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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Picture of the Day

(Einar Sveinsson, a citizen from Iceland dressed as Santa Claus, during a visit to the orthopedic area of the Benjamin Bloom children hospital in San Salvador, Thursday, Dec. 17, 2009.. (AP Photo/Luis Romero))

Merry, Merry

I'm off from here. I hope the holiday finds you and yours well.

Merry Christmas.

Picture of the Day

(A man dressed as Santa Claus donates blood at an American Red Cross center Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2009 in Tulsa, Okla.(AP Photo/Tulsa World, Mike Simons))


Gawker has a jokey decade ender, "The Top 13 People Politicians Should Not Have Had Sex with in the 2000s," but what really struck me is how many really weird sex scandals there were just in the last 5 years.

Mark Foley and the pages. Vitter, Spitzer, etc and the hookers. John Edwards' saga. John Ensign's affair with the married and paid off Hamptons. Senator Larry Craig in the public bathroom. NJ Gov. McGreevey and his gay lover that he appointed to State Homeland Security adviser. And, of course, Gov. Mark Sanford and the "Appalachian trail."

(And this is just the top level folks, Senators and Governors, whose misdeeds made it into the public. How many more of the rumors were true?)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Picture of the Day

(A White House nurse prepares to administer the H1N1 vaccine to President Barack Obama at the White House December 20, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza))

China's Chess

Copenhagen was a disaster. That much is agreed. But the truth about what actually happened is in danger of being lost amid the spin and inevitable mutual recriminations. The truth is this: China wrecked the talks, intentionally humiliated Barack Obama, and insisted on an awful "deal" so western leaders would walk away carrying the blame. How do I know this? Because I was in the room and saw it happen.

China's strategy was simple: block the open negotiations for two weeks, and then ensure that the closed-door deal made it look as if the west had failed the world's poor once again.

It should be recognized that Sudan, the head of the bloc of the 135 "developing countries" is a Chinese puppet. So, when China needed the developing countries' quote to reinforce their spin, there it was.

And, we should probably look back at the Chinese efforts to block all non-Chinese press from the US-China meeting, subverted only by Robert Gibbs getting involved.

Historically, the Chinese try to go after each new US President in his first year. Because of 9-11, no one seems to remember the way they pulled the Bush administration around on a string after grounding the US electronic spy plane there, holding the crew, and then holding the plane to try and reverse engineer it.

Thought for the Day

The actual dollar line and coverage specifics of the health bill don't really matter. Over the next decade, whatever is passed will be tweaked, "fixed," and abused so many times that the specifics we see today won't really be in existence. ("The Senator would like to propose an amendment to the military funding request to....")

On the other hand, on the big stuff, the public option, single payer, the mandate as a concept.... we're probably stuck with those.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The battle at Tora Bora

The New Republic has an excellent piece on the greatest failing in the "war on terror," Bin Laden's "escape" at Tora Bora.

Here's the key political passage.
A dispute was raging among officials about how to conduct the battle. By late November, Crumpton--a soft-spoken Georgian widely regarded as one of the most effective CIA officers of his generation--feared that bin Laden might try to escape Tora Bora. He explained this to Bush and Cheney personally at the White House and presented satellite imagery showing that the Pakistani military did not have its side of the border covered....

Crumpton says, “I remember the message. I remember talking not only to Gary every day, but to some of his men who were at Tora Bora. Directly. And their request could not have been more direct, more clear, more certain: that we needed U.S. troops there. More men on the ground.”...

Meanwhile, the additional forces that Crumpton and Berntsen were requesting were certainly available. There were around 2,000 U.S. troops in or near the Afghan theater at the time. At the U.S. airbase known as K2 in Uzbekistan were stationed some 1,000 soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division, whose specialty is fighting in harsh terrain....

In the end, there were more journalists--about 100, according to Nic Robertson of CNN and Susan Glasser of The Washington Post, who both covered the battle--in and around Tora Bora than there were Western soldiers.

In this version, Gen. Tommy Franks takes the fall for no more troops, but it's still a great, extremely detailed, and important read.

Ugly and Unprecedented Steele.

Michael Steele is using his RNC job to get rich making speeches for $8,000-$20,000 each.

Charlie Crist is wobbling

It's hugely amazing that the extremely popular Charlie Crist is wobbling in his Florida Senate primary. A week ago we had polling showing a tie (one poll and all,) but now we have two influential Miami, Cuban Republican Reps, the Diaz-Balarts, withdrawing their Crist endorsements.

I don't know what's going on down there. Crist should be the smart future of the Republican party, but the crazies are tearing him down.

(However, let's not forget that on a lower turnout primary election day, a well funded former governor will probably have a pretty good turnout machine.)

Lithuanian CIA "black sites"

The Lithuanian parliament has finished its report on CIA "black site" operations in the country, and found two sites and a number of CIA flights.
...at least eight terror suspects were held at one centre on the outskirts of the capital Vilnius...

...he suspects were reportedly held there between 2004 and 2005...

...even the (Lithuanian) president was unaware of exactly what the US intelligence service was doing....

US Spec Ops in Pakistan

The Guardian has an article in which a former NATO officer confirms and outlines four US special ops incursions into the Pakistani tribal zones between 2003 and 2008 , three to go after Al Qaeda/Taleban figures and one to recover a Predator drone.

Frankly, I had always assumed there was more clandestine activity than that, although this only lists military run, unit sized raids, not recon, CIA, or whatever else.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Good news for Giulianai

Remember when all the pundits told us "brave" Giuliani was going to be the next President?

Now, Giuliani doesn't even dare run for Senate in his home state.

Dangerous incompetence

The Bush DHS got taken by a Nevada conman who claimed that he (and only he) could detect secret barcodes embedded in Al Jazeera broadcasts sending secret instructions to terrorists.

It really does show the level of fantasy that existed in the terror search.

Long article. Summary here.

Nobody respects Harry Reid

The NYTimes has a big article on some of the specific giveaways in the current Senate healthcare version.

What struck me most about the article is the clear lack of respect commanded by Harry Reid both by the Senators who extorted these handouts and in the way the press is covering his efforts.

Picture of the Day

(Pro-reform Iranians attend the funeral ceremony of Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, the spiritual father of Iran's reform movement, in the city of Qom, Monday, Dec. 21, 2009. Montazeri, who died Sunday at the age of 87, was a key figure in the 1979 Islamic Revolution who later accused his fellow clerical leaders of imposing dictatorship in the name of Islam. (AP Photo) EDITORS NOTE AS A RESULT OF AN OFFICIAL IRANIAN GOVERNMENT BAN ON FOREIGN MEDIA COVERING SOME EVENTS IN IRAN, THE AP WAS PREVENTED FROM INDEPENDENT ACCESS TO THIS EVENT)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Worst ideas of the decade

The WaPo has a "worst ideas of the decade" piece. It's not at all complete, but it's an interesting starting point.

For a little Sunday fun, here are a few off the top of my head "worst ideas of the decade" to add to their list. (In no order.)

The elevation of ignorance as a political virtue.

Partisan "news" niches.

McCain's campaign suspension. (Picking Palin?)

K Street project.

Invading Iraq.

No doc home loans/Home equity loans as lifestyle enhancers.

Please add to the list as they come to you.