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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, November 24, 2007

If Mohammed won't come to the mountain.....

Let's redefine victory.
With American military successes outpacing political gains in Iraq, the Bush administration has lowered its expectation of quickly achieving major steps toward unifying the country, including passage of a long-stymied plan to share oil revenues and holding regional elections.

The US is hoping the Iraqis will pass a budget which they've done before, and will reauthorize the US presence which they've done several times before.

The Iraqis doing the minimum to simply keep the state alive is now defined as progress.
“If we can show progress outside of the security sector alone, that will go a long way to demonstrate that we are in fact on a sustainable path to stability in Iraq,” the senior official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Demonstrate to whom?

Picture of the Day

She's certainly doing her part to help fight terrorism.

(Tracy Conrad hauls shopping bags during a post-Thanksgiving visit to San Francisco's Union Square on Friday, Nov. 23, 2007. (AP Photo/Noah Berger))

20,000 more Iraq and Afghanistan vets show signs of brain injuries

This was one of the great fears, that the "signature injury" of Iraq, traumatic brain injury, would often not be recognized until long after troops returned home.
At least 20,000 U.S. troops who were not classified as wounded during combat in Iraq and Afghanistan have been found with signs of brain injuries, according to military and veterans records compiled by USA TODAY.

The data, provided by the Army, Navy and Department of Veterans Affairs, show that about five times as many troops sustained brain trauma as the 4,471 officially listed by the Pentagon through Sept. 30. These cases also are not reflected in the Pentagon's official tally of wounded, which stands at 30,327.

These guys are going to need varying degrees of treatment, rehabilitation, and therapy, in some cases, for extended periods.

The worst part is that this number is only from Landstuhl, the VA, and three bases that did followup studies on returning soldiers.

There are likely lots more.

Quickhits - Still the holiday, but it's getting better

(NYTimes) Dirty, dirty Bernie Kerik. The NYTimes has a piece on a highly suspicious $250,000 "loan" Bernie Kerik received from a guy who has contracts with the Defense Department. ("He said that in handing the money over, he had not discussed any interest with Mr. Kerik nor set any timetable for repayment.")

(AP) The US is blaming yesterday's pet market bombing in Baghdad on a Mahdi splinter group allegedly backed by Iran. (Proof?)

(AP) John Howard's party got trounced in Australia's election. The Labor party winners took a clean majority and intend to join Kyoto and withdraw from Iraq immediately.

(CNN) Former Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif will try to return to Pakistan Sunday.

(WaPo) Two blasts kill 35 at military bases in Rawalpindi.

My hometown police get unmanned aerial drones

Part of this is the way it's written, but there's no question that the Houston Police Department is looking at buying unmanned drones. The curious thing is why did they go to such lengths to tray and maintain secrecy?

Friday, November 23, 2007

Picture of the Day - 2

Only my dog knows the secret recipe.

(President George W. Bush holds a can of Bush's Best Baked Beans during his visit to the Central Virginia Foodbank in Richmond, Virginia, November 19, 2007. (REUTERS/Jason Reed))

(And don't miss the Sen. Corker quote on Bush.)

Quickhits - Loose Holiday Blogging

A very weird article on CNN. Supposedly,
More than 300,000 Iraqi Shiites have signed a petition calling for an end to what they say are "Iranian terrorist interferences in Iraq" and demanding the United Nations investigate the Islamic republic's involvement in Iraq.

(They cover it straight, but there's gotta be some backstory. The Iraqi based, anti-Iranian group MEK is involved.)

(Xinhua) Iraqi soldiers have encircled a camp in Kurdish Iraq near the Turkish border. They are running checkpoints for PKK, but it also sounds like they've largely shut down access.

(Reuters) Former Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif is going to try to return to Pakistan (again) within days. The report is that he's straightened things out with the Saudis. (King Abdullah was scheduled to meet with Musharraf sometime.)

(AP) Syria is deciding whether or not to attend the US Mideast peace meeting. (Something to watch as the US is trying to use this to pry Syria away from Iran and Hamas.)

(Reuters) "Lebanon's parliamentary speaker postponed a vote on Friday that was the last chance to choose a president before the pro-Syrian head of state, Emile Lahoud, leaves office at midnight."

(AP) "Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Thursday that his government has had increasing contact with Taliban insurgents this year, including several talks this week with militant leaders living in exile."

And, bombings in Russia, Northern India, and Baghdad.

Picture of the Day - The Mittster

With Mitt, it's always the same.
Mitt Romney is so vigilant about nutrition that he eats the same thing every day: his wife’s granola for breakfast, a chicken or turkey sandwich for lunch, and pasta, fish or chicken for dinner.

(Mitt Romney talks to his wife Ann at a campaign rally in Concord, New Hampshire October 29, 2007. (REUTERS/Brian Snyder))

Thursday, November 22, 2007

So, is Giuliani telling me I should vote for Bloomberg?

By his own campaign logic, Giuliani should now abandon his campaign and back Bloomberg for President.
New York City is on track to have fewer than 500 homicides this year, by far the lowest number in a 12-month period since reliable Police Department statistics became available in 1963.

There hasn't been a terror attack under Bloomberg either.

Pictue of the Day

Your food may not be as tasty, your table may not be as beautiful, but here's to hoping your family is happier.

In this photo provided by 'The Martha Stewart Show', Martha Stewart and celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse work in the kitchen for a full hour to prepare a New Orleans-style Thanksgiving dinner (AP Photo/The Martha Stewart Show, Anders Krusberg)

Quickhits - Something to read if you come by.

(AP) Putin makes a rousing election speech warning of foreign influenced "jackals."

The NYTimes makes the revelation that the foreign fighters in Iraq are primarily Saudi. (No! It couldn't be..... At least somebody's covering it, I guess.)

(AP) Hamid Karzai said that "that his government has had increasing contact with Taliban insurgents this year."

And, the Saudis (Reuters) and Syrians (AP) are dancing around the Annapolis mideast peace talks.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Political bits

(Politico) Michigan has just okayed the GOP primary for Jan. 15. (The article outlines how this plays for the GOP candidates.)

(FirstRead) "For the first time, Thompson acknowledged he has to finish in the top three in Iowa in order to remain a viable candidate." (He just set a bar he might not reach.)

Later: (Politico) Look at all the states Giuliani now has to weather to pull of his win Fla strategy. (Iowa, Wyoming, NH, Mich, Nevada, SC.)

(OpenLeft) Obama may do better in the Iowa Caususes because second choice voters will go to Obama rather than Edwards because the 2nd tier candidates don't want to give Edwards anything as they hope to pass him into 3rd. (Bullet point 2: It's complicated, but interesting.)

(RealClear) Iowa's going to matter more because of the short turnaround to NH.

(FirstRead) Thompson talks all nasty about Huckabee in Iowa. (“Well he is, he’s kind of new to the first tier I guess you might say, and so they probably don’t know him as well as they know some of the rest of us,” Thompson said. “But that’s a situation that will be cured shortly.")

And, (CNN) The Senate held a 22 second session to keep Bush from making recess appointments.

Picture of the Day - 2

He dreamed of working in Washington......

(White House intern Nick Butterfield, who was assigned to watch May, the National Thanksgiving Turkey, follows the bird sprinkling wood shavings over his droppings, prior to a ceremony where President Bush pardoned the bird in the Rose Garden, Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2007. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert))

The Southern Baptist Institutional bias against Mormonism

In an area I know nothing about, I found this interesting.
Not only do many Southern Baptists regard the Mormon church as a cult, they also regard it as a competitor that is winning -- or poaching -- converts from among the evangelical flock.

"There are now more Mormons that used to be Southern Baptist than any other denomination," said Dr. Richard Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, a 16-million strong group.

"As a consequence, Southern Baptists and other evangelicals have taught their people what Mormons believe and why it's beyond the boundaries of the Christian faith, to inoculate them against those Mormon missionaries," he told Reuters.

So there's been an established institutional teaching against Mormonism by the Southern Baptists? Interesting.


In a rambling ABC interview chocked full of funny, weird, and at times detached quotes by Mike Huckabee.....
He pledged to secure the border and end sanctuary city policies, "but I wouldn't punish the children who didn't commit a crime. … If a child is gasping for air, asthmatic, and he's on the hospital steps, what do the other candidates suggest we do? Let him sit there and gasp until he doesn't have any air left and he dies?"

"If your government at the federal government is so incompetent that it fails to secure the border, you don't then grind your heel into the face of a 6-year-old child over it. That's not what this country does. We're a better country than that. Now, if that causes people to say, 'Well, I'm not going to vote for him,' fine. There are plenty of candidates out there who I guess would grind their heel in the face of a 6-year-old child. Not me."

Picture of the Day

(President George W. Bush pardons "May", the 2007 National Thanksgiving Turkey, during a ceremony in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington November 20, 2007. (REUTERS/Jason Reed))

In Bush's statement, he lavishly praised the military.

The most powerful man in the world, standing in the rose garden, pardoning turkeys, while praising soldiers who have been in Iraq 12-14 months, 2nd or 3rd tour, sitting in a combat outpost, not having showered for a week, taking mortar and sniper fire.

It'd be an absurdist drama, if it weren't so absurd.

Bush re-supports Musharraf

And the policy swings back,
President Bush yesterday offered his strongest support of embattled Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, saying the general "hasn't crossed the line" and "truly is somebody who believes in democracy."

I would love to know what took place at that Negroponte meeting.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

This is creepy to me.

The Thompson campaign has come out with "Phone for Fred" where people can download a list of names and numbers off the Fred Thompson site to call on his behalf.

No vetting as far as I can tell, just the Thompson campaign giving out voter info to anyone who wants it on the internet.

(Also, not the sign of a campaign chocked full of volunteers.)

Picture of the Day - 2

Am I surprised he's reading The Weekly Standard?

Vice President Dick Cheney waves as he carries newspapers and magazines prior to boarding his airplane in Little Rock, Ark., Friday, Nov. 16, 2007. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)

Scott McClellan blames them all

Scott McClellan discusses Plame in his new book.
“I had unknowingly passed along false information,” McClellan wrote.

“And five of the highest ranking officials in the administration were involved in my doing so: Rove, Libby, the vice president, the president's chief of staff and the president himself."

Condi Rice

Condi Rice has been removed from diplomacy on Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and North Korea with various special envoys and subordinates taking up the slack.

The one diplomatic item that was left for her was the middle east peace process, and that is going so poorly, success is now being measured as to who shows up.

(NYTimes) U.S. Pushes for Turnout at Middle East Conference

And, the AP tells us that the US is just now sending out invitations for a conference that was originally scheduled for next Monday.
Israel and the Palestinians received the first invitations Tuesday to a U.S.-sponsored conference launching new Mideast peace talks, and the United States has told dozens of other nations and organizations to expect invitations soon....

The United States has not laid out an agenda, nor publicly said when the meeting will take place and exactly who will attend.

Oy vey.

Picture of the Day

(Forwarded from my cousin in Prague.)

Fox News and Giuliani

Amid all the claims that Giuliani is receiving favorable coverage from Fox News, I want to take a little flashback to May/July of 2006 when Rupert Murdoch announced, then held, a major New York fundraiser for Hillary Clinton.

Let's step back a bit. Murdoch is infamous for tempering his media to curry favor with politicians who can help him, perhaps the most famous case being Murdoch's questionable dealings in China to get the first foreign owned cable distribution deal.

Murdoch, the top level above Giuliani friend Roger Ailes, is all about power and his business. His press in the US may all have a conservative bent, but, from his overriding business interest, he will always seek to curry favor with those in power.

Now, certainly FoxNews can't go pro-Hillary Clinton, but I gotta say it's no coincidence that the Fox focus is on the frontrunners. Do you think Murdoch would have let this go if Roger Ailes was supporting McCain?

(Plus, this way, Murdoch, the top level, plays the better bet with Clinton, while FoxNews, plays the bet with Giuliani. In the end, Murdoch wins either way.)

A brief word on polling

Iowa holds caucuses, not elections, so while a slight swing towards Obama in a poll might reflect some sentiment, it doesn't necessarily reflect anything about the outcome of the caucuses.

From what I understand, the way the Iowa caucuses work, as certain minor candidates are ruled out, their supporters in the room are then available to move to other more frontrunner candidates.

Also, statewide polling gives little glimpse into the individual precincts. It's like the electoral college in a way. You can get creamed in the "popular vote," and still win the majority of the caucuses at 51%.

So, the secondary interests of Bill Richardson's 11% and the distribution of the voters is more significant than a couple percent lead in a statewide poll.

As for the new numbers out of NH, Romney 33, McCain 18, Giuliani 16, Paul 8, that's a real election. The polling makes sense.

Monday, November 19, 2007

When war is a product

Freedom's Watch is conducting focus groups on how to sell a war with Iran.

Would this make you more likely or less likely to purchase this war?

Picture of the Day - 2

Not as much fun as she thought it'd be.

(Jeri Thompson listens as her husband speaks to reporters after a campaign event Thursday, Nov. 15, 2007, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer))

Political bits

(CQ) Several House Republicans who endorsed Fred Thompson for president now say that they are frustrated with what they view as an apathetic campaign, and at least one regrets having committed to the former Tennessee senator.

(CQ) An article looking at the Dems targeting Mitch McConnell.

(Examiner) Larry Flynt backs Kucinich and claims "he's still about to blow the lid off a couple of more sex scandals involving Republicans."

And, just as a general observation, McCain looks to be bailing out of Iowa, Thompson looks to bailing out of New Hampshire. I don't think you can be an "outsider candidate" and not compete.


From an AP article discussing the politics of Iraq.
In the presidential campaign, it may not matter whether life is any better for long suffering Iraqis -- merely that the situation is such that Republicans can argue things are improving.

Picture of the Day

(A woman grieves on the feet of her son who was killed in a bomb attack, outside a morgue in Baquba, November 19, 2007. A roadside bomb targeting a U.S. foot patrol in Baquba killed at least three children, two of them siblings, and wounded seven people, police said. (REUTERS/Stringer))

Iraq - Bush's Best Case

From the now respected Abu Aardvark (Mark Lynch)
Without getting in to his arguments or my reservations, I just wanted to lay out (Stephen) Biddle's best case scenario as he presented it: if everything goes right and if the US continues to "hit the lottery" with the spread of local ceasefires and none of a dozen different spoilers happens, then a patchwork of local ceasefires between heavily armed, mistrustful communities could possibly hold if and only if the US keeps 80,000-100,000 troops in Iraq for the next twenty to thirty years. And that's the best case scenario of one of the current strategy's smartest supporters.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Didn't we learn anything from arming the Taleban in the 80's?

The US is floating a plan on the front page of the NYTimes to arm Pakistani tribesmen and the Frontier Corps to fight Al Qaeda, similar to the current efforts in Anbar.

Because after all, there's never been any blowback from anything like this before.....

Related: Kagan and O'Hanlon in the NYTimes: "We need to think — now — about our feasible military options in Pakistan, should it really come to that."

Picture of the Day

(Anti-abortion demonstrators rally outside a campaign stop for Rudy Giuliani at the Village Inn in Council Bluffs, Iowa, November 14, 2007. (REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton))

(Rudy Giuliani addresses the Federalist Society, Friday, Nov. 16, 2007. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak))

Immigration in Iowa

In yet another big article on Giuliani (he is getting that frontrunner coverage,) we learn that immigration is the top issue for Iowa Republicans per a recent CBS/NYTimes poll.

Not terrorism, not Iraq, not the economy.

And somehow this is supposed to translate into Giuliani doing well.

Nobody knows what's going on in Iraq.

Why has violence gone down in Iraq? The US says it's "the surge" and the efforts of the enlisted tribal groups. The Iraqi government says it's the Iranians "helping rein in" the militias. The Iranians say it's a stronger Iraqi government.

It's funny, you'd think a "success" would claim lots of authors, not a bunch of people blaming each other.

Maybe that's because they all know that the "success" isn't really there.
While violence levels are declining in Iraq, there has been little progress in political reconciliation due to sectarian divides and lack of trust, Iraq's government spokesman said on Saturday.

Oh, and regarding the oil law my president said was about to be passed so many months ago, the Iraqis are now talking about abandoning it and trying to return to the original February text.

Also a mention that the Iraqi government is offering to provide buses from Syria for those who want to return.

Later: Anonymous points to this: (UPI) The U.S. State Department says an oil law implemented under Saddam Hussein is good enough for Iraq’s national government to sign oil deals, though it would prefer a new national law -- mired in controversy and far from approved -- to be used instead.