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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Cast adrift

To get some sense of of the meaning of Maliki's endorsement of Obama's Iraq policy, read the McCain campaign response.....
.....Timing is not as important as whether we leave with victory and honor, which is of no apparent concern to Barack Obama......

No disputation of facts, no arguments over policy. All they have left is shouting charges of appeasemement and "disloyal to America." (This is from the McCain campaign!)

When war rationales devolve to a country's "honor," that war is already over.

(Also on this story, it should be noted that "Ali al-Dabbagh, a spokesman for the Iraqi government, issued a statement saying Mr. Maliki’s statement had been “as not conveyed accurately regarding the vision of Senator Barack Obama...."

It should also be noted that this statement issued by Mr. al-Dabbagh "came from the U.S. military’s Central Command press office."

Why is CentCom making an Iraqi gov't press release?)

Video from Kuwait ("Money" from the three point line)

A YouTube Obama in Kuwait video. (Kinda weirdly edited.) There's a number of them if you care.

Maybe what impressed me most is that he was money from the three point line, sinking his first with all the cameras on him, in street clothes, not warmed up, after how many hours on a plane?

(CNN also has some edited versions on their website and a raw clip from Afghanistan. They also feature the three pointer.)

Picture of the Day

(Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., waves as he leaves the gym after talking to service members at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, Friday, July 18, during a Congressional Delegation visit.(AP Photo/U.S. Army, Jarod Perkioniemi))

An odd itinerary

At a fundraiser yesterday, John McCain said that Obama would visit Iraq this weekend. Because of the implied security risk, McCain's campaign tried to back off, saying that John McCain doesn't know the schedule, etc, etc.

I gotta wonder if McCain's little statement forced a change in the Obama itinerary. Obama's first stop today was Kuwait where he met with US soldiers, then he went on to Afghanistan.

Wouldn't you think it would more likely be Iraq, then Kuwait, not Kuwait, then Afghanistan?

Did John McCain's "little slip" change the trip?

Maliki speaks favorably of Obama's Iraq position.

I don't know what it's worth, but Maliki pretty openly endorses Obama's Iraq policy, in an interview with Der Spiegel.

Coming from the death sport that is Iraqi politics, they're pretty savvy, so when you see an interview like this granted right at the maximum focus on Obama and Iraq, and right on the heels of the "time horizon" for withdrawal statements the Iraqis required of the Bush administration, you gotta wonder.

Regarding McCain, Maliki indelicately tries to say nothing at all.

McCain's message problem

An AP writer makes an interesting point,
McCain's "townhall" format "make(s) it nearly impossible for McCain to focus attention on a daily message."

I hadn't thought about it, but, yeah. His inability to give traditional speeches does leave his messaging up to his crowds' interpretations of the whims of the news cycle.

He can start on economics, but one question on veteran's benefits, or one bungled answer, and suddenly his day's top line is not where the campaign intended.

(Of course, there is the broader question of how "open" these events are. The questions are somewhat controlled by the campaign's audience screening.)

Big credit to Clinton

Separate from the real issue and her likely very real feelings on this, credit to Hillary Clinton for taking this up.
Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., blasted a Bush administration proposal Friday that would change the definition of abortion and, she argues, limit women's access to contraception.

The draft proposal written by the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), which began circulating around Capitol Hill this week, would require hospitals receiving federal funds to hire medical personnel who oppose forms of contraception including birth control pills....

Again, a real issue here, but Hillary Clinton spending her name, profile, and credibility on this has the nice follow on effect of reminding all of those women who backed her of the issues at stake in this Presidential election, especially coming after McCain's long, stilted non-answer on health insurance not covering birth control.

Clinton talking about women's issues, whether it's something like this, equal pay, or Supreme court nominees, does Obama more good among her followers than any glad handing joint appearance. (And, again, importantly, she's right on these issues, too.)

I, personally, would be ecstatic if she she used her profile to bring women's issues forcefully into this campaign because 1) it would help Obama, and 2) it would be good for our country.

Obama starts in Afghanistan

Early stories. Probably the longest by the NYTimes.

Iraq's Sunnis rejoin government

As with everything else in Iraq, I'm sure that this is not quite as politically clean as the headline, Iraq’s Sunni Bloc Rejoins Government, but definitely a good step.

Also, the agreement from the Bush administration for a "general time horizon" for withdrawal in Iraq is broadlyly being reported as a timeline. Whether it is a hard timeline or not, it does represent a fundamental shift in intent in the SoFA negotiations from permanent bases and complete immunity to a general tone of withdrawal and Iraqi sovereignty.

Do the generals in Iraq play politics with Obama?

Technically, the military officers in Iraq are going to try to present themselves as overtly apolitical, as they should, but then they may also leak, like this in the NYTimes, which is a bit more political.
U.S. military leaders likely will tell Democrat Barack Obama during his coming Iraq visit that his plan to withdraw most American forces by mid-2010 is possible — but risks undoing recent security gains.

You don't get promoted to general without knowing a little bit about political play.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Picture of the Day - 2

Bush in Houston heading to a fundraiser for challenger Pete Olson for Tx-22, Tom Delay's old seat. (REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

(It's rare that a Republican allows the picture with Bush these days.)


A McCain surrogate on the campaign's conference call,
The Muslims have said either we kneel or they're going to kill us. ... I don't intend to kneel and I don't advocate to anybody that we kneel, and John doesn't advocate to anybody that we kneel.

All Muslims.......

(CNN has a little more.)

Later: The McCain camp declines to disavow.

Political bits

(TPM) Will anyone in the media look past the name calling to notice that the Bush administration and McCain have moved to Obama's "naive" foreign policy positions?

(Politico) Phil Gramm who said we're all economic "whiners" is still advising McCain on economics, he's just not allowed out in public.

(Politico) The McCain campaign goes big negative as Obama leaves for Europe. (Remember "politics stops at the water's edge" from the McCain folks during his Columbia trip?)

(WSJblog) Carly Fiorina decides to publicize and exploit a meeting with Clinton supporters because there's no way McCain would meet their demands, but they might as well make hay from these (stupid, stupid) Clinton supporters.

(Ambinder) Clinton aides buy the web address HRC2012.

(Time) As McCain criticizes Social Security, he still happily accepts the checks (because he and his wife are just scraping by....)

(SFGate) The George Bush sewage plant did make it on the SF ballot.

And, Pardon me for this, but for a candidacy based in part on a half decade in a Vietnam torture prison, the McCain campaign sure does seem to whine an awful lot.

Are we going to see an Obama VP in just two weeks?

FirstRead, after speculating that Obama's gym visits were really VP interviews, points out that Obama may well be naming his VP selection the week after next, working around his Europe trip and the Beijing Olympics which start on 8/8 and end the day before the Dem convention.

Picture of the Day - 2

Some people may say I'm (airquotes) "crotchety" or (airquotes) "doddering".....

(Senator John McCain addresses the LULAC convention at the Washington Hilton in Washington, DC. (AFP/Tim Sloan))

More serious than snark....

Almost every lefty blog I've read this morning puts the WaPo's "comfort capsule", misuse of funds story in parallel with the NYTimes' "electrical risks" at US bases in Iraq story to make some catty point. I get it, corruption, misuse of funds, etc.

But that electrical story is very, very real, and it's killing people. It's killing US soldiers, so maybe it should be treated with a little more seriousness, you know?

(NYTimes) "During just one six-month period — August 2006 through January 2007 — at least 283 electrical fires destroyed or damaged American military facilities in Iraq.... Two soldiers died in an electrical fire at their base near Tikrit in 2006.....

(ArmyTimes) "....that resulted in the deaths of 11 service members and two civilians...."

That's not funny.

Did Robert Gates threaten Pakistan?

Not knowing Pakistani press, I don't know how much credibility to give this,
The United States has warned that it can conduct unilateral strikes inside Pakistan if it [Pakistan] does not take measures to stop Taliban activities, Aaj TV reported on Thursday. According to the channel, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said that action in the Pak-Afghan border area was direly needed to mount pressure on the Taliban. He said it would be better if Pakistan exerted more pressure to check militant activities.

Ahhhhh.... The first taste of election season fear.....

You don't roll out a new product in August, but you do want to create some early buzz....
European terrorists are trying to enter the United States with European Union passports, and there is no guarantee officials will catch them every time, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said Thursday.

(You'll recall then Homeland Security Chief Tom Ridge's charges that the administration issued unwarranted terror warnings in the 2004 election.)

Picture of the Day

(Dick Cheney arrives at George Washington Hospital for his annual medical checkup in Washington, Saturday, July 12, 2008.(AP Photo/Lawrence Jackson))

Condi Rice - a little less useless......?

For years I have been bemoaning Condoleezza Rice's utter uselessness. As Donald Trump once complained, she would travel somewhere and wave and wave and wave without ever getting any deals done.

Part of that wasn't her fault. Part of it was the way the President balanced his advisers towards Cheney and Hadley so world leaders planned the goodwill waving ceremonies with Condi Rice and wait for Cheney or Hadley to cut a deal.

But something has changed.

Over the last two weeks, we've had the surprising shifts towards diplomacy on Iran policy, we've had the North Korea deal, and now we have what appears to be a (genuine, but too late to be effective) top level Israel-Palestine summit.

Something has substantially changed within the White House power balance. Cheney is way down and Condi Rice is rising.

(Also: Joint Chiefs Chair Mullen and SecDef Robert Gates seem to have taken on the foreign/defense/threatening role.)

What's happened? Health? A Bush-Cheney falling out?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Picture of the Day - 2

Howard Dean out among the peoples.....

(Howard Dean speaks to a crowd in Crawford, Texas, Thursday, July 17, 2008, during his voter registration tour.(Waco Tribune Herald, Jerry Larson))

Dear K Street project, there's a new sheriff in town......

The Congressional Dems held a meeting with a whole bunch of business leaders/trade association folks (the ones who employ the lobbyists) and laid down the law: Stop helping the GOP or you will be shut out.

Just in time for campaign fundraising, too.....


McCain lets the "Plan B" slip,
McCain: "Could I mention the presence of my friend Congressman Steve Pearce who I believe will be joining me in the United States Senate......"

(PS. Pearce will not likely win that seat.)

Political bits

(Ambinder) The DNC raised $22 million in June with $20 million cash on hand.

(FirstRead) That gives Obama/DNC $92 million CoH compared to McCain/RNC $95 million CoH. (Notable because the RNC had an extra three months of fundraising.)

(Ambinder) Obama opened six campaign offices in Montana. (Quick: Name 6 cities in Montana.)

(Montana is a possibility, but I think alot of these campaign offices are as much about tapping into the passion and volunteers that are everywhere. There was a good piece a month ago stating that the Obama camp was planning to turn its Texas volunteers into generic Dem volunteers to help Congressional and state candidates.)

(Politico) The RNC sues to protect its elephant trademark. (Too bad they can't sue to protect the "brand".)

The traders on Intrade are "buying Obama".

Pre-negotiating through Turkey?

Stephen Hadley visits Turkey right before Iranian FM Mottaki.

The Burns-Jalili meeting is Saturday in Switzerland.

The Cheney failure on Iran policy

It's almost like Bush decided to allow Cheney to try the "threat policy" until 6 months left in his presidency, and then they'd go the other way. (Almost exactly 6 months?)

Ms. Rice, you're up. You have six months to solve it all.

(Guardian) "US plans to station diplomats in Iran for first time since 1979"

(NYTimes) "Policy Shift Seen in U.S. Decision on Iran Talks"

(First, the Bush administration comes closer to Obama's Afghanistan position, now this?)

Picture of the Day

Maybe if Dugout had a better foreign policy.....
The 95 sports events (with hundreds of athletic teams) are more than double the number of Cabinet meetings Bush has held (45), more than quadruple the number of meetings he has had with Russia's Vladimir Putin (22). The 19 T-ball games he has held are more than twice the number of meetings he has had with China's Hu Jintao (nine). And the three dinners he has held in honor of professional baseball are nearly equal to the five state dinners he has hosted during his entire presidency.

(President George W. Bush and Hall of Famer Frank Robinson join Dugout, the Little League mascot, in hosting a tee ball game on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington July 16, 2008.(REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque))

On the placement of John Yoo

Just read the first couple paragraphs of this WaPo piece, and you will understand the lengths to which the White House went to try to place John Yoo to write the legal opinions the entire torture/detainee policy was based on.

Obama raises $52 million in June. Wow.

$52 million. Wow.

Some observations.

1) The McCain campaign was pretending to be ecstatic over $22 million a couple days ago. (They are also trying to get the media to include the DNC/RNC in the reported totals so that they can use their giant donors giving $70,000 to appear to narrow the gap. See here.)

2) The WSJ made a report last week that the number was going to be $30 million. (Were they burned by a source in the McCain campaign?)

3) The Obama campaign seemed to be spending their time on large fundraisers this month, but the average donation is still $68.

4) How much of this is Clinton donors? It really wasn't until the turn of the month that Obama and Clinton began their co-fundraising in earnest, so how many Clinton donors show up in these totals?

5) $52 million is probably ahead of pace for their $300 million goal. (You gotta figure fundraising only goes up from here.)

Later: (CNN) "Obama's campaign now has $72 million cash on hand..." (ThePage says campaign plus DNC is $72 million.)

Political bits

(CNN) "Obama, indeed, is making a red state play" (focuses on ad buys in some cheap media market states.)

(WaPo) Obama opens 20 offices in Va. Unprecedented.

And, The WSJ grants Bob Barr some space on its right wing influential OpEd page to blast McCain over judges, McCain-Feingold. ("But even if a President McCain were to influence the court, it would not likely be in a genuinely conservative direction. His jurisprudence is not conservative....")

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Picture of the Day - 2

Not really the face you're looking for when your President is trying to reassure the world about the state of the economy.

(U.S. President George W. Bush holds a news conference in the briefing room of the White House in Washington July 15, 2008. (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque))

It's easy to cheat when you wrote the law.....

The WSJ has a frontpager today pointing out the way the McCain campaign is getting around the campaign finance laws (the laws he wrote) by using state committees and the RNC to enable the GOP's big donors to give up to $70,000 per individual.

Frankly, this isn't a new revelation, but, when reading about it, I came across this amazing bit on McCain's fundraising at the very pro-Obama Jed Report.
Moreover, based on my own analysis, of that $62.5 million, three-quarters -- $46.3 million -- comes from a total of 1,803 wealthy individuals who made five figure contributions averaging $25,664 each.

That's a small number of people and a large amount of money.

(Take a look at this AP/USAToday piece on a McCain fundraiser in Nebraska where $50,000 buys you a meeting with McCain.)

Later: (USAToday) "More than 500 top McCain fundraisers brought in at least $75.6 million, or about 53% of the presumptive GOP presidential nominee's receipts through June."

Was it a mistake for Obama to discourage 527's?

The Obama campaign has been fairly vigorous in pushing its donors not to fund 527's this cycle. From a message control viewpoint it makes some sense in that they don't want to be caught in a "General betray-us" moment in October, but, at the same time, there are things 527's can do that the campaign won't or can't.

For example, I would think a minute long ad recapping the Bush administration and all that we've been through could be very useful. Or maybe a collection of the worst quotes on the wars or the economy or Katrina survivors or Hispanic groups highlighting the GOP's words on immigration.

527's can do that in the way that the Obama campaign really can't. I wonder about the balance between limitation and message control.

Later: Here's an effective Planned Parenthood ad on McCain's "Viagra moment." The Obama campaign could not run that ad, but they probably like it.

Second example, Moveon is running an anti-McCain/anti-Iraq ad that the Obama campaign probably isn't as happy with in that it muddies their message.

Picture of the Day

I'm assuming by "race fan," the captioner meant car racing.......

(Cindy McCain, wife of Republican presidential candidate, Sen. John McCain, talks to a young race fan, as she tours the Nashville Superspeedway before the start of the IndyCar Series Firestone Indy 200 auto race in Gladeville, Tenn., Saturday, July 12, 2008. (AP/Mark Humphrey))

Obama still +5 to +8, yet the "Obama fret" returns

I think we're at the "Obama fret" stage again, lots of articles focusing on Obama's "problems," but the thing is, the polls really haven't moved at all. (NYTimes Obama +6, Quinnipac Obama +9, Reuters/Zogby Obama +7, ABC Obama +8 (.pdf).)

The NYTimes has a large, very troubling sounding front page article about Obama and a racial divide, but there are two pretty big points there.

First, "Over all, Mr. Obama leads Mr. McCain among all registered voters by 45 percent to 39 percent."

Second, because of the racial makeup of the parties, you would expect a certain amount of a "racial gap" no matter who was running as the lilly white Republicans go against the Democrat. Democratic candidates always have something of a racial gap.

The one thing I think this does indicate is that the McCain campaign has had some success in turning this election into a referendum on Obama, so the press is carrying the questions.

The Obama challenge, which will become much more apparent as we get closer to the convention, is to return this election to a referendum on Bush/GOP rule.

The bottom line is that it's still Obama +5 to +8 across almost all the polling, and the fundamental campaign pieces still favor Obama, money, enthusiasm, state organizations, volunteers, etc.

So, although it will likely rise again and again, let's just put the Obama fret down for now and back away from the ledge, okay?

Later: Perhaps one of the better examples of the "Obama fret" is this ABC poll report (.pdf) I just came across which begins with all of Obama's "problems" only to later reveal that he polls +8 at 50%.

Later still: Is this new round of "Obama fret" the result of new McCain campaign manager Steve Schmidt?


Cindy McCain in a recent CNN interview,
"In Arizona The Only Way To Get Around The State Is By Small Private Plane"

But Obama's the elitist.......

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Bush administration meeting with the Iranians

Good news. Is it too much to hope for rationality?
In a break with past Bush administration policy, a top U.S. diplomat will for the first time join colleagues from other world powers at a meeting with Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, The Associated Press has learned.

(My first political thought was that this would really take the fire out of the ads featuring Obama juxtaposed with Ahmadinejad.

But then I remembered, that ad is not about policy. It's about calling Obama a dark-skinned Muslim terrorist.)

Picture of the Day - 3

(President Bush meets reporters in the briefing room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, July 15, 2008.(AP/Ron Edmonds))


In all the back and forth over "Obama's not a Muslim," nobody ever seems to make the point that it wouldn't be okay to discriminate against him even if he were a Muslim.

Picture of the Day - 2

A point from Ben Smith at Politico.

"The backdrop for McCain's speech today on Iraq and Afghanistan suggests that -- contrary to the talk of a clear new message plan -- they scrapped a jobs speech at the last minute....."

Picture of the Day

(Local people watch two Afghan women shot and killed by Taliban in Ghazni province, Afghanistan, on Sunday, July 13, 2008. Taliban fighters told Associated Press Television News that the two were executed for allegedly running a prostitution ring catering to U.S. soldiers and other foreign contractors at a U.S. base in Ghazni city. (AP/Rahmatullah Naikzad))

Afghanistan, Pakistan.....

ABC has a bit more detail on the Taleban attack on Sunday near the Pakistani border that left 9 US soldiers dead. It was some serious fighting inside the base.
After nearly five to eight hours of intense combat, nine U.S. soldiers lay dead, with another 15 Americans and four Afghan soldiers wounded — meaning one in five of the American defenders was killed and one-third wounded in the attack. All told, it's an alarming casualty rate of 50 percent for the small American force.


The AP also has a good details piece, and CSM has a broader piece trying to say this attack points to new, more sophisticated tactics by the militants.

Right now, the US is flooding that border area with troops, (in response to that attack?)
A build up of Western coalition forces on the Afghan border spread alarm on Tuesday among villagers in the Pakistani tribal region of North Waziristan, a known stronghold of Taliban and al Qaeda militants.....

hundreds of coalition troops had been airlifted to a border area opposite the village of Lowara Mandi.....

CBS has printed bits of the Karzai Cabinet's statement blaming Pakistan and the ISI for the violence (a very strong statement,) and the Afghani parliament passed on a measure similarly blaming the Pakistanis.

And, there are some signs that India is thinking about responding to the embassy bombing with covert action of its own against Pakistan.

In February, the Saudis offered to buy off the Russians on Iran

Interesting story. Starting in February, the Saudis began offering to "award major arms contracts to Russia (buy huge amounts of Russian weapons) in return for Moscow curtailing cooperation with Iran."

Quickhits - Detainees and terrorism

(AP) A lawyer for a Canadian Guantanamo detainee has released a video of one of his interrogations there. (BUT, the interrogation was conducted by a Canadian agent, not US, so the probative value into US interrogation practices at Guantanamo is limited.)

Far more interesting this morning is the BBC's reprint from May of how the US is "stuck" with Guantanamo.

(AFP) The ACLU held a press conference yesterday projecting that the US terror watchlist now has a million names. (Gonna need a bigger Guantanamo.)

And, the NYTimes has an interesting story on the eight defendants in the 2006 airline bomb plot that led to no carry-on liquids on airplanes.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Picture of the Day - 3

(Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff awards the Silver Star to U.S. Army Capt. Gregory Ambrosia, at Korengal Outpost, Afghanistan, Friday, July 11, 2008. Ambrosia was recognized for valor under fire after running into a hail of enemy gunfire to help save fallen comrades in Sept. 2007. (AP Photo/Defense Dept., Chad J. McNeeley))


When Michael Richards was up on stage shouting "Nigger!", he thought he was making social commentary, too.

Political bits

(WSJblog) Cindy McCain owns "at a minimum" $1 million in Anheiser Busch stock. The McCain's stand to profit by "at a minimum" $500,000 from the buyout. (Kinda brings his tax policy for close to home, eh?)

(Bloomberg) Of course, Carly Fiorina goes offscript again, "She says if a bipartisan coalition is "creative enough'' to fashion tax increases on wealthier Americans, that may prove palatable."

(LATimes) Obama has raised more money than John McCain in famously Republican Orange County?

(Hotline) Richard Viguerie is still very much not on board with McCain. (Notice the press release was put out by Viguerie's group. They want it very public he's not happy.)

And, (ThinkProgress) Despite Bush saying the ridiculous, he gave up golf for the US military families, he will be attending the McCain golf fundraiser. (I guess some things are more important than war widows' feelings.)

Did this affect Dick Cheney?

From the NYTimes' excerpt on Jane Mayer's book,
“The Dark Side” also describes a frightening false alarm at the White House on Oct. 18, 2001, when, it says, an alarm went off on a machine designed to detect biological, chemical or radiological attacks. According to the book, among those who believed they might have been exposed to a pathogen was Vice President Dick Cheney.

Ms. Mayer quotes an unnamed “former administration official” as saying, “They thought that Cheney was already lethally infected.”

The White House has since issued a statement saying "no one remembers" this incident, but I think that's garbage. Mayer wouldn't make this up. The question I would have is whether Cheney changed his views before and after this incident. We know he was pushing Iraq before Oct 18, but how avidly was he pushing torture, wiretapping, etc?

Did Dick Cheney's phantom near death experience change our country forever?

Also, Frank Rich has an interesting collection of bits from the Mayer book (if you can cut through the Frank Richiness.)

Picture of the Day

(Pakistan's Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) party leader Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman addresses tribesmen during a protest rally on the Pakistan-Afghan border town of Chaman July 12, 2008, against the operation in the troubled area near Bara in the Khyber tribal region near the Afghan border where security forces recently launched an offensive against Islamists threatening the city of Peshawar. (REUTERS/Saeed Ali Achakzai))

On Pakistan, the Taleban, and Al Qaeda....

The AP has a large "impact" piece on Pakistan that's pretty good.
A former minister in President Pervez Musharraf's ousted government, who did not want to be identified for fear of reprisals, said insurgents were being paid between 6,000 and 8,000 rupees — the equivalent of $90 and $120 — a month in Mohmand and grain was being collected to feed them. He did not identify the source of the donations but said Pakistan's army and intelligence were aware of them.

Maulvi Abdul Rahman, a Taliban militant and former police officer under the ousted hardline regime..... said under a tacit understanding with authorities, militants were free to cross to fight in Afghanistan so long as they do not stage attacks inside Pakistan, which has been assailed by an unprecedented wave of suicide attacks in the past year.....

But retired Pakistani general Talat Masood said the army still treats militants and Afghan rebels as "assets" because of its deep conviction that India is expanding its influence in Afghanistan and using its consulates there to foment an ethnic rebellion in Pakistan's troubled southwest Baluchistan province.

Over the weekend, the Pakistani foreign minister said that no US military are allowed in Pakistan to hunt for Bin Laden or Al Qaeda, so, Pakistan is publicly declaring safe haven for them all.

On Sunday, 9 US soldiers were killed in Afghanistan as the Taleban tried to overrun a new base in Kunar near the Pakistani border (map.) "An unknown number of militants got inside the outpost, the reason the fighters were able to inflict such high casualties...."

Also on Sunday, Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen was in Pakistan "express(ing) deep frustration with growing cross-border militant attacks" and "complaining that militants were moving across the border with greater liberty now than during the previous government."

The NYTimes has an article on the Taleban's expansion into mafia like activities with legitimate businesses to fuel their fight.

And, Juan Cole makes an observation,
When was the last time that an al-Qaeda operative was captured in Afghanistan by US forces? Is that really what US troops are doing there, looking for al-Qaeda? Wouldn't we hear more about it if they were having successes in that regard? I mean, what is reported in the press is that they are fighting with "Taliban". But I'm not so sure these Pushtun rural guerrillas are even properly speaking Taliban (which means 'seminary student.')

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Picture of the Day - 3

This is the cover of the New Yorker on sale soon. For real. Bin Laden over the fireplace, the American flag burning there. Full racial stereotypes......

I don't care what point they're claiming to try to make, this is just offensive.

ABC's Jake Tapper has the story. (Politico, too.) A larger version of the picture is to be had here.

Picture of the Day - 2

A bad day is when you find out your bank has failed by a sign on its locked doors.......

(Jeff Chen, an IndyMac Bank customer, reacts to a notice that a Pasadena, Calif. branch is temporarily closed, Friday, July 11, 2008. IndyMac Bank's assets were seized by federal regulators on Friday..... (AP/Damian Dovarganes))

Quote - Scott McClellan

Scott McClellan: "Whether or not it was illegal is a matter for other people to address, but I could not say honestly today that this administration does not believe in torture, does not engage in torture."

Picture of the Day

It's not just John McCain that Joe Lieberman loves.

(President Bush is applauded by members of Congress and his cabinet, after signing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, (FISA), Thursday, July 10, 2008, in the Rose Garden. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds))

A true "spin" article.

More than likely, this piece in the British TimesOnline will get more than its fair share of mention, "President George W Bush backs Israeli plan for strike on Iran," (Drudge is a regular linker to the TimesOnline,) but the reality seems to be much more subtle, a two track game of posturing and negotiation, probably better summed up here, "The US-Iran game is just getting serious."

Let's just shoot a hole in this right now. Neither the US or Iran wants an Iran attack. The bellicosity is all about the negotiations.

The US-Iraq Security deal (SoFA) is dead until the next administration

The sticking point appears to be a timeline for withdrawal. The Bush administration just won't sign onto that, and, politically, Maliki can't agree to anything that doesn't explicitly bar a permanent presence, so now everybody's kicking it down the road.
U.S. and Iraqi negotiators have abandoned efforts to conclude a comprehensive agreement governing the long-term status of U.S troops in Iraq before the end of the Bush presidency, according to senior U.S. officials, effectively leaving talks over an extended U.S. military presence there to the next administration.
Although President Bush has repeatedly rejected calls for a troop withdrawal timeline, "we are talking about dates," acknowledged one U.S. official close to the negotiations. Iraqi political leaders "are all telling us the same thing. They need something like this in there. . . . Iraqis want to know that foreign troops are not going to be here forever."

Imagine that. Iraqis don't want a permanent presence.....

And don't miss this little paragraph at he end, a "US official" bragging that they have gotten around balance of powers.
According to U.S. officials, Maliki also hopes that a temporary protocol would circumvent the full parliamentary review and two-thirds vote he has promised for a status-of-forces agreement. "He is trying to figure out, just as we did, how you can set up an agreement between the two and have it be legally binding," one official said, "but not go through the legislative body."