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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The implosion of a Republican pollster

I haven't really been talking about this because it's very "inside baseball," but Republican polling firm Strategic Vision appears to be blowing up as something of a fraud. They were very McCain friendly in the 2008 polling and tended to skew the overused and sometimes inexact "poll averages" cited frequently without proper context by the media. They've also "supplied" some issue polling which has been cited as support by GOP figures in policy debates.

Here's the latest on their flailing defense which makes them sound more and more like a sham.

Details on the census worker

The witness who found the "hanged" census worker in Kentucky describes the scene in some detail which gives hints of a different view of how the thing played out.


This new Iranian nuclear facility is "under a mountain," so all that talk about air bombing the Iranian program backwards is just garbage unless the Israelis or whoever were/are willing to use multiple, multiple nukes.

(Maybe the revelation of this site is where George Bush got off the bomb Iran bandwagon?)

Alan Stannford in hospital after prison fight

The Texas "billionaire" fraudster is sent to the hospital for a couple days after a prison fight.

This comes right after famous defense attorney Dick Deguerin dropped Stanford over fears he wouldn't get paid. Stanford now has a public defender.

(Still not enough. This guy was my city's Madoff.)

Friday, September 25, 2009

20 seconds. Worth a look on a Friday.

Check out this compilation of photos and notice the spooky consistency in Obama's smile. (From here.)

Thought for the Day

I sure am glad we solved that racism thing so we don't have to talk about it anymore....

Blowing the Obama administration's big reveal on Iran

The Obama administration was set to to roll out charges that Iran had a secret nuclear facility, apparently as part of an effort at the next round of sanctions. (see next.)

The Iranians got wind of this (probably from US discussions with the Chinese or Russians) and decided to reveal the truth first in a letter to the IAEA.

The other foot on Iran

The US, Britain, and France are set to reveal today that Iran has been secretly constructing another enrichment plant.

I'm assuming this will be huge news for days, so I'll leave all the technicals to others and just mention the timing of the release bracketed between the UN and the G20, allowing quiet talks and arrangements with Russia and China at the UN meeting before the announcement, and ample time for statements and unified "heads of state" photos at the G20 after the announcement.
Mr. Obama was first briefed on Iran’s project before he became president, as part of the detailed intelligence reports provided by the then-director of national intelligence, Mike McConnell. Mr. Obama has received updated intelligence on it “several times,” one senior aide said Thursday evening.

In advance of Friday morning’s announcement, Mr. Obama sent top intelligence officials to brief the I.A.E.A.’s chief inspector, Olli Heinonen. Other American diplomats and intelligence officials shared their findings with China, Russia and Germany, all important players in the negotiations with Iran.

Earlier this week, Mr. Obama’s discussions with President Hu Jintao of China on Tuesday and his meeting with President Dmitri A. Medvedev of Russia on Wednesday focused largely on Iran, administration officials said. During his meeting with Mr. Medvedev in particular, Mr. Obama pressed his case, expressing pessimism that talks scheduled for next week with the Iranians over the nuclear issue would yield much progress, administration officials said.

So, the Obama folks have known about this for eight months and held it to release now?

(How closely held was this intel that none of those Iran hawks have leaked it before now?)

And, it is interesting that this is released after the "heads of state" meeting of the Security Council.

Terror, terror everywhere

By now, we all know about the Denver-New York terror plot which, at this point, appears to have been a pretty serious and legitimate terror threat (although I think the WMD charges probably use the expansive legal definition rather than the technical definition.)

But, we should probably also notice these other two individual arrests. one in Dallas and one in Springfield Illinois. In both cases, the FBI was deeply involved and there was no true threat. In both cases it was lone guys who the FBI met and kinda contolled in their plots.

However, also in both cases, the subjects thought they were real, drove what they thought were real car bombs to real target buildings, and, in both cases, the subjects actually pushed the button they thought would detonate the explosives.

Later: The Springfield bomber was active on myspace. Check out his photo. (Not so sure a goofy picture necessarily disqualifies him as a danger. Remember, he actually pushed the button.)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

On Iran, we bought Russia, but China's still sticking.

After canceling the dubious missile defense project in Poland and the Czech Republic, the Russians appear to soften their stand on Iran sanctions.

However, part of that softening might be that the security of knowing that the veto wielding Chinese are still saying no. (But the Chinese don't like to say no alone, so we'll have to wait and see.)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

On Rush Limbaugh's side....

White supremacist groups say they want hate crime charges filed in the Belleville West bus attack case and are encouraging a protest.

Messages flashed across neo-Nazi and white supremacist websites today promoting an 11 a.m. protest on the Belleville courthouse grounds on Saturday...

Water on the moon

An Indian probe has discovered evidence of water on the moon.

Where it leads.....

A part time Census employee is found hanged in rural Kentucky with the word "Fed" scrawled on him.

But, all this nativism and "the census workers are evil and preparing to run us into camps" had nothing to do with it, right? I'm holding my breath, waiting for Michelle Bachmann to take responsibility.

"I can see Russia from my house...."

You would have thought she would have learned....
Ms. Palin warmed up the crowd with her impressions of Hong Kong, one of the densest urban areas in the world.....

She also spoke about how Alaska once shared a land bridge with Asia. And she noted that her husband's Eskimo ancestors crossed that bridge. "To consider that connection that allowed sharing of peoples and bloodlines and wildlife and flora and fauna, that connection to me is quite fascinating," she said.

"New World Order"

Reading the pre-press on Obama's speech to the UN today, I'm struck by how similar... how much it appears to be a return to a continuation of the Bush Sr. and Clinton foreign policy model, the "new world order," the US as "a nation among nations."

To me, this abandonment of the fantasy of unilateralism and return to reality is a great thing. As the rise of future rivals India and China appears inevitable, the primary goal of US foreign policy should be an effort to establish international rules and frameworks to our advantage while we still hold preeminence.

This is a repudiation of the "Project for a New American Century" group of theories which tried to employ the temporary US military advantage to the same effect. The problem with that theory is that, as we've seen, the US military was constructed to win wars, not occupy countries.

Plus, the ill will and global political weaknesses created by the overextensions created a diplomatic weakness in the much more important balance with our larger true future rivals. (ie What did we "win" in Iraq versus the run of trade and oil deals the Chinese put together around the globe while we were tied down?)

So, I'm pretty happy with the apparent tone. This return to sanity will create a far better future America for our kids.

On script/Off script

Some feedback from the much publicized first paid Palin speech at the CLSA. The speech itself was decently reviewed (although it's pretty clear it was written by 2008 campaign ally Randy Scheunneman,) but the Q$A afterwards seems to have revealed that she's still the same empty Palin. (I love the carefully worded, diplomatic put down, "reminded everyone of the candidate....")
He said her speech was "very well scripted," but a question-and-answer session afterward "brought out a bit more color about her as a person" and reminded everyone of "the candidate who we all saw campaigning for vice president."

She talked about her family, her interests and even Alaskan moose, he said.

More feedback from AFP,
Two US delegates left early, with one saying "it was awful, we couldn't stand it any longer". He declined to be identified.....

"It was almost more of a speech promoting investment in Alaska," he said, declining to be named.

"As fund managers we want to hear about the United States as a whole, not just about Alaska. And she criticised Obama a lot but offered no solutions."

Another said he was disappointed that she took only pre-arranged questions.


President Obama after meeting with Bill Clinton,
"Now, I think everyone knows what it's like when Bill Clinton asks you to make a commitment," he said. "He looks you in the eye, feels your pain. He makes you feel like you're the only person in the room. What could I say? I was vulnerable just as all of you have been vulnerable to his charms."

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Cool things on the internet

I don't normally link to stuff like this, but I thought the technique and execution were pretty damn cool. It gets really interesting at about 2 minutes. Make sure you click the little double box at the bottom right for full screen.

Quote - A Fox"News" memo following the teabag protests

For those of us who have only been at Fox for a relatively short period of time, it’s useful to remind ourselves that, as journalists, we must always be careful to cover the story without becoming part of the story. At news events, we’re supposed to function as dispassionate observers, not active participants. We are there to chronicle the news, not create it.

Picture of the Day - Rock and Roll

This is Sgt. Maj. Teresa L. King who will be made commandant of the Army's drill sergeant school today.

I just wanted to take a minute to notice this, because this is non-com. This is a whole different kind of (very male) glass ceiling she's busting through.

I'd recommend the story.

Quote of the Day

"First of all, I think it's important to realize that I was actually black before the election...."

---Barack Obama on Letterman.

The "non-peace" summit.

I read that phrase somewhere about today's US-Israel-Palestinian(Fatah) meeting and thought it deserved repetition.

Probably more evidence than we're hearing

The Afghan man/US resident in the Denver/New York terror probe is ordered held without bail by the judge.

Iran, Pakistan helping "the Taleban"

Another bit as Gen. McChrystal's reports filters through the media. Pakistan and Iran are providing some aide to the militants. (Ihoose the word "militants," because "Taleban" has become overused to refer to all fighting forces rather than the discrete religiously driven groups coming out of Pakistan's tribal lands.)

As we know, elements in Pakistan's ISI, military, and government are providing direct support for Taleban proper, and also for some "nearby" groups, sharing not just their anti-US crusade of the moment, but their broader goals and motivations.

The Iranians can really be better said to support "militants" as they directly don't share Taleban intentions, but do see assistance as temporarily utilitarian in their tensions with the US. (Ironically, a much lower involvement version of the same game the US played in the Iran-Iraq war.)

Way too long an excerpt, and I'm not so sure of the description of "assistance," but this describes the relationship perfectly.
Iran has traditionally had an adversarial relationship with the Taliban, and McChrystal's report says that Tehran has played "an ambiguous role in Afghanistan," providing developmental assistance to the government even as it flirts with insurgent groups that target U.S. troops.

"The Iranian Quds Force is reportedly training fighters for certain Taliban groups and providing other forms of military assistance to insurgents," McChrystal said in the report. The Quds Force is an elite wing of the Revolutionary Guard that carries out operations in other countries.

McChrystal did not elaborate on the nature of the assistance, but Iran has been a transit point for foreign fighters entering Pakistan. Experts also cited evidence that Iran has provided training and technology in the use of roadside bombs.

U.S. intelligence officials said Iran appears to calibrate its involvement to tie down U.S. and coalition troops without provoking direct retaliation.

Iran's aim "is to make sure the U.S. is tied down and preoccupied in yet another theater," said Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert at Georgetown University. "From Iran's point of view, it's an historical area of interest and too good an opportunity to pass up."

McChrystal, "to the cities."

Now, this makes some sense with the troop limitations, but I can't seem to avoid thinking of the parallel to the Soviet attempts at Afghan occupation. (Of course, no one's sending in the manpad (anti-aircraft) this time the way the US did to the Soviets.)
Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top military officer in Afghanistan, has told his commanders to pull forces out of sparsely populated areas where U.S. troops have fought bloody battles with the Taliban for several years and focus them on protecting major Afghan population centers...

Monday, September 21, 2009

Picture of the Day

A little awkward after the weekend's news.

(President Barack Obama is greeted by New York Gov. David Paterson as he arrives in Albany, N.Y., Monday, Sept. 21, 2009. (AP/Charles Dharapak))

Who gets to be a star?

I've really been avoiding blogging the insanity and implosion of "birther" queen Orly Taitz (The lead spokesperson in the "Obama isn't a citizen" thing,) but now, after claiming the last judge was "treasonous" and part of a giant conspiracy, she claims that the termination letter from one of her clients is, in fact, a forgery.

I'm not dancing on her insanity or revelling in her downfall. What I'm doing is noting that, with no credentials of any kind, and clear signals of her psychological imbalances and paranoia, this woman was sought after, feted, and put on almost every news network to spout her clearly delusional and baseless charges.

This is someone who was clearly not rational from the get go, but still got propped up on the news networks for weeks. They treated her rantings as debatable arguments.

Souldn't someone do a post mortem and ask how that happened?

AQ Khan's tell all?

A way too long and not very well constructed writing from an FT reporter outlines a detailed "secret letter" that AQ Khan had written in case of his arrest.

Not only does it confirm sending diagrams and equipment to Iran and North Korea, but it also clearly implicates the top levels of Pakistan's government.

A bombshell if it was well written.

Thought - Where is David Petraeus?

After building his rep on the Iraq "surge," it's kind of odd that current US Central Command commander Petraeus seems largely absent in the discussion of more troops for Afghanistan.

I mean, that's directly under his command, but with all his political sway and presence, he's leaving all the political work to his underlings. Kinda odd, eh?

For those who care, a Kasparov-Karpov rematch

Admittedly, this matchup won't be anything like that famous 1984 meeting, but I still think it's pretty cool that they're staging a Karpov-Kasparov rematch.

Netanyahu stakes out a public hard line

Immediately ahead of the Obama-Netanyahu-Abbas talks, a Netanyahu spokesman lays out a very hard line, saying he will defend the settlements at the meeting.

Probably more about domestic politics than anything else, but it sets a hostile line ahead of the meeting.

Also, Israel tries to disown comments by Russian PM Medvedev, saying an attack on Iran is still possible.

A difference in tone

The details and scope on the Denver-New York terror arrests still aren't all that clear, but this morning, for some reason, I was struck by the difference in tone in the way these arrests have been treated.

Can you imagine if these arrests had happened under the Bush administration? We would have spent the last five days listening to the VP, AG, FBI and DHS directors telling us that an imminent attack had been thwarted. (Remember those goofballs in Miami? Imagine if they had been arrested with bomb designs, backpacks, maps to the subway, direct phone calls with a Pakistani Al Qaeda figure, and training camps?)

Whereas Obama has done all the Sunday shows and Leno and whatever else, and I don't know if this was mentioned at all.

The Obama folks clearly aren't pressing it, but the press also seems to be treating it differently. Just noticing.

Today's articles on the arrests: (CNN) Terror suspect: 'Our phone call is being monitored'. (NYTimes) Terror Suspect Had Bomb Guide, Authorities Say

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Obama asks NY Gov Patterson not to run

Wow. This seems like big news in the sense that it's so unusual.

I don't know if the "request" is that unusual, but a coordinated feed to the press sure seems to be. Does making it public mean that Patterson rebuffed the first private entreaties?
“The message the White House wanted to send — that it wants Paterson to step aside — was delivered,” said the Democratic operative... “He is resistant.”

Just wow.

Later: Heard on NPR this afternoon that Patterson was rejecting the entreaty.

The ridiculous thing is, this public message will scare off most of Patterson's donors and all of his political support. What base does he think he's going to run on?

Later Still: Reuters has Patterson saying "I'm still running."

They love their Huck

It doesn't really mean anything, but Huckabee won the "Values Voters" straw poll. The Huckabee people coordinate and work hard to win these things.

Baby steps

Obama will host a joint meeting in New York on Tuesday with Israel PM Netanyahu and Palestinian (Fatah) PM Abbas.

We all know the litany of problems and complications littering the middle east field, but getting the two chiefs at the same table is a an important, symbolic, small step.

(Of course, somehow you have to tie Iran in or somehow marginalize them, and their position on progress is pretty clear, (AFP) Khamenei slams Israel, West in holy Eid sermon.)