in the wings being gross (as evidenced by a number of icky Bill-led campaign initiatives).


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 12-12-09 7:55 AM
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I imagine the people annoyed at me in this thread will find a lot to like in the comments at the link, many of which seem somewhat thoughtful.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-12-09 7:56 AM
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"Somewhat" in 158 is an unnecessary qualifier.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-12-09 7:57 AM
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Felix Salmon is distinctly unimpressed with the TAPPED post. Point: Taibbi.

Vampire squids don't have blood funnels, though.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-12-09 8:13 AM
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Personally, I love it that Taibbi exists, and I'm impressed that his 6,500-word screed (into which a great deal of work clearly went) in fact has very little in the way of factual errors, let alone "lies". Yes, Taibbi is polemical and one-sided, and he exaggerates his thesis, and he's entertaining; I daresay he's learned a lot from watching Fox News. And no, I would never want to live in a world where everybody wrote like that. But Taibbi is one of a kind, and we can enjoy him and learn from him as such. He might not end up changing policy in Washington. But he's doing a much better job of making the policy debate relevant to Rolling Stone's readership than anything Tim Fernholz has ever done.

Okay, Salmon, fine.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-12-09 8:15 AM
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Why am I arguing with myself alone in a thread at 10:30 on Saturday morning?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-12-09 8:15 AM
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SHUT UP, THAT'S WHY.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-12-09 8:15 AM
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I'm here. But I don't have much to contribute to your one-man band.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12-12-09 8:18 AM
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Also I don't want to post your link yet because I can't listen to stuff today.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12-12-09 8:19 AM
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165: I could definitely see wanting to give that journey through bliss your full aural attention.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-12-09 8:23 AM
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Is it intentional that oral and aural are practically indistinguishable both orally and aurally?

Actually I've never recieved aural, as long as everyone's going to go there, anyway.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12-12-09 8:25 AM
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That was perhaps the single favorite pun of '90s electronica compilers.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-12-09 8:26 AM
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re: 167

Is it intentional that oral and aural are practically indistinguishable both orally and aurally?

Speak for yourself, phonemically challenged colonial ...!


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-12-09 8:26 AM
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Merry mary gave aural oral to errol before they married.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-12-09 8:27 AM
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Merry maury...


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-12-09 8:30 AM
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On the shores of the Aral Sea.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-12-09 8:33 AM
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Pauvich Povich


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12-12-09 8:33 AM
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picked a peck of pickled pepper.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-12-09 8:38 AM
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Pecked a pack of pockled poopers.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12-12-09 8:40 AM
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pockle!

Now there's a good Scots word.

http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/recommends/Best-Scottish-word.3330400.jp


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-12-09 8:41 AM
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Who kissed whose stolen butthole, now?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-12-09 8:43 AM
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Silent Blowjobs and Stolen Buttholes: The Bleak World Of Gay Sex On The Moors


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-12-09 8:50 AM
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Oops. I misspelled muirs. My oppresive English ancestry rears its ugly head.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-12-09 8:52 AM
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I like the way "wabbit" is defined as "peely-wally". That makes everything clear.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-12-09 8:53 AM
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"oppresive": sheesh. I was so busy flailing gamely against the failure of knowledge of possessives that seems to have afflicted me this morning that I totally missed that.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-12-09 8:55 AM
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re: 180

Heheh. Peely-wally translates pretty directly as 'pale and wan'.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-12-09 9:19 AM
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