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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, January 24, 2009


From the NRCC webpage.

Thanks to Republican economic policies, the U.S. economy is robust and job creation is strong.

Kashmir/India not in Holbrooke's brief.

I don't know why, but I find this interesting. India lobbied hard (and successfully) to have India and Kashmir excluded from new regional special representative Richard Holbrooke's brief.

A little more here.

If Juan Cole is worried.....

Juan Cole expresses concern that an Egyptian fundamentalist group is issuing a public concern about an Al Qaeda attack.


To most of America, it doesn't matter who the Junior Senator from New York is.

Picture of the Day - Just 4 days ago.....

(President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama walk away after former President George W. Bush depated the U.S. Capitol during the inauguration ceremony in Washington, January 20, 2009. (REUTERS/Mike Segar))

Friday, January 23, 2009


It is expected that the Obama administration will reopen the Statue of Liberty's crown which had been closed by the Bush administration since Sept 11.

Is Karzai on his way out?

Treat this the interpretation as rumor, but the meeting, especially without a direct Karzai representative, is interesting.
Four key figures believed to be challenging Mr Karzai have arrived in Washington for meetings with Obama administration officials this week. There is now talk of a "dream ticket" that would see the main challengers run together to unite the country's various ethnic groups and wrest control away from Mr Karzai.

, a first "Obama" missile strike in Pakistan.

Dream big, little boy.

(The first of many posts looking back on the Bush presidency.)

This morning, as Obama begins to unwind the Bush morass, I can't help but thinking of how broadly George Bush dreamed and of how much smaller he was than those dreams.

The unitary executive. Ignoring the Constitution. The invasion of Iraq as an example to "reshape" the middle east. The "Freedom Agenda." Abandoning the historic international structures. Refusing the ICC, Kyoto, etc. Those historically huge tax cuts. The "permanent Republican majority...."

This was a man who thought he was bigger than, better than, smarter than, and unique from all of the Presidents who have come before. As I sit here this morning, I can't help but think of how far, how expansively Bush thought of himself as a President and man.... and how far short of that he really was.


Hillary Clinton received a raucous ovation at the State Dept.

Cornyn's happy killing the retarded, but afraid of Al Qaeda.

Being from Texas, it's pretty funny to me to hear my Senator and other Republicans play "nimby" (not in my backyard) with the Guantanamo detainees, saying they don't want them imprisoned in their states. They're afraid.

In Texas, Republicans have taken great pride in executing kids, women, and the mentally retarded.... Yet when the opportunity arises to "sheriff" these really bad Al Qaeda guys, suddenly my state's shame (and former Texas AG,) Sen John Cornyn, is afraid?

Embryonic stem cells

The Obama FDA rapidly approves the first embryonic stem cell tests. This one is trying to help paraplegics walk again.

Underfunding veterans healthcare

(AP) "the Veterans Affairs Department is still lowballing budget estimates to Congress to keep its spending down.....

The GAO later determined the VA repeatedly miscalculated — if not deliberately misled taxpayers — with questionable methods used to justify Bush administration cuts to health care amid the burgeoning Iraq war."

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A shift on the middle east

It's not a huge shift, but the fact that an American President recognizes Palestinian civilian suffering is a political shift.

With the Guantanamo shutdown, the shift from "war stance" to "criminal" stance, and a "responsible military drawdown from Iraq," he is changing the foreign policy relationships with the Muslim nations.


Republicans upset as House panels move on stimulus

Republicans made clear they were unhappy that their ideas were not gaining any traction in the various committees considering the stimulus package....

Picture of the Day - 3

(President Barack Obama tours the Brady press briefing room at the White House, Thursday, Jan. 22, 2009, in Washington.(AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta))

Lost Republicans

They're still talking about trying to win over black voters.

Stray thought

How different would this moment be if Hillary Clinton had won the nomination?

(I think she'd have been a fine president, but the tone would be so, so different.)

Picture of the Day - 2

(Pictured are the Sweet Sasha, left, and Marvelous Malia dolls made by Ty Inc., the creators of the Beanie Babies. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast))

And, C'mon, do it right. Donate a chunk of profits to charity.
"The Oak Brook-based company chose the dolls' names because "they are beautiful names," not because of any resemblance to President Obama's daughters, said spokeswoman Tania Lundeen."

Shutting Guantanamo and CIA prisons is bigger than the image. It's about rewriting the model on terrorism.

Assuming they have a solid plan on how to deal with the detainees, this is a great step before the world.
President Obama is expected to sign executive orders Thursday directing the Central Intelligence Agency to shut what remains of its network of secret prisons and ordering the closing of the Guantánamo detention camp within a year, government officials said.

However, I also want to point out that this represents part of a fundamental shift in the frame of the battle against terrorism from a "war" model, back to a more "criminal" model.

The "war" model was essential as part of the executive power grab (and in "war politics",) but it also had the effect of creating and elevating the force of our enemies, setting up Al Qaeda as a great and mortal force of history, an ideology capable of threatening our own.

Within the "criminal" model, the executive power is diminished, but Al Qaeda is more accurately represented as a bunch of crooks and bandits corrupting world order, creating a broader "tent" on our side.

It is no longer a "clash of civilizations" or an ideological war against the Muslims. In the "criminal" model, there is more room for moderate Muslims and Muslim governments on our side. We are not, de facto, pitting the friendlier Arab governments against their people.

There's alot of work to do to repair the damage and the sense of "enemy," but even in the inaugural speech, Obama began to set a new tone. This, the closing of the symbols of war, is a first step along that path.

UNRWA head slideshow on the phosphorous in Gaza

There are a couple of slideshows at the Guardian on the use of white phosphorous bombs in Gaza. I thought they were interesting. (Two more in the right column.)

Also, (NYTimes) Outcry Erupts Over Reports That Israel Used Phosphorus Arms on Gazans

And, (TimesOnline) The Israelis are trying to shield the names of commanders to protect them from war crimes prosecutions.

NSA full blanket wiretapped journalists?

On Olbermann tonight, former NSA official Russell Tice claimed that the NSA was intentionally wiretapping/cataloging all communications from some US journalists. He's not fully clear on who or how many, but he does clearly state that the NSA was targeting and collecting on US journalists.

To some degree, Tice comes across as a little detached as he tries to outline his ties to the Obama folks (he wants to be important and they blew him off.) We need more on this. We need more.

(If you'll remember, two years ago, there was some question over whether ABC changed an interview transcript, helping cover up whether Christianne Amanpour was tapped.)

Quote of the Day

Norm Coleman still thinks he's going to win.
“I really do have a sense of confidence that this will work itself out the right away,” Coleman said....

“We have got a good shot at this and so I proceed with that in mind,” he said.

Later: Despite his words, Coleman "has taken a paid job as a consultant to the Republican Jewish Coalition."

Picture of the Day

(A WHCA member places the Presidential Seal on the podium before U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in the White House complex, January 21, 2009. (REUTERS/Larry Downing))

Iraq accuses the MEK of planning terror

The Iraqi government has accused the anti-Iran group MEK of planning attacks against Iraqi forces, a move that's seen as a prelude to Iraq's Iran friendly government throwing out the MEK.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Picture of the Day - 6

The State Department can't get a better photographer than that?

(US Department of State photograph shows Hillary Clinton being sworn in as the next US Secretary of State in her Senate office. (AFP/State Dept./Michael Gross))

Isn't there a state funeral somewhere?

On Monday, Jill Biden caused a stir saying that Joe was offered either VP or Sec State.

Today, at the staff swearing in, Biden made a remark about Chief Justice Roberts' memory.

Picture of the Day - 5

(White House distributed photo.)

Air and Simple Gifts

Posting simply because I really liked the piece.

The Republican candidate for President....

John McCain is back, screwing with his party leadership, and calling for an immediate voice vote on Hillary Clinton's confirmation.

Picture of the Day - 4

(Former president George W. Bush looks out over the US Capitol as his helicopter departs Washington, D.C. (White House/Eric Draper))

Can I do just one more.... for old times' sake?

"We never shruck."
--George W. Bush, to staffers at White House farewell party

-- one of those staffers

"Shirked. You might have shirked; I shrucked. I mean we took the deals head on."
--Bush's response

Picture of the Day - 3

(Along the inaugural parade route. (REUTERS/Jim Young))

Hope, Day 2

I'm a little adrift this morning. I can't seem to find much of substance to blog, as nothing has been rolled out yet.

((AP) Obama administration moves to suspend Gitmo trials, (Reuters) Obama administration orders halt to all new Bush regulations.)

So we wait and we watch. I have no doubt they will start making news today.

Also, (AP) Obama has a closed meeting with war commanders.

I'll wait for you while you're in jail, baby..... I'll wait for you....

FoxNews, loyal to the end.
Late Tuesday afternoon, Fox News was the only major national TV outlet that carried a live telecast of former President Bush's homecoming speech to cheering supporters in Midland, Texas.

Picture of the Day - 2

I don't know if you caught it last night, but the "first dance" at the Neighborhood ball with Beyonce singing, was a great moment.

(REUTERS/Mike Segar)


It was kinda weird to see A list celebrities and music stars anxious to associate themselves with a President again.

Picture of the Day

(Much bigger and better if you click it. (NYTimes/Doug Mills))

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Former President Bush.

Picture of the Day - 7

(President Barack Obama waves from his limousine during his motorcade from the U.S. Capitol to the White House in Washington, January 20, 2009. (REUTERS/Larry Downing))

Picture of the Day - 6

(President Barack Obama is sworn in as the 44th President of the United States during the inauguration ceremony in Washington, January 20, 2009. (REUTERS/Jason Reed))

Happy Inauguration Day.

I thought I'd be blogging more, but I've been too wrapped up in it to care.

Frankly, most of the blogging around the inauguration seems kinda small.

Enjoy your moments.

Picture of the Day - 5

(President Barack Obama is congratulated by daughter Sasha after taking the oath of office at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2009.(AP Photo/Susan Walsh))

Picture of the Day - 4

(Members of the Tuskegee Airmen, World War II fighter pilots, wait for inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States, January 20, 2009. (REUTERS/Rick Wilking))

Here's a fun imagination.....

Bush - following tradition - is leaving a note for Obama in the top drawer of his desk in the Oval Office.

Picture of the Day - 3

(Students from Morehouse College prepare to board a bus in Atlanta bound for Washington to watch the inauguration of Barack Obama, January 19, 2009. (Matthew Bigg/Reuters))

Picture of the Day - 2

(A group of visitors huddles together for warmth on the National Mall, where temperatures hovered around 20 degrees early Tuesday morning. (Eric Marrapodi/CNN))

The power of the man

(USAToday) "At least a million Americans answered Barack Obama's call to service Monday on a Martin Luther King Jr. Day like none before it....."

Picture of the Day

(Actor Denzel Washington is among the early arrivals for the inauguration, Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2009.(AP Photo/Elise Amendola))

Fatah tries to claim a piece of resistance

I find it very interesting that Al Aqsa, Fatah's armed wing, is now trying to claim "102 rockets and 35 mortars" against Israel during the Gaza conflict.

That really tells you where the Palestinian political mood is.

The new Afghan supply route signed

It looks like the proposed alternate supply route for Afghanistan will go through Russia.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Picture of the Day - 4

(President-elect Barack Obama greets Senator John McCain during bipartisan dinner in McCain's honour January 19 in Washington, DC. (AFP/Mandel Ngan))


Everybody not on FoxNews seems pretty excited about this new President.

People are trying to camp out on the Mall.

At one point during one of the broadcasts tonight, the crowd in the background started singing "Na-na-na-na, Na-na-na-na, Hey, hey hey, Goodbye."

It's truly astounding.

(Oh, and Dick Cheney will complete the Strangelove, appearing in a wheelchair tomorrow after "pulling a muscle in his back.")

Picture of the Day - 3

(Netertare Hairston, 8, shows support for President-elect Barack Obama before the start of the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Parade in Atlanta on Monday, Jan. 19, 2009. (AP Photo/Jenni Girtman))

Picture of the Day - 2

Birmingham, 1963.

Joe bein' Joe (loyal spouse edition.)

Ooohhh. This is not going to go down well in Clinton land.
The wife of Vice President-elect Joe Biden let it slip that her husband had a pick of two jobs in the Obama administration.

Jill Biden said President-elect Barack Obama gave Biden the choice of being secretary of state or vice president.

The vice president-elect tried to hush his wife as soon as the words came out of her mouth, with a loud "shhh!"

Picture of the Day

The Little Rock Nine who first integrated Arkansas' Little Rock Central High.

And there it is.....

The ultimate admission that the Israeli operation was nothing more than a "cynical war."
Israel to pull out of Gaza by Obama inauguration

Israeli motivations.....

The NYTimes takes a first stab at implying the Gaza operation accomplished little but suffering, but two secondary bits on Israel's motivations really caught my eye. First, my "crazy Israel" theory is written out.
The Israeli theory of what it tried to do here is summed up in a Hebrew phrase heard across Israel and throughout the military in the past weeks: “baal habayit hishtageya,” or “the boss has lost it.” It evokes the image of a madman who cannot be controlled.

“This phrase means that if our civilians are attacked by you, we are not going to respond in proportion but will use all means we have to cause you such damage that you will think twice in the future,” said Giora Eiland, a former national security adviser.

, if civilian suffering is intentional as a tactic, it is a war crime.
Therefore, Israeli officials say, an offensive that caused average people to suffer put pressure on Hamas in real and specific ways.

“Hamas is the dominant organization in Gaza,” a top military official said in a briefing last week that was given on condition of anonymity. “They are the regime and feel very connected to the people. They do not want to lose that connection to the people.”

History will judge.....

(Reuters) Editorials worldwide pillory Bush one final time.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


Is it weird that the Obama people are recalling Lincoln and Kennedy, both presidents who were assassinated in office?

Picture of the Day

No outbound moving vans on Inauguration Day.

Tell me the Bushes aren't ready to get the hell out of dodge. They've already sent all their belongings south.

(Maybe they just don't want the image.)

Israel pulls out.

Israel begins its withdrawal from Gaza (just in time for the inauguration.)

How cynical does this military action in the Bush lame duck look?

The Obama camp sends signals about the Israeli election?

Several deniability steps removed from Obama, but the expression is clear: Whoever wins the Feb 10 Israeli elections, the Obama administration wants them to build their coalition from the center out, away from the hawkish elements. The context being that the new Israeli government had better be ready to give up land for peace.

We'll have to wait to see if that is supported all the way through, but within the historic shape of the US-Israel relationship, that would be pretty big.

Proof of Life

Israel calls its unilateral ceasefire, claiming that its goals for the operation have been met.

Hamas fires rockets to belie that claim.

This was always how this would end. Despite their hopes and rhetoric, there is no way for Israel to "win" this conflict and dislodge Hamas from the Gaza strip through force. Like Hezbullah in 2006, Hamas can claim victory simply by surviving.

(Not to draw an ideological parallel, but, "the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof through the night, that our flag was still there....")

That's what these Hamas rockets are, not a violation of a ceasefire so much as a symbol that Hamas survives.

Later: After proving they could still shoot, Hamas announces its own week long ceasefire with the proviso that Israel use that time to withdraw its troops.

Later Still: Olmert floats that Israel doesn't want to stay in Gaza assuming they can get assurance the ceasefire will hold.