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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Just how lost are the Republicans?

They think electing a black RNC chair will win over black voters.

...because Ken Blackwell carries so much more weight among the African American community than Barack Obama or all the other black elected Dems.....

...because there are tons of black people just waiting for the opportunity, no, the excuse, to vote Republican....

(PS. Where's their Hispanic candidate? That's a group with which they might have a shot at making inroads.)

That is a party that is severely lost.

Picture of the Day - 2

(President-elect Barack Obama talks at Ben's Chili Bowl on a lunch stop with Washington Mayor Adrian Fenty, seated, in Washington, Saturday, Jan. 10, 2009. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert))

Tactics in Gaza

The NYTimes has an article on some of the tactics in the Gaza conflict, Hamas booby traps, and the Israelis blowing holes in walls to avoid the bombs.

Also a decent piece on the tunnels.

Israel asked for munitions for Iran attack....

The article emphasizes an uncertainty as to whether this was for a real attack on Iran or posturing to try to influence US policy.
President Bush deflected a secret request by Israel last year for specialized bunker-busting bombs it wanted for an attack on Iran’s main nuclear complex and told the Israelis that he had authorized new covert action intended to sabotage Iran’s suspected effort to develop nuclear weapons, according to senior American and foreign officials.

But, as always, I would encourage questions about the sourcing and timing. "Senior American and Foreign officials" sounds an awful lot like Bush White House and Israeli government, but what's the purpose in leaking/confirming this now?

Is it intended to further the "crazy Israel" belief that the Israelis are trying to indicate in the next post?

(There's also a whole lot more accomplished in the article, rumors for 15 months, supposed details on US deliberations, "experimental efforts" to "to undermine electrical systems, computer systems and other networks on which Iran relies," and "penetrating Iran’s computer networks."

Well worth a read, but remember, every bit of this has been leaked for purpose, part of which is to define in the public eye what they want to be perceived about US planning towards Iran, part of which is intended for Iranian consumption.

(Is "experimental efforts" to "to undermine electrical systems, computer systems and other networks" an attempt to slow down the Iranians and make them system check?))

Picture of the Day - 2

(Palestinians crowd to receive food aid at a United Nations food distribution center in Shati refugee camp in Gaza City, Saturday, Jan. 10, 2009. (AP/Hatem Moussa))

"Defying the international calls for a cease-fire...."

"The IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) will escalate the operation in the Gaza Strip," said the leaflets in Arabic dropped from planes. "The IDF is not working against the people of Gaza but against Hamas and the terrorists only. Stay safe by following our orders."

Picture of the Day

(Vice President Dick Cheney listens to a question during an interview with the Associated Press at the White House in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 8, 2009. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds))


Palestinian suffering, and the world outrage at that suffering, is Hamas' best weapon.

Related: (Guardian) UN levels war crimes warning at Israel.

$260,000 per job

It's not this simple as the stimulus money is intended for an across the board boost, but I'll bet we'll be hearing this alot over the next month.
The president-elect is proposing to spend about $775 billion to create or save 3 million new jobs. That amounts to $260,000 per job. "I hope Obama's jobs are really special," says an investment banker who ran the numbers.

No pressure....

Expectations are probably pretty high for that inauguration speech.

(I think the train tour will present an interesting build up.)

Republicans hate Franken

In its new right tilt, Politico has an interesting piece on how much Republicans hate Al Franken.

This was one of my concerns with his candidacy, that his celebrity would make him a hate figure used both nationally and around the country for fundraising and association. Franken has alot to prove and overcome so that he's not a weight on the party.

On the other hand, he's a Senator for at least 6 years, so eat it.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Picture of the Day - 2

Remember that pirated oil tanker?

They ended up parachuting $3 million onto the deck.

However, the sea was rough and only 2 of 8 apparently survived the getaway.

Thin money in the Bush "retirement."

President Bush has added the "Freedom Institute" to his presidential library because he needs a multiple decade think tank effort to try and create a belief that his foreign policy wasn't the disaster it's perceived to have been.

(ThinkProgress) Bush’s library foundation has only raised $3 million of the $300 million needed for completion.

And, who is going to pay this President for speeches?

I'm sure there will be a few big group spots (Federalist Society, AEI?) who will host Bush out of goodwill, and probably a rich Arab or two, or the Israelis, who might make a payment out of generosity or political horsetrading, but, really, who else is going to pay top dollar to be associated this President.

World Business leaders? The Europeans? Asia? Middle East?

Past Presidents have made good money on their post presidential speaking tours, but they were either popular (Clinton, Reagan,) or paid for their knowledge/opinion (Bush Sr.)

What does Bush Jr offer except a PR problem?

There's already been a decided lack of excitement from the publishing world over his memoir.

He'll certainly make money being ex-President Bush, but it's gonna look small compared to the rest.

Picture of the Day

Joe Biden arrives in Pakistan.


A sheriff in Alabama took advantage of a state law to pocket $212,000. His method, starving his prisoners and keeping most of the money for himself. In Alabama, that is perfectly legal.

And nobody notices the irony?

AP headline: "Cheney warns against impulsive action in Iraq."


Unbelievably, a Gaza ceasefire measure passed the UN Security Council, "The vote was 14-0, with the United States abstaining."
The United States abstained from the Security Council vote even though it helped hammer out the resolution's text along with Arab nations that have ties to Hamas and the Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied territories.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the U.S. "fully supports" the resolution but abstained "to see the outcomes of the Egyptian mediation" with Israel and Hamas, also aimed at achieving a cease-fire.

(AP) "Israel's government says it will press ahead with its offensive in the Gaza Strip despite a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for a cease-fire."

(If you read into this article, the Hamas leadership rejected the UN ceasefire, too.)

Another horror from Gaza

According to testimonies gathered by the UN, Israeli soldiers evacuated around 110 Palestinians to a single-storey house in Zeitoun, south-east Gaza. The evacuees were instructed to stay indoors for their own safety but 24 hours later the Israeli army shelled the house with rockets. Around half the Palestinians sheltering in the house were children, OCHA said.....

At least 30 people were killed...

And, the UN has suspended aid operations after the Israelis attacked an approved aid truck at a border crossing killing the driver.

(Including the UN school attack, this would mark at least three major incidents where the Israelis bombed supposedly "safe" targets, registered with the Israeli military.)

It's finally ending

Bush gives his last policy speech, (and no one notices.)

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Picture of the Day - 3

Is it out of control yet?

Obama features in the next Spider-man comic. (Here's another picture from inside. There's a fist bump.)

Nobody could have foreseen....

It's a favorite Bush defensive mantra. 9/11, Iraq intel, Katrina response, and now the economic collapse.....
Vice President Dick Cheney says that his boss, President George W. Bush, has no need to apologize to the American people for not doing more to head off the financial calamity, saying no one saw the crisis coming....

A good day for the Smithsonian

I hadn't thought about this, but with all those people arriving on the Mall early for the inauguration, the Smithsonian museums are probably going to do a cracking business.

Picture of the Day - 2

(Furniture ad in Illinois.)

Alternative Present.....

Maybe about now would be an interesting time to consider the alternative present. Imagine the fairly unlikely scenario that John McCain had won the presidency.

Imagine his cabinet announcements. Imagine his statements on the economy and the crises. Imagine the difference in the country's mood....

Picture of the Day

(President George W. Bush talks with his National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, right, as he leaves the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 8, 2009.(AP Photo/Ron Edmonds))

The Red Cross plays hardball.....

The Red Cross is usually very diplomatic, being very cautious in its criticism, but this criticism of Israel shows an unusual frustration.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said Thursday that it had found at least 15 bodies and several children -- emaciated but alive -- in a row of shattered houses in the Gaza Strip and accused the Israeli military of preventing ambulances from reaching the site for four days....

When rescue workers from the Red Cross and the Palestinian Red Crescent arrived at the site, they found 12 corpses lying on mattresses in one home, along with four young children lying next to their dead mothers, the Red Cross said. The children were too weak to stand and were rushed to a hospital, the agency said.

Pretty horrible.

Headlines that sound worse than they are.....

NYTimes: China Losing Taste for Debt From U.S.

The reality is much more complex than the headline. With so much uncertainty, there is not now any shortage of buyers for the security of Treasury notes.

And, AP: Attack on Israel from Lebanon threatens 2nd front

The rockets appear to have come from a Palestinian splinter group. Neither Hezbullah nor the Israelis want a conflict now.

One more: Gotta love this now classic construction from the AP.
The upcoming inauguration of Barack Obama is an attractive target for international and domestic terrorists, but U.S. intelligence officials have no information about specific threats.....

(Don't we have enough problems without the headline writers trying to scare the bejeezus out of me?)

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Confirmation hearings start tomorrow

Leading off, a good contact hitter, Tom Daschle.

(Early schedule here. Think they're trying to hide Eric Holder under Geithner's Treasury hearing next Thursday?)

Picture of the Day - 2

(Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nev. arrives for a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2009, to discuss the Democratic priorities for the 111th Congress.(AP Photo/Susan Walsh))

Larry Flynt

In some ways I admire porn mogul Larry Flynt, not so much for his product, but for the kinda in-your-face public stunts he's now famous for.

Today, Larry Flynt spearheaded a call for government bailout money for his industry.

It appears Harry Reid will be the weak link.

Pelosi looks strong, in control, and ready to go. The Obama White House looks loaded and "ready on day one."

But the early signs are that Harry Reid will be the weakest link and have the most trouble consistently corralling support and managing legislation. Part of that is Senate rules, part of that is the way the Senate works, but his leadership over the years cannot be described as strong handed.

(And this Burris thing just makes him look weaker.)

Picture of the Day

(President-elect Barack Obama's hands seen during a meeting with members of his transition team on January 6.(AFP/Mandel Ngan))

Egypt offers possible ceasefire

Haaretz is reporting that the Egyptians are organizing a Gaza ceasefire plan, backed by Sarkozy/EU, might be taken up.

(AP) Israel "conditionally" welcomes ceasefire proposal. (Note: "welcomes proposal," not "accepts proposal," but it's closer than we've been.)

(NYTimes) Israel halted aerial bombing for 3 hours to allow humanitarian aid. (Better hurry. 3 hours doesn't seem like much time to truck in food and water.)


Israel/Palestine and India/Pakistan/Kashmir were both "resolved" in post WWII 1947.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009


Bill Clinton is the only "living president" to leave office with a positive approval rating.

Road map......

Reliable sources at the UN say that the U.S. ambassador to the UN, Zalmay Khalilzad, has received explicit instructions from his superiors at the State Department to torpedo any initiative proposed by the Arab bloc which is designed to grant the Security Council the status of an official arbiter that will have direct involvement with disentangling the Gaza crisis.

This moved me.

This is from South Korean TV, but at about 50 seconds, the woman begins speaking English. She is trying to interpose herself between IDF troops firing rubber bullets and Palestinian protesters.

Pelosi consolidates

With relatively little notice, Nancy Pelosi is turning out to be a powerhouse Speaker of the House.

I don't give her nearly enough ink....

Picture of the Day

Joining the illustrious ranks

Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair will receive the highest civilian award in the US - the Presidential Medal of Freedom - next week.

In his last week in office, President Bush will award the medal to Mr Blair, former Australian PM John Howard and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe.

Say goodbye now, George Bush. Just go. Just go.

On how the GOP can appeal to young people

"We have to do it in the Facebook, with the Twittering, the different technology that young people are using today," Duncan ventured.

Oh my god, it's back.

Social conservatives and pro-life activists are mobilizing against President-elect Barack Obama's pick Monday for the No. 3 Justice Department job, a lawyer who aided the effort to remove Terry Schiavo's feeding tube during the landmark right-to-die case four years ago.

India says Pakistani government involved in Mumbai.

I don't know enough about Indian politics to put this in context, but this represents a substantial raising of language, especially coming from the Indian PM.
November's attack on Mumbai must have had support from some official agencies in Pakistan, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said.....

Mr Singh again criticised Pakistan's policies on tackling terrorism, saying it had "given sanctuary to terrorists and other forces who are antagonistic to India".

In the NYTimes, the allegation seems to be in terms of "elements (ISI/military) must have been involved" rather than hard proof. "Retired officers" seems to be the closest they come to hard links.
In a presentation to a number of foreign diplomats earlier in the day, Indian officials detailed the involvement of retired Pakistani military officials in training the gunmen who carried out the Mumbai attacks, according to two diplomats present.

Everybody knows the links are true, but no hard proof yet.

Monday, January 05, 2009

More Panetta reaction (Updated)

The LATimes adds Sen Rockefeller to the dissension list. The Cable has a collection of insider responses. Danger Room has some more.

Again, there must be some backstory that we're not getting. I don't know if it's reining in/cleaning up policies (torture, renditions, ops) or if it's controlling the way they distribute information, but there's some reason the Obama folks want a savvy loyalist manager/outsider in that post. And you gotta figure Obama's DNI, Dennis Blair had to have signed off on this.

It's interesting to contrast that motivation with the negative responses of long time intel insiders and Sens. Rockefeller and Feinstein, the outgoing and incoming Senate intel chairs.

On the other hand, I would see this appointment as a sign that the CIA may regain its prominence over military intel, the way the Bush administration ran things.

Later: Interesting. It looks like Feinstein and Rockefeller may have been intentionally cut out of the loop. That's a big deal considering Feinstein runs the confirmation hearing. And this is worth reading, too.

And more interesting here, although I don't agree with it all.

I'm tellin' ya. There's more story here than we know.

Also: Sorta related. A story from a US rendered detainee who was shuttled through Egypt and tortured before being brought to Guantanamo. Within the first few days many suspected he was a nobody, "a braggart," but he was sent through the torture system anyway.

Later Still: Perle, Feith and Ledeen approve of Panetta?

Update on the pictures below.

Just a quick update on those pictures from below. Apparently, they are white phosphorous shells, technically legal in some screening applications, but used as a weapon, they'd be illegal. The injuries from human contact are pretty severe.

If you remember, the US used white phosphorous in Fallujah. (and a follow up.)

Picture of the Day - 2

(The Obamas at the Hay-Adams as the children head to their first day of school. (Picture from the Obama Transition.))

Panetta to head CIA?

Leon Panetta, a "budget and organizational" guy with next to no intel experience, seems a very odd choice to head the CIA.

I'm guessing there must be some big operational appointment below him, to work in tandem, that we're yet to hear about.

But I'm also wondering if Panetta, the outsider and organizational guy, represents some kind of effort to "get control" of the CIA. What kind of message is in this appointment?

I'll comment further when we get a better picture.

Later: Dem Senate Intel Chair complains she wasn't consulted.
A sign of trouble ahead?

Marvin K Mooney, will you please go now?

Minnesota Supreme Court invalidates Norm Coleman's last real gasp. Coleman can keep suing, but it really looks like the outcome is decided. The Canvassing Board is expected to certify Franken as the winner.

(Cilizza has the legal options, but it's all uphill for Coleman.)

Picture of the Day - Weapons over Gaza

The bottom two pictures appear to be flares, but I don't know what the top two are.

Corrected: Per a link supplied by Lew, the top two pictures appear to be white phosphorous munitions.

Defining the process

I find it interesting that a large part of the Obama stimulus plan is reported to be $310 billion in tax cuts.

There's the big question of whether tax cuts will work as stimulus, but there's also the question of whether they're in there simply to get the House and Senate votes.

Also, we're getting a first look at an Obama legislative rollout. "Leak/define" the legislation on their terms, highlighting what elements they want on the front page. This is quickly followed by a meeting with Congressional leaders, giving opponents no time to redefine the program before it hits public discussion.

Then, (Politico) "Later in the week, probably Thursday, Obama plans to give a speech in the Washington area taking the case for his package directly to the public...."

Snapshots from Gaza

First, what I was talking about yesterday,
Israeli troops took over three six-floor buildings on the outskirts of Gaza City, taking up rooftop positions after locking residents in rooms and taking away their cell phones, a neighbor said, quoting a relative in one of the buildings before his phone was taken away.

Second, a vivid picture,
The streets of Gaza City, home to 400,000 people, were almost empty. Two children crossing a street near a Hamas security compound didn't look right and left for cars but gazed up at the sky, apparently looking for attack aircraft. The only vehicles on the road were fire engines, ambulances and press cars.

Alaska Troopers Union: Palin's election delayed Johnston drug case.

At this point, I can't say whether this is true or not, but, now that Sarah Palin is a national figure, allegations that political favors were done to delay the search warrants on Sherry Johnston's Oxycontin bust is certainly a story.

(PS. This likely took place below Palin, but it still smells bad.)

Also: Allegations of nepotism that Bristol's fiancee' (?) got an apprenticeship that requires a high school diploma when he doesn't have one.

Biden gets his first taste of VP

Joe Biden, who has been notably absent through the transition, will be the administration's presence at the funeral this morning of Claiborne Pell.

Sunday, January 04, 2009


Maybe we should be happy that the Israelis only attacked Gaza. There were people talking about/pushing for an attack on Iran in these last days of Bush.

Picture of the Day

(President Elect Barack Obama walks down the steps of an Air Force 757 at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland. (AFP/Tim Sloan))


A month ago, there was talk of Obama appointing special envoys focusing on India/Pakistan/Kashmir, and Israel/Palestine under the belief that if these tensions could be ameliorated, many of the other problems in these regions would diminish.

In just that one month since this started to be discussed, we've had both the Mumbai attacks and this Israel/Hamas conflict.


Obviously, someone in a briefing used the word "bisect." (AP) "Israeli forces bisect Gaza, surround biggest city." (NYTimes) "Israeli Troops Advance, Bisecting Gaza."

(And be prepared for the stories on tactics. The Israelis are taking over houses, removing civilians at gunpoint.)

(WaPo) Regional Arab governments are being stressed by the politics of Gaza, especially Egypt.

(AFP) France leads alarm over Gaza, splits with US

(Haaretz) The US kills the UN Security Council measures.

(NYTimes) A "news analysis" on Obama's likely honeymoon with Europe.

(AP) A female suicide bomber kills at least 35 in Baghdad, targeting a Shiite religious event.

Weird, stray thought

I finally figured out why The View host Elisabeth Hasselbeck was such a ridiculous and blind Sarah Palin supporter, even going so far as to campaign with Palin in the lead up to the election.

I didn't know Hasselbeck's history. She was a nobody, who got her start on the TV show Survivor (Australian Outback,) and then parlayed that fame into a niche TV show on the Style network. Just a year and a half after Survivor aired, she was married to an NFL quarterback. Then, just a year after that, she got onto The View to spout whatever opinions she had. In three years, she went from a "shoe designer" to an extremely wealthy, top level pundit.

It's a story of celebrity and ambition from nowhere. The reason Hasselbeck loved Palin is that, in some regards, she is Sarah Palin.


The population of Gaza is estimated at around 1.5 million, about the size of Phoenix, Philadelphia, or San Antonio.


Can I stop hearing about Obama going to the gym?