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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Bomb in Iraq

A car bomb was detonated "almost completely destroy(ing)" the offices of VP Tariq Hashemi's Islamic Party. (Fallujah, Sunni.)

Within the context of Iraqi politics, this is pretty big, although not likely as significant as the Kurdish elections held today. Early reports are that Barzani and Talabani held on, meaning the much predicted oil and territory conflict with the Shia national government looms.

Later: There's a lot of coverage that "reformers" had a significant showing in Kurdistan, but I have trouble seeing how 15 seats in a 111 seat legislature, leaving the ruling coalition with a clear majority represents any serious "change."

Quote - Making fun of Palin's quitting in Alaska

Steve Carroll gleefully held up a bumper sticker being passed out at the festival that featured the McCain-Palin logo but read: “Sarah Palin for President, 2012-2014 1/2.”

Picture of the Day

Officials briefly turned Hubble back on to take photos of Jupiter's new "scar," an impact site approximately as big as the diameter of earth.

Disastrously wrong....

Today's news....
Top Bush administration officials in 2002 debated testing the Constitution by sending American troops into the suburbs of Buffalo to arrest a group of men suspected of plotting with Al Qaeda, according to former administration officials....

Some of the advisers to President George W. Bush, including Vice President Dick Cheney, argued that a president had the power to use the military on domestic soil to sweep up the terrorism suspects, who came to be known as the Lackawanna Six, and declare them enemy combatants.

They were going to use the military to seize the Lackawanna Six? Later investigating by multiple sources showed these guys were nothing (NYTimes, NPR, Frontline,) but Cheney, et al, wanted to conduct an Army raid?

(I mean, if NPR can investigate and find these guys were nothing, what does it say that Cheney was freaking out?)

This would seem to suggest one of two non-exclusive things. Either 1) they seriously had no idea about the actual terror threat in 2002 or 2) Cheney's efforts to "expand executive power" extended far beyond anything we imagined.

An "execiutive power" claim like this,
Former officials said the 2002 debate arose partly from Justice Department concerns that there might not be enough evidence to arrest and successfully prosecute the suspects in Lackawanna. Mr. Cheney, the officials said, had argued that the administration would need a lower threshold of evidence to declare them enemy combatants and keep them in military custody.

So, Cheney wanted to yse the military to seize American citizens and ship them to Guantanamo because they couldn't find any evidence against them.

PS. "The memorandum — written by the lawyers John C. Yoo....."
Those who advocated using the military to arrest the Lackawanna group had legal ammunition: the memorandum by Mr. Yoo and Mr. Delahunty.

The lawyers, in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, wrote that the Constitution, the courts and Congress had recognized a president’s authority “to take military actions, domestic as well as foreign, if he determines such actions to be necessary to respond to the terrorist attacks upon the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, and before.”

The document added that the neither the Posse Comitatus Act nor the Fourth Amendment tied a president’s hands.

John Yoo. The Constitution does not apply.

Picture of the Day

Doing his Dean Martin impersonation?

(Vice President Joe Biden meets with young Georgians in Tbilisi, Georgia, Thursday, July 23, 2009. (AP Photo/Shakh Aivazov))

Picture of the Day - 2

(Sarah Palin and her daughter Piper dish out hot-dogs during the governor's picnic in Wasilla, Alaska Friday, July 24, 2009. This is one of three governor's picnics Palin is attending before she resigns as governor in Fairbanks on Sunday, July 26, 2009. (AP Photo/Al Grillo))

Friday, July 24, 2009

CNN tells Lou Dobbs to shut the hell up with the "birther" nonsense

Here, and the full email here.

And, just as a "meta," what does it say that the President of CNN has to intervene with one of his "news" hosts to get them to stop implying provable falsehoods on the air?

Now, that's what cable news is made of!


Politico blog post: Top Ensign staffers flee

Flashback - 2008 RNC convention - Night 3

NBC political director Chuck Todd, weighing in shortly after Sarah Palin’s fiery speech before the Republican faithful, declared: “Conservatives have found their Obama.”


I thought this was kinda pertinent with Palin abandoning office Sunday and the WaPo story this morning showing weak Palin support from anyone but the fundies.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A very interesting post

Take a quick minute to buzz this post from Tech President looking at which countries are watching Obama's various major statements on YouTube.

Bottom line: People in Muslim countries are seeking out his speeches and addresses. Working on the assumption that these speeches are sought in the positive outreach mode they're intended, that's a major soft power influence (that people there are seeking out!)

It's interesting.

Dear Time magazine....

I thought your article about the end of term clash between Dick Cheney and George Bush over the possible pardon of Scooter Libby was quite interesting, but I have one disputing point.

The leaking of Valerie Plame's name was not an act "to defend the nation's security during the war on terrorism." It was an act of politics taken to silence a domestic critic that very likely significantly damaged US efforts to track the underground global nuclear weapons markets specifically around Iran.

Plus, Libby wasn't convicted of acts in office. He was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice. Hardly "defending the nation's security."

I mean, come on.... I think you spent too long with your sources.

My Governor again makes my state a world laughing stock

In his effort to placate his far right supporters and win what looks to be a tight primary race, my Governor, Rick Perry, has put the Christian crazies in position to screw with the state school curriculum.

If you'll remember, just a couple months ago, Perry appointed folks went after evolution, making national news.

Now, they want to insert God into social studies.
The Christian right is making a fresh push to force religion onto the school curriculum in Texas with the state's education board about to consider recommendations that children be taught that there would be no United States if it had not been for God.....

One of the panel, David Barton, founder of a Christian heritage group called WallBuilders, argues that the curriculum should reflect the fact that the US Constitution was written with God in mind including that "there is a fixed moral law derived from God and nature", that "there is a creator" and "government exists primarily to protect God-given rights to every individual".

I never thought I'd find myself rooting for, and possibly crossing over and voting for, the nothing candidate Kay Bailey Hutchinson, but this Rick Perry crap really has to be stopped.


(AP) The Israeli tests of the Arrow-2 anti-missile system designed more or less specifically for use against Iran's missiles have been aborted three times after technical problems. (And Israeli officials are telling the press this why?)

(Reuters) A US man, Bryant Van Neal, has been charged by the Feds for training in Afghanistan and "giving al Qaeda details about the New York City transit system and the Long Island Railroad, as well as firing rockets at American troops in Afghanistan." ("There was never an imminent threat to the system.")

(Reuters) "One of Osama bin Laden's sons was probably killed by a U.S. missile strike in Pakistan earlier this year, U.S. National Public Radio reported, citing U.S. intelligence sources." (The guy wasn't anything. More or less wrong place wrong time.)

And, if you want to see how much Khamenei has been damaged in the Iran turmoil, (AP) Ahmadinejad defies Khamenei over a controversial VP pick. (The irony being that Khamenei got so damaged cheating Ahmadinejad into office, and now Ahmadinejad is using that weakness for his own ends.)

Thought for the Day

This blog used to not suck.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Picture of the Day

These are scenes from a conflict in the South Korean Parliament as opposition party members try to keep the Speaker from ratifying a free trade agreement which allows foreign media ownership.

I don't wish that we had such scenes of violence in our legislature, but wouldn't it be nice to think that our elected reps cared this much when they're talking about something as core as healthcare?

Because they don't.

Imagine if you asked Senator X whether he'd rather fix healthcare or continue being a Senator? Which do you think they'd choose?

So, honor our passionate South Korean brethren. Their methods are messed up, but they really do care.

The NYTimes takes an ISI briefing

An interesting NYTimes piece about the ISI complaining that the new US operations in Afghanistan will push militants across the border (back) into Pakistan.

But the most interesting bit is the context of how the NYTimes came to this story.
The country’s perspective was given in a nearly two-hour briefing on Friday for The New York Times by senior analysts and officials of Pakistan’s main spy service, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence....

One of the first briefing slides read, in part: “The surge in Afghanistan will further reinforce the perception of a foreign occupation of Afghanistan. It will result in more civilian casualties; further alienate local population. Thus more local resistance to foreign troops.”

So, the ISI (which is frequently accused of working with the Taleban, Al Qaeda, and other terrorist groups) comes to the NYTimes (the "most respected" US news outlet) with a well crafted 2 hour briefing/slideshow asking the US to let up?

Doesn't that seem as weird to you as it does to me?

The US threatens Iran (indirectly)

A new, rather interesting lever against Iran is unveiled by Hillary Clinton.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the US is prepared to bolster the defence of its Gulf allies if Iran develops a nuclear weapons programme.

At this point, it's a little unclear what that means whether it's arms sales or a South Korea/Japan style extension of US commitment, but it is an interesting threat to alter the Iranian defense equation.

Thought on a "mandate"

I understand the theory that a mandate for everyone to buy health insurance should (could) lower costs, but that seems to rely on the belief that insurance companies will be "good actors," and, judging from their history, I'm not so sure about that.

This sentence alone should make you very wary.
Hospitals, insurers and drug manufacturers -- salivating at the prospect of up to 50 million newly insured customers -- have lobbied ferociously for the federal provision.

(No one is pouring millions into Congressional races to support a public option.)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

"Birther" Congressman on Hardball

(Long - 9 minutes. Only worth it if you really want to see this guy get pushed into showing he's a hack.)

Quote - Joe bein' Joe

Joe Biden overheard talking to former Ukraine PM Yushchenko.....
"I cannot believe that a Frenchman visiting Kiev went back home and told his colleagues he discovered something and didn't say he discovered the most beautiful women in the world. That's my observation."

Unclear who Frenchman VPOTUS was referring to.

"It's certain you have so many beautiful women."


Sanford just can't stop feeding the story

Days after Mark Sanford wrote a newspaper op-ed publicly apologizing for his extramarital affair, the South Carolina governor told reporters Tuesday it's time to move on.....

But Sanford, who spent last week away from the governor's office on a private vacation with his wife, did not answer repeated questions about why he was no longer wearing his wedding ring.

Related: There's some smoke indicating that "FoxNews contributor" Rick Santorum tipped Sen. Ensign that there was about to be a story on the affair.

Cheney asks for more

I know it's not his responsibility, but ex-Halliburton chief Dick Cheney could certainly afford to do this himself.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney's Secret Service protection has been extended for at least another six months, beginning Tuesday.

Normally, ex-veeps only get six months of protection at taxpayer expense. But Cheney asked for an extension, and President Obama - whom Cheney has excoriated in several interviews since leaving office - recently signed off.

(After all the money he made them, it seems like the folks at Blackwater or KBR really ought to offer it to him for free,)

Khamenei responds as the conflict keeps brewing

Over the weekend, the three main opponents of Khamenei (Rafsanjani, Khatami, and Moussavi) all made significant speeches or statements against the current government.

Khamenei responded harder than usual,"The elite should be watchful, since they have been faced with a big test. Failing the test will cause their collapse..."

I don't have a good look into the political backrooms where this struggle is currently playing out, but my sense is that the "reformers" might well be winning. (...although I'm not sure by what mechanism they would actually wrest control.)

The NYTimes has a piece today highlighting the jack boot of the Revolutionary Guard, but if you'll notice, Khamenei and Ahmadinejad have gone to great lengths to keep the regular army out of this. There are some signs that they might be split, and possibly in support of the "reformers."

This thing is still very alive even though most of the media has moved on. At this point, Khamenei has been seriously delegitimized and Ahmadinejad has been turned into a lap dog/joke. The question is the next step. Where does the momentum go?

Thought for the Day

As a broad brush, mining/mineral/oil companies are some of the most "evil" in the world, orchestrating violence/local militias/coups, abusing local populations and workforces, and polluting on a level rarely seen in other industries.

Just no one ever talks about it.

Monday, July 20, 2009

What they have wrought....

What has happened to the Republican party?

After all those years of fueling their base with hate and misinformation, probably peaking in the 2008 election, their people have finally gone insane. (This is from a townhall in Delaware. The speaker is Republican Mike Castle.)

I mean, seriously. Do you expect moderates to come to this party? Do you expect sane people to want to associate with this?

And yet, Republicans are now tied to it, and individual candidates really can't succeed without, at least, humoring these people.

A couple months ago, I did what I thought was an interesting macro post looking at four decisions of electoral expediency the Republicans have made over the past 40 years which have won the moment, but cost them dearly down the line. (Nixon - Southern Strategy. Reagan - empowering the Christian right, Gingrich - anti-60's reactionism, and 2000's anti-immigration.)

It's still too early to say if this brand of fervent irrationalism will have the same permanent/long term alienation of some of those past decisions, but in the short term, I think you gotta say that the Palin-McCain campaign's feeding of the crazies has cost the Republicans many, many moderates.

(Maybe the Republicans should take a page from the Dems on how to deal with their fringes. The Dems haven't listened to whole sections of their base for decades....)

One more thought: The "birthers" and the "he's a terrorist/socialist/gonna take away our guns" people aren't really all that fringe inb the GOP. Admittedly, I live in a red state, but I run across seemingly rational/normal people making these complaints regularly.

Thought for the Day

....because a President McCain, a Vice President Palin, and their policies would have been sooo popular....

Continuing Iranian pressure

Former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami has called for what can only be described as a national vote of no confidence (to be conducted by an outside agency.)

It'll never happen, but it continues this round of pressure tent poled by Rafsanjani's significant Friday sermon.

And, President Ahmadinejad was forced to remove his first (Harriet Miers-like) Vice Presidential pick after substantial pressure from hardliners on his own side.

Picture of the Day

(Iranian protesters shout slogans during Friday prayers at a university in Tehran July 17, 2009. In apparent defiance of Iran's supreme leader, a powerful cleric declared his country in crisis after a disputed poll, and tens of thousands of protesters used Friday prayers to stage the biggest show of dissent for weeks. (REUTERS/via Your View))

Sunday, July 19, 2009

And they're off!

We're at a a very weird phase in the torture story. With AG Holder having lots of lieutenants "leak" that he's thinking of naming a special prosecutor for torture and detainee issues, the game for those involved has substantially changed. So stories like this one in the WaPo take on new meaning. Those very involved, now have an incentive to "leak" their exculpatory versions of what happened.

So, as you read the inevitable torture stories over the next month, keep in mind that there's a much bigger game being played: Who does this version protect and who does it put in the jackpot? How much specific detail is revealed to try and accomplish those goals.

For example,
Now, as the Senate intelligence committee examines the CIA's interrogation program, investigators are focusing in part on Mitchell and John "Bruce" Jessen, former CIA contractors who helped design and oversee Abu Zubaida's interrogation. These men have been portrayed as eager proponents of coercion, but the former U.S. official, whose account was corroborated in part by Justice Department documents, said they also rejected orders from Langley to prolong the most severe pressure on the detainee. The former official's account, alongside the recollections of those familiar with events at the CIA's secret prison in Thailand, yields a more nuanced understanding of their role than has previously been available.

Smell the spin? According to this version, the contract psychologists who developed all the horrors aren't really so bad. By this recounting, if you want to find the real bastards, look to folks at Langley.

This Senate Intelligence Committee investigation wouldn't normally be that big of a deal, but as it could likely be foundational to any future DOJ investigation, there is a huge incentive for those at the sharp end to try and shape the politics and perception of it. (Unlike a prosecutor's investigation, Congressional investigations are extremely political, investigating towards the participants' interests, not the thorough neutrality of a criminal investigation.)

So, the politics of this are extremely important. Those at the focus will be spinning incredibly hard and trying to get out front to shape the Senators' perceptions and interests. This story probably signals the breaking of the stone wall, and we may now see alot of ugly details as everyone tries to turn the focus on everyone else.

(The crazy thing is that once Holder actually launches an investigation, everybody will probably shut up again. ("...will not comment on an ongoing investigation..."))

And, This post is to add context, not to minimize this story. There's a lot of detail throughout. Worth a full read.


At a 2006 prayer breakfast, Bono made some significant effort to avoid a photo op embrace sought out by President Bush.
The sidestep worked, and just about nobody in the audience knew it happened — though it was all captured on camera.

But — there was one sharp-eyed Senator in the bipartisan crowd who saw it all.

"When I was sitting down I was beside Sen. Obama, the star said the future President whispered to him, 'Nice work with the hug dodge.'"


Walter Cronkite gets 36 hours.....