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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, December 20, 2008

His fault

I'm one of those who believes there are many cooks responsible for our current economic crisis, but, ultimately, the buck does stop somewhere. The NYTimes tomorrow morning, lays a good bit of blame for the housing crush squarely at George Bush's feet.

(I remember the many, many times Bush cited the home ownership rates as example of his economic prowess.)

Later: The White House issues an angry response.

Southern Rump

Ron Brownstein of the National Journal makes the point I wrote about a week ago, that the auto bailout is just a taste of the Southern rump GOP that will come.

I like my version better, but I really do believe the point. With the Southern GOP dominating Congress, they will become the national definers of the Republican brand, meaning that the remaining GOP figures in the northeast and midwest will be struggling with the definitions cast upon them.

This will likely become clearer as other issues come to the fore, immigration, healthcare, union issues....

In effect, the imbalance of national GOP power towards the South may make the Republican party narrower.

(Everybody say a thank you to Karl Rove.)

Picture of the Day

(President George W. Bush and first lady Laura Bush look over their portraits during their unveiling at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, Friday, Dec. 19, 2008. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh))

McCain, Lieberman, Graham: Obama is right, so we were right.

The three tenors of the McCain campaign, McCain, Lieberman, Graham, jointly write an editorial in the WaPo saying that Obama's withdrawal from Iraq is the right thing to do.

(That's classic McCain. Drop in on an already done deal and try to claim credit for "bipartisanship." See: Immigration, Financial bailout, etc.)

Never mind.....

The 24 Iraqis who were arrested in such a high profile way for supposedly trying to reconstitute the Baath party have been released by Jawad al-Bolani, the Iraqi Interior Minister, who says there is np evidence to back up their arrests.

This is a huge blow for Maliki as the arrests were carried out by "an elite counterterrorism force that reports directly to" him.

All of this has to do with the provincial elections which are scheduled for January.

Related: (AP) The judge in the case says Al Zaidi, the shoe thrower, was beaten.

(On Wednesday, the Iraqi parliament came to gridlock over the shoe throwing incident, with the Speaker threatening to resign. Maliki's politics are getting very hard.

Were the Sunni arrests (Thursday) an attempt to change the subject?)

The Christmas that wasn't......

Retailers prepared to open their doors early on Saturday in a final, frenzied push to save holiday sales, with the added disruption of a winter storm hitting the country's Midwest and Northeast.....

Friday, December 19, 2008

Picture of the Day - Franken takes the lead

For the first time, Al Franken edged ahead in the recount, and the way the process is being ordered, it's not at all unlikely likely that he might stay there.

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune projects Franken by 80 votes.

Am I ready for Senator Al Franken? Let's get Franken and Barney Frank up there at a press conference, trading one liners.

Also: The Fix looks at Senate '10 races and the Dems could pick up even more.

Sarah Palin's soon to be inlaws

Remember how Sarah Palin's knocked up daughter and her "limited" boyfriend represented what was good about America?

Well, the boyfriend's mother was busted for drugs in Alaska,
Troopers charged Johnston with second-degree misconduct involving a controlled substance -- generally manufacturing or delivering drugs -- as well as fourth-degree misconduct involving controlled substances, or possession.

The new illegitimate Palin grandchild is due on Saturday, (and I don't think they ever finally had that wedding.)

They wanted to put this freak show "one heartbeat away..."


I don't really have "a hook", but I found this Dana Milbank piece on Bush and legacy a good read.

"Orderly bankruptcy...."

In the last 14 hours, George Bush, Dana Perino, and Henry Paulson have all uttered the phrase "orderly bankruptcy" for the auto industry, although just what that means is unclear. (Trial ballon?)

Later: Here's the proposal.

Reading a little more, it sounds like "orderly bankruptcy" was no more than cover language to present deliberation. This is the bailout.


After peaking at $147 in July, oil hits $ 33.44.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Flyover heresy

Despite the New York and Washington media obsession, I gotta say, I really don't care who the next Senator from New York is.

(And, other than any impacts on the economy, Bernie Madoff doesn't matter either.)

No surprise he says this at the AEI......

Bush begins to waffle on the Auto bailout talking about "ordered bankruptcy."

(President George W. Bush answers a question during a meeting of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 18, 2008. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak))

Maliki cracks down....

The official story is that the government of Nouri al Maliki arrested 35 (some high ranking) Sunni members of the Interior Ministry who allegedly were planning to reconstitute the Baath Party, but I'm having trouble separating this event from the internal sectarian politics.

The arrests were carried out by "an elite counterterrorism force that reports directly to the office of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki," and serve a secondary purpose of getting rid of all the highly ranked Sunnis in the Interior Ministry appreciably close to the next election.

The military will try to bring "Awakening Councils" to Afghanistan

Anna Mulrine of USNews has the story that the US is about to launch a "pilot program" aimed at raising up counter-Taleban local militias in Afghanistan, the "Afghanistan Social Outreach Program."

There are several crucial differences between Afghanistan and Iraq. Afghanistan has that history of warlordism, and these efforts will not be substantially working along tribal lines, instead trying to cobble together locals under a jirga selected leader.

There are also some historical/cultural differences with Iraq where the Sunni tribal leaders were elements of power for generations under the Baath party, and that the Iraqi Sunni insurgents were were largely working for that same leadership when they were attacking, so it involved bribing/turning that leadership. This Afghanistan effort will be trying to create local defense militias from the ground up against an enemy controlled from outside.

We'll have to wait and see. Here's hoping, though.


"This is not Florida....." A judge slapping down a GOP lawyer who threatened to turn the Minnesota recount into a Florida "debacle."

"We're fucked." An employee for a NASCAR race team, on his sport's future. Twelve of 42 cars lack a sponsor for the Daytona 500.

Cheney's sense of humor

It's funny because he ruined the country....
Vice President Dick Cheney had some blunt — and humorous — advice for incoming White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel at a private breakfast earlier this month, CNN has learned.

"The best thing you can do is keep your VP under control," Cheney told Emanuel.....

Picture of the Day - 2

(Cheryl Stewart has a sign outside her home in Red Hook that she changes each morning before she leaves for work. (Robert Stolarik: NY Times))


The reason the "shoe incident" resonated is because it's the only visible retribution George Bush has faced in his entire presidency.


From a USAToday piece on Michelle Obama as first lady.
She and her husband remain not entirely familiar to most Americans, and some people may still be influenced by the rhetoric of campaign opponents who depicted her as an unpatriotic and angry black woman nursing racial grievances despite her successful life story.

What did Chris Dodd do wrong?

Biden is VP. Hillary Clinton got a cabinet appointment. Bill Richardson got a post. Even Vilsack.

Every viable Dem Presidential contender has gotten a spot in the Obama administration.... except Dodd.

Sucks to have a Republican Governor.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

George Tenet rumor

I have no idea if this is true, but it does paint quite a picture, George Tenet increasingly drunk around Prince Bandar's pool complaining that the neoconservatives were going to pin the Iraq intel on him.

Quote - I just happened to be standing there while it happened.....

It's the passive presentation that amazes me. He was not an actor. These things happened to him.
"Look, everybody likes to be popular," said Bush.

"What do you expect? We've got a major economic problem and I'm the president during the major economic problem. I mean, do people approve of the economy? No. I don't approve of the economy. ... I've been a wartime president. I've dealt with two economic recessions now. I've had, hell, a lot of serious challenges. What matters to me is I didn't compromise my soul to be a popular guy."

A brilliant post on power

Marc Ambinder has a great post on how power is played in Washington, looking at the case of the recent Politico article where Pelosi "laid down the law" to Rahm Emanuel.

The key point that Ambinder emphasizes is the timing of this Pelosi allied leak, hitting Emanuel when he's at his lowest ebb with his Blagojevich contacts seized up in the Fitzgerald investigation. Emanuel can't comment on that right now, and since that's all the press wants to ask him, he's effectively off the field for a week.

So, the Pelosi camp chooses now to leverage him.....


Picture of the Day - Iconic image

While most of the US coverage has focused on the image of Bush dodging, this image of Iraqi journalist Muntazer al-Zaidi throwing his shoe has become an iconic image in the rest of the world.
(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)


"I've abandoned free-market principles to save the free-market system," Bush told CNN television, saying he had made the decision "to make sure the economy doesn't collapse."


Barack Obama named as Time Magazine's "Man of the Year."

(George Bush was in 2000. Bill Clinton was in 1992. Ronald Reagan was in 1980, Jimmy Carter was in 1976....)

The world gives up on Somalia

The UN Security Council passed a resolution sponsored by the US authorizing land and air military attacks against the pirates of Somalia.

What's notable to me is that this seems to represent containment of international spillover rather than any effort to save the Somali state. After 18 years of trying, the world appears to have given up on Somalia.

(The Ethiopians are scheduled to pull out by the end of Dec.)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Jesse Jackson, Jr. is an informant?

CNN has a "breaking news" piece citing two Jesse Jackson, Jr. insiders saying he is "an informant to the U.S. attorney's office in Illinois."

Supposedly, JJ, Jr. reported an extortionate request that occurred in 2002. (AP, WaPo)

(However, if you read the rewritten CNN piece, Jackson didn't report the 2002 problem until 2006, when it looked like Rezco was about to turn Blagojevich out.)

Fun with headlines

Norm Coleman: "Senator's lawyer denies corruption allegations."

Picture of the Day - 3

(White House Press Secretary Dana Perino, sporting a black eye from the scuffle in Iraq during the shoe throwing incident, responds to a reporters question, Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2008. (AP Photo))

Quote (Guess who. Answer in comments.)

I was saddened to learn that at a time of national trial, when a president-elect is preparing to take office in the midst of the worst financial crisis in over seventy years, that the Republican National Committee is engaged in the sort of negative, attack politics that the voters rejected in the 2006 and 2008 election cycles.

The recent web advertisement, “Questions Remain,” is a destructive distraction. Clearly, we should insist that all taped communications regarding the Senate seat should be made public. However, that should be a matter of public policy, not an excuse for political attack.

In a time when America is facing real challenges, Republicans should be working to help the incoming President succeed in meeting them, regardless of his Party.

Franken's gonna win....

Both the local AP and Minneapolis Star Tribune took a run at divining the challenged ballots in the Minnesota Senate race, and both came to the conclusion that Franken may well win.

Lobbying through Warcraft

I gotta admit that when I read the headline portion of this, I wasn't going to blog it, just dismissing it as more of the same,
The inspector general of the Interior Department has found that agency officials often interfered with scientific work in order to limit protections for species at risk of becoming extinct,

BUT, get down into this LATimes version a little bit,
In once instance, the report said, MacDonald sent information about a contentious endangered species issue to a friend she had met in an online role-playing game. She told investigators she took part in the Internet games to relieve stress created by her job.

People love the shoe thrower

Across the Arab world, people are cheering the reporter who threw his shoes at Bush. Newspapers are covering this as top news, and there are huge rallies of support in Iraq.

Per the BBC, his brother claims he was beaten in custody.
Muntadar al-Zaidi has suffered a broken hand, broken ribs and internal bleeding, as well as an eye injury, his older brother, Dargham, told the BBC.

And, despite Maliki's personal desires to see him locked up (for two years,) Maliki is also a politician facing elections in Iraq. Al Zaidi has become a symbol, a powerful symbol.
According to unconfirmed newspaper reports, the former coach of the Iraqi national football team, Adnan Hamad, has offered $100,000 (£65,000) for the shoes, while a Saudi citizen has apparently offered $10m (£6.5m).

The NYTimes has a good roundup of how well this has been received. This guy is becoming a folk hero.

Picture of the Day

"And I didn't even have to make a donation this time....."

(President George W. Bush shakes hands with his father, former President George H. W. Bush and mother Barbara Bush, during the Texas A&M fall commencement ceremony at Reed Arena in College Station, Texas, Friday, Dec. 12, 2008. (Stuart Villanueva/Bryan College Station Eagle)

Cheney's exit interview

Two bits from an ABC/Cheney interview. Defending torture,
"There was a period of time there, three or four years ago, when about half of everything we knew about al Qaeda came from that one source," he added, referring to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. "So, it's been a remarkably successful effort. I think the results speak for themselves."

(Two ways to read that. Either KSM was a trove or the rest of the intelligence operation gave them nothing into 2004/5.)

And, on Page 3, Invade Iraq regardless of the intelligence.

A real war on Christmas....

For many years now, I've thought that one of the worst possible terror attacks would be to create a fear around Christmas shopping.

This bomb in Paris' Printemps appears to be symbolic, a phone call, dynamite with no detonators, but a fear around Christmas shopping would be more debilitating than usual this year.

Monday, December 15, 2008


I'm not really wondering whether Rahm Emanuel did anything nasty with Gov. Blagojevich. I'm really wondering how many cursewords he uses on tape.

Picture of the Day - 2

(Militants of Al-Shabaab stand guard with their weapons inside Bakara open-air market in Somalia's capital Mogadishu December 15, 2008. (REUTERS/Omar Faruk))

Pakistan rejects foreign interrogation

Not like they have anything to hide....
Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has turned down a British request to question suspects arrested in connection with the Mumbai attacks, his office said Monday.

Thought after watching Bush dodge the Iraqi reporter's shoe....

Back, and to the left..... Back, and to the left....

Picture of the Day

(President-elect Barack Obama waves after buying a Christmas tree in Chicago, December 14, 2008. (REUTERS/John Gress))

The foreign policy structure

However, senior government sources in Jerusalem said that the information they have received indicates that the new administration is planning a hierarchy of about five special envoys to various regions, overseen by a kind of "super coordinator," who would answer directly to the president and the secretary of state....

(An Israel-Palestine envoy and..) The other four envoys would be: to Iraq to liaise with the Iraqi government on U.S. troop withdrawal; to Iran to oversee the beginning of dialogue and participate in international discussions on an incentive package; to Afghanistan and Pakistan to stabilize the security situation; and to North Korea to watch over denuclearization and the lifting of international sanctions.

I'm not wholly sure of the accuracy of this, but it would give a clear sense of foreign policy priorities. (No India/Pakistan?)

(Also notable. The Obama team is holding their national security meeting today. Mike McConnell is still sitting in the (unfilled) DNI chair.)

Cutting off Afghanistan

I would guess this is probably more of a temporary blip than a long problem, but it's still notable that the Khyber Transport Association (Pakistani regional truckers' union) has voted to stop carrying NATO supplies through the Khyber Pass to Afghanistan.

Defining the NSA program

Newsweek has a little definition of the NSA's wiretap/call data trap program.
Two knowledgeable sources tell NEWSWEEK that the clash erupted over a part of Bush's espionage program that had nothing to do with the wiretapping of individual suspects.... describe a system in which the National Security Agency, with cooperation from some of the country's largest telecommunications companies, was able to vacuum up the records of calls and e-mails of tens of millions of average Americans between September 2001 and March 2004.


This ABC interview with Bush is pretty unbelievable. First, at the bottom of page one he begins defining what he thinks is his legacy which is an interesting list of priorities. Then we get to Iraq,
BUSH: .....Clearly, one of the most important parts of my job because of 9/11 was to defend the security of the American people. There have been no attacks since I have been president, since 9/11. One of the major theaters against al Qaeda turns out to have been Iraq. This is where al Qaeda said they were going to take their stand. This is where al Qaeda was hoping to take ...

Raddatz: But not until after the U.S. invaded.

Bush: Yeah, that's right. So what? The point is that al Qaeda said they're going to take a stand.....

There are several other historical misunderstandings on Iraq in the interview, and I don't think they're necessarily spin. I think he really believes in a different history. The whole interview is worth a read. (And no mention of all the people who have died.)

(Is this supposed to be an Iraq and Afghanistan "victory lap"?)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Lame DUCK!!!!!

(The sole of the shoe is a huge insult in the Arab world.)

On the auto bailout and GOP Southern rump politics.

The politics of the Republican Senators over the auto bailout may presage the new face of the Republican party. Much has been made of the fact that many of these Southern Republican Senators are working for the interests of the foreign automakers in their states, but take just a minute to look at what they're giving away in this.

Admittedly, unions aren't hugely popular across vast sections of America, and the UAW is often cited as the worst of the kind, but the political geography of a perceived war on unions won't be kind to the Republican party.

If this position is perceived to be the position of the Republican party, they're looking at putting themselves into an issue hole with white working class voters across the Rustbelt and Midwest, a key determinative demographic in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Indiana, etc. These voters and regions are reachable through "culture issues," but I would wager a perception of a war on unions might shift that demographic somewhat away.

To a much smaller degree, but similarly, they're potentially setting up the same sort of conflict their anti-immigration push caused among Hispanics which has arguably cost them several states in the southwest.

Despite the fact that the Republican presidential candidate and current president both held somewhat moderate stances on immigration, the uglier side of the GOP ended up defining the public's image of the party on the issue.

So, in this bailout/union issue, I see what may be one of the first signs of Southern rump GOP politics. With no real national figures to keep an eye on the broader party interests, local politicians catering to local (predominantly southern) politics end up defining the positions of the Republican party as a whole.

This is just one example, but it may be the portrait of the next few years. How many groups will they alienate in that time?

Made me laugh

Maybe it's because this intersects my wonky political side and my love for formulaic disaster/monster movies, but I thought this was pretty damn funny.

Too big to fail

The one bright spot is that the way things are structured right now, the world needs the US economy.

(We are the Ford, GM, and Chrysler to the world.)

Picture of the Day

Who takes reporters' questions at their wedding?

(Someone who wants everyone to know the rumors aren't true.)

(Florida Gov.Charlie Crist and his new bride Carole struggle to hear questions from the media as protestors chant after their wedding Friday night Dec. 12, 2008 in St. Petersburg, Fla.(AP Photo/Chris O'Meara))

Republicans vs. the Unions, Day 3

I'm a little biased, but it feels like the Republican Senators vs. the UAW battle is slipping away from the Senators. As their anti-union motivations become clearer, their opposition to the bailout looks more and more political.

However, the Republican brand will be somewhat protected as the White House works out a deal around these Senators.

Unsurprisingly, no direct labor representative on the Sunday shows. (When was the last time a union leader was on a Sunday show?)


We're yet to see the stories about charities losing their donations/funding.

(But evangelical churches are trying to capitalize.)