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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Tantalizing tidbit

The NYTimes has a big piece on a successful "good cop" interrogator who came in after detainees had been "harshly interrogated," (KSM waterboarded 100 times in two weeks in Poland,) but what really caught my curiosity was this little tidbit in one of the accompanying graphics.

In late 2005, "After the location of the Poland (secret prison) site by press and human rights groups, both detainees are moved to an unknown location in the middle east."

Egypt? Jordan? Which middle eastern government would risk having it known that they hosted US detention/torture facilities?

Picture of the Day - 2

What passes for humor on the McCain plane.

(McCain 2008 campaign adviser and former GOP chairman of New Hampshire Steve Duprey hands out candies aboard the campaign charter plane of Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain en-route to St. Petersburg, Fla., Wednesday, June 4, 2008. (AP Photo/LM Otero))

Follow up on the NYTimes' Israel Iran story

I made note yesterday of how the NYTimes/Michael Gordon article on the Israeli military exercise seemed a bit like a setup. Well, as a media ploy, it sort of worked. Today we have a series of follow on articles in other media all painting it as a warning or precursor to Iran rather than simple contingency planning, all confirmed by anonymous US sources, of course.

Guardian: Israeli jet exercise is warning to Iran over nuclear facilities, Pentagon says

CNN: Israeli air exercise probably message to Iran, U.S. official says

CBS: Is Israel Poised To Attack Iran?

BBC: Israelis 'rehearse Iran attack'

Let's remember that these exercises took place a month ago and just happened to be "leaked" by "US officials" (White House personnel) on the tail of George Bush's European trip where he was seeking support for new sanctions.

Get the message? Support the sanctions or the Israelis go.

But the Israelis aren't going to go. This is exploiting "old news." Since the Israelis conducted this exercise they have reenergized their negotiations with Hamas, Hezbullah, and Syria, something they would not be doing if they were intending to launch a strike on Iran. (I wonder if the exercise results were bad?)

It really is another shameful media moment.

Retired Maj. General Taguba writes "war crimes"

McClatchy. Always only in McClatchy,
"After years of disclosures by government investigations, media accounts and reports from human rights organizations, there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes," Taguba wrote. "The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account."....

Also, The US is asking to rewrite its evidentiary claims against the Guantanamo detainees now that they are going to face real judges, not kangaroo courts.


Evangelicals are early deciders.

(WaPo: Evangelical leaders "are surprised and dismayed to see a liberal-minded politician attempting to conscript their troops.")

Friday, June 20, 2008

Picture of the Day

Imagine if you had a photo of yourself as a child being posed with Richard Nixon......

(PS. All white kids on the Republican fundraiser's block.)

(President Bush poses for photographs with a group of neighborhood residents after attending a Republican fundraiser Friday, June 20, 2008 in Raleigh, N.C . (AP Photo/Evan Vucci))

A Friday dump on Obama's fundraising?

I recognize that both campaigns have to release their fundraising numbers today, but they don't have to do it in the Friday night news dump to keep it lower profile. Is that what they're doing here? Is this bad news?

Obama raised $22 million in May.

Later: Yup. Obama's worst fundraising month of the year. Only $1 million more than McCain with the two about equal in cash on hand. (Of course, McCain spent the entire month fundraising.)


As everyone talks about the Newsweek poll, Obama 51, McCain 36. I thought I'd mention again the top question of 2008.

How are the polls modeled? What is the mix? How do they project turnout by party, gender, age, demographics?

The Gallup Daily tracking has it Obama +2. Rasmussen Daily has Obama + 4.

Is McCain trying to lose?

Just a few tidbits from the last few days.

First, McCain endorses the offshore drilling proposal sure to anger big numbers of people in his must win state of Florida.

Then, he goes to must win Michigan and enthusiastically supports NAFTA (in Michigan!,) sure to anger big numbers of people there.

Then, news leaks of a "secret meeting" between McCain and Hispanic leaders where he "assured Hispanic leaders he would push through Congress legislation to overhaul federal immigration laws if elected." (By doing this "in secret" he minimized the positive exposure but the anti-immigration people in his party will be sure to notice.)

It's almost like there's some psychological element in him that craves to be "the maverick." Some element that looks for opposition for self identity.

McCain: Screw the drowning people, this is my chance to look presidential.

It must be said that Iowa Gov. Chet Culver is a Democrat, but still,
An aide to Gov. Chet Culver said Thursday that Republican presidential candidate John McCain ignored the governor's request to cancel a campaign visit amid a massive flood recovery effort in the state.....

Patrick Dillon, Culver's chief of staff, said the governor was concerned that McCain's trip would divert local law enforcement from the flood recovery effort to provide security for McCain.

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama canceled a scheduled visit to eastern Iowa last week at the request of state officials.

Political bits

Per WaPo, through April, Obama has raised $272 million, McCain $122 million. Per the NYTimes graphic, 55% of Obama's donors are $500 or less. New fundraising reports due out today.

Then there's that little underreported matter that McCain has violated the FEC's public financing law, too.

(AP) Kansas Gov and potential Obama VP Kathleen Sibelius is making a whole lot of appearances in Ohio.

And, here's something I've been wondering about, with McCain's seemingly poor chances, how does that play out with the big GOP money and 527's?
The truth is that, less than five months before Election Day, there are no serious anti-Obama 527s in existence nor are there any immediate plans to create such a group.

Conversations with more than a dozen Republican strategists find near unanimity in the belief that, at some point, there will be a real third-party effort aimed at Obama. But not one knows who will run it, who will pay for it, what shape it will eventually take or when such a group may form.

More worrisome for Republicans who believe such an outside attack apparatus is essential to defeating Obama, some key individuals and groups who were being looked to for help say they won’t be involved.....

(This article paints it as hesitance to 527 for McCain because he might denounce them, but I see it more practically. I think this is more tied to McCain's chances than anything else.

Why pour money into a losing campaign, risk the potential costs of being an enemy of the next president and Dem dominant Congress, all for a guy who you don't like and who doesn't like you?)

Simon Mann implicates Thatcher, the US

British mercenary head Simon Mann has begun talking about the Equatorial Guinea coup plot he managed, and he's pointing fingers everywhere, directly implicating Mark Thatcher and indirectly saying the US signed off.
Mann testified that a scout had been sent to the U.S. to gauge the government's reaction to a possible coup.

"The opinion in Washington, the Pentagon, Langley, and the oil companies was basically all the same, which was that the situation, the political situation, in Equatorial Guinea was very unsatisfactory, very dangerous, and that a well conducted change of government would be welcome," he said.

I'm sure this "scout" dealt with the US "in the hypothetical," but it will still not be well received around the world. Per the BBC, he also puts in Spain and South Africa.

(It's interesting though, he doesn't say why these men would pay millions to bankroll the coup. What's their return on investment? What's the money trail?)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Who are these "American officials" you speak of?

The story they want you and everyone else to read,
Israel carried out a major military exercise earlier this month that American officials say appeared to be a rehearsal for a potential bombing attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.....

More than 100 Israeli F-16 and F-15 fighters participated in the maneuvers, which were carried out over the eastern Mediterranean and over Greece during the first week of June, American officials said.

But take just a minute to ask yourself, if this took place last month, why are we just hearing about it now, completely packaged and explained, and why is the only sourcing "American officials?"

Someone dumped this story on the NYTimes because they wanted it out there. "American officials" is likely two or three administration members confirming each other.

(It's important to note that this is authored by "aluminum tubes," Iran in Iraq, give credibility to anything the administration says, Michael Gordon.)

Look at the play, not the story.

Later: Here's another timed "American officials" story, "warning of mounting signs that Hezbollah, backed by Iran, is poised to mount a terror attack against "Jewish targets" somewhere outside the Middle East."

Picture of the Day - 2

Last Friday's prayers at Sadr's mosque spill out on the street as far as the eye can see, June 13, 2008.

Afterwards, the Sadr followers protested the US-Iraq security deal.

They'll do it again tomorrow.

(Both photos:REUTERS/Mohammed Ameen)

Obama's introduction

Here is Obama's first general election ad, heavy on country and values airing in red states/swing states. Interesting.

The ad will air in Alaska, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Virginia, per the campaign.

How easy is it to get weapons in Iraq?

This "crackdown" was telegraphed, so most of the weapons were probably already out, but, even so, this is not the action of a people worried about resupply.
The arrest came as Iraqi troops fanned out and gunmen tossed weapons on the streets or in canals with the official launch of the military crackdown in Amarah, a stronghold of al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia and the purported center of weapons smuggling from neighboring Iran.

Picture of the Day

Michelle Obama got "fist bumps" all around. (AP Photo/ABC, Steve Fenn)

Also: The decidedly anti-McCain San Francisco Chronicle has an anecdotal piece on McCain's likely trouble with women voters.

(And, Cindy McCain continues her attack.)

Bush visits Iowa flooding, barely.

I don't know what it is about this that set me off,
Bush is expected to arrive in Cedar Rapids in the late morning and meet with local and state officials about the response and recovery effort before touring the flooded corridor by Marine One, the president's helicopter.

From there, he planned to visit Iowa City before departing Iowa. None of Bush's visit is to be open to the public. News media coverage is to be by a limited number of national and local outlets. He is expected to be in Iowa less than three hours.

Maybe it's the limited time, the media lockdown, and the "closed to the public" that bugs me, because you know they will be generating the "President hugs local citizen photos," and all of these restrictions, and the three hour in total visit, really give a sense of how false that picture is.

Terrorism as campaign strategy

As we sit and watch the "terrorism" attacks by McCain and Giuliani and Obama's responses, let's not forget the campaign strategy.

This was supposed to be an Obama economy tour week, but the McCain campaign decided to use terrorism charges to take them off message.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Deals With Iraq Are Set to Bring Oil Giants Back

I thought this connected with the picture in the next post,
Four Western oil companies are in the final stages of negotiations this month on contracts that will return them to Iraq, 36 years after losing their oil concession to nationalization as Saddam Hussein rose to power....

The no-bid contracts are unusual for the industry....

Picture of the Day

(A man kisses his two-year-old son, Akeel Faisal Ghazi, killed by a car bombing in Baghdad, Iraq on Wednesday, June 18, 2008. The bomb ripped through a busy commercial street in a Shiite area of Baghdad on Tuesday, killing at least 51 people and wounding scores more in the deadliest blast in the capital in more than three months.(AP Photo/ Karim Kadim))

The Obama fret

Is anyone else getting tired of the "Obama fret"?

"Oh, he can't win Hispanics. He can't win women. Oh, this state, that state, he's not leading by enough."

It's been a constant negative refrain over the last few months, and each of these speculative "frets" by the media (most based on unfounded assumptions of sex and race bias) seem to be eventually proven wrong. He's fine among Hispanics (Hispanics breaking for Obama 62%-28%) and women (Women favored Obama over McCain, 52% to 33%.) He polls even with Kerry Gore on white males.

(Here's your latest, Quinnipiac has Obama leading Florida (47-43), Ohio (48-42), and Pennsylvania (52-40.) One poll and all that, but, still, Florida in play.... Later: Also a tie in Virginia? )

The media seems to want this narrative of Obama in trouble. Anything that comes forward to support this thesis is immediately promoted as a problem where Obama "has some work to do."

(Can you imagine if McCain was up by 5 or 6 that it would be called a "narrow" or "slim" lead?)

We can argue that there may be issues, but the "Obama in trouble" narrative is way out of control. He's up by five or six in polling based on 2000 and 2004 GOP heavy base turnout models, and about half the country still doesn't know who he is.

If he simply splits independents in this year of record Dem self-identification and turnout, he still wins.

It's crazy, and the vast assumption seems to be that the Obama camp does't know what it's doing. Their history would argue otherwise.

Picture of the Day

With all the talk of torture......

(President George W. Bush listens to Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican June 13, 2008. (REUTERS/Jason Reed))

Strategic leaking on torture

Now this is interesting. A day after a Senate hearing and WaPo frontpager laid the blame for torture at the feet of Rumsfeld and his minions, there is, magically, the appearance of new leaks and a new storyline which also get promoted on the WaPo frontpage.

Yesterday, they tried to blame "officers down the chain of command," but that didn't take,
...top Pentagon officials began assembling lists of harsh interrogation techniques in the summer of 2002 for use on detainees at Guantanamo Bay and that those officials later cited memos from field commanders to suggest that the proposals originated far down the chain of command...

So, magically, today, it was a lawyer at the CIA who fooled them into the policy.
A senior CIA lawyer advised Pentagon officials about the use of harsh interrogation techniques on detainees at Guantanamo Bay in a meeting in late 2002,....

But some of Fredman's advice was apparently persuasive for top Pentagon officials, who in the following weeks approved the first formal program for harsh interrogations at the facility in Cuba.

See, they weren't going to do it, they really weren't, except that all these people talked them into it. It's not their fault that they wrote the policy, signed off on it, distributed it, and conducted senior staff level meetings on specific techniques being applied to specific detainees including Condi Rice, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld.

They were all just tricked. Dupes, you see.......


(AP, Reuters) The US blames yesterday's massive carbombing in Hurriyah (killed 63, wounded 75) on a "special groups cell." The story is that a local "renegade Mahdi commander" conducted the bombing against his own Shiites to stoke sectarian violence for profit.
"We believe he ordered the attack to incite (Shiite) violence against Sunnis; that his intent was to disrupt Sunni resettlement in Hurriyah in order to maintain extortion of real estate rental income to support his nefarious activities," Stover said in an e-mail.

(NYTimes) The Pakistani military is threatening to cut off joint training and cooperation over the US's June 10 airstrike that killed 11 Pakistani soldiers. "Some Pakistani officials are convinced that the Americans deliberately fired on their military...."

(AP) Israel urges Lebanon to open peace talks. (So, they cut a ceasefire with Hamas, are negotiating with Syria, and want to settle with Lebanon. Hardly the "Bush doctrine.")

They're even dealing with Hezbullah, "Earlier this week, a senior government official confirmed Israel was pursuing a prisoner swap with Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon."

(Reuters) The DeBaathification reform has stalled/died.

And, (Reuters) "Iraq's parliament will relocate just outside Baghdad's fortified Green Zone compound in September for the first time since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, a sign security is improving, the first deputy speaker said on Tuesday."

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Quote of the War

The LATimes tracked down "Curveball" the Iraqi defector who was the credited source for much of the bad WMD intel (like the mobile bioweapons labs) pushed by the Bush administration. Since his moment of fame, he has held a bunch of odd jobs, McDonald's, Burger King, dishwasher at a Chinese restaurant.....

Here's the money quote,
"He always lied," said a fellow Burger King worker.

That's right. This Burger King employee could tell, but the Bush administration didn't want to see, and we were dragged to war on that.

Picture of the Day - 2

(Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain listens to a reporter's question during a press briefing at his campaign headquarters in Arlington, Va., Monday, June 16, 2008.(AP Photo/LM Otero))

Obama responds

The McCain camp has decided to try to trot out Sept 11 against Obama. McCain to some degree, his staff harder, and of course, the serial 9/11 exploiter Rudy Giuliani. (I wonder if he charged the GOP for this one?)

Obama responds,
Obama told reporters that the Republicans have no "standing to suggest that they've learned a lot of lessons from 9-11."

He said they "helped to engineer the distraction of the war in Iraq at a time when we could have pinned down the people who actually committed 9-11." He said Osama bin Laden is still at large in part because of their failed strategies.

Quote - When even your name becomes a joke

EPM pointed me to this piece on Condi Rice's ineffectiveness.
Israeli TV announcers coined her name as a verb, meaning to go endlessly around in circles, accomplishing nothing.

Meanwhile, Israel and Hamas have announced a negotiated peace treaty today (which wouldn't have happened if they had listened to the Bush administration's stance.)

Picture of the Day

I gotta be honest. I still find Al Gore boring.

It sounded like Chauncey Billups did pretty well with the crowd, though.

Then there was this seemingly bizarre non-televised moment where Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm held up her shoe to praise Hillary Clinton, “The ones wearing nylons and high-heeled shoes, these high heels and others like them have carried a lot of weight for first women everywhere,” Granholm said as she held up one of her own shoes.

This is where the election is fought

There's a new ABC/WaPo poll out. This group says this, that group says that, Obama + 6, blah-de-blah-blah-blah.

BUT, here's something that never gets enough coverage. Here is the demographic that usually decides the elections.
One point of uncertainty for both men in the poll is that despite more than a year of campaigning in primaries, neither candidate's positions on important concerns are widely familiar to voters. About half of those surveyed said they knew "only some" or "little or none" about Obama's and McCain's stands on specific issues.

Now, by election time, that number will be much lower, but it will still be healthy double digits. A sizable number of voters vote, not on issues, but on some vague feelings and half informed opinions. By election time, they'll vaguely know that McCain favors tax cuts (but not for who or how much) and that Obama is against the war (again not specifics of how or what he's going to do.)

This is where presidential elections are decided, in a hazy confluence of impressions, branding, and partial information, and how those half opinions resonate among certain demographic groups. (That's why "Bush's third term" or "scary black man" are more likely to decide this election than healthcare plans.)

It's that 20% of America who vote on "truthiness....."

You don't hear too much of that dissection from "the experts." I guess it's an image we don't want to hold about ourselves.


(AP, Reuters, Guardian.) The Taleban are digging in among the villages around Kandahar, planting mines, destroying bridges, people are fleeing. Eventually they'll be pushed out, and then they'll come back. (I know they were talking about deploying US Marines to "back" the British into next year. Have some already come into Kandahar?)

(AFP, BBC) The British mercenary/arms dealer Simon Mann goes on trial over that weird Equatorial Guinea coup plot that fell apart when a plane of his mercenaries was stopped in Zimbabwe. Mann admits involvement, but says he wasn't the ringleader.

(AP) US military lawyers were warning back in 2002 that "harsh interrogation tactics" were likely illegal. ("Details... were to be discussed at an open committee hearing Tuesday.")

The WaPo has a frontpager on this.

(Reuters) The Turks claim to kill 21 PKK attempting to cross the border.

(AP) After Bush's trip, some in Europe are talking about increasing sanctions against Iran (including the oil and gas sector?)

But, (Reuters) Iran says it will not give up enrichment.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Picture of the Day - 2

They're still out there, and it's not like they're afraid to rock the boat.

(At the Nevada State Republican Convention on Saturday, April 26, 2008. (AP Photo/Kevin Clifford))

Patti Solis Doyle

The Obama camp hired former Clinton campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle to be "the chief of staff to the vice presidential candidate" today.

Some are reading this to mean that Clinton is tight for VP because she and Solis Doyle are "long time friends," but I tend to fall into the second camp, because if you'll remember, Clinton and Solis Doyle haven't spoken since she (took the blame and) was fired back in February.

The Clinton camp is not happy. Try this one from an unnamed Clinton fundraiser,
"You don't hire Patti Solis Doyle for her operational expertise," said the bundler. "You don't do that. This is someone who failed dramatically at her job. You only bring her on to fuck someone else."

(Note: They're still entirely blaming Solis Doyle.)

You think the Obama campaign is gonna play nice?

Take a look at what happened to the former Clinton supporter who "initiated" a pro-McCain event on Saturday. Today it comes out that she was a key figure in an effort to keep the Sally Hemmings (black) faction out of the Thomas Jefferson Family Association back in 2003.
The wife of a Thomas Jefferson family association official said Friday that she masqueraded as a 67-year-old black woman on an Internet chat room in a bid to keep descendants of a reputed Jefferson mistress out of this weekend's family reunion.

"It might have been somewhat unethical," said Paulie Abeles of Washington, D.C., who participated for eight months in the Yahoo! message board created for relatives of Jefferson slave Sally Hemings.

"It might have been childish, but I really think I was working in the best interest of the majority of the family members to make the reunion a calm and civilized gathering," she said.

This certainly could have been independent reporting in this age of Google, but the timing does make it feel like somebody wanted to whack Ms. Abeles.

(In this year, if you're going to go after Democrats, you better be damn sure there's no hint of sex or race statements in your past.)


Is it possible that Joe Lieberman could be the first man in history to lose an election as VP for two parties?

Picture of the Day

We'll title this one "Priorities."

(Italian police in anti-riot gear protect a video store of the US rental chain Blockbuster during an anti-Bush protest in Rome, Wednesday, June 11, 2008. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini))

Stray political thoughts

I find myself wondering about the politics of Barack Obama lecturing "the black community" on fatherhood, education, and other social ills. It played well to the audience yesterday, and the message seems to be well received among his African American support, but I find myself wondering if part of this message is not intended as some part of a coded Obama identity play towards white "values voters." I guess I'll have to watch where they propagate the mentions of the message.

If Clinton were the candidate, would the Dem Convention be having the same problems finding large corporate donors?

This article bugged the crud out of me. It started with the title, "Cindy McCain and Michelle Obama: polar opposites," and got worse from there.

Amidst all the talk of Obama/McCain polling, to what degree are those polls still modeling on a Bush "base" 2004 turnout model?

And, is Bobby Jindal's path to the VP slot saying he "supports teaching intelligent design in schools along with evolution?"

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Clintonians for McCain

I really don't think that the McCain campaign believes they will be able to gain support from that many Clinton supporters, but I do think they want to keep the narrative of an angry and divided Democratic party alive for as long as they can..... for as long as the media will ignore the polling and carry the story.

PS. Notice that Fiorina was "wooing" Clinton supporters on a McCain "virtual town hall." I'm sure the McCain website is a hotspot hangout for disaffected Clinton supporters.

Picture of the Day

I appreciate that to some degree that it's a stunt, that Obama's contribution to filling sandbags along the river is a relatively tiny thing, but it is something. It raises profile and probably brought out some more volunteers, (demographically young fit volunteers,) and it's a damn sight better than looking out the window of a plane.

George Bush was in Paris yesterday, and John McCain pretty much took the day off holding a "virtual town hall" from his headquarters.

(Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama D-Ill. fills sandbags with volunteers at a sandbag station in Quincy, Ill., Saturday, June 14, 2008. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman))

What is Sadr up to?

After Friday's statements on reorganization, now we get this,
Anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's followers won't field candidates under their movement's banner in upcoming provincial elections but will back sympathetic independents and candidates from other party lists, a spokesman said Sunday.

Later: Juan Cole has a few items on Sadr's intentions today.

1) According to Sadr sources, the new military structure is intended to rein in rogue commanders and guarantee that violence will be enacted only on US forces.

2) The new social/military structure is closer to that of Hezbullah.

3) The Sadr movement is claiming that they're not directly in the elections because they consider them illegitimate under US occupation, but I believe the more likely theory that they expect the elections to be fixed.

4) "At the same time, sources in the movement intimated that the newly formed special groups of the former Mahdi Army militia would begin striking soon."

Meanwhile, Karzai makes empty threats

No way he would ever do this, but it does represent a new rhetorical level.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai threatened Sunday to send Afghan troops across the border to fight militants in Pakistan, a forceful warning to insurgents and the Pakistani government that his country is fed up with cross-border attacks.

He also directly threatened Baitullah Mehsud and Mullah Omar.