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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Bill Clinton says vote for Obama and you'll die.....

Taking a page from the Republican 2004 playbook, Bill Clinton says vote for Obama and you'll die.
Former President Bill Clinton sharply questioned whether Sen. Barack Obama is experienced enough to be president during a television interview that aired Friday night.

And the husband of Obama's rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, Sen. Hillary Clinton, suggested that electing the Illinois Democrat to be commander-in-chief would be a "risk."

Tell me that's not desperation.

Political bits

I do find it interesting that the Republican bloggers and media people are panicking over the prospect of a Huckabee nomination.

(Politico) Tell me Mitt Romney doesn't sound resigned to losing.

(Politico) The Huckabee 527 that was placing pushpoll calls in Iowa is moving into New Hampshire.

Two NYTimes articles intimating questionable money and ethics on the "frontrunners," Huckabee on gift receiving, Clinton on the funding of her husband's library. (Both these seem oppo planted.)

And, (Hotline) To offset Oprah I guess, Bill Clinton will be campaigning with Magic Johnson next week.

Picture of the Day

Take just a moment to appreciate that Mike Huckabee wants your vote for president to be determined by doctrinal differences over the relationship of Jesus and Satan.

That's how he wants us to pick our president.

(AP Photo/Cheryl Senter)

Maybe it's not security that's bringing the Iraqi refugees home

A very good point,
One-third of Iraqi refugees who fled to neighboring Syria expect their money to run out within three months, the U.N. refugee agency said Friday in a report highlighting what some believe is the main reason families are returning to their still-violent homeland......

A U.N. spokeswoman said those worries — not improved security in Iraq — appear to be the driving force behind the decision by thousands of Iraqis to return. And as savings draw down, U.S. and U.N. officials fear, many more could be forced to come back to a country still unready for them.


The British leaving Basra

(Telegraph) "A senior army commander has said that British troops in Iraq feel they lack public support because the conflict remains mired in "spin and dodgy dossiers"."

(BBC) "A British general told me - privately and off the record of course - that the Army had been defeated, pure and simple."

(Telegraph) "American troops may have to be sent to Basra once British force levels are halved next year, the Army's senior general in the region has conceded for the first time."

Two on torture

Salon has an article I couldn't stop reading describing Mohamed Bashmilah's experience in Jordan and then at a CIA secret prison. (Bashmilah has a court case going, and there is no second sourcing, but it's an interesting read.)

Also, Juan Cole has an interesting translation of an El Mundo interview with discharged US army private Damien Corsetti who "who, according to The New York Times was nicknamed "The King of Torture" and "The Monster" by his colleagues at Bagram prison."

Friday, December 14, 2007

Picture of the Day - 2

(Rudy Giuliani waves during the Republican Party of Florida and Univision Spanish channel debate at the University of Miami, December 9, 2007. (REUTERS/Carlos Barria))

It's no wonder Giuliani's freaking out

A new Rasmussen poll shows Giuliani in third in Florida (Huckabee 27, Romney 23, Giuliani 19.)

It's just one poll, and things will change alot after the other early primaries, but the entire Giuliani strategy rests on losing the early primaries, then posting a big win in Florida to launch into Feb. 5.

If he doesn't show big in Florida......

Later: Giuliani is giving "a major speech" in Tampa tomorrow. To me, it sounds like a very late attempt to relaunch/reframe.

A two horse race loses for Clinton.

Thinking about the post below, what happens if Edwards is effectively ruled out by the time we get to South Carolina, or Florida, or the Feb. 5 tsunami?

My guess is that Edwards voters will likely break towards Obama. As a thought exercise, imagine chopping up about half of the Edwards support and distributing it 2 to 1 to Obama.

+3 or +4 to Obama presents a very different race.

Picture of the Day

(Hillary Rodham Clinton listens during the Des Moines Register Democratic Presidential Debate in Johnston, Iowa, Thursday, Dec. 13, 2007. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall))

Clinton's "murder/suicide" in drug allegation

Perhaps the most interesting analysis I've seen of the Obama teenage drugs allegation by the Clinton camp is that it's not intended to help her win Iowa. It's only intended to keep Obama from winning Iowa.

Sure, it's not ideal, but an underfunded and far weaker Edwards winning Iowa would pose a much smaller threat to Clinton and it would diminish Obama's momentum going into the Clinton firewall of NH (where the Shaheen statements were made.)

(And, it appears the Clinton camp is pushing a story that Obama out of state staffers are registering in Iowa. Anything to diminish his Iowa finish.)

Did we win?

(VOI) U.S. troops on Thursday stormed a Ministry of Education building in Sadr City in eastern Baghdad and confiscated some documents, a media source from the ministry said.

(AFP) "The United States may begin reducing the number of reconstruction teams in Iraq in 2009."

(NYTimes/LATimes) There's still a lot of little reported violence.

(USAToday) U.S. paid $32M for Iraqi base that wasn't built.

(WaPo) Inspector General for Iraq Under Investigation

Juan Cole offers a clarification on the AP report that Sadr is studying to become an Ayatollah.

Also, A rather interesting Asia Times piece looking at the recent retaking of Musa Qala in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

GOP political bits

(USAToday) The Giuliani camp is starting to freak out that their "lose until Fla." strategy might not work. They're pouring resources into NH. (Currently 13% behind Romney, tied with McCain.)

Meanwhile, McCain is all New Hampshire. Did you see him attack ethanol at the Iowa debate?

(TheHill) Ed Rollins signed on to be Huckabee's national chairman.

And, this is something I've been thinking for the last few weeks. A good part of Huckabee's rise is merely that he's a "none of the above" vote against Giuliani, Romney, et al. People started supporting him before they knew anything about him, except that he's "christian."

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Picture of the Day - 2

(John Edwards turns and laughs as Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton smiles during the Des Moines Register Democratic Presidential Debate in Johnston, Iowa, Thursday, Dec. 13, 2007. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall))

Ayatollah Sadr

I would guess that with Sadr's obvious political motivations in this, the bestowal of an Ayatollah title would rank slightly above Elvis Presley's blackbelt, but within the movement, having an Ayatollah Sadr would offer alot of justification.
The leader of Iraq's biggest Shiite militia movement has quietly resumed seminary studies toward attaining the title of ayatollah — a goal that could make firebrand cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army an even more formidable power broker in Iraq.

This would give Sadr a platform to challenge Sistani and the SIIC.

Political bits

(Reuters) The Senate Judiciary Committee voted to hold Rove, Miers, and Bolten in contempt for refusing to testify regarding the fired US Attorneys.

"Attorney General Michael Mukasey said during his confirmation hearing he did not believe the department could prosecute since it had deemed Bush's privilege claim as valid."

(AKTimes) A "brutal" anti-Huckabee web video/ad regarding Wayne Dumond and featuring the slain woman's mother was produced by a long time Arkansas Republican operative.

(CNN) George Bush's name was not used once in the entire 90 minute long GOP debate yesterday. (He's the head of their party and a two term serving president!)

And, aside from the Puritanical right, does anybody in our 21st century rehab nation really give a damn if Obama used drugs as a teenager? Maybe this is just big city talking, but I think almost everybody knows someone who has been in rehab or AA.

Later: Here's the 30 second debate clip that's got everyone talking. Clinton had trouble holding that forced laugh afterwards.

Picture of the Day

(The time keeper warns Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards that he is out of time during his speech at the Democratic National Committee annual fall meeting in Vienna, Virginia, November 30, 2007. (REUTERS/Joshua Roberts))

The IRI polls Pakistan

There's a new poll of Pakistanis by the International Republican Institute which shows Musharraf and his party as hugely unpopular in the Jan. 8 election. The poll also shows that the people would prefer a Bhutto/Sharif alliance (58%) or another military coup (56%.)

I mention this primarily because it has been suggested that the IRI has played role in the broader US efforts to overturn foreign governments. Recent rumors around Venezuela, funding and supporting "pro-democracy" parties in the former eastern bloc, Lebanon. They're not responsible, but they're connected, often acting as an overt funding conduit for "opposition groups."

Most of their efforts are what I would consider above board, but with the history, when I see them pushing anti-Musharraf polling and getting it promoted in the NYTimes and BBC, I gotta wonder.

(Oh, and there's this gem: (AP) "President Pervez Musharraf will lift Pakistan's state of emergency only after changing the constitution to ensure he cannot be hauled before a court."

Gates chastises NATO over Afghanistan

Robert Gates is headed to a NATO security meeting in Edinburgh where he plans to extend his very public chastisement of NATO allies over Afghanistan troop levels.

Maybe I'm wrong, but with the European view that the US made a mistake going into (and staying in) Iraq, publicly going after NATO partners for troops might not create the domestic pressure the US would hope for.

Shaming the Bush administration on its warming charade

Not too long ago, the Bush administration tried to put off criticism on global warming by proposing a new US led initiative.
European nations on Thursday threatened to boycott U.S.-led climate talks next month unless Washington accepts a range of numbers for negotiating deep reductions of global-warming emissions at a U.N. conference here.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


I haven't been covering the Dems as much because, thus far, it hasn't been as interesting, but here's a few items on Clinton that made me think.

Crazy Dick Morris theorizes that Clinton might in fact benefit from losing early because it would push the (critical) focus onto Obama. (One of the Politico bloggers thinks that it's possible that the recent rumors of disquiet in the Clinton camp may be an attempt to push people to ask if Obama is ready/can win.)

I'm not sure about the theory, but you could read today's attack by a Clinton aide over Obama's drug use as either an element of panic or an element in the Dick Morris theory.

Anyway, the latest polling from New Hampshire definitely shows a tightened race.

(And, while I'm in the area, a funny piece from Ben Smith. Is the collapse in Hillary's "inevitability" taking a chunk out of Giuliani? Without his overriding "I can beat her" argument do Republican voters start to look differently at him?)

Later: Newsday focuses on internal complaints against Clinton strategist Mark Penn.

Picture of the Day - 2

1) Nobody makes me laugh like Keyes. I wish he'd been at all the debates.

2) Everytime I watch him speak, I imagine Garrett Morris doing a parody of him.

3) He's a cult leader who can't understand why no one will follow him.

(Alan Keyes responds during the Republican Presidential Debate in Johnston, Iowa, Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2007. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall))

Kiriakou did what he was supposed to

I'm reading this to mean that Kiriakou was working on behalf of the institutional torture defenders (as I theorized.)
The former CIA intelligence official who went public on ABC News about the agency's use of waterboarding in interrogations, John Kiriakou, apparently will not be the subject of a Justice Department investigation, even though some CIA officials believe he revealed classified information about the use of waterboarding.

I like how CIA head Hayden sent out a memo so that it didn't appear they were doing nothing.

GOP debate and Huckmania

Looking forward to the Republican debate today because it's the last chance for the candidates to get in shots, and with Iowa under the ice storm, viewership, where there's power, should be pretty high. (Also: We get Alan Keyes in this debate, too.)

Two more Huckabee thoughts. 1) Yesterday he received the endorsement of Jim Gilchrist, the founder of the border group the minutemen. Admittedly, Gilchrist has been chased out of the group for financial irregularities, but the endorsement still helps Huckabee build a firewall against Romney's immigration charges.

But all I keep thinking is what must Huckabee have promised to get that endorsement?

2) I understand why he's doing it, but doesn't it smell a little funny that Huckabee and his former churches have clamped down and refused to release any of his sermons?

3) I feel obligated to mention Huckabee's gratuitous "Don't Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?"

(Also, this is pretty damn funny.)

Picture of the Day

"Martha, put a kettle on. Here comes another one of those damn candidates!"

(John Edwards arrives to speak to a house party in Bedford, N.H., Friday, Dec. 7, 2007. (AP Photo/Jim Cole))

Fun facts

Just some odd tidbits from the latest ABC/WaPo polling.
Evangelicals account for 31 of all Republicans and Republican leaners, and 37 percent of likely Republican primary voters.....

Among all Americans just 27 percent say a political leader should rely on his or her religious beliefs in making policy decisions, a new low in ABC/Post polling.

From the WaPo version,
Huckabee's challenge is to pick up support more broadly. While 20 percent of conservatives back his candidacy, he draws only 8 percent from moderate and liberal Republicans.


(Reuters) "Triple car bombing kills 40 in southern Iraq"

(Reuters) "Shi'ite factions proclaim truce in Iraq's Basra" (Telling the British they can go home now.)

(Reuters) "Iraq rejects permanent U.S. bases" (A clear ploy to blunt the Sadr criticisms of the government and ISCI.)

(AP) A number of the generals and high officers in Iraq are changing over the next few months.

And, The Army Times has a piece on a unit who "mutinied," but what I found most compelling was the jarring descriptions of a mortar attack on the food court in the Green Zone.


Adm. Michael G. Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
"Our main focus, militarily, in the region and in the world right now is rightly and firmly in Iraq," Mullen said before the House Armed Services Committee. "It is simply a matter of resources, of capacity. In Afghanistan, we do what we can. In Iraq, we do what we must."

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

More crazy Huckabee from 1992

The AP has more from Huckabee's 1992 Senate campaign.

"I feel homosexuality is an aberrant, unnatural and sinful lifestyle, and we now know it can pose a dangerous public health risk."

"The U.S. should not kill Saddam Hussein or anyone else."

Later: Oh, and let's not forget the letter he cosigned in the USAToday in 1998 on marriage calling for wives "to graciously submit to their husband's sacrificial leadership."

Picture of the Day - 2

The press is going gaga over this, but does anyone outside the inner GOP circles really care?

Were the voters in Iowa and New Hampshire holding their breath?

Drudge hates Huckabee

Yesterday, Drudge acted as the (prime, non-fact checking) outlet for a few slams against Huckabee. Today, he follows up with the slam of all slams in an unreliable, unsourced "Flash" item.
Tue Dec 11 2007 10:27:53 ET


Democrat party officials are avoiding any and all criticism of Republican presidential contender Mike Huckabee, insiders reveal.

The Democratic National Committee has told staffers to hold all fire, until he secures the party's nomination.

The directive has come down from the highest levels within the party, according to a top source.

Within the DNC, Huckabee is known as the "glass jaw -- and they're just waiting to break it."

Drudge even compares him to Howard Dean. No way this comes from a Dem. This smells like a desperate Romney trying to stop the Huckmentum.

(Not coincidentally, this comes right with the first national polling showing Huckabee getting creamed against all three Dem candidates.)

Political bits

On CNN they interviewed a "man on the street" who described blind mail Iowans were receiving attacking Romney's Mormonism.

(WaPo) An interesting bit on a nobody who assembled a 71 million item email list of "conservatives" built off the "Passion of the Christ" fervor in 2004. He's pimping Huckabee. (largest political database in the country?)

(ThinkProgress) Brigadier General Thomas W. Hartmann, the legal adviser at Guantanamo Bay, repeatedly refused to answer when Lindsey Graham asked if the Iranians waterboarding a US soldier was torture.

(WaPo) Feith tries to blame Iraq on Bremer.

(CNN) Fred Thompson abandons New Hampshire.

(Politico) Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) introduces a resolution praising Christians and Christmas.

And, (Politico) After having a complaint filed against them for using their church for illegal political purposes, "the Rev. Wiley S. Drake, of the First Southern Baptist Church of Buena Park, Calif.,... urg(ed) followers to pray for the deaths of Barry W. Lynn, Joe Conn and Jeremy Leaming, the Americans United officials who filed the IRS complaint.

Picture of the Day

Rudolph Giuliani reacts during an interview on "Meet the Press." (REUTERS/Alex Wong)

The WSJ finds their Iranian Chalabi

The Reuters recap because I don't have the WSJ subscription.
Iran did shut down its nuclear weapons program in 2003 but restarted it a year later, dispersing the equipment to thwart international inspectors, an overseas Iranian opposition group told the Wall Street Journal.....

The NCRI, listed by the United States and the European Union as a terrorist organization, has had a mixed record of accuracy with its nuclear claims about Iran, the Journal said.

But what the hell, let's print their claims anyway!

Sadr's intent

Sam Daughter of the CSM writes on the behind the scenes intent of Sadr during the ceasefire, theorizing that the goal is to build a smaller, tighter Hezbullah type organization that will last well into the future.

This is interesting because, if true, it would seem to indicate an acceptance of a near term secondary role in the politics of Iraq.

Assess yourself

I'm always amazed that the US generals in Iraq are given significant media space to assess the progress in their own areas of responsibility.
U.S. military commanders in Baghdad have concluded that Iraq's 27,000-member national police force has made progress in weeding out officers involved in sectarian violence and should not be disbanded, countering the judgment of an independent commission that last fall deemed the police corrupt beyond repair and recommended that the force be eliminated.

The Iraqi efforts are "bearing fruit," said Army Maj. Gen. Michael Jones, commander of the Civilian Police Assistance Training Team, which advises the Iraqi Interior Ministry. "We have seen a significant change in their performance and behavior. For the most part, they are doing a good job."

Do you expect the general in charge of the Iraqi police to say, "yes, I've failed. Destroy everything I've been working on?"

Monday, December 10, 2007

A CIA defector. right on cue

ABCNews led the news tonight featuring an ex-CIA officer involved in the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, the detainee who was on the waterboarding tapes. His main statement was that "waterboarding was torture but necessary."

Look. No ex-CIA person discusses this sort of classified info on camera without clearing it first. So, either he was cleared to talk about it, or he will be prosecuted.

Because his revelation serves to politically cover torture, I have a hunch he won't be prosecuted.

Later: As an unofficial op, it's working. Front page WaPo, AP, BBC all with the very clear message, "it worked, it was necessary, now ignore it because we're not doing it anymore."

The only comment from the CIA is to confirm his position and credibility.
U.S. intelligence officials confirmed that Kiriakou was a CIA employee involved in the capture and questioning of Abu Zubaida. Kiriakou, a 14-year veteran of the CIA who worked in both the analysis and operations divisions, left the agency in 2004 and works as a consultant for a private Washington-based firm.

No clamor against him at all.

Later still: Now the guy is making the rounds. NBC this morning, a CNN interview in rotation....

Somebody has to win......

From a NYTimes piece on the weak GOP field.
Not one of the Republican candidates is viewed favorably by even half the Republican electorate, the poll found.

Picture of the Day - 2

Pictures from the breaks of the Univision Spanish channel debate yesterday.

Let's all calm down....

Yes, Huckabee is surging in the polls, but even if this rush of enthusiasm (for a candidate as yet undefined) were to last, he has no money or organization to properly exploit this momentum.

There are less than two months until the nominees are likely decided, and right now he's competing in two states. Two months is not much time to raise money, build the databases, and set up local organizations for 1/3 of the country.

Plus, the more he's in the public view, the more his "christian" positions will cost him.

On the Dem side, "Clinton is stalling" seems to be the mantra.

Most surprisingly to me is that, after all this, I don't have a strong preference for either Clinton or Obama.

Picture of the Day

(Hillary Rodham Clinton poses with Santa Claus (Paul Fields), during a campaign stop in Gilford, N.H., Dec. 6, 2007.(AP Photo/Jim Cole))

Iraq's "reeducation camps"

At the US detention facilities in Iraq prisoners take "courses" of education "almost all of which are voluntary."
The courses they take, almost all of which are voluntary, include basic education, vocational training and religion. The religion course, run by one of 43 imams working on the program, lasts four days.

The civics course, which each detainee must take before he is released, covers "why you should try to get an education -- why you should try to have a job," Stone said. Other courses touch "on how you control anger, the oath of peace, the sacredness of life and property and references back to the Koran," he added. The demand for classes has "stripped" the 150 teachers he has available.

"I don't change people," Stone said. "Those people or God changes them, not me, but we do set in motion the ability to have that change take place."

I understand the principles behind this, but I can't help but think of "reeducation camps" and wonder just how "voluntary" these courses are. I'm sure privileges and conditions (and they admit release) are tied to attendance and success in these courses.

No Iraq progress this year

(AP) "Iraqi legislators suspended parliamentary sessions yesterday until the end of the month to mark the Muslim religious season - the end of much-delayed efforts to pass U.S.-backed legislation aimed at achieving national reconciliation this year."

Also, (Reuters) "About 1,400 U.S. soldiers will launch a fresh assault next week against al Qaeda fighters who are regrouping in areas south of Baghdad...

(MichaelGordon) "A "migration of al-Qaeda" is creating a major new base for insurgent operations in the north of Iraq....

Drudge goes after Huckabee

Drudge reaches back to what I think is 1998 to present a Huckabee that appears pretty crazy. Drudge also links to another undated piece attacking Huckabee for his involvement in the release of another violent rapist.

So, what do we learn? That the Drudge that rules our world doesn't like Huckabee, and that he's happily relinking ancient articles provided by some other campaign's opposition research.

Also, we're about to see how an understaffed Huckabee campaign gets batted around by a torrent of muck because its small staff doesn't have a frontrunner's quick response team.

(I'm sorry, but Drudge matters, especially among GOP issues.)

The Saudis are releasing men the US designates as terrorists

The WaPo has a front page article on the Saudis releasing former US Guantanamo detainees.

Either the US was wrong in their detention, or the Saudis are wrong in their release, but either way, it's a serious blow to the US's claims on Guantanamo.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

The brilliance of Univision

Starting after the 2004 election, when it became more and more obvious that immigration would be the next Republican wedge issue to replace gay marriage, hispanic groups began to organize and register hispanic voters.

Very quickly, Univision, the US's largest Spanish broadcaster, put itself out in front of this registration movement offering coverage and airtime for the effort. Somewhere between 750,000 and 1,000,000 new voters have been registered.

The reason this free airtime and support by Univision was so brilliant is that with Hispanic voters now playing a larger role, more spanish language advertising will be placed. And who makes the money on these very profitable political ad sales? Why Univision, of course.

Picture of the Day

From the rally in Des Moines yesterday.

Bush, the CIA, Iraq, and Iran

The LATimes has a story on the CIA and Iran,
The CIA launched a secret program in 2005 designed to degrade Iran's nuclear weapons program by persuading key officials to defect, an effort that has prompted a "handful" of significant departures, current and former U.S. intelligence officials familiar with the operation say.....

The program has had limited success. Officials said that fewer than six well-placed Iranians have defected, and that none has been in a position to provide comprehensive information on Tehran's nuclear program.

But buried down below, here's the bit I found interesting,
The administration's decision to step up intelligence collection on Iran in 2005 was a reversal from a position the White House took after President Bush was first elected. Former CIA officials said that the agency had built up a large Iran Task Force, made up of nearly 100 officers and analysts at headquarters, by the end of the Clinton administration. But that office shrank to fewer than a dozen officers early in the Bush administration, when the White House ordered resources shifted to other targets.

"When Bush came in, they were totally disinterested in Iran," said a former CIA official who held a senior position at the time. "It went from being a main focus to everything being switched to Iraq."

I'd be really curious for a more exact timing on that. Pre-9/11 they had already decided that Iraq's nonexistent WMD program needed resources, while Iran's active WMD program could be ignored?

Shouldn't that get a little more prominent play?

Finding cover on torture.

I'd be really curious who provided the "backbone" for the WaPo story today reporting that the four leaders of the Congressional intel committees were briefed on waterboarding.
"Among those being briefed, there was a pretty full understanding of what the CIA was doing," said Goss, who chaired the House intelligence committee from 1997 to 2004 and then served as CIA director from 2004 to 2006. "And the reaction in the room was not just approval, but encouragement."

The way it works, as we learned with Rockefeller and the NSA spying, is that these intel committee members can't speak about what they hear in the briefings, not even to other committee members, which later leaves them open to characterizations like the one above.

From the description of the briefing they were given, "a virtual tour of the CIA's overseas detention sites and the harsh techniques interrogators had devised to try to make their prisoners talk," waterboarding was probably mentioned in passing, probably no more than a bullet point in an overwhelming presentation.

With the knowledge on the CIA/military side that waterboarding tread very close to the line of torture, I can't imagine that this "virtual tour" worked to highlight that practice.

But, here it is, being served up as cover.