President Obama announces a ban on the use of solitary confinement for juveniles in federal prisons.
How can we subject prisoners to unnecessary solitary confinement, knowing its effects, and then expect them to return to our communities as whole people? It doesn't make us safer. It's an affront to our common humanity.
Here's Obama's Op-Ed on the topic.
"It crushes your spirit and weakens your resistance more effectively than any other form of mistreatment." That's a quote on solitary from John McCain from an old New Yorker piece from Atul Gawande: Hellhole. (via nextdraft)
This article on why Americans don't want to compromise was pretty dumb, but this is an interesting tidbit:
89 percent of the Whole Foods stores in the United States were in counties carried by Barack Obama in 2008, while 62 percent of Cracker Barrel restaurants were in counties carried by John McCain.
For what it's worth, I was seriously disappointed by the biscuits at Cracker Barrel when I had them the first time.
I love this...Barack Obama has been asking John McCain for his advice over the past few weeks.
Over the last three months, Mr. Obama has quietly consulted Mr. McCain about many of the new administration's potential nominees to top national security jobs and about other issues -- in one case relaying back a contender's answers to questions Mr. McCain had suggested.
McCain, though it was his own fault (or that of his handlers), didn't represent himself well during the presidential campaign and it's nice to see that the very able Senator isn't being sidelined because of it. Also, it's quite savvy of Obama to seek out his support. He's essentially buying McCain stock at a low point and will presumably leverage that purchase when that stock inevitably rises.
Update: A letter to the Times editor notes that there is a precedent for the Obama/McCain connection: FDR and Wendell Willkie after the 1940 election.
After Franklin D. Roosevelt won the 1940 election, he invited his opponent, the Republican Wendell L. Willkie, to meet with him in the White House. "You know, he is a very good fellow," F.D.R. said afterward to his secretary of labor, Frances Perkins. "He has lots of talent. I want to use him somehow."
If you followed or were at all interested in the 2008 presidential election, this seven-part series by a group of Newsweek reporters is a must read. The reporters were granted exclusive access to the campaigns of Barack Obama, John McCain, and Hillary Clinton for a year on the condition that they wouldn't print anything until after the election was over. The series, of which the first three parts are currently up on the Newsweek site, is a fascinating look at how the political process works and contains all manner of salacious political gossip.
Part One: How Obama was persuaded to run and found his campaigning rhythm and his first scuffles with the Clinton campaign.
In some ways, running for president was a preposterous idea for someone who had served as a two-term state legislator and had spent only two years in the United States Senate. But Obama, a careful student of his own unique journey, could see the stars coming into alignment-the country was exhausted by the Iraq War (which he, alone among leading candidates, had opposed as "dumb" from the outset). As Obama saw it, the conservative tide in America was ebbing, and voters were turning away from the Republican Party. People were sick of politicians of the standard variety and yearned for someone new-truly new and different. Another politician with a superb sense of timing, Bill Clinton, perfectly understood why Obama saw a golden, possibly once-in-a-lifetime, opportunity. The former president believed that the mainstream press, whose liberal guilt Clinton understood and had exploited from time to time, would act as Obama's personal chauffeur on the long journey ahead. "If somebody pulled up a Rolls-Royce to me and said, 'Get in'," Clinton liked to say, with admiration and maybe a little envy, "I'd get in it, too."
Part Two: John McCain's campaign gets off to a terrible start and then suddenly recovers.
Along about Thanksgiving, reporters began to notice a change. The size of the crowds was increasing, and McCain began to creep up in the polls, especially in New Hampshire. He was blessed by the quality of his opponents. In the grim days of summer, when a NEWSWEEK reporter had asked why he shouldn't join the rest of the press corps in reading the last rites for McCain's presidential aspirations, Rick Davis had responded with an incongruously cheerful smile. Nothing personal, he said; our opponents are all good men, some of them are my friends-but politically speaking? "Look, at the end of the day," he said, "the rest of these guys suck." However crude, his judgment was not off base. Ex-businessman Mitt Romney seemed to treat the campaign as a management-consulting project, as if he were selling a product and trying to increase market share. He had no fingertips as a politician and came off as a phony, even when he was perfectly sincere. Rudy Giuliani seemed to be building a cult of Rudy, constantly talking about his performance on 9/11 to a nation that wanted to forget about the terrorist attacks, and he badly miscalculated by believing that he could wait until the Florida primary in late January to make his move. Former senator Fred Thompson seemed old and half asleep. Former governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas was emerging as an engaging showman and a lively dark horse-but as an evangelical minister with no foreign-policy experience, he almost certainly could not win.
Part Three: The role of the candidates' spouses, the continuing clashes between the Obama and Clinton campaigns, and Obama's Star Trek joke.
Obama carefully conserved his energy. He was not a man of appetites, like Bill Clinton, who would grab whatever goodie passed by on the tray. Obama was abstemious. Indeed, to the reporters following him, he appeared very nearly anorexic. Most candidates gain the Campaign 10 (or 15). Hillary was struggling with her waistline, as she gamely knocked back shots and beers in working-class bars and gobbled the obligatory sausage sandwiches thrust at her in greasy spoons along the Trail of the White Working-Class Voter. Obama, by contrast, lost weight. He regularly ate the same dinner of salmon, rice and broccoli. At Schoop's Hamburgers, a diner in Portage, Ind., he munched a single french fry and ordered four hamburgers-to go. At the Copper Dome Restaurant, a pancake house in St. Paul, Minn., he ordered pancakes-to go. (An AP reporter wondered: who gets pancakes for the road?) A waiter reeled off a long list of richly topped flapjacks, but Obama went for the plain buttermilk, saying, "I'm kind of traditionalist." Reporters joked that if he ate a single bite of burger or pancake once the doors of his dark-tinted SUV closed, they'd eat their BlackBerrys. Frustrated by reporters fishing for trivial "gaffes," Obama did not like coming back to the plane to talk to the press. As he trudged back from time to time to deal with the reporters' incessant questions, he looked like a suburban dad, slump-shouldered after a long day at the office, taking out the trash.
The bit about Obama's conservation of energy reminded me of this article about Roger Federer's own conservation.
I got another sense, however: a sense that he was conserving focus. Fed went through all his subsidiary responsibilities as the President of Tennis (as Steve Tignor calls him) without concentrating on anything, or at least on as few things as possible.
Concentration takes mental energy, as anyone who has fought off five break points before shanking a ball on the sixth knows. And whenever I saw Federer on the grounds, he seemed to be using as little of it as possible. Practicing with Nicolas Kiefer on Ashe a few days before the tournament, he mostly just messed around. He would hit a few familiar Federer shots, the heavy forehand, the penetrating slice, then shank a ball and grin, or yell. Either way, he wasn't really concentrating all that hard.
Update: Part Four was just posted.
Christopher Hitchens endorses Obama for President.
To summarize what little I learned from all this: A candidate may well change his or her position on, say, universal health care or Bosnia. But he or she cannot change the fact -- if it happens to be a fact -- that he or she is a pathological liar, or a dimwit, or a proud ignoramus. And even in the short run, this must and will tell.
To hammer home his point, Hitchens compares McCain to Admiral James Stockdale, Ross Perot's running mate in 1992. Oh yes, he went there.
The New Yorker devotes the entire Talk of the Town section in their latest issue to their endorsement for President. As you might guess, Obama gets the endorsement and John McCain receives no quarter from the editors. The key part of the article concerns the candidates' possible appointments to the Supreme Court and their consequences. A more conservative court scares the shit out of me.
On the occasion of the release of his 2000 Rolling Stone essay on John McCain's 2000 presidential campaign in unabridged and expanded book form, David Foster Wallace gives a short interview to the WSJ.
McCain himself has obviously changed [since the 2000 campaign]; his flipperoos and weaselings on Roe v. Wade, campaign finance, the toxicity of lobbyists, Iraq timetables, etc. are just some of what make him a less interesting, more depressing political figure now -- for me, at least. It's all understandable, of course -- he's the GOP nominee now, not an insurgent maverick. Understandable, but depressing. As part of the essay talks about, there's an enormous difference between running an insurgent Hail-Mary-type longshot campaign and being a viable candidate (it was right around New Hampshire in 2000 that McCain began to change from the former to the latter), and there are some deep, really rather troubling questions about whether serious honor and candor and principle remain possible for someone who wants to really maybe win.
Can John McCain, born outside the 50 United States in the Panama Canal Zone, hold the office of President?
Mr. McCain is not the first person to find himself in these circumstances. The last Arizona Republican to be a presidential nominee, Barry Goldwater, faced the issue. He was born in the Arizona territory in 1909, three years before it became a state. But Goldwater did not win, and the view at the time was that since he was born in a continental territory that later became a state, he probably met the standard.
Three of the candidates in the recent Republican presidential debate said they don't believe in evolution: Colorado Representative Tom Tancredo, Kansas Senator Sam Brownback, and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee. Hard to believe that this is 2007 and not 1807. John McCain said he did believe in evolution but that "I also believe, when I hike the Grand Canyon and see it at sunset, that the hand of God is there also".
Update: An earlier version of this post wrongly stated that Mitt Romney raised his hand when asked about disbelieving evolution...Tom Tancredo was the third person. (thx to several who wrote in about this)
John McCain is using Mike Davidson's MySpace template (without attribution) and pulling some images directly from Davidson's server, which is a big no-no in webmaster land. So Davidson modified one of his images displaying on McCain's MySpace page to say that he'd reversed his position on gay marriage, especially "marriage between passionate females".
I think it's perfectly OK for John McCain and Barack Obama to say that the US is wasting the lives of the American troops that have been killed in Iraq. In the ignoble pursuit of politics, people are penalized for telling the truth, or at least for telling their honest opinions. Words are twisted by the media and opponents to take on other meanings. In this case, we're supposed to be outraged for McCain and Obama suggesting that those who have chosen to serve in the armed forces are wasting their lives. Does anyone honestly believe that either of these two guys really meant to say that?