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Here's a joke as old as television: What's the most dangerous place in Washington? Between a congressman and a camera.

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Here's a joke as old as the debt ceiling negotiations: What's the most dangerous place in Washington? The mind of a House Republican. Also, between a House Republican and a camera. Also, between a House Republican and a ham sandwich. Really, anywhere near a House Republican is a dangerous place.

Moody's is a hairsbreadth away from downgrading our credit rating, Congress is a hairsbreadth away from letting us default, and the Senate is a hairsbreadth away from passing a deal that lowers the tax rate for our put-upon job creators (don't worry, the deal would close some loopholes, too, so our job creators' lawyers and accountants will have something to do). House Republicans are wondering if the whole thing isn't just a ploy to wrap up a deficit deal before Obama's birthday.

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The most dangerous place in Washington is between Louie Gohmert and a conspiracy theory.

Have you guys seen Michelle Bachmann's new ad? She manages to put to music her firm desire that we not raise the debt ceiling, default, and cause a collapse of the world economy. It's an impressive feat. It's as impressive as Nero—playing music while a country burns.

It must be a strange and wondrous place, Washington. It's a world where even some Democrats seem fixated on taking trillions (yes, with a 't') out of the federal budget in the middle of a recovery with a glass jaw. Even democrats, it seems, want to take a baseball bat to the economy. And we're stuck saying better a baseball bat than a shotgun.

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There's a principle in politics called the Overton Window. That's also the name of Glenn Beck's book—the worst book I'll ever read cover-to-cover. Roughly, the window is the range of possible policy options in a certain political climate. The debt ceiling negotiation's window ranges from cut a bunch to watch the house burn down.

The most dangerous place in Washington is between a House Republican and a match.

Thank God, though, for people like Senator Bernie Sanders. I imagine that if I were a beltway pundit, I'd be utterly bemused by his excellent post yesterday. Why, I'd wonder, is he talking about unemployment, crumbling infrastructure, and income inequality. Doesn't he know that the shibboleth of responsibility is entitlement cuts? Doesn't he get that today's watchword is 'grand bargain'?

Those with hard noses will note, no doubt, that he's doomed to fail—at least in the foreseeable future. The house probably won't burn down. We'll probably make cuts to the budget that will hurt the most vulnerable among us, and everyone except Michelle Bachmann will go home and declare victory.

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But Senator Sanders is doing something vital—moving the Overton Window. That alone is an immense struggle, and one he can't do alone. With that in mind: here's a link to his petition. Even if you, like I, know that the short-term policy probably won't change because of it, signing your name will be an excellent start toward Sanders's laudable goal:

These are tough times, but despair is not an option. The fight must continue, not just for ourselves but for the well-being of future generations and for the very future of the planet that we inhabit. Together, we WILL defeat the right-wing threat and their big money backers and we will move this country forward toward economic and social justice, peace and environmental sanity.
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