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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Picture of the Day

(They tell me he's the devil, you know.)

(President Barack Obama cheers for his daughter Sasha's soccer team at a park in Washington Saturday, May 16, 2009.(AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta))

Quote of the Day

On Utah Gov. Huntsman's rumored appointment as China ambassador.
Now, the GOP is without a prominent moderate voice heading into 2012.

PS. Despite what many on the center and left are saying, that Huntsman is pulling off the presidential track because he's afraid he's too moderate to win, I think there's an uglier answer. I think Huntsman has looked at the polling and realized he's too Mormon to win in the GOP's south.

We all saw what happened to Mitt.

Stray thought

In the two years Nancy Pelosi was the Minority Leader and the two and a half years she has been Speaker of the House, this is the first time, despite all their Pelosi as villain propaganda, that the Republicans have had anything on her.

Let's remember, this is about attacking and trying to damage a Speaker of the House, and it has nothing ay all to do with issues.

This is political.

Picture of the Day - Bad data point

The right is crowing about a new Gallup poll showing that America is now "pro-life."

I'm not a statistical expert, but it's my hunch that they just pulled a non-representative sample. (sample size 971.)

I mean, after ten years of unmoving support at 47-50, the graph suddenly completely inverts at a time when Republicans and Republican issues are at their very lowest ebb?

Of course, what else do they have to crow about?

Friday, May 15, 2009

Political bits

(Politico) Giuliani's losing key staffers leading to the guess that he's out of elected politics.

(SUSA) 57% of Minnesotans don't think Pawlenty should run for a third term. (and those presidential ambitions...?)

And, (CNN) Bristol Palin graduated from high school yesterday.

Later: Rasmussen polls Republicans on who their leader is: McCain 18%. Steele 14%. Palin 10%. Romney 8%. Limbaugh 6%. Cheney 4%. I think it's notable that, besides McCain, none of these folks hold elected national office. There's not one national leader even under consideration among Republicans.


(AP) Obama administration to restart military tribunals. (Is there a choice after the Bush policies violated so many rights? "Detainee treatment" destroyed our ability to convict in court.)

(WaPo) Rove to be "interviewed" by federal prosecutors today over the US attorney firings. (No executive privilege there.)

(Guardian) Mohamed ElBaradei gives an exit interview to the Guardian. 1) 10 new nuclear nations, mostly in the middle east in the next decade.

2) An interesting argument that many nations will enrich but not build bombs to stay in the NPT, but months from nuclear capacity.

3) " We are worried because we still have 200 cases of illicit trafficking of nuclear material a year reported to us."

(CNN) Arlen Specter's only primary challenger drops out.

And, (Politico) It's funny how Republicans only believe in states' rights when they're not in national power.

Useless but funny.

You know that NY debate where the Liz and Dick Cheney drew so much press for their comments?
A pre-debate poll of 430 audience members showed that 34 percent favored the Cheney-Senor side, 33 percent were with Burns-Pollack and 33 percent were undecided.

After the one-hour, 45-minute debate, Cheney's position was favored by 35 percent, while the Burns team rocketed to a whopping 59 percent vote and undecideds dropped to 6 percent.

But Liz Cheney came out with the press coverage.

I called it.

As I predicted two and a half weeks ago, the anti-gay marriage Miss California will get her FoxNews tryout, guest hosting an hour of Fox and Friends.

(As I said then, she's a right wing icon lock. Good looking, blond, a bit stupid, mixed with tones of overcertainty and bigotry.)

She'll be filling in for the 1989 Miss America Gretchen Carlson.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Climate change.

As Republicans plan to "stall" the climate change legislation, I was kinda struck by this. Not the report that the Antarctic melting might not be as bad as feared (good,) but by the overall scale of what we're talking about.
However, the study published in the journal Science found that even a one meter rise in sea levels would be significant enough to weaken the Earth's gravity field in the southern hemisphere and affect the Earth's rotation.

That rotational shift would cause water to pile up in the northern oceans and could result in dramatic regional differences in sea levels, with the largest rise on the east and west coast of the United States.

Less than one third of the conservative predicted sea level rise from the west Antarctic ice shelf, and we're altering the Earth's gravitation.

That's bigger than a few penguins and polar bears...

Political bits

(WSJ) We'll have to wait and see how the policy plays out, but Gil Kerlikowske, the new drug czar, said in his first interview that "he wants to banish the idea that the U.S. is fighting "a war on drugs.""

(HuffPo) As I noted the other day, the FBI is now looking hard at the Norm Coleman-Nasser Kazeminy gift giving.

(Politico) Arlen Specter has decided he's a Democrat today, talking up the chances of the pro-union EFCA (after talking it up, and then down over the last few months.)

And, (Politico) While the Republicans are still all over the map, notice how the Obama administration is courting Hispanics.

A really good point.

Buried in this post by Steve Clemons is this observation.

Dick Cheney claims that Obama not torturing leaves the country at risk, and yet all evidence seems to indicate that after summer 2004 the Bush administration didn't torture.

That seems a pretty gaping hole in the argument, no?

Picture of the Day

In praise of Hubble, probably the most valuable space mission of the last two decades.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

I have a feeling it's coming

Just a little rumory post by Josh Marshall....
I've been talking to a few people today who have some professional insight into the whole torture saga, just what happened, what this or that secret memo might say. And I'm getting the sense that waterboarding to force people to tell us the 'truth' about Saddam's alliance with al Qaida might turn out to be a pretty big part of this. Especially when we look closely at Cheney's role.

As I said a month ago, I think this is a story that might come out.

Later: If true (or allegible,) this would be a blockbuster. This would be the misapplication of torture by its primary proponent.

Later Still: A two source report that Cheney wanted to waterboard the head of Iraqi security looking for that non-existent Iraq/Al Qaeda connection.

And, Cheney no longer controls the declassification process. He's now picking a fight where the other guys get to chose what comes out.

"Worse than Abu Ghraib..."

That's the phrase being used about the detainee photos that the Obama administration is now trying to withhold.

"Worse than Abu Ghraib...."

PS. We're back to "a small group of individuals," the "bad apples" defense?

Curious question

In all the discussion of the GOP civil war, how does the money lay out across the spectrum?

I mean, we know there's a bunch of big business/corporate money flowing into the GOP, but how organized is it and how rational/moderate is it?

We know that the far rights' seem to able to find money, pro-life, NRA, Club for Growth, anti-gay marriage, large litmus PAC's like this, but who funds the moderates? They don't get that easy money.

Within the GOP money club, is anyone coordinating to get the party back to majority or is it just a candidate by candidate, litmus test by litmus test process? They're losing the war by fighting the battles.

(EFCA might offer a glimpse.)

Out of tone

I must say, I'm shocked that this is still alive.
A member of the Republican National Committee told me Tuesday that when the RNC meets in an extraordinary special session next week, it will approve a resolution rebranding Democrats as the “Democrat Socialist Party.”

I just have to say that I think this hits at the core of the Republicans communication problem. Even if they didn't have problems with their positions on issues and weren't facing demographic diminution, they still have this critical internal perceptual gap which undermines their message.

They sincerely believe that the people who surround them, now the farthest right, somehow reflect the heart of the country, and building their message off these people will lead them back to power. Two thoughts.

1) The message is out of tone. America, at least the political center of America (that part that wins and loses elections,) doesn't want to hear over the top invective right now. (They will again, but not right now.)

2) Republicans have a tremendous credibility gap with the center of the country. The Republicans need to either genuinely admit their mistakes in governance or wait until the American people forget.

So, shout "socialist" or "Obama sides with terrorists" all you want. Most of America's not listening to you. You're out of tone with the mood of the country and no one will believe you until you get your credibility back.

Then you can deal with the mountains of issue and demographic problems.

Picture of the Day

A map produced by the BBC suggests only 38% of Pakistan's North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and surrounding areas is under full government control.....

(BBC) "Hundreds of thousands of people are fleeing fighting in Pakistan's north-west as the army continues its operation to eliminate Taleban militants....."

Two thoughts: 1) It doesn't matter who the general in Afghanistan is if this gaping sore to the east keeps leaking instability.

2) Pakistan ain't Grenada. Unlike most US interventions/CIA influence operations, Pakistan is a HUGE country of 170 million.

Is their slogan "Miami underwater by 2100?"

America's oil, gas and coal industry has increased its lobbying budget by 50%, with key players spending $44.5m in the first three months of this year in an intense effort to cut off support for Barack Obama's plan to build a clean energy economy.

The spoiler campaign runs to hundreds of millions of dollars....

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Another incentive for Coleman to continue

In yet another abuse of the craziest law on the books, Norm Coleman files with the FEC to use campaign funds to pay for his defense in the Kazeminy investigation.

So long as the "election" with Franken continues, he can continue to raise public money for his legal defense.

The battle lines of the civil war.

As "the moderates" begin to establish their organization in the "listening tour," the anti-moderates begin to find their base and organization.

My Gov Rick Perry and his fellow reactionary SC Gov. Mark Sanford are planning their own "listening event" they're calling tea party 2.0.

I'll be curious to see how inclusive they choose to be. There's alot of firepower on their side already blasting the Jeb, Mitt, Cantor vehicle like Gingrich, Limbaugh, and a very vocal Huckabee.

I don't expect tea party 2.0 to be any more effective than the Jeb, Mitt, Cantor thing has been.

PS. Shouldn't Jeb, Mitt, and Eric have held another event by now?

Picture of the Day

(President Barack Obama leaves the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, May 11,2009, after speaking about health care reform.(AP/Charles Dharapak))


To my mind, Charlie Crist is the highest potential Republican national figure, assuming he can survive his own party.

Crist is slick and used to working in a very divided state. He's a moderate without yet taking on that moderate Republican stain.

Although, that looks likely to change soon in what could be a very nasty Fla. Senate primary. The nationals, NRSC/Cornyn, are backing Crist, but his local opposition Rubio seems set to tear him down from the right, and Jeb Bush, and all the political money he controls, are right now backing Rubio. (Which is ironic as Jeb Bush is chairing this moderating "listening tour.")

Rubio is an up and coming darling of the farther right, and this Fla primary may well be framed as the visible manifestation of the Republican civil war. If Crist, a hugely popular governor, cannot win a primary in a purple state....

Of course, look at Arlen....

(Side bet on the ugly level. How long does it take until someone resurrects the rumor that Crist is gay?)

A small thing, but a big thing

Apparently, the Obama budget stops all funding for the "reliable replacement program," the program which was designing and developing a next generation of nuclear weapons.

Word for the day: "basically."

Discussing torture policy on Face the Nation:
SCHIEFFER: Did President Bush know everything you knew?

CHENEY: I certainly, yes, have every reason to believe he knew -- he knew a great deal about the program. He basically authorized it. I mean, this was a presidential-level decision. And the decision went to the president. He signed off on it.

Key secret detainee dies

Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi "apparently committed suicide" in a Libyan prison.

If you'll remember, al-Libi was the source for the bioweapons/Al-Qaeda link to Iraq who falsely confessed these things after torture.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Something I'd like to see.....

So, Obama makes his jokey speech at the Press Correspondents' dinner taking some light shots at those across the aisle. Boehner's unnatural spray on skin color. Michael Steele's ridiculous use of black slang.

But I got to wondering about the process for that routine. You figure it had to start with a list of top figures and stupid/funny things about them that might be included.

Wouldn't you love to see the overall list which included things the Obama inner core considered too tasteless for the speech?

McKiernan gets blamed.

I don't know enough about the Afghan headquarters and NATO interplay to say whether it's true or not, but somebody wants the story out there that McKiernan was standing in the way of progress in Afghanistan.

Whether it's simply the politics of "turning the page" to a new strategy or whether McKiernan really had problems, look at all the frontpages tying his leaving to a new (presented as better) strategy. (NYTimes, WaPo, WSJ.)

That's an awful lot of column space. Someone sure wanted to make sure that McKiernan is the scapegoat.

Picture of the Day - 2

So, the Tea Parties didn't create that wave of revolution.....

U.S. Soldier Shoots 5 of His Comrades to Death in Iraq

The United States military said Monday that five American soldiers had been shot to death by a fellow soldier who opened fire on them at one of the biggest American bases in Baghdad, and that the suspected shooter was in custody.

US replaces top general in Afghanistan

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Monday he asked for the resignation of Gen. David McKiernan. He said a fresh approach was in the U.S.'s best interest.....

Military officials who spoke on condition of anonymity said McKiernan will be replaced by Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal.

Alan Stanford was working for the gov't?

The Independent, teasing a story that will be on BBC's Panorama.
Sir Allen Stanford, the Texan billionaire who ploughed millions of pounds into English cricket, may have been working as an informant for American anti-drug agents in return for official protection which gave him free rein to run his banking empire, it emerged yesterday....

His status as a confidential informant could have secured Stanford a degree of protection from financial regulators such as the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and may explain why a SEC investigation into his dealings in 2006 was quietly dropped following a request by another American government agency.

Stray thought

I, and a lot of other people, have been talking alot about America's shifting demographics in relation to the Republican slide, how the shifting percentage between white and not white is likely to put the GOP in a difficult demographic hole.

For some reason this morning, while reading this piece on the huge number of California's newly naturalized citizens, something occurred to me. The shift in the numbers is not likely to be as simple as I have been painting it.

The GOP still has the one option left, pitting various minorities against each other. Look at what they tried to do over California's prop 8 on gay marriage. Not only was there the effort by the "pro-marriage" forces (funded by very GOP Mormons) to market to black churches against prop 8, but there was then the effort afterward which came almost exclusively from the right to create a black/gay division in California.

I don't know if this necessarily wins elections, but on some issues increasing bigotry and discrimination could be very effective....

Just throwing it out there because I think I've been oversimplifying the demographic future by treating "non white" as a single political entity.

Frankly, the overall national future may look alot like California, although the differences in states will play a big role.

White phosphorus

There's been a growing anger in Afghanistan over an allegation that the US dropped white phosphorus into a battle area severely wounding civilians.

I haven't posted on this because I haven't really been able to figure out the truth, but take a look at what the US is releasing today, a claim that Taleban are in possession of and have used white phosphorus on 12 occasions.

Again, I don't know what's true here, but this story seems a clear step towards an admission those civilians were injured by white phosphorus and then a likely joined step to blame the Taleban or, at least, muddy the waters.

It just seems a substantial development in the story.

A commendation for the WaPo

Just a brief recognition of this article naming one of the early funders of the advertising against the as yet undefined Obama healthcare plan.

It's really rare for the funders of these efforts to be publicly named, and I would think that such naming might curtail these single rich person advertising efforts, so a commendation to the WaPo for naming Rick Scott, "multimillionaire investor and controversial former hospital chief executive."

Sleep deprivation

The LATimes takes an in depth trip through "sleep deprivation" as described in the torture memos.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

On the state of Pakistan

I'm not sure I fully agree with everything, but this NYTimes piece on part of the state of play in Pakistan is an interesting read.

Picture of the Day/Thought for the Day

(Actor Ashton Kutcher talks to US Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano at the White House Correspondents' Dinner, May 9, 2009. (REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst))


Remember when everyone was so upset because Stephen Colbert's WH press dinner speech was "too controversial?"
"You've had your fair share of critics. ... Rush Limbaugh said this administration fails. ... He just wants the country to fail. To me that's treason. He's not saying anything different than what Osama Bin Laden is saying. You might want to look into this, sir, because I think Rush Limbaugh was the 20th hijacker but he was just so strung out on Oxycontin he missed his flight. ... Rush Limbaugh, I hope the country fails, I hope his kidneys fail, how about that? He needs a good waterboarding, that's what he needs."

Speeches from last night

If you care, here is Sykes' routine from last night. Part 1. Part 2.

And Obama's is pretty good, too. Part 1. Part 2.

Stray thought

I wonder how all those laid off newspaper people felt watching last night's gala.