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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Picture of the Day - 2

(Rudy Giuliani speaks at a town hall meeting in Boca Raton, Fla., Friday, Nov. 30, 2007. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky))

Later: I don't watch FoxNews, but after all the hubbub about Roger Ailes giving Giuliani preferential treatment, I'd be curious at to how (or if) they're covering the current Giuliani problems.

NYPD Dogwalkers

The latest revelations on the Giuliani secret fund, Giuliani's mistresses' family was getting chaufferred around by NYPD personnel, and NYPD personnel were also being tasked to walk his mistresses' dog.

Tell me again how you were focused on terrorism pre-9/11.

Quickhits - Now I'm in a rush

In this Asia Times piece, we learn this about the recent US/Maliki agreement which implies a long term US troop presence after 2008,
The Sadrists, who had been flirting with Maliki for 10 days, immediately cut off contacts, claiming that the agreement "sets the ground for long-term occupation". Muqtada was furious that Maliki never presented the agreement to Parliament before signing it off with the US President.

(Guardian) "The man who devised the Bush administration's Iraq troop surge (Frederick Kagan) has urged the US to consider sending elite troops to Pakistan to seize its nuclear weapons if the country descends into chaos." (That's not the only scenario he's pushing for sending troops into Pakistan.)

(Reuters) Turkey's prime minister said on Friday his cabinet had authorized the armed forces to conduct a cross-border operation against Kurdish PKK rebels in northern Iraq, but analysts said major action did not appear imminent.

Gotta run.

Picture of the Day

A great photo op, but.....

I figure at 40 people a bus, they need to make the several hundred mile trip to Syria about 30,000 times.

And that's just for Syria, not Jordan, Saudi, Iran, or the 2 million internally displaced.

(Iraqi refugees who have just returned from Syria carry their luggage after their arrival in Baghdad November 29, 2007. (REUTERS/Mahmoud Mahmoud))

Oh, and while we're at it....
As Iraqi refugees begin to stream back to Baghdad, American military officials say the Iraqi government has yet to develop a plan to absorb the influx and prevent it from setting off a new round of sectarian violence.


It appears that top Sunni leader Dulaimi is now being confined to his home related to the car bomb incident yesterday.

Not a big deal yet, but this is a potential sectarian flashpoint.

Update: (Reuters) "Iraq's largest Sunni Arab political bloc walked out of parliament on Saturday....

Saleem al-Jubouri, spokesman for the Accordance Front, said the group would not return to parliament until its leader, Adnan al-Dulaimi, was allowed to leave his home."


Facing the evenly split referendum on his "president for life" measure, Hugo Chavez tries to rally his base by attacking foes abroad.
....he warned at a huge rally on Friday that he would retaliate if the U.S. government interferes in the referendum.

"There will not be a single drop of oil for the United States," Chavez bellowed to hundreds of thousands of cheering supporters in downtown Caracas. "And if they want to come and take our oil they will face 100 years of war in Venezuela."

Undermining mideast peace talks

Just a few days after the mideast peace talks....
In an about face, the United States on Friday withdrew a U.N. resolution endorsing this week's agreement by Israeli and Palestinian leaders to try to reach a Mideast peace settlement by the end of 2008, apparently after Israel objected.

I'm sure that builds confidence among the Arabs and Palestinians.

Update: (Haaretz) "Stephen Hadley said yesterday it is difficult to see how Syria can fit into the renewed peace process...."

Torture and Rendition in Jordan

The WaPo has an eyeopening article on the US utilization of Jordan as a torture and rendition way station.
Over the past seven years, an imposing building on the outskirts of this city has served as a secret holding cell for the CIA.

The building is the headquarters of the General Intelligence Department, Jordan's powerful spy and security agency. Since 2000, at the CIA's behest, at least 12 non-Jordanian terrorism suspects have been detained and interrogated here, according to documents and former prisoners, human rights advocates, defense lawyers and former U.S. officials.....

Former prisoners have reported that their captors were expert in two practices in particular: falaqa, or beating suspects on the soles of their feet with a truncheon and then, often, forcing them to walk barefoot and bloodied across a salt-covered floor; and farruj, or the "grilled chicken," in which prisoners are handcuffed behind their legs, hung upside down by a rod placed behind their knees, and beaten......

The CIA declined to comment on its relationship with the GID but defended in general the covert transfer of terrorism suspects to other countries, a practice known as rendition.

"The United States does not transfer individuals to any country if it believes they will be tortured there," said Paul Gimigliano, a CIA spokesman.

Picture of the Day

(Evel Knievel is shown in his rocket on Sept. 8, 1974, before his failed attempt at a highly promoted 3/4-mile leap across Snake River Canyon in Idaho. Knievel died Friday, Nov. 30, 2007. He was 69. (AP Photo/File))

(I thought it was a cool picture.)

Friday, November 30, 2007

Giuliani "bristles"

It appears the Giuliani explanation didn't work, and the story now has "legs."
Giuliani refused to take questions here today about allegations that travel expenses were picked up obscure city offices when he was mayor of New York City.

“We’ve already explained it,” he said, walking past reporters after a town hall meeting.

Giuliani, who is normally friendly to reporters, bristled past them, and campaign staffers were unusually physical in keeping the press away.

And, Snark of the Day from Josh Marshall,
Does the city have to pay for travel and expenses for Rudy's wife and his mistress? Can't the budgeting be monogamous even if Rudy's not?

Picture of the Day

A shop assistant watches a nationwide TV address delivered by Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a shop in Moscow on Thursday, Nov. 29, 2007. Putin on Thursday strongly urged Russians to cast ballots for the main pro-Kremlin party United Russia whose ticket he's leading in Sunday's parliamentary vote. (AP Photo/ Mikhail Metzel)

How many "concerned citizens" in Iraq? The audience determines the answer.

Yesterday, we got a number of 77,000 "concerned citizens" in Iraq, the euphemism for the local Sunni tribal militias the US is building/bribing, with a stated goal of building that to 100,000.

Today we get a new, downwardly revised number, "Senior military officers said they had reduced the nationwide total from 77,000 to 60,321 — most of them Sunni Arabs."

Reading both of these, the difference of 17,000 is largely definitional, but it does play into the the larger conflict of trying to provide a US narrative of "progress" vs., you know, actual progress.

The first number was released by a "military spokesman" targeting the US audience through US reporters with the idea of "success."

The second, lower number was released as a correction by "Col. Martin Stanton of the military's reconciliation and engagement office" who is far more concerned with the effects and politics of these numbers within the conflict that is Iraq.

And, there are effects, (McClatchy) "U.S. sponsorship of Sunni groups worries Iraq's government."..... (AP) "US weighs Sunni help with Shiite fears."

To me, it all sounds like body counts, you know?

Huckabee as a candidate

Stray thought. If by some fluke Mike Huckabee were to win the GOP nomination, I would argue that he might be the hardest to tie to Bush in the general election.

The car bomb that didn't explode may reignite Iraq

If the Shia government does go after Al Dulaimi (Sr) on this, it could be rapidly reignite the smoldering sectarian conflict.
Iraqi security forces arrested dozens of people, including the son of a leading Sunni Arab politician, in a pre-dawn raid on Friday after a car rigged with explosives was found near the lawmaker's office....

The Shi'ite-led government said Adnan al-Dulaimi, leader of the Accordance Front, the main Sunni Arab bloc, could be stripped of the immunity from prosecution he holds as a member of parliament if he was found to have links to car bombs.

"No one is above the law. Dr Adnan al-Dulaimi has immunity, but this does not exempt him from questioning and accountability," government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said.

"The case is very serious and the accusations against him are very serious. He has to prove his innocence. He will be called for questioning. If the charges against him are proven, his immunity will definitely be lifted."

No matter the facts, this could be incendiary.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Picture of the Day - 3

Helloooo..... Is anybody listening?

One thing you can say: By pissing off so many Muslims, upsetting so many flashpoints, and coalescing so many varied terror groups, the Bush administration has successfully knocked this guy from his preeminence.

Of course, now we've got hundreds of active terror groups operating in almost every country in the world.....

Related: (SMH) "Saudi Arabian security forces have arrested about 200 suspected terrorists who were said to be plotting to disrupt the kingdom's oil industry....

A total of six separate groups (with six separate plots) were broken up, leading to the arrest of 208 people."


The NYTimes goes after Giuliani's statistical claims of success in New York.
All of these statements are incomplete, exaggerated or just plain wrong. And while, to be sure, all candidates use misleading statistics from time to time, Mr. Giuliani has made statistics a central part of his candidacy as he campaigns on his record.


Now it's Judith Nathan abusing Rudy's office.
Well before it was publicly known he was seeing her, then-married New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani provided a police driver and city car for his mistress Judith Nathan, former senior city officials tell the Blotter on ABCNews.com.

"She used the PD as her personal taxi service," said one former city official who worked for Giuliani.

A post I wish I'd written

A very good post on the building, use, and hoarding of email lists by the candidates.


1) If teacher's unions are so powerful, as goes the Republican refrain, then why don't teachers make any money?

2) Will CNN cut away to any live video they have if there's a chance someone might die on screen?

Picture of the Day

Mitt Romney Rudy Giuliani exchange views during the YouTube presidential debate in St. Petersburg, Florida, November 28, 2007. (Hans Deryk/Reuters)

Giuliani's one degree of separation from Al Qaeda

The Village Voice's Wayne Barrett (definitely not neutral) finds some pretty shady connections looking at the public records of Rudy Giuliani's client list, one of which leaves Giuliani doing extensive business with a Qatari with all sorts of nasty past ties, Ahmadinejad, Bin Laden, Khalid Sheik Muhammed.

Nothing illegal in it, but, from a "terror fightin' campaign" perspective, it smells just awful.

I would expect to see a nasty viral email campaign starting today.

The US caps the Sunni militia at 100,000

Amid all the Shia charges that the US's "concerned citizens" program was a mask for building an organized, competing Sunni militia, I find it interesting that there is a US goal/cap of 100,000.

This would put the "concerned citizens" (Sunni militia) right on par with the Mahdi and Badr Corps (Shia militia,) but not any bigger.

Reprint - A brief word on "Sanctuary Cities"

Since it it come up again at the GOP debate, I thought I'd take a moment on "sanctuary cities," a city where illegal immigrants access city services without fear of being deported.

Once again, this attack on "sanctuary cities" is an example of (Republican) moral absolutism working against the common good. I understand the appeal of the argument, but, if you actually look past the simplicity of it, the implications are huge.

If you block illegals access to police, for example, crime shoots through the roof. Not only is the illegal community now an open target, but also, any other cooperation from the community dries up. Looking for witnesses or information? Not a chance. Violent, repeat criminals can hide in illegal neighborhoods without fear.

How would you like it if your neighbor didn't call the fire department for an hour while he tried to get his family and belongings out? Or maybe you'd like to lie flopping on the ground with a heart attack while someone worries about calling 9-11?

Or maybe you'd prefer that the illegal tending a child in your daughter's class or handling your food doesn't go to the emergency room with TB, Meningitis, or whatever?

(Oh, and let's not let them in the schools either. Large numbers of teen boys with no education and no prospects roaming the streets is a great idea.)

It's a very easy political ploy to criticize "sanctuary cities" to win GOP primary votes, but in reality, the policy of it is a very different thing.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Picture of the Day - 2

1) Why is Duncan Hunter still running?

2) I don't remember a debate where a crowd booed so often.

3) Does Anderson Cooper remind anyone else of David Duchovny?

(Duncan Hunter during the CNN/You Tube debate in St. Petersburg, Fla. Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2007. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara))

In Virginia, you gotta swear.

The sign of a party on the rise,
The (Virginia) State Board of Elections on Monday approved a state Republican Party request to require all who apply for a GOP primary ballot first vow in writing that they'll vote for the party's presidential nominee next fall.

Is that legal?

Giuliani is so happy the debate questioners aren't live....

The thing about the YouTube debate is that all of the questions are recorded, and none come from today's news....
As New York mayor, Rudy Giuliani billed obscure city agencies for tens of thousands of dollars in security expenses amassed during the time when he was beginning an extramarital relationship with future wife Judith Nathan in the Hamptons, according to previously undisclosed government records.....

Auditors "were unable to verify that these expenses were for legitimate or necessary purposes," City Comptroller William Thompson wrote of the expenses from fiscal year 2000, which covers parts of 1999 and 2000.

Oops. It'll be interesting to try and watch the other candidates try to mix this into the debate.

Also, Rasmussen: Huckabee passes Romney in Iowa 28/25.

State Secrets

Scott Bloch, the head of the Office of Special Counsel, tasked with investigating administration malfeasance is under investigation himself, but I'm sure it was a virus that prompted him to call in Geeks on Call to do a seven level wipe of his personal office hard drive as well as the laptops of two direct subordinates.

Meanwhile, the RNC has spent $250,000 supposedly looking for the deleted Rove emails.

Picture of the Day - Gun show, gun show, gun show

The polling must show that the "gun vote" is up for grabs.

(Mike Huckabee talks with Elizabeth Saunders as he prepares to shoot skeet during a campaign stop at the Spartanburg Gun Club in Pacolet, S.C., Sunday, Nov. 25, 2007. (AP Photo/ Patrick Collard))

(John McCain talks with former Hillsborough County sheriff Walter Morse, right, during a campaign stop at Morse Sporting Goods in Hillsborough, N.H., Sunday, Nov. 18, 2007. (AP Photo/Jim Cole))

(Fred Thompson looks down the sight of a rifle while at The Land of the Sky Gun Show, Saturday, Nov. 24, 2007, during a campaign stop in Ladson, S.C. (AP Photo/Stephen Morton))

Notice that these are the second tier candidates. Giuliani, with his history of gun control, and Romney must not have any reach into the gun community.

Peaches and Cream in Iraq (For the purposes of this document, "cream" shall refer to mass casualty bombings)

(Reuters) "Nearly 90 percent of U.S. journalists in Iraq say much of Baghdad is still too dangerous to visit, despite a recent drop in violence attributed to the build-up of U.S. forces, a poll released on Wednesday said.....

The survey by the Washington-based Pew Research Center showed that many U.S. journalists believe coverage has painted too rosy a picture of the conflict....."

Quote - Even the AP's not buying it on Annapolis.

3rd paragraph of an AP article on the mideast peace meeting.
After meeting their own low expectations for the Annapolis conference amid intense skepticism, Bush administration officials crowed with delight.

Friendly fire in Afghanistan

In Afghanistan, the US conducted an airstrike on some tents along a roadside based on intelligence given to them.

The 14 men sleeping in the tents were workers who "had been building a road for the U.S. military in mountainous Nuristan province, and were sleeping in two tents in the remote area when they were killed Monday night.... There were no survivors."

The third Iraq

The US was ecstatic when Ethiopian troops poured into Somalia for what looked like a quick and easy victory against Islamists, but the Ethiopians now find themselves trapped, propping up a weak and unpopular government and fighting a growing insurgency.

How familiar does this sound?
Ethiopian-backed Somali government forces have launched an offensive against insurgents after simultaneous attacks in the capital, Mogadishu....

The attacks came after Ethiopia's prime minister said his forces are unable to withdraw from the conflict in Somalia.

Meles Zenawi said he had expected to withdraw his soldiers earlier in the year, once the Islamists had been driven out of Mogadishu.....

Their presence is unpopular in Mogadishu. Earlier this month, insurgents dragged the bodies of Ethiopian troops through the city.

Name a successful counterinsurgency fought by a foreign power since WWII.


Allan Hubbard, the top White House economic adviser, is resigning. On his way out, he laid this gem.
"We obviously have problems in the housing sector and we have problems in the financial sector, but ... real America is doing just fine," he said.

No definition of "real America" was provided.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Picture of the Day - 3

(Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas cleans his glasses at the Israel-Palestinian Peace Conference at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, November 27, 2007. (Larry Downing/Reuters))

The mideast peace process

The Bush administration is getting the headlines they want out of this meeting in Annapolis, but the whole thing is a farce. The intention of the Bush structure is to try and sideline Iran, Hamas, and Hezbullah out of the process, but you can't just do that.

They're still part of the process even if they're not there.

Picture of the Day - 2

Mike Huckabee stole his narrative.

(Ron Paul in his Concord, NH, headquarters. (Photo: Washington Post.))

If we watched Afghanistan the way we watch Iraq.....

(BBC) "Afghanistan's Speaker has led a walk-out of parliament, followed by nearly half the country's deputies.

Yunus Qanuni left the assembly because he said the government of President Hamid Karzai was ignoring parliament."

Political bitlets

The WaPo has a story looking at the GOP's difficult Congressional hand this election.

(However, there's no mention of coattails. The GOP turnout will be hugely impacted by their relative strength in the presidential race.)

Also, Josh Marshall makes the case that Romney is running right on his plan.

Something Weird

In Houston, there's a TV ad running (paid for by the city, I think) that talks about the housing crisis, something along the lines of, "Bad news on housing prices is making national headlines, but in Houston, housing prices remain strong."

It seems weird that my city is reassuring me about my house value. I find it unsettling everytime I see it.

Picture of the Day

(AP) "Rampaging youths rioted overnight in Paris' suburbs, hurling Molotov cocktails and setting fire to dozens of cars. At least 77 officers were injured and officers were fired at, a senior police union official said Tuesday." (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

Quote - Giuliani's oversimplistic world

First we have the obvious,
Rudy Giuliani said yesterday he "never had any doubt" that if he were President four years ago, he would have invaded Iraq. He said he is now "even more certain" that it was the correct national security move

Second, I want to point to another one of those moments where Rudy Giuliani's oversimplification likely speaks to a larger misunderstanding of the war he deems himself fit to govern.
"We'd have two -- instead of one -- irresponsible, terrorist-supporting regimes that have enormous amounts of wealth available to them wanting to become nuclear powers in Middle East," he said. Libya would also be "a terrorist-supporting state with nuclear ambitions," he said.

Without the US overextension into Iraq, it is extremely unlikely that Iran would be the same problem that it is today. The US would likely have far broader world support, the Iranians wouldn't be emboldened by gaining in Iraq, and without the anti-US sentiment, Israel/Lebanon, Israel/Palestine, and efforts in the broader Muslim world wouldn't be quite as messy.

Giuliani is receiving foreign policy advice primarily from several of neocons who were in, around, and influencing the Bush administration when it was making so many of the historically catastrophic decisions. I have to wonder if they're playing Giuliani the same way they played Bush, playing on his 9-11 experience ("Oh, you're such a great and bold leader") and lack of understanding to "ego" him into these positions.

Just thinking out loud.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Picture of the Day - 3

What'd he say?

(Sen. John McCain reacts as 4-month-old Dahlia Garnick begins to cry during a campaign stop at Morse Sporting Goods in Hillsborough, N.H., Sunday, Nov. 18, 2007. (AP Photo/Jim Cole))

Clinton beats every Republican, Clinton loses to every Republican

It's waaay too far out to start horserace polling the '08 election whether it's AP/Gallup (Clinton beats every Republican) or Zogby (Clinton loses to every Republican.)

Let's get through Iowa first, eh?


Barack Obama in an ABCNews interview,
"There is no doubt that Bill Clinton had faith in her and consulted with her on issues, in the same way that I would consult with Michelle, if there were issues," Obama said.

"On the other hand, I don't think Michelle would claim that she is the best qualified person to be a United States Senator by virtue of me talking to her on occasion about the work I've done."

Picture of the Day

Republican presidential hopeful, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, speaks after getting the endorsement of Manchester Mayor Frank Guinta during a news conference in Manchester, N.H., Saturday, Nov. 24, 2007. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)


(AP) The leader of the SIIC, the largest bloc in the Iraqi government, defends Iran against the "accusations raised by the multinational forces."

(AP) Shiite legislators pounded down debate over the proposed debaathification law. (With the oil law similarly stalled, reconciliation is dead. What now?)

(AP) Two American security guards have been detained by the Iraqis in Baghdad after a shooting incident. (I'm sure they're being treated well, but Americans in Iraqi custody can't go down well among the Americans in Iraq.)

(AFP) The official line being spouted by US and Iraqi authorities is that refugees are streaming back to Baghdad, BUT, the NYTimes has an analysis piece looking at the inaccuracy of the numbers. (And, even in the best spin, we're talking 40,000 returning of over 3 million displaced.)

And, I thought this was really interesting. Within the larger politics of the "concerned citizen" groups, the local Sunnis the US has formed into US paid Sunni militias, the Shia led government, which has fought this policy every step of the way, now wants to take over the payments to these Sunni groups.

That's another way for the Shia to get inside this program, to give them leverage, or to blow it up.

Curious sidenote

Reading the coverage on Nawaz Sharif's return to Pakistan, I've come to the conclusion that his return was forced on Musharraf by the Saudis.

Did the US give up on Bhutto? Is Sharif plan B? Are the Saudis working independently? I don't know. I just found it interesting.

Trent Lott will resign soon.

Certainly, this will not tilt the Senate balance in any real way, but Trent Lott, the number 2 Republican in the Senate, is resigning, suddenly, in the middle of his term.

Do I believe the MSNBC speculation as to why he's going?
While the exactly reason Lott is stepping down before he finishes his term is unknown, the general speculation is that a quick departure immunizes Lott against tougher restrictions in a new lobbying law that takes effect at the end of the year. That law would require Senators to wait two-years before entering the lucrative world of lobbying Congress.

(AP) "The senator has ''other opportunities'' he plans to pursue."

(PS. I think that leaves Ben Nelson with the worst hairpiece.)

Political bits

(TPM) Rudy Giuliani tries to explain away his vote for McGovern.

(WaPo) Thompson tries to "New York City" Rudy Giuliani. ("He relates everything to New York City. Well, New York City is not emblematic of the rest of the country...")

(WaPo) Thompson announced a pretty radical tax plan, but it was overshadowed by his complaints that FoxNews is biased against him.

(Politico) An interesting pre-mortem on the Thompson campaign.

(Newsweek) A giant piece on Giuliani's background.

(Politico) Giuliani has to resort to retail politics in NH.

And, (NYTimes) the GOP is recruiting of self financing millionaire candidates as policy to make up for the historic fundraising gap.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Picture of the Day - 2

(Supporters hail former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif after breaking past police barricades at Lahore's Allama Iqbal international airport. (REUTERS/Adrees Latif)

(Former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif receives supporters after arriving to Lahore's Allama Iqbal international airport November 25, 2007. (REUTERS/Adrees Latif))


From one of the myriad articles about Friday shopping,
In Columbus, Ohio, Theresa Johnston, a 47-year-old social worker, was shopping at the Big Lots discount chain — because she had to, not because she wanted to.

“It’s a little embarrassing, actually. I don’t like to be seen here,” she said, planning to buy a set of 42 knives for $35.

Picture of the Day

Opposition leader and chess legend Garry Kasparov was arrested after scuffling with riot police during a protest against President Vladimir Putin a week before parliamentary elections. (AFP/Alexander Nemenov)

Meanwhile in Afghanistan.....

If you've been watching, this isn't much of a surprise except maybe that this negative assessment comes from inside the White House.
A White House assessment of the war in Afghanistan has concluded that wide-ranging strategic goals that the Bush administration set for 2007 have not been met, even as U.S. and NATO forces have scored significant combat successes against resurgent Taliban fighters, according to U.S. officials.

And, in an echo of the Russian experience,
While U.S. and other NATO forces have maintained a firm hold on major cities, they have been unable to retain territory in the vast rural areas where 75 percent of Afghanistan's population lives, several sources said. Ground hard-won in combat has been abandoned and reoccupied by Taliban forces, which establish dominance over local governmental bodies.