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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Picture of the Day - 2 - Clinton in China

This is where it matters to have a "heavyweight" as Sec State. They're not going to start out trying to push her around the way they would many other choices.

(Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrives for a meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing February 21, 2009. (REUTERS/Oliver Weiken))

(PS. You gotta love Clinton's "diplomatic" smile.)

Attacks on Pakistan

The NYTimes has an article on US missile strikes in Pakistan since Obama became president, although I would say it's too early to employ the characterization that Obama is "widening" the program."

Mainly, the strikes appear to target Baitullah Mehsud's Taleban operation which poses more menace in Pakistan than Afghanistan. Is the US "helping Pakistan" here? (With or without their consent?)
According to one senior Pakistani official, Pakistan’s intelligence service on two occasions in recent months gave the United States detailed intelligence about Mr. Mehsud’s whereabouts, but said the United States had not acted on the information.

Attacking Mehsud's organization would also likely keep the Pakistanis from cutting deals with him, although it might also help their recruitment cause, depending on the end results of the attacks.

Is the US now fighting the Pakistanis war for them?

Is "winning" the Pakistani war prerequisite for "winning" in Afghanistan?

(I think the Times' does a disservice by not offering a fuller history of Mehsud, the man blamed as Bhutto's killer. In a hurry, sorry, I can't either. Here's a small linked history from the Times.)

Give your soul to Jesus, because your portfolio is gone.

The WaPo has a scary front of the business page piece Bear Market's Bite Could Go Deeper: Dow at 6-Year Low, but Analysts Say More Pain Lies Ahead, and George Soros "sees no bottom for world financial "collapse.""

Political bits

(Politico) According to the Republicans' new best friend, Politico, Jindal is going to refuse some Stim money, unemployment of all things, because he claims that will lead to greater unemployment taxes 5 years from now.

(Politico) The RNC gave Norm Coleman $250,000.

(Reuters) NY Gov Patterson is still dealing with Caroline Kennedy politics.

And, (CNN) Chandra Levy has been solved? (Maybe the WaPo wasn't crazy for running that giant series.)

Now there's a headline.....

Reuters: Obama tells Treasury to begin cutting taxes

Picture of the Day

(The President is applauded by House Democrats as he is introduced to speak at the House Democrats Issues Conference in Williamsburg, Va. (Photo: White House photo 2/5/09 by Pete Souza))

Friday, February 20, 2009

Roland Burris loses chief of staff

Read this. The guy sent by Harry Reid to help Roland Burris become a real Senator resigned (presumably after checking with Reid.)

I haven't been watching too closely, but this tells me it's over.

New northern Afghan supply route

The US secures the Tajikistan and Uzbekistan overland route, however it's "non-military" only which I assume to mean everything but munitions and systems.

The heavy stuff, presumably, will have to fly straight into Afghanistan. (With no staging area, so possibly large fields of waiting to be deployed equipment around Kabul?)

The rejuvenation of the Clinton era black helicopter crowd. Now they've got a network.

FoxNews on the Stimulus.
"A search of transcripts available on Lexis-Nexis -- a limited sample, unfortunately -- for Fox's programming from Tuesday shows that in the span of just six hours, the network managed to squeeze in five segments devoted to a discussion of impending socialism; the words 'socialism,' 'socialist' and 'social democracy' were used a total of 37 times.

Richard Perle denies......

Richard Perle yesterday on the 1996 paper "A Clean Break...."
"My name was on it because I signed up for the study group," Perle explained. "I didn't approve it. I didn't read it."

Or maybe this,
Yesterday, however, Perle said Bush's foreign policy had "no philosophical underpinnings and certainly nothing like the demonic influence of neoconservatives that is alleged." He also took issue with the common view that neocons favored using American might to spread democratic values. "There's no documentation!" he argued. "I can't find a single example of a neoconservative supposed to have influence over the Bush administration arguing that we should impose democracy by force."

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Think they're glad to see the back of Bush/Cheney?

Seems like every department is getting a story like this.
As Panetta entered the lobby of the main headquarters building, where the agency seal is inlaid in the floor, hundreds of CIA employees greeted their new leader with shouts, applause, and even some whistles. Cheers again when he was about to take the oath of office. Again after he completed the oath. More cheers when Panetta offered personal reflections, including a mention that he and his wife, Sylvia, met “at a mixer” 50 years ago. And of course more raucous applause when the ceremony ended and Panetta worked the crowd.


Larry King has a blog.

Picture of the Day - 2

(This undated photo provided by kidthing, inc. shows Aaron Van Blerkom, 7, of Pasadena, Calif., holding up his letter to President Barack Obama.)


I can just see Michael Steele at the Blockbuster, renting old 90's movies, then scribbling down "urban" phrases and repeating them to the WashTimes so he can sound street.
Newly elected Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele plans an “off the hook” public relations offensive to attract younger voters...

“We need messengers to really capture that region - young, Hispanic, black, a cross section ... We want to convey that the modern-day GOP looks like the conservative party that stands on principles. But we want to apply them to urban-surburban hip-hop settings.”

Stray thought

I'm assuming the etymology of the term "bail out" traces to bailing water from a ship rather than the use "bailing out of jail".

Picture of the Day - 2

I think this photo op probably sounded better in the staffer's head.

(President Barack Obama and Vice President Joseph Biden look as solar panels on the Denver Museum of Nature and Science in Denver, Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2009. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert))


Check out the second paragraph, an admission that the whole effort is political crap designed to distort reality.
House Republicans are setting up "a stimulus-watch program" that will allow watchdog groups and private citizens to report findings as contractors and agencies start spending billions of dollars on roads, schools, renewable energy projects and other initiatives, said House GOP Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia....

Some GOP lawmakers and aides say that even relatively small examples of spending abuse will feed conservative talk shows and fuel criticism of the plan's implementation, just as a handful of dubious items in the bill helped House Republicans mock it and stay united against it.

Then, of course, there's all the coverage that GOP Governors are considering rejecting Stim money (which none of them are going to do.)

I guess all the Republicans have to do is express intent, and they get branding credit. Forget what they actually voted for the last eight years.

Israel tilts right

Avigdor Lieberman with this much power is not good.
Far-right politician Avigdor Lieberman endorsed Benjamin Netanyahu for Israeli prime minister on Thursday, all but guaranteeing that Netanyahu will be the country's next leader.

Kyrgyzstan is closed

Not really a surprise that Kyrgyzstan's MP's voted 78-1 to agree with their near-dictator, but the end result is that Kyrgyzstan's Manas air base is closed (in 180 days) as a US supply channel and staging area into Afghanistan. (BBC article, too.)

Picture of the Day

(Secretary of State Hillary Clinton waves as she passes through Petojo residential area during her visit to central Jakarta on February 19. Clinton has been cheered as she visited a slum in the Indonesian capital. (AFP/Beawiharta))

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

And I thought my Governor was an idiot.....

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal makes noises about not taking Stimulus money into his state. (If you read it closely, he leaves alot of wiggle room, though.)

It's all posturing, but, still.... If I'm in Louisiana seeing my governor talking about doing something bad for my state, but good for his national image and future aspirations, I would be apoplectic.

Because, after all, the entire Gulf Coast has been rebuilt, right?

(I have a hunch Jindal will "reconsider" after a news cycle or two.)

Later: My Governor doesn't even have Jindal's cajones, trying to play it both ways.
....said Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who considered rejecting some of the money but decided Wednesday to accept it.

Auto functions

One of the reasons the US automakers have such structural financial problems is that they are on the wrong side of the dependency ratio which is the number of workers vs. the amount of retirement commitments.

The actual cost for the workers actually making a car in a US plant is reasonably competitive with similar foreign manufacturer's US plants.

The difference is that US auto makers have a dependency overhang for all the ex-employees receiving pensions, healthcare, etc, whereas the majority of the foreign owned plants haven't been in operation long enough to have 20 year employees retiring. (And even if they did, their US business model, developed in a very different era (Reagan and beyond,) doesn't include the same level of retirement commitments.)

(This is why you see such huge gaps when different sides cite the "labor cost" of making a US vehicle. Are they counting the workers currently on the line or dividing the total HR payout by the total number of cars.)

The real horror is that as these firms continue to shrink their workforces, that dependency ratio, the number of active workers supporting the retirement commitments, gets increasingly worse.

And, no, I don't see an answer until many of those retirees pass away, and workers under the newer contracts pass into retirement.

(Maybe you could argue a single payer health system would allow Ford/GM to take their retiree health costs off their books.)

What has happened to Politico?

Apparently, Politico has made the editorial decision to just start printing whatever right wing paranoia that's handed to them.

Six journalists find jobs among the tens of thousands in the Obama administration and that's evidence of conspiracy worthy of top story? Your sources are Malkin, the National Review, and Weekly Standard?

Feinstein's slip

Dianne Feinstein's little slip, disclosing that the US is running drones from inside Pakistan, is bearing the articles we expected. The British Times tracks down some details on drones at Pakistan's Shamsi air base.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Picture of the Day - 3

(Photographers shoot the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Bill after President Barack Obama signed it February 17. (REUTERS/Larry Downing))

Quote - Republicans root for failure

Mr. Steele said that he foresaw a “slight bump” in the economy because of the enormous amount of money to be spent, but that he did not expect it to be lasting. He disputed Mr. Van Hollen’s argument that Republicans would be in political trouble if the economy improved.

“I’m telling the party leadership around the country, don’t believe the hype,” he said. “There will be a slight uptick, it will flat-line, and it will continue to go down.”

Not a good moment for Johnny Mac.

Big event, so lots of out of towners, but still, for a Senator of 22 years to be booed in his hometown....?
McCain, who’s held his seat in Arizona for 22 years, was greeted with a smattering of boos and hisses when introduced with wife, Cindy, during a break between the first and second quarter of the NBA All-Star game Sunday night.

Bristol Palin interviews

(MSNBC) "Though she says she doesn’t regret being a mom at 18, Sarah Palin’s daughter Bristol said she would campaign to prevent teen pregnancies."

(Paraphrase: "Teen pregnancy is the best thing that ever happened to her and she hopes to devote her life to preventing teen pregnancy.")

And, (US) She added that even though her mother is a staunch Right to Life advocate, "it was my choice to have the baby. It doesn't matter what my mom's views are on it. It was my decision."

(So her mother allows choice in her family but not for the country?)

Later: One more from CNN: “Everyone should be abstinent . . . but it’s not realistic at all,”

Picture of the Day - 3

Mitt Romney is selling two of his four homes.

This is the Romney "ski retreat" in Utah.

Geithner changed his mind.

An interesting WaPo piece saying that the reason Geithner's presentation last week was chaotic and detail thin was because they switched plans just days before the scheduled announcement.

Norm Coleman

After a key ruling went against him, Norm Coleman's lawyers send a letter asking the Minnesota Supreme Court to "reconsider."

Really? They hear the case, they rule, and then you ask them to "reconsider?" You expect that to work?

Stray thought

As new DHS head Napolitano complains that previous anti-terror exercises were "too expensive, too long in planning and “too removed from a real-world scenario,” I find myself wondering if crazy internal DHS exercises with "supervillain terrorists" and unrealistic 4G bioweapons acted as something of an internal propaganda.

I mean, if all the tests were designed past the worst case, and the results were repeated fails, would that lead to an irrational assessment and climate of fear among decision makers?

Pakistan's surrender

The NYTimes is the first place I've seen the Pakistan/Taleban agreement properly framed.
The government announced Monday that it would accept a system of Islamic law in the Swat valley and agreed to a truce, effectively conceding the area as a Taliban sanctuary and suspending a faltering effort by the army to crush the insurgents.

Allowing the Taleban free run, suspending the official governmental rule of law to be replaced by Taleban run Sharia courts...... The Pakistanis more or less surrendered Swat, at least temporarily.

Israel's "covert" war against Iranian nukes

I never know quite how to read articles like this one. I'm sure the Israelis are making efforts to sabotage the Iranian nuke program, but at the same time, periodic "leaks" of such a program, including certain carefully chosen details, can also be used slow the program whether the details are true or not.

If the Israelis "leak," the Iranians have to go back and check to see if the "leaks" are true, delaying the program at the cost of a news article to the Israelis .

I'm quite sure the Israelis are working against the Iranian nuke program, but whether this story and details are true.....?

Question - Too many social issues cut "the tent" too thin?

With the news that Bobby Jindal apparently signed a law last year allowing "supplemental textbooks” in the classroom to “help students critique and review scientific theories” I find myself wondering whether evolution/anti-evolution one of those questions that the right has taken on for their base that will now be hung around the necks of politicians for a decade?

Admittedly evolution isn't as discriminatory as many past GOP base placations, immigration, the "southern strategy," anti-union, anti-gay, anti-stem cell, but, at the same time, I keep remembering that debate where 3 of 10 GOP presidential candidates raised their hands as not believing in evolution. Remember the reaction?

(On the other hand, if you pick someone who is "right" on all these issues, think about what kind of crazy assed politician you end up with.)

Picture of the Day

(Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin greets her husband Todd at the finish line of the 2009 Tesoro Iron Dog on Saturday, Feb. 14, 2009, on the Chena River in downtown Fairbanks, Alaska. (AP Photo/Sam Harrel))

Monday, February 16, 2009

Three bits: Assemble them however you will.

1) (Hertzberg/NewYorker) "Fifty years ago, the civil-rights movement understood that nonviolence can be an effective weapon even if—or especially if—the other side refuses to follow suit. Obama has a similarly tough-minded understanding of the political uses of bipartisanship, which, even if it fails as a tactic for compromise, can succeed as a tonal strategy: once the other side makes itself appear intransigently, destructively partisan, the game is half won. Obama is learning to throw the ball harder. But it’s not Rovian hardball he’s playing. More like Gandhian hardball."

2) (Staff/CQPolitics) "But many of the right’s grass-roots activists say the current political landscape offers little for them to get excited about. The political party they call home, of course, is coming off back-to-back devastating electoral losses, of Congress in 2006 and of the White House last fall. Just as grave, the GOP has no leader who’s clearly capable of restoring the magical Reagan alliance of fiscal and social conservatives that fueled the party’s strength for the better part of three decades — a critical task, activists say, when liberal views on social and economic policy are gaining popular appeal and traction in Congress."

3) (ObamaInterview) "
But he did say that he thought the GOP party-line vote was a fait accompli long before it was taken. "Look," he said, "once a decision was made by the Republican leadership to have a party-line vote -- a decision that I think occurred before I met with them -- then I'm not sure that there was a whole host of things that we were going to do that was going to make a difference."

"Rape by instrumentality"

From a Harper's piece on a Guantanamo prison guard talking,
I participated in some Capitol Hill negotiations with White House representatives relating to legislation creating criminal law accountability for contractors. The Bush White House vehemently objected to provisions of the law dealing with rape by instrumentality. When House negotiators pressed to know why, they were met first with silence and then an embarrassed acknowledgement that a key part of the Bush program included invasion of the bodies of prisoners in a way that might be deemed rape by instrumentality under existing federal and state criminal statutes.

Chasing somebody.....

Another drone/missile attack in Pakistan, the second since Saturday, both apparently targeting Baitullah Mehsud's organization.

Settlement expansion

Israel has taken control of a large chunk of land near a prominent West Bank settlement, paving the way for the possible construction of 2,500 settlement homes, officials said Monday, in a new challenge to Mideast peacemaking.

Successive Israeli governments have broken promises to the United States to halt settlement expansion....


From an interesting WaPo article which seems to reflect the moderate Republican CW tilt that's running through the media.
"Now, look, I won't lie to you," Obama told a crowd in Fort Myers, Fla., last week. "If it turns out that a few years from now people don't feel like the economy's turned around, that we're still having problems, that folks are still unemployed, that our health-care system's not more efficient, then, you know, you guys won't applaud me the next time I come down here."

Picture of the Day

(President Barack Obama shakes hands after addressing employees at the Caterpillar plant in East Peoria, Ill., Thursday, Feb. 12, 2009.(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast))


I remember when it was just to celebrate George Washington.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Picture of the Day - 2


With Rahm Emanuel gone to the White House, who is carrying the weight of Dem Congress' backchannel communications? Emanuel was famous for talking to tons of reporters every day to push "background and interpretation."

Who's playing that role for the leadership now?

Picture of the Day

He looks sooo young and unsure.

Someone in the Obama organization needs to take Geithner aside and give him a crash course in presentation.

No matter how good the ideas or how capable the man, he needs a much better "sell" .....for all our sakes.

(U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, left, U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, center, and U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Treasury Mark Sobel, right, attend the Group of Seven (G7) Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors meeting, in Rome, Saturday, Feb. 14, 2009. (AP Photo/Pier Paolo Cito))


(AP) "Iraqi officials nullified election results in more than 30 polling stations due to fraud in last month's provincial balloting...."

(Reuters/AFP) Holbrooke has thrown Karzai a sop, allowing Afghanistan to "be involved" in the US interagency review of US policy on Pakistan/Afghanistan. (I assume this is just so Karzai can tell his people he has some influence with the US. It's the only value he can offer them anymore.)

(NYTimes) The US military will finally offer a "quick path to ciizenship" for legal aliens who serve in the armed forces. (Be very, very careful, you don't want people who don't want to be in the battle.....)

(IntlNews) Pakistani opposition parties make hay with Feinstein's slip that US drones are flown from Pakistan.

(Reuters) FBI admits most terror threats unfounded.

(WaPo) Geithner at the G7 finance ministers meeting.

And, (BBC) A well known British scientist says the IPCC temp rise projections are very low. (ie we're f***ed.)


Politico article, "7 stimulus lessons for the Dems,"
1. House Republicans are furniture


There's been a disconnect between the GOP driven Washington CW and the substantiated opinions of America. (TPM has a speculative post, and Politico posts a piece surprised that Americans still like Obama.)

So here's the question: If the CW becomes the GOP driven Washington CW is wrong, that people really do like Obama regardless of what reporters hear from their sources, does that create an inertia of its own?

Is the near term working assumption going to become pro-Obama against what they're hearing or will they simply snap back to the "Obama bad" CW and repeatedly express surprise that all of us rubes think more highly of him?