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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Picture of the Day - 3

Mitt Romney is desperate for some hot evangelical lovin'.

(Mitt Romney delivers the commencement address to the 2007 graduating class of Regent University, May 5, 2007. (AP Photo/Gary C. Knapp))

Later: (WaPo) "It was Romney's second appearance at Regent University in the past four months."


Quiet day, so take a look at the data in the new Newsweek poll.

All kinds of interesting '08 presidential polling, (All three Dems beat all three Republicans in every head to head matchup,) but, if you're here, you might enjoy the summary article that starts like this,
It’s hard to say which is worse news for Republicans: that George W. Bush now has the worst approval rating of an American president in a generation, or that he seems to be dragging every ’08 Republican presidential candidate down with him.

I think this is a bit of an outlier at 28%, but Bush's approval matches Carter at his lowest point, the lowest Presidential approval ever recorded by Newsweek.

Picture of the Day - 2

Troubling from Iraq

Over at Juan Cole's this morning I read that the "indirect fire" on the Green Zone (mortars, rockets) is getting more and more accurate.

There are only two ways this happens, rooftop spotters with binoculars right outside the Green Zone or insurgent spies reporting back from inside the Green Zone.

Also: Two different reports of the Mahdi Army "returning to the streets".

(Iraqslogger) "Clashes erupted in the holy Shi'a city of Najaf between the Mahdi Army and local security forces on Friday.... During the clash, the Mahdi Army, wielding light arms and RPGs, took the remarkable action of detaining members of the security forces, and disarming the convoys of other leaders in the area."

(DailyStar) Clashes between Mahdi and Badr in Sadr City.

The Mahdi appears to be just beneath the surface ready to go.

And, (AP) "A senior U-S commander has been wounded by small arms fire while inspecting a security wall being built around a Sunni enclave in Baghdad." (No word yet on who.)

Picture of the Day

A U.S. soldier at the entrance to a detention center in Iraq in a file photo. REUTERS/File

"Less than half of Soldiers and Marines believed that non-combatants should be treated with dignity and respect," the Army report stated.

Friday, May 04, 2007

We're not just breaking the military, we're also breaking our soldiers

There's been alot of headlines generated by the ethics survey portion of the military's MHAT-IV mental health advisory report.
* Soldiers who deployed longer (greater than six months) or had deployed multiple times were more likely to screen positive for a mental health issue.

* Approximately 10 percent of soldiers reported mistreating non-combatants or damaging their property when it was not necessary.

* Less than half of soldiers and Marines would report a team member for unethical behavior.

* More than one-third of all soldiers and Marines reported that torture should be allowed to save the life of a fellow soldier or Marine.

But, there were several other items in the press conference and press release related to the mental health reporting that I don't think should get lost.

1) 15-17% screened positive for PTSD among combat units.

2) Deployment length was directly linked to morale problems in the Army.

Multiple deployers reported higher acute stress than first-time deployers. Deployment length was related to higher rates of mental health problems and marital problems.

4) The general recommendation in the report for all of these problems is that tours should be 1 year or less followed by 18 to 36 months "dwell time" in the United States.

(You may remember that the Bush administration recently authorized 15 month tours (and more multiple tours) with 1 year in the US (which includes wind down and training.))

Later: I think Thomas Ricks has the best article on all this that I've seen. A few additions from that WaPo piece.
"A considerable number of Soldiers and Marines are conducting combat operations everyday of the week, 10-12 hours per day seven days a week for months on end," wrote Col. Carl Castro and Maj. Dennis McGurk, both psychologists. "At no time in our military history have Soldiers or Marines been required to serve on the front line in any war for a period of 6-7 months."....

That was in keeping with findings of past surveys, as was the conclusion that more than 40 percent of soldiers reported low morale in their units....

Strains on military families also are intensifying. About 20 percent of soldiers said they were planning a divorce or separation, up from 15 percent in the previous year's survey.

We're not just breaking the military, we're also breaking our soldiers.

See you in September

Broder is right. All the pressure is on the Democrats. The Republican position on Iraq smells lightly of strawberries.
Still, Rep. Jack Kingston, a reliable Bush supporter from Georgia, said that vote "could have been the peak, possibly the last statement of House public solidarity with the White House. As the war develops in the next two crucial months, the political solidarity may change."

(I think this whole, "we'll reevaluate in September" line being pushed by the White House and its loyalists is crap. It's a stalling tactic designed to get them through the funding legislation.

However, it seems to be sort of backfiring as the "compromise" funding bill looks more and more likely to contain funding only through September. Then the White House will have to refight this battle with less support and a worsening situation.)

Picture of the Day - 3

I'm not going to be the one to say it, but yeah.

(Queen Elizabeth II and U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney watch actors take part in a ceremony at the Jamestown Settlement museum in Williamsburg, Va., Friday, May 4, 2007. (AP Photo/Jim Young))

More smoke on US Attorneys

Add Debra Yang to the list of those who dubiously "relocated" out of key investigations into Republican officials.
Ms. Yang was investigating Jerry Lewis, who was chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee. Ms. Lam and most of the other purged prosecutors were fired on Dec. 7. Ms. Yang, in a fortuitously timed exit, resigned in mid-October.

Ms. Yang says she left for personal reasons, but there is growing evidence that the White House was intent on removing her. Kyle Sampson, the Justice Department staff member in charge of the firings, told investigators last month in still-secret testimony that Harriet Miers, the White House counsel at the time, had asked him more than once about Ms. Yang. He testified, according to Congressional sources, that as late as mid-September, Ms. Miers wanted to know whether Ms. Yang could be made to resign. ....

The new job that Ms. Yang landed raised more red flags. Press reports say she got a $1.5 million signing bonus to become a partner in Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, a firm with strong Republican ties.

We also have Paul McNulty trying to get his butt off the line by describing a March 5th meeting with Karl Rove where "White House officials told the Justice Department group that they needed to agree on clear reasons why each prosecutor was fired and explain them to Congress."

(And, was Monica Goodling crying because she knew what she did was against the law? Is that why her career was over?)

More Scandal

Rep. Doolittle, who was raided by the FBI last month, says two other as yet unknown Congressmen have been raided by the FBI.
Doolittle said he had information from sources he wouldn't name that federal agents had executed search warrants recently against two other members of Congress - a Republican and a Democrat - in raids that hadn't become public yet. He said he thought that those raids were related to the Abramoff probe.

And, maybe even more scandal

At Eschaton,
Just caught Juan Williams on NPR discussing the cocktail party chatter - apparently it does exist! - about the "DC Madam" story. He says the chatter is that the direction the story is likely to go in is going to be Abramoff like in that it'll come out that escort services were handed out as part of general influence peddling activities.

Bush only mentioned ONCE(?) in the Republican debate?

I knew the Republicans were shying away from George Bush, but doing a quick search on the transcript, I found only one time that any of the candidates referred to the current President by name.

ONE TIME in an hour and a half debate.

He's the sitting two term president for their party and only one mention of his name by 10 Republican candidates for president.

If you can't say something nice......?

Picture of the Day

(U.S. President George W. Bush holds his notes before addressing a ceremony honoring the National Day of Prayer in the East Room of the White House in Washington May 3, 2007. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

And, of course he's sitting next to James Dobson, leader of Focus on the Family.

Weird doings from Sharm al-Sheik between Mottaki and Rice

A very weird "insider" account of the interaction between Iranian Foreign Minister Mottaki and Condi Rice over lunch,
The Iranian entered the lunch, greeting the gathered diplomats with the Arabic phrase, "As-salama aleikum," or "Peace be upon you," according to an Iraqi official who was present.

Rice replied to him in English, "Hello," then added: "Your English is better than my Arabic," according to the Iraqi official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the lunch was private.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit then piped in, telling Mottaki, "We want to warm the atmosphere some."

Mottaki smiled and replied in English with a saying: "In Russia, they eat ice cream in winter because it's warmer than the weather" — more or less meaning, "You take whatever atmosphere-warming you can get."

"That's true," Rice replied, according to the Iraqi official.

At dinner,
As it turned out, Mottaki's place was set directly across the table from Rice. When Mottaki entered the dinner and saw the arrangement, he immediately told his hosts that he had to excuse himself and leave, said a U.S. official who accompanied Rice.

Mottaki complained that the Egyptian female violinist playing nearby was too revealingly dressed, the official said.

And, Sean McCormick, tell me how this helps,
"I don't know which woman he was afraid of, the woman in the red dress or the secretary of state," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.

Yeah, trying to shame the guy. Good diplomatic plan.

It sounds like Mottaki feels no need to deal with the US. What is the US really offering him?

(And, Condi Rice was just all smiles at the after meeting press conference. Sure, she didn't accomplish a damned thing towards helping Iraq, but she managed to piss off the Iranians.)


(UPI) "133 Iraqi lawmakers from different political blocs(out of 275,) .... signed a document demanding a scheduled withdrawal of the U.S.-led multinational troops from their country." (You know that neither Maliki nor the US wants to see a parliamentary vote on US presence.)

(AP) Iraq will not see the debt relief that was supposed to be the major accomplishment of the Sharm Al-Sheik meeting.

(USAToday) "
From 125,000 to 150,000 U.S. troops may have suffered mild, moderate or severe brain injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan, Pascrell estimates. That's a hidden population of wounded that far exceeds the official casualty figures of 26,000."

(Reuters) "Iraq's main Sunni bloc said on Thursday it was considering pulling out of Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's coalition government, saying sectarian violence and corruption was worsening under his administration."

(AP) The headline is EFP attacks reach new high in April(65.) That's 65 out of 1,200 roadside bombs a month.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Republican Debate shame.

Certainly the lowlight was Tommy Thompson sanctioning job discrimination against gays, but I was also shocked that three of ten of them raised their hands saying they didn't believe in evolution.

I couldn't catch which three, but that's unbelievable.

(And didn't McCain seem old, confused, and incoherent at points?)

(Update: MadMustard says it was Brownback, Tancredo, and Huckabee who don't believe in evolution.)

So sad

In reporting about the rocket attacks on the Green Zone.
A source with a security company based inside the Green Zone reports that one of his fellow American contractors was killed Monday while lying on his bed talking on the phone to his wife.

Picture of the Day - 3

If you don't think the Republican primary is going to get nasty, take a close look at this picture. McCain takes a shot at Giuliani and his Yankees worship with the Red Sox umbrella in New Hampshire.

(His wife, Cindy, is holding it.)

It's the little things about McCain that show he's going to play dirty.

Presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. and his wife, Cindy, listen as McCain is introduced at the start of a rainy campaign rally in Manchester, N.H., April 25, 2007. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)

Why they're crazy about Reagan....

If you've ever wondered why Republicans so idolize Ronald Reagan, try this thought exercise.

Think of a significant Republican politician in the last 100 years who is broadly well thought of besides Ronald Reagan.

It's a pretty short and struggling list, isn't it?

An acceptable level of violence

From today's Press Briefing.
Q Do you, today, have a definition of what an acceptable level of violence would be in Iraq?

MR. SNOW: You know, I think what you've managed to do is to try to get your -- we're now playing the adjective game. The fact is, when you talk about an acceptable level, it is something that allows the government to exist independently. If you want to -- the problem is, everybody says, oh, so you accept violence. You like -- violence is okay. No, it's not okay.

So in abstract terms, zero violence is acceptable. On the other hand, we know well, and the President has said many times, that it is going to be a tactic of people who want to bring this government down to commit acts of violence, and violence unfortunately, at least for a while, is going to be a fact of Iraqi life.

So, any level of violence that allows the government to exist independently is now "acceptable."

120 bodies bound and tortured found in the streets of Baghdad in one day last fall, acceptable.

200 killed in a carbombing, acceptable.

Rape, torture, criminal gangs, ethnic cleansing, acceptable.

So long as it doesn't bring down the government.

Now that's redefining victory.

Picture of the Day - 2

A man carries the body of a child killed in mortar attack, in Sadr City, Baghdad's Shiite slum, Iraq, Tuesday, May 1, 2007. A string of mortar rounds hit the Shiite district of Al-Husseinya , northern Baghdad, killing 6 civilians and injuring 8 others. (AP Photo/Adil al-Khazali)


(WaPo) Three US soldiers killed in multiple IED attacks.

(AP) Rockets fall in the Green Zone killing 4 Filipino contractors.

(VOI) 30 bodies dumped in Baghdad. (That number is creeping back up.)

(Reuters) Scott Bowen, the former Bush appointed special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction is now under investigation for allegedly not showing up at work and making employees work on his book rather than their jobs.

(NYTimes) The current version of the oil law appears dead. (This has been the White House's top "benchmark" priority over the past year.)

(UPI) Even the guy who wrote the oil law now stands against it.

And, I'm not too optimistic about what might come out of this regional Iraq summit at Sharm al Sheik. The US is pushing this idea of an International Compact with Iraq.

The short version is that foreign countries commit to significant aid and debt reduction on the promise that Iraq will have political unity in five years. (Cooperation on ending violence is unclear.) The Sunni countries, Iraq's biggest lender nations, are balking at the prospect of giving Maliki's sectarian Shia government any assistance based on his current sectarian performace.

Perhaps most tellingly, the administration is trying to lower expectations to the point that a meeting where nothing happens is a success.
“The political significance of having 60 countries there, in what I think will be the first international agreement between Iraq and the world community in decades — our research certainly hasn’t found one since the 1950s — I think itself is a moment of political significance quite apart from whatever economic/financial result it might entail,” Deputy Treasury Secretary Robert M. Kimmitt told reporters on Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s plane en route to Egypt.

Some joint statement is expected.

(Editorial Note: Our entire Iraq strategy now hinges upon Condi Rice's diplomatic success, and her track record doesn't support much optimism.)

Picture of the Day

Afghans walk down a hill in Kabul April 23, 2007. REUTERS/Ahmad Masood

(NYTimes) "Aerial bombing of a valley in western Afghanistan several days ago by the American military killed at least 42 civilians, including women and children, and wounded 50 more, an Afghan government investigation found Wednesday. A provincial council member who visited the site independently put the figure at 50 civilians killed."

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Silencing the Milblogs.

The WaPo has this huge article on military blogs out of Iraq and how they serve a unique and vital purpose for those who blog and those who read them.

I guess they didn't see the new regulations that will effectively stamp milblogs out.

Picture of the Day - 3

"Either we'll succeed or we won't succeed."
- George Bush, 5/2/07.

A boy cries during a funeral for his family members killed in Baghdad May 1, 2007. Residents said nine family members were killed and two others were wounded during Monday night's U.S.-Iraqi operation in northern Baghdad's Huseiniya district. REUTERS/Kareem Raheem

Undefining success in Iraq

President Bush today undefines success in Iraq.

I saw a Marine yesterday -- came out of Anbar. His brother, who was in the Army, was lost. And I was comforting his family as best as I possibly can, or could. And he said, we're making great progress in Anbar, I just wanted to tell you that, President. You know, is he the kind of guy that tells the President what he wants to hear? I don't know. All I can tell you is what he told me. And I told that to David Petraeus, who confirmed it.

But slowly but surely, the truth will be known. Either we'll succeed, or we won't succeed. And the definition of success as I described is sectarian violence down. Success is not, no violence. There are parts of our own country that have got a certain level of violence to it. But success is a level of violence where the people feel comfortable about living their daily lives. And that's what we're trying to achieve.

So, "Success is not, no violence." It's some level of violence he deems acceptable.

(And, If you happen to catch a video of this, the "Either we'll succeed, or we won't succeed" line feels remarkably flip considering he's talking about 100 US soldiers dying a month from now until he reassesses in September.)

Oh, and 9/11 has been defined down as well,
You can attack a nation several ways. One, you can get 19 kids to fly airplanes into buildings, or you can gain control of something a country needs and deny that country access to that, in this case, oil, and run the price of oil up, all attempting to inflict serious economic damage.

Those crazy kids..... (And, oil is now equivalent to the 3,000 Americans killed on 9/11.)

But in the end, the reality comes down to this.
The question is, who ought to make that decision? The Congress or the commanders? And as you know, my position is clear -- I'm the commander guy.

Carol Lam's version sure sound like they were stopping the Wilkes investigation

Read this section of Carol Lam's written replies to Congress.
After a follow-up call with Mike Battle a few days later, I requested additional time to ensure and orderly transition in the office, especially regarding pending investigations and several significant cases that were set to begin trial in the next few months.

On January 5, 2007, I received a call from Michael Elston informing me that my request for more time base on case-related considerations was “not being received positively,” and that I should “stop thinking in terms of the cases in the office.” He insisted that I had to depart in a matter of weeks, not months, and that these instructions were “coming from the very highest levels of the government.”

"The very highest levels of the government" didn't want her to finish cases. Her version, but still....

Picture of the Day

U.S. President George W. Bush walks away after announcing that he has vetoed the Iraq War Supplemental Bill during a statement at the White House in Washington May 1, 2007. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

It's actual policy

Condi Rice is headed to the Iraq regional conference where she will certainly run into the Iranian representative. What's the policy?

From a Bush appearance on Monday,
PRESIDENT BUSH: Should the Foreign Minister of Iran bump into Condi Rice, Condi won't be rude. She's not a rude person. I'm sure she'll be polite.

And, Condi Rice yesterday,
"If we encounter each other then I am certainly planning to be polite and see what that encounter brings," said Rice.

That's the official policy. Be polite. Treat Iran like an ex-spouse at a business function.

The only problem is that our joint custody child named Iraq has recently gotten into the habit of starting fires.


(AP) Another brigade arrives in Iraq for "the surge." By my count, this means that 80% of the surge troops (4 of 5 brigades) are now in Baghdad.

(CSM) Reenlistment rates among mid-level enlisted soldiers are falling for the first time to roughly 84%.

(USAToday) State Department diplomats are coming back from Iraq with PTSD symptoms.

(AP) The Al Qaeda umbrella group, the Islamic State of Iraq, issued a statement saying that Al Qaeda in Iraq leader al Masri is "alive and still fighting the enemy of God."

(And, on the rare bright side, there are no major violent attacks in the news this morning.)


Once upon a time, with oil prices climbing up near $4, the US would have reacted to this, but with the loss of stature and influence in Latin America and the world and the US tied down in Iraq, there are no resources left to throw at this problem.
President Hugo Chavez's government took over Venezuela's last privately run oil fields Tuesday, intensifying a power struggle with international companies over the world's largest known single petroleum deposit.

This is what happens in the vacuum when an empire overextends.

(Side Note: Venezuela mostly has very "dirty oil" which involves a lot of high tech processing and refining, so it's not just a matter of them taking over. However, if another major force such as the Chinese partnered with them, they can get around that.)

Also, although 15,000 bpd is relatively small potatoes, the news that the Nigerian Delta Militia's continuing violence has gotten Chevron to shut down a facility shows that the MEND is getting more effective.

Gasoline is now nearing post Katrina highs and looks to go past them into the summer.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Picture of the Day - 3

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in the West Bank city of Ramallah, March 25, 2007. There is little good news on U.S. foreign policy from Iraq and Afghanistan to North Korea and Russia. On the domestic front, Rice has been subpoenaed to testify about erroneous intelligence used to justify the Iraq war, has fended off criticism from former CIA Director George Tenet and has watched one of her top aides resign amid a sex scandal. (Loay Abu Haykel/Reuters)

Bush in the bunker

From the Nelson Report (subscription) via Huffington Post.
Sometimes insider gossip seems to confirm what all us outsiders think we're seeing, so, for what it's worth...we're hearing that some big money players up from Texas recently paid a visit to their friend in the White House. The story goes that they got out exactly one question, and the rest of the meeting consisted of The President in an extended whine, a rant, actually, about no one understands him, the critics are all messed up, if only people would see what he's doing things would be OK...etc., etc.

This is called a "bunker mentality" and it's not attractive when a friend does it. When the friend is the President of the United States, it can be downright dangerous. Apparently the Texas friends were suitably appalled, hence the story now in circulation.

How far is this from "the swagger?" The bully has been broken, and now all the insecurities are coming out. It's never pretty.

I was thinking last night that we still have 20 months left of this presidency. 20 more months.

Maliki's government secretly supporting Shia militias

This story about a secretive "Commander in Chief" office within Maliki's government that is being used to protect the Shia militias actually broke yesterday, but I find today's CNN version fills out some of the questions I had.
The Office, as it is known in Baghdad, was set up about four months ago with the knowledge of American forces in Iraq.....

Every senior U.S. and Iraqi military official who spoke to CNN in Baghdad about the advisers asked not to be named due to the sensitive nature of the story and potential political or personal backlash.

A White House official confirmed that the U.S. government does have specific concerns about the Office, adding: "We are working with them on their command-and-control issues to make sure it works properly and so that commanders are put into their jobs for the right reasons and not just sectarian reasons."

This was set up under Casey and Khalilzad with White House approval, and I find it very curious that this story comes out of Baghdad right after Petraeus and his staff come back from Washington. (Did they not get the White House response they wanted?)

Or is this lower level officers understandably angered because they're busting their butts and Maliki is working against them?

There's just something about this story and the way it's coming out that tells me the sourcing is very important.

The White House knew about this problem from its inception and "senior US military officials" requested anonymity out of fear of "political or personal backlash."

There's something here.

Picture of the Day - 2

Riot police officers confront May Day protesters as they block the entrance to Taksim Square in Istanbul, Turkey, May 1, 2007. (AP article)

"Mission Accomplished" anniversary is not a moment for gloating

I'm a little disgusted by the gleeful posts celebrating/mocking the recurrence of this "Mission Accomplished" day. I understand the intent is to highlight just how wrong this administration has been on the war by highlighting one of the most outrageous and exploitative photo ops, but still, this is not a happy day.

ThinkProgress has a chart of the disaster. On the day of that speech, 139 American soldiers had been killed, now it's 3,351. On May 1, 2003, 542 US troops had been wounded, now it's 24,912.

Yes, that picture does powerfully capture the complete miscomprehension of this conflict in their declaration of early victory, but this mistake is not a "blue dress." It is thousands of US dead, tens of thousands of US wounded, and anywhere from 50,000 to 500,000 Iraqi dead and god knows how many wounded.


(AP, Reuters, AFP) There are reports that Al Qaeda in Iraq leader al-Masri has been killed. (Until it's confirmed, treat this as rumor. This guy's "been dead" before.)

(me) The largest, most mainline Sunni bloc which was the focus for political reconciliation is now talking about withdrawing its ministers from Maliki's government.

(AP) "Egypt wants an international conference on Iraq this week to call for a three-month cease-fire between Iraqi forces and insurgents, according to a draft resolution. But Iraq strongly objected to the idea on Monday."

(WaPo) "Later, Garver confirmed there had been an assault on the Green Zone, but it was unclear what had happened. Local Iraqi television stations reported 10 explosions inside the zone. There were no immediate reports of casualties, Garver said."

(WaPo) At Camp Victory at the Baghdad airport,
Now, he said, soldiers at the base must carry weapons. Return addresses on letters from home must be ripped off and burned, so as not to fall into the wrong hands. On his first deployment, eight months passed before his Baghdad base was hit by mortar fire. This time, he said, it seems the Camp Victory intercom announces incoming fire every day.

(My point is that it's not just the new small fighting posts that are seeing increased attacks.)

(AP) Green Zone ID cards and an ID card for access to the US embassy were found in a raid in a Sunni stronghold.

Picture of the Day

Afghan boys try to hide their faces from camera as militiamen and police guard their village Chenar Tu in Oruzgan province south of Afghanistan, Friday, April. 27, 2007. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Monday, April 30, 2007

Purity squads at the DOJ

Reading the AP version of the latest Gonzales memo story, I'm really struck by just how politically driven the Department of Justice actually is/was.

Take a minute and think about the climate. Two, extremely inexperienced but zealous Bush political figures were given absolute and final say so over over all personnel decisions.

(Sampson was so political that he was rumored to take over for Karl Rove at one point.)

Think about this. You're a high level Justice official, and you have these two inexperienced political hacks with total control over you. They can dig into whatever you're doing, order you to take up a case, order you to drop a case, and fire you for no reason.

They were a "purity squad" planted firmly in the middle of the Justice Department that reported to the White House political arm and ensured discipline and adherence to the goals of "the party."

How messed up is that?

(Related: (WaPo) McNulty was on Capitol Hill yesterday.)

The "unity government" is collapsing in Baghdad

First it was Sadr pulling his ministers, now it's the most mainline Sunnis. (These Sunnis were cited as the primary hope for a political reconciliation after Tariq Hashimi met with Bush in December.)
The largest bloc of Sunni Arabs in the Iraqi Parliament threatened to withdraw its ministers from the Shiite-dominated cabinet today in frustration over the Iraq government’s failure to deal with Sunni concerns.

President Bush stepped in to forestall the move, calling one of Iraq’s two vice presidents, Tariq al-Hashimi, a Sunni Arab, and inviting him to Washington.

Also in this article, freakin' C.H.U.D.s,
In the Mosul attacks, insurgents popped out from manholes near the police station and fired rocket-propelled grenades while three suicide car bombs exploded near the station, said Lt. Col. Eric Welsh, commander of the single American combat battalion in Mosul.

Picture of the Day - 3

Okay,. I'm not a fan of the honorary doctorate to begin with, but I can understand how a President or Sec. State might be given one because of their experience.

But, what did Laura Bush do to get a doctorate of law?

(And look at the eyes....)

(Chancellor Emeritus Charles B. Runnels places a hood on U.S. first lady Laura Bush as she receives Pepperdine's Honorary Doctor of Laws degree during the 2007 Seaver College commencement at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California April 28, 2007. REUTERS/Phil McCarten)

So, Gonzales wasn't involved in the US Attorney firings

Wow. So apparently, Al Gonzales signed over his personnel authority to Monica Goodling and Kyle Sampson.
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales signed a highly confidential order in March 2006 delegating to two of his top aides -- who have since resigned because of their central roles in the firings of eight U.S. attorneys -- extraordinary authority over the hiring and firing of most non-civil-service employees of the Justice Department......

A senior executive branch official familiar with the delegation of authority said in an interview that -- as was the case with the firings of the U.S. attorneys and the selection of their replacements -- the two aides intended to work closely with White House political aides and the White House counsel's office in deciding which senior Justice Department officials to dismiss and whom to appoint to their posts. "It was an attempt to make the department more responsive to the political side of the White House and to do it in such a way that people would not know it was going on," the official said.

But we did find out what was going on.

Can we get Harriet Miers in under oath now?

Bashing Hillary and other political bits

The TimesOnline has a teaser on an upcoming biography of Hillary Clinton written by Carl Bernstein. Frankly, I really respect Bernstein (unlike his famous former partner) and would guess his book will be truth more than sensation, but what I'll be watching is the broader Democratic response.

Assuming that the book is factually solid, how deep of a defense comes out of Democrats? Certainly her campaign and its associates would respond, but what about the broader Democratic party, or the bloggers. This Bernstein book may give a very interesting insight into how Democrats really feel about a Hillary Clinton campaign.

Also: (Politico) McCain promises to find a self hating Democrat to serve in his cabinet if elected.

And, (CNN) the Giuliani campaign releases a list of endorsers and supporterd in New Hampshire. The only problem is that alot of them aren't supporters.

Tony Snow is back, and the message is clear.

Tony Snow is back.

Q Tony, are we winning the war?....

MR. SNOW: ....You know, April, we're fighting the war, and it's an important thing to understand that the only way to lose the war is to walk away from it, .......

Any measure of progress is unacceptable.
Q Why not set benchmarks with -- political benchmarks with consequences, given that there has been so little, if any, progress politically from the Iraqis?

MR. SNOW: Number one, it gets back to what you're saying. If you try to impose timetables, what you end up doing is you say to enemies, you know, all you have to do is create a little bit of chaos.

In other words, asking for progress reports leads to terrorism, so, just shut up and trust the president.

Also, Regarding the oil law that Tony Snow tried to reference as an accomplishment, the Kurdish minority declared they would block oil law today.

Picture of the Day - 2

An Iraqi woman opens the gate of her house to Iraqi army soldiers conducting a search and raid operation in the town of Hilla, central Iraq, early 27 April 2007. (AFP/Mohammed Sawaf)

The complicated election politics of Iraq for Republicans

The WaPo has a front page article discussing Republican "cohesion" on Iraq framing it as an unwillingness by Republican pols to face an unwavering, war supporting constituency.

This raises an interesting question to me. Have Karl Rove's divisive "base politics" come back to bite them on the ass?

A majority of Republicans still support this president and this war, and the hardcore base, the more likely primary voters, support it even more strongly.

In the 2004 and 2006 election, the Republican machine spent great effort trying to turn Iraq into a Republican "litmus" issue either you're for the war, like our candidates, or against America, but, as we saw in 2006, if the independents don't support that position, that leaves the Republicans as a "base only party."

If Iraq is the top issue in 2008, Republican candidates will have to somehow placate those who support the war and the president to win their primaries. What does that mean for them when they face general elections?

(This presumes that the Democrats don't do anything or say anything that gets them out of the mainstream on Iraq.)

Maliki still protecting the Mahdi

Is this an "official" leak made by the US military command in Iraq to pressure Maliki, or is this an "unofficial" leak by officers disgusted by the US command allowing Maliki's sectarianism.
A department of the Iraqi prime minister's office is playing a leading role in the arrest and removal of senior Iraqi army and national police officers, some of whom had apparently worked too aggressively to combat violent Shiite militias, according to U.S. military officials in Baghdad.....

"Their only crimes or offenses were they were successful" against the Mahdi Army, a powerful Shiite militia, said Brig. Gen. Dana J.H. Pittard, commanding general of the Iraq Assistance Group, which works with Iraqi security forces. "I'm tired of seeing good Iraqi officers having to look over their shoulders when they're trying to do the right thing."

There's little doubt that this is true, but where it came from greatly alters the significance of the story.

Related: (AP) The US killed 8 gunmen who were reportedly Mahdi in a Baghdad clash after US forces might have entered a mosque in Kazimiyah. "If the gunmen were Mehdi Army, the clash would mark the heaviest between U.S. forces and the Mehdi militia in Baghdad since the start of the Baghdad crackdown.

(Reuters) "The U.S. military said Monday that a joint American-Iraqi raid the day before was aimed at capturing "high-value individuals" in the north Baghdad heavily Shiite district of Kazimiyah and left one Iraqi soldier and eight gunmen dead.

Iraqi police officers in the area said the raid was targeting a local office of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and that the guards clashed with the forces."

(NYTimes) "The Interior Ministry official said American soldiers and Mahdi militiamen exchanged heavy gunfire near a prominent Shiite shrine in the Shiite neighborhood of Kadhimiya, and that two American Humvees had burst into flames."

(I would discount the interpretation that this clash indicates a return of Mahdi to the streets. It sounds like the US tried to conduct a raid and the Mahdi bodyguards fought back.)

And, A very interesting look at the Mahdi, its splinter groups, power struggles, and ties to Iran.

104 US soldiers killed in Iraq in April

And, Petraeus says it's going to get worse before it gets better.
The deaths raised to at least 104 American troops who have died in Iraq as April draws to a close, making it the deadliest month since December, when 112 Americans died.....

At least 3,351 members of the U.S. military have died since the war started, according to the AP count.

Has any news outlet given these deaths the space they gave the gunman at Virginia Tech?

These 104 soldiers just died serving their country.

(If I were CNN, I would set aside one segment a day to allow military families to send in their video, stories, or statements about their family members who died in Iraq. Ban any comment on the war itself, but just allow the families who wish to participate, a few minutes to share their memories and honor their children, husbands, fathers, etc.

It would be the most watched segment of their day.)

Picture of the Day

A photo of Cpl. James T. Lindsey sits on display during a funeral service at Fort Richardson in Anchorage, Alaska, Wednesday, April 25, 2007, for the 20-year-old soldier from Florence, Ala., who was killed April 12 in Baghdad by an improvised explosive device. (AP Photo/Al Grillo)

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Oh my God!!!!

I rarely mention the bullshit that goes on in the right wing crazy media, but oh my god.

Rush Limbaugh plays a song "Barack the Magic Negro."

Americablog now has the lyrics.

Questions around the "resignation" of the Missouri US Attorney

This article is all smoke and no confirmed fire, but it's a fair amount of smoke. Graves resigned as US Attorney in Missouri to be replaced by Schlozman.
But, like the others, Graves had not always gone along with the Karl Rove-written GOP playbook when it came to using the Justice Department to improve Republican odds at the polls.

Just a few months before, in November 2005, Graves had refused to sign a Justice Department complaint against the state of Missouri alleging that local election authorities — mostly in rural areas — had failed to properly maintain their voter registration lists. His name eventually appeared on the suit, although he never signed it.....

There’s also little question that the White House was ready to make a switch. Brad Schlozman was announced as Graves’ replacement just 13 days after Graves revealed he was leaving.

That’s the same Schlozman who authorized the Justice Department lawsuit against Missouri for failure to maintain its voter lists. A federal judge ruled in favor of the state two weeks ago.

So, Graves refuses to pursue a "voter fraud case," but his name mysteriously appeared on a suit out of Washington. In disgust, he resigns, only to be replaced by the guy who authorized the suit Graves refused to sign.

See, Graves wasn't on board with the DoJ's "priorities....."

The Tenet interview

If George Tenet is so passionate and feels so strongly, then why did he wait three years?

He's made speeches and had ample opportunity to comment before, but now, suddenly, he has alot to say.

He waited three years until the Bush administration was weakened, beaten down, and less able to respond.

I'm not buying Tenet's victimhood.

Picture of the Day - 2

With all the focus on the Democrats and their "A list celebrities," no one's asking, "Who won the critical Rip Torn primary?"

Actor Rip Torn, right, joins a small group of supporters during a private fundraiser for Sen. John McCain, left, in Darien, Conn., Monday evening, April 23, 2007. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)


(Reuters) More US artillery fire in the Dora neighborhood of Baghdad. (The US began occasionally using artillery in Baghdad to target Sunni areas after the spate of helicopter shootdowns.)

(Independent) Iranian tip-off may have led Americans to al-Qaeda leader.

(LATimes) As British draw down, violence in Basra is up

(AFP) Maliki tells US lawmakers that Iraq will not be pressured into action. (Obviously a statement intended for his home audience, but still...)

(Me) Iraqi politicians are not likely to do a damn thing until they come back from a two month parliamentary break in September.

(AP) Iraqi police years from taking charge.

(Iraqslogger) There's new video of the Jessica Lynch recovery.

(WaPo) Saudi King "has refused to receive Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki." (I think it's important to note that even diplomacy is slipping away right now.)

The Iraqis love their security barriers. (Too bad all the accompanying pictures are small.)

And, after the inflammatory Karbala bombing yesterday likely to raise Shia rage in Iraq and across the region, this is what was was being broadcast,
Television images showed a man running down a smoke-filled street holding a lifeless baby above his head. Smoke was rising off the baby.

Think about that for a minute.

(Iraqslogger has a good analysis of the Sunni tribes in Anbar cooperating against Al Qaeda (7th and 8th paragraph) calling it a Rorschach blot with war supporters not recognizing the pitfalls and war critics not mentioning it at all.)

Picture of the Day

Afghan protestors block a road in the Bati Kot area of Nangarhar province, east of Kabul, Afghanistan on Sunday, April 29, 2007. Hundreds of angry protesters chanting 'Death to Bush' and 'Death to Karzai' demonstrated in eastern Afghanistan after U.S.-led coalition and Afghan forces raided a suspected car bomb cell early Sunday, leaving four militants and two female civilians dead, officials said. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

Related AFP story. (I just really liked the composition of this photo.)

News programming in "sweeps"

After Tobias' resignation from his top level position at the State Dept, suddenly the "DC Madam" case is "rising up the news charts." I use the Casey Kasem reference because of this,
Palfrey's flamboyant attorney, Montgomery Blair Sibley, said Friday that he has been contacted by five lawyers recently, asking whether their clients' names are on Palfrey's list of 10,000 to 15,000 phone numbers. Some, Sibley said, have inquired about whether accommodations could be made to keep their identities private. ABC is expected to air a report on Palfrey and her clients on "20/20" on May 4, during sweeps.

More revelations are in the offing. Ross said the list includes the names of some "very prominent people," as well as a number of women with "important and serious jobs" who had worked as escorts for the firm.

We can argue over whether this story (or 20/20) is really news, but there's something that feels very wrong about holding a story for sweeps week.

(Has ABC ever done even a half hour on Abramaoff?)