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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Tell me again about Republicans being strong on terror

While Bush tied down the US in Iraq,
Intelligence chiefs with access to the most comprehensive and up to date information have told the Guardian that al-Qaida has substantially recovered its organisation in Pakistan, despite a four-year military campaign to seek out and kill its leaders. In that time, the organisation has become much more coherent, with a strong core and a regular supply of volunteers.

Picture of the Day - 3

President Bush leaves the Rose Garden after his press conference on Oct 11. (AFP Jim Watson)

After all this, Bush offers a Timetable?

Just out: President Bush prepares to embolden the terrorists.
The Bush administration is drafting a timetable for the Iraqi government to address sectarian divisions and assume a larger role in securing the country, senior American officials said.

Details of the blueprint, which is to be presented to Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki before the end of the year and would be carried out over the next year and beyond, are still being devised. But the officials said that for the first time Iraq was likely to be asked to agree to a schedule of specific milestones, like disarming sectarian militias, and to a broad set of other political, economic and military benchmarks intended to stabilize the country.

Although the plan would not threaten Mr. Maliki with a withdrawal of American troops, several officials said the Bush administration would consider changes in military strategy and other penalties if Iraq balked at adopting it or failed to meet critical benchmarks within it.

This is about as good a move as we can expect out of this administration, but why do I have the feeling they'll still fuck it up.

(Also: Awfully similar to the Dems calls for "a year of transition.")

Later: McClatchy version of timetable.

: Sunday morning, WAPO, the White House has gone on the record denying the NYTimes report. However, same article,
"Implicit in that is that if they are not achieving the benchmarks, we are going to have to make changes accordingly," Bartlett said, adding that troop withdrawals or other dramatic changes in U.S. policy are not being contemplated.

So, the White House line, two weeks before the elections, is that we're changing, but not changing. (The President is never wrong. He has never been wrong and will never be wrong. All hail.)

Campaign fundraising

From CNN.
RNC $13 million
DNC $5.6 million

NRSC $5,146,209
DSCC $13.6 million

NRCC $12 million
DCCC $14.4million


RNC $26 million
DNC $8.2 million

NRSC $12,058, 137
DSCC $23.1 million

NRCC $39.2 million
DCCC $36 million

(The NRCC dropped in another $8.5 million yesterday. Top expenditure $870,000 in Roskam/Duckworth (Roskam +4%))

Picture of the Day

(Uncaptioned today on the AFP/Iraq wire.)

(Maybe from this?) AFP: Baghdad now forced to 'export' bodies

Insurgents fearless in the streets

Amidst all the Amarah coverage, I didn't see this.
The fighting came as Sunni insurgents staged audacious military-style parades in a pair of cities west of Baghdad, advertising their defiance of U.S. forces and their Iraqi allies.

The back door out of Iraq

Your morality can't keep you out of Iraq, but shooting yourself in the financial foot can.
Thousands of U.S. troops are being barred from overseas duty because they are so deep in debt they are considered security risks, according to an Associated Press review of military records.

Friday, October 20, 2006


Diebold source code disks turned up in Maryland and the FBI is investigating.

Ray Lahood admits that he was "playing politics" when he asked for a Democratic Staff member to be suspended from the committee.

New Rothenberg projection: "Democratic gain of 18-25 seats, though we think that a significantly larger Democratic gain, in excess of 30 seats, is quite possible." (Cook political report has shifted six more seats towards the Dems.)

Republicans in Tennessee are worried enough about Ford to play the race card. "whether the photos were intentionally darkened..."

Later: Jane Harman is under investigation relating to AIPAC, although I'm not really sure if what is alleged is illegal. The only possible claim I see is that she wrote letters for donations but that seems very weakly asserted. It sounds more like opposition research aimed at Pelosi.

Picture of the Day - 3

First lady Laura Bush speaks at the Preserve America Summit in New Orleans Thursday, Oct. 19, 2006.

(Set design by Lenny Riefenstahl)

$20,000 and a mention on Drudge

All day today CNN has been running a feature on this "new" RNC ad campaign featuring terrorists, Bin Laden and fear.

The bottom line, a tiny ad buy ($20,000) and a prominent mention on Drudge was enough to get the news media to repeat the unproven statement that Republicans are "stronger on terror."

This is how the right wing machine works. (and how CNN works.)

Scandal updates

I'm glad I didn't actually name the guy on the blog, because it seems the rumor of another page scandal was inaccurate as rumors are.

There still may be something there, but the Congressman whose name had been mentioned was merely the sponsor of the page in question.

Also, it seems Weldon has been lying about the "letter of exoneration" he received from the Ethics Committee.

More on Amara

If Sadr was behind this, rather than a splinter group acting in retaliation to free one of their leaders, where is the immediate statement by Sadr?

Later: CNN is reporting that Sadr dispatched a team to Amara this morning and was calling for calm which indicates that this was done underneath him.

Has Sadr's control weakened such that a sub-leader commanding several hundred men feels he can pull off an operation like this?

Picture of the Day - 2

(WaPo) Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's office has instructed the country's health ministry to stop providing mortality figures to the United Nations, jeopardizing a key source of information on the number of civilian war dead in Iraq, according to a U.N. document.

l'etat c'est moi

The administration informs a US District Court that their Constitutional powers no longer exist.
Moving quickly to implement the bill signed by President Bush this week that authorizes military trials of enemy combatants, the administration has formally notified the U.S. District Court here that it no longer has jurisdiction to consider hundreds of habeas corpus petitions filed by inmates at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba.

In a notice dated Wednesday, the Justice Department listed 196 pending habeas cases, some of which cover groups of detainees. The new Military Commissions Act (MCA), it said, provides that "no court, justice, or judge" can consider those petitions or other actions related to treatment or imprisonment filed by anyone designated as an enemy combatant, now or in the future.

Mahdi takes over Amarrah?

Just breaking, (Note that they took over the town to settle a dispute with BADR. The Iraqi government was just a bit player that was getting in the way.)
The Shiite militia run by anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr seized total control of the southern Iraqi city of Amarah on Friday in one of the boldest acts of defiance yet by one of the country's powerful, unofficial armies, witnesses and police said......

The Mahdi Army fighters stormed three main police stations Friday morning, planting explosives that flattened the buildings, residents said.

About 800 black-clad militiamen with Kalashnikov rifles and rocket-propelled grenade launchers were patrolling city streets in commandeered police vehicles, eyewitnesses said. Other fighters had set up roadblocks on routes into the city and sound trucks circulated telling residents to stay indoors.

Fighting broke out in Amara on Thursday after the head of police intelligence in the surrounding province, a member of the rival Shiite Badr Brigade militia, was killed by a roadside bomb, prompting his family to kidnap the teenage brother of the local head of the a-Madhi Army.

Reading that last paragraph, I wonder if this was done below the Sadr level. Did the local Mahdi commander do this on his own?


It's only a "spike in violence" if it goes down afterwards.

"Pre-mortems," "Pre-criminations," and a sense of inevitability

Right now the Republican's main enemy in this election is the growing sense of inevitablity of their loss. Rove has been trying to stave off this belief with his statements and planted stories of overconfidence, but it's still growing.
By this reckoning, roughly a dozen GOP-controlled House seats are "gone, no ifs, ands or buts about it," said the strategist, who discussed internal party deliberations on the condition of anonymity.

A number of GOP operatives said privately yesterday that they now see minimum losses of perhaps 18 seats, with 25 to 30 a more likely outcome.

Other evidence: Notice the appearance of the words "pre-mortem" and "pre-criminations" among the Republicans. If that's not the language of a 5-11 team....

Also, conventional wisdom and "the smart money" seems to be following. Unbelievably, the Dems are now out-fundraising the Republicans.

(I certainly don't think this is a done deal, but it's now the running conventional wisdom.)

Political bits

(AP) House Intelligence Chairman Peter Hoekstra has suspended a Democratic staffer over the leaking of the NIE. Only, as Lahood says, "I have no credible information to say any classified information was leaked from the committee's minority staff."

(Delco Times) Come to find out, Weldon's "FBI source" who said the investigation was political has been on his campaign's payroll since May.

(TPM) Jerry Lewis who has spent $800,000 in campaign funds on attorney fees defending himself from a probe on the Appropriations Committee, suddenly fired all the investigators looking into him.

And, I'm going to re-ask a question Cartledge posed way back when. How did it become legal for a Congressman/Senator to spend his campaign funds defending himself in a criminal probe?

Picture of the Day

"You know, Timmy, I wasn't kidding when I said the best moment of my presidency was catching a 7.5lb perch."

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The policy failure in Iraq is front page everywhere

Wow. I never thought I'd see this. On every major front page there is a story on the failure of the Bush Iraq policy.
Maybe this is a Tet-like turning point.

NYTimes: Bush Faces a Battery of Ugly Choices on War

WaPo: Major Change Expected In Strategy for Iraq War

USAToday: White House nixes partitioning Iraq
(discusses alternate plans.)

LATimes: Republicans Are Forced to Explain Iraq Position

WSJ: U.S. Faces Iraq Crossroads

Picture of the Day - 4

I find myself wondering if I saw this Marine shot on CNN today....

(In this undated photo released by his family, U.S. Marine 2nd Lt. Joshua L. Booth, 23, of Sturbridge, Mass., is shown. Booth was killed Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2006, by a single sniper shot in Haditha, Iraq. Born in Virginia Beach, Va., Booth leaves his wife, Erica, and an 18 month old daughter.)

Tony Snow says the killers in Iraq want the Dems to win

Tony Snow only backed off Tet part way, saying that as long as the administration doesn't back down it's not Tet. While doing this, he threw in this little gem.
And as Lieutenant General Caldwell said today in his briefing in Baghdad, it is possible, although we don't have a clear pathway into the minds of terrorists, it is possible that they are trying to use violence right now as a way of influencing the elections.

See, the Bush administration's strategy in Iraq would be successful except that insurgents are fighting to support the Dems.

Also, as one reporter rolled through the ISG's various proposed solutions, Tony Snow ruled them out one by one. Partition, "non-starter." Phased withdrawal, No. Five percent, "No."

The only one that didn't garner an outright refusal,
Q Can we run by you the idea of adding many more troops into Iraq?

MR. SNOW: Again, if -- the President has always said if the commanders on the ground tell them they need -- if they need more, then he will consider it. .....

Q So you're not saying that one is out? While you're saying these others are out, it's a possibility that you could --

MR. SNOW: Well, I don't know --

Picture of the Day - 3

Caldwell says Operation Forward Together is failing.

I've been writing about this for a month, but official recognition of the failure of Together Forward is hugely significant. This was the best plan with the forces available.
The two-month-old U.S.-Iraqi bid to crush violence in the Iraqi capital has not met "overall expectations," as attacks in Baghdad rose by 22 percent in the first three weeks of Ramadan, the U.S. military spokesman said Thursday.....

"In Baghdad, Operation Together Forward has made a difference in the focus areas but has not met our overall expectations in sustaining a reduction in the level of violence," Caldwell said at a weekly news briefing.

This announcement, coupled with the acceptance in the last few days of the parallels to Vietnam's Tet, (Tony Snow, George Bush,) means that we may be nearing the escalation point.

The major policy figures in this White House are on record saying that the only reason Vietnam War was lost because of the shift in American support, and that if we'd only "stayed the course," we could've won that war.

Foley's priest and other uncomfortable Republican sex stuff

Well, I think we can safely say that Mark Foley wasn't lying when he said he was molested by a priest.

Also: With the rumor of another Republican page scandal swirling, I think I now understand why the DNC is taking out loans to pour money into races.

Another Republican page sex scandal would completely kneecap them at this point. Not only would it dominate the news cycle, but it would reinforce all the negative perceptions among their base.

(And, jeebus, what is with these guys? A current Republican Congressman and Nevada Gubernatorial candidate gets drunk, has some altercation with a woman that includes three calls to 9-11? (Pulling a Sherwood?))

Picture of the Day - 2

Has anyone else noticed that every Iraqi leader looks like he hasn't slept in years?


(CNN) Wow. Michael Ware/Anderson Cooper show an insurgent video showing Iraqi sniper attacks on US soldiers. (The video is down on the left.)

(FT) The US is now encouraging an amnesty for Sunni insurgents? It's the right move, but after all the bad US politics around the last amnesty discussion, I'm surprised they took this up now.

WaPo describes the splintering of Sadr's militias. If there's one lesson we've learned about this Iraq, it's that preaching politics rather than blood is the surest way into irrelevancy.

(IRIN) Even the good news is fading. School attendance rates drop drastically from 75% last year to 30% this year. (IRIN is Iran's state news.)

(WashTimes) US building "massive" airbase in Kurdish Arbil.

(AP) The marines are peparing plans to recall reserve divisions that have already served one tour.

(AP) The soldiers accused of killing in Hamdaniyah and rape/killing in Mahmoudiya have been moved forward to courts martial.

(Air Force Times) Bush says he may ignore new war-funding law by keeping Iraq Afghanistan funding outside the defense bill.

Picture of the Day

My compliments to the set designer.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Teaser on the next Congressman/page scandal

I assume this is in relation to the rumor Dana Milbank mentioned last night that there's another Congressman who may have been involved with a 16 year old female page.

(For sheerly political reasons, thank god it looks like a Republican.)

Here's the list of Illinois Republicans. (Probably not Henry Hyde, Shimkus, Hastert, Lahood, or Judy Biggert so that leaves 4 possibles, Manzullo, Weller, Kirk or Johnson. Bets?)

And, just a rumor at this point, but what happens to the election if this is real and does break?

Later: Reality Based Educator points to this rumor that it's Weller. (We hadn't even gotten the pool going yet.)

You know,

Nothing like conveying a threat to North Korea in the familiar.
While refusing to specify how the United States would retaliate, he said, "You know, I'd just say it's a grave consequence."

Picture of the Day - 4

What exactly is the US military mission in Iraq?

I'll bet this went down well with the soldiers in the field.
These tensions played out today when the Maliki government demanded that the American military command release a senior aide to Mr. Sadr who had been captured on Tuesday on suspicion of attacking American forces and of directing kidnappings, killings and torture of Sunni Arabs and Shiites.

The American military command provided no explanation for the release of the aide, Sheik Mazin al-Saedi, except to say it was in response to a request by the Iraqi government. “It’s a government of Iraq issue,” said Lt. Col. Christopher C. Garver, a military spokesman in Baghdad.

It appears this was part of some bargain struck between Maliki and Sadr today. I wonder if Maliki knew about the raid.

And, Tony Snow endorses Friedman's idea that the current violence is "the jihadist equivalent of the Tet offensive." Later: In an interview, Bush doesn't rule out the parallel. So, it's intentional. Interesting politics.

Picture of the Day - 3

Face-covered militants who they say are Talibans pose with an RPG in Zabul province, southern of Kabul, Afghanistan Saturday, Oct. 7, 2006. (AP Photo/Allauddin Khan)

Low Credibility Terror Warning - It must be close to an election

A rumor in a chatroom makes it to a Homeland Security Warning? It must be getting close to an election.


Foley scandal still unfurling

Brian Ross reports that there is no evidence that Mark Foley had sex with anyone under 18. Barely.

Last night on Olberman, Dana Milbank mentioned rumors of a third possible Congressman Page scandal.

Picture of the Day - 2

Political Bits

Charlie Cook with more on his Blue Wave.

Republican Vernon Robinson comes unhinged in a debate in North Carolina repeating charges that the Dem. Brad Miller "wants to import homosexuals to the United States and supported scientific studies that would pay teenage girls to watch pornography."

The bigoted right forces the Republicans to consider a "pink purge" (what an understating euphemism) to chase gays from their party. (Maybe they should start with Sen. Larry Craig (R-Id)?)

Rove confidently predicts victory to the Wash Times. (Do you really expect before the big game for the coach to say, "yeah, we're gonna lose.")

Related: Hotline tries to justify that optimism. (Question: If it's sooo good, why won't they let you see the report?)


(Reuters) 10 US troop deaths were announced yesterday bringing the total for October to "at least 68." (AP) 4 killed by an IED in Baghdad, 3 killed by an IED in Diyala, 1 killed in an attack in Baghdad, 1 dead in Anbar.

(NYTimes) Two key generals/leaders of major units within the Iraqi Security forces have been transferred to non-uniform "advisory roles."

: The US arrested a significant Sadr aide, Sheik Mazin al-Saedi. "The arrest of Mr. Sadr’s aide, which took place in the early hours of Tuesday, enraged Mr. Sadr’s followers, who called for citywide demonstrations on Wednesday."

(Mike's observation) Three of the now hottest areas outside (north of) Baghdad were all areas where the US had pulled back passing control to Iraqi forces, Kirkuk, Diyala, Baquba.

(The reports of Iraqi deaths are too spread to get any easy total, with different sources reporting different events. It was alot. Maybe 100 reported. Reuters, other.)

Is the ISG issuing warnings?

Officially, the ISG is not due to report until 2007, but they are suddenly everywhere saying very dire things.

Beyond the significant leak of the draft report, there have been a ton of other alarming statements by Baker and Hamilton recently. I think they see the Iraq coming unravelled RIGHT NOW and are trying to get the warning out.

(Today's entries: Baker said Iraq is a "helluva mess," and Larry Diamond speaks of "weeks not months.")

(I may be wrong. This may be an artifact of the Baker book promotion. Just something to watch.)

Exploiting the churches for a Republican Majority - Michelle Bachman edition

Michelle Bachman, who is running for Congress in Minnesota, has been pushing in and being pushed from a megachurch there. The pastor brought her out and endorsed her during a service. But more amazing to me is the video of her appearance.

This is how they want to run.

The IRS has already received a complaint.

(Bachman trails Wetterling, 48-40.)

Picture of the Day

A man wounded by a blast lies in a hospital south of Herat October 15, 2006. A roadside bomb, apparently aimed at a vehicle carrying members of a western security firm, went off to the south of the western city of Herat, killing two. REUTERS/Ahmad Fahim

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The torture/detainee bill signing undermined by Foley

I find myself wondering about the odd coincidence that Foley and his lawyer held their press conference on the same day that Bush signed the torture/detainee bill.

The Republican plan was to use this signing as a political turning point to "refocus" the campaign.
Stabbing furiously at thick slabs of Ahi tuna, Mehlman laid out the national themes, which boil down to The Three Ts: Terrorists, Tax Cuts and Traditionalist judges.

The idea is to suggest stark “choices” on all three, beginning with a White House signing ceremony for the new legislation that governs the interrogation and trial of “detainees” accused of terrorism.

Then Foley and his lawyer declared a press conference announcing nothing really. (The statement was that they were going to, at a later date, give up the name of the priest.) They could've announced this yesterday, a week ago, or most logically on the day they actually passed the name.

But instead, Foley takes the headlines from this politically critical signing ceremony. Is that just bad GOP luck or is Foley doing this on purpose?

Maybe I've just got the tinfoil hat on too tight. It's been pinching a little lately.

Update: The wires right now are N.Korea number one with these 2 and 3. Neither are in the top stories of WaPo or NYTimes.

Picture of the Day - 2

NATO Commander Richards blames the US for the Taleban

Maybe, just maybe, pulling out of Afghanistan to invade Iraq was a mistake. Maybe? Maybe?
The U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan failed to follow through as it should have after ousting the Taliban government in 2001, setting the stage for this year's deadly resurgence, the NATO commander in the country said Tuesday.

Soft GOP - Enthusiasm about voting

Of all the polling I've seen, this NPR graphic on voter enthusiasm is one of the most damning for the GOP. (click to make it bigger.)

Three weeks from the election and their base is less enthusiastic than "Soft Dem," and only moderately more excited than Independent. (And I would guess from other polling that those enthusiastic Independents aren't voting GOP.)

Here's the NPR summary report(pdf.)

Republican Ad - Democrats want to kill black babies.------------ I'm not kidding.

I don't fucking believe this.
The group, America's Pac, began running ads last month in more than two dozen congressional districts......

"Black babies are terminated at triple the rate of white babies," a female announcer in one of the ads says, as rain, thunder, and a crying infant are heard in the background. "The Democratic Party supports these abortion laws that are decimating our people, but the individual's right to life is protected in the Republican platform. Democrats say they want our vote.Why don't they want our lives?"

Another ad features a dialogue between two men.

"If you make a little mistake with one of your ‘hos,' you'll want to dispose of that problem tout suite, no questions asked," one of the men says.

"That's too cold. I don't snuff my own seed," the other replies.

"Maybe you do have a reason to vote Republican," the first man says.


Political Bits

Did you know that our President has declared this "National Character Counts" week?

Rawstory speaks of rumors of a Democratic October Surprise.

McCain was conspicuously absent from the torture bill signing today.

Have the Republicans already given up on 12 seats?

Pat Robertson distancing from Republicans?

Maybe it's this election or maybe it's that the 2008 favorites are McCain, Giuliani, and Mormon Romney. Hardly the evangelicals dream ticket.

And, reading the political news, I'm shocked at how many more Republican seats are being sucked into risk each day.

Picture of the Day

A man hugs his daughter, both employees of Shaabiya satellite television channel, after a raid at their office in Baghdad October 12, 2006. (Atef Hassan Reuters)

Balad. Is this where Sadr loses control?

As the violence in Balad continues, Sadr is ordering an end to the violent "displacements."

How does this resolve when Sadr's militia was called in specifically by the local authorities through a Baghdad office?

Generally, I've been discounting the claims that Sadr is losing control of his militia figuring that the distance between rhetoric and action was an artefact of Sadr's "double game" of politics and violence, but maybe not.

As dangerous as Sadr has been controlling the Mahdi army, I find myself terrified at the prospect of a loss of his control. For whatever else, he offered a central point for negotiations and pressure. A Sadr in control at least offered the possibility of a tamping down of the violence.

But if the Mahdi has shattered into rogue elements, no longer driven by an organizing "religious" force but instead by localized bloodletting hatred, there is no resolution.

(Interestingly, his fall from influence somewhat echoes Sistani's. Forced by his political needs to try to pull back the violence, he lost the front edge elements. The question is, will another unifying influence come in to gather those elements, and how violent will he have to be? Preaching peace is not popular. )

“People are bewildered because of the weak response by the Americans,” said one Balad resident who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisals. “They used to patrol the city every day, but when the violence started, we didn’t see any sign of them.”.....

American military commanders reviewing what happened over the weekend concluded that the situation in Balad was best dealt with by the Iraqi armed forces, a senior American military official said.

Please let it be Cornyn

Blogactive is threatening to "out" a Republican Senator tonight who has consistently voted against gay issues. I'm not a big fan of outing, but I do accept it in the face of the political hypocrisy of exploiting discrimination for votes.

Anyway, I'm really rooting for my state's shame, John Cornyn.

The next push from the White House

It appears that the next White House PR push is beginning today. Bush is signing the "tough interrogation" bill today and has given an interview to Fox News.

I would expect quite a push. If the White House wants to stem the fall and create a little trend back towards themselves before the election, this is the week.

Monday, October 16, 2006

This is America

From today's press briefing.

Helen, you've had your hand up, sorry.

Q I wanted to talk about the bill the President will sign tomorrow.

MR. SNOW: Yes.

Q It makes him a final arbiter on torture.

MR. SNOW: Right.


Picture of the Day - 4

Men carry a body to a hospital morgue in Baquba, 65 km (40 miles) northeast of Baghdad October 14, 2006. The man was among the seven civilians killed after they were caught in crossfire during a gunfight between the Iraqi army and insurgents, police and witnesses said. REUTERS/Helmiy al-Azawi (IRAQ)

Yoohoo. Mr. Weldon....

On Friday, Curt Weldon assured voters in his district that there was no investigation, pointing out that such a story was "crazy."

Today, Agents raid homes of Rep. Weldon’s daughter, close friend.

(It's up to "six locations.") (The possibility here.)

This is ethnic cleansing

As the death toll passes 100 around Balad, I want to point out again that Sadr's militia was called in by local politicians and leaders specifically to do this:
Sunni Muslims were fleeing across the Tigris River on Monday, trying to escape a four-day rampage of sectarian fighting in their Shiite-dominated home city north of Baghdad. At least 91 people have died — all but 17 of them Sunnis.

Sunnis, a minority in the city of Balad, said militiamen had been going door to door, giving them two hours to clear out of their homes, and one police officer said the bodies of the city's Sunni minority lay unclaimed in the streets.

The government and its police and armed forces appeared unable or unwilling to stop the bloodshed in Balad.....

Picture of the Day - 3

Sen. Rick Santorum, left, and his opponent Democrat Bob Casey confront each other during the taping of a debate at the KDKA television studio in Pittsburgh on Thursday, Oct. 12, 2006. (AP Photo/Steve Mellon, Pool)

The shifting Republican "firewall"

The Republicans sure are talking alot about their "firewall" campaign strategy. Especially since it's already had to be changed.

On Friday, Time Magazine had an article saying they were giving up on Penn., Montana, and Rhode Island, and choosing to try and defend Missouri, Ohio, and Tennessee.

Today, the NYTimes writes of the "firewall," saying that Ohio(Dewine) has been written off, and the three to defend are Missouri, Tennessee, and Virginia.

The GOP burned Dewine like a cross in George Allen's college days.
(On Friday, Allen was thought safe. By Monday he wasn't.)

Also: The "douchebag of liberty" says the Republicans have given up on Rep. Reynolds seat.

Picture of the Day - 2

Afghan schoolgirls wait for their teacher to start the leasson outside a donated tent used as a classroom. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

Maliki refuses to go after militias - planning for his future?

The USAToday has a very interesting article on an interview with Maliki. The lead is,
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said in an interview with USA TODAY that his government will not force militias to disarm until later this year or early next year, despite escalating violence in Baghdad fueled by death squads and religious warfare.

Let's put this in a little context. With James Baker and the ISG talking about a "stability option" and using phrases like "representative government, not necessarily democracy," implying the removal of Maliki.....

With the president dropping the word "democratic" from his definition of victory in Iraq.....

With the growing rumors of a "national rescue government," with that idea even being credited to Condi Rice.....

Isn't Maliki's interest better served siding with the militias? If he wants to maintain power, isn't Maliki better off finding the backing of the Shia militias and encouraging their violence to force a US withdrawal?

Just yesterday Maliki "indefinitely postponed" the national reconciliation conference. Something happened during Condi Rice's recent trip to Baghdad, and Maliki's posture appears to have openly shifted.

(I may be wrong, just something to watch for.)

The Future for the Iraqis

The LATimes has another piece on the possible options being prepared by the Iraq Survey Group. The big news to me is the idea that the "stability option" would involve "bringing neighboring Iran and Syria into a joint effort to stop the fighting." (Previous post on the ISG's work.)

The bottom line in all the discussions is that whatever change in course is taken, Iraq will not emerge a strong, stable, US friendly democracy. This is not really a surprise if you've been watching, but it does mark a massive redefinition.

The ISG's report is expected out "in early 2007."

Picture of the Day

Men fight following a minor traffic accident in downtown Baghdad, Saturday Oct. 14, 2006. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed )

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Tony Snow on the intellectual acumen of his boss

Somebody want to explain this one to me? Tony Snow talking about Bush at one of Snow's fundraising events.
On the intellectual acumen of his boss: “He reminds me of one of those guys at the gym who plays about 40 chessboards at once.”

I often see people playing multiple board chess at the gym.

Also, just cause he's playing 40 games doesn't mean he's winning any of them. You could take me to "the gym" right now and I could lose 40 simultaneous games.

(Maybe that's the Bush version of an infinite number of monkeys.)

Picture of the Day - 4

This guy, Tony?

This guy?

(I'm guessing it's the bullet proof shoes.)

Iraq gets still worse

(NYTimes) 53 US soldiers dead just halfway through October.

(WaPo) "The death toll in two days of bloody fighting between two Shiite and Sunni towns in the north rose to at least 80 on Sunday, a hospital official said, with more bodies allegedly lying in the streets and unable to be retrieved."

(The redeployment into Baghdad was intended to cut alot of the fuel to the sectarian violence. It hasn't. And now the violence has expanded rapidly into the mixed cities of the north.)

(AP) To top it off, Maliki has suspended the reconciliation conference INDEFINITELY.

(AP) Is it any wonder that more Republican Senators are openly calling for a course change? Hagel and Warner just this morning.

And the truly fightening this is that there is no event or action evident on the horizon to change the current trajectory.

Picture of the Day - 3


U.S. Army soldiers get some sleep while waiting for Vice President Dick Cheney to arrive at Fort Hood, Texas, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2006. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Another article on an Iraqi "National Rescue Government"

For "just a rumor," this sure is getting alot of ink.
The proposal, which is being widely discussed in political and intelligence circles in Baghdad, is to replace the Shi’ite-led government of Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister, with a regime capable of imposing order and confronting the sectarian militias leading the country to the brink of civil war.

From casual observation, all public mentions of this seem to be coming primarily from the Sunni side.

I don't see how this actually happens within the greater politics of US involvement, but I'm noting this because the murmurs are growing louder and more public.

Cordesman may have the answer in the idea of the promotion of a strongman to a security post, head of the army, Interior Minister. (Isn't that how Saddam originally entered the power structure way back when?)

Picture of the Day - 2

Iraqi farmer Amer Dawood, front, and his brother Hashim lie at Baqouba hospital suffering gunshot wounds, Sunday, Oct 15, 2006. As Dawood and his two brothers traveled from Baqouba to Kurdish controlled territories in northern Iraq Sunday, where they sell their produce, they came under attack by unknown gunmen that left all three of them wounded. (AP Photo/Mohammed Adnan)

Civil War

This is why Sadr is strong. After the beheading of 17 Shiite laborers, the local politicians didn't seek government forces and "security," they sought out Sadr, his militias, and revenge.
On Friday, 17 Shiite laborers who had been hired to prune date palm trees in Duluiyah were kidnapped, police said. The workers' headless bodies were found outside the town later that day.

Shiite leaders in Balad said they responded to the farmworkers' killings by asking a Baghdad office of Moqtada al-Sadr, an influential Shiite cleric, to send militiamen and weapons.

"It is necessary to take a strong stand, so that such killings will not be repeated, and so we can take our revenge," said Taysser Musawi, a Shiite cleric in Balad.

Scores of militia fighters went to Balad in answer to the call, and residents said they targeted the city's Sunni minority.

"The armed men, using loudspeakers, ordered Sunnis to leave the city of Balad within 24 hours or they will face death," said Ali, the hospital official. "The city now is in the hands of the armed men and the militias."

According to AP, the death toll in Balad is 46 Sunnis so far.

An indicator on Afghanistan

I don't know why this struck me, but the violence in Afghanistan is becoming broad enough that we're beginning to see "catchall articles." It used to be there was maybe one or two Afghanistan articles written about one or two specific acts of violence. Now...
Seven dead in Taliban attacks across Afghanistan

A series of Taliban-linked attacks across Afghanistan has left seven people dead, including a provincial councillor who was shot dead on his way to work in the southern city of Kandahar.

Also: This troubling article in the Independent about the shortage of helicopters supporting the British troops.

Picture of the Day

Time for your two minutes hate. (See next.)

(Karl Rove appears with G. Gordon Liddy.)