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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Right about now, the Sunnis must be wondering what they're fighting for....

The Shia government wants it made very clear, there will only be Shia militias.
Iraq's Shiite-led government declared Saturday that after restive areas are calmed, it will disband Sunni groups battling Islamic extremists because it does not want them to become a separate military force.

In other words, fight and kill amongst yourselves until you're tired. Then, disband and be subjugated.

The Shia were far happier when the Sunnis were the clearly identified, armed enemy.

Later: A long (just okay) NYTimes article looking at the Sunni tribal militias.

Picture of the Day - 2

Admittedly, AmCon represents the Pat Buchanan/paleolithic conservatives, but within Washington's GOP, this will make the rounds.

(PS. I took down the Jeri Thompson post because, on reflection, I decided it was too far.)

Limbaugh goes after Huckabee?

Sadly, Limbaugh going after Huckabee is potentially election influencing news. It doesn't sound that bad, but still, Limbaugh is not an enemy you want out in the AM radio country of Iowa.

Later: Huckabee quickly tries to make up.

And, Huckabee tries to make nice with the anti-immigration crowd (Romney's attacks are working) by pledging to review the Border Patrol shooting case that has become a cause on the right. (Think they can hope for a Huckabee pardon?)

Surveillance creep

On Dec 16, we learned that the NSA has been collecting phone records on Americans for drug enforcement.

On Dec. 20, we learned that Homeland Security is pushing ahead with its plans to turn its satellite surveillance onto the US.

Today, we learn that the FBI is intent on building "the world's largest computer database of peoples' physical characteristics."

It's a brave new world.....

Friday, December 21, 2007

Huckabee wallows in bigots

Remember, these are just the ones willing to admit it to pollsters.
An ABC News poll from this week indicates that Huckabee's current lead here comes from the significant minority of voters -- 2 out of 10 -- who say they are unlikely to vote for a Mormon.

When asked whether it bothered him that opposition to a Mormon candidate bolstered his support, Huckabee responded, "You know, it's not something that I agree with. But I agree with the final outcome."

Sure they burned alot of crosses in the south, but they voted the right way.... right candidate Huckabee?

Picture of the Day - 2

Tell me this isn't going to mess up some poor kid.

(Activists from PETA hand out flyers in Taipei December 19, 2007. (REUTERS/Pichi Chuang))

Political bits

(NYTimes) Mike Huckabee's favorite author is Dr. Seuss. (Insert your joke here. "Oh, the places you'll go.")

The Quad City Times has a good piece talking about the likely decisive "second choice" voters in the Iowa Caucuses. Richardson, Biden, Dodd, and Kucinich are polling about 15% combined. Reallocating those votes will likely decide Iowa.

(PS. The Republicans don't reallocate. It's a straight poll.)

(DesMoinesRegister) A lack of GOP enthusiasm.

(Politico) Orders from the top of the Clinton that no campaign staffer is to predict a win in Iowa. (Lowering expectations?)

(Politico) The Congressional Dems continue to outraise the GOP by substantial margins. (Will the GOP deep pockets try to make it up by expanding 527's down to Congressional races?)

Picture of the Day

(Giuliani in Kansas City, Mo. Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2007. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel))

Shia politics in Iraq

(AP/Reuters) SIIC leader Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim (the leader of the Shia bloc that controls the government) lashed out against the "concerned citizens" militia groups that the US has built among the Sunnis. The US wants these groups mainstreamed into the Iraqi security forces; Hakim wants them to stand down.

Also, the WaPo writes about a turn against the traditional Shia clerics brought on by their support and promotion of the weak Maliki government. (Short version: SIIC and Sistani are on their way down, and anti-government power structures like militias and Sadr are gaining support.)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Rumor and feeling - Huckabee's whining and Giuliani's "flu like" illness

Watching Huckabee, I think that Romney's attacks on immigration, taxes, and pardons are having an effect. Huckabee has started complaining about the attacks which tells me they're landing.

Second, I don't know why, but I get the sense that the media isn't buying the "flu like symptoms" explanation for Giuliani's emergency hospital visit.

(He felt fine when the plane took off.... then, suddenly, his "flu like symptoms" were so bad that they had to land immediately and be met by the EMS?)

Giuliani is hiding his mayorial documents

But he had no idea he was going to run for president then.
Government rules discourage the city's most powerful officeholder from departing with more than token gifts collected on the job. Ed Koch, mayor from 1978 to 1989, recalls keeping some neckties. His successor, David Dinkins, walked away with knickknacks from his desk, including a crystal tennis ball and a collection of photographs documenting his meetings with celebrities and business icons.

When Giuliani stepped down, he needed a warehouse.

Under an unprecedented agreement that didn't become public until after he left office, Giuliani secreted out of City Hall the written, photographic and electronic record of his eight years in office — more than 2,000 boxes.

Along with his own files, the trove included the official records of Giuliani's deputy mayors, his chief of staff, his travel office and Gracie Mansion — the mayor's residence that became a legal battlefront during his caustic divorce.


Picture of the Day - 3

(President Bill Clinton talks during a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton in New Brunswick, N.J. Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2007.(AP Photo/Rich Schultz))

Political bits

Drudge is pushing a story that McCain is trying to quash a NYTimes piece regarding a lobbyist who allegedly wrote a section of the Telecom bill. (AP) Campaign response and the lobbyist has hired a defense lawyer.

(JohnMcCain) McCain has his Christmas ad up, and, unlike Huckabee, the cross is anything but subliminal. (He manages to get his torture story in again.)

(Politico) Fred Thompson is running out of money.

(WSJblog) "Mike Huckabee, talking to a throng of reporters in a shopping mall parking lot, suggested that if Mitt Romney gets the Republican nomination for president, it will be hard to endorse him in a genuine way."

(PS. From the Huckabee response, I think the Romney attacks on immigration and pardons must be working.)

(AP) Tancredo drops out and endorses Romney. (No Romney appearance with Tancredo.)

And, Furthering the earlier discussions of Huckabee's religion and its impacts, (Politico) "The hotel, packed with roughly 200 Huckabee supporters, erupted in applause, hollers and Amens. " (You're telling me that's not going to freak people out?)

The White House sticks to its language.

I noted last night that Dana Perino used the very specific phrase that the President "had no recollection" of hearing about the interrogation tapes.

I don't know if anyone noticed, but Bush repeated that language at this morning's press conference.

The GOP's evangelical chickens come home to roost

After nearly three decades of manipulating the evangelical right by pressing "hot button" social issues in their campaigns, it appears the GOP insiders have lost control.

The irony is that they built and nurtured this movement, and now it constitutes the largest influential bloc in three of the first four primary states. (Iowa, South Carolina, and Florida.)

Six months ago, the question was whether the evangelical right would show up and vote at all for Romney, Giuliani, or McCain. Now, they look likely to install a GOP candidate with almost no chance of winning the presidency.

Have the Republicans become their "third party?"

For Huckabee in Iowa,
His support is still concentrated among Christian conservatives -- 62 percent are evangelical Protestants, 76 percent attend church at least weekly and 88 percent are conservative.

A few stray thoughts. 1) I don't think Huckabee would be nearly as strong if the field was just two candidates. There's a ceiling here that's being masked by the wide field. 2) These people really believe that the reason George Bush is so unpopular is that he's not "christian" enough.

3) Through the summer, there was the open Republican debate about the direction/future of the party. I don't think this is the direction the GOP insiders had in mind.

4) How much vote can the GOP pick up by moving more to the right?

5) Is this the true Karl Rove legacy?

(Unidentified supporters of Republican presidential hopeful, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, hold a sign during huckabee's campaign stop, Dec. 19, 2007, in West Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green))

Iraq and Afghanistan

Reuters has an analysis piece comparing the end of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan to the current NATO state.

(CNN) Turkey's ambassador to the United States makes sure everyone knows the US is helping the Turks in their attacks.

(ABC) The Kurds say the peshmerga will "defend civilians" against the Turks.

(Reuters) Saudis make up 41% of foreign fighters in Iraq.

(AP) The Defense Department's quarterly Iraq progress report says the Iraqi forces are pitiful. ("A key problem, it said, is Iraqis' "inability to adequately forecast life-support requirements and to promptly take action" as contracts expire.")

Picture of the Day

(Supporters of Republican presidential hopeful Ron Paul walk, sing and shout as CNN's Wolf Blitzer sits waiting to interview Giuliani, Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2007, in Columbia, Mo.(AP Photo/Dan Gill))

(Giuliani is campaigning in Missouri?)

Later: (AP) Giuliani admits self to hospital for flu like symptoms.

(NYTimes) "...expected to leave the hospital and fly to New York later Thursday."

(It was bad enough that they turned the plane around midair.)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The question every press secretary hates....

In a very bizarre Press Briefing, where Dana Perino tried to dispute the characterization but refused to comment on the underlying facts of this morning's NYTimes story on the destruction of the interrogation tapes,
Q And also, I have just one question, if you could clarify on -- you repeatedly keep saying the President has no recollection of the issue at hand. So does that mean that he could have heard about it beforehand, but it simply slipped his mind?

MS. PERINO: It means what it means, that he had no recollection.


Picture of the Day - 3

Even his bus is boring.

Iraqis united in hatred of US

Make sure to read the spin in that second paragraph.
Iraqis of all sectarian and ethnic groups believe that the U.S. military invasion is the primary root of the violent differences among them, and see the departure of "occupying forces" as the key to national reconciliation, according to focus groups conducted for the U.S. military last month.

That is good news, according to a military analysis of the results. At the very least, analysts optimistically concluded, the findings indicate that Iraqis hold some "shared beliefs" that may eventually allow them to surmount the divisions that have led to a civil war.

Yeah, that is good news.

Political bits

This campaigning through Christmas thing is getting weird. Check out Giuliani's two uncomfortable Christmas ads. Or the very bland Obama Christmas video.

(Politico) Tancredo has scheduled an announcement tomorrow. (If he leaves withdraws, who will get the crazy 1%?)

(Politico) Fred Thompson does lazy in Waverly, Iowa.

And, a question about Romney who is spending heavily on TV in NH and Iowa. How much of his own money is Romney now putting in?

His original plan was to get through Dec. 31 and then pour in tons of his own money that wouldn't have to be reported until April. Personal money spent now will have to be reported after NH.

Later: (AP) Romney aligns himself with Bush in Iowa. (Huckabee's camp wrote the "arrogant bunker mentality" article, and now Romney is trying to use that to lever those who still support the Bush policy.)

Later: (Politico) In Iowa, "Huckabee has an 18-point advantage over Romney among women while the two are tied among men."

Picture of the Day - 2

I really like this picture, but the reality of a helicopter in Iowa in winter isn't quite so pretty. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

Sgt. Schultz doesn't live here anymore

Despite the White House's denials that they knew nothing of the CIA's destruction of the torture/interrogation tapes, the top four lawyers representing the President, the Vice President, and the NSC were all involved.
At least four top White House lawyers took part in discussions with the Central Intelligence Agency between 2003 and 2005 about whether to destroy videotapes showing the secret interrogations of two operatives from Al Qaeda, according to current and former administration and intelligence officials......

Those who took part, the officials said, included Alberto R. Gonzales, who served as White House counsel until early 2005; David S. Addington, who was the counsel to Vice President Dick Cheney and is now his chief of staff; John B. Bellinger III, who until January 2005 was the senior lawyer at the National Security Council; and Harriet E. Miers, who succeeded Mr. Gonzales as White House counsel.

It must be said that we don't know for a fact what these folks were arguing, but, "One former senior intelligence official with direct knowledge of the matter said there had been “vigorous sentiment” among some top White House officials to destroy the tapes."


(NYTimes) "When asked how he felt personally about Mr. Romney, Mr. Huckabee swerved, saying, “I’ve grown a lot closer to McCain and Giuliani.”

Picture of the Day

Everybody's starting to talk about Edwards again.

(John Edwards hugs his wife, Elizabeth, prior to speaking at a town hall gathering in Lebanon, N.H., Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2007.(AP Photo/Toby Talbot))

The most compelling part of the Edwards argument is that the rural areas are significantly overrepresented in the caucus system.

(The real decider, though, will likely be the "second choice" of the smaller candidates' supporters. Who do the Richardson voters break for? Biden?)

After Iowa, I figure that Obama and Edwards voters will tend to break towards each other if one appears out of the race.

Maybe not so much anti-Clinton as "change." Her "inevitability" efforts had the byproduct of making her seem more establishment.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

So does the US know what Turkey's doing?

The Iraq command reportedly knew nothing of the Turkish attacks until they saw the planes crossing the border. (If true, imagine that moment in the command post.)

Picture of the Day - 2

Only one major picture today. Per ABC, Mitt Romney at a Planned Parenthood fundraiser in 1994.

ABC uses the vague "In the photograph obtained by ABC News...."

Which campaign gave it to them? Thompson? McCain? Huckabee? And how long has that campaign been sitting on it?

Political bits

(AP) For the second time in two days, Mitt Romney tears up. (I guess he got the memo that people relate to Huckabee and see him as wooden.)

(ABCBlog) Fred Thompson swings wildly at Huckabee, "Thompson... warned the country is "one successful terrorist plan away from nuclear attack.".... "it's not time for on-the-job training."

(ABCBlog) Romney Attended Planned Parenthood Fundraiser in 1994. (A photograph has "surfaced.")

(WashTimes) Clinton is the candidate most would vote against to keep from being president. BUT, if you look at the numbers, 40% overall, 64% Republican, 42% independent, 17% Democratic, isn't that actually a pretty strong improvement since Summer?

Two new polls, SurveyUSA and StrategicVision show Giuliani still winning in Florida, but his lead is fading.

(CNN) "This week, Giuliani is scheduled to spend two days out of five away from the trail, fundraising."

(Blog) How far has Bill Frist fallen? The "next president" was seen in front of the White House, riding a segway, filming a Coca Cola commercial.

And, if you didn't read Doonesbury today.....

Later: (CNN) In his denial of the "glowing cross" ad, Huckabee wraps himself further in his religion.

Picture of the Day

Occasionally, the photographers capture a brilliant editorial comment.

(The feet of U.S. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney are seen as he speaks at a campaign event in Carroll, Iowa December 14, 2007. (REUTERS/Eric Thayer))

The Turks "token incursion" timed to Rice's visit to the Kurds.

(AP) 300 lightly armed Turkish soldiers made a token incursion 1.5 miles into Iraq, not coincidentally (Reuters) timed to match Condi Rice's visit to the Kurdish leaders in Kirkuk, some 120 miles away. (AFP) "The area they entered is a deserted area and there is no Iraqi force or peshmerga deployed there."

The Turks were sending a message,
Sunni Arabs ended a yearlong political boycott earlier this month in Kirkuk... under a deal that sets aside government posts for Arabs. It was the biggest step yet toward unity ahead of a referendum on the area's future.

Rice was highlighting that development, although a separate ethnic group is still boycotting the provincial governing council, and the new role of the United Nations in resolving the future of disputed Kirkuk.

The UN representative is hoping to hold the the Kirkuk referendum by the end of 2008, but such a referendum would require the passage of the Provincial Elections bill (one of the "benchmarks, remember those?) which is still mired in the Iraqi Congress.

And, going back to yesterday's post on the US taking blame for the Turkish actions, the WaPo has a frontpager being sourced to "Pentagon officials."
The United States is providing Turkey with real-time intelligence that has helped the Turkish military target a series of attacks this month against Kurdish separatists holed up in northern Iraq, including a large airstrike on Sunday, according to Pentagon officials.....

The United States is "essentially handing them their targets," one U.S. military official said. The Turkish military then decides whether to act on the information and notifies the United States, the official said.

Kinda hard to distance from that.


(Reuters) "A truck packed with explosives blew up on Monday close to Iraq's largest dam, partly destroying the main access bridge and killing a policeman, police said." (This is near that damn that is considered likely to break killing tens of thousands.)

(VOI) Also in Mosul, "a US patrol opened fire on civilians after a bomb went off targeting their vehicles, security sources told the Voices of Iraq VOI"

(AFP) "The Kurdish regional government in north Iraq has agreed to delay by six months the referendum on the future of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, easing immediate tensions among the mixed population."

(AsiaTimes) A long piece looking at the parallels and differences between Sadr and Nasrallah/Hezbullah.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The new look of violence in Iraq

Two stories: (WaPo) Violence in Iraq is way down from peak, but the decline seems to have stopped. Currently, 600 bomb, small-arms, mortar and sniper attacks a week, 20 IED's a day. (And these figures were released by the White House, not the field command?)

(Newsweek) Death squads have begun hiding their victims through mass burials and in the sewers.

Picture of the Day - 2

It's always sad when former stars start doing the Rotary Club circuit.

(President Bush speaks about the economy at a Rotary Club meeting, Monday, Dec. 17, 2007. (AP/Charles Dharapak))

Huckabee bears his cross with glee

Wow. Mike Huckabee carves out his spot in the "War on Christmas," running over the top "Christmas" ads in Iowa, NH, and SC with a glowing cross in the background.
What really matters is the celebration of the birth of Christ....

I hope that you and your family have a magnificent Christmas.

On behalf of all of us, God Bless, and have a Merry Christmas.

(Oh, and don't vote for the Satanist Mormon.)

Political bits

Politico has an article on the Huckabee buildout as he tries to rapidly assemble staff and strategy. So far, he has only 42 campaign staff nationwide.

I think Huckabee's money is an interesting question. He has to buy TV and hire staff with 25 state primaries occurring by Feb 5. "Last month Huckabee raised $2 million online, more than every month prior combined."

(CQPolitics) Ron Paul raised $6 million online on Sunday.

(Reuters) Greenspan sees early signs of stagflation.

And, Does Giuliani's pullback of NH advertising comfort that scattered early results will fit his strategy, or is it out of need to shore up Florida?

(A second poll showing Huckabee leading in Florida.)

Picture of the Day

McCain gets the Joementum.

Notice how excited the people are, all clustering around the powerhouse that is Lieberman....

(Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn. a former Democratic Vice Presidential candidate, left, raises his arm in support and luck for Republican Presidential hopeful, Sen. John McCain after endorsing him at the American Legion in Hillsborough, N.H., Monday, Dec. 17, 2007. (AP Photo/Jim Cole))

The US tries to avoid blowback from Turkish airstrikes

The US is simply trying to avoid the blowback, but really, as the US controls the airspace, this is a pretty silly distinction that I don't think any of those angered by the attacks will believe.
The US has denied it gave permission for Turkish aircraft to carry out air strikes against Kurdish PKK separatist rebels in northern Iraq on Sunday.

The US embassy in Iraq said commanders had not approved the attacks, but had been informed before they took place.

(The US is also supplying intelligence and satellite photos.)

Later: (NYTimes) Iraqis blame US

The British success in Basra

From the Guardian,
As British forces finally handed over security in Basra province, marking the end of 4½ years of control in southern Iraq, Major General Jalil Khalaf, the new police commander, said the occupation had left him with a situation close to mayhem. "They left me militia, they left me gangsters, and they left me all the troubles in the world," he said in an interview for Guardian Films and ITV....."

(Khalaf has survived 20 assassination attempts in six months.)

From the Independent: Britain bows out of a five-year war it could never have won.

CSM: British hand over Basra in disarray.

When a joke becomes reality

Ten days ago, I put up a picture of Huckabee with the jokey post title, "A candidate only the home-schooled could love...."

Well, come to find out, it's not a joke. (WaPo Front Page) Home-School Ties Aided Huckabee's Iowa Rise

(NYTimes) Huckabee Draws Support of Home-School Families.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Picture of the Day - 2

(Rudy Giuliani eats pizza during a visit to the Sunseri Italian Market in the Strip District of Pittsburgh in this June 27, 2007 file photo. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar))

(Politico) Giuliani cuts NH television ads. The spin: With Huckabee looking to split up the early states, Giuliani will focus on Florida.

What if Giuliani gave a "major speech" and no one noticed?

Giuliani gave his "major speech" yesterday that was intended to reframe his campaign and stanch his slide in the polls.

Did anyone notice?

Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha.....

"THE WEEKLY STANDARD has learned that Sen. Joe Lieberman, the 2000 Democratic vice-presidential nominee, will endorse Sen. John McCain for president tomorrow."

Picture of the Day

Over the last week, here's what I've learned: This Clinton administration will not be like that Clinton administration.

(Hillary Rodham Clinton finishes her door-to-door campaigning in Manchester, N.H., Saturday, Dec. 15, 2007. (AP Photo/Jim Cole))

(PS. This is the worst Clinton photo I've seen. Is the campaign slipping? Are the photographers feeling freer? Is there something conscious or subconscious in the coverage?)

And, if this offends a reader, I'm sorry, but they crossed a line Friday night, and I'm pissed.

Pay attention to Afghanistan

We should seriously take note if the Bush administration is finally concerned about Afghanistan.
Deeply concerned about the prospect of failure in Afghanistan, the Bush administration and NATO have begun three top-to-bottom reviews of the entire mission...

Taken together, these efforts reflect a growing apprehension that one of the administration’s most important legacies — the routing of Taliban and Qaeda forces in Afghanistan after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 — may slip away, according to senior administration officials....

Publicly, administration officials have expressed optimism that the war in Afghanistan can be won, but Mr. Gates told Congress this week that his optimism was “tempered by caution.”

To appreciate how bad the situation is, think about where things have to get for this administration to review policy.

Iraq and Quickhits

(AP) The Turks launch a 50 plane airstrike on Northern Iraq. (Since the US is publicly providing intelligence and logistical support, I wonder how long it will be before the Kurds blame us.)

(Reuters) Iran wants to talk about anti-Iranian terror groups who have found safe haven in Iraq.

(AP) The British officially handed over Basra today.

An AP article makes the point that the British never really controlled Basra anyway.

Elsewhere: (AP) "Israel's public security minister warned Saturday that a U.S. intelligence report that said Iran is no longer developing nuclear arms could lead to a regional war that would threaten the Jewish state."

(AP) A nice long article looking at the struggle between the Russians and Chinese for influence in Kazakhstan.