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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, December 06, 2008


I know most of the coverage of Gen. Erik Shinseki taking over the VA is being framed through his arguments with Rumsfeld, but I think it should also be noted that Shinseki was Army chief who pushed through the Stryker wheeled armored vehicle and the light/fast small unit battle model.

I think this is important because it says Shinseki is not afraid of a bureaucratic fight as he pushed through an incredible amount of resistance to make that happen.

If you want someone to clean up the VA......

Tip your hat to Harry Reid......

A NYTimes article on the Bush administration making a few long term board appointments on the way out, but, the really interesting bit is about halfway down.

Once again, Harry Reid has assigned a rotating responsibility among the Dem Senators for someone to stay around to "gavel a session to order" every so often to prevent the outgoing Bush from making recess appointments, a President's prerogative to bypass Senate approval on judgeships and other pretty important posts.

Also, There's a report that Harry Reid will keep VP Biden out of the Senate Dem Caucus functions. This wouldn't normally be of interest except that this was one of the ways that Dick Cheney exercised undue power to tip the balance more towards the executive branch.


I voted for Barack Obama so he should agree with me 100% of the time.

Picture of the Day

(President George W. Bush, center and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates walk across the field before the Army Navy football game at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Saturday, Dec. 6, 2008. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke))

Indian official claims ISI involved in Mumbai attacks.

Note that this is anonymously sourced and not on the record.
In New Delhi, a high-level source in the Indian government, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said India has "clear and incontrovertible proof" that an Islamist militant group based in Pakistan, Lashkar-i-Taiba, planned the attacks and that the group's leaders were trained and supported by Pakistan's powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency, or ISI.

We haven't seen anything in public yet to concretely establish that link, but this would be a big, big deal.

(And I don't know Indian politics well enough to judge whether this is credible or "Cheney-like.")

Later: Interesting that this finger pointing at Pakistan was placed right before two Indians were arrested related to the plot.

Who'd you go home with after the party.....

It's getting a little creepy.
The election is behind them but the three amigos – Senators John McCain, Joseph I. Lieberman and Lindsey Graham – are still jetting from place to place. Only now it is across South Asia.

Friday, December 05, 2008


CNN has an interesting map listing the auto related jobs by state.

(AP) It looks like the Auto bailout (loans) will be a stopgap $15 billion, half of what was requested, and will come out of the TARP money.

(NYTimes) Obama outlines stimulus plan. It's big and it's infrastructure.

(CBS) Recession Means Recruiting Boom For Army

Spiking the ball

(AP) Obama campaign mulls what to do with $30M surplus.

Picture of the Day - 3

A big carbombing in Peshawar, Pakistan targeting Shiites kills a least 20. (Ali Imam/Reuters)

Blurring history - Not "the decider" anymore

The great legacy effort underway, Bush tries to blur the Iraq war decision in a speech later today.
"In a world where terrorists armed with boxcutters had just killed nearly 3,000 people, America had to decide whether we could tolerate a sworn enemy that acted belligerently, that supported terror and that intelligence agencies around the world believed had weapons of mass destruction," Bush said....

"It was clear to me, to members of both political parties, and to many leaders around the world that after Sept. 11, this was a risk we could not afford to take,"....

"When Saddam's regime fell, we refused to take the easy option and install a friendly strongman in his place."

And, this rare admission, "For example, the fight in Iraq has been longer and more costly than expected," he said.

One president at a time (spinning the unemployment numbers)

Opposite political priorities in this morning's statements on the unemployment numbers. Bush wants to claim credit for a future rebound while Obama wants to refuse credit for the current situation.

George Bush: "A market that was frozen is thawing. There's still more work to do, but there are some encouraging signs."

Barack Obama: "...It's likely to get worse before it gets better...."

Thinking back....

With all the bailout/giveaways and the season, I find myself remembering a favorite old pol, Paul Tsongas, with his famous line, "I'm not Santa Claus."

(PS. If you'll remember, Al Franken played the parody on SNL.)

Picture of the Day - 2

First off, it's nice Bush is taking the whole "everyone going broke" thing so seriously....

Second, notice that Santa cued up George for a "fist bump."

Remember when that was terrorism?

(President George W. Bush makes a fist-bump greeting with a person dressed as Santa Claus during a lighting ceremony for the National Christmas Tree in Washington December 4, 2008. (REUTERS/Jason Reed))

$290,000 on Palin.

By my math, the cost of Sarah Palin's 8 weeks in the spotlight has now risen to $290,000, $180,000 for clothes and various accessories from the RNC and $110,000 for hair and makeup from the McCain campaign.

Department of short term

The AP is already reporting (complaining) that the financial company bailouts ("investments") by the federal gov't are losing money as the stock prices fall.

Picture of the Day

"We would like to thank you for your loans, very, very, very much."

(Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson shakes hands with Chinese President Hu Jintao before a meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing December 5, 2008. (REUTERS/Goh Chai Hin))

Thursday, December 04, 2008

For once, maybe a short historical memory might be a good thing.

I can't tell you how many times I've been astonished as the Bush administration or the media has rewritten the history of the last few years without anyone seeming to notice, but, thinking about it, maybe I've found a bright spot in our short historical memory.

Maybe, just maybe, our inability to remember what took place just days, weeks, or months ago might free up consumer spending just a little bit earlier than otherwise.

Because we want to spend, don't we.... if we could just get rid of those nasty intruding reminders of reality.....

(Not much going on today, so I'm throwing out random stuff.)


I feel sorry for Bush's new neighbors. Not because he'll be out there in the back "clearing brush" at 5:30 AM, but because they've spent their lives working to get into this very posh, quiet neighborhood, only to have this guy, all his secret service, etc, drop in to mess it up.


Blockbuster (in store video rental) was a huge, money-making business model for 20 years.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.....

The last time the big three automakers came to Congress, all the House members grandstanded complaining how the CEO's came on corporate jets.

So, this time, the CEO's all drove the 9 hour trip from Detroit to Washington.

I understand the optics, but doesn't it seem stupid that these guys, with their companies on the ropes, have to spend two full days driving to and from rather than spending that time trying to save their companies?

(GM CEO Richard Wagoner Jr. arrives for the hearings. (AFP/Getty Images/Win Mcnamee))


It's looking more and more real that Chris Matthews might challenge Arlen Specter for his Pennsylvania Senate seat, so I'm asking, "how do you feel about that?"

Rasmussen polls Specter 46-43.

On "legacy" (or screwing up lives so somebody will love you.)

The thing to remember about legacy is that it's not written by neutrals. Legacy is defined by those who still support a public figure long after the fight is over, when no one else cares enough to argue back.

So, little moves like this, especially right at the end, have a huge legacy impact.
The outgoing Bush administration is planning to announce a broad new "right of conscience" rule permitting medical facilities, doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other healthcare workers to refuse to participate in any procedure they find morally objectionable, including abortion and possibly even artificial insemination and birth control.

That's right. Bush is passing a rule saying pharmacists and healthcare workers can refuse to distribute birth control.

(Maybe Kevin Bacon can once again teach a town to dance.)


According to David Broder, keeping Gates and elevating Geithner is going to lead to another Bay of Pigs. (No, I'm not kidding.)


NATO foreign ministers on Wednesday affirmed their support for U.S. plans to install anti-missile defenses in Europe despite Russia's strong opposition.


To call Bill Richardson a "rival" of Barack Obama is a pretty ridiculous extension to maintain the "team of rivals" narrative.


Over the next two weeks, George Bush is giving multiple interviews to all three nightly newscasts and making lots of soft appearances to try and tout his record(?).
We're going to be seeing a lot more of this and there's an ongoing Bush legacy project that's been meeting in the White House, really, with senior advisers, Karl Rove, Karen Hughes has been involved, current senior Bush administration advisers and they are looking at how to sort of roll out the President's legacy.

It's good to know the priorities are in order.

Picture of the Day

(President George W. Bush participates in a roundtable on mentoring children of prisoners initiative on Tuesday, December 2, 2008, in Greensboro, N.C.(AP Photo/Evan Vucci))

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The Indians are gonna be pissed.....

UPDATE: This article has virtually disappeared from the NYTimes website. The article is still there, but there are no headline links to it anywhere I can find, and it has been replaced by a much more neutral article which only vaguely references the links that spectacularly headlined the piece last night. (So, I'm not the only one who questioned this article.)

Original post: While the official Bush administration figures try to tie the Mumbai attacks to Al Qaeda, we have our first real story alleging a closer link to the Pakistani military/ISI. (NYTimes)
A former Defense Department official said Wednesday that American intelligence agencies had determined that former officers from Pakistan’s Army and its powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency helped train the Mumbai attackers.

But the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that no specific links had been uncovered yet between the terrorists and the Pakistani government.

The one thing I would add is that we're in a very soft space where people are making allegations to advance their own foreign relations causes. It's clear that this source is leaking on behalf of somebody for purpose, but the who and why aren't really clear.

Later: I wasn't really clear. I'm not necessarily endorsing this as true or not. The nature of how this is coming out makes it appear as a leak for effect which means it might be wholly or partially true, or selectively or deceptively released.

Coming on the front page of the NYTimes, though, this incendiary leak is sure to set India alight and sour any chances of India/Pakistani rapprochement.

So, we come back to the who and why of the leak. Is the "former Defense Department official" a careerist acting as a conduit for honest intel agents, a Wolfowitz type trying to shape the India Pakistan outcome, someone trying to push out a Bush administration message to help Mullen in his trip to Pakistan?

The intended effect is clear. It's the intel and the motivation that are blurry.

Slushy asserted intel

Make note that both DNI Mike McConnell and Sec State Rice have tried to make soft assertions of possible Al Qaeda links in the Mumbai attacks.

And the data to back up those statements is where?

President Feelgood

One of the things I've noticed is that everyone who meets with Obama comes away saying such good things about him.

Certainly, with a new President, you wouldn't expect anyone to come out trashing him, but the praise is surprisingly strong, especially from hardline Republicans and people you would consider ideologically opposed.

Today's exhibits: Reactions from the NGA meeting, and the reactions by Robert Gates, Mullen, and Mitch McConnell.

Picture of the Day - The unprecedented power of hope

(Politico) He gave the kids a short talk about working hard, paying attention and learning their reading and math.

"There's nothing you can't do,” the president-elect told the students. “You guys might end up being the president some day."

(President-elect Barack Obama greets school children after making a surprise visit to St. Columbanus Catholic School on the South Side of Chicago, Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2008.(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais))

Presumptuous (or the best prepared transition in history.)

Remember all that talk about Obama being "presumptuous," and setting up the mechanisms for transition before the election? Remember how that was portrayed as a bad thing?

It's wasn't, and it's not. They are really prepping to hit the ground running to a depth and degree not seen before. (No drama, right?)

Paulson seeks the next $350 billion, lacks credibility

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting piece this morning saying that Sec Treasury Paulson may attempt to access the next $350 billion approved in the massive TARP program bailout.

What's interesting is that it's very possible that he'd be denied by Congress because their level of trust in him has fallen so low.

"Tainted" at the CIA

Both the NYTimes and WaPo have major articles on the Obama administration seeking out a new DNI and head of the CIA. Both articles speak about the personnel and policy challenges brought about by the Bush administration's most egregious programs, rendition, torture, wiretapping......

BUT, what intrigues me is not that the two articles are so similar or appear on the same day, but that they both contain a form of the word "tainted."

NYTimes: "a message that “if you worked in the C.I.A. during the war on terror, you are now tainted,” and had created anxiety in the ranks of the agency’s clandestine service."

WaPo: "finding experienced leaders who understand the challenges facing the various U.S. intelligence agencies -- but who are untainted by the controversies and problems that have plagued the intelligence apparatus during the Bush era. "

That's not a word that comes out of nowhere, here. That word is being used with commonality somewhere, either in the Obama transition or, more likely, within and around the intelligence community.

I just find it interesting.

Political bits

(CNN) Schneider: Martinez decision signifies problems for GOP

(Politico) Jeb Bush admits he wants that Senate seat.

(CNN) Obama is eating up his intelligence briefings.

And, (WashTimes) Karl Rove has been reduced to arguing that Bush is not the worst President ever.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Take that!

Republicans are ecstatic that they managed to hold onto an incumbent Senate seat in Georgia.

If that doesn't tell you where we are......

Picture of the Day - 3

(President-elect Barack Obama waits to get on his plane at the Philadelphia airport in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania December 2, 2008. (REUTERS/Jeff Haynes))


So far, FoxNews hasn't gotten a single question in Obama's 5 press conferences.

Another press conference scheduled tomorrow.

Senate races

I may be wrong, but I don't see a way that Saxby Chambliss loses in Georgia today. (Here's to hoping I'm wrong.)

And, They're going to need a recount of the recount in Minnesota. (TPM) A couple hundred Franken leaning ballots just showed up. There's a possible preparation to count those rejected absentee ballots, and they haven't even gotten to the challenged ballots yet.

The challenge of Robert Gates staying

While Robert Gates appears widely accepted for a continuation as Defense Secretary into the Obama administration, one of the floating questions is what to do with the Bush appointees and aides below him.

The WaPo says they're leaving. I wonder how that will play out.

Picture of the Day - 2

Somehow, I think when she imagined this moment, the signage wasn't in the Obama font.

(Secretary of State-designate Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks during a news conference with President-elect Barack Obama, not pictured, in Chicago, Monday, Dec. 1, 2008. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak))

India demands

India demands that Pakistan "hand over fugitives," but....
A list of about 20 names was handed over to the Pakistani envoy in the diplomatic protest....

...The fugitives are not believed to be linked directly to the latest attacks in Mumbai, and the request for their handover — made by India before — may be a sign that it is trying to take advantage of the atmosphere since the attacks to gain new concessions.

The Pakistanis respond with a call for a "joint investigation" and seem hesitant to turn over the figures named by the Indians without more proof.

Nobody could have foreseen.......

This NYTimes' list of the "challenges" of Afghanistan could have been written about the Russians two decades ago.
After seven years of war, Afghanistan presents a unique set of problems: a rural-based insurgency, an enemy sanctuary in neighboring Pakistan, the chronic weakness of the Afghan government, a thriving narcotics trade, poorly developed infrastructure, and forbidding terrain.

Commission reports greater WMD likelihood

There's a screaming headline running around, (WaPo) "Nuclear or Biological Attack Called Likely," or (Reuters) "Chances of WMD attack in big city greater: report," but if you read into the articles, there's, you know, no actual evidence.

There's no evidence that any terror group anywhere is closer to obtaining or using WMD. There's no real explanation of where such WMD might be sourced other than to cite "concerns" about Russia and Pakistan.

While we should take such a threat seriously and support the recommendations for stronger efforts against the spread of WMD, this is a classic "commission" report, saying that such a thing is more likely simply because they think it's more likely.

(And, you gotta love the cross party concession calling on a tougher stance on N. Korea and Iran, necessary to get the Republicans on the panel to sign the finished document.)

There should be a rule. You can't scream WMD on the front pages unless you have hard evidence.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Picture of the Day - 3

I have no idea.

(President George W. Bush participates in the Saddleback Civil Forum on Global Health at the Newseum on Monday, December 1, 2008, in Washington.(AP Photo/Evan Vucci))

Quote - George Bush in the Charlie Gibson interview.

“When you have the secretary of the Treasury and the chairman of the Fed say, if we don’t act boldly, we could be in a depression greater than the Great Depression, that’s an ‘uh-oh’ moment.”

Because that's what's important......

Bush has given up on fixing real things....
President George W. Bush says history will judge him, but he is getting his own crack first. Bush is using his final 50 days in office to tout his legacy, hoping to leave a lasting impression of overshadowed progress.

If you read down the article, this is a carefully planned schedule of appearances and speeches (and likely interviews.)

PS. I'm still watching to see how much vaseline the media puts on the lens when they "look back" at the Bush Presidency.

The Indians portray themselves as laying down the law

Understand, of course, that this is the characterization that the Indians want out there ("leaked" for their own reasons,) and the real meeting may have been somewhat different in tone, but the description they want out there is pretty stiff and emasculating to the Pakistanis.
In a new sign of rising tensions between two nuclear-armed neighbors, Indian officials summoned Pakistan’s ambassador on Monday evening and told him that Pakistanis were responsible for the terrorist attacks here last week and that they must be punished.

....officials of India’s Foreign Ministry also suggested that the planners of the attacks were still at large in Pakistan, and that they expected “strong action would be taken” by Pakistan against those responsible for the violence, according to a statement released by the ministry.


Sarah Palin is positioning herself to handily win the 2012 Republican primary, then get smashed in the general.

(Photo from the RNC convention. (REUTERS/Damir Sagolj))


On the foreign policy team announcement today, a President McCain might well have announced Bob Gates to stay as Sec Def, and Gen. James Jones, likely in some lesser capacity.

Picture of the Day - This rocks.

(U.S. Ambassador to Germany William R. Timken and his wife Sue serve turkey on Thanksgiving to homeless people in a city mission in Berlin November 27, 2008. (REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke))

Bin Laden determined to attack US.

In one of those AP "impact" pieces, the case is made that the financial and housing collapse falls squarely on the Bush administration as it ignored warnings of the impending disaster.

As with all the "impact" pieces, it's a little soft, Congress has a bit of an oversight gap here, too, but through all this, I keep thinking back to George Bush repeatedly citing "historic" levels of home ownership as evidence of his economic success.

Like they're listening to Bush

Just one more little example of George Bush on foreign policy.
U.S. President George Bush believes that Israel is offering Syria the Golan Heights without getting anything in exchange, according to sources briefed on his White House meeting with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert last week.

After Olmert updated Bush on Israel's indirect talks with Syrian President Bashar Assad, the U.S. president demanded, "Why do you want to give Assad the Golan for nothing?" the sources said.

(Because the Israelis don't care about their security....)


Would the Mumbai attacks be covered as significantly if they hadn't happened over a holiday weekend when there was so little US news to report?

Have we reached a point where terrorists need to choreograph their attacks as media stories to enhance their effectiveness? (Hostages make better TV coverage than bombings.)

Now that it's becoming clearer that the attackers were Lashkar-i Tayiba, Kashmiri fighters who trained in Kashmir, does that give the Indians a clearer military target to go after?

And, how much do the politically weak governments in India and Pakistan factor into the likely outcomes?

A more efficient weapon

The NYTimes uses today's Obama's cabinet appointments a way into describing a "sweeping shift of priorities" in foreign policy.

Frankly, it's pretty vague, sounding like more diplomacy and targeted foreign social spending, so we'll have to wait to see.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Picture of the Day

(White House Chief of Staff-designate Rahm Emanuel listens as President-elect Barack Obama, not pictured, speaks during a news conference in Chicago, Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2008. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak))

Quote - On toy advertising to children.

"I had one parent who said she'd prostitute herself to get what her child wants," Almodovar said. "It's heartbreaking. They feel inadequate as parents."

Same article
Gottlieb (an advertising consultant to the toy industry) also contends that it's good for children to encounter toy ads — even in cases where products later turn out to be disappointments.

"It teaches, for very low stakes, how to navigate in our consumer culture," he said.

"They are going to have to spend the rest of their lives listening to every kind of marketing approach, and childhood is where they will learn to cope with it."

Torture begets enemies

A WaPo editorial by former US interrogator in Iraq Matthew Alexander on his efforts to turn away from "the dark side" practices of interrogation. (It was his group, and traditional practices that that located Zarqawi.)
I learned in Iraq that the No. 1 reason foreign fighters flocked there to fight were the abuses carried out at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Our policy of torture was directly and swiftly recruiting fighters for al-Qaeda in Iraq. The large majority of suicide bombings in Iraq are still carried out by these foreigners. They are also involved in most of the attacks on U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq. It's no exaggeration to say that at least half of our losses and casualties in that country have come at the hands of foreigners who joined the fray because of our program of detainee abuse.