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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Welcome to the power circles, Mr. Steele.....

This piece may be a "hit." (I'd put my money on a Repub motivated source.)
Michael S. Steele, the newly elected chairman of the Republican National Committee, arranged for his 2006 Senate campaign to pay a defunct company run by his sister for services that were never performed, his finance chairman from that campaign has told federal prosecutors.

Here's the official WaPo explanation of how the revelation came about. (Do I believe in accidents?)
The U.S. attorney's office inadvertently sent the confidential document, a defense sentencing memorandum filed under seal, to The Washington Post after the newspaper requested the prosecution's sentencing memorandum.

At this point, it's only "allegations" from Steele's former campaign finance chair who was seeking leniency on drug charges, but if you read the whole piece, it smells pretty bad. Using campaign funds to pay his sister for a "no job," illegally hiding money from other Republicans..... Somebody wants Steele dirtied.

It may amount to nothing, but WaPo front page, worth a read.

Later: Steele's camp makes their response to the NYTimes, not the WaPo who ran the article.

The questionable payment to his sister's company was for "for catering and Internet-related services." (Which are commonly handled by the same company? Which are commonly conducted by a pediatrician?)

Picture of the Day

"For those of you who wish to obstruct, get ready to get knocked over....."

(Michael Steele speaks after being elected Republican National Committee chairman in Washington January 30, 2009. (Molly Riley/Reuters))


(LATimes) A rare look at one of Israel's rightist politicians.

(NYTimes) The US provided training and logistical support to Uganda's latest failing effort against the LRA which left them active and pillaging villages.

(AFP) Oil is under $40/barrel.

(Guardian) I'm glad the papacy of Benedict is catching tons of crap for un-ex-communicating the Holocaust denier.

(CNN) The Alaska Senate voted to hold Todd Palin and nine others in contempt for refusing to testify in the Troopergate investigation, "but a Senate resolution said no one should be punished...."

And, (NYTimes) The Obama administration is looking at taking nuclear bomb manufacture and maintenance away from the Department of Energy and giving it to the Pentagon. (That would be a huge change at Energy. Questions over whether Congress would allow it.)

The American nightmare

A horrible story about old people who were fleeced in the Madoff scam. A 90 year old and having to go back to work as a grocery store clerk. 83 with Alzheimers about to be thrown out of the nice nursing home.....

Now these are still fairly highend cases, but there are alot of retirees outside Madoff who have gotten slammed in the broader market/house price fall. They've only lost a portion in this crisis so their full stories haven't played out yet.


For some reason this morning, I find myself thinking of "the Miracle on Ice," the 1980 US Olympic hockey win over the Soviets. In some ways, times were similar, the national mood was equally dank, and that scrappy team of nobodies overachieved.......

Friday, February 06, 2009


Does anyone else find it funny that John McCain decided not to work with "the moderates," proposing his own solution on the floor (which failed miserably?)

If history is any guide, he'll show up at "the moderates" photo op and contend that he was the key negotiator.

Picture of the Day - "Theatrical" (not applied as a euphemism despite the rumors)

Barbara Boxer calls Lindsey Graham "theatrical."

(This video image provided by Senate Television shows Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. speaking on the floor of the Senate on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 5, 2009. (AP Photo/Senate Television))

Polling Limbaugh....

Reinforcing my point last week, elevating Limbaugh to the head of the opposition is good politics, so says the polling.

Thought - Faith based tax cuts

After 28 years of the business wing of the Republican party selling tax cuts to the faith based wing of the Republican party, tax cuts have been taken on as an article of faith, not to be judged, questioned, or evaluated.

Every word of the dogma must be true or else all items might not be true.

Tax cuts are right because tax cuts have always been right.

This is the word of the Lord.

The political circus of "moderates" on Stimulus

Then Senate circus on Stimulus specifics is no more than a show. The real details will be hammered out in the conference committee that will reconcile the House and Senate versions. That's who will determine what goes before the President for a signature.

So, all this talk of "moderates" "negotiating" is just political theater for the cameras and constituencies.

The complicated dynamics of the Afghanistan supply route

Russia wants the US transshipping cargo for Afghanistan through Russia. They apparently bought off the Kyrgyz for $2 billion to permanently close the Manas air base, and are now quite anxious to have the US begin shipping through their country.

This smells really funny, especially since the Russians don't like the US presence in that part of the world and have been arming Iran as a counterbalance. I don't think they want us to pull out of Afghanistan immediately, they've had trouble with the Islamists, too, but this does give them a strong lever of control over actions in the region and a lever to affect US policy more broadly.

This is another mess Bush left us.....

AQ Khan, "a free man."

After 5 years of very loose house arrest, AQ Khan is a free man.

And no one outside the Pakistanis has ever been allowed to question him.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Internet trouble.

Sorry, my internet has been down for a day. Partial and occasional right now. Hopefully everything is back to normal tomorrow.

Internet trouble.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009


I'm not seeing very many new car "dealer plates" lately.

Watch as you drive around.


For god's sakes, can't we put him in jail for something?
Former Vice President Dick Cheney warned that there is a “high probability” that terrorists will attempt a catastrophic nuclear or biological attack in coming years, and said he fears the Obama administration’s policies will make it more likely the attempt will succeed.

The Pakistani supply route.

(AFP) "Suspected Islamic militants blew up a bridge in northwest Pakistan on Tuesday, closing a crucial supply line for NATO troops in Afghanistan...."

(AFP) "Taliban rebels torched 10 trucks laden with supplies for NATO troops after closing a key route into Afghanistan by blowing up a bridge in northwest Pakistan...."

Stimulus bill lacks Senate votes....

The Senate leadership conceded that they don't have the votes to break a filibuster on the Stimulus bill as it is currently written.

The Republicans have won this battle so far (with an assist from the media,) making the discussion about the political, not the economic or practical.

(Does anyone remember what happened when the Republicans torpedoed the first TARP legislation?

The Dow dropped from 10,5 to 8,5 in eight business days. That was the window during which lending truly froze up, during which spending fell off a cliff. ....and they want to do it again....)

Kyrgyzstan to close US base (on Russian request?)

Kyrgyzstan announces that it plans to close the US's Manas air/military base, key in operations and resupply to Afghanistan. That's messy enough, especially in the short time horizon, but there's another level.
The announcement was made after news reports of a multimillion-dollar aid package from Russia to Kyrgyzstan.

Or maybe this from the NYTimes version.
President Kurmanbek Bakiyev announced the decision to close the facility on Tuesday during a visit to Moscow to seek financial support.

Reading a little deeper in the NYTimes version, it sounds like Bakiyev was looking for at least $300 million for the lease, but the US was only willing to go $180 million, so Russia steps in.

Let's remember, the US is talking about moving it's supply routes from Pakistan to that long winding route across Russia and her sympathetics which poses this problem across Russia and all the little 'stans. It gives Russia and the locals so much influence over the US to both extort and try to influence policy.

Never fight a land war in Asia, right?


(JPost) The Israeli election turns into their version of the Bush Doctrine. Netanyahu promised that, if elected, he would topple the Hamas government. Livni says, "Any negotiations with Hamas, whether direct or indirect, are harmful."

(AFP) US commander warns N. Korea.

(Guardian) A British officer in Afghanistan has been arrested for leaking civilian casualty figures to Human Rights Watch.

(LATimes) New Energy Secretary Chu makes some very dire warnings about climate change.

(NYTimes) Ayad Allawi's faction did very well in the Iraqi election.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Picture of the Day - 2

(President Barack Obama is pictured as he talks to second grade students at the Capital City Public Charter School in Washington February 3, 2009. (REUTERS/Larry Downing))


I haven't really kept up with all the lower level nominations, but I'm really glad to see Tammy Duckworth land an assistant secretary job with the VA.


Judd Gregg once voted to abolish the Commerce Dept.

Picture of the Day

(A security guard picks up the shoe that was thrown at Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao. British police said they have charged the protester who hurled a shoe at Wen as he addressed Cambridge University.(AFP/Darren Staples))

The death of "democracy" in Afghanistan

I've seen this as rumor a couple of places, but Politico prints it as story.
The Pentagon’s top military officers are recommending to President Barack Obama that he shift U.S. strategy in Afghanistan — to focus on ensuring regional stability and eliminating Taliban and al-Qaida safe havens in Pakistan, rather than on achieving lasting democracy and a thriving Afghan economy, officials said.

The recommendations to narrow U.S. goals are contained in a classified report by the Joint Chiefs of Staff that is likely to be shown soon to Obama as part of a review of Afghanistan strategy announced by the new administration.

As if I needed a reason to hate Rick Perry......

Sarah Palin begins to build political chits.
Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has endorsed (Texas Governor) Rick Perry for re-election, calling him the "true conservative" in a primary election showdown with fellow Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison....

In a letter to "Texas Republican women" distributed by the Perry campaign, Palin touts the Texas governor's conservative credentials.

Backchannel to Iran

I'm not that surprised that the Obama administration is using non-governmental cutouts for communications with Iran and Syria.

Related: Iran says it launched its first satellite.

(WaPo) North Korea steps up rhetoric and prepares a new test of a Taepodong-2. (And I didn't know that the current South Korean government had ended the "sunshine policy," ceasing food aid.)

Picture of the Day

The inspector general report said that the average cost of a single Growler has risen 120 percent, from about $94,000 when the contract was awarded in 2004 to $209,000 in 2008. The unit cost for the vehicle with mortar and ammunition trailer has grown 86 percent, from $579,000 to $1,078,000.

And they can't even use it in an "urban" environment.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Hey. I got an idea. Maybe we just weren't crazy enough.....

In a Rasmussen poll, 43% of Republicans think their party has been "too moderate" over the last eight years. 55% think the party "should become more like Alaska Governor Sarah Palin."

Now there are issues with the internals here, only the most diehards are self identifying as Republican right now and the Palin answer was Palin or McCain, but the point is still there. The hardcore want it crazier still.

Kinda fitting for Groundhog Day.

UPDATE: Joe the Plumber is speaking at the GOP Congressional strategy session.

Picture of the Day - 2

(Punxsutawney Phil makes his annual prediction on Gobbler's Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, on the 123rd Groundhog Day, February 2, 2009. Phil saw his shadow, predicting six more weeks of winter. (REUTERS/Jason Cohn))


Let's remember what happened the last time the Congressional Republicans blew up an economic rescue package, when McCain "suspended his campaign" and helped House Republicans torpedo the first version of TARP?

On 9/30, House Republicans and McCain had killed the first TARP bill. The Dow was at 10,850.

Ten days later, on Oct 10, the Dow was at 8,450.

Norm Coleman's "recount" is blocking the Stimulus bill.....

I can't prove this as fact as I'm proving too lazy and too ineffective to find any supporting articles on donors, but every dollar spent to continue Norm Coleman's extremely unlikely lawsuits (extending the Minnesota recount) are now simply dollars spent to delay Al Franken from becoming the 59th Dem Senator.

I think that's the politics now, not to win the Coleman recount, but to temporarily deny Franken the ability to vote in the Senate.

And that 59th vote matters. It gets you so much closer.
"In the Senate, it routinely takes 60 votes to do almost everything. It doesn't necessarily mean you're trying to slow a bill down," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Sunday on CBS program "Face the Nation."

"But a super-majority is required for virtually everything in the Senate, and certainly for something that is close to a one trillion dollar spending bill, it will," he said.

To overcome a Republican "filibuster," the Democrats would need to amass 60 votes to shut down debate and bring the bill to a vote. Obama's party can now count on 58 votes to the Republicans' 41, with one seat still unresolved.

To me, this level of politics would be big news, especially if the Stimulus bill goes down to a filibuster.

So, who is paying to keep that 59th Dem Senator from casting a vote for the Stimulus bill?

Also, factor in that Norm Coleman was one of the two main contenders for the head of the NSRC (Senate Republicans pot of money,) only stepping aside to Cornyn 9 days after the election "to focus on his recount."

What was the deal between them? How much is the NSRC into funding the recount?

(As for the 60th vote, Judd Gregg is telling colleagues that he wouldn't take Commerce if it meant a Dem Senator, but Gregg does look set to take Commerce.

So, more than likely, a deal has been struck for some flavor of "moderate" Republican to replace him.)


Some supporters are skeptical that the tax measures will spur much business investment. For many companies, the goal is simply to stay in business, said Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., chairman of the Senate Budget Committee.

"If you're a business whose orders are falling off dramatically, are you going to add equipment?" Conrad asked.

American UN official kidnapped in Pakistan

John Solecki, head of the UN refugee agency in Quetta, was abducted as he travelled to work in the city, the capital of Baluchistan province bordering Afghanistan.....

"The gunmen took him (Solecki) away to an unknown location."

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Picture of the Day - 2

The whining minority.

(Sen. Mitch McConnell appears on CBS's 'Face the Nation' Sunday, Feb. 1, 2009. (AP/Karin Cooper))

Daschle knew it was coming and hid it from the transition.

NOT a way to endear yourself to the new boss....
President Obama’s choice for health secretary, Tom Daschle, was aware as early as last June that he might have to pay back taxes for the use of a car and driver provided by a private equity firm, but did not inform the Obama transition team until weeks after Mr. Obama named him to the health secretary’s post, senior administration officials said Saturday.

(Notice this is being pushed out by "senior administration officials." I don't know if they will, but "we were fooled" would allow room to throw him overboard if they have to.)

It sounds like Gregg is in

It does look like Repub Senator Judd Gregg will be the next Commerce Secretary. This is particularly significant because of its potential effect on the balance of the Senate.
Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) has emerged as a top candidate to be Barack Obama's commerce secretary, and an announcement could be made as soon as Monday, a White House official said Saturday....

One Senate aide said Gregg “seems to want” the job.

Still a rockstar

At the Alfalfa dinner,
Yet in a breach of protocol at an event where protocol is everything, a long line of club members and guests formed to shake Obama’s hand before he spoke. Titans of journalism (Donald Graham) politics ( Jane Harman) and business (Henry Kravis and Michael Dell) all paid homage.

Even Fred Malek, a longtime GOP fundraiser and John McCain’s campaign co-chairman, and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin made sure to make their way over to greet the president.

Opportunism during crisis

There's a lot of talk out of Davos about protectionism.

The WaPo has a piece about how "gaps" in trade treaties are showing the first signs of trade war, and there's a Reuters about how many at Davos are talking about fast tracking Doha, but I would offer this idea.

Yes, significant trade wars would be bad, but, to me, it feels like these folks are using this time of crisis as a medium to push ideas they wanted anyway.

There's a long history of ideological opportunism during crises. The results can be good (Social Security), and they can be bad (executive power claims after 9/11,) but it does always need to be conscious.
As President Obama and Congress barrel toward the latest emergency program to resuscitate the American economy, one question is looming over their search for a cure: Can the government fashion a fast and efficient economic stimulus while also seizing the moment to remake America?

For now, Mr. Obama and his aides are insisting they can accomplish both goals, following their mantra of using the urgency of the economic crisis to accomplish larger — and long-delayed — reforms that never garnered sufficient votes in ordinary times.

Just putting it out there.

Not just a shift in language

The AP recognizes the death of the phrase "war on terror" in the Obama administration.

This does have an impact, as "war on terror" was broadly seen as "war on Islam" across the world.

On the stimulus/jobs mismatch

As you know, I'm a believer in a stimulus bill, but last night I had a dream that got me thinking.....

It was 1935, and I was at a WPA jobsite applying for a job. They asked what experience I had, and I said office, computers, and sales of technical equipment. The guy looked at me and said they didn't have anything like that, but they could put me on the crew.

The next thing I knew, I was shoveling gravel on a rail bed. My soft office hands were bleeding, my weak back was killing me......

There are lots of folks out there who will be able to bridge into the construction jobs of this bill, especially some of the manufacturing jobs lost, but if you look at the people who are being laid off right now, for many, this bill offers them little. Their best hope is to wait and benefit from the secondary effects.

Waking up from that dream, I realized there's no office version of digging holes just to fill them up, you know?

Picture of the Day - "Honeymoon"