New Digs

Same blog, New Address.

Let’s Have Bizarre Celebrations

Man, Of Montreal are so weird. I saw them live and the lead singer came out after intermission as a lady, and introduced himself as a lady and proceded to play the rest of the show in female character.

Sam Adams: All He Wanted to Do Was Breedlove

A sex scandal has erupted in Portland with hilarious cartoon names. Some of the names involved: Sam Adams, Bob Ball, Mark Merkle, Mark Weiner, and, at it’s center, a (potentially underage at the time) gay paramour Beau Breedlove. You couldn’t have come up with a better name if you tried.

Not This Guy

Not This Guy

I’m not much of a city politics bluff, so I can’t really comment on the specifics of the scandal without doing some more research, but I found this blog post to be a really useful rundown of the arguments for and against the mayor stepping down.

Here is the rundown.

This Guy

This Guy

The Speech to Listen to On this Happiest Of Martin Luther King Days

Tomorrow, they switch chairs

Tomorrow, they switch chairs

I’ve Been to the Mountaintop By Martin Luther King Jr.

Something is happening in Memphis; something is happening in our world. And you know, if I were standing at the beginning of time, with the possibility of taking a kind of general and panoramic view of the whole of human history up to now, and the Almighty said to me, “Martin Luther King, which age would you like to live in?” I would take my mental flight by Egypt and I would watch God’s children in their magnificent trek from the dark dungeons of Egypt through, or rather across the Red Sea, through the wilderness on toward the promised land. And in spite of its magnificence, I wouldn’t stop there.

I would move on by Greece and take my mind to Mount Olympus. And I would see Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, Euripides and Aristophanes assembled around the Parthenon. And I would watch them around the Parthenon as they discussed the great and eternal issues of reality. But I wouldn’t stop there.

I would go on, even to the great heyday of the Roman Empire. And I would see developments around there, through various emperors and leaders. But I wouldn’t stop there.

I would even come up to the day of the Renaissance, and get a quick picture of all that the Renaissance did for the cultural and aesthetic life of man. But I wouldn’t stop there.

I would even go by the way that the man for whom I am named had his habitat. And I would watch Martin Luther as he tacked his ninety-five theses on the door at the church of Wittenberg. But I wouldn’t stop there.

I would come on up even to 1863, and watch a vacillating President by the name of Abraham Lincoln finally come to the conclusion that he had to sign the Emancipation Proclamation. But I wouldn’t stop there.

I would even come up to the early thirties, and see a man grappling with the problems of the bankruptcy of his nation. And come with an eloquent cry that we have nothing to fear but “fear itself. But I wouldn’t stop there.

Strangely enough, I would turn to the Almighty, and say, “If you allow me to live just a few years in the second half of the 20th century, I will be happy.”

Now that’s a strange statement to make, because the world is all messed up. The nation is sick. Trouble is in the land; confusion all around. That’s a strange statement. But I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough can you see the stars. And I see God working in this period of the twentieth century in a way that men, in some strange way, are responding.

Something is happening in our world. The masses of people are rising up. And wherever they are assembled today, whether they are in Johannesburg, South Africa; Nairobi, Kenya; Accra, Ghana; New York City; Atlanta, Georgia; Jackson, Mississippi; or Memphis, Tennessee — the cry is always the same: “We want to be free.”

Full Text

Semi-Daily Crazy Wikipedia Entry

I can’t believe this shit actually existed:

Greek fire was a burning-liquid weapon used by the Byzantine Empire. The Byzantines typically used it in naval battles to great effect as it could continue burning even on water. It was largely responsible for many Byzantine military victories, and partly the reason for the Byzantine Empire surviving as long as it did. Medieval sources mention weapons sometimes referred to as “Greek fire” as being also used by Arabs, Chinese, and Mongols; however, these were most likely another incendiary weapon of a different composition and not Greek fire based on the original formula, which was a highly protected secret of the Byzantine Empire and not even discovered by the Latin Empire or the Ottoman Empire. Whilst the real formula is not known, some of the ingredients may have included naphtha, quicklime, sulfur, and niter.[1][2]

greekfire-madridskylitzes1

Semi-Daily Wikipedia Entry

That I checked the meaning of for a paper on Schumpeter:

A deus ex machina (lat. IPA: [ˈdeːus eks ˈmaːkʰina], literally “god from the machine”) is an ironic plot device in which a surprising or unexpected event occurs in a story’s plot, suddenly and completely resolving an otherwise unsolvable conflict. It is “an improbable contrivance in a story characterized by a sudden unexpected solution to a seemingly intractable problem.”[1] Neoclassical literary criticism, from Corneille and John Dennis on, took it as a given that one mark of a bad play was the sudden invocation of extraordinary circumstance. Thus, the term “deus ex machina” has come to mean any inferior plot device that expeditiously solves the conflict of a narrative.

Couldn’t We Ask The Supreme Court What They Think Of The Rules?

Max, allow me to say that I am wholly in support of our executive branch upholding the law and I am disappointed if I came off otherwise. And I don’t think that sentiment is in conflict with my original argument that our leadership has handled a few Senate scandals, including the Blagojevich-Burris situation, poorly. In regard to Powell v. McCormack there are definitely those who believe the Senate’s hands are tied but there also seems to be an argument on the other side that because Burris was not elected by the people of Illinois it may be possible to refuse to seat him. Given that there appear to be reasonable arguments behind both interpretations of the law, it is a fair bet that any challenge to Burris’ appointment would eventually go to the Supreme Court. I suspect (and hope) that before Harry Reid’s initial comments that the Senate would refuse to seat anyone appointed by Blagojevich that Reid actually investigated whether contesting a Blagojevich appointment was legally tenable.

Reid also (allegedly) made the catastrophic mistake of privately pressuring Blagojevich to select either Lisa Madigan or Tammy Duckworth for the seat over Jesse Jackson Jr., Danny Davis and Emil Jones. Not only was Reid making a mistake to publicly state the Senate would not seat any Blagojevich appointee while privately pushing for particular appointees, but Reid also opened himself up to the criticism that race was a driving factor in his preference for the appointment. And astonishingly Reid did this by assuming he could trust a corrupt politician in the midst of scandal and public bouts of megalomania to keep a private conversation private. Reid effectively neutered himself on the issue and a better leader would have handled the situation without embarrassing himself so thoroughly. Reid backed himself into a corner where it would look like he was advocating for particular candidates because of their race rather than their qualifications (and he very well may have!) and it hindered his ability to be fully critical of Blagojevich’s slection of Burris. In fact you could say this was played masterfully by Blago after receiving the “advice” from Reid.

As for Obama, it is less clear where he stands however he does have a dicey history with the black Chicago south side constituency that Burris made his career out of. Obama even lost an election to Bobby Rush, who spoke at the press conference during which Burris’ appointment was announced. It could only look bad for Obama to involve himself in these issues. Obama would be lowering himself to take a legally risky position (although once again, possibly tenable) in a battle against a weak, scandal tainted Illinois politician and two pillars of the Chicago black community. The risk is high and the reward likely low. And we have already seen Obama shy to risk any capital when he declined to actively campaign for Jim Martin against Saxby Chambliss in Georgia’s Senate runoff.

What I see here is ham-handed leadership by Reid and a need to be mindful of risking political capital by both Reid and Obama. My point was never that political agendas should trump the law, instead my point was that concerns of integrity will likely always lag behind concerns of politics. The old boys network of the Senate must laud a long time Senator regardless of his number of felony convictions and our legislators only dislike Blagojevich appointees when the appointee is not the one that the party privately lobbied for.

Actually, The Rules Finally Apply

Although it is poor taste to welcome a blogmate with a disagreement, I am afraid I must disagree with my friend Andrew Ritchie’s first post on YesWeMight. Andrew, who worked as a field organizer and tech guy for Obama in Indiana and has plenty of interesting things to say, argues that Roland Burris successfully inheriting Barack Obama’s former seat in the US Senate is an example of “change” gone prematurely awry. Even prior to the inauguration, Obama supporters are pointing to actions made on the basis of political expediency as the lack of radical change that Obama was articulating. Whether it is the appointment of cabinent officials with imperfect voting records, refusing to fight Burris’ appointment, or subtle articulations of support for current administration policies, the tranisiton has faced some pre-emptive criticism on the left.

However, in this case, I think the criticism is unwarranted and points to one of the pitfalls facing the left in it’s attempts to goad Obama into a more progressive agenda. We on the left must be able to make the distinction between things happening that we don’t like, and things happening the wrong way. Ritchie argues that failing to “stand up” to Burris’ appointment is due to a lack of political courage on the part of the incoming administration:

It would be a great risk of political capital to stand up to Stevens or Blagojevich or Burris. Standing up against any of them would be a messy legal battle and a risk of failure which would result in being branded with a scarlet “F” for the remainder of a political career. The sensible and pragmatic thing for President-Elect Barack Obama and the rest of our nation’s leaders to do is to work with the cards they have been dealt rather than stubbornly pointing out the deck has been tampered with.

There is little political risk in standing up to Blagojevich, or Burris, or Stevens – I can think of few political acts which require less courage. The reason the transition, along with the Senate, have agreed to seat Burris without legal challenge is that there is no basis in the law for refusing to seat him. The Supreme Court decided in an 8 -1 decision in Powell v. McCormack that “in judging the qualifications of its members, Congress is limited to the standing qualifications prescribed in the Constitution.” Matthew Yglesias pivots off this in a recent post to argue that refusing to seat Burris has no basis in the law and would be setting a very dangerous precedent:

But nobody disputes that Blagojevic is governor of Illinois. And nobody disputes that the Illinois Senate seat is vacant. And nobody disputes that the governor of Illinois is supposed to fill Illinois Senate vacancies. And nobody disputes that Burris was chosen by Blagojevic. And nobody disputes that Burris possesses the standing qualifications prescribed in the constitution. So it seems to me that unless the Senate has some reason to believe that Burris did something corrupt to obtain the seat, there’s neither grounds for expelling him nor for refusing to seat him.

Contrary to what Ritchie is suggesting, the Democrats are actually creating real change by allowing the law to dictate political outcomes, as oppossed to political considerations dictating legal outcomes. Although it is a sad day in the United States when standing up for the rule of law is considered an act of political courage (especially in this case, where there is a consensus on interpretation), the incoming administration is acting according to the letter and spirit of the law. Although we might not like the outcome, the process of the appointment is indisputable. It takes political courage to interpret the rules correctly even when they don’t support an advantageous political outcome. We can, however, change the rules when we don’t like them, and allowing governors to appoint senators seems like a rule worth changing.

He was the federal government

Tom Delay said, "I am the federal government!"

The greatest damage the current administration did over the past eight years was to pursue a political agenda without regard to the law: from the use of torture to domestic spying the basic argument was that if the president did it, it couldn’t be illegal. And it wasn’t just the administration; the Republican leadership in Congress broke the law to pressure their members into votes and to shut off the Democrats from the legislative process. Upholding the rule of law is the first, and most important, job of the executive branch and we should applaud the Democrats, and Obama, for fulfill their duty.

He dont make the rules, he just enforces em.

He don't make the rules, he just enforces 'em.

UPDATE: Everyone should check out Ritchie’s blog We Are Cyborgs on “your rights, the web and our world.” There is some crazy shit happening out there: Ritchie will tell you about it.

Make No Mistake The Rules Still Do Not Apply

We heard campaign pledges of accountability and of changing the atmosphere in Washington. We heard about change and saw the word boldly written in light blue capitals below the striking redded, blued and beiged visage of now President-Elect Obama. We were offered visions of a Washington more like what we would like it to be. Thankyou Barack, and thankyou Shepard Fairey for providing us with those uplifting moments of hope whose memory still brings a cozy feeling of inner warmth. So this is a good time to remember that it has been reported, including being emphasized by someone who was unceremoniously kicked off of Obama’s campaign jet for his reporting, that Obama likes to operate in the world as it is not the world as we would like it to be. With that in mind perhaps it should be no surprise that we still live in the world as it is and the rules still do not apply.

blago

We would like an unrepentant convicted felon not to receive an extended standing ovation on the United States Senate floor. In some dream world we might even hope that a convicted felon would be denied a chance to return to the Senate floor. Once again remember we live in the world as it is. We would hope that a governor whose term has been tainted with scandal, corruption and an impeachment trial for trying to sell off an open Senate seat, and who was overcome with glee by the opportunity to hold obtuse press conferences designed to push an already upset public to the point of being irate, would not be allowed to select his state’s new Senator. It appears our hopes are being dashed. And dashed rather quickly.

It would be a great risk of political capital to stand up to Stevens or Blagojevich or Burris. Standing up against any of them would be a messy legal battle and a risk of failure which would result in being branded with a scarlet “F” for the remainder of a political career. The sensible and pragmatic thing for President-Elect Barack Obama and the rest of our nation’s leaders to do is to work with the cards they have been dealt rather than stubbornly pointing out the deck has been tampered with.

Yet notice that the post-Bush era is beginning with a lack of leaders willing to dig in their heels against brazenly illegal and immoral acts. Notice that the post-Bush era is beginning with leadership unwilling to take political risk to stand up for what appears right to all but a few of us. Is this not what we supposedly whisked away? I imagine few of us actually believed there was a seismic change in Washington brewing, but could anyone have imagined such an absurd gaggle of political imbroglios would make our lack of “new politics” so abundantly clear from day one? The only elected official with real hope of changing our political system is one whose cry upon being sworn in is: “It is your duty as a citizen to unseat me for the betterment of society, as I am susceptible to the temptations of doing what is politically advantageous.” The world as it is still is. Let us hope that the other promises we received, that our leaders will change our disappointing, pragmatic, Machiavellian world for the betterment of our pocketbooks and health care plans, prove to be less shallow.