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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Surprise, surprise. I'm back for now.

I'm back, at least for an hour or so. The rumor is the power might go back down in about an hour.

I just wanted to post a quick housekeeping message for all concerned. The family is all fine. I had a window pane break in the middle of the storm, but no property damage in the family of any note. Trees down everywhere. Parent's house, Catherine's house are untouched. I just found out they have power, too.

As for what happened outside of our little neighborhoods, you probably have a better sense than we do. From what I can gather, the storm jogged east right before landfall which significantly mitigated some of the worst storm surge fears.

Up here, roads are generally passable. No stores open yet, probably tomorrow. Not nearly as bad as it could have been.

Anyhow, the family is all accounted for, happy, and apparently air conditioned, so, that's about five gold stars on expectations.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Picture of the Day - 3

(Waves crashing into the Seawall reach over the memorial to the hurricane of 1900 as Hurricane Ike slams Galveston. (Johnny Hanson: Chronicle))

And, if you don't know the story of the 1900 Galveston Hurricane, it's worth looking up. 6,000 people died. Here's an aftermath picture I posted two years ago.

This picture is bigger if you click it.

How bad do they think it could be?

There was a story circulating on the news tonight that a number of residents called in to request very late evacuation from Galveston's West End. The emergency services couldn't get in and among the "shelter in place" advice they gave those stranded was to write their names and any medical information on their chests in permanent marker so that if they were found, they could be more quickly treated.

Picture of the Day - 2

I don't know what you're getting nationally, but down along Galveston and Bolivar it's really pretty bad, and the storm isn't due to make landfall for another 5 hours.

Not exaggerating, it's very possible that every inch of Galveston Island will be covered with sea water, at night, in the dark. Galveston, Bolivar, and the surrounding island areas probably have a population of 65,000.

On the mainland, along the Bay, Ship Channel, and the rest of the region, you may be looking at the homes of another 60,000+ people flooded out by the storm surge.

It's still not looking too bad in Houston proper, wind and rain, but down there it's looking pretty grim, at least on the property damage front.

The local news is estimating that around 20,000 stayed in Galveston although that number seems high to me.

On the other hand, there's this very freaky late developing "dry band" that has developed just north of the eye which may cut way down on the rainfall and may cut the wind intensity right before it hits shore.

Here's hoping.

(A Galveston Police officer helps residents evacuate as a house burns in the background during Hurricane Ike, Friday, Sept. 12, 2008, in Galveston, Texas. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum))

Closing thought.....

In theory, I might be relying on Michael Chertoff for help.

Hurricane's a-comin'

Again, I'm far enough inland that it is unlikely I will take any serious effects, but it is moderately likely I will lose power, and a little more likely I will lose internet, so, if I disappear, don't think I'm dead.

Picture of the Day

(From yesterday's appearance at Ground Zero. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia))

Cindy McCain's addiction hits the front page

Wow. The WaPo goes there.

(Probably a thing to notice is that the WaPo interviewed a key source, Tom Gosinski, way back in June, but didn't put the story out. Reading this from RawStory, it sounds like Gosinski held a self-promotional press conference yesterday. Then, I would guess, the WaPo felt forced to put their story into print.)

Another US missile attack in Pakistan

There was another US drone-missile attack in Pakistan's tribal regions yesterday killing 10 to 12 (Reuters, AFP.)

I think you have to do this, but, sooner or later, there's going to be a serious blowback, so I hope they're spending these attacks very wisely.

Palin reviews

The WaPo headlines and frontpages with "Palin Links Iraq to Sept. 11 In Talk to Troops in Alaska," although it's my sense that Palin's statement was more hyperbole than analysis. (With no foreign policy resume, every inexact word will resonate.)

The Palin interview bits on foreign policy (see below,) are being widely panned. Frankly, I don't think most Americans know enough foreign policy detail to judge just what a disaster that interview was, but the media seems to have caught it, and that will have an effect on the coverage.

My favorite line so far comes from the NYTimes TV columnist.
Mr. Gibson, who sat back in his chair, impatiently wriggling his foot, had the skeptical, annoyed tone of a university president who agrees to interview the daughter of a trustee but doesn’t believe she merits admission.

That's what I saw.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Well, she's got the platitudes down. The comprehension, not so much.

Man, this is painful.

Sadly, the repetition of these platitudes is likely enough to pass most voter's muster, but if you really know the subject, these answers are disasters on some really basic stuff.

(AP Headline: Palin tries to defend qualifications in interview)

Later: I also want to make the point that these stumbles are on basic and expected questions. It's not like he was asking her about Taiwan, or South Korea's sunshine policy, or the India nuclear deal, or Kosovar independence, or the implications of a friendlier Russia and China relationship.

This was basic and anticipated stuff from the headlines.

Afternoon reading

While everyone else is focusing on the this right now, "Gov. Sarah Palin took a hard-line approach on national security and said that war with Russia may be necessary if that nation invades another country."

I thought I'd point you to this very insidery account of the Obama campaign's Hildebrand meeting with (and reassuring) many of the Washington Democratic "insiders." Frankly, it's a more interesting read.

They're not just hiding Palin......

Yesterday marks "the four-week anniversary since McCain held his last press conference (8/13 in Birmingham, MI) and three weeks since his last public town hall meeting (8/20 in Las Cruces, NM)."

McCain is doing the occasional local interview, however, after this rocky one with a Maine station, those might soon be limited as well. (video.)


If Obama wins Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, he's the next president. (Post Palin, post-convention polling.)

Or maybe these state polls. Or these.

Fuck me

I'm far enough inland that I don't get the big flooding, and the winds are usually cut way down, but I'm still may be looking at days without power, so, if I disappear for a while, I'm not dead, just hot, sweaty, and pissed off.

Bush Said to Give Orders Allowing Raids in Pakistan

I think the most important thing that probably won't be mentioned about the headline NYTimes article this morning is the timing and sourcing of the article.
President Bush secretly approved orders in July that for the first time allow American Special Operations forces to carry out ground assaults inside Pakistan without the prior approval of the Pakistani government, according to senior American officials.

The very classified order was signed back in July and is just now released/confirmed by "senior American officials" (top level White House) for publication right around Sept. 11.

This is a political release designed to blunt the Bin Laden question and comes as a companion to yesterday's similarly sourced WaPo, "In Hunt for Bin Laden, a New Approach."

These stories are designed to say, "See, we're doing everything we can.... Don't blame us for not catching Bin Laden...." ("Oh, and don't blame John McCain either.")

But, the bug here is that even if the Pakistanis signed on for this, having these programs confirmed and published as a policy is politically impossible for them. . (ABC) "Pakistan Army Chief Has Sharp Words on U.S. Raids." (AP) "Pakistan premier backs army chief's US rebuke."

(PS. I think this is the right policy. I question the wisdom and motivations of making it public right on the Sept. 11 anniversary.)

What kinda puppet is that.....?

Iraq cancels the six 'no bid' contracts with western oil companies.

More Palin vetting

The NYTimes has a pretty long story damaging Palin's claims over the giant natural gas pipeline which she took credit for.

Yesterday, Ben Smith at Politico dug into all those earmarks are that Palin requested and received.
“We’re not going to spend $3 million of your tax dollars to study the DNA of bears in Montana,” McCain has said during this year’s campaign...

Palin, meanwhile, has requested $3.2 million to be spent in part researching the “genetics of harbor seals....”

From Politico today, GOP foreign policy experts cool on Palin.

The WSJ has a letter from Palin's ethics adviser in Alaska on how she should conduct herself on Troopergate. (She didn't listen.)

The WaPo editorial board blows back on the McCain campaign over the faux outrage over Obama's "lipstick" comment. (Even poor late night host Craig Ferguson is lecturing.)

USAToday highlights the rape kits.

(And Politico lists many of the former McCain aides who have become lobbyists and their clients.)

Israel 'annexes' West Bank areas

As expected, the Israelis are unofficially/officially annexing lots of land behind their side of the "security wall" they built inside Palestinian lands along the West Bank.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Picture of the Day - 2

(Senator John McCain and his VP running mate Sarah Palin as they campaign in Fairfax, Virginia. (AFP/Paul J. Richards))

ABC gives Palin the royal treatment

ABC got the first interview with Sarah Palin, and it looks like they're paying back.

She gets a prime time ABC special which "will also include a bio of Palin by ABC's Kate Snow," as well as placements in every ABCNews show from Good Morning America to Nightline.

(PS. The way they're structuring this, Gibson gets multiple mini-interviews over two days, meaning he knows he can't ask the killer questions until the last session or he'll be cut off. That being said, think they'll cut that last interview section?)

(And, You gotta wonder what kind of journalist accepts these conditions.)

Maybe someone should notice......

One of those little things that maybe someone should notice.
The U.S. military conceded it was not winning the fight against an increasingly deadly insurgency in Afghanistan and said on Wednesday it would revise its strategy to combat militant safe havens in Pakistan.

Sec Def Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen made those statements today.

The inertia of lying and a Bridge too far

Most of the press now seems to be hitting the McCain campaign over the "Bridge to Nowhere" lie and some of the other questionable statements.

(There is also second thread developing among some fairly respected and insider read people (Josh Marshall, Joe Klein, for example,) who are beginning to question McCain's "honor" in the kind of campaign that he is running.)

If this trajectory continues, does it does it add a dead weight to McCain's image? Is there beginning to be a narrative shift away from McCain's "honorable" biography to the man he is today? Is there an inertia to lying?

It's clear the McCain campaign is beginning to feel some pressure from the media coverage. The campaign is beginning to try to shift its statements on the "Bridge to Nowhere."

On the other side, the Obama camp is trying to catch this wave of backlash against the McCain campaign. Today, on the stump, Obama made his clearest indictment yet of the McCain tactics. "Enough is enough." (Notice also that the Obama camp is directly invoking the Swiftboaters to try and lever the media's guilt on their now recognized culpability in 2004.)

Sarah Palin was a "narrative pick" and now the battle for narrative is truly on. The McCain campaign has pushed his image of honor, reformer, and legacy all into the center of the table in this gamble.

Now everyone is looking to the media referees for a judgment.

Later: I don't want to run through all the context, but check out the latest McCain video "Lipstick" which clearly (and I mean CLEARLY) distorts the comments including a Katie Couric cameo also out of context.

They're betting it all here. They're betting they can win against the media.

Later: The McCain camp had to pull the ad mentioned above.

Later: Add Andrew Sullivan to the disgusted by McCain list.

Picture of the Day

(US Marines relax at their base in Garmser in Afghanistan's southern province of Helmand in May.(AFP/Massoud Hossaini))

All about Al Qaeda....

The WaPo has a frontpage, 20,000 foot view of the hunt for Bin Laden. The short version is that a frustrated US has somewhat abandoned the immediate search for Bin Laden and has begun tracking/trageting lower level Al Qaeda figures in the hopes they will lead back to Bin Laden. (It's a pretty interesting read, although I'm not really sure how killing Al Qaeda figures with drones leads to Bin Laden.)

(AP/CNN) The most recent drone/missile attack in Pakistan reportedly killed the Al Qaeda figure in charge of operations in the tribal regions as well as three other non-Pakistani lower level figures. However, the target, who wasn't there, was a top Taleban figure who plays a role in Afghanistan. (I guess you can't swing a dead cat in the tribal regions without hitting somebody.)

(WaPo) New Pakistani PM Zardari and Afghan president Karzai appeared together promising a "new cooperation."

And, (WaPo) General Petraeus says Iraq is still the "central front" against terrorism. (Has anyone based in Iraq ever conducted foreign terrorism against the West? Has the US ever captured someone in Iraq who has conducted terrorism against the West?)


Juan Cole makes an interesting observation that the Shia and Kurds in the Iraqi parliament have come into conflict over the Iraqi bid to purchase US made F-16's. (The Kurds are afraid the planes will be used against them.)

Soon, almost all the "coalition of the willing" troops will all be out of Iraq.

And, (McClatchy) The Provincial Election law still looks dead.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The "ground game" and early voting

The NYTimes has an article about early voting and the new challenges it creates for campaigns, but I want to add a little bit.

It's my opinion that early voting is going to tend to favor the side with the better ground game (Obama,) and will likely benefit the side relying more on new and irregular voters (Obama) as you have more time to contact them and more chances to actually get them out to vote.

The estimates are that approximately 1/3 of all votes this year will be cast before election day.

(But not me. I like to take the three block walk to my polling place, to talk to the campaign people 50 feet outside, to stand in line amongst amongst my neighbors surrounded by the bunting, to deliver my plate of rice crispy treats to the never appreciated enough poll workers, and then to walk away. It's a ceremony and a ritual that I enjoy like few others.)

Dusty Foggo threatens black(ops)mail

Ex CIA figure and Duke Cunningham co-conspirator Dusty Foggo threatens to out agents as part of his legal defense.


Either gonna make you feel better or not. Me? Not so much....
His campaign manager, David Plouffe, was more pointed when asked about the findings at a briefing on Monday, telling a Washington Post reporter, "Your poll is wrong."

(See also, Plouffe's press conference quotes.)

Picture of the Day - New Signage

Just an observation of new (and more urgent?) signage.

(Sen. Barack Obama speaks about his policy to reform America's education system, Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2008, during a speech at Stebbins High School in Dayton, Ohio. (AP Photo/Skip Peterson))

The press isn't going to let go with just one Palin interview.

Reading this AP piece, it's clear that the McCain campaign's plan to wrap Sarah Palin in lambswool is going to suffer a continual backlash among the press.

Obama turning up the attacks

Obama attacks Bush on the troop (non) withdrawal from Iraq, "slams" McCain over education (with an accompanying ad,) continues to hammer on the Palin "Bridge to Nowhere" lie and broadly tries to damage the McCain claims of "Maverick."

(And Biden is kinda hitting an "out of touch," just rhetoric angle.)

Two ways to read this. 1) A planned post convention "anti bounce" effort to turn the narrative into contrasts on issues, or 2) A reaction to the polling. (Could be either or some of both.)

Bottom line, the Obama campaign is shifting. Pay attention.

Obama changes stance on 527's?

An interesting little blurb from Marc Ambinder saying the Obama camp is now quietly encouraging 527's to run ads on his behalf.

(Maybe that's part of the NYTimes fundraising story, too. They were laying of the groundwork for a 527 shift.)

One more thought on the NYTimes Obama fundraising story

For some reason, it feels to me like the Obama fundraising story is a plant. Let's look at the mechanics, an appeal to the worries of Obama small donors, an appeal to the much more on board, but still not very deeply tapped Clinton supporters, all timed right at the peak moment of "Obama fret" when McCain comes out of his convention at a short term polling peak.

I mean, if you read the article,
A spokesman said that August was its best fund-raising month yet and that the campaign’s fund-raising was on track.

That means, what, probably at least $60 million? Are they trying to juice the fundraising before they announce an even bigger number that might make the small donors less likely to donate?

I don't know, but the more I look at this piece, the more it seems like a planted story for some reason..... but I could well be wrong.

The Obama fret, Round 4

Wow. The fragility of the Democratic mind is on view for all to see over the last day. McCain comes out of his convention bounce about tied in the polling, and suddenly all the rank and file Democrats are freaking out.

The NYTimes publishes an article on the Obama team actually having to work to raise money, and suddenly it's the end of the world.

Calm down.

Read the articles. Are there any quotes from Democratic insiders, even those outside the campaign, expressing any serious concern?

Calm down

Are the polling experts, Chuck Todd, Charlie Cook, Stu Rothenberg, Larry Sabato, etc, are any of them saying that the race is over?

Calm down.

Watch the body language of those around the campaigns, both inside and outside, that will tell you where everybody thinks it stands.

Do you see top level Democrats freaking out? Do you see the McCain folks acting like they're winning?

Just calm down for a little bit until we see where we really are.

(And, the LATimes has an article on the two campaigns' different looks at how to get to 270 on the electoral map.)

Sarah Palin is not Jesus yet......

There is a particularly nasty WaPo frontpager that looks at Palin's expense sheets as Governor of Alaska,
Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has billed taxpayers for 312 nights spent in her own home during her first 19 months in office, charging a "per diem" allowance intended to cover meals and incidental expenses while traveling on state business.

Even if the practice is proper within the Alaska context, the optics of charging taxpayers for sleeping in your own bed for over half your time as Governor, and charging over $43,000 flying her family all over the state, are very, very bad.

Also, Josh Marshall has a nice collection of major media sources saying that Palin's main PR claim to reformer, her supposed opposition to the "Bridge to Nowhere," is pretty much a bald faced lie. (WSJ, AP, Newsweek, WaPo)

(And, CNN brings up Palin's "Pentacostal beliefs," citing some of the elements of her non-mainstream church.)

The Bush administration finally recognizes the Russians have put them in check

An interesting NYTimes article saying that the Bush administration has decided against any "unilateral" action against the Russians over Georgia. In other words, there will be no significant US response.

Frankly, that's not too big of a surprise as the Russians have maneuvered the board so the US has little practical choice.

As example, in this Reuters article, the Russians remind the world that they are the ones in control of Russia's nuclear plant at Bushehr, saying that construction is proceeding apace.

Picture of the Day

I'm still not used to her behind the Obama signage.

(NYTimes article on Clinton's appearance.)

(Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks to supporters during a rally for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., Monday afternoon Sept. 8, 2008 in Tampa, Fla.(AP Photo/Chris O'Meara))

Making up numbers

Alot of press that Bush will authorize the pullout of 8,000 troops from Iraq (mostly in the next presidency,) but take a look at the more specific.
One Marine battalion, numbering about 1,000 troops, will go home on schedule in November and not be replaced. An Army brigade of between 3,500 and 4,000 troops will leave in February. Accompanying that combat drawdown will be the withdrawal of about 3,400 support forces over next several months.

Bush's great "drawdown" is 4,500 combat troops over the 12 months. At that rate, we will have no more combat troops in Iraq by 2026.

Monday, September 08, 2008


If the campaign and polling is all about "white women," (which I'm still a bit skeptical about,) would a major speech on education on Tuesday maybe be a good way to go?

White women

I think this is probably the talking point of this round of polling. The upcoming ABC/WaPo poll shows McCain picking up 20% in two weeks among white women. Let's wait and see the raw data before we commit to argument, but, if that bears out in other polls, even to a lesser degree, that's a biggish deal. (And it will be certainly pinned on Palin.)

On the bright side, depending on how that demographically breaks down, some sections of "white women" are extremely responsive on economic issues where Obama holds a clear advantage.

It's still too early to make any broad pronouncements, but the polls seem to have come out of the Republican convention even. If the bounce just got them even, I'm reasonably happy, but, honestly, we just need to take some time to see how the polling bears out.

Afterthought: The sample size on "white women" inside the ABC Poll is likely pretty small, so don't make too much out of this unless we see it broadly confirmed.

Plus, I don't know the numbers, but, if he did really pick up +20 among "white women" to get to these numbers, doesn't that mean he probably didn't really gain in any other group? And if so, isn't one group easier to target than across the board?

Again, it may be statistical noise. Wait a week.

Picture of the Day - 2 - All made up

The Obama Bill Clinton meeting in a couple days is getting too much press. This is a couple weeks old, from the Stephanie Tubbs Jones Memorial, but it does look like they're getting along, no? (REUTERS/Jim Young)


Still waiting for the Obama August fundrasing numbers......

Picture of the Day

(Supporters cheer as Republican presidential candidate John McCain and his running mate Sarah Palin take the stage at a campaign event in Albuquerque, New Mexico on September 6. (AFP/Robyn Beck))

Another drone/missile ttack on Pakistan

It certainly does sound like the US is hitting Taleban targets across the border in Pakistan's tribal regions, but these attacks are becoming increasingly frequent.
Missiles fired by U.S. drones killed 16 people, including Pakistani and Afghan Taliban fighters, on Monday in a strike targeting a religious school founded by an old friend of Osama bin Laden, intelligence officials and Pakistani villagers said.

"There were two drones and they fired three missiles," said a resident of Dandi Darpakheil.....

(The NYTimes also has an interesting version.)

Weird question: Would these attacks be politically different if the missiles were fired from manned aircraft that involved repeated US penetration into Pakistani airspace? Does using drones make the attacks "softer" in Pakistan?

Also, as a followup from the Pakistanis shutting down the US supply route into Afghanistan,
Rehman Malik, the top Interior Ministry official, said on Monday the road was unblocked after a few hours, and that it had only been shut for security reasons, contrary to earlier comments by the defense minister that it was a response to the violations.

So, does that mean the shutdown was a top level government action that they quickly backed off when the US squealed, or that it was a lower level action that that got reversed?

Dog bites man

There's a USAToday/Gallup poll this morning that's going to get a lot of press, McCain +4, 50-46.

It would be really notable if McCain really blew past that 45% ceiling he's been suffering for, wel, forever, but I'm going to wait a day or two and get the whole collection of polls and read some of the expert analysis from Charlie Cook, Larry Sabato, Chuck Todd, or even 538, before I really dig in.

(The USAToday/Gallup is a serious and credible poll, but how in the world did they suddenly get to only 4% undecided?)

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Picture of the Day - 2

The first presidential decision a candidate makes........

(Vice President Dick Cheneyin Kiev, Ukraine, Friday, Sept. 5, 2008. (AP Photo/Mykola Lazarenko))

New voter Registration

The AP is reporting 2 million new Dem voters registered in 28 states that track party ID (Republicans -344,000.) For context,
Nationwide, there are about 42 million registered Democrats and about 31 million Republicans, according to statistics compiled by The Associated Press.

So, the Dems are plus 2 million in only 28 states off nationwide base numbers of 42 million Dem, 31 million Repub.

Notes: It's impossible to tell how many of those were crossover registrations just to vote in the Dem primaries.

Second, no breakdown of which states which may matter alot.

Third, the Obama camp has generally played very tight with the specifics of their voter registration program (ie how many and which states) which could be judged as good news, bad news, or a strategic effort to keep the McCain campaign guessing.

Despite all that, broadly, you have to consider this good news for Obama. This is the great unknown in this race, how many they've registered, and how the Obama turnout looks come election day.

Also, (WaPoBlog) Virginia registers 49,000 new voters in August alone, 36,500 in July. No party ID in registration.


Shouldn't we have heard the Obama August fundraising numbers by now?

(McCain pulled $47 million in August, $10 million of which came in the few days after the Palin announcement.)

I'll be very curious to watch McCain over the Palin bubble....

Despite everything he says about himself, John McCain has a pretty big sense of self importance. I'm wondering this morning how he's feeling about the joint appearances when Sarah Palin is getting all the shouts and applause.

It may be fun for the first few days, but as it continues, and stories like this are written, "McCain-Palin becoming Palin-McCain?," I'll bet he's privately starting to grate.

He's not known as a patient man.

Picture of the Day

(Republican presidential nominee Senator John McCain and Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin take the stage at a campaign stop in Cedarburg, Wisconsin, September 5, 2008. (REUTERS/Brian Snyder))

Lines of attack

John McCain is trying to claim "change" through his claims of being a "reformer" and his very public railings against earmarks.

So, I would say the attacks by the Obama campaign against Sarah Palin's rather substantial history in claiming earmarks is probably a very good line of attack.

If they damage "McCain the reformer" he really has nothing left.
(Attack the strength, right?)