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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Best healthcare in the world

Echoing a broader theme....
The United States ranks near the bottom for infant survival rates among modernized nations. A Save the Children report last year placed the United States ahead of only Latvia, and tied with Hungary, Malta, Poland and Slovakia.

The same report noted the United States had more neonatologists and newborn intensive care beds per person than Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom — but still had a higher rate of infant mortality than any of those nations.

Doctors and analysts blame broad disparities in access to health care among racial and income groups in the United States.....

Picture of the Day - 2

John McCain embraces Iraq.

Sen. John McCain greets Sharon Fitzgerald, the mother of Almar Fitzgerald, a soldier killed in Iraq, on Feb. 21, 2006, following a memorial service at White Knoll High School, in Lexington, S.C., Friday, Nov. 2, 2007, for three alumni who have been killed in combat. (AP/Brett Flashnick)

Quote of the Day

The things that come spilling out of his mouth.....
Giuliani said it was better to err on the side of caution. "This country has never, ever, I believe, gotten in trouble by exaggerating a threat," he said. "We've gotten ourselves more into trouble when we underestimate a threat."

I'm guessing he never served in Vietnam (or Iraq.)

Also: McCain claims credit for the surge, but, even more notable, he goes after Giuliani again. This time on foreign policy.
“If they want to be president of the United States, they should have informed themselves,” he said in an interview in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. While not questioning his opponents’ patriotism, he said: “Giuliani could have informed himself by remaining on the Iraq Study Group. Some people tell me that he was fired. Some people tell me that he withdrew. Whatever it is, he didn’t show much interest in a war where young Americans are fighting and dying.”

While I'm not questioning my opponents patriotism......

Picture of the Day

With the continued charges of "cowboy diplomacy," how "unhelpful" is this photo op to policy goals? Who is it targeting?

(President George W. Bush takes German Chancellor Angela Merkel for a ride in his pick-up truck on his ranch in Crawford, Texas, November 9, 2007. (Jim Young/Reuters))


(AP) Six U.S. troops were killed when insurgents ambushed their foot patrol in the high mountains of eastern Afghanistan, officials said Saturday. The attack, the most lethal against American forces this year, made 2007 the deadliest for U.S. troops in Afghanistan since the 2001 invasion.....

Three Afghan soldiers were also killed in Friday's ambush, while eight Americans and 11 Afghans were wounded. The 14 total U.S. casualties was the highest number of wounded and killed from a battle in Afghanistan this year, Accetta said.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Political bits

(LATimes) "Republican strategists are beginning to fear that a deteriorating economy will pose serious obstacles for their party's presidential candidates, who may ultimately have to answer for rising gas prices and a slumping housing market."

(Politico) The wide open Republican race has led to lots of sharp catfights. The latest, McCain goes after Giuliani on Kerik, and Giuliani's campaign responds by bringing up the Keating 5.

Later: (Politico) The McCain Giuliani fight continues and gets nastier.

Later: (AP) McCain takes a loan for $3 million, and an outside 527, which is hiding its donors, begins pimping for the "campaign finance reformer" in South Carolina.

Later Still: (TheHill) McCain disavows the 527 ads in SC, and asks that they stop being run. (And still more McCain/Giuliani nastiness.)

(WSJblog) Romney comes up with new ads on immigration. (They must have polling showing Giuliani as vulnerable.)

(Rasmussen) Romney stretches his lead in New Hampshire.

(Politico) Undenied rumors that James Dobson may endorse Huckabee. (A big thumb in the eye to the GOP establishment.)

(ThinkProgress) A Bernie Kerik defense fund is launched.

Picture of the Day

(Army Spc. Rick Yarosh, Bingham NY, who was wounded in Iraq in Sept. 2006, waits to be greeted by President Bush as he visits a physical therapy lab for wounded soldiers at the Center For The Intrepid at the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Thursday, Nov. 8, 2007. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert))

(This was just a stop on a larger trip. (AP) "Bush attended a brunch Thursday at the manicured mansion of Richard Kinder, chairman of Kinder Morgan Energy Partners. He was attending a second fundraiser for Sen. John Cornyn later in San Antonio, hosted by lawyer John Steen. The aim was to raise $1.3 million to get out the GOP vote in Texas.")

How much money did he help raise for Army Spc. Rick Yarosh?

Maliki gives up on reconciliation with the largest Sunni bloc

All pretense of reconciliation is gone...
Iraq's Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has given up trying to bring the country's largest Sunni Arab bloc back into his fractured government, officials said on Thursday....

Maliki had pressed the Accordance Front to return to the Cabinet in a letter in early August, government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh told Reuters.

But after waiting three months for a reply, the government officially removed five of the ministers from their posts last week, Dabbagh said.

The replacement ministers have not yet been publicly named.

Also in Iraq: The US recently handed over security in Karbala to the Iraqis, and now the local police (SIIC dominated) are accusing the Mahdi of a four year killing spree. It's the same split as in Basra, just among the holiest shrines of the Shia faith.

Questions about Cheney's role on the Iran NIE

I would set neither one of these as a rock solid source, but two reports this morning of Cheney's office holding up the Iran NIE because it wasn't conclusive enough to support the most hawkish policies as contained dissenting opinions.

(In late October, DNI McConnell said that NIE's would no longer be declassified because of a fear that public release is contaminating the work.

Perhaps these "dissenting opinions" in the Iran NIE were considered by this White House to be the contamination of an overcautious intelligence community?)

Bhutto arrested/detained/blocked (or cooperating.)

Benazir Bhutto was stopped from leaving her home today ahead of a supposed opposition march in Rawalpindi. The curious thing to me is that the various news sources can't seem to agree on exactly what happened, whether she was blocked, detained, or put under house arrest.

The NYTimes had the most interesting theory.
Behind the scenes, however, the strategies for both sides for the day were probably worked out in advance, analysts said, in order to give each side a face-saving way to avoid a potentially bloody clash on the streets.....

In another sign of what seemed like behind-the-scenes co-ordination between Ms. Bhutto and the authorities, Ms. Bhutto’s voice came over official Pakistani television at 4 p.m. this afternoon as she made a long speech setting out her demands. A still picture of her appeared on the screen while she spoke.

Picture of the Day

It's gotten very little coverage, but the Taleban are operating openly and in control of territory about 150 miles from Islamabad.

There's no real risk of the militants overthrowing the government, but their area of control is growing.

ABC had a decent piece tonight. 200,000 refugees fleeing. Girls' schools and businesses destroyed. Standing checkpoints. Pakistani troops publicly beheaded.....

(Masked Pakistani pro-Taliban militants who are supporters of Maulana Fazlullah stand at a check post in Charbagh, a Taliban strong hold, near Mingora, the main town of Pakistan's Swat valley November 2, 2007. (REUTERS/Sherin Zada Kanju))

Thursday, November 08, 2007


As oil nears $100/barrel, and we hear the dire warnings, let's take a moment to remember that for 5 1/2 years this President's energy policy was summed up by the occasional mention of the word "switchgrass."

Kerik indicted

As expected,
Sources tell CBS station WCBS-TV in New York City Bernard Kerik was indicted by a federal grand jury on Thursday, a development many expected after prosecutors had sought criminal charges for tax fraud, corruption, and conspiracy charges against the former NYPD commissioner.

Later: This is gonna haunt Giuliani
That was apparent after Mr. Giuliani held a question-and-answer session with students here Thursday afternoon at Iowa State University: as the crowd left the hall, they were greeted by a man in a suit and a Giuliani mask holding aloft a sign that read “Free Bernie Kerik!”

Picture of the Day - 2

(US soldiers wait for news on a wounded comrade after their patrol came under fire in Mosul on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2007.(AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo))

Watch Romney overdo Christmas....

The Romney campaign is already out pushing stuff around Christmas, and come to think of it, that may be team Romney's best way to get at evangelicals. See, Christmas Tree, happy family, carols.... I'm just like you.... All right before the primaries.

Maybe something to watch for.

Anonymous, you were right.

I thought your comment and decided to pull down that post.

$9 Trillion

The national debt has hit $9 trillion for the first time.

When President Bush took office, the debt was $5.6 trillion.

Picture of the Day

Besides the fact that the Georgian police look like they came out of a Styx video, it is notable that another leader has declared "emergency rule."
A ring of soldiers cordoned off central Tbilisi on Thursday after Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili declared a state of emergency and shut down independent media to quash six days of anti-government protests.....

A close U.S. ally, he has attempted to portray his small former Soviet state as a beacon of democracy and stability in the volatile Caucasus region -- an image which now lies in tatters.

If I remember right, I think it was the "Rose Revolution." The AP has more detail on the crackdown.

(Georgian police in gas masks prepare to disperse opposition protesters from in front of the parliament building in Tbilisi.(AFP/Zviad Nikolaishvili))

Okay, we've declared victory, so can we go home now?

(CSM) Will 'armloads' of US cash buy tribal loyalty?

(NYTimes) The very Shia Interior Minister "said Wednesday that he would authorize raids" against Western contractors in Iraq.

(VOI) Maliki says he will soon have nominees to replace some of the cabinet ministers who resigned (how many months ago?)

(WaPo) Don't put too much stock into this widely promoted return of 46,000 refugees to Iraq. Roughly 1.2 million have fled to Syria. 750,000 to Jordan. 46,000 is a tiny number. It could certainly be Shia returning to neighborhoods the Shia have "won."

(AFP) Erdogan appears to be embracing the US's "small operation" response to the PKK.

And, Quote of the Day, During an interview in which top US commander in Baghdad, Maj. Gen. Joseph F. Fil Jr., declares victory over Al Qaeda, blaming any future failures on Iraqi politicians, he utters this understatement,
“Clearly,” General Fil said, “it will take some time for Baghdad to restore itself to what it was.....”

More talk of a (Cheney version of an) Iran strike

Somebody really wants this out there right now,
A claim by President Ahmadinejad that Iran has 3,000 working uranium-enriching centrifuges sent a tremor across the world yesterday amid fears that Israel would respond by bombing the country’s nuclear facilities.

Military sources in Washington said that the existence of such a large number could be a “tipping point”, triggering an Israeli air strike. The Pentagon is reluctant to take military action against Iran, but officials say that Israel is a “different matter”.

This is sourced to an anonymous "US defense official" and reinforced by Ehud Barak. (Better quoted in the JPost.)

Deconstruct this a little bit, and I find myself coming back to the Steve Clemons report from May that Cheney was working with the Israelis to "end run" US foreign policy by getting the Israelis to conduct a small strike, dragging the US into a larger conflict. (That would be treason, right?)

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

1 out of 4 homeless are veterans

Understand these are estimates, but still.....
The National Alliance to End Homelessness, a public education nonprofit, based the findings of its report on numbers from Veterans Affairs and the Census Bureau. 2005 data estimated that 194,254 homeless people out of 744,313 on any given night were veterans.....

The Veterans Affairs Department has identified 1,500 homeless veterans from the current wars and says 400 of them have participated in its programs specifically targeting homelessness.....

Some advocates say the early presence of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan at shelters does not bode well for the future. It took roughly a decade for the lives of Vietnam veterans to unravel to the point that they started showing up among the homeless. Advocates worry that intense and repeated deployments leave newer veterans particularly vulnerable.

Picture of the Day - 2

Can two people simultaneously sell their souls to each other?

What did Giuliani concede for this important endorsement, and is Pat Robertson so irrelevant that he has to sell his name to a pro-gay, pro-abortion adulterer to try and reclaim prominence?

Is Giuliani now ready to answer questions on Robertson's crazed pronouncements?

(Republican Presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani pats Evangelical Christian leader Pat Robertson on the back during a news conference in Washington, where Robertson endorsed Giuliani's campaign, November 7, 2007. (REUTERS/Mike Theiler))

Later: (NYTimes) "Federal prosecutors will ask a grand jury today to indict Bernard B. Kerik....."


When you no longer have enough pull to influence your own dictator in Pakistan......
A senior member of Musharraf's legal team said Wednesday that the United States is more worried about fighting terrorists than about seeing democracy flourish in his country.

Ahmad Raza Khan Qasuri, an advocate at Pakistan's Supreme Court, also warned the U.S. that ''we expect from our friends advice, not dictation. We are a sovereign country.''

''Do we ask for a checklist from the United States, 'Why did you go to Iraq? Why did you go to Afghanistan?''' he said at the Middle East Institute. ''The United States, instead of dictation, they should give us friendly advice.''


Picture of the Day

On today's episode of "Worst Job in the World"

(An Iraqi policeman demonstrates how to defuse a bomb during a handover ceremony of Kerbala province's security, October 29, 2007. REUTERS/Mushtaq Muhammad)

What's the shift in US-Iran relations?

Just a little notice here that the US Iran tensions over Iraq appear to be dialing down. Yesterday the US said it would soon release 9 of the Iranians its been holding for several years.

Today, the Iranians reopened two embassies in Arbil and Sulaimaniyah.

This is happening at the same time Iran has announced that Iran has its entire 3,000 centrifuge cascade working.

Has the US delinked the nuclear and Iraq portions of the Iranian relationship?

(PS. (AFP) The US plans a new assault on Shia Diwaniyah.)

It's the economy, stupid.

Are we back around to the economy for the 2008 election?

A Canadian dollar now costs $1.10. Oil at $98, likely to break $100. Credit issues, banking issues.....

Giuliani's big week

In a huge step for Giuliani's claim on the religious right,
Pat Robertson, one of the most influential figures in the social conservative movement, will announce his support for Rudy Giuliani's presidential bid this morning in Washington, D.C., according to sources familiar with the decision.

But, likely within days,
Bernard Kerik expects to be indicted by a federal grand jury by next Friday at the latest, two sources close to the investigation tell ABC News.

(PS. (TPM) Brownback to endorse McCain today.)

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

GOP Catfight

Fred Thompson (in desperation) went after Romney in South Carolina
"Apparently a lot of people think if they spend a lot of money they can put a little different cast on things," Thompson told a crowd of supporters in this town near the North Carolina border. "Now, the governor of Massachusetts has apparently spent $20 million dollars of his own personal fortune, and apparently a good chunk of that in South Carolina. All I got to say is: governor, you can't buy South Carolina. You can't even rent South Carolina."

Romney's response?
“Support from voters is earned though hard work and new ideas. Unfortunately for Fred Thompson, he has never shown any passion for either," Romney spokesman Kevin Madden said Tuesday.


(It says alot about the state of the Republican candidates that all they have is going negative, on Clinton and on each other. Hardly a Reaganesque vision of the future.)

Picture of the Day - 2

Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Jaime S. Jaenke was killed in Iraq in June 2006.

I came across these photos, as well as too many more, in a post by this blogger looking at Wisconsin women who have died in the war.

Giuliani in spades

CNN is running a video of a Giuliani appearance where he goes after Clinton on the drivers license thing. It's Giuliani in spades.

If I see a link, I'll put it up.

Picture of the Day

I still don't think he will win. I still don't think he should win. But you have to respect what Ron Paul is doing.

$4.2 million raised online in one day. A new online record.

Ron Paul raised more in one day than any other Republican candidate!

(And, this happened without lobbyists, bundlers, or PACs.)

With this kind of money, he can dog the front runner through the whole primary season. He'll likely carry delegates to the convention.

Quickhits - Fires and Bombs

(AP) "Five American soldiers were killed in two separate roadside bomb attacks..."

(AP) Bomb targeting Afghan lawmakers kills 6

(BBC) More than 100 people have been killed or wounded in a suicide bombing in northern Afghanistan, officials say.

(AP) "Sixty Taliban militants on motorbikes and pickup trucks overran a district center in central Afghanistan overnight, pushing out the police and cutting off the town's main road....

The district, in Day Kundi province, is the third that militants have overrun in the last week. Two districts in the western province of Farah are also in Taliban hands."

(Reuters) The US says it is going to release 9 Iranians it has been holding in Iraq. (Payback for the Mahdi stand down?)

And, it looks like Friday may be the day of big protests in Pakistan.

The Turks still plan to attack

I guess the meeting with Bush yesterday wasn't persuasive.
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said late on Monday that a military operation was still planned against Kurdish guerrillas based in northern Iraq, state news agency Anatolian reported on Tuesday.....

"Nobody is telling us not to do an operation," Erdogan said.

The Thompson trainwreck rolls on

If you're tracking the disaster that is the Fred Thompson campaign, this is a must read. First he jokes with a FoxNews host off air that he won't be president, then there's the description of a disastrous appearance at the "Politics and Eggs" event.
When he entered the room there was barely a stir as people continued their conversations while he took his seat.....

Monday, November 05, 2007

Picture of the Day - 4

(AP) "Giuliani praises Kerik's crime results."

"Federal prosecutors in New York have spent more than a year pursuing criminal charges against Kerik, reportedly including bribery, tax evasion, obstruction of justice, providing false information and conspiracy to eavesdrop. Kerik rejected a plea deal in the spring, but meetings have continued.....

"When you do a lot of things, there are more things where you've made mistakes," Giuliani said....."

(New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani smiles as he takes a break during his final live radio show on Dec. 28, 2001 at his City Hall office in New York. (AP Photo/Beth A. Keiser))

The Bush Erdogan meet

From early reports, all that was offered (over the table) to Turkey was continued intelligence cooperation.

Dana Perino seemed intent on implying that there was more being offered under the table, but we just don't know what, if anything, that might be.

With the mood in Turkey what it is, I don't think under the table measures will work for the Turks domestically.

(Later: How little coverage has this significant meeting received?)


The word "destabilize" is frequently thrown around, usually intended to invoke vague, poorly outlined consequences of foreign policy, usually muddled in the phrase, "likely to destabilize the region."

After the US "interventions" in Iraq and Afghanistan, we are currently seeing very specific displays of what that phrase means in Turkey and Pakistan.

"Destabilize" means blowback. It's the polite term for fucking up.

(PS. Juan Cole makes a very good point. If Musharraf's "emergency rule" was aimed at "terrorism," he would be declaring marshal law in the tribal regions, not in the capitol.)

Picture of the Day - 2

Pakistani Lawyers being arrested.

The "victory sign" appears to be the currency of the Musharraf resistance.

A political opponent of Musharraf in a police vehicle.

Still no statement from Bush on Pakistan

The press has made a moderate effort at reading the US stance towards Musharraf by parsing the words of Robert Gates or Condi Rice, but, as yet, President Bush has still offered no comments on the matter.

Bush is scheduled to hold talks with Turkish PM Erdogan later today regarding Turkey's possible actions towards the PKK.

Picture of the Day

Policemen beating a lawyer outside provincial High Courts in Lahore today. (Mohsin Raza/Reuters)

Even supermodels are rejecting the dollar......

(BBC) The world's richest model has reportedly reacted in her own way to the sliding value of the US dollar - by refusing to be paid in the currency.

Gisele Bündchen is said to be keen to avoid the US currency because of uncertainty over its strength......

(Also, the WaPo has a frontpager looking at the price of oil.)

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Picture of the Day

(A civil rights activists shouts anti-President Pervez Musharraf slogans during a protest against emergency rule in Islamabad November 4, 2007. (REUTERS/Faisal Mahmood))

(CNN) "Earlier Sunday Pakistani authorities began a round up of 1,500 opponents from the military, judiciary and opposition parties..."


(NBC) After so many poor performances in the airport screening tests, a "top official" at DHS sent an email to airport officials warning them that tests were coming and to watch out for specific people who would be the testers.

(NYTimes) "Guided by American legal advisers, the Iraqi government has canceled a controversial development contract with the Russian company Lukoil for a vast oil field in Iraq’s southern desert, freeing it up for potential international investment in the future." (The Russians are threatening to unforgive $13 billion in debt.)

(AP) The PKK released the 8 Turkish soldiers it was holding a day before Bush is to meet with Erdogan to try and stop the Turkish incursion.