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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, August 29, 2009

N Korean shipmemt to Iran seized.

Being treated as explosive news in some quarters, the UAE seized a N. Korean shipment bound for Iran that contained "weapons."

However, when you read further, "weapons" are 14 RPG's. Why would Iran mess around with all the risk and complications for 14 RPG's, something they could buy without risk from their Iraqi Shia brethren for less than $20,000?

They could get them with one phone call in one afternoon, but instead they go to all the trouble of smuggling from N. Korea?

Call me skeptical, but this sounds a bit like a set up. There were alot of hands involved and alot of opportunities at the cargo,
The diplomats said the Australian firm whose ship was seized is controlled by a French conglomerate and the actual export was arranged by the Shanghai office of an Italian company. The diplomats did not name any of the firms involved.

Understand that this happens within the context of the US and Israel preparing to propose even stiffer Iran sanctions.

You might argue this is a test of the route, but it sure does smell like a set up to me.

(PS. Iran actually manufactures an upgraded RPG-7, and an improved version of the US TOW missile.)

The torture defenders play their trump card.

The WaPo carries a carefully constructed article describing how Khalid Sheik Muhammed became the interrogators' house pet, leading "terrorist tutorials" for them.

(I call this article "carefully constructed" because it must have been difficult to coordinate the unnamed sources to feed all that to the WaPo. I mean, seriously, if KSM was such a house pet after waterboarding, don't you think it would have shown up somewhere before now?)

Friday, August 28, 2009

A key death in Iraq

This kinda got lost amidst all the Kennedy stuff, but former SIIC head Abdul Aziz al-Hakim finally succumbed to cancer. The death isn't a surprise, and his son has been running the operation for awhile, but this death does put some shift in Iraqi Shia politics.

The son runs the direct SIIC operation, but lacks some of the broader influence his father had over other affiliated Shia groups.

The new core Shia/Iran influenced bloc looking to angle out Maliki is now less determined by the SIIC.

It's not fully clear what that means in a bigger picture, but, more than likely, it offers Iran space to increase its influence.

(And I know the SIIC has worked with Iran forever, but they did so as two parties working together. This death and the power shifts from it takes the SIIC down a peg and makes the power balance even more tilted towards Iran.)

The new CW

"Conventional Wisdom" has now settled on the idea that Eric Holder is powerful and independent (Both the WaPo and NYTimes' top stories.)

Probably should get ready for Republican cries of "Attorney General out of control."

Again, why did Nixon tape himself?

The AP has a long article from the Nixon tapes about how Nixon went to extensive lengths, even using the Secret Service, to try and find dirt on Ted Kennedy. (They didn't.)


White House spokesman Bill Burton,
"As I recall, the previous president [took] quite a bit of vacation himself, and I don't think anyone bemoaned that," Burton said.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


Making up and disseminating complete and intentional fabrications on healthcare is OK. Terrifying old people that they're going to be euthanized, that's OK. Organizing and cheering on gun toting, Nazi invoking, hate filled mobs is OK.

But mention Ted Kennedy's life work on healthcare at his funeral? That's across the line.


From Sarah Palin's Facebook page,
"FOX News' Glenn Beck is doing an extraordinary job this week walking America behind the scenes of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and outlining who is actually running the White House."

Later: Is Sarah Palin the first politician to try and hide behind Facebook/Twitter?

(ADN) "It would be at least the fourth time in recent months that an anticipated Palin speech has fallen through after Palin and her camp disputed they had ever confirmed it."

I wish we taped them all - Nixon on HMO's


A Kansas Republican Congresswoman says the GOP revival is waiting for its "great white hope."
"Republicans are struggling right now to find the great white hope," Jenkins said to the crowd. "I suggest to any of you who are concerned about that, who are Republican, there are some great young Republican minds in Washington."

Frankly, I don't think she meant it that badly, "white" as opposed to Obama, but the modern etymology of the phrase usually traces to finding a white heavyweight boxer to claim the title from black boxers.

So it has a racial association in origin even if she wasn't intentionally being directly racist.

Sleep deprivation in 2007

The Bush DoJ was authorizing pretty extreme sleep deprivation into late 2007.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Not talking Ted Kennedy

In all the healthcare yelling, it's interesting how short the "Obama is funding abortions" screams were. I'm sure it's still going on underneath the radar, but there was a time that abortion cries would have been one of the Republicans' main levers.

(If you think about it, there was relatively little abortion talk around Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor's confirmation.)

Has the political geography changed so much? Has the abortion issue lost its edge? Are there no more votes to be won by GOPers making the public argument against abortion anymore?

Disappearing Russian ship gets much more complicated

Come to find out, that Russian ship that went "missing" in the Baltic Sea may have been carrying something besides timber (drugs, weapons, missiles, nuclear material?)

Secondly, the Russian authorities have detained the crew as part of the investigation looks at a possible inside job.

Taleban threat

New Taleban chief Hakimullah Mehsud (apparently not killed in that shootout) warns of revenge attacks for the US drone killing Beithullah Meshud.
"That said, it doesn't mean that the Hakimullah network will be quiet. Security agencies anticipate that with his appointment, he may order a wave of spectacular attacks across the country to try to establish his authority."

A midterm game changer

I have long contended that Middle East peace is an Obama priority, but this is still a bit of a surprise.
Barack Obama is close to brokering an Israeli-Palestinian deal that will allow him to announce a resumption of the long-stalled Middle East peace talks before the end of next month, according to US, Israeli, Palestinian and European officials.

The trade with the Israelis is this,
The US, along with Britain and France, is planning to push the United Nations security council to expand sanctions to include Iran's oil and gas industry, a move that could cripple its economy.

In return, the Israeli government will be expected to agree to a partial freeze on the construction of settlements in the Middle East.

We'll have to later see if there's any real progress, but, in the midterm, this will likely shift domestic coverage more positively.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

More on torture

First, take a read of the NYTimes headliner tonight, Report Shows Tight C.I.A. Control on Interrogations, which describes the incredible level of detailed specifications coming out of the CIA and the torture advocates in the DoJ.

In it, we learn that the DoJ people were authorizing specific actions on specific individuals.

Second, although it's not getting much press at the moment, the DoJ does have a second separate group looking into the actions of the OLC lawyers who wrote the legal justifications and specs for the torture program. (Yoo, Bybee, etc.) Action on them, might be coming later.

Third, on Olbermann tonight, they said that Khalid Sheik Muhammed nearly died in his waterboarding. If I see more detail, I'll update.

Last, I'm not sure I agree with this whole post, but the threat to KSM that the US would kill his children is very different when you know that the Pakistanis had seized, detained and interrogated KSM's seven and nine year old sons before he was captured.

Later: The WaPo also has an interesting article on the procedures and details of the torture program.

Picture of the Day

No, that's not the guitarist from that 80's band doing a perp walk.

That's Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi leaving the G8 summit in July. (REUTERS/Chris Wattie.)

I mean, what sort of world leader dresses like a Michael Jackson impersonator?

(Maybe it was an homage.)

Another story underneath - The bad news week

The Obama administration doesn't seem to be using the traditional Friday dump to hide their bad news. Their current preferred tactic appears to be hide a bad news story underneath a larger, more likely to be talked about "big story."

Today's example: Renominating Bernanke for the Fed overriding the bad deficit news.

I don't know if this will continue or will just be a feature of Obama's vacation, but this late August period may be where they dump the worst of it.

Rumors that Panetta may be leaving

I don't think I buy the rumor that Leon Panetta may resign as head of the CIA over the torture investigation/disclosures.

To me, this feels more like the same double game the Obama folks have played a couple of times so far.

There's a built in conflict between the Obama folks cleaning up the Bush admin's messes, and fear among the CIA's rank and file that they'll take the fall (also translated as being held responsible for following dubious orders.)

So, Panetta, an intelligence outsider, expresses a position that's sure to please his new CIA employees winning him more favor and control, but, in the end, his public position is more about internal CIA politics than policy.

Also, there's this little throw in which hints at more potential revelations to come,
"Leon will be leaving," predicted a former top U.S. intelligence official, citing the conflict with Blair. The former official said Panetta is also "uncomfortable" with some of the operations being carried out by the CIA that he did not know about until he took the job.

Notice the plural, "operations."

We've already heard about the CIA assassinations/Blackwater thing, so what other "operations" are so uncomfortable for Panetta to have his name on?


"...wants us to have the same health care and plan that he had in Kenya."

-- Rush Limbaugh on Barack Obama

Monday, August 24, 2009

Hiding it underneath

The top headline is Holder Names Prosecutor to Examine C.I.A. Abuse Cases, but right under that is the admission that Rendition of Terror Suspects to Continue Under Obama, carefully covered by the top headline.

Also today, the CIA report came out, and it looks like Ashcroft may have some exposure.
"The Attorney General was informed the waterboard had been used 119 times on a single individual," the report states. Mohammed was ultimately waterboarded 183 times, according to Justice Department memos.

Again, no wonder that Obama's on vacation.

Justice Dept. recommends tortur/detainee prosecutons

The Department of Justice's OPR report on detainee treatment reportedly recommends to AG Holder that he should prosecute "nearly a dozen" detainee abuse cases.

The focus of the argument will likely center around the CIA, but I don't think it should be lost
though, that "contractors" who were acting as interrogators are in the jackpot, too.

This recommendation seems to be all about the "above ground" operations (Iraq, Afghanistan, maybe Guantanamo.) It doesn't seem to reference the "black site" operations of secret prisons, waterboarding, etc.


The Obama administration institutes a High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group which will takeover "high value" terror interrogations from the CIA, military, contractors, etc.

(Interesting that they're housing them at the FBI, the place with the least secrecy and legal wiggle room. It's a guarantee that it stays above board.)

Maliki is being angled out

Big news in Iraq.
Iraq's major Shiite parties announced a new coalition Monday that excludes Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, a development that will likely force the prime minister to join forces with non-traditional allies if he seeks to keep his job after parliamentary elections in January.

If the new Shiite coalition remains intact and secures a majority of seats during the Jan. 16 vote, Iraq's next government likely would be run by leaders with deep ties to Iran, which would considerably curb American influence here as U.S. troops continue to withdraw.

Maliki has proved to be a survivor, but this might do him in. What happens then?

Torture weekend

There were several revelations on torture over the weekend as the CIA defenders tried to dump stories into the less read weekend to soften the impact of this weeks re-release of a less redacted CIA IG report on torture.

I'm relinking these weekend posts because I think they're important. (Traditional media treats these stories as "written," and won't really highlight the specifics when more people are paying attention.)

So, On the IG's report on torture: 1) "More than one" mock execution and a Cole bomber "threatened" with a power drill.

2) The interrogation of that detainee was videotaped, but it was one of the videotapes the CIA controversially destroyed.

3) No attacks were averted through this torture.

And, From Der Spiegel, we learned that Blackwater was used in renditions from Guantanamo to the secret prison system. In other words, they were a clear link in "disappearing" people out of the system. They claim to have flight numbers, etc.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

I'm so tired of this guy

(AP) Lieberman says many health care changes can wait

Who is in control of the Taleban?

Lots of muddled reports over who is now in charge of the Taleban, (BBC, Reuters, AP.) The Taleban claims that the 20 something Hakimullah Mehsud is in charge, but he was also reported killed by the Pakistanis no too long ago.

There's alot of doubt, and no trustworthy sources.