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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, September 22, 2007

George Bush handicaps '08. Still thinks he's Truman.

Saturday, so light blogging, but I found this from last night interesting. At "the anchors' meeting," Bush seems to have left them with the impression that he believes Hillary Clinton will win the presidency.

He also seemed to allude that in his interpretation of the world, he was Truman laying out the cold war strategy, and the next president (of a different party) would continue his Iraq policy despite campaign pronouncements.

And, Romney's getting a little dirty (out of desperation?) He's running a national ad criticizing the GOP, and also lobbed this beauty at Giuliani, "when it comes time to run against Hillary Clinton," the Republican candidate should be able "to bring all their family together as I have to get on the campaign trail."

Picture of the Day - The best and worst of image control.

Part of "image control" is the way the campaigns manage the way their candidates are photographed by the staging of the events and the placement of the photographers.

Without question, the Obama campaign has been the best at this with almost every news photo reinforcing their campaign themes of excitement, populism, and change.

(Honorable mentions go to the Clinton and Giuliani campaigns. They take no chances, but rarely do you see message distracting photos of either of them.)

I would say that the Thompson campaign has been by far the worst. Look at the disaster below, for instance. Who lets their candidate be shot like this?

(The Edwards campaign is pretty bad at image control, too.)

The Syria/nuke hype continues

With no corroborating information at all, the NYTimes runs a web front page article covering the "debate" over whether Syria has a nuclear program.

No evidence at all, but it's a "debate."


(AP) The US has arrested 25 people in connection with the killing of the Sunni tribal leader Abu Risha, including the head of his security who claims he was offered $1.5 million for the killing.

(VOI) A Mahdi "leader" was killed in Baghdad by unidentified gunmen.

(AP) "The Pentagon report cited a litany of problems with the police. For example, it said as few as 40 percent of those trained by coalition troops in recent years are still on the job. Also, due to combat loss, theft, attrition and poor maintenance, a "significant portion" of U.S.-issued equipment is now unusable."

(AP) A KBR project manager was convicted of taking kickbacks from First Kuwaiti General Trading & Contracting, the outfit that is building the Baghdad embassy. The real story here is that the US government "tried to keep First Kuwaiti's name out of public records." (Why is the government hiding and giving further contracts to, not prosecuting, the giver of the bribes?)

(First Kuwaiti, you may remember, is under investigation for its labor practices including human trafficking and appalling working conditions. There have always been questions over how First Kuwaiti got the bid over more established US firms. )

(E&P) Military spokesman "Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, commander of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division, said Thursday, back in the U.S. on leave at Fort Stewart, that the war in Iraq is "a winnable mission" if the media would only cooperate."

And, (NYTimes), The State Dept. under Karen Hughes, has assembled a group of paid employees to post "friendly" comments on moderate Muslim web sites while hiding their US gov't affiliation. (Now, every moderate commenter will be accused of being a US plant.)

Picture of the Day

Did violence go down in August as Petraeus and the Bush administration just reported?

(From Pentagon reporting via Juan Cole)

(PS. The Iraqi government's ban on photographing attack sites has been enormously effective. You never see pictures of bombings or bodies anymore. (Therefore they don't exist. Right?))

Friday, September 21, 2007

Stray thought on Ted Stevens

Tonight, I'm thinking that the leaking of the fact that Ted Stevens' phone calls were being taped is not so much a story in itself as maybe a prosecutorial tactic intended to pressure somebody else to take a deal and testify in the investigation.

Just thinking out loud.

Picture of the Day - 3

Rudy Giuliani has pulled this "call from his wife" schtick at previous stump events. I assume the idea is to try and give him some kind of "family values" cred and soften up a hostile audience.

(CNN has the video and it looks so fake.)
"Hello, dear," he said, presumably to his third wife, Judith Nathan. "I'm talking to the members of the NRA right now. Would you like to say hello?"

Whatever she said at that moment, Giuliani laughed.

"I love you, and I'll give you a call as soon as I'm finished, OK?" he continued. "OK, have a safe trip. Bye-bye. Talk to you later, dear. I love you."

The crowd applauded.

(I think one of the other candidates should also pretend to take a call from Giuliani's wife.) (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Big money

Although they're not particularly efficient with their money, it is notable that the AFL-CIO is committing $53 million to the '08 campaign.

For Giuliani, 9-11 did change everything (including logic)

This is really pretty incredible sophistry by Giuliani.
(Giuliani) said the September 11 attacks made him believe more strongly in the constitutional right for Americans to possess weapons to defend themselves -- but he pointedly left himself open to changing positions if elected.

Would someone please ask Mr. Giuliani how Americans with guns would have stopped planes from flying into buildings?

If the argument is that an armed populous might somehow thwart terror attacks, doesn't that also mean that the terrorists can buy assault weapons more easily that they can carry into our schools?

(I have no strong position on guns, but I do stand firmly against bullshit arguments like this.)

Picture of the Day - 2

Republican presidential hopeful Fred Thompson listens to a question during a news conference in a hanger at Love Field in Dallas, Texas, Thursday, Sept. 20, 2007. Thompson says he doesn't need the support of influential evangelical Christian leader James Dobson to win over conservative voters. Dobson accuses the former Tennessee senator as being a weak conservative with 'no passion' in a private E-mail obtained this week by The Associated Press. (AP Photo/LM Otero)


(Reuters) "Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki proposed on Wednesday forming a cabinet of technocrats to replace his splintering national unity government and called for greater powers to push through his nominations." (If you give Maliki more power, he promises to be non-sectarian.)

(AP) Two more Sistani aides have been killed making it 5 since June. (Still not clear who is behind this.)

(BBC) The US says they have arrested an Iranian Quds officer in Sulaimaniya (NE Kurdish) who has been involved in transporting improvised explosive devices.

(AP) "The U.S. second-in-command in Iraq said Thursday that violence was down in Baghdad following the seven-month security operation in Baghdad, but that too many civilians are still dying."

(AP) An interesting interpretation of the new Sunni cooperation in Baghdad. (Please protect us from the Shia government you created.)

(NYTimes) The Cholera epidemic has reached Baghdad and Basra. (As the only cure is clean water, it's likely to get far, far worse. The US has limited chlorine after the chlorine bombs last year.)

And, Juan Cole has some Iraqi politics. Maliki accuses Allawi of secret talks with Baath guerillas. Two members of Allawi's coalition withdraw, and Sunni VP Tariq Hashemi says that "Iraqi politicians are maneuvering to call a vote of no confidence in the al-Maliki government."

In "the Other War," (WaPo) U.S. Army Gen. Dan K. McNeill "said Thursday that a shipment of weapons intercepted by international forces in western Afghanistan this month clearly came from Iran and almost certainly was sent here with the knowledge of "at least the Iranian military.""

Controlled burn

The WaPo has a front page story revealing Israeli/US "information sharing" ahead of the Syria airstrike.

As tight as this has been held by the Israeli government
, I find it hard to believe that this level of detail was known outside the US's central core.

Reading this, I have a feeling this story is an authorized leak to try and keep this story from running out of control. Don't ask me why. It's just a feeling.

(Isn't Syria where Saddam's WMD went?)

Echoes of Chalabi (in Syria)

Right on cue, up pops a Syrian Chalabi in the WSJ and NYSun.
As allegations mount that Syria is pursuing a nuclear program, a leading Syrian-American organization says it’s working to bring to Washington a Syrian military scientist once deeply involved in Damascus’s atomic activities.

The Syrian National Council has been among the most aggressive U.S. organizations pushing for regime change in Damascus. And its leader, Farid Ghadry, has been a regular interlocutor with the White House on Middle East policy.

“We want him [the scientist] to debrief the Congress and the administration” on all of Syria’s nuclear programs, Ghadry said.

It all sounds so familiar, somehow......

The Iraqi solution for Blackwater

The highly corrupt and militia infiltrated Iraqi Interior Ministry suggests that State Dept and CIA send its employees out with Iraqis who are connected enough to get approval from it.
The document concludes that the dozens of foreign security companies here should be replaced by Iraqi companies, and that a law that has given the companies immunity for years be scrapped.

Meanwhile, a Maliki aide hinted that the US could buy its way out.
The aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation into Sunday's incident was ongoing, said a way out of the Blackwater crisis could be the payment of compensation to victims' families and an agreement from all sides on a new set of ground rules for their operations in Iraq.

Picture of the Day

(AP) "The FBI, working with an Alaska oil contractor, secretly taped telephone calls with Sen. Ted Stevens as part of a public corruption sting, according to people close to the investigation."

(Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, walks on Capitol Hill in this July 31, 2007 file photo. Stevens' knew from the beginning that an Alaskan oil contractor was renovating his home, according to a construction worker who said his job duties ranged from installing the senator's hardwood floors to helping run his fundraisers — all on company time. (AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke))

Thursday, September 20, 2007

A two generation joke ends

For as long as I can remember, the comparison of the US dollar to the Canadian dollar was a joke at the Canadians' expense. Now, for the first time in over forty years, they have reached parity.

Tell me again about the wonderful economy, Mr. Bush.

Picture of the Day - 3

Giuliani is appearing before the NRA tomorrow,
But even as the former New York mayor strives to burnish his Second Amendment credentials at the gathering in Washington, a panel of federal judges in his home town will be hearing arguments on the lawsuit that Giuliani filed seven years ago aimed at punishing the nation's gun manufacturers for violent crimes involving firearms.....

A spokeswoman for Giuliani's presidential campaign yesterday declined to say whether he still supports the lawsuit or the goals he laid out in 2000.

(Republican presidential hopeful, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani talks about his tax plan during a campaign stop in Manchester, N.H., Saturday, Aug. 25, 2007.(AP Photo/Jim Cole))

Update: At the NRA convention tomorrow, McCain is going to try and take a piece out of Giuliani's hide. Could be fun.

Political bits

(TPM) The McCain fundraising looks horrible.

(Politico) For whatever it's worth, James Dobson of Focus on the Family is circulating private emails bashing Fred Thompson.

And, (TPM) I find it very interesting politics that Clinton didn't vote to condemn the Moveon ad against Petraeus, while at the same time, (CNN) turning loose her Iowa proxy, Tom Vilsack, against Giuliani.

Stop me before I kill again

I'm often amazed by the Bush tactic of blaming others for his acts. Within about 5 minutes of today's press conference, he did it twice.

First, he said he would have to reject the pending SCHIP legislation and then blamed the Congress for letting poor kids go without healthcare. Then, he said that Iran has a choice to cooperate with the diplomacy and that any result is up to them.

Did you get that? If he vetoes legislation, the results are not his fault. If Iran finds itself with American bombs coming down like rain, it's the Iranians themselves that are to blame.

I'm sure there's some psychological term to describe this sort of externalization, but all I keep thinking is "Stop me before I kill again."

(And, if I remember right, Saddam made a choice, too.)

Picture of the Day - 2

"This is what we think will be left of American credibility."

(Democratic presidential hopeful New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton talks with research scientist Laura Higgins while touring the Pioneer Hi-Bred International Facility Research Greenhouses in Johnston, Iowa in this March 5, 2007 file photo. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall))

Musharraf's crumbling state

The Pakistani "Supreme Court" ruled that Musharraf cannot stand for election unless he gives up his military post. Musharraf ignores that ruling, saying he'll give up the military post after he gets reelected.

Al Qaeda releases a double punch of videos. One in which Zawahiri calls on followers to attack the Pakistani military to avenge the killings in the siege of the "Red Mosque."
"Let the Pakistani army know that the killing of Abdul Rashid Ghazi and his students and the demolition of his mosque and two madrasas have soaked the history of the Pakistani army in shame ... which can only be washed away by retaliation against the killers of Abdul Rashid Ghazi and his students."

And a second video reportedly coming from Bin Laden,
Osama bin Laden will release a new message soon declaring war on Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, al-Qaida announced Thursday.

Last, the US has been trying to save Musharraf by encouraging a "powersharing" between Musharraf and Bhutto. Here's the status. In a WaPo editorial, Bhutto maintains that Musharraf must give up his uniform before the election. She says she will return to Pakistan on October 18.

Musharraf has now scheduled elections on Oct. 6.

Speculation on the British in Basra

Thomas Ricks pulls together some comments on the British actions in Basra.
Some in the U.S. government worry that the British military, which recently withdrew from its last outpost in the south's biggest city, Basra, has made arrangements not to be attacked in exchange for not interfering in the factional fighting for control of the city. ....

Peter Harling, the Damascus, Syria-based representative of the nongovernmental International Crisis Group.... "I do believe this was a negotiated withdrawal." One indication of that, he said, was that the militia of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has stopped attacking British forces in their remaining airport enclave. "They've achieved what they wanted," Harling said of Sadr's followers, "and now see the British forces as essentially defeated. They have a point."....

The British have shown a real "haste to get out of Dodge, and boy, are they in a hurry," said the U.S. official. The British military, this official added, "would like to get out tomorrow," while the new prime minister, Gordon Brown, has somewhat different ideas.

This is your president

The Draper book on the Bush presidency is unbelievable in its look at the small, daily bits inside the White House.
Bush's deployed his fetish for punctuality as a punitive weapon. When Colin Powell was several minutes late to a Cabinet meeting, Bush ordered that the door to the Cabinet Room be locked. ...

Those around him have learned how to manipulate him through the art of flattery. Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld played Bush like a Stradivarius, exploiting his grandiosity. "Rumsfeld would later tell his lieutenants that if you wanted the president's support for an initiative, it was always best to frame it as a 'Big New Thing.'"

Other aides played on Bush's self-conception as "the Decider." "To sell him on an idea," writes Draper, "aides were now learning, the best approach was to tell the president, This is going to be a really tough decision." But flattery always requires deference.

Every morning, Josh Bolten, the chief of staff, greets Bush with the same words: "Thank you for the privilege of serving today."

(Later: Probably should add the A student/C student moment from this morning's press conference.)

"End run"

What does it say about this country, that this can be openly discussed and nobody gets excited? (Regarding Iran)
We should also worry about the kind of scenario David Wurmser floated, meaning an engineered provocation. An "accidental war" would escalate quickly and "end run," as Wurmser put it, the president's diplomatic, intelligence and military decision-making apparatus.

It's one thing for a president to "engineer" a provocation (unfortunately it happens all the time,) but we're talking about a Vice President and a cabal of followers generating a war against the President's policy.

Doesn't that seem like a big deal?

Picture of the Day

(President Bush follows behind Vice President Dick Cheney as they arrive for the president to make a statement to reporters during a visit to the National Security Agency, Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2007. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak))

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Ban Ki Moon, Condi Rice, and Ehud Olmert are in a life raft.....

Really, this says it all (from the BBC.)
The United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, has urged Israel to reconsider its decision to declare the Gaza Strip a "hostile entity".

The Israeli government has said it will cut off energy supplies to Gaza in response to the continued rocket attacks by Palestinian militants there.

Mr Ban said that withholding vital supplies from civilians would violate international law.

But US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice defended Israel's position.

Later: It should also be noted that Israel makes this declaration of Gaza as a "hostile entity" "on the first day of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's visit here to promote a U.S.-sponsored meeting of Israeli, Palestinian and regional leaders proposed for this year." (WaPo)

And, Netanyahu makes veiled references to the Syrian airstrike.

While we're here....

Check out this through the looking glass comment by John Bolton,
"We're talking about a clear message to Iran -- Israel has the right to self-defense --and that includes offensive operations against WMD facilities that pose a threat to Israel. The United States would justify such attacks."

This from the US's former UN ambassador.

(The video of Bolton at the bottom of the page is unbelievable.)


(AP) ""I'm probably one of the four or five best known Americans in the world," Giuliani told a small group of reporters at a posh London hotel....."

Let's see... Michael Jordan, Shaquille O'Neill, Britney Spears, Madonna, Angelina Jolie, President Bush, President Clinton, Tiger Woods, Arnold Schwarzenegger...., but Rudy Giuliani?

That's a man quite full of himself.

Picture of the Day - 3

Did you know that Karen Hughes is still working for this White House trying to win Muslim "Hearts and Minds?"
Polls overseas show Muslims' views of the United States going through the floor. Even in NATO ally Turkey, the United States' favorable rating is down to 9 percent...

Karen Hughes says she's determined to keep plugging away to turn this around.

Hughes surfaced on Fox News on Sept. 11 to talk about her efforts.

Do the terrorists watch FoxNews?

(Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Karen Hughes talks with members of military support organizations on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2007, as they waited for President Bush to arrive. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds))

To bomb or not to bomb Iran

Steve Clemons has a Salon article (you may have to watch the ad,) arguing that President Bush will not launch a first strike against Iran (although he tends to wiggle a little when talking about the possibility of a pretext/provocation.)

If you're tracking this debate it's an interesting read, but I would like to add one more thought: Every argument for bombing presupposes that such an attack would cease all possibility of an Iranian nuclear program.

What happens in ten more years? The Iranians will still retain their expertise and could rebuild their program. Do we bomb them every 5 years? Have we just created a hair trigger nuclear enemy a decade down the line?

Picture of the Day - 2

(A man stands alone with an American flag to honor fallen Army Cpl. Jason Hernandez along the route of his funeral procession in Streetsboro, Ohio, Monday, Sept. 17, 2007. Hernandez was killed by a roadside bomb on Sept. 7, his 21st birthday, while serving in Mosul, Iraq. (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta))

After staying through September, the British get to leave

I can't find the link, but it was recently reported somewhere that the Bush administration had asked the Brits to stay in Iraq through September (Petraeus report.)

Well, that being done, it now looks like the Brits will be handing over "security" in Basra "within weeks," (after war funding passes?) allowing Gordon Brown to begin to pull them out.

The Pentagon released a report yesterday noting that security in the Shia south has "taken a turn for the worse" citing an inflow of militia members from the Baghdad area, but what it doesn't seem to mention is that for the last year, the Brits have pretty much confined themselves to base, woefully outnumbered and trying to prevent casualties because of domestic politics.

For the last year, the British presence, short of some border monitoring, has been largely a token presence left in Iraq because withdrawing would have damaged the US relationship.

But I guess they can "return on success," too.

(Later: The NYTimes has a piece looking at Petraeus' testimony in London, and the appearances of a coming British troop drawdown.)

Picture of the Day

Seriously. Is she working on North Korea? Iran? Iraq? Afghanistan?

No. She's staging "middle east peace talks" which have already been broadly deemed a failure and a showpiece.

The "key allies" Saudi, Pakistan, Britain, mostly work around her through Cheney, Hadley, or Gates.

Mainly, she's just hanging around Washington. (I mean, what is she doing here? How does this fold into the Sec. State job?)

(Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice listens to President Bush, not shown, as he speaks to members of military support organizations, Tuesday, sept. 18, 2007, on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds))

Later: Adm. Fallon is touring the Sunni Gulf States trying to line up support against Iran.

Later: (AFP) "Pope Benedict XVI refused to meet US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in August, saying he was on holiday, an Italian newspaper reported Wednesday.

Rice "made it known to the Vatican that she absolutely had to meet the pope" to boost her diplomatic "credit" ahead of a trip to the Middle East....."

Just ahead of the "peace talks"

I just don't believe the Fatah good/Hamas bad strategy is going to work. In the end, Israel is not giving up territory, settlements, or even significant recognition. The Israeli attempt to divide is based on who they're going to abuse, and how hard.
Israel's Security Cabinet declared the Gaza Strip an "enemy entity" Wednesday, Israeli radio stations reported.

The decision would let Israel cut off vital electricity, water and fuel supplies to the Palestinian territory, which the Islamic militant Hamas group took over in June.

Meanwhile, (BBC) Condi Rice is having to assure the world that the coming Israel Fatah talks will be "serious and substantive," even though "Ms Rice has not put forward any concrete proposals that would suggest the US has worked out a plan that would bring about a lasting peace."

She's a joke.

(Oh, and now we have claims of a Syrian/Iranian chemical weapons program/accident with "dozens" dead.)


Maybe someone should notice that the top US intelligence official, DNI Mike McConnell, said that "9/11 should have and could have been prevented."

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

So much for the provincial reconstruction teams

I think the notable bit is not so much the what, as the why.
The United States on Tuesday suspended all land travel by U.S. diplomats and other civilian officials throughout Iraq, except in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone.....

"This suspension is in effect in order to assess mission security and procedures, as well as a possible increased threat to personnel traveling with security details outside the International Zone," (said the State Dept. memo.)

The acts of a contractor have so poisoned the waters that the State Dept now feels that any personnel leaving the Green Zone with contractor security faces "a possible increased threat."

How does that effect the broader "hearts and minds?"

: (NYTimes) "A preliminary Iraqi report on a shooting involving an American diplomatic motorcade said Tuesday that Blackwater security guards were not ambushed, as the company reported, but instead fired at a car when it did not heed a policeman’s call to stop, killing a couple and their infant.....

“The traffic policeman was trying to open the road for them,” he said. “It was a crowded square. But one small car did not stop. It was moving very slowly. They shot against the couple and their child. They started shooting randomly.”"

Picture of the Day - 3

Sen. Larry Craig (R-Closet) returned to the Hill today.

For his sake, I sure hope his office has a private bathroom.

(AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke)

Informational from McConnell

This Rawstory piece attempts to dig into NSA surveillance of Americans, but frankly, it doesn't get very far. Of more interest to me are some of the informational bits on NSA foreign surveillance.
The United States' top spy said American intelligence agencies are intercepting "billions" of conversations and e-mails abroad....

The US is spying on "thousands, potentially millions (of) potential targets of interest," McConnell said later in the hearing.

"Millions" of targets?

Picture of the Day - 2

(An Iraqi boy runs through a gap in a concrete wall separating the Shiite and Sunni neighbourhoods of al-Shula and al-Ghazaliyeh in Baghdad, 15 September 2007. (AFP/Ali Al-Saadi ))

I got nothin'

Nothing's lighting me up this morning, so a few stray thoughts to act as filler between pictures.

There's been alot of talk that the Republicans have 22 of the 34 Senate seats coming up in the '08 election, but the coverage rarely mentions that this lopsided tally comes as a result of the extremely pro-Bush post 9-11, pre-Iraq atmosphere of 2002.

Have you ever noticed that in the current immigration debate, the most vociferous anti-immigration voices aren't from anywhere near the border?

Should there be a question about building the military? After the Cold War ended, the inertia of the big ticket, technology army was continued even after it had no viable enemy, creating an army which is a fairly poor fit for the type of conflict we are now in? As we go smaller and more mobile, are we doing it again? Is the Pentagon building a military to fight the Chinese? Are we ready for a cyberspace war? Are the current Homeland Security designs really effective against a broad terrorist effort if someone like the Iranians were to try and use that as a tactic?

And, Lastly, if global warming does melt the polar sea ice, what happens to Santa? Do we rewrite the story? Put the Christmas specials in storage?

Picture of the Day

Just wandering down the street and Rudy Giuliani happens onto a whole bunch of Nascar voters. So casual, so out of place.

(NASCAR driver Kenny Wallace chats with Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani at New Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire September 16, 2007. (REUTERS Robert LeSieur))

Monday, September 17, 2007

Mission Creep

Okay, so maybe it's not just terrorism....
Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence, says in testimony prepared for a Tuesday congressional hearing that a law passed last month expanding the U.S. government's eavesdropping power is needed to protect not just against terrorists but also against more traditional potential adversaries, such as those two Cold War foes.

This is he way it always goes. Special powers and laws are set for the dangerous new enemy. Then, once they're in place, the exemptions are continually broadened.
The Protect America Act allows the government to listen in, without a court order, on all communications conducted by a person reasonably believed to be outside the United States, even if an American is on one end of the conversation.

Such surveillance was generally prohibited under the original Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and it is one of the more controversial aspects of the new law.

(PS. Because Russia and China represent a far greater threat now than during the Cold War?)

From a man who dodged Vietnam.....

From a man who even dodged his National Guard duty.
" N.Z. Bear," one of the eight guests sitting around a table with Bush at the White House, reported: "Responding to one of the bloggers in Iraq he(Bush) expressed envy that they could be there (in Iraq,) and said he'd like to be there but 'One, I'm too old to be out there, and two, they would notice me.'"

Picture of the Day - 2

Not intended as an endorsement, but they do seem to be a genuinely happy family. Of all the majors, I think I'd most like to have the Obama's as my neighbors.

(Senator Barack Obama and and his wife Michelle skip with their daughters Sasha (R) and Malia as they are introduced at a Labor Day campaign rally in Manchester, New Hampshire September 3, 2007. (REUTERS / Neal Hamberg))

A bit more on Syria/N. Korea nukes

Haaretz, in an article where John Bolton applauds the Israelis for their strike on Syria as an example for Iran, adds this to the Syria/N. Korea nuclear mix.
The paper quoted Israeli sources as saying that planning for the strike began shortly after Meir Dagan, chief of the Mossad intelligence agency, presented Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in late spring with evidence that Syria was seeking to buy a nuclear device from North Korea.

I still don't believe it, but if the Syria attack was to be used as an example to the Iranians, this would offer backing.

And, much like most American comments, Robert Gates chips in his support for the Syria/N. Korea nuke story in the hypothetical,
Interviewed on Fox News, Gates also said the United States would have a "real problem" if Syria and North Korea are collaborating on a nuclear program, but refused to confirm reports to that end.

Isn't that beautiful? He doesn't have to overtly say there's a link which might come back to bite him. He can just say "if there's a link." (Sounds like they did learn something from the Iraq war.)

Maliki's own party to abandon Shia coalition?

Treat this as very rumory, but I find it notable that the head of Maliki's own party even mentions withdrawing from the United Shia coalition. (As a protest against Maliki.)

Reading this closely, it sounds like his party disagrees with the US backed tilt towards the new SIIC/Kurdish power base preferring a Sadr and Fadhila Shia core.

(Also: Sadr's bloc says no "no confidence" vote is coming.)


Nothing lighting me up, but these deserve mention.

(AP) Blackwater is having its license pulled by the Iraqi government after this incident where Blackwater contractors killed civilians. (Note that this took place in a Sunni neighborhood. The Iraqi government is more than happy to use Blackwater as a sop to the Sunnis rather than reigning in the Shia militias.)

(BBC) The Saudis buy 4.43 billion Euros worth of Eurofighters from the Brits. (I know, the covered up BAE slush fund, but still, we're fighting their war right now.)

(NYTimes) Now, Sec Def Gates is going to burn his credibility supporting the surge by delivering a very unusual speech explaining how Bush's policies are actually "realist."

(NYTimes) Fred Thompson is already carrying a "light schedule" in just his second week of campaigning. (I keep wondering how much "the lazy" is going to damage his fundraising. He's already behind self set goals so far.)

(NYDailiyNews) Giuliani seems to be getting the Neocon support.

And, if you want to get a sense of the '08 race, notice the Dems are talking Iraq, healthcare, and policy while the Republicans are mostly attacking. (It's all they've got.)

Picture of the Day

Presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain speaks during a rally as part of his 'No Surrender' tour at the Veterans of Foreign War Post 1772 in Rochester, N.H., Thursday, Sept. 13, 2007. (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter)

Sunday, September 16, 2007

It's no wonder they like Sarkozy

France. It's the new Britain.
The world should brace for a possible war over the Iranian nuclear crisis but seeking a solution through talks should take priority, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said on Sunday.

"We have to prepare for the worst, and the worst is war," he said in an interview broadcast on French television and radio....


Picture of the Day

Looking at his prospects for lunch, George Bush finds himself wishing he'd payed Halliburton just a little bit more.

(President George W. Bush joins soldiers in the food line during a visit to the Marine Corps Base in Quantico, Virginia, September 14, 2007. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

The British think it's coming

(Telegraph) "Senior American intelligence and defence officials believe that President George W Bush and his inner circle are taking steps to place America on the path to war with Iran, The Sunday Telegraph has learnt...."

(Guardian) "The growing US focus on confronting Iran in a proxy war inside Iraq risks triggering a direct conflict in the next few months, regional analysts are warning."

(Both of these are very speculative, but very interesting reads.)

Later, Wes Clark does a little speculating on the Iran war on the WaPo editorial page.

And: (Telegraph) "Move troops to Iran border, Brown told.

(Observer) A speculation that Israel's attack on Syria was a "dry run" for Iran.
Far from being a minor incursion, the Israeli overflight of Syrian airspace through its ally, Turkey, was a far more major affair involving as many as eight aircraft, including Israel's most ultra-modern F-15s and F-16s equipped with Maverick missiles and 500lb bombs. Flying among the Israeli fighters at great height, The Observer can reveal, was an ELINT - an electronic intelligence gathering aircraft.

If nothing else, the drumbeat is growing. Do you feel it?

Greenspan drops the bomb, says Iraq is about oil supplies

After so many years of having every single word he says pulled apart for meaning and context, there is very little doubt that Greenspan knows exactly what he's doing, writing in his new book, “I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil.”

He's talking about the broader oil supply, not some plot to steal Iraq's oil, but still, he knows the impact that phrase will have. (He's trying to sell his book beyond the financial markets.)