Obama beclowns House GOP

Short diary,but Obama put on a masterful performance at the House GOP retreat today.  Where has this Obama been the past 12 months?

Video here (cut and paste the below if link doesn't work):

http://www.c-span.org/Watch/Media/2010/01/29/HP/R/28993/President+Speaks+at+GOP+Retreat.aspx

Update: shoulda mentioned that the link goes to the speech, but the best part is the Q&A, links to which are also on the linked page.

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MyDD 5 is not working yet.  Maybe you should go back to MyDD 4 until the bugs get worked out.  Maybe release a beta version.  Please.

The same could be said of the Obama administration and Dems generally at the moment.

Breaking: al-Marri to be tried in civilian court

According to the Washington Post and the ACLU, the Justice Deparment is preparing criminal charges against Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, a Qatari national and the only individual designated an enemy combatant currently currently held on U.S. soil.

He had initially been arrested on charges of fraud and making false statements to the FBI, but right before his civilian trial was to commence, President Bush designated him an enemy combatant and had him transferred to a Navy brig. The basis for the designation was a rather far-fetched theory that al-Marri had engaged in a scheme to use financial information to wreak economic havoc (it looks like his efforts would have been redundant).

al-Marri challenged the legality of his detention, and the conservative Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, sitting en banc, held in a 5-4 decision that he was not entitled to a civilian trial if the government's allegations were true, but that he had insufficient opportunity to challenge those allegations.

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear al-Marri's petition late last year.

While it is good that al-Marri is going to have his day in civilian court, rather than a military tribunal, this move is redolent of what the Bush DoJ did with Jose Padilla, who was indicted on civilian criminal charges shortly before the Supreme Court was to hold a hearing on the legality of his detention.  This move will presumably moot al-Marri's petition and lead the Supreme Court to dismiss his challenge to his enemy combatant status.

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Surprise! Bad apples were at the top of the bunch

Today the Senate Armed Services Committee, chaired by Sen. Levin (and co-chaired by Sen. McCain), released a report concluding that top administration officials authorized torture (or "aggressive interrogation" if you prefer Orwellian euphemisms).  

The executive summary is here. A report in The Hill summarizing the findings is here. Much of the information contained in the report (at least in the executive summary) has already been disclosed during the investigation, but having it all in one place helps make the connections between the bad apples at the top of the Bush administration and the collection of low-level "bad apples" that administration defenders have tried to circumscribe for the purpose of attributing all of the blame.

The report focuses on SERE techniques.  SERE techniques were originally devised to prepare United States armed services personnel in the event they were detained by countries that did not respect the Geneva Convention.  SERE techniques include waterboarding, forced nudity, and the imposition of stress positions for extended periods of time.  In other words, torture.  

The report contains many damning conclusions.  I've summarized the high-level ones after the jump but I urge everyone to read the report in its entirety (it's only 19 pages in a large font).

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John McCain can't take my baby!

AFSCME and MoveOn have released a new anti-McCain ad focused on the Iraq war.  I apologize if this was already diaried but I didn't see one and I am interested in people's thoughts.

I think this ad is a bit over-the-top and may do more harm than good.  While the Iraq war is unpopular, I think people may recoil a bit at using an infant as a political prop.  Further, "You can't have him" sounds childish, especially since Alex here will be a grown adult capable of making his own decisions by the time he would be old enough to go to Iraq.  I think the 100 years comment is damning enough in itself and doesn't require this level of blatant emotionalism to drive the point home.  This ad seems more like red meat that will please the already-decided than something that will help convince people who are on the fence.

But I could be entirely off-base in judging the effectiveness of this ad.  What do other people think?

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I don't care

After watching the ridiculous posturing by all involved at today's DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee meeting, and all the ridiculous posturing and preening moral vanity on both this site and other blogs, I am returning to the mindset I had back in January.  I am also reminded of an old war criminal's quip that the smaller the stakes, the fiercer the battle.

I don't really care who wins the Democratic nomination.

Both of these candidates are centrist Democrats.  Neither of them is going to usher in a new golden age where everyone has cheap healthcare, the war in Iraq has ended, and gas is $1.50 a gallon.

Do I prefer Senator Obama?  Sure.  But marginally.  And really only because I think he is slightly more intellectually honest (though he is certainly deceptive and cynical more often than I'd like) and because the drama and infighting that inevitably hangs around the Clintons is so goddamn tiresome.  

But if either Clinton or Obama is elected president, you're not going to get a fucking pony.  Anyone who thinks Clinton's healthcare proposal is going to make it into law as she now proposes it is dreaming.   So is anyone who thinks Obama is going to bring a new tone to Washington and Democrats and Republicans will hold hands and set aside petty bullshit for the good of the nation.  And anyone who thinks either of them will solve the foreclosure crisis or bring a swift and satisfactory conclusion to the war in Iraq may as well be reading The Secret.

At the same time, either one is significantly more rational than John McCain, who wants the status quo in Iraq to continue, will continue to break the budget, and will appoint a bunch of hacks to the federal judiciary (which is more than just the Supreme Court), and to various positions in the executive branch where the real decisions that affect the lives of individual people are made.

So, Obamaboyz and Hillshills, chill the fuck out and realize that no politician really gives a shit about you.  None of them will do half of what they say they will.  You're just choosing the lesser of several evils.  In fact, should either of them be elected, you'll probably be completely pissed at them by this time next year.

The candidacy of your preferred Democratic candidate is not a moral crusade.  It's not the civil rights struggle, nor is it women's suffrage.  It's just two cynical but reasonably decent politicians, either of whom will be significantly better for country than the douchebag that is John McCain.

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A civics lesson for Hillary Clinton - democracy and informed consent

Yesterday Hillary Clinton gave a speech in Florida addressing several topics.  The aspect of Clinton's speech that has received the most attention from the media is her call for the Florida and Michigan delegations to be seated as-is.

In explaining why these delegations should be seated, despite the fact that they violated the rules of the controlling authority, Clinton, invoking the Florida Presidential election in 2000 had this to say:

Now, I've heard some say that counting Florida and Michigan would be changing the rules. I say that not counting Florida and Michigan is changing a central governing rule of this country - that whenever we can understand the clear intent of the voters, their votes should be counted.

Now, of course, this argument was offered in transparent bad faith, as Clinton had previously endorsed stripping Michigan and Florida of their delegates. It beggars belief to think that Clinton, an intelligent and knowledgeable woman, has just discovered this "governing rule".

But spin is spin and politicians often say things they don't really mean.  As one who has previouslypraised Senator Clinton, her intellectual dishonesty on this particular score is not what troubles me about her argument.

What is troubling is that Clinton grossly distorted the governing principle of democracy as she purported to explain it.  Ironically, Clinton spoke at length about American history, but made no mention of the basic principle that underlies democracy everywhere.  As Thomas Jefferson succintly stated, "governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed". (emphasis added)

The flaw in Clinton's argument, then, is that the voters who voted in Florida and Michigan did not consent to have the delegations seated.  At the time those polls were taken, it was widely known that the delegations were not going to be seated. The voters therefore were expressing a Presidential preference, but it cannot be said that they were expressing the desire to elect pledged delegates to be seated, because no informed person would have thought that they were voting for that outcome.  Further, some voters undoubtedly decided not to vote based on the knowledge that the delegations would not be seated, and by their silence consented to not expressing a Presidential preference.  But by no means did that silence imply consent to have delegates seated on the basis of the Presidential preference poll.  Clinton' call therefore is not only not a call for enfranchising voters, but rather an argument that voters should be disenfranchised.

Recognizing the fundamental concept of consent in a democracy makes it clear that Clinton's argument about the intent of the voter is specious.  Assuming, as we must in a democracy based on informed consent, that the voters knew what they were voting for, Florida and Michigan voters intended to express a Presidential preference.  They did not intend to elect delegates to be seated at the convention.  Thus, if we are to take Clinton's "intent of the voter" principle seriously, we should certainly not seat delegates based on a poll where voters did not intend for that to happen.

There was no meaningful informed consent to the consequences that Senator Clinton would now like to follow from the Michigan and Florida polls.  Clinton's call is thus not an expression of a fundamental principle of democracy, but a cynical and transparent twisting of it to further her self-interest.

Spin is spin and politicians change their positions to fit the needs of the day, but Clinton's argument is one that no person who cares and understands the nature of democracy should credit for a moment.  It also renders Clinton's comparison of her personal political campaign to such historical struggles as the suffragists and civil rights movement not just risible but highly offensive.

There is a word for what Clinton would like to do to the voters of Florida and Michigan.  It is not democracy.  It is fraud.

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Obama praises Clinton in Iowa speech

Barack Obama made special time in his speech in Iowa today to praise Hillary Clinton and her accomplishments.
The road here has been long, and that is partly because we've traveled it with one of the most formidable candidates to ever run for this office. In her thirty-five years of public service, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton has never given up on her fight for the American people, and tonight I congratulate her on her victory in Kentucky. We have had our disagreements during this campaign, but we all admire her courage, her commitment and her perseverance. No matter how this primary ends, Senator Clinton has shattered myths and broken barriers and changed the America in which my daughters and yours will come of age.
Hillary Clinton is a great American and a great Democrat, deserving of all the support she has received and more. This campaign has reminded us at times that gender and racial divisions that we would like to pretend are dusty relics of the past stubbornly insist themselves back into the light. It is all the more poignant, then, that the Democratic party, the party that has been the best hope for those who America has heretofore denied a fair shot at truly equal opportunity, must choose between two individuals who embody the hopes of women and African-Americans, who have struggled so hard and for so long to obtain what others take for granted as a birthright. Whichever candidate you favor, Hillary Clinton deserves the utmost respect for her herculean efforts in furthering the struggle to build a world in which differences are to be celebrated and embraced rather than denigrated.

To the convention!

This is a call for all Democrats to go to the convention and let their voices be heard.

Aren't there already such diaries, you ask?  And aren't they already clogging up the rec list for no good reason?  The answer is yes on both counts.  But I refer not to the Democratic Party Convention in Denver.  I am talking about ComicCon 2008!

You see, when I was about twelve, I collected comic books.  While this hobby was short-lived, it was through comic books that I first learned of Bizzaro World. In Bizarro world, you see, everything is the opposite of how it is on the Earth we know and love.  Superman is evil, the Flash is slow, beauty is despised and ugliness celebrated ... you get the picture.

You may be asking yourself, gentle reader, why is he talking about this on a political website?  Is he in Bizarro world at this very moment?  No!  You see, Bizarro world is of the utmost political relevance.  For it is only in Bizarro world where a Democratic Convention floor fight is a good idea.  It is only in Bizarro World that the notion that the Democratic superdelegates should make the candidate trailing in pledged delegates the nominee of the Democratic party is not a recipe for disaster.  It is only in Bizarro World that the "popular vote" should include beauty contests in Florida and Michigan, and where simply adding the vote counts from primaries and caucuses together could be considered a reasonable proxy for the "will of the people".

Thus, if the Democratic nominee is to be decided through a nasty floor fight at the Democratic convention, I invite all Democrats to join me at ComicCon 2008, for it is only in Bizarro world that such a situation will not result in the election of not-Bizzaro George W. Bush II in November.

See you at the convention!

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I like Hillary Clinton

Hillary gave an interview to Wolf Blitzer on CNN today.  Unfortunately it was largely overshadowed by the Edwards endorsement.

Anyway, here is the link.  CNN's links are stupid so you have to  click on the link where it says "watch the full video" and click:

http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/05/14/c linton/index.html

Wolf Blitzer mostly sucks, so the questions weren't particularly insightful.

Nonetheless, Clinton was very gracious and reasonable and showed  integrity.  There were only a few instances where she really sounded like she was spinning, most notably was when she talked about Michigan and Florida.  One of my chief problems with her has been a certain inability to admit error, so I really appreciated her agreement with Charlie Rangel that her "white working class voters" was ill-advised.

I still favor Barack, but this interview reminded me why I had such a difficulty time deciding who to support four months ago.

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