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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, April 18, 2009

And Zubaydah had already talked.....

NYTimes. The whole article is worth a read.
The first use of waterboarding and other rough treatment against a prisoner from Al Qaeda was ordered by senior Central Intelligence Agency officials despite the belief of interrogators that the prisoner had already told them all he knew, according to former intelligence officials and a footnote in a newly released legal memorandum.

The escalation to especially brutal interrogation tactics against the prisoner, Abu Zubaydah, including confining him in boxes and slamming him against the wall, was ordered by officials at C.I.A. headquarters based on a highly inflated assessment of his importance, interviews and a review of newly released documents show.

Abu Zubaydah had provided much valuable information under less severe treatment, and the harsher handling produced no breakthroughs....

And, as always, put this "leak" in context. The Obama people are taking heat from the right and the past administration over the torture memos release, and this, "he was tortured needlessly/he was tortured because they were wrong about who he was" story just drops out of the sky.

It's a warning shot of sorts saying "we control the secrets now."

Insect torture

One of the new things that came out in the latest round of torture memos was the request to use an insect to torture Abu Zubaydah.
"You [the CIA] would like to place Zubaydah in a cramped confinement box with an insect. You have informed us [the Department of Justice] that he appears to have a fear of insects. In particular, you would like to tell Zubaydah that you intend to place a stinging insect into the box with him. You would, however, place a harmless insect in the box. You have orally informed us that you would in fact place a harmless insect such as a catapiller in the box with him."

Trapped in a box where the individual can't see but can feel the insect, probably something vertical like a coffin. I'm not afraid of insects, but for some reason this sounds particularly Kafka-esque.

Comments are most of the fun of blogging.

Todd had a great comment last night about the "teaparties."
You just saw 300k nationwide protesting the current tax levels, which are Bush's tax levels, and blaming Obama for it. Then they say that Obama will raise taxes, even though he says he will cut them. They know this because Obama is a "liar". No matter what Obama may say or do, they "know" what he "really" intends and wants, and they oppose it utterly.

Think about that for a moment.

They are protesting an imaginary President....

Friday, April 17, 2009

Picture of the Day

Say what you want about the policy or results, but you gotta admit, the dude is working his ass off.

None of that four days on, three days off of the last Presidency.

(President Barack Obama arrives at the airport in Port of Spain, April 17, 2009. (REUTERS/Jose Miguel Gomez))

Coda on the GOP's landscape

Referencing the large piece I blogged yesterday about the GOP's narrowing demographics, it's interesting that McCain campaign manager and Karl Rove protege Steve Schmidt is going to make a speech today to urge Republicans to get on the gay marriage bandwagon.

We'll call it a test case for my main point,
What they need is not necessarily new ideas, but a way to get their white, male, reactionary base willing to accept a message that appeals outside that white reactionary base to include more Hispanics or gays or women.

My guess is that Schmidt will be both applauded for courage and pilloried for message.

On the other hand, Sarah Palin's strict adherence to the current reactionary orthodoxy in her speech will likely be unanimously praised.

In a sense, the reaction to these two speeches is the core of the GOP's split. They can more desperately hang on to their orthodoxy and see their numbers dwindle to a passionate fringe, or they can recognize that issues like gay marriage are only going to become more accepted and move to accept them.

Stray thought

White Supremacists find their justification in their belief that they love America more than others.

Maybe we should judge those who justify through love of country through that lens.

Skipping the whole vote counting process.

If only Norm Coleman had thought of this, (NY-20)
20th Congressional District candidate Republican Jim Tedisco submitted a petition to the Dutchess County Supreme Court Thursday asking the judge to declare him the winner of the extremely close special election race, despite the numbers currently being in favor of his opponent, Democrat Scott Murphy....

A note to the rest of the country.

Personally, I believe that Texas Gov. Rick Perry is pulling all this stuff simply to survive a Republican primary challenge in the Texas Gubernatorial race as almost everyone but the far right wants to throw him out, but, in case he's looking beyond that, I feel the need to warn the rest of you.

Rick Perry is worse than George Bush. Beware

Pakistan is not just about Islam

The NYTimes has a piece fleshing out one facet of the differences I was talking about the other day. One element of Pakistan's fractures that the Taleban are seizing on is the rich/poor, urban/country divide.

Pakistani politics has alot of endemic rifts. There are a myriad of Islamist groups seizing on a myriad of Pakistani issues from Kashmir to Afghanistan to economic and social divisions that we collectively call the Taleban.

It's important to recognize that the problem with the Taleban in Pakistan is not as simple as it's presented. It's not a single unified grievance or a single unified group.

The Pirate Bay guys get sentenced to prison

This will probably mean nothing to 90% of you, but (AFP, NYTimes) the Pirate Bay guys have been sentenced by a Swedish court to 1 year in prison each, and to pay a penalty of $3.5 million.

As of right now, the site is still up and the trackers are still operable. They're expected to appeal.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The four historiucal decisions of expediency that have dmaged the GOP

I've been thinking today about several of the GOP's choices of course throughout the last 5 decades that have won them elections, but have sent them into shrinking demographics. Just a quick list today intending to provoke discussion. Maybe more or a rewrite on another day.

1) Nixon's Southern Strategy - This is the granddaddy decision that set the course for the modern GOP. The decision to consciously appeal to whites who were against (or at least uncomfortable with) the civil rights movement substantially shifted the GOP base South and to the more reactionary. It worked, they won the election, but saddled the GOP with a core constituency that would shrink with time.

2) Reagan's dragging the "Christian conservatives" into politics. Prior to Reagan, fundamentalist were fractured and fairly non-political. It was Reagan's campaign that attempted to unify them and turn them into a force. It won elections at the time, but it also created a "Christian conservative" movement which has now taken over the levers of control of the party, forcing Republicans to pledge fealty to social positions that are distant from the majority of the country. (Do you believe in evolution?)

3) The anti-60's "immoral arguments." During the Clinton years, the Republicans dragged out a collection of "morals" arguments which were really not much more than a harnessing of the fear/rejectionism of the liberalization of the late 60's and 70's. Twenty years down the road, Republicans finally figured out how to harness "the angry white male" and his reaction to feminism (Remember feminazi?,) the broadening cultural base (the railing against political correctness,) and the supposed immorality and naivite of the Democrats who were teens/twenties in the era. (Where the Clinton sex outrage came from as well as the point at which "libera"l became an epithet.)

This was the era of Rush Limbaugh, and although those angry white males were feeling their oats, one of the reasons they were so angry is that demographics were already working against them.

4) Two decisions of the Republicans under George Bush, gay marriage and the non-Bush anti-immigrant zeal. You know both of these by now, but they fit into this broader pattern I'm trying to paint.

In each of these decisive choices for immediate political gain, Republicans have tapped into
a reactionary anger in their "base" to try to score politically, but, by doing so, they've been alienating large demographics, blacks, Hispanics, women, gays, the non-fundamentalist population.

Admittedly, each of these groups has been too small to effectively fight back and thus they make good targets, but in all, they constitute a large percentage of the electorate, and, more importantly, these demographics which now dislike the Republican party are now the groups that are growing either in their numbers or in their political activity and power.

Way back in Nixon, a decision was made to win an election that recreated the Republican base as white, male, and reactionary. Because of that decision, the Republicans are now tied to that group, that demographic, and all of those other choices have flowed from that, narrowing the base, and alienating the rest of America.

I'm not one of those who believes the Republican party is dead. Right now they're at a particularly low ebb, but they will bounce back to some degree. The question is whether they will find some way to draw in some of the growing demographics, because if they don't they are dead. An old, white, male party goes against the broader direction of our liberalizing, multiculturalizing country.

What they need is not necessarily new ideas, but a way to get their white, male, reactionary base willing to accept a message that appeals outside that white reactionary base to include more Hispanics or gays or women.

Can that happen?

In theory, Republicans could appeal to Hispanics, for example, through an economic message of small business and opportunity, or they could appeal to gays through a reinstatement of libertarianism, but the crazy elements of the party would have to let go of anti-immigration or "gays are bad" both of which are bedrock to the reactionary core of thecurrent GOP.)

(This is just a quick one off draft version. I may rewrite, repost, or god knows what. It's just a quick riff on what's been on my mind for months.)

If you follow one link today....

The WaPo has a story on on this woman, Susan Boyle, who went on "Britain's Got Talent." She's 47, very unattractive, and the entire crowd was laughing at her. And then she sang. And it was glorious.

Unfortunately, YouTube is preventing embedding of this one, but if I could implore you to take a few minutes, It will change your day.

I promise you. It's worth it.


It's rather symbolic that the DC teabaggers couldn't find anywhere to dump their teabags so they ended up dumping them in the 12th floor conference room of Dick Armey's CEI.

(No pictures available.)


(AP) Peres dismisses talk of Israel attacking Iran

(NYTimes) Deals Help China Expand Sway in Latin America

(AFP/BBC) Russia ends 10 year Chechnya anti-terror operation

And, (AP) The Spanish government has stepped in with pressure to end the possible prosecution of Bush admin figures for torture. (You always knew this was going to happen.)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Here's a game for you. As you look through the photos of the teabaggers, try to find a non-white face....

I mean, these "protests" were even whiter than normal GOP gatherings.

Draw from that what you will.

NSA overspying

The NSA is still "overcollecting" domestic communications. (What's the difference between "exceed limits set by Congress" and breaking the law?)

Also, you also get this.
And in one previously undisclosed episode, the N.S.A. tried to wiretap a member of Congress without a warrant, an intelligence official with direct knowledge of the matter said.

The agency believed that the congressman, whose identity could not be determined, was in contact — as part of a Congressional delegation to the Middle East in 2005 or 2006 — with an extremist who had possible terrorist ties and was already under surveillance, the official said. The agency then sought to eavesdrop on the congressman’s conversations, the official said.

The official said the plan was ultimately blocked because of concerns from some intelligence officials about using the N.S.A., without court oversight, to spy on a member of Congress.

So, let the hunt begin.


They know they've crossed the line....
A Fox spokesperson said the network did not have an executive available to speak about its tea party coverage. A second Fox representative declined repeated offers to address the charge that it was blurring the lines between journalism and advocacy.

2012 Republican politics are playing hard.

It's just my sense that the GOP 2012 race is really heating up.

At this point in the cycle, the competition is not over Q rating or popularity (that can be done later.) The battle is very much about lining up the party power players, locking in donors, etc, and part of that competition is about keeping those power players away locking in with your opponents.

So, when you see little blurbs that add doubt to someone's presidential star, like the cleverly placed "Jindal for Senate" rumor, or today's "party leaders doubt Palin," remember to judge these in context.

These operations don't have to be anything beyond a rumor. They're only supposed to raise doubts and spawn discussions. It's all about moving the players.

Also, I would note that the busiest little bees appear to be Huckabee, trying to work hard in Iowa and SC (short on money,) Mitt Romney, who is trying to do every local "social conservative" event he can below the national radar, and Newt Gingrich who is trying to be everywhere.

You can talk about Palin or Jindal or Pawlenty or Huntsman, but it's Huckabee, Romney, and Gingrich who are working the hardest right now to build that early 2012 machine.


Maybe later.

On the Teabaggers and Gingrich

First thought: If they're really trying to echo the Boston Tea Party, shouldn't they be throwing rich people's income into the bay?

Second thought: This whole thing is, in part, a tryout for Dick Armey and Newt Gingrich who are behind the astroturf on this thing. (Notice the perfectly timed 2012 rumor coupled with "look what Newt can organize.")

This thing hits all the current GOP buzzwords and worries. message, ideas, technology, self organizing. They see this as a tryout for their own Obama-style operation.
"These tea parties demonstrate an important lesson for the GOP: namely how a good message coupled with savvy use of free technology empowers groups to self organize, and make an impact," said Phil Musser, former executive director at the Republican Governors Association and now a GOP consultant. "It's a good lesson that those running for elective office should seek to emulate."

We'll see.

Later Thought: I think they're really just protesting nothing more than anger that they're in the minority.

Fourth thought: It'll be really interesting to watch them try to spin these small gatherings into something big.

Pakistan doesn't hold anyone.

The cleric behind the Red Mosque siege is released on bail.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Minnesota nice

The NYTimes does a piece on Franken/Coleman.
Norm Coleman spends his days in the quiet living room of his small house here, thumbing through stacks of legal papers. His United States Senate staff and offices vanished at the start of the year, as did his salary, so Mr. Coleman works part-time as a consultant to the Republican Jewish Coalition.

He has learned to ignore the big “Franken” signs on his neighbors’ yards that taunt him when he walks out his door....

Maybe my street is nicer than his, (or I'm nicer than he is,) but I don't think any of my neighbors would jack me like that... every day, for six months..... Not just signs, but big signs.

But then again, I don't have a lawyer doing this.

Picture of the Day

I needed a picture.

Tax Day

Out for the rest of the afternoon.

(No, I'm not gathering teabags.)

Political bits

This is funny. Bernanke's partisan approval has completely reversed with a change in Presidents. Under Bush 61% Republicans, 40% Democrats approved of Bernanke. Now, 36% of Republicans, 64% of Dems approve of him.

Nobody on the GOP side is issuing comments after the latest Minn decision goes against Norm Coleman. Not even NRSC head and my state's shame Sen. John Cornyn.

Supposedly, that Spanish court is going to seek criminal charges against those six Bush admin officials involved in "interrogation" techniques at Guantanamo. (Gonzales, Bybee, Adddington, Yoo, Feith, and Haynes.) (It'll be very interesting to see how the Obama folks play this.)

And, they've lost on gay marriage. When Rick Warren is hemming and hawing. When Laura Schlessinger starts saying that gay couples are "beautiful and a healthy thing," they've lost.

After Iowa's decision, just how much screaming from the right was there? A day? Maybe two or three?

It was just 2004 when the GOP strategy revolved around "gay marriage" ballot initiatives, and now top figures are beginning to defect as they feel the wind blowing.

The return of the US (Clinton era) militias

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, the Clinton era "militias" are coming back.

Today we have a Washington Times piece on a nine page warning from Homeland Security sent to local law enforcement around the country.

The combination of the right wing "talking points" of "fascism," "tyranny," and "socialism," coupled with the overhype on guns, combined with the first black president and the whole "secret muslim"/"consorts with terrorists" thing has laid a very fertile groundwork for crazy.

The Clinton era militias were kinda goofy, but this version, fueled by racism/white supremacists, the groundwork of the presidential campaign, and major national media figures fanning the hype, represents a very real potential danger.

I'm not saying that everyone in these groups is bad, but the environment is so much worse than it was the last time around. It only takes a few whackjobs of the edge of this movement.... I just have this bad feeling that something is going to happen (again.)

Here's to hoping I'm wrong.

(If the link doesn't work, try again later. The Wash Times site is spotty this AM.)

My Governor is going crazy.

I haven't really been watching the polling for the Tx Gov. election, it's still a ways away, but Rick Perry's polling must show he's in lots of trouble in his primary.

Perry's website: Gov. Perry Backs Resolution Affirming Texas’ Sovereignty Under 10th Amendment.

The Hill: Perry invites Limbaugh to Texas.

This follows his failed anti-evolution move.

I will dance when he is gone.

Monday, April 13, 2009


The "tea party" rallies look like they're going to garner a couple hundred to thousands in places, and they're going to get live national coverage.

In 2003, somewhere just short of a million marched in New York against the impending Iraq war, followed by hundreds of thousands in several other US cities, and millions, millions more in marches around the world. To see any coverage at all, you had to go to CSPAN.


It's important to understand the linguistic nuance that, although Al Franken "got the most votes," we must be very sure not to say he actually "won" the election.

Thank you, AP.

Later: Or maybe this different, longer AP version in the USA today which also goes way out of the way to avoid the appearance if "winning."

Oh, and while I'm bashing the AP,
Still, conspiracy buffs might speculate that Bo was meant for the Obamas all along. Was his adoption engineered to look like a rescue—or at least blur the line to head off criticism that the Obamas had picked a purebred from a breeder?

Because in today's journalism, if you phrase it as a question, you can say anything you want.

The charm offensive

Easter egg roll with the cute, cute children,

Idyllic family shots....

And let's not forget about the new dog....

Headed back to his undisclosed location (lair)

They tried to bring Cheney out to make the "scary" argument.
Seventy-two percent of those questioned in the poll released Monday disagree with Cheney's view that some of Obama's actions have put the country at greater risk, with 26 percent agreeing with the former vice president.

I hope this means we won't see him again.

Best joke I've seen today (paraphrased)

Bo, the Obama family's prospective new Portuguese Water Dog, had to withdraw his name from nomination today after it was revealed he hadn't paid taxes.....

Picture of the Day - 2

The least dignified photo op for every President.

(Also, the man's an absolute natural. Take a look at the way he jumped in to help the little girl in the Easter Egg roll. That's political gold.)


Ziggy Marley is doing the music for the Easter Egg roll.

The Taleban creep towards the capital

The Taleban, now secure in the Swat valley through the deal with the government, begin to infiltrate Buner, the next steeping stone towards the capital, just 60 miles away.

Washington loves Rahm Emanuel

The WaPo does a very friendly profile of Rahm Emanuel. (Payoff for the dog story?)

But I do think it's important to note that the elders of Washington, the press, the less partisan, the longer term deal makers, all seem to like Emanuel. That has an effect.

Political bits

If anyone cares, the Dem Scott Murphy is still up +35 in the NY-20 special election. I think the final day of counting absentees is today.

(Politico) Jindal signs a 2010 book deal with far right Regnery.

And, it says alot about the perceptions of the Washington press that everyone thinks it's a story that Obama signed off on the use of force in the pirate standoff. (Did they expect him not to?)

Later: A rumor (trial balloon?) that Jindal might look to take Vitter's Senate seat instead. (That would be 2010 like the book.)

Picture of the Day

(A Thai soldier chases an anti-government protester with baton during a protest on the street in Bangkok, Thailand Monday, April 13, 2009. Thai soldiers sprayed automatic weapons fire and threw tear gas to clear anti-government protesters. (AP/Wason Wanichakorn))

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Do you know how Rick Warren got famous.....

I don't know why today, but with Rick Warren inexplicably bailing on Stephanopoulos at the last minute, I thought I'd reprise Rick Warren's rise to fame.

Rick Warren was a regional, somewhat influential born again preacher, who, like so many, had a book on the market. Sales and exposure had been okay, doing well among the born again market, but not really penetrating nationally. Then it happened.

A prisoner escaped a courthouse in Atlanta and ended up holding a woman (Ashley Smith) captive. This was carried live and huge and breathless by CNN. When she got free, Ms. Smith told a story of devotion, that she had talked the kidnapper into releasing her by reading him segments of her favorite devotional book, Rick Warren's Purpose Driven Life.

Now, we later learned that this angel was actually a meth freak, and meth was more a part of her escape than Jesus, but that was not before she was seized on and lionized by the religious crazies, and not before Warren had hit the talkshow circuit, Larry King, Oprah, etc, selling his book on this "angel's" story.

And thus Rick Warren, megapastor to the nation, was born.


(NYObserver) In case you didn't see it, Megan McCain got a book deal. (I guess that little fight with Laura Ingraham served its purpose.)

(CNN) Pakistani militants attack a US supply depot in Peshawar.

(WaPo) A kinda interesting editorial on legalizing marijuana. (Tries to parallel the growing violence with Capone and the end of prohibition.)

Stray query

Has former President Bush been invited to do a commencement speech anywhere?

The dog and the church

The AP gets the official newsbreak. but TMZ had it first.

The WaPo frontpages with a huge story on the name, Bo.

Also, while we're doing useless news, the Obama's are attending their first church service in DC today.