.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, November 29, 2008

It's not 3 AM yet, but.......

Pakistan warned that it would redeploy troops involved in the terrorism fight on its border with Afghanistan to its frontier with India in response to any Indian troop movements.

"Tension with India is mounting. The situation is very critical, and the next 48 hours are very crucial," a senior Pakistani official said on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation. He said Pakistan had put its air force and navy on high alert. "In case of any Indian aggression, Pakistan will respond to it in a matching way," he said.

I'm not sure whether to take this as literal, strategic or diplomatic.

Literal: The Pakistanis are genuinely worried about an armed Indian response.

Strategic: The Pakistanis would love an excuse to move their troops out of the tribal lands along the Afghan border. This could be their way out of their side of the US war.

Diplomatic: An effort to pressure the US to pressure India. A reminder to the US of Pakistan's "vital role" in fighting the Taleban and Al Qaeda. A warning not to tilt too far.

I think the bottom two are the more likely.

Also, let me say this is a speculative post. There're alot of suspicions floating around at this point, but very little fact.

The British Telegraph claims to be privy to some of the interrogation details, Kashmiri independence fighters, trained in camps in Pakistan.

And, where's China in all this? They don't want instability in their backyard, but India's also a regional rival. Where are they pushing?

Later: A BBC writer makes an assertion that the ISI intel chief canceling his support trip to India represents a slap at civilian control of the ISI and military.

General Moneybags

The NYTimes does a takedown on ret. Gen. Barry McCaffrey and the big money he's made "consulting" for defense contractors utilizing his nexus of influence.

(Funny, they don't similarly indict those military commanders who are also conducting the dubious contacts.)

Make of it what you will.....

Pakistan's games with the Mumbai attacks

I'm not really sure what to make of this, but it doesn't seem to bode well for the state of the India-Pakistan relationship coming out of these attacks.
"Preliminary evidence indicates elements with links to Pakistan are involved," Indian foreign minister, Pranab Mukherjee said. He added, however: "Proof cannot be disclosed at this time."

(Pakistani PM) Gilani accepted Singh's request to send the head of the Inter-Services Intelligence, Pakistan's premier spy agency, Lt.-Gen. Ahmed Shujaa Pasha , "for exchange of information." Later, Pakistan decided to dispatch a more junior ISI official instead, news reports said.

You gotta figure that Pakistan has their own intel developing on this, so why send a junior rather than a previously announced senior? Is the shift from something the Pakistanis now know?

Or, is it the optics. Is the change an effort to not give credence when the Indians do eventually blame Pakistani elements? Are they denying the photo op?

(Understand that sending the intel chief is more about appearances and politics than any functional intelligence cooperation which would likely take place at a staff level.)

It just seems unforgivably shocking from where we sit right now for the Pakistanis to be playing a political/intelligence game so close after this attack. They know something that we don't within the facts or within coming Indian response that is informing this decision to downgrade their visible participation.

Something's tickling at my news bone. What do the Pakistanis know that made them step back from the appearance of cooperating fully?

Friday, November 28, 2008

Quote - Wal-Mart Employee Trampled to Death

Not a "better than thou," more a "state of affairs."
“When they were saying they had to leave, that an employee got killed, people were yelling, ‘I’ve been on line since yesterday morning,’ ” Ms. Cribbs told The Associated Press. “They kept shopping.”

Also, as this isn't their first event, I gotta imagine that WalMart is legally liable for what takes place at their doors.

A soft exit interview.

So, George Bush gives an "interview" to his sister, it's released by the White House press office, and it's covered by the the press as legitimate? (ABC, CNN)

They're putting the gauzy lens on already.

Picture of the Day - Shopping

First, a huge line outside a Target in Smithfield, RI.

Next, a crowd running into a Walmart in Secaucus, NJ.

Third, outside a Toys R Us in Garden City, NY.

The view from two neighbors.

The NYTimes has a decent summary (as of yesterday) of the Indian suspicions that the attackers in Mumbai were, to some degree, tied to or based in Pakistan.

Also of interest, last week's NYTimes piece on the paranoia in Pakistan over India.

Neither piece has anything truly concrete, but together they hint at the suspicions that plague the India-Pakistan relationship, and highlight the difficulty the US will have in taming Pakistan's violent factions. Pakistan keeps those groups as policy, as a lever against India, both in Kashmir/India, and in Afghanistan as a bulwark against Indian influence.

(And, Robert Fisk writes a near epitaph of Afghanistan.)

The Horn of Africa

Ethiopia is pulling out of Somalia, and they're pulling out quickly.
Ethiopia announced Friday that it will withdraw its forces from Somalia by the end of the year, leaving this country's weak and fractured government to face an increasingly powerful Islamic insurgency.

The UN and AU have token forces there, but not enough to do more than protect themselves. I wouldn't be surprised to see the government of Somalia fleeing the country.

What do you do?


Remember all the articles last Thanksgiving about all the empty seats at all the dinner tables because of the Iraq war?

Have you seen one this year?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Picture of the Day

(President-elect Barack Obama greets people at a food bank at St. Columbanus Catholic Church on the South Side of Chicago, Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2008. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais))

The Iraq SoFA passes the Iraqi Parliament

The Iraq SoFA passed the Iraqi parliament today, however, the part that interested me was this late inclusion.
The Shiite bloc agreed to a Sunni demand that the pact be put to a referendum by July 30.

Now, no Iraq election takes place on time, so I would expect this to push later, but at the same time, I would think that if those opposed to a US presence wanted to, the could easily generate enough resistance to get this pact turned down in referendum. If it is rejected, the US withdraws 1 year from the referendum date, so a mid-2010 date might be likely.

Later: One more thing. "Lawmakers voted with a show of hands, and an exact breakdown of the parliamentary vote was not immediately available."

That should tell you how politically volatile this is. Nobody wanted to go on the record for this vote.

Also as a worry,

The English version has not been made public, and US officials in Washington have said there may be a dispute between the two sides over the interpretation of certain parts of the agreement.


There are alot of groups beyond Al Qaeda who want to kill Americans. Immediately lumping the Mumbai attacks into Al Qaeda ignores the much longer India/Pakistan/Kashmir/Islamic minority history of violence.

Also, the terror attacks on India have been pretty severe over the last few years. How does that affect the India/Pakistan balance, and, in turn, the US's role and relationships across India/Pakistan/Afghanistan?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thought - They don't name the turkeys that don't get pardoned....

(President George W. Bush stands with the Hill family who raised "Pumpkin", the National Thanksgiving Turkey after Bush gave officially pardoned the bird in the Rose Garden. (AFP/Tim Sloan))

Political bits

(WSJ) Barack Obama will attend the National Governors' Association meeting next week. (It will also be the first time he has ever met Sarah Palin.)

(Time) Joe Klein eviscerates the lame duck Bush. (Read the last paragraph.)

(Time) An article on CAP (Center for American Progress) and the role it's playing in the new administration. (It's the only big money Dem think tank, and where transition chief Podesta came from.)

(Politico) Franken loses absentee ballot appeal. (12,000 rejected absentee ballots in question. Expected to go to court.)

(CNN) Obama Cabinet vetting historically fast.

FirstRead has a list of all the names floated for administration posts.

And, (Caucus) Obama's speechwriter is following to Washington. (And why wouldn't he, for a chance to write history....)

Picture of the Day

(President-elect Barack Obama speaks to a customer during a visit to Manny's Coffee Shop and Deli in Chicago, Friday, Nov. 21, 2008. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak))

The dynamics of the Obama administration - The fearsome machine

There are three main legs in an administration's foreign policy apparatus, State, Defense, and Intelligence. We now know that Clinton will be Sec State and Robert Gates will remain Sec Defense for the foreseeable future. (Neither the person in the DNI's chair, nor the role or influence of this new post is really clear yet.)

What I'm seeing is Clinton and Gates being balanced against each other with the fulcrum of the balance being the NSC chair ret. General James Jones. Neither Clinton or Gates would have accepted their assignments without at least veto power over that NSC spot, so he is acceptable to both.

Neither Clinton nor Gates have a past that puts them particularly close to Obama, (he didn't nominate an adviser to either role) so it'll be interesting to see how he plays them against each other. (Between the two of them, though, you're looking at a balance of the center left and center right (Scowcroft) wings of the the two foreign policy apparatuses.)

Now, to place Biden. It appears Biden will not be in the room for his direct expertise or be given a specific portfolio, but instead will play the role of consigliere. Biden's job will be to listen and advise the youngish, outsider President and to quietly carry messages to all corners of Washington and the world. (The role Cheney was supposed to play before Bush let him take over through the transition.)

This is possible because Biden will never be campaigning for 2016, so he doesn't "need" a high profile signature issue. That absence of ambition will also greatly smooth the White House's functioning.

Overall, Obama appears to be picking his administration for their effectiveness in moving the bureaucratic machinery more than any particular viewpoints or issues. He's putting legendary Washington warriors in key posts, like Rahm Emanuel or Daschle at HHS or Gaithner with all his NY fed board influence on Wall Street.

Obama is setting up an administration more about getting things done than about ideology. In theory, he will supply the ideology.

So, when you hear all those yammerers saying how do these all these "insiders" represent "change," just wait. Just watch.

He's putting in the pieces to change, to really change.

I've said it so many times. If he runs the country the way he ran his campaign, we have very little to worry about.

(The one weak link I see is Harry Reid. Pelosi has completely locked down the House, but Reid, although I like him, has had a lot more trouble wrangling the Senate.)

Volcker named to reassure markets

Paul Volcker has been named to lead a new economic panel, the President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board, whose brief is to "stabilize financial markets."

This one is all about perception, the legendary Republican Fed Chief Volcker and top CEOs having the ear of the new President.

Interesting that this is also where Obama campaign adviser Austin Goolsbee lands, carrying dual duties between this group and the White House Council of Economic Advisers.

(Because of Volcker's age, is this as involved as he wanted to be?)

Party in disarray

It's probably a sign of just how routed the Republicans are that, with the Obama transition naming so many former Clinton officials, Republican figures aren't shouting from the rooftops that our current economic troubles are somehow all Clinton's fault.

It's kinda sad, really.....

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Picture of the Day - 2

(Vice President-elect Joe Biden looks on as President-elect Barack Obama, left, speaks during a news conference in Chicago, Ill., Monday, Nov. 24, 2008. (AP/Charles Dharapak))

The Republican brand

The most profile serving Republican,
House Republican Leader John Boehner was among the immediate critics of Obama's plans, saying lawmakers "should start listening to the American people, who do not believe increasing government spending is the best way to put our economy back on track."

Instead, Boehner wants to eliminate the capital gains tax.

Afghanistan and Pakistan are shifting

I don't have a sense of the larger context of this, (I don't know whether to take this literally or as a pressure point,) but Hamid Karzai called for a fixed end date for foreign troops in Afghanistan.
President Hamid Karzai told a visiting U.N. Security Council delegation Tuesday that the international community should set a timeline to end the war in Afghanistan.....

"If there is no deadline, we have the right to find another solution for peace and security, which is negotiations," Karzai was quoted as saying in a statement from his office.

This is particularly noteworthy as it comes during the US transition with Obama talking about inserting more troops, and the US doing another muster for more NATO commitments.

One possible context is that he's trying to cut some sort of deal with/through the Pakistanis who are getting increasingly aggravated with the US attacks coming from inside Afghanistan.

For a bit of internal Pakistani politics, notice the Pakistani military saying they could shoot down the US drones if only the government would allow them. (The attacks are the civilians fault.)

On the other hand, that same Pakistani government is beholden to the US as the IMF just sanctioned another $7.6 billion loan.

I don't have a greaterl point to this post except for the observation that the political situation is shifting under our feet.

Another GOP tombstone

Freedoms Watch will be dead on Dec 31.

They've had trouble from last year, and their billionaire backer Adelson has had big financial problems, but I still can't help but remember the big dreams, Sept. 30, 2007....

Picture of the Day

(President George W. Bush is joined by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson while making a statement at the Treasury Department in Washington, DC.(AFP/Getty/Chip Somodevilla))

Paulson asks for the rest of the TARP money

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson may request the remaining $350 billion semi approved in the TARP program.

What's Paulson's credibility right now?


After watching the response to hurricane Ike two months ago at an unfortunately close distance, I gotta say, restructuring FEMA and bringing back James Witt is a great thing.

PS. All those poor people in Galveston (remember the pictures?) are getting nothing. FEMA's stalled out in the lame duck period, and, with the economy, nobody's donating to the rescue fund.

Slumping into the holiday

The news normally starts to drag heading into a holiday, but after all those reporters spent all that time on the election, this one seems particularly slow.

I'll be here throughout, posting what I see.

The change on K street

The NYTimes talks about the massive shift in the lobbying job market as Republicans suddenly find themselves surplus and junior Dem aides are suddenly gold.

Despite all the chattering by the talking heads, this would be a substantial change to how Washington works. Tom Delay's "K street project" was unprecedented in the way it manipulated and extorted from lobbying firms, and now a good portion of those hirees and actors are out on the street. (The think tanks and issue groups can't take them all.)

(This is especially vicious because there are suddenly so many more Republican legislators and lifelong aides getting tossed.)

But it's bigger than the last 8 years. There has been a Republican administration or Congress since 1980 for Republican lobbyists to target, with only one brief two year exception from 1992 to 1994, and now it looks very likely there will be neither for awhile.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Can't help but compare

So, was the point of the Bush press appearance this morning to make Barack Obama look good?

Speaking off the cuff on the Citibank bailout? Way too casual. He isn't even trying anymore.

The Bush fade out begins

....with the first round of pardons, all minor figures.

Later: A local story on one of the pardonees, Daniel Pue, illegally transporting chemicals (dumping.)

Picture of the Day - 2

(President-elect Barack Obama speaks as adviser David Axelrod listens during a news conference in Chicago, Monday, Nov. 24, 2008.(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak))


Where are these "liberal democrats," repeatedly referenced by the media, who are so upset at Obama?

Have you seen them?


With moderate Republicans disappearing in Congress, there are fewer and fewer Repubs for the Democrats to reach out to. In the Senate, maybe, Collins, Snowe, Specter, and to a lesser degree, Voinovich, and McCain.

Made me laugh

An SNL (web only) video message from Rahm Emanuel.

Today is an economics day, but I'm not an economics guy.

For all our interests, I'm not even going to try to do economics.

Picture of the Day

(President George W. Bush listens during the first meeting of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Lima, Peru, Saturday, Nov. 22, 2008. (AP Photo/Lawrence Jackson))

Choose your friends wisely.....

I'm all for democracy in Georgia, but, seriously, do we really want to tie ourselves too closely with Saakashvili?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Foreign bits - Just a little Sunday reading.

(AFP) Russia threatens to cut off gas to Ukraine: report.

An interesting NYTimes piece on the perceptions from Pakistan.

And, (WaPo) The Kurds in Iraq are arming up, buying weapons outside the government procurement process, making other Iraqis, and likely the Turks, a little nervous.

I must've taken some of the brown acid.

Every once in awhile, you run across something that is so bizarre, so contrary to your understanding of the world, that you figure something in your brain must have misfired....

(I assume it's from a "grass roots organization" (ie PR campaign) to set Palin up for 2012.)

Also: Mike Huckabee is "featured" (running) robocalls in Iowa, right now.

(They sure are fighting hard to lose in 2012.)

Scowcroft is the guy

An interesting WSJ piece outlining the Obama relationship with Brent Scowcroft and his many acolytes.

(If it matters, I'm partial to the Scowcroft/realist foreign policy.)

Picture of the Day

(In this Jan. 18, 2005 file photo, then-Senate Foreign Relations Committee member, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., listens during the committee's confirmation hearing for Secretary of State-designate Condoleezza Rice.(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert))

Political bits

(NYTimes) Behind the Waxman-Dingell defeat.

(CNN) A look at the unprecedented depth of the Obama camp's vetting. (First ever to ask about blog posts?)

(AP) Congressional Dems plan quick start on economic bills.

(CNN) The Secret Service tries to put out the word that they're on top of Inauguration security.

And, (Politico) 5 sad Democrats who had hoped for better posts in an Obama cabinet. (Kerry, Dean, Holbrooke, Richardson, Rice.)

Economic thought

How poorly does the Obama group think Bush is doing when they feel they have to step in from the sidelines to start outlining their economic policy just to stop the fall?

Of course, right now Bush appears to be more focused on the economic impacts on free trade than on the immediate crisis.
US President George W. Bush, bidding farewell to the international stage, on Saturday offered a sweeping defense of free trade, demanding the world resist protectionism during the financial turmoil.

(After giving up on the Colombia free trade deal, it appears Bush has settled on DOHA as his last goal.)

PS. APEC leaders "vowing" to stand pat on tariffs is empty. Everyone is frozen and waiting for Obama. (Maybe that's why Obama had to start talking now.)

And, politically interesting, Obama is now talking about leaving the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest in place until they expire in 2011, because of the economic problems. (Probably a good idea.)