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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, May 30, 2009

A good idea?

Related to my question the other day about whether the US still has the major hacking talent, the NYTimes has a piece on defense contractors trying to lock up "talent" as they vie for cyberwarfare defense contracts.

I think this is a necessary step in some ways, but I wonder if the now somewhat discredited private contractor model is really the way to go. I accept that the governmental structure may have problems paying the rates for the really top talent, but, at the same time, recent history has shown us how private contractors can be lax in their vetting and supervision of employees as well as their security practices.

I mean, the Pentagon may be slower, but they have alot more checks than these outside companies.

Plus, You have the issue of the companies (or defecting employees) then going off and selling what they know as private security. So, someone who works IT at xxx regional bank or xxx credit card company or xxx chemical plant will now have some idea how the national security protocols work.

Just thinking out loud.

The Sotomayor race complaints are much larger than one nomination

People on the right always scream about affirmative action being unfair or against meritocracy in things like college admissions, but have you ever heard them protest against legacy admissions, that long honored practice of accepting subpar kids because their dad was a graduate or gave alot of money?

I mean, seriously... Do you think George Bush got into Yale on merits? You think a C+ student got into Harvard Business on merits? From the description of his early life, I'm guessing that John McCain got some help getting into Annapolis. Do you think all those kids at St. Albans or Sidwell are really the best and brightest?

And yet no one on the right in Washington complains about that, although legacy admissions are an incredibly racially tilted program.

This whole Sotomayor thing is a very ugly (fundraising and rallying) call keyed to resonate in a very ugly bit of the Republican base's psyche. I just wish people would stop being shocked at what they're saying and move forward to the very political reasons of why they're saying it and why it works in the base.

Republicans tried rallying their people on "fiscal issues," but that wasn't enough, so now they're tapping into a sense of victimhood constructed on the twin pillars of "reverse racism" and the broader sense of loss of power.

In some ways, this plays on a broader sense that Obama (a black man) and Pelosi (a woman) are not legitimate leadership.

This is a remnant of "the angry white man" thing of the nineties, that cultural moment of the nineties tapped into by Gingrich and Limbaugh back then. It's not about affirmative action. It's about a broader shift in demographics pushing more minorities and women into the work place. It's a Republican reach into the white male anger over a declining role in society very loosely tied to the huge loss of manufacturing jobs.

This Sotomayor "race" show that we're watching is part of that great anti-sixties movement begun by Reagan. It's part of the conservative call to white males to go back to simpler times (before all those feminists and multiculturalists messed up America.)

It's a very ugly call when you really think about it. Republicans promise to take their people back to Andy Griffith's Mayberry.

But, as I've said before, there were no black people in Mayberry.

When your party is against blacks, against Hispanics, against other religions, somewhat against women in power, is there any way to interpret it that is not ugly?

So, I wish we'd get away from all the shock over the individual statements and look at the political totality of what we're seeing. It's not about what Limbaugh, Gingrich, or Tancredo said on a given day. It's about why they said it and the unspoken political realities of the all white party.

(Sorry, spent all my time this morning on this one rambling post.)

Friday, May 29, 2009

They can't help themselves....

I've been trying to ignore all the Sotomayor criticism because it's so unhinged, but I gotta ask...

Who on the right thinks it's a good idea for them to launch into a poo-flinging discussion of racism? Seriously, does it help the image of the rump party of the conservative south to be shouting in drawl?

Picture of the Day

Gingrich is known as the Republican "ideas man."

A sacred institution between a man and a woman (and a woman and a woman...?)

It is rather ironic that the Mormons, a group that fairly recently (and still in some factions) practiced polygamy, have become such a force against gay marriage.


Bush made a speech fundraising for his library last night,

On torture,
"The first thing you do is ask what's legal?" Bush said. "What do the lawyers say is possible? I made the decision, within the law, to get information so I can say to myself, 'I've done what it takes to do my duty to protect the American people.' I can tell you that the information we got saved lives."

On Obama,
"Nothing I am saying is meant to criticize my successor," Bush said. "There are plenty of people who have weighed in. Trust me, having seen it first-hand. I didn't like it when a former president criticized me, so therefore I am not going to criticize my successor. I wish him all the best."

And then he hinted "socialist,"
Asked what he thinks about conservative pundits who say the Obama administration's fiscal policies are opening the door to socialism, Bush said: "I think the verdict is out. I think people are waiting to see what all this means."

Finally, solace to the Iraq soldiers and people of New Orleans,
The former president received a noisy standing ovation when answering a question about what he wants his legacy to be.

"Well, I hope it is this: The man showed up with a set of principles, and he was unwilling to compromise his soul for the sake of popularity," he said.


The British Telegraph claims that the withheld "torture photos" include pictures of the rape of a female detainee as well as various acts of male sodomy with objects and other sexual abuse.

The White House denies this, but we're still not getting the photos.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


Big headlines, "Reporter dragged away by Secret Service...."

But if you dig into the details, to call this woman a "reporter" is stretching it a bit. She writes a column for a tiny once monthly (probably right wing) publication out of Macon, Georgia . She was stopped after her request/attempt to get Obama to sign a letter against gay marriage. (Don't all reporters carry cause related literature and try to get the President to sign onto their cause? Isn't that how Dan Balz and Dana Priest got their start?)

So, in the end you have this podunk opinionist trying to force a gay marriage incident on the President who was removed after she refused to listen to the Secret Service.

Maybe she can tour with Carrie Prejean.


With the military announcing a new cyberwarfare arm, and the Obama administration starting a coordinating position for business network security, I thought maybe it was time to ask this question again.

Does the US still produce the best hackers in the world?

There was a time not too long ago when that wouldn't have even been a question, but with so many Chinese working (allegedly) for their government testing US systems, and the Russians and Eastern bloc hackers doing so much of the cybercrime, does the US constituency still stack up?

I have no real idea, and I don't really know how you'd measure such a thing, but if things ever got really nasty, and we had to tap into that resource, do we still have that advantage?


The 101st Airborne's senior commander in effect ordered his soldiers Wednesday not to commit suicide, a plea that came after 11 suicides since January 1, two of them in the past week.

"If you don't remember anything else I say in the next five or 10 minutes, remember this -- suicidal behavior in the 101st on Fort Campbell is bad," Brig. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend told his forces. "It's bad for soldiers, it's bad for families, bad for your units, bad for this division and our army and our country and it's got to stop now. Suicides on Fort Campbell have to stop now."

Picture of the Day - 2

(Policemen detain a man near the site of a bomb attack in Lahore on May 27, 2009. (REUTERS/Mohsin Raza))

China responds

A WaPo piece on the critical Chinese response to the latest N. Korea nuclear tests/actions. The words are unusually strong by Chinese diplomatic standards, but we'll have to wait to see what level of actions follow.

An Indian-Pakistani arms race

The WaPo has an interesting piece talking about the rapidly accelerating nuclear arms race between India and Pakistan.

With such short distances and so many different launch platforms, it would seem that false early warnings during tensions are becoming a real threat.

Israel tests

Yesterday, The Obama administration sent out Hillary Clinton to make an unambiguous statement to Israel on the settlements,
"He wants to see a stop to settlements — not some settlements, not outposts, not 'natural growth' exceptions....

"We think it is in the best interests (of the peace process) that settlement expansion cease."

Today Israel responds again
"Israel ... will abide by its commitments not to build new settlements and to dismantle unauthorized outposts," he said.

"As to existing settlements, their fate will be determined in final status negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. In the interim period, normal life must be allowed to continue in these communities."

"Normal life must... continue" is a euphemism for continued construction in existing settlements.

This is a very important moment in the Obama/Israel relationship that may determine much of the next eight years' middle east policy. The Israelis are testing the Obama administration, and all relevant eyes are watching.

The only softening bit is that the exchanges are still through "officials" and not the President's/PM's mouths.

Also for context, Obama meets with Palestinian half-PM Abbas today. Abbas is expected to re-propose the 2002 Saudi peace initiative which would include most Sunni regimes in the region.

(PS. Please no Israel hate in the comments. It gets old.)

Quote of the Day - Karl Rove

“I know lots of stupid people who went to Ivy League schools.”

Picture of the Day

(President Barack Obama picks up an unidentified child after his speech at Nellis Air Force Base, Wednesday, May 27, 2009. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak))

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Loss of relevance

It's really interesting to watch the media and right wing figures dance together in the early days of this Sotomayor nomination.

The press seems more than happy to give the rightists their platform and promote/highlight everything they say, but there's also this very weird undercurrent of media eye rolling that's giving an air of ridiculousness and irrelevance to the rightwingers' "arguments" that the press is promoting.

Just a feeling.

Sotomayor and 2012

FirstRead makes a point about Sotomayor and 2012 ambitions.
Also remember that John Roberts and Samuel Alito became Democratic presidential primary litmus tests -- explaining why anyone with White House ambitions (Obama, Hillary Clinton) voted against them. The Sotomayor vote for Republicans thinking about 2012 might play out similarly.

However, there's also that Latino box. Do you please your base to win the primary and anger Latino voters in the general?

Most of the 2012 hopefuls don't have to cast a vote. Romney and Huckabee have come out hard against her, but I would think alot of them might be go low profile now and choose to fight the next nominee.

North Korea is the self-destructive teen of the world family

What the hell?

(Reuters) North Korea threatens attack if ships searched

(AFP) N Korea warns of attack, says truce no longer valid

(AP) North Korea restarts nuclear plant

Probably the most unbelievable is the start of the AFP piece,
North Korea said Wednesday it was abandoning the truce that ended the Korean war and warned it could launch a military attack on the South, two days after testing an atomic bomb for the second time.

These over the top threats seem to be largely focused around keeping the world from searching N. Korean ships, which, of course, leads to the question why.

Is it because they want to ship something in or out, or is all the foot stomping because the ship searches are beginning to spread as news/rumor and beginning to undermine the tightly controlled internal image of the state? (or is there some other action that's not making the news.)

Frankly, I don't get it. I don't see the logical endgame. There has to be some (internal?) element we're not seeing.

(And where are the Chinese?)

Later: One more bit. I missed the announcement (yesterday?) that the South Koreans would be joining the 91 nation ship searching process in the aftermath of the last nuclear test. It's buried in this WaPo piece.

We're a long way from the Sunshine policy.

Everybody's trying to test Obama

(Guardian/Reuters) Israel tries to rewrite its operating terms under "the road map," trying to claim that dismantling some of the tiny, non-government sanctioned outpost settlements is enough to allow them to construct and expand the massive settlements around Jerusalem and in the West Bank.

Removing the "outpost" settlements is really nothing, because those crazy enough to create them on their own will just start again as soon as they get the chance.

This is about pushing Obama to see how far they can go.

The light at the end of the tunnel.?

The survey of 45 professional forecasters released by the National Association of Business Economists (NABE) on Wednesday found almost three-quarters expected the economic downturn to end by the third quarter of this year.

The remaining saw the turning point delayed until either the last quarter of this year or the first three months of 2010. None of the respondents believed the recession, now in its 17th month, would extend beyond the first quarter of 2010.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Race to the bottom

So do you think the most offensive Republican comment on Sotomayor will be racist or sexist?

(The Hispanic politics of this are central. Obama is somewhat sealing a Democratic bond with the Hispanic community with this nomination while Republicans would likely accept all blame if she gets shot down.

If Republicans are smart, they'll choose not to fight this fight. I mean, you're talking about one of the three main election deciding voting blocks for the next 20 years here. (Also women and suburban whites.)

....but the early evidence seems to be that they're not that smart. They're going to fight her simply because it's instinct.

I also wouldn't be surprised to see Hillary Clinton step in at some key point.

Are you ready for talk radio?)

Later: Limbaugh puts early points on the board calling Sotomayor a "reverse racist."

(That's apparently acceptable in our discourse.)

Picture of the Day

(President Barack Obama announces federal appeals court judge Sonia Sotomayor as his nominee for the Supreme Court, Tuesday, May 26, 2009. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais))

I got nothing

It's harder to blog on the day after holidays than on the holidays themselves.

AP/Politico, Obama supposedly to nominate Sotomayor for Supreme Court this morning.

(The Republicans would shriek if Obama nominated Jesus.)

Monday, May 25, 2009

Thought for the Day

We never found out who was behind the Niger forgeries.

Holiday reading

A rather long but interesting recap of the Republicans as a "Southern party" by Ron Brownstein.

Colin Powell

For whatever reason, Colin Powell is hugely respected by the media in a way that perhaps no other political figure is.

When he talks, he is given huge credibility.

His "firing back" to Cheney gets big coverage everywhere. AP, Reuters, NYTimes, WaPo, Bloomberg, LATimes, Politico, etc., etc.....

Kinda interesting when you think about it. He's like "the villagers'" favorite.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

India and the US grow closer

As Pakistani troops enter bloody fighting at the center of the Swat Valley, it should also be noted that with the Indian election results giving so much leeway to the ruling party, the US-India military logistics deal (US use of Indian military ports and some airfields) is looking likely to go through.

Credit to Hillary Cinton

She didn't end up President, but we can definitely agree she's got more guts than all of the rest of them.
The State Department will offer equal benefits and protections to same-sex partners of American diplomats, according to an internal memorandum Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton sent last week to an association of gay and lesbian Foreign Service officers.

On the other hand, I guess you could take the more cynical view that with the Obama administration being pressed hard by GLBT, this is a relatively low profile, low political cost way to quiet them down. (The policy is announced, but no implementation date.)

However, there are other possible payoffs and Clinton jumped up and took it. Let's give Hillary Clinton a picture for being great.

Picture of the Day

(Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton talks to photographers after receiving an honorary degree from New York University at their commencement ceremony at Yankee Stadium in New York, Wednesday, May 13, 2009. ((AP Photo/Seth Wenig))