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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Picture of the Day - 2 - It's not just about "your" guy.


In 40 years, when history has a fair chance to judge, all will say this huge economic recession and the slow response to Katrina were the acts of a great president.

Picture of the Day

(Palestinians run to safety during an Israeli strike over a UN school in Beit Lahia, northern Gaza Strip on January 17. (AFP/Mohammed Abed))

The last (cynical) Bush war

As predicted, the Israelis just wanted to make use of Bush's lame duck.
Israel battered Gaza with new strikes on Saturday, as it was poised to unilaterally halt a 22-day-old war on Hamas that has killed nearly 1,200 Palestinians and left much of the enclave in ruins.

Their cabinet votes today on whether to call a ceasefire. All expectations are that they'll approve. However, they will continue occupation while negotiating with Hamas on the settlement.

(BBC "diary") They will "declare victory," hanging their hat on the political symbol of the US memo of understanding to "interdict" weapons smuggling.

Also: (NYTimes) "The agreement stipulates that the United States would work to interdict weapons with its NATO partners, expanding significantly the responsibility to keep Hamas disarmed."

Just one more cynical war in the Bush presidency. Another thousand "Arabs" killed, and a further US/NATO commitment to support Israel. Goodbye, Mr. Bush.

Later: (AP) Israel declares unilateral ceasefire (right as the Bush White House leaves.)

Friday, January 16, 2009

Picture of the Day - 2

(Pallets loaded with boxes of documents from President George W. Bush's years in the White House are unloaded by military personnel after arriving at Carswell Field in Fort Worth, Texas, January 15, 2009. Thousands of boxes are being sent to Texas for storage before the Bush Library is completed.(REUTERS/LM Otero))

Thought - Change it back.

With Bush going, can we change the name of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) back to the Government Accounting Office? (Republicans hick-ishly changed the name as a 2004 election year stunt.)

I know it's not the biggest thing, but the awkwardness of it has always rubbed me like a grain of sand.

Please, please, please......

Please, Republicans, pick this guy as your RNC chair.

Deep south, angry, so out of tone.

This is messed up.....

I understand this is a bit out of context, and that his point is that he could mobilize his people as a force for good, but it's still pretty messed up for Rick Warren to cite Hitler, Lenin, and Mao as models of how he wants to organize and motivate his followers.

To paraphrase Chris Matthews

This isn't "every child gets a trophy."

(MSNBC ripped Bush before the applause even died down.)

Timing the Israeli ceasefire.

Does Israel sign a ceasefire right before the inauguration? Will it end up looking like this happened right in that last Bush window? (And does Hamas allow that?)
Top Israeli diplomats headed for Egypt and the United States on Friday in what appeared to be a final push toward a cease-fire to end Israel's punishing Gaza offensive against Hamas militants.

Later: (AP) Israel says it's close to end of Gaza offensive

"Atoms for peace"/ US signs nuclear deal with UAE.

Even if you believe in this kind of deal, technology leakage to Iran, UAE's biggest trading partner, is pretty likely. Plus the proliferation pressure of giving Iran's Sunni rivals this equaling technology.

Is this really something you sign on the way out the door, leaving it, and the fallout, to the next administration?
The United States signed an agreement Thursday on civil nuclear cooperation with the United Arab Emirates -- the first such pact with a Middle Eastern country.....

U.S. officials said Washington is working on similar pacts with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Jordan.

("Atoms for Peace" is a reference to the Eisenhower program which led to the nuclear arsenals of Israel, India, and Pakistan. "Under the "Atoms for Peace" program thousands of scientists from around the world were educated in nuclear science and then dispatched home, where many later pursued secret weapons programs in their home country.")


(NYTimes) Across the border region, Israel has lowered a kind of electronic curtain to prevent remote-control bombs, disabling even remote car locks well into Israel.

Dana Milbank has a really weird award/comment exchange between Bush and Condi Rice yesterday.

(CNet) A small thing, but it looks like Net Neutrality is buried in the internet development section of the House version of the stimulus bill.

And, Quote: Roger Stone, the GOP operative who led the "Brooks Brothers riot" in Miami Dade during the 2000 recount,
"When I look at those double-page New York Times spreads of all the individual pictures of people who have been killed [in Iraq], I got to think, 'Maybe there wouldn't have been a war if I hadn't gone to Miami-Dade. Maybe there hadn't have been, in my view, an unjustified war if Bush hadn't become president.' It's very disturbing to me."

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Picture of the Day - 2

(Palestinians inspect the damage at a building following Israeli military operations in Gaza City, Wednesday, Jan.14, 2009. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa))

Stopping ships at sea?

In the past "interdiction" means seizing trucks and stopping ships at sea. How does this go down?
Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is on her way to Washington and could ink a sort of memorandum of understanding with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as soon as tomorrow.....

Under the agreement, according to an Israeli official who spoke only on the condition of anonymity because the text has not yet been made public, the US would organize like-minded countries to use methods like interdiction to prevent arms from reaching Gaza....

The official did not know if the incoming Obama administration had officially signed off on the proposed agreement, but said Israel is confident they will not back out of the deal once President-elect Obama takes office on Tuesday.

Hayden defends torture

Okay, he called them "interrogation techniques," but still....
"You can't say it didn't work. It worked," Hayden said in a wide-ranging farewell interview with reporters at the CIA's headquarters in Langley, Va.

Hayden said the legality of waterboarding and other enhanced interrogation techniques is an "uninteresting question to the CIA" right now because the agency has not engaged in the practices since March 2003.

(Once again, look at the method of dispersal. Hayden in his last breath as CIA chief invites reporters in to try and spin them.)

Later: (Reuters) He also claimed that Al Qaeda no longer feels safe along the Afghan/Pakistan border region.

Bush's final case

You can save yourself the 15 minutes tonight and read the pre-released excerpts of the Bush speech.

Short version: blah, blah, blah.... Not attacked since 9/11.... blah, blah, blah.

Best excerpt:
Like all who have held this office before me, I have experienced setbacks. There are things I would do differently if given the chance. Yet I have always acted with the best interests of our country in mind. I have followed my conscience and done what I thought was right. You may not agree with some tough decisions I have made. But I hope you can agree that I was willing to make the tough decisions.

In other words, "I screwed up but I meant well."

Hardly the epitaph of Truman or Lincoln.

A little bit of Bush White House backstage

Bob Woodward publishes an odd piece in the WaPo purporting to be advice for Obama, but the value is really all the little "backstage" revelations about the Bush presidency.

Bullet 1, the real division between Rumsfeld and then NSC chair Rice. Bullet 2, Cheney and his cadre were making jokes about Powell as they undercut him.... Later, Bush was both delusional and knowingly lying about the status of the Iraq war.

It's a pretty ugly picture behind the curtain.

Picture of the Day

(A worker at the United Nations headquarters in Gaza after the building was struck in an Israeli bombardment on Thursday. (Mohammed Saber/EPA))

Out of control.....

Israeli forces shelled the United Nations headquarters in the Gaza Strip on Thursday, setting fire to the compound filled with hundreds of refugees as U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon was in the area on a mission to end Israel's devastating offensive against the territory's Hamas rulers.

Shells also struck a hospital, five high-rise apartment buildings and a building housing media outlets in Gaza City, injuring several journalists.

Also, (CNN) "set part of a U.N. relief agency's central storehouse for humanitarian aid ablaze, its director said Thursday."

More, from the Guardian.
Separately, the AFP news agency quoted witnesses as saying that a wing of the Al-Quds hospital in south-west Gaza, where hundreds more people had taken shelter early today from advancing Israeli tanks, was on fire after being struck. It was not clear if there were any injuries.....

A UN warehouse containing tonnes of relief supplies was burning fiercely after the compound was hit by what a UN spokesman, Chris Gunness, said appeared to be three white phosphorous shells.

And it's not even working.....

Once again, "force makes change" fails.
But with each day, the authority, its leader, Mahmoud Abbas, and its leading party, Fatah, seem increasingly beleaguered and marginalized, even in the Palestinian cities of the West Bank, which they control.....

The more bombs in Gaza, the more Hamas’s support seems to be growing at the expense of the Palestinian Authority, already considered corrupt and distant from average Palestinians.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Picture of the Day - 2

(President-elect Barack Obama listens as Vice President-elect Joe Biden and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., not shown, talk about their recent trip to Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait and Pakistan, Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2009.(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert))

Inaugural emergency

Apparently, (still) President Bush has declared a "state of emergency" for the Obama inauguration to allow Washington DC to tap into federal money for its costs surrounding the inauguration.

The inauguration will be everywhere.....

The NYTimes has some of the media stuff
The inauguration coverage by the cable news channel MSNBC will be projected onto movie theater screens in 21 cities next Tuesday. The channel is also planning to announce a partnership with Starbucks to simulcast its coverage in 650 of the company’s stores.....

Some groups, including public school systems, have asked CNN for the right to show its coverage of the event, and the channel has approved those requests

(I've said it before, but that better be one hell of a speech.)

Lopsided Senate Committees

One of the lesser covered advantages of a 58-42 Senate split.
After weeks of negotiations with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Reid announced a lineup that assigns three more Democrats than Republicans to all committees except Appropriations and Armed Services, which will have four more Democrats.

""We tortured Qahtani."

Susan J. Crawford, the top Bush administration official in charge of deciding whether to bring Guantanamo Bay detainees to trial, has uttered the words no one else in the administration has ever said, "We tortured Qahtani."

Now, the detainee in question is a very bad dude with likely key information at the time, "a Saudi national who allegedly planned to participate in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks," but what strikes me as interesting is that her use of of the word torture in this case refers not to waterboarding, but to an apparent extreme use of what is considered the "second tier" of harsh interrogation tactics, "sleep deprivation, nudity and prolonged exposure to cold, leaving him in a "life-threatening condition."
"The techniques they used were all authorized, but the manner in which they applied them was overly aggressive and too persistent. . . . You think of torture, you think of some horrendous physical act done to an individual. This was not any one particular act; this was just a combination of things that had a medical impact on him, that hurt his health. It was abusive and uncalled for. And coercive. Clearly coercive. It was that medical impact that pushed me over the edge" to call it torture, she said.....

There can be no question this "torture statement" by Crawford was fully intentional and fully intended to end up on front pages. The more curious question is the why.

In part, it's ass covering/explanatory on her part so that when Qatani is not charged, she isn't blamed, but it's also coming right on the tail of reports that Obama will sign a first day executive order to shut down Guantanamo, and right before the transition.

It's a messy bit of personal politics played out on the front page. She comes out blameless, even something of an ethical hero, and still manages to push the past problems on the past administration and the new problems from her position onto the new administration. Any problems in prosecutions are now problems caused by others.

From a strict "politics of bureaucracy" perspective, you kind of have to admire that.

(PS. I didn't notice the first time through that it's a Bob Woodward byline, the classic reporter for rewriting bureaucratic histories. You grant him access, and he'll practice "discretion." Plus he gives every word you say credibility. She gets smarter by the minute.

I wonder if she has a patron who hooked her up with Woodward?)

Picture of the Day

This image will be the Blair legacy.

Is that regret on Blair's face?

(President George W. Bush presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to former British prime minister Tony Blair in the White House. (AFP/Saul Loeb))

Israel admits Hamas not likely destroyed

With Israeli officials now admitting that a destruction of Hamas is impossible, the Israelis have guaranteed that Hamas will come out a victor if they only survive the current attacks.

Like the 2006 situation with Hezbullah, Hamas will be seen in the Arab world as heroes if they just have a single man left to hoist the flag when the Israelis inevitably pull out.

Later: Israel is touting success that after all this, the rocket attacks have gone from 70 a day to 30 a day.


The State Department denies the details of the Olmert/Rice thing I wrote about in that long post yesterday, suggesting "the Israeli government might want to clarify or correct the record."

(JPost) 'PM stands by his version in diplo spat'

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Picture of the Day - 2

(President George W. Bush presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to former Australian Prime Minister John Howard, Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2009. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert))

Froomkin writes the retrospective

Normally, as the president gets on that helicopter for the last time, we get that rose hued retrospective. So far this time, I'm still not seeing it. (Third paragraph.)

Obama, Will, Brooks, and Kristol

In one of those stories sure to get the chattering class chattering, Obama attended a dinner party tonight at George Will's house. Also attending: David Brooks and William Kristol.

With President "stay at home/in bed by nine o'clock" for the last eight years, people have kind of forgotten about that Washington (informal connections) dinner party circuit, although this is an extreme.


Nancy Pelosi's first House Hub YouTube release is a "rickroll"?

Political bits

Dan Bartlett claims sole responsibility for the Mission Accomplished banner, trying to ease responsibility for one of Bush's admitted "mistakes." (Funny. Did Bartlett also swagger onto the carrier and enthusiastically recite the line "major combat operations are over"?)

(WaPo/CNN) All the experts are predicting more GOP Senate trouble in the 2010 election. (Let's remember that the 2008 and 2010 Senators were elected in GOP high years 2002, 2004. By 2012, it'll come back around to where the Dems have to defend.)

(WaPo/FirstRead) The Bush folks and Obama folks are holding a joint/crossover terrorism preparedness exercise today. (Good for everyone.)

(Politico) It really does say alot about the state of the GOP that moderate GOPer Tom Davis' reasonable prescription from the party isn't even in the conversation.

(ThePage) Bush again tries to make his "good presidency" case, this time at a cabinet farewell meeting.

And, Dear Virginia, you can't possibly be serious about Terry McAuliffe as your next governor. Don't you remember how easily and enthusiastically he lied just back in the Clinton campaign? McAuliffe would lie about the sky being blue if he thought it would help him.

Picture of the Day - 2

Ahhhh...... Another Presidential rite of passage.

(Pro-Gaza demonstrators burn posters of U.S. President-elect Barack Obama in Tehran January 13, 2009. (REUTERS/Stringer))

Olmert claims to overrule Condi Rice, confirms Arab suspicions

There's a story going around today told by Israeli PM Olmert, that, after Condi Rice proposed the UNSC ceasefire proposal, Olmert called George Bush, pulling Bush out in the middle of a speech to take the call, to then overrule Condi Rice and order a vote for abstention. (Olmert's version in the third paragraph here.)

Juan Cole (in a very long post that I don't fully agree with) aptly points out that the speech in question was not interrupted, so that claim is false, however, it does appear that Olmert's last minute call did get Bush to alter Condi Rice's planned course. Olmert didn't get the veto, but he did get a watering down abstention.

To me, the storyline that Olmert is broadcasting is a disaster as it reinforces the worst images across the Arab world about the US-Israel relationship.

Now, I'm not looking for broad anti-Israel rants or screeds here, so if that's your inclination, just skip it, because I don't enjoy that, and frankly, we really don't know the truth about all this.

The reason I'm posting this is the curiosity that I so frequently echo, the why did Olmert say this, very publicly, and why now? Within the foreign politics, this is huge (and Olmert knows that.)

Later: As Anon points out in comments, the White House denies the phone call.

As I said earlier, I don't know what's true here. It's the politics of the statement that's interesting.

Missing expectations

I thought this said something about the long Bush goodbye.
The White House had high expectations for yesterday's final, historic news conference. "ONE CORRESPONDENT PER ORGANIZATION," proclaimed the bulletin sent to reporters. "STANDING ROOM ONLY FOR NON-SEAT HOLDERS." But when the appointed hour of 9:15 a.m. arrived, the last two rows in the seven-row briefing room were empty, and a press aide told White House interns to fill those seats.

Picture of the Day - Victory Lap

Photos from George Bush's last press conference.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Thought - It's not working

George Bush's press conference today, and the broader legacy effort overall, don't really seem to be helping his case as the defenses just remind everyone of all the mistakes he's made along the way.

Specific case defenses, Katrina, Iraq decisions, economic issues, are just serving to produce counter arguments and recalling facts (which are not George Bush's friend.)

They may have done better to appeal to the "pink haze," emphasizing character and personality which the media seems to eat up.

(PS. We're a week from the inauguration and I still haven't seen any real Bush presidency "retrospectives" in the media.)

Also, He just won't go away, scheduling a primetime speech on Thursday.

Bush self loathes

I found this a weird moment in the press conference this morning. (Starts at 1:15.)

Political bits

(StarTribune) Norm Coleman is seeking to substantially reopen the recount.

(FoxNews) In an interview with Brit Hume, George Bush says he plans to write a book (a picture book?) trying to reframe his decisions.
I'm toying with the idea of maybe describing the toughest decisions I had to make as President, and the context in which I made them...

(Plus, he uses the phrase "get 'er done.")

Unusual, (WaPo) The House Republican Conference invites Obama to speak.

And, (Pool) Annie Liebovitz is seen entering Obama's hotel.

Picture of the Day - 2

(Military personnel act as stand-ins for President-elect Barack Obama and family on the West Front of the Capitol during a rehearsal for the Inauguration Ceremony in Washington, Sunday, Jan. 11, 2009. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds))

(NYTimes: "When he was announced as the president of the United States for the first time, Mr. Faux-Bama was given an ovation from clusters of people who looked on from the Capitol grounds and the mall.")

Worst President ever....

President Bush has presided over the weakest eight-year span for the U.S. economy in decades, according to an analysis of key data, and economists across the ideological spectrum increasingly view his two terms as a time of little progress on the nation's thorniest fiscal challenges.

Haaretz columnist: UN Gaza truce resolution was serious diplomatic malfunction

At the last minute, at 3:30 A.M., Prime Minister Ehud Olmert also intervened with a desperate phone call to President George W. Bush, requesting that the United States veto the resolution. Bush refused, simply instructing Rice to abstain from the vote.

One doesn't need to know all the details to realize that a late-night phone call between national leaders is the result of a major malfunction in the diplomatic handling of state matters, which reveals a problem in the relationship between Israel and the United States.

Picture of the Day

Do you see what I see? (Do you see what I see?)

A star, a star
Dancing in the night
With a tail as big as a kite

(An explosion is seen during an Israeli army operation in Gaza City, Sunday, Jan.11, 2009. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa))

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The election farce continues afresh

I've been avoiding the "Joe the Plumber in Israel story," but this is just jawdropping. Joe, acting as a reporter in a war, works his way around to say that reporters should be banned from covering wars.


Picture of the Day - 3

That's the helicopter that will give you freedom.....

(The helicopter which will transport President George W. Bush to Andrews Air Force Base, Md., after President-elect Barack Obama is sworn in as the 44th President of the United States takes off from the East Front of the Capitol during a rehearsal for the Inauguration Ceremony in Washington, Sunday, Jan. 11, 2009. (AP Photo/J. David Ake))

Are they going to "airlift" Bush out from the inauguration?


In the week of the ground invasion, wouldn't you have thought the Israelis would have posted big pictures of all the weapons caches they've found? Or rockets?

(I'm certainly not saying that there are no weapons and rockets there, they very certainly are. I just find it strange that the Israelis aren't publishing pictures of weapons as part of their PR effort..... Then again, they have plenty of domestic support for the action....)

Picture of the Day - 2

(Palestinian youths inspect the rubble of a mosque and Islamic school after it was destroyed in an Israeli missile strike in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, Sunday, Jan. 11, 2009. (AP Photo/Khaled Omar))

Picture of the Day

(President-elect Barack Obama walks down the steps of the Lincoln Memorial with his wife Michelle and their daughters, January 10, 2009. (REUTERS/Jim Young))

Sunday reading....

The AP has a first "just the facts" look at the Bush legacy (although there is some skewing in the language.)

ABC offers an article on Snuffleopogus' interview with Obama.
(Not going to close Gitmo in 100 days, not likely to prosecute CIA officers for torture/renditions, plans/costs on the economy.)

(Haaretz) Israeli defense officials float the idea of 20 more days in Gaza, and (Haaretz) a claim that Fatah may end up running the border crossings in Gaza. (Like that's gonna work.)

And, the Guardian has a prospective look at an Obama foreign policy, focusing on diplomacy with difficult regimes.

The difference in being a minority party...

Now, let me get this straight. When in power, during a boom, Republicans were more than happy to run up huge (record setting) deficits, almost doubling the national debt from $5.8 trillion to $10.7 trillion, by giving huge tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans, but now that there's a crisis, they've decided they're against deficit spending?

(A nice AP "analysis" piece.... with quotes.)