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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, March 07, 2009


Reading Obama's Saturday statement I got to thinking of the Simpsons.
Lisa: "Do you know that the Japanese use the same word for crisis that they do for opportunity?"

Homer: "Yes - crisitunity!"


(BBC) The Palestinian Abbas government PM, Salam Fayyad, steps down in an apparent concession ahead of powersharing talks with Hamas.

(NYTimes) The Supreme Court overturns the Bush administration claim that they could indefinitely detain legal residents.

(NYTimes) John McCain's being schizophrenic is a good thing. (This reads like a payback article. A friendly write for some favor McCain has done them. They do still owe him for Iseman.)

(Reuters) Karzai says he will remain President until the next delayed election in August even though his term expires in May. (BBC has more.)

And, (Reuters) The Bush appointed US cybersecurity chief quits in a huff. He doesn't like the NSA oversight and lack of funding. (Is it proper for him to quit on the pages of the WSJ?)

Picture of the Day

I'll bet somebody caught hell for this. (AFP/Fabrice Coffrini)

(PS. With the nuclear history between the US and Russia, I wounder if a big, red, alarming button was such a good idea anyway.)

Friday, March 06, 2009

Boehner, insane.

Because what we need tight now is to cut back spending....
The top Republican in the House is seizing on the latest spike in unemployment to call for a freeze on government spending and to urge President Barack Obama to veto a $410 billion spending bill.

Newt starts running for 2012

It's possible that he's just trying to gin up profile, but Gingrich floats the idea of running for Pres in 2012.

If he's going to do it, we'll see the groundwork this summer.

Trouble for Specter?

In 2010, Arlen Specter, the last so called moderate Republican outside Maine, could face some serious reelection trouble, if he gets a genuine primary challenge from the right.

This could be a Republican kind of replay of Lieberman/Lamont primary, except that there'd be no real "running as an independent" path for Specter in the General.

How would the GOP handle this? Establishment for Specter, outside figures propping up challenger? Does the GOP try to squash the primary challenge for the pro-choice Specter?

Just a stray thought on a slow morning.

Later: A strong rumor/trial balloon that Toomey is in.

The spindly Afghan supply route.

The WaPo has a nice piece on the new Afghan supply route from Russia to the north.

One of the more interesting elements I hadn't thought of is that the US will have to fly in some of the heavy equipment to avoid letting the Russians getting a look at the electronics.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Beware of BAD science

There's this study making the rounds claiming that Palin's attractiveness made people perceive her as less competent, BUT BEWARE.

If you read how the study was done, they asked undergrads, (potential voters, very likely Dem, very likely watching the election, very likely with preformed opinions,) whether they thought Palin was intelligent, competent, etc.

Don't believe this thing. It's headline grabbing garbage.

Images for today

(PS. These aren't too "picked out." This is the general tone of all the GOP pictures on the Yahoo wire dumps.)

Minority Status

It appears the Republicans have decided to be "outraged" at the Dems' successful Limbaugh tactic (a week after it started.)

Boehner gets a WaPo oped claiming he's not being listened to because of the Limbaugh thing, (No, it's because you're the (substantial) House Minority Leader and what you think has no impact on anything.)

My state's shame John Cornyn writes a letter echoing the "outrage," claiming that "President Obama owes the American people an explanation."

Drudge continues to carry his banner headline of a great Dem conspiracy on this, stretching the context of the article to create noise.

Seems like they've got a coordinated plan.... however, it seems predicated upon the belief that the American people are just chomping at the bit to hear the Republican positions.

They're having a little trouble getting used to their (super)minority status.

(...on the other hand, if anyone actually asks the Limbaugh question, Republicans are still at great pains... They're really hoping to flip this into a discussion of Dem tactics.)

(Also, I don't think Limbaugh as GOP is going away. Even if it subsides, I think there's been enough groundwork laid that it will recur.)

Republicans in winter

Ben Smith writes a piece on the Republican malaise.
Republicans this week are processing two sobering new polls that found the party’s support reduced to a slim one-quarter of Americans. In the absence of a popular elected leader, its most visible figure is a polarizing radio host. Its strategic powerhouse is a still-divisive former House speaker forced from power 15 years ago.

And its hopes of demonstrating swift and visible change by pushing people of color to the fore have been dented by the stumbles of the party’s two most prominent non-white leaders, national Chairman Michael Steele and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.

So perhaps it’s no surprise that many prominent Republicans are forecasting a long winter....

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Jerry Brown in 2010

I don't know why this is incredible to me, but Jerry Brown, yes that Jerry Brown, is an early polling leader for the Dem side of the 2010 California gubernatorial race.

This might just be name ID, but that's pretty amazing.

Michael Steele's secret plan to win Vietnam

So, Michael Steele's position is that his critics should shut up about him because he's doing everything in secret?

The GOP reality show right now is just good TV.

Picture of the Day

(Mullah Abdul Salaam Zaeef, a former Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, looks at his iPhone during an interview with Associated Press at his residence in Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2009. Zaeef spent almost four years in Guantanamo.)

The media loves this sh*t

(WaPo) Plouffe tries to spin the Limbaugh thing.

A WaPo front page catchall on Limbaugh and the GOP.

(Politico) Steele dissed on Morning Joe.

(YouTube) Letterman ripped them, trying to bait Katie Couric in.

And, (HuffPo) Limbaugh is just going crazy under the pressure, seeing grand conspiracies against him, and choosing which reporters are "butt boys" and which are not.

Everywhere you look, Republicans, centered around Limbaugh and Steele, are the subject of joke, and in politics, being this kind of joke is very, very bad.

From the grumblings and the leaks of past malfeasance, it looks like Steele may be the one who is going to take the fall.

Politico has another collection of GOP complaints about Steele.

(And tell me all of this hasn't offered a ton of political cover for the Obama folks. Anything the GOP is saying is being drowned out. Heard much about the budget?)

Ugly facts

(Reuters) "So-called "motivated sales," or foreclosed houses sold at auctions or by financial institutions, surged 177 percent last year while all other sales in the 25 metro areas tracked by Radar Logic fell by 17 percent....

Prices sank in all 25 metro areas, pushing the Radar Logic composite index down 22 percent for the year."

(Reuters) "One in five U.S. homeowners with mortgages owe more to their lenders than their homes are worth, and the rate will increase as housing prices drop in states that have so far avoided the worst of the crisis, a new study shows."

Quote - NYTimes analysis

Unlike the last two recessions — earlier this decade and in the early 1990s — this one is causing much more job loss among the less educated than among college graduates. Those earlier recessions introduced the country to the concept of mass white-collar layoffs. The brunt of the layoffs in this recession is falling on construction workers, hotel workers, retail workers and others without a four-year degree.

Unemployment rates

The NYTimes has this nice graphic depicting unemployment by county across the US. It would be a Picture of the Day but it's Flash.

Coleman drags on

The Coleman side of the Minn recount rested its case yesterday indirectly after saying the previous result should be "set aside" for a new election.

(What everyone seems to have forgotten in this is that there are investigations into Coleman for other things, a fake job for his wife.... that huge donor who was paying his utilities and buying him suits....)

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Do you need to apologize to Rush?

Sure, it's just a way to gather emails, but it's still funny that the DCCC puts up this automatedl Rush apology widget.

The Dems are feeling their oats, aren't they?

Picture of the Day - 3

(President Barack Obama huddles with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Tuesday, March 3, 2009, at the Interior Department in Washington. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert))

Steele should feel it coming.

Citing the next post on growing dissatisfaction with Michael Steele as GOP head, you have to wonder about stories like this one as they come to light.

And we gotta remember this isn't the only story of Steele directing campaign monies to folks who apparently have no experience and performed no work.

It's worth a quick read.

(I've been watching old episodes of The Wire, and I can't help thinking of the corrupt politician Clay Davis.... Sheeeeiiittt.)

Republican jitters about Steele

Washington Whispers is very insider Republican connected, and it is reporting that many in the GOP power structure are expressing concern about Steele's capability as party chair.


Trying to fix a leaky water heater. Maybe more later.

Nobody's going to jump on this quote?

What I said was not what I was thinking?
"I realized words that I said weren't what I was thinking. It was one of those things where I thinking I was saying one thing, and it came out differently."
-- Michael Steele, in a further clarification

Really? That flies?

Politics with the Census

A group of Dems has proposed that the Census be taken out of administration hands and set up as a non-political independent entity. However, this proposed legislation wouldn't make the change until 2012, after the next (Obama) census.

The Republicans have already shown a desire to scream about the Census because its count determines Congressional seats. I think this is an effort by the Dems to blunt that. (....but you didn't vote for legislation that would have....)

I'll bet there's a poison pill in this to keep Republicans from signing on. This just smells like political legislation.

I hate the game

A front page NYTimes story (and WaPo) says Obama sent "a secret" letter to Russian PM Medvedev offered to suspend the missile defense stations in Eastern Europe for Russia ending Iran's nuclear threat.

But as always, I'm as intrigued by the "leak."
The officials who described the contents of the message requested anonymity because it has not been made public. While they said it did not offer a direct quid pro quo, the letter was intended to give Moscow an incentive to join the United States in a common front against Iran.....

Moscow has not responded, but a Russian official said Monday that Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov would have something to say on missile defense to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton when they meet Friday in Geneva.

Or the WaPo version, with a less "exclusive" explanation.
....senior administration officials said last night.

This is garbage. The NYTimes and WaPo print this story as if it's some great scoop, but really, it's an Obama administration official using them for diplomacy, to force an answer out of the Russians by Friday.

It's collusion to propagate official message.

(PS. I think the Obama folks want to give up the missile defense stations anyway and are just trying to get as much as they can for them.)


So how long until someone on the right compares Obama's push for local clinics to Hugo Chavez?

(Heaven forbid people might get healthcare. As Kristol wrote in that famous 1993 memo about Clinton, Republicans must resist because such a thing might make people like Democrats. (Screw their cancer, this is politics.))

Monday, March 02, 2009

A little mention

Due to the many, understandable past problems, the federal budget process and legislation are not subject to filibuster in any normal sense, so you only need 51 votes to get it passed.

So, we'll hear alot of Republican yelling, but they really can't do much on their own.

The next step....

Okay, so now Rush Limbaugh's the "leader of the Republican party" as proved by all the apologies.

I think the next stage will be for the Dems to begin to use Limbaugh as a cudgel, a distractionary instrument, thrown at Republicans anytime they get too disagreeable with the Dem plans.

It will become an insult of its own forcing an awkward tight rope walk as Republicans try not to offend Limbaugh or his adherents and also try not to be cast too closely to him, alienating the moderates.

(I think the reason this is so effective and incendiary is because it cuts right to the heart of the Republican identity crisis or civil war which hasn't really resolved at all. And as yet, no Republican really seems to have the answer.)

It's not going to last forever, but in the interim (first hundred days?,) it's looking like it's going to be pretty effective.

Later: An example of sorts, Bobby Jindal goes on Larry King to try to rehab his own issues, but Limbaugh intrudes there, too (about halfway down,) forcing Jindal to thread some needles.

Picture of the Day - 3

(In this Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2009 file photo, conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh talks with former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, left, in the East Room of the White House in Washington.(AP/J. Scott Applewhite))

Rush Limbaugh does run the Republican Party.

In the alpha dog theory of politics, the man forced to eat it and apologize is the submissive male.

So, when Michael Steele, THE HEAD OF THE GOP, backs down and issues a groveling apology to Rush Limbaugh, we have just been shown who is the alpha dog on the Republican side of the fence.

Alright media, this is the kind of story you live for. Mince away.


Something of a must read on the Bush legal opinions released today regarding, wiretapping, torture, etc.

I would expect to hear more about these in the days ahead.

Later: NYTimes, WaPo, Reuters.

"The party of Limbaugh" does seem to be working

Republicans now have themselves all tied up in knots by the Dem tactic of elevating Limbaugh. Today, we have top GOP figures Cantor and Steele wasting their time on this nonsense issue, and, of course, Limbaugh won't be able to help himself from extending this story another day.

(And the press is just lapping this up.)

No GOP message is escaping but chaos and disunity, while the Obama folks have a clean run.

Tactically, it's really quite beautiful.

Later: Limbaugh responds to Steele. Excerpts here and here.

Farther to the right means farther alone.

Josh Marshall astutely notes that no longer do we hear the word "liberal" being spat as invective by the right, instead they've headed toward "socialist" or "socialism."

That would seem to indicate that the political ground has changed underneath their feet.

(Also, resorting to "socialist" seems something of the same overkill that it was in the campaign. You might create an environment where you can get talking heads to call certain Democrats "the liberal Congressman from...," but getting that reinforcing usage for "socialist" from legitimate media is going to be next to impossible.

It further isolates them in their rhetoric, makes them seem more out of touch, if they're the only ones shouting "Reds.")


The specs and blueprints for the new Marine One fleet of presidential helicopters shows up on an IP address in Iran. Apparently someone at the contractor's was using filesharing software which offered a toehold in.

So, think the contractor will face any kind of sanction?


"Don't get me wrong, slavery was a terrible, horrible thing. But you can't whine and cry about it these days. I mean, Jews were slaves, but they're not asking for compensation from Egypt."
-- Joe the Plumber

Pictue of the Day - 2

(Employees of the Environmental Protection Agency respond as First lady Michelle Obama greets them in Washington, February 26, 2009. (REUTERS/Larry Downing))

Euro zone

A kinda interesting NYTimes article on how the economic crisis is stressing the structure of the EU. We're a very long way from any long lasting structural changes, but, because of the scope of the EU as a project, how this is handled could be historic in nature.

Stray thought

Could the Texas Rangers or NY Yankees sue Alex Rodriguez for fraud? He negotiated contracts based upon statistics he cheated to get.

Stray thought

Why on earth did Congressional Republicans rechoose Boehner, McConnell and most of the rest of their 2006 leadership to stay on?

Picture of the Day - Editorial Decisions

Mr. Editor, how different a tone does your front page paint if you choose either of these pictures. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert & REUTERS/Molly Riley)

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Playing games with the Iran intelligence again.

I was caught very sharply by these top headlines on AP and Reuters.

AP: Mullen: Iran has fissile materials for bomb

Reuters: Iran "not close" to nuclear weapon: Gates

Now, both statements can be true, but the message discord should raise an eyebrow, especially when you read how the Mullen answer came about.
Mullen was asked if Iran now had enough fissile material to make a bomb. He responded, "We think they do, quite frankly. And Iran having a nuclear weapon I've believed for a long time is a very, very bad outcome for the region and for the world."....

Mullen seemed to restate that position in his remarks on CNN's "State of the Union." He was not asked to elaborate.

That seems a very specifically worded way to ask that question, even within the context of the IAEA report, so I gotta wonder if Mullen gave them some form of that wording in the pre-interview. (If you ask me this question in terms of "fissile material"....)

(Wouldn't you think he'd later "elaborate" on CNN to shorten the distance to his boss's position?)

Maybe my tinfoil hat is on too tight, but this smells to me like Mullen is tried to drag a policy argument out onto TV.

: A Time piece looking at the distance in the statements, saying Mullen "quickly corrected himself" through a spokesman. (Yeah, not quite as profile as the original statement.)

Emanuel extends Limbaugh as the GOP's face

Rahm Emanuel goes on CBS' Face the Nation and extends the "Limbaugh is the GOP" strategy.

As I've said before, I really like this tactic, and, frankly, it's the GOP's own fault as they have no better public face than Limbaugh's caricature of fat, rich, white, cigar chomping arrogance.

(Also, to what degree is attacking Limbaugh now a preemptive against what he did to the Clintons?)

The action/return grid for the party of "no"

Oversimplified analysis of Republican choices voting with Obama on things like the Stimulus bill.

If they vote yes and the plan works, they get some credit, but the majority of the political benefit goes to the Dems.

If they vote yes and the plan doesn't work, they gain only marginally because they supported the bad action.

If they vote no and the plan works, they pay the highest cost as they were against success.

If they no and the plan doesn't work, they see the highest relative political upside.

Just thinking out loud.

Picture of the Day

(House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio, looks on as President Barack Obama, left, greets lawmakers after the president opened the Fiscal Responsibility Summit, Monday, Feb. 23, 2009, in the East Room of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak))

As good a time as any

An assemblyman in California floated the idea of legalizing marijuana for the tax money.

Financially, it's probably not a bad time for that, especially if you look at the huge police, court, and jailing expenses.

Sebelius with less fanfare.

Making the Sebelius HHS appointment on a Saturday afternoon?

Maybe it started to leak so they thought they'd get ahead of it. Or maybe the rest of the week was so message full, they didn't have another time.

They'll formally announce (give her her day) on Monday.

Political bits - Crazy conservative edition

(Politico/CNN) Rush Limbaugh gave the closing speech at CPAC which was pretty much what you'd expect. (He can't help himself from being the headline making oppositional figurehead. The Obama folks chose well.)

(Politico/CNN) Mitt Romney won the CPAC straw poll with 20%. Jindal 14%. Ron Paul, Sarah Palin 13%. Gingrich 10%. Huckabee 7%. (Woulda thought Jindal/Palin would have done better.)

The WaPo has a nice catchall on CPAC. (It doesn't sound like they'll be emerging from the wilderness yet.)

And, a very readable piece on the "birthers," those folks still claiming Obama is ineligible because of citizenship issues.