Obama Accepts Nobel Peace Prize

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Barack Obama has accepted the Nobel Peace Prize.

The full text of his acceptance speech is under the fold.

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Republicans Considering Purity Resolution

It was bound to happen. Cults just cannot resist demanding purity. The Caucus reports that Republicans are considering a purity resolution:

Republican leaders are circulating a resolution listing 10 positions Republican candidates should support to demonstrate that they “espouse conservative principles and public policies” that are in opposition to “Obama’s socialist agenda.” According to the resolution, any Republican candidate who broke with the party on three or more of these issues– in votes cast, public statements made or answering a questionnaire – would be penalized by being denied party funds or the party endorsement.

The ten items are:

(1) We support smaller government, smaller national debt, lower deficits and lower taxes by opposing bills like Obama’s “stimulus” bill;

(2) We support market-based health care reform and oppose Obama-style government run health care;

(3) We support market-based energy reforms by opposing cap and trade legislation;

(4) We support workers’ right to secret ballot by opposing card check;

(5) We support legal immigration and assimilation into American society by opposing amnesty for illegal immigrants;

(6) We support victory in Iraq and Afghanistan by supporting military-recommended troop surges;

(7) We support containment of Iran and North Korea, particularly effective action to eliminate their nuclear weapons threat;

(8) We support retention of the Defense of Marriage Act;

(9) We support protecting the lives of vulnerable persons by opposing health care rationing and denial of health care and government funding of abortion; and

(10) We support the right to keep and bear arms by opposing government restrictions on gun ownership.

Republicans sure have not adhered very well to number one when in office. Number two is nonsensical considering that Obama is not proposing government-run health care (as the American Medical Association pointed out in their endorsement of health care reform).  At least they aren’t requiring a pledge of support for torture, although that certainly is a common characteristic of pure Republicans.

John Kerry, Man of the Hour

John Kerry is not only “de facto Secretary of State” per an earlier post. He is also Politico’s Man of the Hour” for resolving the dispute over Afghanistan’s election.

Bloomberg compares Kerry’s diplomatic efforts to other high-profile diplomatic efforts:

Kerry’s involvement is the latest high-profile diplomatic effort by an unofficial envoy that has benefited the Obama administration. In August, former President Bill Clinton flew to North Korea to secure the release of two American journalists and held discussions with regime leader Kim Jong Il that started a thaw in relations with the U.S.

The Obama administration is now willing to hold direct talks to persuade North Korea to return to multinational negotiations aimed at eliminating its nuclear weapons program.

Also in August, Senator Jim Webb, a Virginia Democrat, flew to Myanmar, where the U.S. has had limited contact, and won the release of an American imprisoned there. The Obama administration has since announced a new policy of direct talks with the military rulers of the Southeast Asian nation in an effort to promote democratic changes.

In another example, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, a former ambassador to the United Nations, visited Cuba as a de facto envoy and recommended upon his return that the administration engage in broader talks with the communist government.

Marc Ambinder asks, “Has Sen. John Kerry ever had as good a press cycle?” Probably not since he won the Iowa caucuses in 2004, leading to victory for the Democratic nomination. This widespread praise for Kerry is well-deserved, but the heads must be exploding on a few of the Swift Boat Liars.

Send In The PUMAs

Hillary Clinton has gotten herself into an insult match with North Korea:

North Korea launched a scathing personal attack on U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday after she likened the leadership in Pyongyang to “small children and unruly teenagers and people who are demanding attention.”

At a meeting of southeast Asian nations in Phuket, Thailand, a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman blasted Clinton for what he called a “spate of vulgar remarks unbecoming for her position everywhere she went since she was sworn in,” according to the state-run KCNA news agency.

The spokesman called Clinton “by no means intelligent” and a “funny lady.”

“Sometimes she looks like a primary schoolgirl and sometimes a pensioner going shopping,” the statement said. Read other colorful insults by N. Korea

Does North Korea have any idea what they are doing here? If they keep this up they’ll have to put up with nutty PUMAs seeking revenge for insulting Hillary. Ok, maybe it isn’t enough to deter North Korea. If David Letterman can withstand their attacks to avenge his jokes about Hillary’s pantsuits, I imagine that North Korea can handle PUMA protests.

The Presidential Wake Up Call

Last year, as Jake Tapper reminds us, Hillary Clinton ran her 3 a.m. phone call ads. The first such call came not at 3 a.m. but at 4:30 a.m. when the North Korean missile was launched. It also turned out to be Robert Gibbs and not Hillary Clinton who woke up Barack Obama with the news. Michael Crowley argues that they should have let Obama sleep:

It’s a small thing but did Robert Gibbs really need to wake Obama at 4:30 am with news of the North Korean missile launch? We knew the launch was coming and Obama had no imminent decision to make. Waking the president to tell him things so he can return to a troubled sleep that leaves him less sharp the next morning strikes me as a PR-oriented tradition we can do without.

Most likely they could have allowed Obama to sleep through this but were concerned about criticism if people thought that Obama was sleeping through a potential crisis. There is one danger with the idea that the president could have been allowed to sleep unless he had some decisions to make at the time. There is a considerable gray area where perhaps the president wouldn’t make a decision at the time but staffers might not know this until after they checked whether the president wanted to do anything.

Obama Wins Big In Second Presidential Debate

I totally agree with Taegan Goddard’s impression of the second presidential debate: “Tonight’s debate wasn’t even close. Sen. Barack Obama ran away with it,” “In contrast, Sen. John McCain was extremely erratic,” and “Tom Brokaw was terrible as moderator.” The polls also showed a majority agreed with Obama being the winner.

CNN found that Obama won 54% to to 30%. In a question of who could best handle the economy, Obama won 59% to 37%.  On the question of who would be the stronger leader, Obama won 54% to 43%. On likability Obama won 65% to 28%. CBS News‘ poll of uncommitted voters found 39% thought Obama won while 27% thought McCain won.

John McCain attempted without success to make points by throwing out a new plan:

As president of the United States, Alan, I would order the secretary of the treasury to immediately buy up the bad home loan mortgages in America and renegotiate at the new value of those homes — at the diminished value of those homes and let people be able to make those — be able to make those payments and stay in their homes.

A debate is not the time to announce the vague outlines of a new policy. If he was serious about this he would have provided the plan in greater detail at a better time to review it than during a debate. One of McCain’s favorite phrases after “my friends” is “I know how to…” In saying this McCain reminds me of Richard Nixon who campaigned on a secret plan to win the Vietnam war in 1968. McCain won’t convince anyone that he really knows how to fix our problems unless he comes up with more than a single idea like this.

Both candidates were asked to prioritize three major issues: “Health policies, energy policies, and entitlement reform, what are going to be your priorities in what order?” McCain avoided answering the question, saying he could do all three. This wasn’t very convincing coming from the guy who showed he couldn’t walk and chew gum at the same time when he suspended his campaign and called for canceling the first debate. Obama better connected with viewers when he prefaced a real answer by saying, “We’re going to have to prioritize, just like a family has to prioritize.”

McCain repeated the same lies he has repeatedly been saying about Obama’s tax plans. In a debate where Brokaw brought up the rules far too many times, he did a horrible job in moderating by not allowing Obama to respond right then and there to lies over such a crucial matter as taxation.

McCain didn’t learn from the first debate when he was criticized for failing to look directly at Obama. This time he came off far worse the most discussed aspect of the debate, when he referred to Obama as “that one.”

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ed-k1xOCsMs]

Early in the debate McCain looked ridiculous by arguing about overhead projectors, and he looked even more ridiculous by bringing up hair transplants during the discussion of health care. McCain characterized health care as a responsibility while Obama characterized it as a right. McCain seems to have forgotten that he was running against Barack Obama and not Hillary Clinton when he raised mandates. McCain tried to spin this to make it appear Obama was creating hardships for families who would be required to provide health care for their children. He ignored the fact that Obama’s requirement for coverage of children is accompanied by assistance to enable parents to afford it. McCain’s argument was further undermined by Obama bringing up McCain’s vote against the CHIP program.

John McCain’s most serious tactical error in the debate was to repeat the same line as in the first without anticipating that Obama would be ready. McCain said Obama “does not understand our national security challenges” and that “We don’t have time for on-the-job training, my friends.”

Mentioning on-the-job training sounded strange coming from the candidate who chose Sarah Palin to be vice president. Obama had an obviously prepared response to McCain’s claim that he does not understand national security:

Well, you know, Sen. McCain, in the last debate and today, again, suggested that I don’t understand. It’s true. There are some things I don’t understand.

I don’t understand how we ended up invading a country that had nothing to do with 9/11, while Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda are setting up base camps and safe havens to train terrorists to attack us.

That was Sen. McCain’s judgment and it was the wrong judgment.

When Sen. McCain was cheerleading the president to go into Iraq, he suggested it was going to be quick and easy, we’d be greeted as liberators.

That was the wrong judgment, and it’s been costly to us.

The same theme came up again when McCain distorted Obama’s position on Pakistan and tried to compare himself to Teddy Roosevelt.

Now, Sen. McCain suggests that somehow, you know, I’m green behind the ears and, you know, I’m just spouting off, and he’s somber and responsible…

Sen. McCain, this is the guy who sang, “Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran,” who called for the annihilation of North Korea. That I don’t think is an example of “speaking softly.”

This is the person who, after we had — we hadn’t even finished Afghanistan, where he said, “Next up, Baghdad.”

It backfired for McCain to bring up Teddy Roosevelt. It was even more foolish for McCain to try to compare Obama to Herbert Hoover when viewers would clearly see Bush/McCain as the modern day Hoover and Obama as FDR. At least McCain has given up on comparing Obama to William Jennings Bryan as he did in June.  It never works well for McCain to raise these comparisons to the past as it only reminds voters that he is a candidate of the twentieth (nineteenth?) century while Obama is the candidate of the twenty-first century.

The debate was a total victory for Obama. Not only did he win on the issues, he came off as looking more presidential, more capable of leading in a crisis, and even more likable. McCain needed a game changer. Instead he dug himself further into a hole.

Sam Harris on Sarah Palin and Elitism

Sam Harris makes some important points on both the dangers of Sarah Palin’s extremist views and the attacks on elitism which have become common this year:

The problem, as far as our political process is concerned, is that half the electorate revels in Palin’s lack of intellectual qualifications. When it comes to politics, there is a mad love of mediocrity in this country. “They think they’re better than you!” is the refrain that (highly competent and cynical) Republican strategists have set loose among the crowd, and the crowd has grown drunk on it once again. “Sarah Palin is an ordinary person!” Yes, all too ordinary.

Unfortunately such attacks on competence and “elitism” have not only come from Republican strategists this year. This was a central part of Hillary Clinton’s campaign which, along with her conservative social views and conservative views on the power of government, is why I do not see any significant difference between Hillary Clinton and John McCain or George Bush. While they might disagree on specific political issues, the underlying philosophy of all three is essentially the same. As long as Clinton supporters are willing to compromise on their one major area of disagreement and allow abortion to once again be outlawed in much of the country, as most likely would happen if McCain and Palin are elected, many conservative Clinton supporters might know what they are doing in backing John McCain.

Harris discusses the dangers of someone with Palin’s religous views becoming president, along with debunking the attempts by her apologists to hide her more extreme views and ignore some of her past statements:

I care even more about the many things Palin thinks she knows but doesn’t: like her conviction that the Biblical God consciously directs world events. Needless to say, she shares this belief with mil-lions of Americans—but we shouldn’t be eager to give these people our nuclear codes, either. There is no question that if President McCain chokes on a spare rib and Palin becomes the first woman president, she and her supporters will believe that God, in all his majesty and wisdom, has brought it to pass. Why would God give Sarah Palin a job she isn’t ready for? He wouldn’t. Everything happens for a reason. Palin seems perfectly willing to stake the welfare of our country—even the welfare of our species—as collateral in her own personal journey of faith. Of course, McCain has made the same unconscionable wager on his personal journey to the White House.

In speaking before her church about her son going to war in Iraq, Palin urged the congregation to pray “that our national leaders are sending them out on a task that is from God; that’s what we have to make sure we are praying for, that there is a plan, and that plan is God’s plan.” When asked about these remarks in her interview with Gibson, Palin successfully dodged the issue of her religious beliefs by claiming that she had been merely echoing the words of Abraham Lincoln. The New York Times later dubbed her response “absurd.” It was worse than absurd; it was a lie calculated to conceal the true character of her religious infatuations. Every detail that has emerged about Palin’s life in Alaska suggests that she is as devout and literal-minded in her Christian dogmatism as any man or woman in the land. Given her long affiliation with the Assemblies of God church, Palin very likely believes that Biblical prophecy is an infallible guide to future events and that we are living in the “end times.” Which is to say she very likely thinks that human history will soon unravel in a foreordained cataclysm of war and bad weather. Undoubtedly Palin believes that this will be a good thing—as all true Christians will be lifted bodily into the sky to make merry with Jesus, while all nonbelievers, Jews, Methodists and other rabble will be punished for eternity in a lake of fire. Like many Pentecostals, Palin may even imagine that she and her fellow parishioners enjoy the power of prophecy themselves. Otherwise, what could she have meant when declaring to her congregation that “God’s going to tell you what is going on, and what is going to go on, and you guys are going to have that within you”?

You can learn something about a person by the company she keeps. In the churches where Palin has worshiped for decades, parishioners enjoy “baptism in the Holy Spirit,” “miraculous healings” and “the gift of tongues.” Invariably, they offer astonishingly irrational accounts of this behavior and of its significance for the entire cosmos. Palin’s spiritual colleagues describe themselves as part of “the final generation,” engaged in “spiritual warfare” to purge the earth of “demonic strongholds.” Palin has spent her entire adult life immersed in this apocalyptic hysteria. Ask yourself: Is it a good idea to place the most powerful military on earth at her disposal? Do we actually want our leaders thinking about the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy when it comes time to say to the Iranians, or to the North Koreans, or to the Pakistanis, or to the Russians or to the Chinese: “All options remain on the table”?

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John Kerry Exposes The Flip-Flops of Candidate McCain

One of the better speeches at the convention took place when many of the networks where covering their talking heads as opposed to the convention floor. John Kerry gave one of the strongest speeches of the convention, with the video available at Huffington Post, and the transcript posted under the fold.

Kerry gave an excellent speech, doing the opposite of what he had others do at his convention. While Kerry’s many excellent speeches attacking the policies of George Bush are often forgotten, he did make a mistake in not attacking Bush when he had national attention at his convention. This time Kerry went after the opposing candidate saying, “To those who still believe in the myth of a maverick instead of the reality of a politician, I say, let’s compare Senator McCain to candidate McCain.” Kerry proceeded to show how candidate McCain is taking a number of positions different from those held by Senator McCain. One might even say that John Kerry showed the degree to which John McCain is the true flip-flopper. Another listing of McCain’s flip-flops can be seen here.

Kerry responded to the dishonest smears against himself as a flip-flopper, and then addressed the manner in which McCain has adopted the same smear tactics as practiced by Karl Rove:

Candidate McCain now supports the wartime tax cuts that Senator McCain once denounced as immoral. Candidate McCain criticizes Senator McCain’s own climate change bill. Candidate McCain says he would now vote against the immigration bill that Senator McCain wrote. Are you kidding? Talk about being for it before you’re against it.

Let me tell you, before he ever debates Barack Obama, John McCain should finish the debate with himself. And what’s more, Senator McCain, who once railed against the smears of Karl Rove when he was the target, has morphed into candidate McCain who is using the same “Rove” tactics and the same “Rove” staff to repeat the same old politics of fear and smear. Well, not this year, not this time. The Rove-McCain tactics are old and outworn, and America will reject them in 2008.

After establishing that candidate McCain is no maverick and no moderate, John Kerry repeatedly asked the question, “So who can we trust to keep America safe?” He gave many reasons why the policies of Barack Obama, not John McCain and George Bush, are the policies which will keep America safe.

Four years ago John Kerry stressed the period in which he served in the military but tried to ignore another important part of his history–his patriotic protest of an unjust war. By failing to discuss the facts of this period he made it easier for the Republicans to practice their usual tactics of distortion. This time Kerry had an answer for those who questioned why he protested against the Vietnam war, providing an answer which might resonate better in 2008 than 2004 as more understand the follies of engaging in a policy which is wrong:

Years ago when we protested a war, people would weigh in against us saying, “My country right or wrong.” Our answer? Absolutely, my country right or wrong. When right, keep it right. When wrong, make it right. Sometimes loving your country demands you must tell the truth to power.

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The John McCain Fantasy Express

John McCain has laid out the future history of his presidency. Most troops will be out of Iraq by 2013, “there still has not been a major terrorist attack in the United States since Sept. 11, 2001,” bin Laden will have been captured, Iran and North Korea will terminate their nuclear programs, we will experience “robust economic growth,” health care will be “more accessible to more Americans than at any other time in history,” Social Security will be fixed, there will be mandatory limits on greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, the borders will be secure, and presumably all other problems will be solved.

John McCain has clearly given up on straight talk as he promises such outcomes while avoiding talk of the solutions. As ridiculous as this is, Democrats must not just laugh at all this and ignore the challenge. Voters care about the vision presented by the candidates. Voters want the candidate who offers the shining city upon a hill.

Democrats are correct in pointing out the lack of real plans to accomplish these goals, but if they are to impress the voters this will not be enough. Democrats might present their laundry list of specific policy plans, but they also must present their own vision. If they fail to do so, McCain will control the narrative of the campaign and likely win.

Fortunately the Democrats have rejected the candidate who would scare away voters with promises of an ever bigger nanny state and plans that only a big government junkie could love. Democrats have rejected Clinton and have chosen Barack Obama, the candidate who can do even better than this attempt by John McCain to inspire the voters to support him.

Reason’s Very Special, Very Secular Christmas Party

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Ok, so maybe some people really are waging war on Christmas. This video is of Christopher Hitchens at Reason’s “Very Special, Very Secular Christmas Party.” Hitchens reads Tom Lehrer’s “Christmas Carol. Following is from his introduction:

“It may have struck you, ladies and gentlemen, that there’s a big relationship between this marvelous time of year and living in a one-party state,” Hitchens told the overflow crowd of 250. “You can’t go anywhere without listening to the same music. You can’t go anywhere without hearing the name of the Great Leader, and his son, the Dear Leader….All broadcasts, all songs, all jokes, all references are, just for that magic few weeks, just exactly like living in…North Korea.”