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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, January 31, 2009

This is it....

It really sounds like this week will be the big Obama economic push, with Geithner and Obama pushing the next TARP strategy and pushing hard on the stimulus.

However, I think this effort may be as much political as technical. To me, the goal seems to be as much about changing minds, hence the naming attempt "big bang."

We'll get a real sense of how good the political operation is, and just how much residual support Obama has.

(In a weird side note, the online political operation is planning "stimulus parties" for people all over the country to gather together to "a special video about the recovery plan." (I think this is where I get off......))

Zakaria: At Davos, the world is angry at US.

Fareed Zakaria says that the mood in Davos is anger at the US, not so much at the political leaders, but at the American lifestyle of consumption, consumer debt, and lax regulation. They blame their problems on the contaminations of American culture and style of life into their societies.

And, let's remember, these are not populists or media critics, these are the ultrarich Davos people.

Friday, January 30, 2009

It's Steele....

Michael Steele won the RNC chairmanship.

Black President. Black RNC chair... What's a racist to do?


There's a National Republican Victory Monument, complete with an eternal flame, commemorating the 1994 midterm elections?

Picking a fight with Limbaugh....

Just a little notice here that the Obama folks may be up to something in all the Rush Limbaugh back and forth. This is starting to look alot like the foundation of the Republicans "liberal villain" fear politics, "party of Pelosi....," etc.

The beauty of this is that Limbaugh, for his own economic reasons, can't afford to not respond. So, we end up with an Obama administration carrying on a fight with "the right" personified by the extreme position of a Limbaugh.

So, pick a side. The extremely popular President or a radio host listened to by the furthest 15% of the country.

Pretty smart if they can win it.

Update: Democracy Corps has polling showing Limbaugh favorability polling about at the Bush level.

Picture of the Day

(A statue built for Iraqi journalist Muntazer al-Zaidi, who hurled his shoes at former U.S. president George Bush, is seen in Tikrit. (REUTERS/Sabah al-Bazee))


(NYTimes) North Korea scraps all deals with South Korea.

(AP) The Iraqi provincial elections are tomorrow, and the Iraqis have put in a curfew and vehicle ban in Mosul, one of the hotspots between the Kurds and Arabs.

The RNC chair voting is today. (No curfews or vehicle bans.)

(BBC) Mid east envoy George Mitchell sits down with Likud, officially the opposition party, but expected to win the next elections.

(USAToday) Biden tries to outline his "middle class task force" brief. (It really sounds like he's been pushed outside.)

(WaPo) A bit more on India shaving Kashmir from Holbrooke's brief.

(TomToles) A bipartisanship cartoon.

(AP) Exxon posts record profits, $45.2 billion for 2008.

And, (AP) the US economy fell at an annualized rate of 3.8% in the 4Q. (Far better than the -5% or -6% many have predicted, but the government numbers are often a little high.)

A quote from Rev. Ted Haggard's second secret lover....

Haas added, "(Haggard) used to say to me, 'You know what, Grant, you can become a man of God, and you can have a little bit of fun on the side."

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Could the Obama administration give the Dems that 60th Senate seat?

An interesting speculation as the rumor that GOP NH Sen. Judd Gregg is being considered for Commerce Secretary. If that were to happen, the Dem Governor of NH would likely appoint that 60th Dem Senator.

Before you pooh pooh the idea, look at it from Gregg's point of view. Although an easy winner in 2004, Gregg has to be thinking about his own reelection bid in 2010, with almost all the Republicans having been blown out of the Northeast, and his party definition being controlled by the anti-Obama Southern wing.

Commerce Secretary might not look too bad as a nest feathering stop. You come out of that job, and you can write your ticket.

Later: Thinking about this more, the deal between the Obama folks, Gregg, and the NH Governor may include a pre-named replacement, or the NH Gov. might not want the heat of flipping the seat. So, the seat may not officially flip, but, at the very least, it'll be a very, very moderate Republican (RINO.)

So, if it's not 60, it'll be at least 59 1/2.

Later: Judd Gregg confirms he's being considered, and Ambinder says he's the frontrunning favorite.

Picture of the Day - I always knew this day would come!!!!

(Two electronic signs intended to warn motorists of construction were changed yesterday by hackers in Austin, Texas, Monday, Jan. 26, 2009.(AP Photo/Chris Nakashima-Brown))

The Republican "civil war."

The RNC meetings are going on, with all the participants trying to shape the chairman's race. (See vote estimates here.) The debate on the direction of the party (the "civil war") seems to be breaking into two camps.

1) The southern based "we just weren't conservative enough" group. This is the group of the hardcore social conservatives who still want to run social hardline politics and really want to take over the party. They believe they're morally "right," and if given control, they can win over the rest of America through their purity.

2) The "insider" group who are largely backing the continuation of Mike Duncan as chair. They're afraid to really rock the boat, but want to make sure that the current political power/money structure continue with some minor modifications. They're terrified of what will happen if the first group were to take over. (Mitch McConnell is obviously in the second group as he warns today about the danger of a "regional party.")

What's interesting is that this battle has developed so that there's really no presence for the seemingly apparent third group. The entire argument seems to be either further right or stay the same. Those genuinely preaching outreach and shift towards the demographics of the future appear to be entirely shut out.

Several bits in the last few weeks show the ridiculousness of their argument. Ron Brownstein writes about both the "Big Blue Wall," the increasing number of safe Dem states in Presidential politics, and the shift broader demographics away from the Republican base.
The big losers were blue-collar whites -- those without college degrees -- whose share (of the electorate) plummeted from 53 percent in 1992 to just 39 percent now.

Then, of course, there's the Gallup "state of the States" showing the "Blue Wall" as even bigger.

So, as the demographics of the country shift away, the Republicans find themselves arguing over just how white and how limited a party they are going to be. The idea of broadening the coalition appears to be no more than talk.

(Sorry for the rambling post.)

Blackwater booted from Iraq

The Iraqi government refuses to grant Blackwater a license to operate in the country. Right now, they're expected to pull out by spring.

You gotta figure that other contractors will step up to take that business, so there will be no substantial change in Iraq, but what does Blackwater do?

In Pentagon theory, you expect a Blackwater to simply fill surge needs and disappear, but in the reality of Washington, that's not how things work.

Their business model would seem to suggest that they need to find "other missions." With all those billions sloshing around, I gotta wonder how they're going to lobby for new business to make up the loss.

Does the creation of these contractors end up affecting US policy?

Picture of the Day

Has anyone else noticed that Barack Obama's "presidential aging" has already begun?

Stimulus ker-thump

The Obama White House plans to push back against Republican politics on the stimulus bill.
the White House plans to release state-by-state job figures “so we can put a number on what folks voted for an against,” an administration aide said.

“It’s clear the Republicans who voted against the stimulus represent constituents who will be stunned to learn their member of Congress voted against [saving or] creating 4 million jobs,” the aide said.

We'll have to wait and see how hard they press this, whether it's real retribution or just a warning shot across the bow.

The refugee theme park

At Davos, the ultra rich controllers of the world are given a chance to play refugee for an hour. Bizarre.

Echoes of the crash

Nobody's jumping off tall buildings, but we are seeing more and more of these crisis/suicide stories related to the economy. It's happening quietly, out in people's homes.

(The traditional "window jumpers," however, are still getting their bonuses.)

Political prisoners

Maybe they're Indian intelligence, but the rest of the story is propagandist garbage.
(Pakistani) police say they have arrested three men allegedly trained by India's spy agency to carry out attacks inside Pakistan.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

"Fair and balanced"

Note that FoxNews is the most "balanced," and CNN the least.

(From this post at ThinkProgress.)

Bad Journalism

I don't know what's happened at Politico. First today, they headline a ridiculous story highlighting the few people they could find who believe there should be no stimulus at all (not like those people were delivered to their door by some think tank and then painted as independent.....)

Now, they've got a headliner up saying (shocked) that Bill Clinton received speaking fees after Hillary Clinton became the favorite for Sec State. (Because, after all, you don't have to book Bill Clinton in advance, right?)

I'm not normally big on media criticism, but it appears that Politico may now be choosing to go the Drudge route, taking anything that's handed over the transom and printing it without context.

So, be aware.....

A "more conservative" Republican in 2012

Yes, that is a possibility. As Republicans look at the GOP chair race, one of the quiet backroom issues is how the 2012 primaries will be run.

Imagine the impact if they went for more caucuses.

Wake up. It's not about the stimulus.....

C'mon, now. Somebody say it. The Republicans are opposed to the stimulus bill, not as a matter of policy, but as a political move to try and reclaim what they say is their identity.

They are in the wonderful costless position of the minority, where they get to complain with no responsibility to provide any alternatives or even any requirement to make any sense.

They are shouting to try and stake out identity.

In the end, the House Republicans will vote against, and the Senate leadership will release the one or two Senators necessary for passage. I guarantee you, the bill will go through, and the Republicans can claim a costless political opposition.

Then, in 2010, Congressional Republicans can claim they're all about reining in the deficit, trying to erase all the spending of the Bush years.

(It sure helps that the media is giving them so much airtime without asking any questions.)

I'll be very curious how it all plays when Obama makes the inevitable speech seeking support/explaining the bill. He gets the final definition on this thing. He's got the megaphone.

(Later: They're also working to kill any Obama momentum and eat up the first 100 days. Who cares if the country suffers in the process?

(Their SCHIP proposal got smashed.))


All things included, this current proposed stimulus bill looks like it will cost $1 -$1.1 trillion, about the same as the Iraq war with estimated long term costs included.

When does making nice end?

John Boehner says the spending bill designed to stimulate the economy is too much about spending.

Won't someone go after the Republican leadership? I know we're supposed to be "working together," but aren't we nearing the point where someone has to say, "the Republicans propose to solve the Bush economic problems with Bush economic policies?"

(As TPM points out, support for the Obama stimulus is very high, while Boehner/McConnell approval is very low.)

Shouldn't someone be getting a little nasty soon, at least as a shot across the bow?

Republicans try to jettison Bush

It seems the GOP consensus is to disown Bush because they've now decided he wasn't really a "conservative."

So, I guess the answer to the "civil war" question is, don't reach to the middle, just do what you were doing, but harder.

Good luck with that.


When initial election night reports suggested a narrow (Norm) Coleman win, Coleman said if he were trailing, he would forgo a recount and called on Franken to do so. "If you ask me what I would do," he said, "I would step back. I just think the need for the healing process is so important."

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


The British government may (and, I emphasize, may) be forced to release the minutes from their cabinet meetings leading up to the Iraq war.

Unfortunately, the juicy bits may be hidden for fear of showing the world our lying former president.
Although the tribunal said that the minutes ought to be published, it also accepted that some sections should be redacted, or edited, "to avoid unnecessary risk to the UK's international relations".


Echoing yesterday's post, Sarah Palin launches SarahPAC, ostensibly to raise money for GOP candidates around the country.

Of course, if history is any guide, most of the money will end up in her pockets.

(Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin gives the state of the state address in the Capitol in Juneau, Alaska on Thursday Jan. 22, 2009. (AP Photo/Al Grillo))

A poor minority

Nearly as many House Republicans sought to get their photos taken with Obama as questioned him about the stimulus during their meeting.

Picture of the Day

I think we should institute a media rule that before anyone makes any "reasoned" policy argument, they should have to answer whether they believe in evolution and estimate the age of the planet earth.

I mean, if they can't operate in a world of basic fact, then why should we listen?

(House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio speaks to reporters outside the White House in Washington, Friday, Jan. 23, 2009 From left are, Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz.; Boehner; Eric Cantor of Va.; and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds))

A pairing of articles on Israel/Hamas

1) The recent Gaza operations have been a big boon for the Israeli right (and far right) ahead of the elections.

2) Reportedly, Egypt is using the Israeli election as a "ticking clock" to pressure Hamas into accepting a deal.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Reaching for middle east opinion

Obama gives his first full sit down interview as President to the Dubai based 24 hour Arabic cable network Al-Arabiya.

And, George Mitchell started his work on the Middle East peace process today.

Later: In that interview with al Arabiya,
"My job to the Muslim world is to communicate that the Americans are not your enemy," Obama said....

Obama's interview was seen widely in Pakistan and has received a generally positive response from analysts there.....

Hamid said the real litmus test for the Muslim world is what Obama does with the crisis in Gaza.

And, (AFP) US vows 'direct' diplomacy with Iran.

Debts to be paid....

The the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak, says the US has an obligation to investigate Bush officials over torture, also saying there's already enough to prosecute Rumsfeld.

And, John Conyers re-subpoenas Karl Rove. With the Obama administration's different stance on executive privilege, it could get messy.

(I don't think either of these go anywhere.)


Wasn't I promised a whole raft full of leakers and tattletales once Bush left office?

Picture of the Day - 2

What now for the Republicans?

Reading this very stilted article saying it's the Dems who face catastrophic fundraising problems (yeah, right,) I came across this.
And while President Bush may have been a drain on their political fortunes, he was also the single biggest fundraising draw in GOP history.

That got me thinking. Boehner and McConnell are not going to draw big audiences around the country. Lobbyists aren't going to give big money to a Republican party facing at least 4 years without control of anything.

Without Bush, the Republicans need a "celebrity" who can bring attention and dollars.

So, who is that? Palin? Huckabee? Jindal? Romney? Where's that pool of money that can be tapped? Business? "Conservatives?"

I think that whoever figures this out will likely have the inside track to GOP 2012.

Picture of the Day

Hard life as a cabinet spouse.....

(Bill Clinton shares a laugh with Michael Jordan as the two take part in the Eighth Annual Michael Jordan Celebrity Invitational in the Bahamas, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2009.(AP Photo/Tim Aylen))


From a very weird article on an Aussie who is opening a skateboard park in Afghanistan,
“I’m not upset with my brothers for beating me,” Hadisa whispered on a recent day when she did not skate because her oldest brother was nearby. “They have the right.”


I guess Davos will be a working trip this year.

(McClatchy) The Iraqi provincial elections are Saturday.

And, (NYTimes) This is William Kristol’s last column.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

My state's shame

I'm really sorry y'all are going to get to know my state's shame, Sen. John Cornyn. He's a douchebag who kicks people when they're down.

So, this is kinda nice,
Cornyn, you'll recall, had just prevented a unanimous consent vote on Hillary's nomination and Thrush, who saw but did not hear the discussion, characterized the exchange as "heated," which Cornyn denied.

Well, one of our eagle-eyed sources spotted the same discussion and was able to get within earshot just in time to hear Clinton warn Cornyn, "The Clintons don't forget." One day later, Cornyn's objections to Clinton's confirmation magically disappeared and the man who had set the roll call vote in motion voted in favor of confirming Clinton.

Picture of the Day - 2

"The second most powerful man in Washington....."

(Incoming White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel gestures prior to the inauguration ceremony of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States, in Washington, January 20, 2009. (REUTERS/Jim Young))

(The NYTimes has a puff piece on Emanuel today.)

Al Qaeda struggles to find footing against a new US President.

An interesting WaPo frontpager on how Obama and his shifts in position represent a real propaganda problem for Al Qaeda.
The torrent of hateful words is part of what terrorism experts now believe is a deliberate, even desperate, propaganda campaign against a president who appears to have gotten under al-Qaeda's skin. The departure of George W. Bush deprived al-Qaeda of a polarizing American leader who reliably drove recruits and donations to the terrorist group.

I will go back again to reference the extremely important shift by the Obama administration from "war" footing to "criminal" footing towards Al Qaeda.

The whole article is worth a full read.

Turki al-Faisal rips Bush

Although there's certainly some current politics involved, I'm amazed that an official Saudi is saying this about a Bush. The Bush's, especially Bush Sr., have that special "historical" relationship with the Saudis.
"America is not innocent in this calamity," said Turki, who is the chairman of the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies in Riyadh. "Not only has the Bush administration left a sickening legacy in the region, but it has also, through an arrogant attitude about the butchery in Gaza, contributed to the slaughter of innocents."


Aides say (Obama) believes the Cabinet structure is outdated because it doesn’t recognize that problems like global warming sprawl across several agencies, often requiring a sort of uber-Cabinet member – a czar – to confront them.

Picture of the Day

(Hamas supporters hold banners and flags as other supporters throw stones in the direction of Israeli troops (unseen) during clashes in the West Bank city of Hebron, January 23, 2009. (Nayef Hashlamoun/Reuters))