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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, March 21, 2009


Blogger was down this morning telling me I was a spammer. (They messed up their filters again.)

This PM, my internet went down.

I'm not even going to try today.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Thought - shiny metal ball

If people are focused on "the villains" at AIG, their outrage is alot easier for those in power to direct and control.

If they're mad at "the system," it's a whole different story.

Political bits

(USNews) Gingrich is stepping up efforts to try and seize as many "Christian conservatives" as he can while everyone else is in disarray.

(HartfordCourant) Countrywide bent the rules so that Banking Chairman Chris Dodd could get his sweet mortgage deals. (Doesn't mean Dodd knew that, but it is coming down on him right now.)

(TPM/CNN) Norm Coleman's lawyer concedes they'll lose the court case and tries to make the statement that the loss was part of a plan for an appeal.

And, (TimesPicayune) Take notice that Bobby Jindal is seriously trying to raise national money for his Governor's race. (He's making the contacts and building his donor base now.)

Picture of the Day

Obama addresses Iran

Obama released a "choose a fresh start" videotape through the media to Iran. (Also BBC) In the coverage of this, remember that this may be a play to influence the upcoming Iranian elections.

Without the oppositional enemy, Ahmadinejad is not nearly as strong.

Dodd is imploding

Sen. Dodd's role in the AIG bonus thing is blowing up (NYTimes, AP,) and he's now on his third version of explanation.
On Thursday, the senator sought to defuse the furor over the latest revelation, holding a conference call with reporters.....

Mr. Dodd said that his staff revised the bill at the urging of Treasury officials....

While he knew the language was being rewritten, the senator said he had no idea the revision would allow for the bonuses at A.I.G.

So, first an outright denial. Then, the White House told hm, Now, it's vague and unnamed "staff."

As I noted yesterday, Dodd was a little wobbly before, but this could do him in. The Senator from banking may have to find another gig.

Deft Romney

I was impressed by this response on Larry King.
King: What did you make of Gov. [Sarah] Palin?

Romney: Boy, she was able to connect with our party in a very powerful way, ignite a lot of enthusiasm and excitement. That kind of political skill is rare. I hadn't met her before the announcement that she was going to be our VP nominee.

And I thought, boy, she's going to have a tough time up there on the stage at the Republican convention. Was I wrong. She got out there and just lit the place up.

How deft is that? It sounds do positive and is so empty.

(This is important because, despite his denials, the way Romney is abusing his PAC, it's clear he's in for 2102.)

A little Israel

(NYTimes) Some rather horrible "on the ground" accounts emerge from the Israeli attack on Gaza raising questions about rules of engagement. (This will have fallout.)

And, the WaPo writes that the rightest figures in Israel's new government seem "fated to clash with US." (Funny how this headline is never turned around. Something like, "New government likely to spurn Israel's last friend.")

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Precedent is powerful

I'm definitely upset by these AIG guys getting these bonuses, but this specific tax law to nullify them seems pretty creepy to me.

If they passed another law nullifying or capping bonuses at TARP companies that would be one thing, but this directed use of tax law to so extraordinarily take funds from a small class of people makes me nervous.

I understand it. It just feels, to me, like a slippery slope kind of precedent. I know that's not popular.


If Obama had said anything important on Leno, you would have heard about it by now.

Picture of the Day - 2

Buying a term paper

Joe Lieberman and John McCain submit a WaPo editorial supporting Obama's "surge" to Afghanistan. (Really, they criticize those against it more than endorse.)

Anyhow, what struck me wasn't the position of the oped, it was the writing. It's not uncommon for politicians to simply sign their names on something an aide wrote, but this one reads as such an extreme example.

After watching McCain and Lieberman interviewed for a year, tell me which one wrote this.
The political allure of such a reductionist approach is obvious....

Loose rhetoric about a minimal commitment in Afghanistan is counterproductive for another reason: It exacerbates suspicions, already widespread in South Asia, that the United States will tire of this war and retreat. These doubts about our staying power deter ordinary Afghans from siding with our coalition against the insurgency.

Just a pet peeve. (and none of the publishing papers ever note this.)

In case no one's noticing, Chris Dodd is imploding.

Faced with the smell of scandal, too deep a connection with the banking industry, and falling reelection numbers, Chris Dodd is kind of imploding.

(PS. I don't think dragging the Obama administration under the bus with you is a very good long term strategy.)

Two faced

McCain and Lindsey Graham are blocking (delaying) Christopher Hill's (very important) appointment as US Ambassador to Iraq.

It's been a month since that post was vacated. Ryan Crocker left on Feb. 13, and it's causing problems.

Schwarzenegger stands with Obama today

Following Charlie Crist's example, Schwarzenegger will join Obama at an economic appearance today. Frankly, it's good for both men.

North Korea detains two Americans.

Apparently, North Korean border guards have "detained" two "Korean-American employees of a California-based online news company."

The surprising thing to me is that the two women were seized on the Chinese side of the border after repeated warnings from the North Korean guards to stop filming across the border.

I cannot imagine this will last very long. The Chinese will not be happy at being put into this.

Stop-Loss is over

SecDef Gates announces an end to the Army's "stop-loss" program. All evidence seems to be that this was something Gates has wanted to do for some time.

Picture of the Day

(A handout photo provided by the Osservatore Romano shows Pope Benedict XVI petting a stuffed lion in the presidential palace in Yaounde at the second day of a six-day visit to Africa. (AFP/HO))

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

So far from fixing it

The NYTimes has a piece talking about how Israel is facing diplomatic problems and trying to repair its image after the recent Gaza attack and occupation.

Somehow, I don't think appointing Avigdor Lieberman as Foreign Minister is going to advance that effort.

Later: (Haaretz) "During Operation Cast Lead, Israeli forces killed Palestinian civilians under permissive rules of engagement and intentionally destroyed their property, say soldiers who fought in the offensive."


RNC fundraising numbers for February are down from last month and last year, although it's a little hard to compare considering last year was a Pres election year.

This is one of those results that could be spun either way. It'll be interesting to see who spins where.


Politico for the last two weeks: Obama's taking on too much... His agenda is too broad... he's overreaching....

Politico headliner today: Obama should have resolved race relations by now.

(Their top figures are Republicans, but I'm still surprised at the editorial turn.)

Bombing Pakistan

The NYTimes has a state of play piece on the US drone attacks on Pakistan. Their choice for the headlining bit is that the US is about to extend the bombings south into Baluchistan which is not FATA tribally controlled, but run by the central government.

My curious observation would be that, although the US is looking to bomb the northern section far from the Iranian border, there were all sorts of rumors a couple years ago that the US was tapping into and supporting those southern Sunni fundamentalist Baluchs in their cross border attacks into Iran. It just seems messy.

Also in the article,
Many of Mr. Obama’s advisers are also urging him to sustain orders issued last summer by President George W. Bush to continue Predator drone attacks against a wider range of targets in the tribal areas. They also are recommending preserving the option to conduct cross-border ground actions, using C.I.A. and Special Operations commandos...

As always, I would ask why this comes out now, the day after a top level Afghan/Pak strategy meeting at the White House? It reads more like a trial balloon or someone promoting policy.


You know Hamid Karzai is in election trouble when he says something like this.
Speaking alongside NATO's secretary-general, Karzai told a news conference in Kabul that his government's foreign partners should respect and honor his country's independence.

"Afghanistan ... will never be a puppet state," Karzai said.

I sure hope the US is working a strong plan b.

And you thought you had a hard day....

The chairman of AIG is appearing before Congress today.

Stray thought

Reagan ran up the deficit.

John McCain, loving father

Influential conservative radio figure Laura Ingraham calls John McCain's daughter "a useful idiot," and "flavor of the month," a couple days after calling her "“a Valley Girl gone awry” and a “plus-sized model.”

When asked about this, John McCain seemed to take Ingraham's side.

Far from market

Shell will no longer invest in renewable technologies such as wind, solar and hydro power because they are not economic, the Anglo-Dutch oil company said today. It plans to invest more in biofuels which environmental groups blame for driving up food prices and deforestation.

Not so pretty

Rick Santelli, the CNBC figure who was promoted for his "populist moment," comes out in favor of the AIG bonuses. (Think NBC will spend a week cross platform promoting that?)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


We haven't heard much from the Congressional Republicans since "Limbaugh as GOP leader" took hold.

Pakistani rumor

I've seen this several places, none of which I would call dead certain credible. As there may be domestic political reasons this is circulating, take this as an interesting rumor for now.
Pakistan Army Chief Ashfaq Pervez Kayani had reportedly given a 24-hour deadline to Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to convince President Zardari to accept the new political deal backed by Washington and London.

If Zardari had not accepted the new deal, then the Army and the foreign powers would have been left with no option but to implement the ‘minus-one formula’ which will include Zardari’s removal from the presidency.

All kinds of inflammatory bits there.


Mexico installs punitive tariffs on non-staple agricultural products over the "over the road" truck rules.

Russia looks to go on an arms buying spree to reequip their army after so many years.

China tries to push its ICC carbon responsibilities to its export customers. ("Beijing argues that rich nations buying Chinese goods bear responsibility for the estimated 15-25% of China's carbon emission....")

Drone facts

Air Force officials acknowledge that more than a third of their unmanned Predator spy planes — which are 27 feet long, powered by a high-performance snowmobile engine, and cost $4.5 million apiece — have crashed, mostly in Iraq and Afghanistan.....

The Predators and Reapers are now flying 34 surveillance patrols each day in Iraq and Afghanistan, up from 12 in 2006. They are also transmitting 16,000 hours of video each month, some of it directly to troops on the ground....

Predators and Reapers shot missiles on 244 of the 10,949 missions in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2007 and 2008.

Alternative history

I certainly don't think it's an exclusive cause, buy it could be argued that part of the economic response to 9-11, dropping interest rates through the floor, had a direct bearing on the housing bubble that stressed the weaknesses in the US financial markets.

Picture of the Day

(Democratic Senator John Kerry, seen here on March 5, 2009. (AFP/Getty/Mark Wilson))

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Red Cross says "torture"

The Red Cross (who does not release their reports, but this one was leaked) says this about the CIA "secret prisons" program.
"The ill-treatment to which they were subjected while held in the CIA program, either singly or in combination, constituted torture,"

Within the international legal context, this is extremely significant. An ICRC report with documentation would be a chargeable document in most courts in the world.

We know there was a senior White House group (Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld, Powell, Tenet, and Ashcroft) that met to approve individual "extreme interrogation tactics" in the overt prisons. Is there a clear trail into the White House on this?

Maybe Bush, Cheney, et al, won't be traveling overseas to "replenish the ol coffers" after all.

(We don't know the provenance of the leak. Do we guess somebody coming in with the Obama administration? Or maybe a careerist no longer concerned about Bush retribution?)

Fooling Reagan

It's really amazing that money is still being spent on "missile defense." Officially, $100 billion so far, and what we have doesn't work. ....and even if it did work as advertised,
Independent technical analysis has shown that Iran and North Korea, which has a nuclear program, could fool the system using simple countermeasures such as balloons, says critic David Wright of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

...and all of this comes from one sales pitch in the White House to a president born in 1911, but who was good enough to sell his party on the idea.....

Funny you don't see Republicans protesting this spending.

The most powerful man in Pakistan...

The Zardari government has caved and agreed to reinstate Iftikhar Chaudhry as chief justice. (Reuters, NYTimes) This immediately serves to largely remove the lawyers from the ant-government protests (and to some lesser degree from the anti-government movement,) but I think it also now makes Chief Justice Chaudry bulletproof.

Now that he's been brought back under pressure, I can't imagine they could remove hime again, so now the "maverick" judge has more power than ever. (The bright spot is that Chaudry has largely been law over politics.)

Musharraf originally removed Chaudry over election law, but here's one reason why the current leadership didn't want him back,
He had asked the Musharraf government to bring intelligence officials to his court to explain the disappearances of hundreds of Pakistanis believed held without charges since the American war on terrorism began in 2001.

There's more domestically than that, Sharif's status, the reach of the central government into Punjab, tactics against Taleban....

(PS. Per the BBC, it's not just Chaudry, but almost all the judges politically sacked by Musharraf.)

Related: (AP) "A suspected US missile strike killed two Arabs and three other people in northwest Pakistan late Sunday...."

Big doings in Iranian politics - Khatami's out

(Reuters) "Iran's moderate former president Mohammad Khatami withdrew on Monday... "He has decided to withdraw ... but he will back another moderate candidate who will be announced shortly in a statement by Khatami."

This is being spun as Khatami uniting the reformist vote, but my understanding was that Khatami was the leading reformist vote getter. So ?????

(Maybe Khatami isn't acceptable to Khamenei and the ruling clerics? ...said they'd back Mousavi, but not Khatami...?)

Picture of the Day

(Vice President Joe Biden is introduced by Energy Secretary Steven Chu during the White House Recovery and Reinvestment Act Implementation Conference, Thursday, March 12, 2009. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais))

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Different footing

Bin Laden releases another videotape. But with a different White House and different stance towards the wars, such messages are no longer headlining harbingers of doom. They're just news.


"Former Vice President" Dick Cheney is on CNN this morning.