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November 10, 2008

This Word ‘Centrist’ That You Keep Using….
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 03:26 PM *

From The Miami Herald.

Civil liberties lawyers launch a feet-to-the-fire campaign in Monday’s editions of The New York Times, a powerful ad urging President-elect Barack Obama to order the closure of the Guantánamo prison camps and war court on inauguration day.

”On day one, with the stroke of a pen, you can restore America’s moral leadership in the World,” says the full-page, six-figure ad purchased by the American Civil Liberties Union. The Miami Herald got an exclusive sneak peek on Sunday.

Half of the ad is a photo of Obama and recounts the president-elect’s campaign pledge to close the prison camps and abandon the military commissions established in response to the Sept. 11 attacks. The other half is an indictment of Bush administration detention policies.

It is a provocative message from a potential ally of the coming Obama administration.

ACLU Executive Anthony Romero called it ”a shot across the bow,” and said Sunday that his organization would invest up to $500,000 in the campaign that seeks to avert any appeasement to centrists.

“Appeasement to centrists”? Which flipping “centrists” are those? You don’t start finding people who think GTMO is a good idea until you’re a couple of miles to the right of the center.

Comments on This Word 'Centrist' That You Keep Using....:
#1 ::: Lynn ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2008, 03:36 PM:

I could be mistaken, but isn't the Miami Herald also several miles to the right of center?

Could explain the language. Nobody thinks of themselves as extremist.

#2 ::: Arachne Jericho ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2008, 03:41 PM:

From what I understand, undoing the work of Homeland security is not quite "stroke of the pen". Gitmo won't be accepting new people, but determining what to do with the current people (trials and the like) is a hairy logistics issue. It's not like we want to bus them to one of the other "Gitmo but in a different zip code" prisons.

So the folks will have to be transferred to the US and put on trial. Even the trial issue is hairy, legally speaking.

Time currently has an article covering these bits.

Regardless, the fact that this is all starting in motion now, and with an actual plan, is encouraging.

#3 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2008, 03:52 PM:

From the AP today:

Under plans being put together in Obama's camp, some detainees would be released and many others would be prosecuted in U.S. criminal courts.

A third group of detainees — the ones whose cases are most entangled in highly classified information — might have to go before a new court designed especially to handle sensitive national security cases, according to advisers and Democrats involved in the talks. Advisers participating directly in the planning spoke on condition of anonymity because the plans aren't final.
#4 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2008, 03:55 PM:

Nowhere in the ACLU statement does the word "centrist" appear.

#5 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2008, 03:58 PM:

It isn't like this isn't what people are already telling him through places like The very first line of my contribution was 'close Gitmo'.

FWIW, I also asked that they revisit the FDA's decision on Cylert (and said that they should google Cylert and Nader).

#6 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2008, 04:07 PM:

I notice that the "Agenda" section of got a lot shorter since the first time I checked. (It's now a one-paragraph summary of priorities, rather than a directory of a couple of dozed focus areas.)

There's no longer a link for suggesting ideas on that site either, though there's still a "share your vision" form elsewhere on the site.

I do wonder how many folks sent in suggestions about torture and Guantanamo, neither of which are mentioned in the "Agenda" paragraph there now.

#7 ::: grackle ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2008, 04:11 PM:

"You don’t start finding people who think GTMO is a good idea until you’re a couple of miles to the right of the center. " These days, we call those people socialist-appeasing liberals. You have to go a few more miles to the right to find the Centrists. The rightists are called real Americans.

It's the age of the new language!

#8 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2008, 04:12 PM:

For the record, here's what I sent in to I left email and postal addresses; I've heard nothing back, but a postal letter could very well not have arrived at my house yet.

One of the biggest issues you need to face doesn't seem to be explicitly addressed anywhere I could find on this site: You must explicitly and without delay restore respect for the Constitution and human rights accords.

There are some pretty important points to this agenda that can be easily stated. Here are some of them:

Torture will cease immediately, whether by the military, by intelligence agencies, or by allies we "outsource" it to. Those who directed or carried out torture will be held responsible for it in appropriate courts of law.

Habeas corpus will be restored, and those we imprison will have the right to a fair and timely trial and access to counsel and evidence, or the full rights of prisoners of war. People will not be "disappeared" without a trace, whether in Guantanamo or elsewhere.

Wiretapping and other surveillance will only take place as authorized by law and the Bill of Rights. This includes the requirement of specific warrants, per the Fourth Amendment. The American people will also have the right to a full accounting in appropriate time of the surveillance that has taken place against them; immunity should not change this.

The President will not claim to be above the law, whether through signing statements that purport to nullify duly passed Congressional legislation, or through actions that override Congressional or judicial requirements under an all-encompassing "commander in chief" excuse. Even in wartime, the President is not an elected dictator.

These are changes that can be made fairly quickly, and they would do much to restore hope and respect for our government among our citizens and throughout the world.

Thank you for your attention to these matters.

#9 ::: Connie H. ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2008, 04:17 PM:

As far as I'm concerned, any Gitmo prisoner who was tortured, or whose primary evidence comes from torture of another, gets a get out of jail card immediately or at least an all-expenses paid flight to whatever country (Iran? Saudi Arabia? Pakistan?) agrees to take them.

No doubt some of the torturees could actually be guilty -- but their prosecution has been so irreparably compromised that its the "legal" system that allowed it to become so that is to be punished.

Anyway, if any of the released prisoners actually IS guilty, they've spent 5, 6, 7 years or more being imprisoned AND been, you know, tortured, so on the whole I'm going to be satisfied that the scales of justice have at least been somewhat balanced, if in a shameful fashion that says more about the country that did it than about the crimes alleged to have been committed.

#10 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2008, 04:22 PM:

I suggested legal residence for any of the prisoners who want to stay in the US when they're released.

#6: It's under the 'share your vision' link. Or was there this weekend. No answers are promised, but at least we can tell them what we'd like to see done.

#11 ::: Leva Cygnet ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2008, 04:29 PM:


It'll be interesting to see how many are found innocent once they get a trial. Once found innocent, the word "lawsuit" comes to mind.

#12 ::: Christopher B. Wright ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2008, 04:44 PM:

I believe Romero is recognizing that the far right has been the group defining Centrism in the US since at least the Clinton administration, and their definition of a Centrist is "Someone who doesn't agree with us in principle but who lets us do whatever we want anyway."

I expect the "Centrist argument against dismantling Guantanimo" would go something like "yes, it's deplorable but it's been going on for 8 years and we need to take a step back and make sure we know what the ramifications are for suddenly reintroducing potential blah blah blah bah blah 9-11."

#13 ::: Robert Glaub ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2008, 04:45 PM:

I sure don't know any centrists who support Gitmo and torture...

#14 ::: Christopher B. Wright ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2008, 04:46 PM:

#1 Lynn, I actually think of myself as an extremist. :)

#15 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2008, 05:07 PM:

Conceivably "centrist" could be a word the reporter, Carol Rosenberg, introduced into the conversation; also, it does not appear in a direct quote from Mr. Romero.

Watch other news accounts of the ACLU's campaign to see whether this term turns up again.

#16 ::: Luke Jackson ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2008, 05:20 PM:

Interesting how the media keeps wondering how President-Elect Obama appeases the right. If the roles were reversed, would the media be so concerned about the right's appeasement of the left? Didn't happen during the 90's "Contract with America" days.

#17 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2008, 05:22 PM:

Luke Jackson, that's because the right in the USA simply isn't much into appeasing the left.

#18 ::: Zander ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2008, 05:30 PM:

Lynn #1: ah, that would explain the piece from a Herald journalist bemoaning the good old days of the sixties when people could talk about politics without getting nasty, and ending with an incredibly offensive "can we all please grow up now?" that made me snarl at the friend who quoted it, and who didn't deserve that.

Bad enough that a journalist was trying to occupy the moral high ground...

#19 ::: Redshift ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2008, 05:50 PM:

Conservatives and their fellow travelers (like Lieberman) have worked very hard to define "centrist" to mean a "center" halfway between wherever we are now and where the right wing wants us to be.

#20 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2008, 05:55 PM:

(scratches head)

I'm wondering where that word "centrist" comes from too. It seems to refer to some conversation that the reporter had with someone at the ACLU about the statement.

Hmmmmm.... I'll bet that in that conversation someone in the ACLU said something about appeasement by centrists.

#21 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2008, 05:58 PM: has nothing on it anymore. It was very promising when it went up. Then it kept shaving and shaving and shaving away.

There's no foreign policy button. Only "agenda," and there's a single paragraph that appars when you click it.

What it's really doing now is promoting this:

to allow the voters to educate themselves about the organization of the federal government, so you click on buttons and you go to sites, or receive explanations of various traditional federal government elements like the Plum Book.

What's going on, turning this into an empty site? There's no way to ask questions either.

It's an empty site, essentially.

Love, C.

#22 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2008, 06:19 PM:

Constance, I just went to, and it looked like a normal, full website to me. When I clicked on "It’s Your America: Share Your Ideas", it took me to a page talking about the campaign, the victory, and hopes for the future, with a further link labeled "Share with us your concerns and hopes." When I clicked that, it took me to a form to fill out if I want to send in my vision and ideas for the Obama government.


#23 ::: R. Emrys ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2008, 06:19 PM:

Re: changes for the worse

Is it possible their servers got overwhelmed? It was slow and buggy the first day it was up, when I poked around and sent in my contribution, along with possibly everyone else in the country.

I think centrist equals "person who doesn't want to worry about any issue except for the economy." But I don't know many, and I could be wrong.

#24 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2008, 06:21 PM:

I like their org chart. No 'Fourth Branch' for them!

(I think you're missing something: they're asking us what we'd like to see them do.)

#25 ::: hamburglar ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2008, 06:25 PM:

Have they determined who is guilty and who is not? It's great that they want to shut it down, but how do they determine who gets freed and who should stand trial. Because if those prisoners have indeed committed acts of terrorism, they should be prosecuted.

#26 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2008, 06:33 PM:

Summer @22, had you seen the site before? There used to be more stuff there. The sidebar, where the links are that say "The Agenda" and "Your Administration"? There used to be more links there. Here's a screenshot.

Of course, some of the stuff there before was wrong. The page on "Revitalizing the Economy" had duplicate paragraphs, for example, as if it had been hastily shuffled together from other content and not looked over before going live. But now that page is gone.

#27 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2008, 06:38 PM:

hamburglar, @35: Welcome to Making Light! Is this your first visit, or have you been lurking for a while and are only now saying something?

#28 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2008, 06:38 PM:

Avram, yes, I'd seen it before. My guess is that it did go up in a a bit of haste, and that now they're cleaning it up and, er, making changes.

#29 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2008, 06:51 PM:

Hamburglar @25, isn't that what a trial is for?

If there's evidence that a prisoner has committed an act of terrorism, hold a trial. If there's no evidence, release the prisoner.

#30 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2008, 07:35 PM:

I think if they were tortured we should release them no matter what. I think that invalidates any concept of justice, and a trial is then irrelevant.

No more Jose Padillas. He was held in solitary for so long that he no longer knew whether he was guilty or not, and then they railroaded him. I don't know if he was guilty, but I still think he should be released.

#31 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2008, 07:43 PM:

the good old days of the sixties when people could talk about politics without getting nasty

Anyone who really thinks this either wasn't there, or has serious memory issues and should probably see a specialist. Otherwise, it's a totally bullshit talking point and should be ignored.

...and get off my lawn...

//walks off muttering

#32 ::: Dave Robinson ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2008, 10:13 PM:

I think Gitmo, and many aspects of the Patriot Act, are the biggest victories the terrorists have managed, and closing the prison there is a vital step toward defeating terrorism.

The whole point of terrorism, going as far back as Prince Kropotkin, is to force society to become more repressive through the application of terror. Detaining people outside US soil to deny them their rights is a perfect response from their perspective. It takes away the moral high ground, our ability to say we are better than they are because we do follow the rules and hold ourselves to a higher standard.

It's about time.

#33 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2008, 10:15 PM:

Avram #29: If there's evidence that a prisoner has committed an act of terrorism, hold a trial. If there's no evidence, release the prisoner.

The big roadblock for that process is that apparently a lot of the "evidence" is classified, or was obtained in such a way that revealing specifics of its existence would endanger intelligence agents in the field. About the only court I can think of (other than SCOTUS by default) would be the high-security FISA court, and these cases would likely be outside their jurisdiction. If they do designate a specific court qualified to process Gitmo prisoners, one hopes that court would also be usable to obtain justice for various former US intelligence agents who are trying to prove that they were betrayed by their country.

#34 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2008, 10:22 PM:

No secret court is valid.

One presents the evidence in public, as part of the public record, and the accused may know who accuses them, and they shall have qualified counsel for their defense and in refuting or answer such charges as are brought against them.

Otherwise it's not a court, it's a lot of bureaucratic window-dressing on the use of state power for murder and kidnapping.

This is very, very basic peace-and-freedom stuff; goes back to Alfred born in Wantage.

#35 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2008, 10:30 PM:

I agree with Graydon, and would add that secret evidence is not evidence.

#36 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2008, 10:37 PM:

A lot of the 'evidence' may not be admissible by any reasonable standard, having been obtained by torture (under any euphemism) or having been invented.

#37 ::: Randolph ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2008, 11:08 PM:

Constance, #21: is not the site. It may have been a trap site. The real site is here.

#38 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2008, 11:25 PM:

Randolph # 37 - was a lot more extensive several days ago, but I had understood that it was essentially copied from the campaign site. The agenda was extensive and quite interesting -- now it is missing entirely, except for a couple of bullet points.

I, too, would like to see a lot more detail about Obama's plans. And yeah, I, too, immediately posted the fact that there were 0 hits on "torture" and 0 on "Guantanamo". I have heard, recently, that he's had a radio interview in which he promised to close Gitmo as quickly as possible. That's positive.

I just wish his published agenda reflected it. would be a great place to see a published agenda. Now wouldn't it? (I'm looking forward to being, you know, a site that actually counts for something besides pravda.)

#39 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2008, 11:32 PM:

According to this BoingBoing entry, is just going through some changes. Scroll to the bottom to get the full scoop, as it were.

#40 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2008, 11:45 PM:

D'oh, I meant to say "retooling" for "changes". *dope slaps self*

#41 ::: Arachne ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2008, 11:56 PM:

Warning - is a trap site. Do not visit it.

The real site is

No .com (America, while very capitalistic, is not that far gone); just .gov.

#42 ::: Randolph ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2008, 12:50 AM:

Well, Obama got Faramir's remark about what he'd like Gondor to return to, followed by "Close Guantanamo. Close the secret prisons. Stop the torture." I'll probably have more to say. But, damn, I hope they start with that.

#43 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2008, 02:26 AM:

I agree with a bunch of the folks here. After half a decade or more of illegal, inhumane, immoral captivity, featuring torture and abuse, we owe all the prisoners their freedom and some amends. The innocent, of course, are properly a burden on us for the rest of their lives - we shattered their existences, we owe them whatever repairs are now possible.

But even the guilty...what could any of those people possibly have done to us that could make anyone say "five or seven years of torture just isn't enough"? Their time is served, their price is paid. In full. And then a lot more.

#44 ::: Nenya ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2008, 06:02 AM:

I left a note (probably rather too long and effusive--I was in a "omg can't believe we did it" mood), and asked for two things: CLOSE GITMO, and don't forget LGBT citizens. There are lots of other important things I hope they do, but I figured prisoner abuse was #1 for me (I don't worry so much about the economy, since I know they're paying lots of attention to that, and I have no advice for them, not being an economist). And gay rights, while not immediately important to foreign policy or people being bombed in Pakistan, does still matter to me & mine.

I'll be interested to see how the transition website develops, and the ratio of actual information to generic PR BS that ends up there, and on the White House site once they've been sworn in. I love that ML and BoingBoing are following this stuff.

#45 ::: Arthur D. Hlavaty ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2008, 07:12 AM:

Since we're the side that's against torture, could we use some imagery other than "feet to the fire"?

#46 ::: Chris W. ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2008, 08:55 AM:

Having worked on web sites in a political context, I think by far the most likely story about the purging of is something like this:

Some time before Tuesday, the word came down from on high that they wanted the web site to go live ASAP after the election was official. So the web gnomes set about busily fixing everything, but with everyone busy with the final throes of the election, no one in the policy apparatus had anywhere close to the time to sit down and write comprehensive text for everything that they wanted on the web site. So in a flurry of activity the web gnomes mined any policy statements they could get their hands on to put together something vaguely resembling a complete policy statement.

Other web sites, old brochures, policy papers from six months ago, it was all fair game, and they used whatever was at hand while working under a tight deadline.

And the site went live on time, and the web gnomes returned to their burrows and collapsed for a well-deserved nap.

And then one of the policy advisers who had been much too busy to write anything for the site actually bothered to read what they had put up there and all hell broke loose. Basically what the web gnomes had done, from their perspective, was take it upon themselves to declare what the official policy of the Obama administration was on a range of issues, and post it for all the world to see.

Much gnashing of teeth and tearing of hair ensued, in which the policy team decried the hubris of the web team, and the web team pointed out that if the policy team wanted something different on the web site, they would have to actually write something different. Finally some member of the policy team provided the web team with the blandest possible statement and the policy team retreated to it's dark caves to hold committee meetings and take soundings and otherwise practice the dark arts of policy-making in hopes of putting together an agenda with actual items.

(At my old job I had a ringside seat for one of these when one of our web guys blithely used health care language from our Pennsylvania group on the web site of our Illinois group. This seemed reasonable enough if you didn't know that the items on our PA agenda were similar to the plan proposed by IL's massively unpopular Governor, and anyone seen as carrying water for the Governor would suffer the wrath of his mortal enemies, the President of the Senate and Speaker of the House. Ah, politics.)

#47 ::: John Chu ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2008, 09:43 AM:

I think "centrist" is an explicit attempt to move the Overton window to the right. So much for the so-called liberal media.

As for Gitmo, I hope they close it up as soon as possible. Unfortunately, I don't expect "as soon as possible" to be as soon as I'd like. They have to give them all proper, public trials with competent counsel. Then, they have to repatriate all those found innocent, not to mention find prisons that don't violate human rights standards for any found guilty. IIRC, NPR had mentioned some months ago that, in many cases, the repatriating Gitmo prisoners wasn't simple.

Of course, I hope they close it as quickly as they're able. For example, for me, it's ok the trials take time as long as they are fair trials and no one is stalling.

#48 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2008, 10:11 AM:

Chris W. @ 44

I think that's very likely what happened, but it still bothers me, because they deleted large parts of the site, including the Agenda, which is highly visible and important to the site visitors, without any warning or explanation. That left me, at least, and probably a lot of other people, wondering what happened and why. I sent a message on their comment page that they really should make the changes to the site more transparent, or risk losing the major advantage of that site: the feeling of engagement it gives their supporters. Just an explanation of what happened and what will replace the deleted sections would be sufficient, I think.

#49 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2008, 10:49 AM:

It's still stunning to me how totally whacko the folks on the right are, and that includes some of the Republicans in Congress.There's Congressman Paul Broun from Georgia, for example, who compares Obama to Hitler. And then there's John Hinderacker, who warns that Obama is prone to verbal gaffes, and urges him to be more careful when he speaks: he should, Hinderacker says gravely, take for his model George W. Bush.

No, really.

#50 ::: Rosa ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2008, 10:58 AM:

Bruce Cohen @48 - heck, we can't get our IT team to post explanations for changes and our web site is only accessible if you're actually one of our customers with, supposedly, some stake in seeing us succeed. I can imagine the horror of processign all that public input and having to defend stuff you never intended to have posted anyway.

#51 ::: Chris W. ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2008, 11:20 AM:

Bruce -

If the Obama campaign were operating outside of a political and media context, I would agree with you. But given the intense level of scrutiny that the transition effort is under, I think a quiet scrubbing is the right choice.

The simple fact is, that any explanatory note would be much more widely read than the original material that was retracted. Throwing a bone to the tiny slice of people who both read the agenda in its first day or two up and then noticed that it had changed is not nearly worth the possibility of reporters using the retraction as an excuse to star nosing around and giving the Nedra Pickler's of the world a chance to write headlines like "Obama Changes Stance, Retracts Campaign Policy Positions."

#52 ::: Tlönista ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2008, 11:38 AM:

@51: Because gods know there's nothing worse than a flip-flopper.

#53 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2008, 12:46 PM:

New meme time: "Supporting torture is supporting terrorism."

#54 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2008, 01:40 PM:

Is where I go -- I typoed.

There's nothing there, by which I mean none of the buttons for foreign policy with a list of issues on the pull down menu, and all the other issue buttons. They aren't there. Nor is the button that took you to the screen where you could write what issues mattered to you most, what you would propose being done and how to implement these proposals.

It's really a pr site now.

Love, C.

#55 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2008, 01:44 PM:

#46 -- I'll bet you're right.

But in the first case, er, the first site, that the web gnomes put up, it was a much more worthy site and reflective of what the Obama campaign said it's administration would be like and what it hoped to accomplish.

Now it's just a slick and hollow pr site.

Love, C.

#56 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2008, 01:45 PM:

Constance, it's there at the bottom of the front page, under 'Open Government'. It links to this page.

#57 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2008, 06:45 PM:
they deleted large parts of the site, including the Agenda, which is highly visible and important to the site visitors, without any warning or explanation.
And as ML regulars know, not even highly respected and trusted sites like BoingBoing get away with that shit. Trying to cover your tracks is one of the worst things you can do on the Internet (since, fortunately, lots of the worst things you can do IRL can't be done at all on the Internet) - and, therefore, *looking* like you're trying to cover your tracks is a guaranteed instant PR disaster. Like BB, you take double damage if you've previously advocated openness.

Even lying is not as bad because lies can be engaged and refuted as long as the record is available for all to peruse.

Too bad Obama wasn't aware of that internet tradition...

#58 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2008, 06:51 PM:

I'm having trouble finding a physical mailing address over at I would like to send a physical communication to our President-Elect - can anyone help me figure this out?

#59 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2008, 08:42 PM:

LOL... watching Keith Olbermann's Countdown at the moment, and had to crack up when he just now used the term "Palintology".

#60 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2008, 10:01 PM:

#56 ::: P J Evans

Open government only opens to American Moment, a place to tell your feel good story about yourself or a Hallmark story about the transformative effect of the campaign.

That's not what it was Sunday night.

Love, C.

#62 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2008, 10:14 PM:

Also, this here is some pretty crappy web typography, with all that extra space between the bulleted items. I expect better from the Obama campaign; their graphic design during the actual campaign was excellent.

#63 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2008, 10:20 PM:

Constance, Arachne: "Share your vision for what America can be, where President-Elect Obama should lead this country. Where should we start together?" sure looks to me like a request for suggestions for the administration, not for feel-good stories about the campaign.

#64 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2008, 10:57 PM:

You can post your ideas and suggestions through that link - because I have, and I did it twice. Yes, they could do a better job- but having this kind of suggestion box at all is such a big change, all by itself, that I'm not going to complain - much.

#65 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2008, 11:08 PM:

Is it possible that Constance is seeing different content on that page than others are? Perhaps due to a different browser, different settings, cookies/javascript enabled/disabled, something like that?

#67 ::: Arachne ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2008, 03:13 AM:

Summer Storms @ 63 -

Yup, thought that was the right link.

There *is* a "share your stories" link, which I think is the one Constance clicked on.

If it mentions "visions", that's the suggestions link; if it mentions "stories", that's the stories link.

#68 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2008, 11:06 AM:

Re, from today's NY Times Politics section.

I am not blind (well, yes, actually I am, or at least vision impaired, but nevermind) or delusional. I was getting worried.

"Obama Camp Pulls Issue Pages From Transition Site"

Keen observers have noticed that the issues pages of the official Obama-Biden transition Web site,, recently went missing and were replaced by a general statement of priorities.

A spokesman for the Obama transition team, Nick Shapiro, who has been fielding inquiries about the disappearance, said that they are “retooling” the site, but did not elaborate further.

When it went live last week, the transition Web site included a detailed agenda section with pages for “Revitalizing the Economy,” “Ending the War in Iraq” and “Providing Health Care for All,” among others. Now, those pages are nowhere to be found.

Instead, clicking on the site’s “Agenda” tab leads to the following statement:

The Obama Administration has a comprehensive and detailed agenda to carry out its policies. The principal priorities of the Obama Administration include: a plan to revive the economy, to fix our health care, education, and social security systems, to define a clear path to energy independence, to end the war in Iraq responsibly and finish our mission in Afghanistan, and to work with our allies to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, among many other domestic and foreign policy objective

Notably the campaign promises of Barack Obama and Joe Biden continue to reside on their old campaign Web site, which still includes a side-by-side comparison of Mr. Obama’s policy proposals and those of Senator John McCain.

The scrubbing of the site, which the Obama transition team says is only temporary, has not escaped the notice of observant political bloggers who moved swiftly to archive the original pages.

And on the Web site TechPresident, which covers the intersection of politics and the Internet, Michael Whitney asks: “Is this the first blow to Obama’s pledge of government transparency, or something else?"

Love, C.

#69 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2008, 04:08 PM:

Also, from NextGov Tech Insider,

With an unprecedented interest in the presidential transition among the media and public, the Obama administration is going to have to be careful about how and what they put out on the Internet. The blogosphere has been buzzing about the disappearance of the detailed policy agenda from the Obama team's transition web site, From CNET:

The "agenda" Web pages on seem to have mysteriously disappeared on Sunday. By Monday morning, they were replaced with a vague statement saying that Obama and running mate Joe Biden have a "comprehensive and detailed agenda" that will "bring about the kind of change America needs," with the individual pages deleted entirely.
Obama's camp is claiming the changes are a consequence of the web site's hasty launch last week:

"We're retooling the Web site," said spokesman Nick Shapiro to Pro Publica. "Basically, it was put up within hours after we won. We took everything down to rework it."
Regardless of whether the information is re-posted or altered, the incident is a lesson to the new administration: with so much attention focused on every move and statement being made, it's important that nothing is posted on the Internet before it's vetted and approved first. We'll call that the Palin Rule.

The fact that so many sites have posted cached versions of the deleted web pages just drives the point home further; in this day and age, nothing you post on the Internet is going to go away quickly just because you pull it off your server.

Love, C.

#70 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2008, 05:09 PM:

Joel Polowin @65, no, it's that, for Constance, the main point is the disappearance of the agenda pages that she describes above (posts 68 and 69, for instance), while some of the people who disagree with her on this seem to think that the issue is wether the feedback form is still there.

#71 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2008, 05:20 PM:

I just used their contact form to ask about their agenda - I said that even a preliminary version would be helpful to us.

(Yes, they have an 'agenda' page.
No, there isn't one there, jsut a very general statement.)

#72 ::: Rosa ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2008, 05:24 PM:

#58 Nicole - there should be a physical mailing address on President-Elect Obama's Senate page. I didn't look for the address but the site is

#73 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2008, 08:58 PM:

From Talking Points Memo --

"Obama Transition Team Staffs Up Internet Outreach Crew"

Raphael -- Thank you. Likely the people who are finding my objections delusional (and this isn't snarky on my part, because I know they know what they are seeing and using) never saw on, what I and others saw and used when it went up. As many other internet users have blogged about, and written about even in the primary media, what I saw, the buttons I used to submit my views, were dismantled, for various reasons. They are working on a different version.

Right now the Obama team's first concern is the transition team, which is understandable. It's crucial there be a first rate transition team in place, ready to run on Inauguration Day.

Love, C.

#74 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2008, 08:49 AM:


I saw the site when it first went up. I've been to it several times since, and I am WELL aware that there have been changes, that there are ongoing changes, and that some items that were there are not there currently. I am not delusional, either, nor are the other posters here. NO ONE has been claiming that the site hasn't changed. But in your myriad complaints about it - some perhaps justified, others perhaps not, as it is simply too early to tell what is to come - you have included several statements to the effect that the site no longer includes a link to a form for offering suggestions. YES, IT DOES:

takes you to that form. From the main page you can reach it by scrolling all the way down and clicking on

"It’s Your America: Share Your Ideas"

under the "Open Government" header, then clicking on the blue text which reads "Share with us your concerns and hopes."

I've got no problem with your complaints about the site undergoing changes, although I think I probably am willing to give the site's designers and maintainers a little more leeway than you appear willing to give. That's your right, obviously. HOWEVER, I do have a problem with your continued insistence that all of us are wrong when we say that the link you claim is missing is not missing and is still right there on the site. You appear to be accusing US of being delusional, individually and collectively, and I'm not willing to tolerate that, myself.

Good day to you.

#75 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2008, 11:55 AM:

Thank you!

Love, C.

#76 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2008, 10:33 AM:

Please all take a minute for deep, meditative breathing and cool down a bit. I'm afraid the adrenaline we all built up for the election hasn't been completely used up, and it's finding ways to go to ground through us, causing a certain amount of heat.

Yes, the site has changed significantly in the last few days, and, yes, the Agenda bullet list has been changed into a handwave couple of paragraphs. I've pointed this out in a comment to the site, as have others. Yes, there is still a feedback form, but the text that introduces it has also changed, and the detailed dropdown menu of subjects is gone, so the apparent purpose is different now.

OK, I hope we all now agree on the facts of the case. How about we turn the thread around and go back to the original question: "Who are these centrists, and is Obama one of them?".

I've said this before, but I think it bears repeating: the political spectrum of the US has changed drastically over the past 40 years, in large part because the Republican Party has had a deliberate policy of dragging the Overton Window as far right as they could. Obama may be a screaming leftie from the wingnut perspective, but from the perspective of mid-20th Century politics, he is somewhat to the right of Dwight Eisenhower, and, dare I say it, not far from Nixon's position on a number of things. That's clearly somewhere right of dead-center.

#77 ::: Holly P. ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2008, 01:27 PM:

I've always been sort of confused by this "centrist" thing. I don't know anybody who describes themselves as a centrist. I'm a bleeding-heart liberal myself, my father's some kind of rugged-individualist libertarian shading toward liberal on a bunch of issues, my stepmother-in-law is a Bush loony, and my best friend's husband is very socially liberal but votes on the Second Amendment exclusively, because he thinks social change is an inevitable force of nature. How exactly do you find a center in all of that?

Honestly, the cry for centrism seems to me to be a namby-pamby "plague on both their houses" technique used to avoid having to acknowledge the facts or take a stand on any issue. What do you do, just take the average? Centrists were pro-war but aren't anymore? Abortion should be almost impossible to get, but legal? Torture is okay when we do it, but not when anybody else does and only if we're really really sure we're torturing the bad guys? This is the I Am A Grownup political position?

I prefer reality, myself. Of course, that requires engaging with issues, gathering data, verifying politicians' statements and deciding on the best course of action. Much easier to just decide they're all wildly partisan and pick some arbitrary spot in the middle.


/end rant

#78 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2008, 06:47 PM:

Holly P: I used to describe myself as centrist, with some extreme views to both sides.

These days, I'm a screaming leftist.

#79 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2008, 09:07 PM:

I'm leftist. Or progressive. But this mythical center that is spoken of, to me looks rightist because the marker of center has moved so right, as so many other than me have noticed and spoken of and analyzed the whys and wherefores of for quite some time now. Corporatista media conglomeration, with the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine, has had much to do with this. When the voices of even liberals have been taken out of the media mix by and large, this is what you get.

This discussion of rightwing talk radio is continuing to find thin representation in the media now, via HuffPo and some of the blogs. They have been posting the agendas of rush and so on in these days of the most evil, terrible thing they could think of happening, having happened.

Love, C.

#80 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2008, 07:29 AM:

Holly P. @77: How exactly do you find a center in all of that?

I guess much of what's often called "The Center" is, in fact, a collection of people who are left-wing in some ways and right-wing in some other ways (by whatever their countries standards for these terms are), without being libertarians or even necessarily having much in common with each other.

People like that are probably more common in a country than in the country's political elites, since you can't deviate too far from the party line if you want to become a major party leader, and political intellectuals are often trained to think of politics as an argument between different political philosophies, so people who agree with the conclusions of one political philosophy on one thing and those of another political philosophy on another thing are difficult to understand for them- so they simply assume that anyone who doesn't self-identify as a follower of one political philosophy must belong to some general middle ground, called "The Center".

#81 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2008, 07:39 AM:

BTW, is there anyone particularly horrible or great on this list? I don't recognize any of the names.

#82 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2008, 12:50 PM:

I'd say it's more a matter of "I'm a centrist, you're a fence-sitter, he's a flip-flopper"....

#83 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2008, 02:26 PM:

Quite a few on that list (not all of them!) are from the Clinton admin era. In that time they helped implement some policies that I was against. They've have been in various Centers and so on since. Many have been / are lobbyists.

I don't recognize that many of the names personally, but you see a theme of backgrounds when you plog them into google.

I asked my D.C. friend who has been working either in the Pentagon or, as now, a lobbyist, for quite a few years. He knows who a lot of them are, but not all of them either. (He's on a short list for a section of the transition team, but because he's in a lobbyist group he doesn't qualify. I'm not sure he wanted to after all the years in public service he's got. He wasn't sure either.)

Love, C.

#84 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2008, 02:55 PM:

A centrist is someone who thinks it's a silly distortion to call Obama a socialist and McCain a fascist. Calling for everyone to be more bipartisan and work together translates as "Dammit! We lost the election!" ;^)
I consider myself a liberal. I think the national Democratic party today is too far to the right (and to the right of where they were in the past), but I vote for Democrats, and think that votes for 3rd party candidates are a mistake.
David Grann's article about McCain, The Fall, in The New Yorker (11/17/08) is interesting. I hadn't paid much attention to McCain until this presidential election. As I saw him cozying up to racist "Christian" colleges and voting to allow torture, I didn't understand all the talk of his honor, let alone the maverick thing. When I recently heard Jon Stewart say that he would have voted for McCain in 2000 rather than Gore, I was floored. Grann describes the pre-presidential candidate McCain taking some genuinely principled stands, and being something of a centrist. The story of how he sold out to try for the presidency is very sad. I still could never have voted for the original McCain — that whole no right to an abortion thing is pretty fundamental if you happen to have a uterus — but I finally understand the appeal.

#85 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2008, 09:50 PM:

Rosa @72 - thanks! Now why didn't I thinka that...

#86 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2008, 08:40 AM:

re 84: Well I think the whole "Obama-socialist/McCain-fascist" thing is a lot of tiresome political posturing. Does that make me a centrist?

#87 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2008, 09:29 PM:

Guess what? A lot of the missing stuff from is back. The economy page, which I mentioned above, is back, and I don't see the sloppy duplicate paragraphs, so I guess they've been cleaning everything up. The URL is different, so I guess they've also been doing some organizational fiddling with the back end.

Since I never took all that detailed a look at the site to begin with, I can't say whether everything is back.

#88 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2008, 09:45 PM:

Janetl @84 and C Wingate @86, you're both slipping into intellectual error. There is no "whole 'Obama-socialist/McCain-fascist' thing".

Sarah Palin outright accused Obama of being a socialist. (Or she said he planned to implement socialism -- "Friends, now is no time to experiment with socialism" -- which I'll count as the same thing.) McCain did too, though with a bit of indirection ("At least in Europe, the Socialist leaders who so admire my opponent are upfront about their objectives. They use real numbers and honest language. And we should demand equal candor from Sen. Obama.") so he could deny it later.

Neither Obama nor Biden ever described McCain as a fascist. So one of these claims was a deliberate campaign strategy from the top of the ticket, while the other was just a bit of nonsense blowing about the blogosphere. To put both claims on the same level -- to imply, as both of you have done, that an official statement made by an actual candidate is on the same level as something said by a partisan in the general public -- is to assert a false equivalency.

#89 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2008, 11:23 PM:

By the way, the agenda has reappeared on

#90 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2008, 12:47 AM:

Avram @ #88: You're quite right about the socialist canard being a campaign statement. I didn't mean to imply that the two extreme statements came from similar sources. I was making an attempt to define a centrist. I thought that if someone believes that nonsense about Obama being a socialist, or is beating their chest and calling McCain a fascist, then they are not a centrist.

Though I suppose if they are making both claims, simultaneously, then maybe they are perfectly poised in the middle. ;^)

#91 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2008, 01:57 AM:

I'm not sure there is such a thing as a "Centrist" for many of the reasons Holly P @ 77 describes. There is a "Center" in a statistical sense, and I suppose there are people with sets of political convictions whose centroid is at or near the center, but the whole analogy really breaks down when you try to measure people simultaneously along so many ill-defined axes.

I've been a screaming leftist for my entire adult life, and I've watched the "Center" get dragged all over the landscape in that time. As far as I can remember Conservatives have always been derisive of the center, moderates of many stripes have been cautiously approving of it, Liberals (note the capital) have worshiped it, and Progressives are mostly not aware it exists. And that doesn't seem to change no matter where the center is.

Oh, and I think it's absurd to think Obama is a socialist, and shows a very poor understanding of political terminology to call McCain a fascist. Calling him a sellout, however, would probably be accurate. Bush, now, I think I can find good justifications for talking about his fascist tendencies.

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