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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Waterboarding on the radio

Keith Olbermann put out a standing offer to some of the right wing torture defenders that he would donate $10,000 to a military charity if they would undergo waterboarding. A radio team took him up on the offer and the formerly pro-waterboarding guy who was waterboarded for six seconds shakily talks about it afterwards as torture. Video.

And that's one six second application in controlled circumstances.

Idea - The real Bush damage

I was watching a video about the BC Persian empire last night, and got to thinking in terms of empire.

Perhaps the biggest sin of the Bush administration wasn't 9/11 happening on their watch, or the botched wars and policy in response. It wasn't the disaster of Katrina, showing the people of the world America unable to help, or the financial crisis showing America's hollow "miracle."

Perhaps the biggest "empire" sin of the Bush administration was that they punctured the view of American invulnerability and laid bare some of the weaknesses in front of the world.

We frequently mark the end of empires on a single significant battle, but the end of an empire becomes inevitable long before the barbarians arrive outside the city gates.

The erosion of American power began long before Bush, rooted in the shifts of the global economy, but the mistakes of the Bush administration, on many fronts, laid bare so many of those weaknesses.

We could now face the very ugly period of provincial resistance and insurrection where, in the American version of empire, our "allies" and those countries under our influence (like Latin America) fear American levers of power less and less and begin to make new relationships both among each other and with the putative imperial rival (China.)

This historical trajectory was ordained well before the Bush administration came to power, but, their abrogation of international process, they're incompetence in executing wars against minor nations, they're failure to manage endemic economic problems has revealed a substantial weakness that has hastened America's return to "nation among nations."

In theory, the Obama administration could paper over some of this through good stewardship, trying to indicate the Bush years were simply a matter of incompetence, but in many senses, the damage has already been done.

For all their talk of tough, the Bush administration revealed mor weakness than any Presidency before them.

The world now fears America much less as a force. That soft power is eroding.

(This is part of a longstanding grievance (2, 3) I have with the Bush admin, that they screwed up by abandoning the Bush Sr./Clinton path of trying to build international legal structures to our advantage while we were still such a dominant power. Instead, the Bush administration burned all of that work, embracing the radical and now discredited neocon ideas of the Project for a New American Century.)

Just needed a screed this morning.


I'm not ready for hurricanes yet.

Saturday radio address

Obama: Honor veterans this Memorial Day.

GOP: Alternative energy alone won't meet US needs. (An extreme no global warming, drill, baby, drill.)

Friday, May 22, 2009

Picture of the Day - 2

This is Dick Cheney at a baseball game.

(Former Vice President Dick Cheney looks on during the Philadelphia Phillies and Washington Nationals baseball game on Sunday, May 17, 2009, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci))

Thought for the Day

The public view of Obama's policy towards detainees rests more on the media's treatment than on the actual policy. Words like "defend" appear across the headlines on Obama's speech yesterday which, repeated frequently enough, tint public perception.

Another example, check out the NYTimes lead paragraph,
As President Obama defends his national security strategy, he faces a daunting challenge. He must convince the country that it is in safe hands despite warnings to the contrary from the right, and at the same time persuade the skeptical left that it is enough to amend his predecessor’s approach rather than abandon it.

Answer: He's only "defending" because the media is painting the position as weak.

If you go back to something like the stimulus bill, where Republicans were screaming even louder, there was no word in the media about Obama "defending" his policy.

Just an observation.

Later: Of course, the dying McClatchy is the only major that actually dug into what Cheney said,
Former Vice President Dick Cheney's defense Thursday of the Bush administration's policies for interrogating suspected terrorists contained omissions, exaggerations and misstatements.

(Here's hoping Landay and Strobel can keep reporting. McClatchy will always hold credit with me for being the only major to question the intelligence in the mania of the Iraq war buildup.)

Frankly, and sadly, it's become the fact free vacuum of cable news that largely defines tone.

The Pelosi-CIA flap

As Pelosi is being damaged by the CIA flap, the "evidence" against her is becoming more and more wobbly.

War and Piece has been collecting some of the other mistakes on the briefings, and it should definitely be noted that Porter Goss is very carefully parsing his comments.

Netanyahu craps on the peace process.

This position kills talks, and he knows that, and he still says it.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday that Jerusalem would "never be divided" and would remain the capital of the Jewish state, drawing an angry response from the Palestinians.

Picture of the Day

(Kosovo children cheer as U.S. Vice President Joe Biden arrives in Kosovo's capital Pristina on Thursday, May 21, 2009. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu))

(Somehow, that sign reads like a book title, doesn't it?)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

They're supporting Specter

Interesting that the DSCC Pa primary poll just happens to show Specter blowing out possible primary challenger Joe Sestak.

Clearly, the DSCC/Senate folks ran this poll and released it to scare away Sestak's early support. It's just interesting how they're supporting Specter by telegraphing to insiders rather than having to go on the record supporting him.


Let's not miss the fact that the NYTimes story I linked skeptically below, "1 in 7 Freed Detainees Rejoins Fight," has been somewhat rewritten or at least reframed.

With Dick Cheney and his supporters citing this specific story as part of their defense, it is important to recognize that this is an exact echo of how Dick Cheney has always played the credibility of the NYTimes. He would order an ally to release the leak, and then cite the story in interview or speech as independent corroboration.

Incredibly, the NYTimes is still playing along.

As I said this morning. "Bad, bad, NYTimes."

Speaking for the Republicans....

Fifty-five percent of people questioned in the (CNN) poll say they have an unfavorable opinion of the former vice president. Thirty-seven percent say they have a favorable opinion of Cheney...

Speaking for the Democrats....

Sixty-three percent of people questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Wednesday say they think the policies being proposed by the President would push the nation in the right direction, with 35 percent saying those policies would send the country in the wrong direction....

Hard politics on Guantanamo

The NYTimes headlines this piece, 1 in 7 Freed Detainees Rejoins Fight, Report Finds, but the real story is in the politics of the sourcing.
Two administration officials who spoke on condition of anonymity said the report was being held up by Defense Department employees fearful of upsetting the White House, at a time when even Congressional Democrats have begun to show misgivings over Mr. Obama’s plan to close Guantánamo.

In other words, two people who oppose closing Guantanamo (holdovers?) heard about an as yet unpublished report and decided to use it as a political tool, releasing elements, in their contextual framework, to the NYTimes.

In a technical sense, this report has nothing to do with closing Guantanamo. The story's political application rests on the rather thin assertion that closing Guantanamo means automatically and immediately releasing known terrorists which is not what anyone is talking about.

I have every reason to assume the report is true, but the connection to the argument is false. If anything, it would mean that either 1) the intelligence collected on those in Guantanamo is largely inaccurate which led to the Bush administration "releasing" the guilty or 2) the Guantanamo experience radicalized previously non-dangerous men.

Either way, this report only relates to the "closing Guantanamo" argument if you assume that means the US is going automatically release everyone who is there.

Bad, NYTimes. Bad, bad, NYTimes.

Is C4 now a WMD?

I'm glad they caught these guys. They sound like dead up terrorists. But if you read the article, they were arrested planting what they thought was C4 at a synagogue, and yet they're being charged with "conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction." (NYTimes, AP)

Are we not getting some detail or is C4 now called a WMD?

(PS. Big credit to the FBI for infiltrating this crew and giving them dummy explosives. That's great work.)


I think it's weird that the press has decided to frame Cheney's speech at the AEI today as an equal counterargument, not the statement of a man as popular as Nixon speaking in the last place that will have him.

(Where did Cheney give the commencement speech? Where did Bush congratulate the graduates?)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Picture of the Day

How is her kid supposed to reconcile this in later life?
"If girls realized the consequences of sex, nobody would be having sex," says Bristol, sitting at her parents' lakeside patio table. "Trust me. Nobody."

That Ambien sleepwalking thing takes on a whole new meaning...

According to data from a U. S. Army mental-health survey released last year, about 12 percent of soldiers in Iraq and 15 percent of those in Afghanistan reported taking antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, or sleeping pills.....

In other words, thousands of American fighters armed with the latest killing technology are taking prescription drugs that the Federal Aviation Administration considers too dangerous for commercial pilots.


I know the circumstances and the whys, but it troubles me that the Department of Homeland Security is rated as the worst place to work in the federal government.

That doesn't sound safe.


Michael Steele says, "The era of apologizing for Republican mistakes of the past is now officially over."

There was an "era of apologizing?"

Khalilzad in Afghanistan

Deeply neocon Zalmay Khalilzad has givin up his quest to be Afghanistan's President, and is now angling/negotiating with Karzai for a "chief executive" role in the government.

Let's remember a little of Khalilzad's CV. Started at the CFR as a Wolfowitz protege. Under Reagan, he was a "special adviser" on the Soviet war in Afghanistan eventually becoming one of the main internal proponents of "the merits of a Mujahideen-led Afghanistan to oust the Soviet occupation."

Khalilzad is neocon deep, and he wants Afghanistan.....

Iran tries

Coming out of the the Obama-Netanyahu meeting, it didn't sound like US-Israel got all that much closer, but if Iran feels it has to announce a completed missile test two days later to stress the US-Israel relationship, maybe we should look again at that meeting.

And, Iran can launch and land missiles and the only report we get is from the Iranians?

Poor Chris Dodd

Facing all the trouble at home over the appearances of corruption, Chris Dodd is trying way too hard to rebuild his image pressing this Credit Card bill.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Apparently, there's a Republican strategy memo going around that tells them to claim that Democrats are in bed with big business and big pollution and that only Republicans represent the environmental little guy.
In a strategy memo obtained by POLITICO, Republican staffers for the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works say Republicans should argue that Democrats are embracing “Wall Street traders,” “polluters” and “others in corporate America” who are “guilty of manipulating national climate policy to increase profits on the backs of consumers.

Maybe the memo was leaked to kill this ridiculousness before some loyalist tried it out on TV.

What's with all the GOP kids?

What's with all the GOP kids clambering up to claim some reflected spotlight? Meghan McCain, Liz Cheney, Bristol Palin...?

Picture of the Day

Tanned, rested, and ready?

(Former vice president Dick Cheney, in 2008. (AFP/File/Saul Loeb))


(RogerSimon) Bill Clinton described the dilemma in December 2002 by saying: “When people feel uncertain, they’d rather have someone strong and wrong than weak and right.”

And that has historically worked out so well....

A bilateral US-China carbon deal?

I'm skeptical, but it is interesting.

Little bit

So there is still something prosecutable at the CIA?
As part of an ongoing criminal inquiry into the CIA's destruction of videotapes depicting waterboarding, CIA personnel will appear before a grand jury this week, according to two sources familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the case is continuing.

Dear Michael Steele

Saying it's time to look forward by citing Ronald Reagan.... priceless.

And tell me how that forward looking vote on officially calling the Dems the "Democrat Socialist Party" turns out.

Monday, May 18, 2009

FoxNews is outraged!

Outrage! Outrage! Joe Biden actually mentioned the bunker underneath the VP's residence. FoxNews claims this is a huge security breach! Echoed on Drudge, of course.

Except, I don't know if anybody remembers, but there was a whole lot of joking about public reports from neighbors of 18 months of mysterious explosions coming from Cheney's VP residence. From the WaPo,
In 2002, the quiet neighborhood was rocked by months of mysterious, round-the-clock blasting from the vicinity of No. 1 Observatory Circle, the official residence of the vice president. The explosions were never explained. "The noise was ungodly," Douglass said. "I think many of us still have windows that don't open and close properly."

Some houses developed cracks in the plaster and other minor damage. Douglass made phone calls to ask about insurance claim forms. She was directed to the Pentagon, and says she was informed that property damage claims would not be considered, "because the blasting had never happened."

Or maybe you prefer NPR.

I mean, c'mon FoxNews.

State of the nation

Gallup collected a large survey (7,100) to look at the national mood relative to the two political parties. If you're a numbers geek, it's kind of interesting.

Demographics that jumped out at me, they've lost very significantly among college grads and in the Midwest.

New CAFE standards

Obama will propose new car/fleet mileage standards to be completed by 2016. Car fleet standards will go from 27 now to 42 mpg by 2016. Light trucks from 24 to 26.5. (Trucks get a pass?)

Think the auto industry is in a position to lobby against this?

I'm ultimately cynical

With Hispanics now leaning towards the Democratic party and Republicans having broadly and deeply alienated many Hispanics with their sometimes racist anti-immigration crap, it would make a whole lot of political sense for Obama to nominate the first Hispanic Supreme Court judge to symbolically seal the relationship for a generation or more.


(WaPo) There's alot of insider mumbling that National Security Adviser Jim Jones is under pressure over his job. I've seen the complaints, but this is the first piece that really seems to source the discontent, State Department, but not Hillary Clinton.

(NYTimes) A "warning story" on Sunnis and Kurds in Ninevah.

(TPM) Liz Cheney, now her father's main defender, won't put down the rumors that Cheney ordered "enhanced interrogation" to try and prove the fictional Iraq-Al Qaeda link. (Also, notice the sizable gaps in the denial efforts below the video.)

(VanityFair) A report that the US refused the first offer by the Sunni militias to go on the payroll in 2004. Right after that, the Sunnis went heavily violent starting that year and a half of blood.

(NYTimes) Senate Republicans try to warn their supporters that they can't stop an Obama Supreme Court pick.

And, no link, but there is sure alot of buildup from all sides over the Netanyahu visit.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Pakistanis are arming up.

Pakistan is "rapidly" increasing its nuclear arsenal.

My first guess at context is that this is some strategic resettling of the Pakistan/India relationship after the pro-Kashmiri's carried out those very visible terror attacks on the hotels in Mumbai. In the aftermath, the Indians reportedly came fairly close to launching attacks into Pakistan, so I'm guessing the Pakistanis are arming up in case another terror attack again stresses the relationship.

Also of interest, look at the way this came up, Sen. Jim Webb, the very national defense connected former Secretary of the Navy.
During a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday, Senator Jim Webb, a Virginia Democrat, veered from the budget proposal under debate to ask Admiral Mullen about public reports “that Pakistan is, at the moment, increasing its nuclear program — that it may be actually adding on to weapons systems and warheads. Do you have any evidence of that?”

It was then that Admiral Mullen responded with his one-word confirmation.

It sounds kinda like someone hinted that the question might be worth injecting. (to leverage the Pakistanis to continue their offensive against the money we're sending them?)


So all of Notre Dame is pro choice by force now? Right?


Apparently Don Rumsfeld's daily briefing books to President Bush carried triumphant pictures and bible verses on the covers.

I guess if you're trying to run a psy-op on someone....


All the press is talking about what Pelosi knew and when.

None of the press are asking what Bush figures did and when.


If the on the ground Iraqis expect chaos and fighting when the US pulls out of Iraqi cities on June 30, does that create an inevitability that chaos will take place?

Do their expectations lower the barrier and increase the likelihood?


From a NYTimes piece on the GOP preparing for a new Supreme Court Justice confirmation.
If President Obama nominates Judge Diane P. Wood to the Supreme Court, conservatives plan to attack her as an “outspoken” supporter of “abortion, including partial-birth abortion.”

If he nominates Judge Sonia Sotomayor, they plan to accuse her of being “willing to expand constitutional rights beyond the text of the Constitution.”

And if he nominates Kathleen M. Sullivan, a law professor at Stanford, they plan to denounce her as a “prominent supporter of homosexual marriage.....”

“It’s an immense opportunity to build the conservative movement and identify the troops out there,” said Richard A. Viguerie, a conservative fund-raiser. “It’s a massive teaching moment for America. We’ve got the packages written. We’re waiting right now to put a name in.”