How would you restore a bipartisanship spirit to Washington?

Question: How would you restore a bipartisan spirit to Washington?

Mike Gravel: Well first off bipartisanship is a little bit of a canard. You know, “Oh we’re gonna reach across the aisle and we’re gonna be friendly.” There’s too much of that. There’s too much of that. If anything . . . here, you’ve got principles. And if you have your principles, are you supposed to compromise and reach across the aisle and go for principles? Let’s just take the marriage act. Oh let’s have . . . Let’s only take care of the gays someplace – not in the military of course, or not with marriage. And so we have a compromise. And what do you get? You get a lot of mush. No, there’s time for compromises; but on some issues – civil rights, human rights – no compromise. I don’t want to compromise. And so if somebody wants to compromise . . . Here, I’ll tell you what you get for compromise. You get the Lieberman amendment that took us into the Iraq War, and you get the Lieberman amendment too which is now setting the stage to take us into war with Iran. That’s compromise. Both parties vote for it. The Democratic Party and the Republican Party of Congress led us into Iraq. They gave George Bush the tools. That’s compromise. I want no party to that kind of compromise. 

Question: What aspect of the Democratic platform do you disagree with most?

Mike Gravel: Well first off I confess I haven’t read the platform. And they’re gonna be doing that at the convention, and I’ll read the platform. I’ll be informed by it. I won’t be bound by it. I’ll be informed by it. There’s a difference, because if there are some planks in there . . . See I take exception to American triumphalism. You know we think we’re so important, we’re smarter than everybody else in the world. My god we’re not . . . we don’t do a good job on all of the things that count. Education, healthcare, our crumbling infrastructure. Sure we’re number one in weaponry. We’re number one in the people we put in jail. We’re number one in consumer spending. We’re number one in public debt, private debt, and corporate debt. Oh yes we’re number one. We’re number one in delusion, and we Americans have to get off of that kick and realize that what we need to do is treat . . . is stop this idea that we need or that we’re an empire. We spend more on defense than all the rest of the world put together. Who are we afraid of? One of our nuclear submarines could hold the world hostage. It’s our leadership. And here too let me just touch on another area that’s very, very important. Big think. We take . . . and I’m talking liberal conservative right across the board – the east coast liberal, the west conservative – when they say, you know, “My country right or wrong.” Or when they say “our vital interests”, well if we’re always putting our vital interests first, that means that’s a “beggar thy neighbor” policy. Well that kind of policy in the world makes everybody beggars, and including ourselves. And so we need to take a whole different approach. As a people we need a moral base. And when I mean a moral base, when you get members of Congress and the President of the United States going to war for nobody that’s a threat to us, what does that mean? When you take the nation absorbing the fact that we now torture people, we have rendition. How can we stand like the President did talking to the UN, pointing at that country and that country telling them how immoral they are? It’s the pot calling the kettle black and that is terrible. People know and realize our hypocrisy, and that’s the reason why they hate our leadership. They still love what we stand for in principle. We have to, as Americans, get back to our principles.

Question: What aspect of the Republican platform do you agree with most?

Mike Gravel: I gotta tell you the only one that I would agree with is Huckabee who talks about the fair tax. And I talked about the fair tax. I think until we get the fair tax, we will never, never get a handle on our domestic issues. Our system of income taxes are corrupt. Corrupt. The middle class carries the load; the wealth has gained the system; and the poor gets zip. That’s . . . so that’s the only thing I can spot. The Republicans have been pushing for the fair tax for the last six years in Congress, but I suspect it’s more cosmetic than anything else so they can get donations from conservative people. But they were in control of the Congress. They never even got the legislation out of committee, and they were in control of Congress for six years. And every two years this was introduced as House Bill 25, Senate Bill 25, never moved it. Had some funky little hearing. That’s cosmetic. If you believe something in the Congress, you get up and you fight for it and you pass it. But the reason why they can’t get it passed through the Congress, and the reason why it will never pass through the Congress – changing from an income tax system to a retail sales tax system which could be made very progressive dilutes the power of the Congress. And these people claw their way to get into power. They’re not about to share it with the people they get it from.


Recorded on: 10/23/07

Compromise does not get us into situations we don't want to be in, Mike Gravel says.

Scientists discover how to trap mysterious dark matter

A new method promises to capture an elusive dark world particle.

Surprising Science
  • Scientists working on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) devised a method for trapping dark matter particles.
  • Dark matter is estimated to take up 26.8% of all matter in the Universe.
  • The researchers will be able to try their approach in 2021, when the LHC goes back online.
Keep reading Show less

Yale scientists restore brain function to 32 clinically dead pigs

Researchers hope the technology will further our understanding of the brain, but lawmakers may not be ready for the ethical challenges.

Still from John Stephenson's 1999 rendition of Animal Farm.
Surprising Science
  • Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine successfully restored some functions to pig brains that had been dead for hours.
  • They hope the technology will advance our understanding of the brain, potentially developing new treatments for debilitating diseases and disorders.
  • The research raises many ethical questions and puts to the test our current understanding of death.

The image of an undead brain coming back to live again is the stuff of science fiction. Not just any science fiction, specifically B-grade sci fi. What instantly springs to mind is the black-and-white horrors of films like Fiend Without a Face. Bad acting. Plastic monstrosities. Visible strings. And a spinal cord that, for some reason, is also a tentacle?

But like any good science fiction, it's only a matter of time before some manner of it seeps into our reality. This week's Nature published the findings of researchers who managed to restore function to pigs' brains that were clinically dead. At least, what we once thought of as dead.

What's dead may never die, it seems

The researchers did not hail from House Greyjoy — "What is dead may never die" — but came largely from the Yale School of Medicine. They connected 32 pig brains to a system called BrainEx. BrainEx is an artificial perfusion system — that is, a system that takes over the functions normally regulated by the organ. The pigs had been killed four hours earlier at a U.S. Department of Agriculture slaughterhouse; their brains completely removed from the skulls.

BrainEx pumped an experiment solution into the brain that essentially mimic blood flow. It brought oxygen and nutrients to the tissues, giving brain cells the resources to begin many normal functions. The cells began consuming and metabolizing sugars. The brains' immune systems kicked in. Neuron samples could carry an electrical signal. Some brain cells even responded to drugs.

The researchers have managed to keep some brains alive for up to 36 hours, and currently do not know if BrainEx can have sustained the brains longer. "It is conceivable we are just preventing the inevitable, and the brain won't be able to recover," said Nenad Sestan, Yale neuroscientist and the lead researcher.

As a control, other brains received either a fake solution or no solution at all. None revived brain activity and deteriorated as normal.

The researchers hope the technology can enhance our ability to study the brain and its cellular functions. One of the main avenues of such studies would be brain disorders and diseases. This could point the way to developing new of treatments for the likes of brain injuries, Alzheimer's, Huntington's, and neurodegenerative conditions.

"This is an extraordinary and very promising breakthrough for neuroscience. It immediately offers a much better model for studying the human brain, which is extraordinarily important, given the vast amount of human suffering from diseases of the mind [and] brain," Nita Farahany, the bioethicists at the Duke University School of Law who wrote the study's commentary, told National Geographic.

An ethical gray matter

Before anyone gets an Island of Dr. Moreau vibe, it's worth noting that the brains did not approach neural activity anywhere near consciousness.

The BrainEx solution contained chemicals that prevented neurons from firing. To be extra cautious, the researchers also monitored the brains for any such activity and were prepared to administer an anesthetic should they have seen signs of consciousness.

Even so, the research signals a massive debate to come regarding medical ethics and our definition of death.

Most countries define death, clinically speaking, as the irreversible loss of brain or circulatory function. This definition was already at odds with some folk- and value-centric understandings, but where do we go if it becomes possible to reverse clinical death with artificial perfusion?

"This is wild," Jonathan Moreno, a bioethicist at the University of Pennsylvania, told the New York Times. "If ever there was an issue that merited big public deliberation on the ethics of science and medicine, this is one."

One possible consequence involves organ donations. Some European countries require emergency responders to use a process that preserves organs when they cannot resuscitate a person. They continue to pump blood throughout the body, but use a "thoracic aortic occlusion balloon" to prevent that blood from reaching the brain.

The system is already controversial because it raises concerns about what caused the patient's death. But what happens when brain death becomes readily reversible? Stuart Younger, a bioethicist at Case Western Reserve University, told Nature that if BrainEx were to become widely available, it could shrink the pool of eligible donors.

"There's a potential conflict here between the interests of potential donors — who might not even be donors — and people who are waiting for organs," he said.

It will be a while before such experiments go anywhere near human subjects. A more immediate ethical question relates to how such experiments harm animal subjects.

Ethical review boards evaluate research protocols and can reject any that causes undue pain, suffering, or distress. Since dead animals feel no pain, suffer no trauma, they are typically approved as subjects. But how do such boards make a judgement regarding the suffering of a "cellularly active" brain? The distress of a partially alive brain?

The dilemma is unprecedented.

Setting new boundaries

Another science fiction story that comes to mind when discussing this story is, of course, Frankenstein. As Farahany told National Geographic: "It is definitely has [sic] a good science-fiction element to it, and it is restoring cellular function where we previously thought impossible. But to have Frankenstein, you need some degree of consciousness, some 'there' there. [The researchers] did not recover any form of consciousness in this study, and it is still unclear if we ever could. But we are one step closer to that possibility."

She's right. The researchers undertook their research for the betterment of humanity, and we may one day reap some unimaginable medical benefits from it. The ethical questions, however, remain as unsettling as the stories they remind us of.

Big Think
Sponsored by Lumina Foundation

Upvote/downvote each of the videos below!

As you vote, keep in mind that we are looking for a winner with the most engaging social venture pitch - an idea you would want to invest in.

Keep reading Show less