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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, June 14, 2008

I don't have an expletive strong enough

After 5 years of sidetracking his government and his country in Iraq, Bush suddenly again makes Bin Laden a priority.
President George W Bush has enlisted British special forces in a final attempt to capture Osama Bin Laden before he leaves the White House.

Defence and intelligence sources in Washington and London confirmed that a renewed hunt was on for the leader of the September 11 attacks. “If he [Bush] can say he has killed Saddam Hussein and captured Bin Laden, he can claim to have left the world a safer place,” said a US intelligence source.

The imperative is his end of office. It says alot about the man.

(And another US airstrike into the tribal areas of Pakistan.)

Picture of the Day

Of course it has nothing to do with the war he chose. It's a WWII cemetery in France. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Smallest demographic ever

CNN: Black conservatives weigh voting for Obama.

Good. So, that's what, a dozen votes?

What is Sadr up to?

Sadr called for a new uprising against US forces, BUT,
Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr is establishing a new fighting force to battle U.S.-led troops in Iraq, he said in a letter read in Iraqi mosques Friday.

Al-Sadr's letter said that "the resistance will be exclusively conducted by only one group. This new group will be defined soon by me."

Is he creating this new group to unify control and cut out all the fractionalizing local leaders of the Mahdi? Or is he trying to isolate the Mahdi so that it can press on with its populist "social works" without an excuse for the US and Maliki government cracking down? Will this be Iranian trained fighters, an extension of Iranian pressure to get the US out?

The WaPo has a more (framing this in relation to the broad Shia politics against the US presence and paralleling it to Maliki's rejection of the US-Iraq security deal.)
Salah al-Obaidi, Sadr's chief spokesman, said the order was essentially a full-scale reorganization of the Mahdi Army, transforming it from a militia into a permanent peaceful organization with a small armed wing of several hundred or so members. He said the cease-fire for the rest of the movement would remain in force.

The bottom line
to me is that with the US security deal (and permanent bases) on the table, the Iranians have suddenly become much more active. They are Maliki's "Plan B" backstop.

(And McClatchy has a good piece on Maliki's comments on the security deal.)

Giuliani for sale

It's his own party that's narcing him out on this one.
With the Republican Party in need of money for the November elections, former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani has offered to appear at fund-raisers around the country for G.O.P. candidates. But there is a catch: He wants some cash out of the deal.....

The arrangement Mr. Giuliani is seeking was described by several Republican operatives, members of Congress and their aides, who spoke on the condition of anonymity either because discussions to set up events are continuing or they did not want to be seen criticizing Mr. Giuliani, who still retains some of his national celebrity status.

“In a year when our candidates are struggling to raise money, this is just another burden,” said a leading Republican Party strategist, who was briefed about the mayor’s request. “This is not about helping the party. This is about helping Rudy Giuliani.”.....

On another front, Mr. Giuliani is also moving to install one of his top lieutenants to the chairmanship of the New York Republican Party, a move that several New York Republicans say is part of an effort to place allies in positions that can help his political organization raise money.

Maybe the Dems could buy an endorsement. I hear they've got lots of money.

I guess we should expect no less from the the man who turned 9-11 into his own cash cow.

It's never good when your dealer is worried about you.....

The Saudis are worried about high oil prices.....
Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, is planning to increase its output next month by about a half-million barrels a day,....

While they are reaping record profits, the Saudis are concerned that today’s record prices might eventually damp economic growth and lead to lower oil demand, as is already happening in the United States and other developed countries. The current prices are also making alternative fuels more viable, threatening the long-term prospects of the oil-based economy.

(Remember in 2004 when there were all the accusations that the Saudis lowered oil prices to help the GOP reelect George Bush....)

Pakistan's Sharif stirs call for Musharraf to be hanged

Yeah, he did.
Pakistan's former prime minister Nawaz Sharif stepped up his attack on President Pervez Musharraf on Saturday, suggesting he could be hanged while addressing thousands of protesters outside the presidency.....

The crowd, officially estimated at up to 20,000, chanted "hang Musharraf" as it listened to the two time former prime minister's fiery speech....

The demonstration, a few hundred meters from the presidency and parliament buildings....

The Taleban free a prison

The Taleban attacked a prison outside Kandahar freeing somewhere between 400-600 Taleban fighters. (1,100 escaped overall.)

The attack was "brazen,"
The complex attack late Friday included a truck bombing at the main gate, a suicide bomber who struck a back wall and rockets fired from inside the prison courtyard, setting off a series of explosions that rattled Kandahar, the country's second biggest city.

A Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousef Ahmadi, said 30 insurgents on motorbikes and two suicide bombers attacked Sarposa Prison and freed about 400 Taliban members.

They had minibuses come in to pick up the prisoners, and a Taleban spokesman is contacting all of the newswires to give their side of the story.

(And a nice "state of Afghanistan" piece on the BBC.)

Friday, June 13, 2008

Picture of the Day - 2

(A huge tornado funnel cloud touches down in Orchard, Iowa, Tuesday, June 10, 2008 at 9:04 p.m. The Globe Gazette and Mitchell County Press News reported that Lori Mehmen of Orchard, took the photo from outside her front door. (AP Photo/Lori Mehmen))

Maliki declares the US-Iraq Security deal is dead

I think it's important to note that the day after he met with the Iranian leadership Maliki went from negotiating to rejecting . Now, a couple days later, the deal is dead.
Iraq's prime minister (Nouri al Maliki) said Friday that talks with the U.S. on a long-term security agreement between the two nations have reached a dead end, saying the U.S. proposals "violate Iraqi sovereignty.


Mr Berlusconi offered his country's "inside knowledge" to help in talks aimed at persuading Tehran to abandon uranium enrichment. Italy has recently become the Iranians' largest European trading partner.

"Our offer is based on the fact that we know Iran very well from the inside - we have some leading companies that are operating there," Mr Berlusconi said.

Picture of the Day

(Laura Bush waves to journalists as she admires the courtyard of the American Study Center at Mattei Palace, in Rome, Friday, June 13, 2008. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia))

The McCain beneficiaries

The truth?
Other groups that focus on tax and economic policy are preparing similar analyses, but say they regard the Tax Policy Center’s assessment as highly reliable, based on its work in the past.....

According to the group’s computations, under Mr. Obama’s plan, the middle of the middle class, or those earning $37,595 to $66,354, would see taxes cut by $1,042 a year. Under Mr. McCain’s plan, taxes for people in that category would also fall, but by $319; the largest chunk of the benefits would go to those making $2.8 million a year or more.

$2.8 million a year or more.

Stray political thoughts

Every four years the GOP talks about its chances of winning California and New Jersey. This year that's even more ridiculous than normal.

What does it say that the GOP wants to hate Michelle Obama? (The GOP tends to want wives who wave, smile adoringly at their husbands, and have no identity of their own.)

The four justices who voted against Constitutionally enshrined Habeus Corpus were the "constructionists" Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, and Alito.

John Ensign, the guy responsible for the GOP Senate election effort, "reiterated past statements that a 3 seat-loss would be a "great night" for Senate GOPers."

And, a video of a 2004 Obama interview surfaces where he seems far equivocal about withdrawing from Iraq. (Clinton oppo folks should have found this.)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Picture of the Day - 4

White women not broken out, but (FirstRead) "Obama has a seven-point edge (46-39) among all white women. How important is that lead? NBC/WSJ co-pollster Neil Newhouse (R) explains that Republican candidates always expect to win white men by a substantial margin, but it’s white women that usually decide the race. “If a Republican wins among white women, we usually win that election,” he says, noting that George Bush carried that group in 2000 and 2004."

Political bits

(Politico) Tony Rezco claims that the US attorneys were pushing hard for things implicating Obama or Illinois Gov. Rod Bagojevich. (With the Bush admin's history with US attorney's maybe, but do you trust Rezco as a source?)

(Politico) The many ways Clinton could turn her campaign finances into piles of politically distributable cash.

(CNN) "50 percent of registered voters nationwide say the Illinois senator would best handle the economy, while only 44 percent said the same for McCain."

(Politico) Mike Huckabee gets paid. HuckaPAC is doing okay, and now he's inked a one year "commentator" deal with FoxNews.

(Hotline) Emily's List founder Ellen Malcolm who had some very harsh words for Obama last week, gets on board.

(CNN) Is Ron Paul guiding "his people" to Bob Barr?

And, Help the Obama campaign "Googlebomb." Linking from your site/blog to their antismear site will push it to the top of Google meaning it will get first rebuttal on smears. So, link. link. link.

Vile, race-baiting creatures

Yes, Princeton educated, Harvard law, highly successful woman Michelle Obama is Barack's "baby mama."

FoxNews, of course.

(I think I prefer elitist over racism.)


Just as a sense of a polling question, this surprises me. (May)
Most Americans—52%--say bringing the troops home within four years is a higher priority than winning the War. Thirty-nine percent (39%) disagree and say winning the War is more important. Men, by a 51% to 44% margin, say it is more important to win the War. Women, by a two-to-one margin, say it is more important to get the troops home.

It's not a conditional of "should we stay and try to win the war." The question is starkly, winning or leaving, and America is choosing leaving. (Maybe it reflects the perceived value of what we might "win?")

WSJ/NBC from today has a slightly different question, but,
By the narrowest majority yet, voters are basically evenly divided over the idea of troop withdrawal beginning in 2009 (49%) vs. waiting until there's stability (45%). That said, 54% still believe that victory in Iraq ISN’T possible...

Picture of the Day - 2

This is from the Korean protest on June 10. (AP Photo/ DongA Ilbo)

As the NYTimes points out, these protests are not really about US beef imports, but the impression that the current government bent over for the US.

Now, perhaps, we should imagine the "McCain scenario" of a permanent, large US presence in Iraq, and try to conceive of what this sort of dissent would look like in Iraq.

Even elements of Maliki's own party are itching to get the US out of their country.

Tell me again about the peaceful, permanent presence......

(I'm out til after lunch.)

Talks of an Iran strike are back

Everytime the Bush admin tries to push for new political pressure on Iran, the consistently raise the specter of attacks on Iran through the backchannel. I never know how much of these are serious, and how much are posturing, but here we are again.
Six months ago, after American intelligence agencies declared that Iran had shelved its nuclear-weapons program, the chances of a U.S. or Israeli military strike on Iran before President Bush left office seemed remote.

Now, thanks to persistent pressure from Israeli hawks and newly stated concerns by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the idea of a targeted strike meant to cripple Iran's nuclear program is getting a new hearing.

As Bush travels across Europe to gain support for possible new sanctions against Iran, Israeli leaders have been working to lay the psychological foundation for a possible military strike if diplomacy falters.

In public threats and private briefings with American decision-makers, Israeli officials have been making the case that a military strike may be the only way to thwart Iran's nuclear ambitions.

On the other hand, you do have to take this somewhat seriously because there are high figures in this administration who do want to attack Iran before their time is up. I don't know.

Picture of the Day

After a townhall in the same building, Barack Obama unexpectedly walked out to make a few comments during the graduation of four dozen eighth grade girls from the Young Women’s Leadership Charter School of Chicago.

While Obama shook some hands, the group chanted “Change, change.”

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

The great unstated irony after the Obama Clinton primary.

I'm not putting too much credibility in the Obama-McCain polls right now, but glancing down the WSJ/NBC poll, I was reminded of one of the likely great ironies coming after this long Obama-Clinton primary.

Obama will likely win the general on the strength of women voters, the traditional Dem/Republican gender gap.

The WaPo has a frontpager on the candidates vying for women voters.

(PS. While I'm talking polling, I don't think it should go unmentioned that in the RCP poll average, Bush now averages under 30% approval. It's historic.)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Worst fundraiser name ever?

Ohio Governor Ted Strickland's 2008 Cornhole Tournament.

(Apparently Cornhole is a local beanbag kinda game.)

So, McCain is going to stop giving speeches?

John McCain is giving up speeches.

OK, probably not that absolute, but, still, abandoning speeches for "townhall format" is pretty unbelievable because, you know, giving speeches is pretty much in the job description.

Later. His speaking off the cuff isn't doing him much good either.
The Arizona senator made the comments on NBC's Today Show where he was asked if he had an estimate of when a withdrawal process may be possible.

"No, but that's not too important," McCain replied. "What’s important is the casualties in Iraq, Americans are in South Korea, Americans are in Japan, American troops are in Germany. That’s all fine. American casualties and the ability to withdraw; we will be able to withdraw."

The problem here isn't the obvious ill sounding language, that leaving Iraq is "not too important." The problem is that he wants those permanent bases in Iraq which would be fine if it were Japan or South Korea or Germany. But it's not. It's the middle east.

And as we have learned from our previous permanent base attempts in the region, permanent large US bases beget problems. Lebanon turned Hezbullah into a major player. Saudi Arabia turned Al Qaeda into a big threat.

It's not the poor language choice that should get the attention here. It's the poor policy.

Maybe McCain would be more electable if he just stopped talking altogether.

(Repeated again, "Seriously, GOP, this is the best you can do?")

Picture of the Day - 2

(Senator John McCain addresses the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) on June 2 in Washington, DC.(AFP/Tim Sloan))

Tinfoil hat

How does Kathleen Sebelius rank attendence at Bilderberg?

Slow morning

A US airstrike in "hot pursuit" just across the Pakistani border killed 11 Pakistani frontier police. The Pakistanis are understandably reacting strongly. (Not yet clear exactly what happened.)

(Reuters) The Turks conduct more airstrikes in N. Iraq. (So frequent now they're rarely mentioned. Are they having any effect?)

And, (NYTimes) A kind of creepy/kind of sad story on those who are keeping the Clinton's "enemies lists."


If "Hollywood" really wants to contribute to supporting the Obama campaign, they ought to fan out and make appearances in a massive voter registration drive.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Picture of the Day - 2

(TimesOnline) "President Bush regrets his legacy as man who wanted war"

(President George W. Bush cranes his neck to watch members of the Army's 82nd Airborne Division parachute onto the field during a division review ceremony at Fort Bragg, N.C. (Brooks Kraft / Corbis for TIME))

Political bits

Marc Ambinder reports of a conference call where Hillary Clinton tells her (pledged) delegates that it's okay to back Obama.

Ben Smith points out that she's not technically releasing them yet although she'll likely do so right at the convention. (Having her people there would help shape platform, future rules, etc., but I think as importantly, it guarantees that her people get to go to the convention rather than being replaced with Obama delegates.)

(DemConWatch) The Democratic convention is so flooded with volunteers (25,000) that they're cutting some shifts to one 4 hour shift for the whole week. Meanwhile, the GOP has only 4,000 of its 10,000 spots filled.

(CQ) From an article on McCain and "the base": "According to a Congressional Quarterly analysis, only about 5,000 of the 62,800 donors who gave the maximum contribution of $2,000 to Bush — roughly 8 percent — had given to McCain as of April 30."

Obama VP shortlist

The Obama VP team were on the Hill yesterday, and, per FirstRead, these are the names they were talking about,
Ret. Gen. James Jones, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, John Edwards, Evan Bayh, Kathleen Sebelius, Ted Strickland, Mark Warner, Tim Kaine, Jim Webb, Bill Nelson, Jack Reed, Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, Tom Daschle, and Sam Nunn.

McCaskill's not there or Bill Richardson... but John Kerry is?

Update: CNN has someone saying it was 20 names.

Picture of the Day - Kremlinology

So, Barack Obama holds a very high profile appearance in North Carolina, and, although they were there and credited, neither John or Elizabeth Edwards gets on the stage or gets pictured with the candidate?


(Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards and his wife Elizabeth are introduced by Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, not shown, as he speaks about the economy, Monday, June 9, 2008, at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds in Raleigh, N.C.(AP Photo/Alex Brandon))

The US Iraq security deal (SOFA) appears dead for the Bush presidency.

The day after Maliki met with the Iranian leadership....
The Bush administration is conceding for the first time that the United States may not finish a complex security agreement with Iraq before President Bush leaves office.

How does the RNC balance its value?

If you look at the fundraising landscape right now, the RNC is sitting on a significant cash advantage over the DNC. The broad understanding is that almost all of that money will be expended to assist the McCain campaign, BUT, what about the Republican House and Senate efforts that are also woefully behind their Democratic opposites?

Does the RNC really spend most of its assets on a McCain campaign that looks likely to lose while letting go of some of those House and Senate seats they might be able to hold onto?

Has the McCain campaign "taken over" the RNC the way the Obama camp has taken over the DNC, and does that mean that House and Senate members are being left to twist on their own?

Monday, June 09, 2008

Our allies in Pakistan

It's not like we didn't know, but it's still bad seeing it written out.
Pakistani intelligence agents and paramilitary forces have helped train Taliban insurgents and have given them information about American troop movements in Afghanistan, said a report published Monday by a U.S. think tank (RAND.)....

The study, "Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan," found some active and former officials in Pakistan's intelligence service and the Frontier Corps — a Pakistani paramilitary force deployed along the Afghan border — provided direct assistance to Taliban militants and helped secure medical care for wounded fighters.

It said NATO officials have uncovered several instances of Pakistani intelligence agents providing information to Taliban fighters, even "tipping off Taliban forces about the location and movement of Afghan and coalition forces, which undermined several U.S. and NATO anti-Taliban military operations."

Picture of the Day - 2

(Afghanistan's drugs trade and its failure to tackle corruption are prolonging the Taliban militia's insurgency, a secret British government document seen by the Daily Telegraph warns. "Karzai (seen here in 2007) chooses to avoid rocking the boat with powerful narco figures and has not blocked their appointment as governors or other senior officials," the document said.(AFP/File/Shah Marai))

The Obama-Clinton interplay

According to Sam Stein at the HuffPo, three Clinton "negotiators" went to Chicago to meet with the Obama campaign staff. (Obama's on the road.)
(They) were meeting today to discuss three key areas of negotiations: what role Hillary Clinton will play at the Democratic convention in August, the nature of her involvement in Obama's general election campaign, and the Obama campaign's plans to help alleviate her campaign debt....

Also, (TPM) Obama Campaign Manager Plouffe To Hold Private Outreach Meeting With Top Hillary Fundraisers.

The scary thing about gas prices......

I'm a little freaked out that we've gotten to $4/gallon without any of the major events that we thought might bring us here.

No Iranians shooting ships in the Gulf, no Saudi coup, no giant embargo, no terrorism on the oilfields, no major Russian move..... and we're still at $4/gallon.

Picture of the Day - Let's start a fight today.

Here's a controversial question. If Obama doesn't want to take Hillary Clinton as his VP, have her tactics and pressure for the VP role made it impossible for him to select a different woman as his VP?

Would her supporters laud this, or see it as a slight to their candidate, closing the door of opportunity to these other women?


(I think either McCaskill or Sebelius would be good choices.)

Political bits/observations

It's funny. To most of the country, McCain is Bush III, but to the evangelicals, the one group where that Bush III mantle would be a benefit, McCain is seen as not Bush enough. (LATimes) McCain finds a distinct lack of passion in Ohio.

After three months of general election campaigning and the latest round of buildout, John McCain's nationwide campaign staff will be about 250. Barack Obama's nationwide campaign staff is already about 800. (In a year with so many states on the map.)

(BillKristol/NYTimes) "..... almost every Republican I’ve talked to is alarmed that the McCain campaign doesn’t seem up to the task of electing John McCain."

Have you noticed that part of the framing of the Obama candidacy is "he has a lot of work to do among" women, Latinos, working class whites, Jews, Seniors, etc? (Is this just a more polite way to ask "can a black candidate win?")

A WaPo piece talking about George Bush increasingly retreating into historical analogy to try and justify his current unpopularity. ("The only connection between Harry Truman and George Bush is that they left office with low opinion numbers," said historian Douglas Brinkley of Rice University. "That's a very thin reed.")

And, for your ridiculous headline, (AFP) Bush to take bow on European stage. (Oh yes. I can hear them applauding from here.)

On the US-Iraq security deal

Boy, this US Iraq Security pact is turning pear-shaped pretty quickly. As far as I can tell, there's no faction in Iraq that backs this thing as it's being discussed. Maliki is trying to use these discussions to assert control, and, of course, Iran is blocking it.

Maliki's focus appears to be moving US troops off the streets and taking command of when and what military actions are taken.

(Bloomberg) Iraq may balk at renewing some of the rules currently governing U.S. troop operations there in a new security agreement....

(GulfDailyNews) Iraq said yesterday it would not grant US troops freedom of movement for military operations in a new agreement being negotiated on extending the presence of American troops on its soil.

(TimesOnline) American troops in Iraq would be confined to their bases and private security guards subject to local law if Iraq gets its way in negotiations with the US over the future status of American forces.

And the Iraq-Iran politics, Iran is fighting this because they don't want US bases across the border that might be used in an attack.

(AP) Iraqi leader says security deal won't harm Iran.

(AFP) The presence of US forces in Iraq is the country's main problem, Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told visiting Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Monday. (AP also.)

So it's no surprise that the Iranian backed Shia groups are a risk, (VOI) A renowned Iraqi Shiite cleric on Sunday warned that a popular uprising may erupt if Iraq signs the long-term agreement with the U.S .

And the Sadr called street protests keep getting bigger.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

The 50 state strategy

Today's talking point appears to be the Dems' "50 state strategy." (NYTimes, WaPo.)

Realistically, I think you're really looking at a 37 state strategy, but with a far more active map for both Obama and McCain, money will matter even more than usual. The candidate can't just fly to Ohio and Florida over and over (and hold townhalls.) Both camps are going to have to spend money to extend presence in all of these new available states. Money, volunteers, ground staff, and their efficient use is going to decide this campaign.

(And don't underestimate the down ballot value of 50 state spending/organization.)

Picture of the Day

(From yesterday. (AFP/Nicholas Kamm))

Khalilzad for Afghan President

Although he has publicly denied it several times, the rumors continue that Afghani born current US UN ambassador and former Iraq and Afghanistan ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, is looking to become the next President of Afghanistan.