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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, January 19, 2008

I don't understand caucuses

So, how is it that Clinton won Nevada by a healthy 6%, but it appears that Obama actually won more delegates?

Am I misunderstanding something?

Later: A bit of an explanation here. That 13 to 12 Obama delegate advantage is based on a projection that the state delegates elected tonight (which Clinton won?) will vote in April the way they were selected today. It has to do with weighting of the various caucuses.

Picture of the Day - 3

(Hillary Clinton greets cocktail waitresses at Mandalay Bay hotel and casino on caucus day in Las Vegas January 19, 2008. (Rick Wilking/Reuters))


Will someone ask the Giuliani campaign to explain why he isn't competitive in Nevada? No evangelicals, nobody really creeped out by his lifestyle, yet he's still coming in at godawful numbers.

Will today also be "good news for Giuliani" or can we finally do away with that garbage?

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I don't know if he can close it, but he's surging in the SC polls.

(Mike Huckabee bows his head in prayer with University president Jimmy Epting during a campaign event at North Greenville Univ. in Tigerville, S.C., Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2008.(AP Photo/Alex Brandon))

If the Shia ain't happy, ain't nobody happy....

Just caught my eye, leading into the Ashoura festival, the top two Shia leaders both expressed some worrying dissatisfactions.

(AP) SIIC leader Al-Hakim "accused the Iraqi government and legislators of allowing "personal whims" to delay national unity, addressing thousands of worshippers who rallied Friday to commemorate the death of one of the most revered saints." (Specifically, he focused on provincial elections and an oil law.)

More troublingly, (AP) "Radical Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr put the United States and the Iraqi government on notice Friday that he may not extend a six-month cease-fire by his militia." (They feel their ceasefire is being used to target their people.)

It's not terrorists, it's organized crime

Important to note, "outside the US," in this vague warning/report.
Hackers literally turned out the lights in multiple cities after breaking into electrical utilities and demanding extortion payments before disrupting the power, a senior CIA analyst told utility engineers at a trade conference.

You figure this is likely targeting smaller countries without the resources to stop or catch them, but as an "it can be done" test case, it's interesting.

Somebody actually did the research.

Yesterday, I was asking the current form of this question. This is data from the 2002 "tax rebate."
An October 2002 paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research said that roughly 20 percent of Americans spent the checks. Nearly a third of the people who got checks saved or invested the refund, and the rest used it to pay off bills or debt.

Inexactly extrapolating forward, that would mean that roughly half of the $150 billion proposed cash giveaway would go directly to the debtholders.

I guess doing it this way is more election friendly than a $70 billion bailout to the mortgage and credit card companies.

From the NYTimes:
Personal tax rebates are intended to put cash in the hands of consumers, in the hope that they will spend it immediately, giving a lift to stores, service providers and manufacturers of consumer goods, rather than saving it or using it to pay down debt....

Joel Slemrod, professor of business economics at the University of Michigan, said his study of the 2001 tax rebates showed only 22 percent of taxpayers he surveyed spent most of their rebates.

So, of the $150 billion cash giveaway, only $30 billion goes to "the economy" itself.

My position then, as it is now, is that this "tax rebate" methodology isn't the most efficient way to get this money into the economy. It tends to go middle class and up while the poor and near poor get very little.

If you give somebody making $110,000 an extra $800, it will more or less end up on the pile. If you give it to someone making $40,000 or less, it will likely be spent immediately. Speaking from some experience, at $40,000 there's alot of pent up demand.

Picture of the Day

I think they'd have been better off going with Tommy Thompson. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Friday, January 18, 2008


I love the logic in this question from yesterday's press briefing:
Q Okay, well, a year ago, the President said Iraq has a plan to take over security by last November. Now Iraq says maybe 2012. So in the interim between those two statements, there was this successful surge. So did the surge set back Iraq's plan by five years?


Let's say the Bush cash giveaway takes place in one form or another, how much of that money is likely to be spent and how much is likely to go straight to the debtholding companies?

Picture of the Day

Tough economic times hit us all differently.

(President Bush's daughter Barbara Bush attends the Chanel 'A Night of Diamonds' dinner at The Plaza, Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2008 in New York. (AP Photo/Evan Agostini))

Republicans get away with calling this a "tax rebate?"

Imagine if a Democratic president proposed writing checks to citizens. This would make FDR blush.
Taxpayers could receive rebates of up to $800 for individuals and $1,600 for married couples under a White House plan.

Watch the specifics. "Up to $800" says that those higher up the income ladder get more than those further down. The Dems are pushing for a lower check amount, an income ceiling, $85,000 individual, $110,000 couple, and special assistance for those on food stamps (who don't get tax rebates.)

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Mike Huckabee is one of them

Huckabee is going to extraordinary efforts to try and capture the worst of the South Carolina vote.

He said he wants to amend the Constitution to God's standards. He compared homosexuality to bestiality. He signed the "No Amnesty Pledge" against illegal immigration. He even came out supporting the Confederate flag on SC's flag.

He's pitching hard to the worst of South Carolina, and, pay attention here, it's working. RCP still shows a sizable gap (last polling day on the 13th?,) but the more recent polling shows Huckabee closing.

Mason Dixon - McCain 27%, Huckabee 25%.
Rasmussen - McCain 24%, Huckabee 24%.

Get yer white robe out of the closet, because South Carolina's going to pick its candidate.

Later: A "pro confederate flag" group runs an ad for Huckabee.

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Just for fun, try to find a non-white face in any of Huckabee's crowds. These were at Clemson today. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Another endorsement slap to Clinton - Leahy

(AP) "Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, endorsed presidential candidate Barack Obama on Thursday."

(I think it's important to say that part of this flood of endorsements for Obama is because these politicians didn't want to back Obama until they knew he had a chance, but at the same time, they're risking the bad side of a Clinton presidency.

Do they know something we don't? Are they "acting on principle"? (unlikely) Or maybe they don't see a big cost downside here?)

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Why, if it isn't the pander bear?

Huckabee vows to send all illegal aliens home.

(Mike Huckabee signs a no amnesty pledge at a campaign event at North Greenville University in Tigerville, S.C., Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2008. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon))

Gates goes after NATO allies in Afghanistan

Unbelievable. After four years of disaster in Iraq, and six years in Afghanistan.
"I'm worried we have some military forces that don't know how to do counter-insurgency operations," Gates told the Los Angeles Times. "Most of the European forces, NATO forces, are not trained in counter-insurgency.".....

Gates told the LA Times that in eastern Afghanistan, troops led by General David Rodriguez, commander of US forces there, "are doing a terrific job."

"They've got the (counterinsurgency) thing down pat. But I think our allies over there, this is not something they have any experience with," the defense secretary said.

The Canadians and British are fighting the hottest battles in the country in and around Helmand suffering casualty rates higher than the US in either Iraq or Afghanistan, and Robert Gates has the balls to criticize them?

Picture of the Day - 2

(A man jumped on a burned-out vehicle after he and other supporters of Kenya's opposition leader, Raila Odinga, set barricades on fire on a road in the Kibera slum. (AFP/Getty Simon Maina))


(WaPo) US airstrikes up in Iraq. "The U.S.-led coalition dropped 1,447 bombs on Iraq last year, an average of nearly four a day, compared with 229 bombs, or about four each week, in 2006."

(WaPo) "Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the Army's chief of staff, said yesterday he hopes to shorten the 15-month tours in Iraq and Afghanistan this summer." ("Hopes to....")

(CSM) Gates, Petraeus disagree over troop cuts. Petraeus backing down on reducing troop levels this year.

(Reuters) 3 US troops killed, 2 injured by small arms fire in Salahuddin Province. (I think I heard on NPR yesterday that this is being investigated for friendly fire.)

(AP) A female suicide bomber (presumably Sunni) struck "worshippers preparing for Shiite Islam's holiest day" killing 9 in Diyala. (Notable for the female attacker and the incitement of attacking Shia before a religious festival.)

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The NYTimes frontpages Giuliani's decline.

(Rudy Giuliani gestures as he speaks at the Coral Springs Charter School Friday, Jan. 11, 2008, in Coral Springs, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee))

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

"Maximum toxicity" among the GOP

Jim Vandehei has a good piece at Politico looking at the lack of enthusiasm among the GOP at all levels of the organization. If you're foolish enough to want to do the touchdown dance now, this is the place.

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(Israeli forces detained and blindfolded Palestinian men after a group of Palestinians shot at Jewish homes in a settlement in Hebron, in the southern West Bank. (Nasser Shiyoukhi/Associated Press))

Bill Clinton is very upset

At the end of an article describing Bill Clinton arguing about Nevada's "special" caucuses to be held along the Las Vegas strip,
At one point during the exchange with the TV reporter, Mayor Ron Dellums tried to physically pull Mr. Clinton away, but the former president held his ground.

Later: Here's the local news story.

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(Condoleezza Rice stands with other dignitaries as they wait for U.S. President George W. Bush at the airport in Bahrain, January 13, 2008. (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque))

The White House wants it known....

I always find stories like this curious, private conversations, intentionally leaked by the President's staff.
One hour after his plea for more Saudi oil was publicly rejected by the kingdom's oil minister, President Bush made a private visit to Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah to again ask him to open the spigots.

The White House revealed Bush's private meeting with the Saudi monarch to reporters aboard Air Force One as the president flew to Egypt on the next leg of his Mideast trip.....

So, no results, but they want you to think he's trying.

Hamas vetoes mideast peace

Fairly quietly, the ill conceived nature of the current Bush mideast plan is coming unraveled. The whole idea of recognizing Fatah while ignoring Hamas was bound to failure as it was distant from the real distribution of power within the Palestinian territories.

During Bush's trip, Hamas has increased their missile fire from Gaza prompting Israeli response, airstrikes that are killing civilians.

It is impossible to believe that Fatah could negotiate anything under these circumstances. Any steps towards talks would lose them support from the Palestinian street.

No matter how hard the Bush administration tries to ignore them, Hamas is still there, and, although they're not involved in the talks, they still hold the power of derailment, a power which they're currently using.

(Bush's trip is not helping Olmert either. He lost a small hawkish faction of his government pushing him perilously close to a minority.)

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It's funny how no one ever asks the Giuliani campaign to explain
why he's so unpopular in Iowa, NH, Wyoming, Michigan, Nevada, South Carolina....

Even without spending a dime, you would think that a "major candidate" should break 3%.

(Rudy Giuliani gestures as he speaks at the Coral Springs Charter School Friday, Jan. 11, 2008, in Coral Springs, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee))

"Mystified as to the purpose of the visit"

Sometimes they just jump out at you. (McClatchy)
President Bush wraps up a weeklong tour of the Middle East Wednesday, leaving many Mideast political observers mystified as to the purpose of the visit and doubtful that the president made inroads on his twin campaigns for Arab-Israeli peace and isolation for Iran.

Bush is heading back to Washington mostly empty-handed, said several analysts and politicians throughout the region. Arab critics deemed Bush's peace efforts unrealistic, his anti-Iran tirades dangerous, his praise of authoritarian governments disappointing and his defense of civil liberties ironic.



Apparently, there's an editorial rule that prohibits the use of "lie" or any form thereof.
Highly promising figures that the administration cited to demonstrate economic progress in Iraq last fall, when Congress was considering whether to continue financing the war, cannot be substantiated by official Iraqi budget records, the Government Accountability Office reported Tuesday.

These "unsubstantiated figures" were promoted in the hugely important Petraeus Report to Congress.

Picture of the Day

(President George W. Bush (L) tours the National History Museum with Governor of Riyadh, Prince Salman bin Abd Al-Aziz, in Riyadh January 15, 2008. (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque))

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


So, 236,000 people in Michigan went out in the cold and snow to vote "uncommitted" against Clinton for delegates that, as of now, aren't even going to be allowed into the convention?

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Willard deserves a picture.

Curious question: With the main storyline being that Romney won because of support from the GOP mainline (rather than independents,) why is it that so many of the lefty blogs also support him? (Kos, TPM, Atrios...)

Political bits - Call me "uncommitted"

Does Michigan matter? What will turnout look like for this thrilling McCain/Romney showdown?

Is there any GOP candidate besides Huckabee who can claim genuine enthusiasm from rank and file members on the ground?

Romney is trying to send out positive signals by "planning" ad buys in SC and Fla.

With so many questions about McCain's age, "John McCain, campaigning in a funeral home,...."

(MSNBC) Mike Huckabee says that we need to amend the Constitution to "God's standards." (Scores very well among the ex-militia members.)

(Eschaton) Bloomberg loses badly in any poll you want.

And, CNN covers the tough news: Is Mitt Romney too good looking? (Sadly, I'm not kidding. 2 minutes and 31 seconds of airtime for each showing.)

Picture of the Day

(Condoleezza Rice enjoys a beverage during President George W. Bush's visit to the Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum House in Dubai January 14, 2008. (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque))

(PS. Iraq doesn't warrant a "surprise" Bush visit?)

Al Qaeda, the ISI, and you

The NYTimes has an interesting (if curious) article on the Pakistani government, the ISI and their relationship to the various militant groups ranging from the Taleban to the Kashmiri independence groups.

It's an odd article because it feels like it's saying something huge, but at the same time, I couldn't find anything to excerpt. The short version is that the apparatus of the Pakistani government maintains current ties to and some cooperation with the various violent militant groups protecting the asset for future utility.

Maybe my lack of excitement is because, around here, that's been the working premise all along.

(AP) "Military officials said that about 3,200 Marines are being told to prepare to go to Afghanistan — a move that will boost combat troop levels in time for an expected Taliban offensive this spring."

(WaPo) "the new Marines will deploy to the British area in Helmand and will be available to augment Canadian forces in neighboring Kandahar."

Other countries.....

(AP) "President Bush urged OPEC nations on Tuesday to put more oil on the world market and warned that soaring prices could cause an economic slowdown in the United States. "High energy prices can damage consuming economies...."

(AP) "Saudi Arabia will raise oil production only when the market justifies it, the kingdom's oil minister said Tuesday...."

(Reuters) "Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has said troops will be ordered to shoot anyone trying to disrupt general elections due on February 18."

(Reuters) "Israel killed 15 Palestinians, nearly all of them militants, in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday...." ("Nearly all of them militants...." Peace is on the way.)

Monday, January 14, 2008

Waiting for the frogs and locusts.....

As if the Pakistanis don't have enough problems....
The authorities in Pakistan have deployed paramilitary troops to guard wheat supplies around the country amid fears of a massive shortfall.

The government has blamed hoarders and smugglers for the problem.

Wheat is a staple food in Pakistan and shortages have led to large scale rioting in the past....

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Outside my normal scope, but sometimes it's just because I love the picture. (Story)

Feeling a little ill. Maybe more later.

Where is Howard Dean?

Watching CNN, one of the commentators made this point: Where is Howard Dean? If his top two contenders are in an increasingly ugly battle about race and racism, shouldn't he be stepping in about now?

Update: The Obama campaign appears to be trying to put out the fire. Let's see what the Clinton's do.

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It's telling that Giuliani's collapse in the polls isn't generating headline coverage.

We'll call it the Fred Thompson effect.

(Rudy Giuliani speaks during a campaign rally in Hialeah, Florida January 3, 2008. (REUTERS/Joe Skipper))

Later: (ABC) Giuliani goes to church, “So I am not coming here to ask for your vote," Giuliani said. "This is not the right place. I am coming here to ask you of something, very special, very important: I am asking for your prayers.”

Whatever little Maliki had going, it just hit a wall.

(Telegraph) A broad alliance of non-SIIC Shia, Sunnis, and secularists has formed in the Iraqi parliament to challenge the SIIC/Kurd domination. Their primary issues appear to be Kurdish oil deals with foreign companies, the disposition of Kirkuk, and stopping the SIIC from creating a "regional" Shia bloc in the south. (Juan Cole has more.)

(And, reading a number of pieces on the deBaathification law, I'm going to stick with my analysis from yesterday.)

Politics in other countries

(AP) "Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told a powerful parliamentary panel on Monday that Israel rejects "no options" to block Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, a meeting participant said."

(This language can't be politically separated from the "peace talks" with the Palestinians. Tough language against Iran might help Olmert assuage the hardline elements of his coalition.)
Hawkish Israeli lawmaker Avigdor Lieberman, head of the Yisrael Beiteinu Party, has threatened repeatedly to pull out of Olmert's coalition if the government begins discussing the three questions at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Olmert's government would still command 67 of parliament's 120 seats if Yisrael Beiteinu's 11 lawmakers were to leave. But the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, which has 12 lawmakers, has also threatened to leave the coalition if Jerusalem comes up for discussion.

And, of course, the Israelis helped the negotiations along by bombing a car in Gaza killing three.

In Saudi Arabia, the Saudis are disowning Bush's Iran threats, (AFP) "Saudi Arabia is a neighbour of Iran in the Gulf, which is a small lake. We are keen that harmony and peace should prevail among states of the region," Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal.

And, in Pakistan, (AP) Nawaz Sharif slams Musharraf while Bhutto's party swings around to say they might work with Musharraf after the election.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Does the Clinton campaign want this argument over race?

The questionable statements, the charges of racism, and the Clinton denials have been bouncing around all day. Hillary Clinton seemed to fan the story (somewhat at her choice) on Meet the Press.

This leaves me with the question, "Does the Clinton campaign want this argument over race?"

If so, what does it accomplish? 1) It puts the Obama campaign in the position of weakness as they cry foul. 2) It takes the Obama campaign off message and away from "change." 3) It drags Obama down from his aspirational mountaintop into the back and forth of politics. 4) It brings Obama's race back to the fore. (Thus far, he's been able to run without really race being an issue.)

Add to this that Clinton has already lost "the black vote."

(ABC) "But he's also soared in a key Democratic group -- African-Americans, who've switched from favoring Clinton by 52-39 percent a month ago to an even larger preference for Obama, 60-32 percent, today."

So, the question is, does the Clinton camp want this argument? So long as the charges are plausibly deniable, the shift in conversation does seem to favor the Clinton campaign....

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For whatever endorsements are worth, Obama has had a recent flood: Senator John Kerry, Senator Ben Nelson, ex-Senator Bill Bradley,Senator Claire McCaskill, Senator Tim Johnson, Representative George Miller, Arizona Governor Janet Napolatino, a near endorsement from Republican SC Gov. Sanford, and maybe hugely influential Rep. Jim Clyburn of SC.

Josh Marshall makes an interesting point in discussing all this:
The key is timing. You don't hit a big time politician like Hillary Clinton when she's down unless you're really against her and you're fairly confident she's not getting back up.

(Barack Obama hugs then Massachusetts Democratic gubernatorial candidate Deval Patrick in this Nov. 3, 2006 photo. (AP Photo/Steven Senne))

Contorting "freedom"

President Bush will make a speech in the UAE promoting "democracy" and villanizing Iran. Check out the contortions necessary by Dana Perino to make the foreign policy fit into the "freedom agenda."
"He will talk about how democracy and advancing freedom is the core of our country's foreign policy, and that he believes it is in our interest to have security through democracies," White House press secretary Dana Perino said.

Perino said Bush's speech will make the point that "in a free society, elections are important, but they're not the only thing that's important." She said the speech will note the contributions of universities and other institutions to a free society.

Did you get that? We're promoting democracy, but not elections.

As a reality check, compared to the Gulf States, Kuwait, UAE, and Saudi Arabia, Iran is very democratic with far freer elections and much more openness towards women.

Now, Iran is not good and right in all things, but it takes some pretty serious contortions to claim that Saudi Arabia and the UAE are the more free democracies.

A deBaathification law did pass, but.....

A revision of the deBaathification has been passed by the Iraqi parliament. However, one of the elements appears to be that the exBaathists will receive pensions not jobs, and according to sources on both sides, the law will allow forced retirement of large numbers of Sunnis currently working in government.

So, more Sunnis on the payroll, less Sunnis in the government.

An accommodation, but a step away from powersharing.

Later: The WaPo has a bit more description. People from the third and fourth ranks of the Baath party are to be affected. Third rank forcibly retired, fourth rank will probably leave, too.

Just as a sense of it, in the critical to the future Interior Ministry, "The new measure could lead to a new purge of members of the current Iraqi government, Lami said, including about 7,000 officers in the Interior Ministry. Even influential Iraqi security force officials who used to be Baathists could face removal."

So, it's payments to the exBaathists in exchange for a new purge.

Later: Juan Cole points out that it wasn't supported in parliament by the exBaathists themselves. "So the parties in parliament that have the strong Baathist legacy did not like the law one little bit. But they are the ones that it was intended to mollify!"

Picture of the Day

(George W. Bush with United Arab Emirates President Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan during the arrival ceremony at Al Mushref Palace, Sunday, Jan. 13, 2008 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais))