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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Picture of the Day

(President George W. Bush awaits the start of the first meeting of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Lima, Peru, Saturday, Nov. 22, 2008.(AP Photo/Lawrence Jackson))

Opening line of Mukasey's email to the Federalist Society where he collapsed

Well, as I was saying...

(Gotta give the guy credit for that line.)

Obama makes it clear - HE WILL ACT on the economy

In his Saturday "radio" address (I'll post the video when I find it,) Barack Obama lays out some of his plans on the economy. (AP, MSNBC) I gotta tell you, I feel a little bit better just reading it.

Also: (AP) Obama low key but active in auto rescue talks

(When McCain supporters were asking me, after the election, how Obama would handle the economy, (remember, he's a socialist,) I told them that Obama was more likely to be overactive than underactive, and that's OK because we're in a time where underactive is the bigger risk. They seemed satisfied with that.)

20,000 more troops to Afghanistan

This is interesting to me in that it comes shortly after the Obama transition had its first discussions with Sec Def Gates. He could be setting this up before he steps down, but I'd be more likely to see this as a sign that he's staying.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he and top commanders had discussed sending five brigades to Afghanistan, including four brigades of combat ground forces as well as an aviation brigade, which a defense official said would consist mainly of support troops.

Related: (Reuters) US airstrike in Pakistan kills "the suspected ringleader of a 2006 plot to blow up transatlantic airliners using liquid explosives." (Now, that's a measurable cost/benefit.)

What the Clinton nomination tells me......

With the word being very intentionally put out that Hillary Clinton is expected to accept the nomination for Sec State (NYTimes, Politico) I thought it would be a good moment to revisit the case for her appointment (to counter all the chattering class's twittering about "how will he control her?")

What the Clinton nomination tells me is that Barack Obama intends to begin substantial foreign policy shifts from day one. There is no other figure on the table besides Hillary Clinton (backed softly by Bill) that could walk into the capitols of the world and begin serious negotiations from the very first day. Any other choice, any other choice would have to go through a several months feeling out process by world leaders as they tested the trustworthiness of the individual and their influence within Barack Obama's sphere.

Because of the Clinton presidential and post presidential history, because of Hillary Clinton's outsized role in relation to American politics, she can begin speaking with authority from the very first day.

Barack Obama appears likely to get something of a honeymoon from world leaders, partly from his election and partly from the welcome change from the Bush administration. However, that honeymoon will not be endless, maybe two to four months, and if the plan is to remake the world, that tight little window cannot be wasted while foreign leaders try to feel out a Bill Richardson or John Kerry to determine their level of influence.

This time calls for change, and there's really only one person who has the ability to make that happen quickly.

Now, I recognize that there may be problems down the line, I recognize the arguments against, but I ask you to take a moment to recognize the arguments for. See the upside here. Compared to negatives, the potential upside is huge.

And, If you're going to keep Robert Gates as Sec Def, you need an institutionally/bureaucratically strong Sec State to manage the balance in the State/Defense struggle.

Related, It looks like Gen. Jim Jones will likely be the National Security adviser, the fulcrum between Defense and State. He's military, but he was also supreme NATO commander, so he likely prone towards diplomacy and multilateral approach.

Later: (WaPo) "Some in Arab World Wary of Clinton"

Friday, November 21, 2008

Picture of the Day - 2

(President-elect Barack Obama smiles as he goes to pay his bill at Manny's Coffee Shop and Deli in Chicago, November 21, 2008. (REUTERS/Frank Polich))

Eat it, Reagan.

A first presidential milestone passed.
A New York elementary school has been re-named in honor of President-elect Barack Obama. Ludlum Elementary School in Long Island's Hempstead Union Free School District was re-named at a board meeting Thursday, at the request of numerous school students....

Effective immediately, Ludlum will now be known as Barack Obama Elementary School.

And, check out the rockstar treatment when he went out for deli.

Geithner, not Summers.

Frankly, I don't know enough about economics or the relative strengths of Tim Geithner vs. Larry Summers as Treasury Secretary, but, with the various clouds and complications hanging over a potential Summers bid, I would think Geithner is, by far, the better choice.

We don't need a confirmation struggle with a Treasury Secretary right now. We need someone good to step in, undistracted, and begin work before day one, and Geithner appears to be that guy.

Also, an interesting look at replacing all the nominees in their home state positions.


We get to say we were right about George Bush.... but I'd rather have the money.

Picture of the Day - Worst President ever

(President George W. Bush walks with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley as they leave the White House, Friday, Nov.21, 2008, for a trip to Lima, Peru to attend the APEC Summit.(AP Photo/Ron Edmonds))

Something lighter

A little seasonal Youtube fun to lighten this day. The WKRP Turkey drop is making the rounds today (still funny,) but might I also offer a little Muppets.

(I just feel like today needs a little laugh.)

One nation among many - The NIC's grim reading

The National Intelligence Council (collection of all US intelligence resources) issued a report which predicts a bleak, less American-centric future world by 2025. (AP/AFP/BBC/WaPo)

It's pretty much what you would guess, conflicts over resources, climate change, increased instability, multipolar world, greater likelihood of WMD use, rise of China, etc., but still an attention getter.

To the broader point, this is why I've always objected to the Bush/Neocon foreign policy.

As example, The premise of the Project for a New American Century was that the US could parlay its temporary military advantages into a permanent world hegemony.

The smarter move, like that taken by Bush Sr. and Clinton, was to use our temporary position of power to construct a world system of alliances, trade deals, and legal frameworks that would benefit the US as it recedes to be, once again, a nation among nations.

The Bush administration tore up all that work on the crazy neocon theory that they could hold back the tides of history.

When I say, "worst president ever," I really mean it.

Political bits

The NYTimes has a nice piece on the generational power shifts going on in Congress.

(AP) Attorney General Mukasey collapses (stroke?) while giving a speech to the Federalist Society.

(AP) A "senior adviser" to Obama gives the AP an unequivocal "leak" that Clinton will be nominated after Thanksgiving. (Someone at the top got sick of all the "will she, won't she" coverage. They pumped it out to Politico, too.)

(Reuters) Some Verizon employees took an unauthorized look at the records of a deactivated Obama cell phone.

(TheFix) 10 Republican to watch.

And, (Time) After facing rejection in a half hearted effort to become RNC chair, Fred Thompson looks to go back to acting.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


As late as three weeks ago, Republicans were lobbying to get Social Security money invested in the stock market.

Picture of the Day - 2

(Senate Majority Harry Reid of Nev. flanked by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., left, and Sen. Patty Murray gestures during a news conference on Capitol Hill, Nov. 20, 2008. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert))

The ugly details of a recount.

Take just a minute to browse down a few of the real ballots cast in the Minnesota Senate race. The arguments will take the shine off your opinion of both sides.

(Didn't know the Lizard people were conducting their write in campaign this year.)

Waxman ousts Dingell

This is a big deal that will affect all kinds of things, but, more tellingly, it marks an issues and generational shift in the House.

The vote was 137-122, upending Dingell's seniority. Waxman did significantly better among the younger members of Congress.

Another significant consolidation of power for Nancy Pelosi.


American "capitalism" now consists of a system where it's in the best interests of the poor and middle class to compensate the risk undertaken by the owners of capital.

Picture of the Day - The man who destroyed America

(President George W. Bush salutes well wishers after delivering his remarks on aviation congestion and transportation safety, Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2008, at the Transportation Department in Washington.(AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta))

Al Qaeda number 2 uses "slur" in reference to Obama.....

I'm finding the coverage of al Zawahiri's latest statement pretty damn funny.

Am I supposed to be shocked that the Al Qaeda number 2 used a politically incorrect term? Is that really the worst of his sins?

(The media really seems to want a discussion of "house negro." They want it so badly that they're using Zawahiri as their hook.)

That's why you buy the car magnets

Symbolically, Joe Lieberman is driving around with a half scratched off McCain '08 bumper sticker.

Quote - The Republican revival......

Others want to jump out a window — but they’re afraid they’d screw that up, too.

“We probably wouldn’t die,” a Republican Senate aide joked Wednesday. “We’d just lie there, hurt and suffering, which is not too much different from where we are now.”

Napolitano to DHS

CNN, WaPo, and Politico: Ariz Governor and former US Attorney Janet Napolitano is the preferred choice to head the DHS.

Pakistan complains more loudly

After another US missile strike deeper in Pakistan, the Pakistani government summons the ambassador to carry a message back to Washington.

Also, many of the tribal/Taleban leaders in the FATA are threatening to quit the ceasefire with the Pakistani government.

The question that's not really being answered is who is the US hitting in these missile strikes. Are the value of the targets worth the cost/benefit of the blowback?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Picture of the Day - 3

(US soldiers wake up at their guard post in Khost province, Afghanistan. (AFP/David Furst))

Daschle to HHS

Some may say, "Oh no, not another Senator," but to me, all this legislative heft (coupled with more malleable rookie replacements) makes it far more likely that the agendas get through with as little Congressional dilution as possible.
Former Senator Majority leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) will be secretary of Health and Human Services in the Obama administration, with the delicate mission of shepherding a health-care bill through Congress at a time of punishing budget constraints, two senior Democratic officials said.

Daschle's very real Washington experience makes significant healthcare legislation more likely, rather than even the best intentioned outsider.

Clinton as Sec State - The money issues

Two interesting Politico pieces about Hillary Clinton as Sec State.

First, a report from Mike Allen that Bill Clinton might be open to forgoing any foreign income while Hillary Clinton is Sec. State. (This could also be setting the stage for a non-nomination, "We offered everything we could.")

Second, Ken Vogel theorizes that the unique non-fundraising status of Sec State might get Hillary Clinton out of her remaining campaign debt.

Later: (WSJ) "Former President Bill Clinton has offered to submit future charitable and business activities to strict ethics reviews if his wife were nominated as secretary of state...."

And, more "concessions" described to the AP.

The Clinton camp apparently wants it widely known that, no matter what happens, it's not Bill Clinton's fault.

Picture of the Day - Falling back to earth as "R-Ariz."

It must be tough. No secret service, no staff following, no "body man" standing by with chapstick, no excitement, no "juice," no power, no dream..... Just you..... Waiting around at one committee meeting or another, listening to all those Senators drone on.....

(Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., talks on the phone outside a Republican Caucus on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2008.(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert))

(I wouldn't think his presidential run and the attendant Congressional losses won him any more GOP friends or power.)

Political bits

(CNN) Crazy money: "An aide to the president-elect says that the Obama campaign will disclose how much money they have left over from their run for the White House..."

(Politico) In a very pitiful moment, John McCain is welcomed back to the Senate by John Kerry.

(AP) Clinton bumps up against Senate seniority rules (I keep wondering if some of this is pressure to get her to move out of the Senate and into the Obama administration.)

(WaPo) A little Dem pressure back on the White House about "burrowing" political appointees into civil service jobs.

And, (WaPo) Conservative columnist Kathleen Parker continues her effort to become the Religious Right's Danish cartoonist with an editorial titled "Giving up on God."

Mike Prediction (You know what little they're worth)

To my mind, it's looking more and more likely that the Obama Presidency is going to take a very serious early swing at Mideast peace. (The Clinton's would be a huge part of that.)

On a broader level though, it's kinda hard to see that the early environment would be right for this.
Israel is holding elections in February. Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu has said he would not continue peace talks in the current format. Also, Abbas faces a new political showdown with rival Hamas in January when the Islamic militants say his term expires.

We'll have to watch the rest of the national security team.

(Sometimes my tinfoil hat chafes.....)

Not Kuwait? Not Saudi Arabia? / Supply lines

In a very weird AP interview, Adm Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said that he was ready/planning to implement any Obama policy to withdraw troops from Iraq. Besides the very weird tone of the article, there was this.
Mullen, once a critic of Obama's plan to pull combat forces from Iraq in 16 months, said the Pentagon has already identified and practiced travel routes out of Iraq along exit routes through Turkey and Jordan.

The governments in those two bordering countries are U.S. allies, and Mullen said they support the withdrawal planning effort.

So, the egress is being planned north through the Kurds and Turkey and west through the Sunnis and Jordan (and Israel,) but not south through the Shia and Kuwait or Saudi Arabia?

Maybe the key is in that second paragraph, withdrawing through those countries who "support the withdrawal planning effort."

And, while we're at it, take a look at this WaPo piece on the US seeking an alternative Afghanistan supply route around the Pakistani militants along Khyber pass.
The growing danger has forced the Pentagon to seek far longer, but possibly safer, alternate routes through Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia, according to Defense Department documents.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Picture of the Day - Rahm's busy day

First, a stop by the Dem caucus in the Senate.

Then, a presentation to "a gathering of corporate CEOs at an economic conference sponsored by The Wall Street Journal."

Ted Stevens - Down the intertubes

Both the AP and NYTimes call the Alaska Senate race for Begich.

Hell of a way for Ted Stevens to celebrate his birthday.

Ted Stevens was first elected to the Senate in 1968.

(And it looks like little Sarah is gonna have to stay Governor.)

Quote - Howard Dean says Obama wanted Lieberman to stay.

He said that the Senate had acted "in the spirit of unification, which is what the President-elect wanted."

"He called the shots, and that's fine," Dean said, in an apparent reference to the tone Obama has tried to set in Washington as he prepares to take power.

And, Lieberman cited Obama as well,
Lieberman singled out the "appeal by President Obama himself" as a key reason he's staying.

So, if you want to get mad, don't get too mad at the Dem Senate. Even if he didn't push it, it was Obama who offered political cover.

Lieberman skates through....

Lieberman keeps his committee chairmanship, loses a subcommittee chair. The vote was 42-13.

(Waiting for leaks from the room.)

Diplomacy first

One of the things about a potential Clinton as Sec State appointment is how it will affect the perpetual State Dept vs. Pentagon power balance.

The Bush transition, led by Cheney, did place a powerful figure, Colin Powell, at the head of the State Department, but it also put in a second tier of Rumsfeld/Cheney loyalists at State to guarantee a weakening of Powell. This structure tilted the State Dept vs. Pentagon power structure towards the hawks to a historic degree. (And Cheney et al must have been dancing over the moon when the weak kneed Condi Rice was put in.)

Today, no matter what your opinions of Hillary Clinton, I think you'd be hard pressed to see her getting similarly pushed around in any internal power struggles, especially with Bill Clinton and all their amassed power backing them up.

My point is that a Hillary Clinton appointment is a clear statement that the State Department will once again be writing and designing foreign policy. We'll again be at a position of "Diplomacy first," and the military will once again be a part of policy, not writing it.

(Especially if Gates stays on as Sec Def.)

Best wishes

Facing jail time.... losing to a Democrat in Alaska.... I couldn't ask for anything more.

Happy Birthday, Ted Stevens.

Later: Is Ted Stevens holding out for a presidential pardon?


On the other side of the transition, the WaPo has a nice piece about the Bush administration "burrowing" its political appointees into top career civil service jobs just below the appointment level creating a career senior level administrative inertia against any new Obama appointees.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Picture of the Day - 2 - The center of attention

Barack Obama wins primary after primary, and all the coverage is "what will Clinton do?"

Barack Obama wins the nomination and heads to the convention, and all the coverage is "what will Clinton do?"

Barack Obama gets elected (historically) and less than two weeks later, the all the coverage is "what will Clinton do?"

(Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton arrives at a New York Public Transit Association conference in Albany on Friday, Nov. 14, 2008. (AP Photo/Tim Roske))

Now, who is unAmerican?

Read how the long term military structure is working with the anti-social program folks to try and juice the military budget to block out any new social spending.

Seriously, Sick kids are dying. People are going hungry, and these bastards are planning to intentionally waste hundreds of billions with the sole goal of keeping it out of social programs.

Screw the poor, right? They can eat our ideology.

(The military is going along just for the toys.)

Political bits

(AP) Obama and McCain meet, mostly for the photos. (Helps both their images to appear together... and Lindsey Graham didn't piddle on the carpet.))

(AP) Sec Treasury Paulson says he plans to leave the second $350 of the bailout for the Obama presidency. (We'll see.)

(Time) Huckabee goes after Romney and Fred Thompson in his new book, not to mention Pat Robertson, Bob Jones, and Rev Hagee for selling out in their endorsements.

(TheHill) Gingrich is trying to chop down Sarah Palin.

Mike Allen "reports" exasperation in the Obama transition at the inability to get a clean read on Bill Clinton's finances.

(FirstRead) Joe Biden is playing some serious games in an apparent effort to get his son named Senator to replace him.

And, Newsweek's cover compares Obama to Lincoln. Time's cover compares Obama to FDR. (Pretty high expectation setting.)

Picture of the Day

I liked the construction of this one. From the White House meeting with Bush. (AFP/Tim Sloan)

Pawlenty and Crist, the canaries in the coal mine

Reading this NYTimes piece on the argument over the future of the Republican party, I was struck by how deep the division really is, and, more importantly, how different the party looks depending on where the Republican comes from.

For instance, the two loudest voices for staying on "values issues" at the RGA were Rick Perry, Governor of Texas and Sarah Palin, Governor of Alaska.

On the other hand, the voices saying "enlarge the party" and get away from "values issues" were Tim Pawlenty, Governor of Minnesota, and Charlie Crist, Governor of Florida.

My internet is too slow right now to do something as basic as looking up the election results for all four states, but I think you can clearly see the geographic division.

In states so Republican that even McCain won by overwhelming margins, they're still very comfortable with the old "values" message, because it's still working there, but in the real competitive states, the ones that match more closely with the country as a whole, they see the problem of the electorate slipping away.

If they were smart, Republican in those "secure" areas would look up and see Pawlenty and Crist as the national canaries in the coal mine, twittering and chirping on their perches, trying to warn of the coming problem, but thus far, those "secure" Republicans are still chanting "drill, baby, drill."

They do have a mess, don't they?

(Related: Jonathan Martin sees the division along age lines.)

And, a reasoned case against the "Center-Right" country claptrap.

Lieberman Tuesday

The Dem Senate Caucus votes on Lieberman tomorrow.

My guess is they won't throw him out, but I figure alot of the details will likely leak out, so it should be interesting.

(Also, Does the vote include the 6+ new Dem Senators?)

That's gonna take ALOT of cruise ships

Sarah Palin's answer to collapsing oil prices appears to be sending Alaska travel brochures to all of her new "friends."

This time they're serious?

Word "leaks" out of the transition that they are looking at Bill Clinton's finances and trying to figure out how his work would affect Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State.

(At this point I agree with the premise that they wouldn't let this "Clinton as Sec State" story keep going if both sides weren't serious about it, but there's no reporting yet that the Bill Clinton has provided any financial information.)

The WaPo has more on the potential Sec State two-fer.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Picture of the Day - The empty GOP

Reading about Giuliani considering another run for the White House or NY Governor got me thinking.

Sarah Palin and Joe the Plumber weren't the only gimmicks or symbols on the GOP side this time. We also had "noun, verb, and 9/11" and Fred Thompson thrown around as serious candidates.

If you want a feel for how empty the GOP is, think about that.

(Rudolph Giuliani, Former Mayor of New York City, delivers a speech during the Leaders in Dubai Business Forum, Sunday, Nov. 16, 2008, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (AP Photo/Nousha Salimi))


Rumors that a Sarah Palin book deal (ie someone else writes it and she signs her name) could net her up to $7 million.

That's a lot of Nieman Marcus.