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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Picture of the Day (Insert joke here)

"I feel so violated..."

Well, that's a new bit of stock footage for the "making love" inference in movies.

Insurance man: "So, again, what, exactly, hit your house...?"

And, in MST3K tribute, "I know a wiener man. He owns a wiener stand..."

(An Oscar Meyer Wienermobile crashed into the home and outdoor deck of Nick Krupp in Racine, Wis. on Friday morning, July 17, 2009.(AP Photo/Journal Times, Tom McCauley))

Thought for the Day

Walter Cronkite retired when most of the blogosphere (and a good part of America) was teen or younger.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Friday night thought

"The Word" is an absolutely brilliant exposition on Sotomayor and race. (Start at about 1:00.)
The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The Word - Neutral Man's Burden
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorJeff Goldblum

My state's shame (Shame Jr.)

I'm sure you've seen that my governor, Rick Perry, has made a complete fool of himself, asking for a government loan to keep unemployment afloat after he made a really big political deal of refusing the stimulus money that would have done the exact same thing.

Perry initially refused the money because he was trying to score right wing points before what looks like a tough GOP reelection primary fight. So, now, instead of "free" stimulus money, my state will be on the hook to pay back a loan.

And, to top it all off, in an effort to mask coverage of this idiocy in state, Gov. Perry put together a hastily prepared news conference to declare a "state of emergency" over forest fire risks. The risk is real, but he chose today to push the other story off the top news slot.

I really do have some of the most hack-y representation in the country. Perry, Cornyn, Culberson....

Pat Buchanan's klan robe is showing.

Rachel Maddow reveals Pat Buchanan's racism. There's this quote,
White people were 100% of the people who wrote the Constitution, 100% of the people who wrote the Declaration of Independence...the Country was built by white folks.

But more importantly, she pins down his position that white people are smarter and more capable than minorities. He pulls out the US track team being all black and maintains that the Supreme Court should be all white (because only white people are the intellectual top?)

It may be time for Pat to go. NBC will have to make a decision.

The Buchanan segment starts at about 5 minutes.

Republican credentials for sale.

Read this. Wow.


This WaPo piece follows on the NYTimes report last week that the Kurds were proceeding with their constitution which lays claim to the oil lands. So long as the Kurds are still complaining to try and shape the negotiations, we're not yet to that critical point. ....but we are getting closer.
Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region and the Iraqi government are closer to war than at any time since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, the Kurdish prime minister said Thursday, in a bleak measure of the tension that has risen along what U.S. officials consider the country's most combustible fault line.

Iran pokes its head up

Since Iran has moved into a very backroom stage, we're seeing very little of the power struggle, but every once in awhile, you'll see a fin break the water, "Rafsanjani says Iran in crisis after election," "Rafsanjani calls for protesters release".

This is the first time in two months that Rafsanjani led prayers at Tehran University, and the first time that Rafsanjani himself has publicly commented on the election and conflict. His publicly taking a side probably means that we're at some significant point in the backroom politics where Rafsanjani felt he needed to inject some momentum.

There we're accompanying street protests of "thousands" around the university. The largest for some time.

It's hard to read this without all the backroom stuff, but I would guess this is probably significant. (Alot more of the sermon here.)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Jesus! Another Republican rep affair, Another C street resident.

Former Mississippi Republican Rep. Chip Pickering who retired this year has had his own affair dragged out by his wife in divorce proceedings.

The amazing part isn't so much the affair. It's that former Rep. Pickering was also a resident at that weirdo secretive Christian organization"the Family" or "C Street," just like Sen. Ensign and non-resident, but very associated Gov. Marc Sanford.
Leisha Pickering said in the lawsuit filed this week that her husband and the woman dated in college, reconnected and began having an affair while he was in Congress and living in a building where several Christian lawmakers reside on C Street near the U.S. Capitol. Chip Pickering is the third Republican with ties to the building at 133 C Street SE to find his personal life making headlines in recent weeks, after Nevada U.S. Sen. John Ensign and South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford.

That's some fundamentalist organization you're running there.

Quote - Meghan McCain on the record.

“Joe the Plumber -- you can quote me -- is a dumbass.”

Eat it, Palin

Mitt Romney's folks want to make it very known that their PAC outraised Palin's PAC substantially.

But Mitt still can't get the same kind of rank and file love.

(Or, he's leading the primary field.)

And, The Clinton Presidential campaign is no longer in the red?

More on the "so secret" CIA program

Two more stories laying out some details on the "so secret" CIA assassinations program.

First, the AP has some of the history of the "on again, off again" nature of the program. They're reporting that Tenet canceled the program in 2004, but it was brought back by his short term replacement Porter Goss (never did find out why he resigned,) and then petered again under Michael Hayden.

And, the WaPo has a story saying the "so secret" program came to Panetta's attention because those in charge were asking to "activate" the plan.

"Activate" appears to mean training teams, not staging an assassination. However. "training" does appear to have involved the feasibility of infiltration.
Two U.S. officials with detailed knowledge of current CIA operations said the agency presented Panetta last month with new plans for moving forward with training for potential members of the assassination teams -- activities that would have involved "crossing international boundaries," in the words of a former counterterrorism official briefed on the matter.

So, it appears the toxic part might be diplomatic after all.


The WaPo has an embed with the Marines pushing into Helmand. Because of the rapid push and no previous allied presence there, supplies are short, ectremely short, limited even more by the fact that the roads are boobytrapped and everything is being flown in by helicopter.

So, this little war snapshot came across as really vivid.
Earlier this week, (Gunnery Sgt. Robert) Larosa decided to launch a one-man supply chain. Armed with orders from his men and a large plastic crate, he jumped on a helicopter to the nearest large base, Camp Leatherneck near the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah. Once there, armed with $1,200 of his own money, he literally stripped the PX shelves of cigarettes and chewing tobacco.

Larosa’s shopping spree irritated customers at Leatherneck, but, arriving back at the camp in Garmsir, he was greeted as a conquering hero.

A moment.

First black President and all.... I've been looking forward to this moment of applause since just days after the election.
Obama to address NAACP on its 100th birthday

Picture of the Day

(Senator Jeff Sessions(R) confers with with Sen. John Cornyn as US Supreme Court Nominee Sonia Sotomayor (not seen) answers questions on during the third day of confirmation hearings. (AFP/Karen Bleier))

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Quote - NRSC sucking up to lobbyists

After Chris Dodd bashed lobbyists today in an electioneering effort, the NRSC sent this out to lobbyists.
For what it is worth, we believe you are doing your job, a job that is very much a part of the democratic process; to make sure Congress understands how proposed policy will affect their constituents, business and other interests around our country. I guess Chris Dodd just wants your financial support but not your company.

(Let's remember that my state's shame John Cornyn is running the NRSC, a man who will sell out to anybody.)

Stray thought - unrelated to anything

Has the popularity of MMA/UFC sport fighting, especially among 12-24 year old males, led to more or worse injuries in school fights?

Flashback - Sy Hersh on the "so secret" program

On the "so secret" CIA "assassinations program" supposedly shepherded by Dick Cheney, I had forgotten about this bit said by Seymour Hersh in a public appearance back in March. (In the link, go down to the indent which is Hersh's actual words.)
“Yuh. After 9/11, I haven’t written about this yet, but the Central Intelligence Agency was very deeply involved in domestic activities against people they thought to be enemies of the state. Without any legal authority for it. They haven’t been called on it yet. That does happen.

"Right now, today, there was a story in the New York Times that if you read it carefully mentioned something known as the Joint Special Operations Command -- JSOC it’s called. It is a special wing of our special operations community that is set up independently. They do not report to anybody, except in the Bush-Cheney days, they reported directly to the Cheney office. They did not report to the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff or to Mr. [Robert] Gates, the secretary of defense. They reported directly to him. ...

"Congress has no oversight of it. It’s an executive assassination ring essentially, and it’s been going on and on and on. Just today in the Times there was a story that its leaders, a three star admiral named [William H.] McRaven, ordered a stop to it because there were so many collateral deaths.

"Under President Bush’s authority, they’ve been going into countries, not talking to the ambassador or the CIA station chief, and finding people on a list and executing them and leaving. That’s been going on, in the name of all of us.

Always important to remember that Hersh works single source which is always a bit dubious and is somewhat known for getting the big story right, but some of the details and characterizations wrong. Plus, this was just loose talk after an appearance, not a true story....

However, that being said, I thought it might help inform the speculation on the "so secret" program.

Maybe the "so secret" part isn't in the assassinations (all other reporting says none were actually done,) but instead, the constitutional heresy of spec ops operations teams (up to assassinations) reporting only to the Vice President.

And, what is that bit, "the Central Intelligence Agency was very deeply involved in domestic activities against people they thought to be enemies of the state. Without any legal authority for it."?

Healthcare politics

There are horror stories under the current US healthcare system far worse than any of those being cited from foreign programs as scare tactics by national healthcare opponents.

Republicans were willing to spend $1 trillion over a decade on a war in Iraq, but are vehemently opposed to spending $1 trillion over a decade for healthcare forfor 50-70 million Americans.

I'll still be surprised if they get substantial healthcare passed. My guess is that, in the near term, they'll fall bacl on a package of "improvements" which will limit cancellations, prohibit pre-existing conditions policies, and probably include increases of SCHIP, Medicaid, and the like.

(Is introducing the abortion funding issue a way out for the Dems? They can blame fundamentalist Republicans for blocking healthcare on abortion alone.)

Thought for the Day

The release that it was Cheney who forbid the CIA from telling Congress about the "so secret" program has been a political success. Putting Cheney in the spot of having to answer that question has pushed him back deep into his hidey hole.

Instead, Cheney's daughter is out trying to do his defense, and she is far less effective with the media.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Political bits

Harry Reid raises $3.25 million in the last three months (probably half of it at an Obama featuring fundraiser.) He has $7.3 million on hand.

I would bet that, with his weak numbers, he's trying to scare off competition through big early fundraising.

And, just for some Palin fun,
Only 33 percent of Republicans questioned in a CBS News survey released Monday night say that Palin would have the ability to serve effectively as president. Last fall, 71 percent of registered Republicans felt that way.

So, it was more spying on Americans?

Per a Tumulty/Time link provided by Libby, a speculation that the "so secret" program was more about spying on Americans than assassinations.
But two former ranking CIA officials have told TIME that there's another equally plausible possibility: The program could have required the Agency to spy on Americans. Domestic surveillance is outside the CIA's purview -– it's usually the FBI's job – and it's easy to see why Cheney would have wanted to keep it from Congress.

Both officials say they were never told what was in the program, and that they're only making calculated guesses. But their theory gibes with other reports, quoting ex-CIA officials, that say the program had to do with intelligence collection, not assassinations.

Just another guess to fill in the post below.

Picture of the Day - Signing a baby?

(Governor Sarah Palin last week at a signing event, for legislation and other items, in the village of McGrath, Alaska. (Jim Wilson/New York Times))

So, how would China respond...?

I think this is just one of the many idle threats by an Al Qaeda affiliate, but it does raise some interesting questions.
Al-Qaida's north African wing has threatened to target Chinese workers and projects in the region in retaliation for Muslim deaths in Urumqi last week.

It is the first time Osama bin Laden's terrorist network has directly targeted Chinese interests, according to experts at a London-based risk analysis firm.....

But the assessment does not suggest there is any direct link between Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang province and al-Qaida. It also suggests it is unlikely that al-Qaida's central leadership has decided to stage attacks within China.

Just as a thought project, what happens if China gets involved?

Certainly, heavy domestic crackdowns on Muslim populations, but what do their foreign ops look like? How would they cooperate with the US? How different from the US would their contacts be with the Somalis, Saudis, Pakistanis, etc? What level of military response?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Hmmm.... Something's fishy

Why would assassination teams targeting Al Qaeda, as everyone's now reporting, need to be hidden from Congress? Why would CIA chief Leon Panetta cancel such a program almost instantly upon being made aware of it?

As described thus far, why was this deemed so damn secret? What's the element that's so shocking? Nukes? Were the targets more than just Al Qaeda folks? Were they prepping to work inside the US?

From the WaPo piece,
Senior White House officials said President Obama was briefed on Panetta's decision after returning to Washington early Sunday from an overseas trip. The officials said the White House was not consulted before Panetta canceled the program. They declined to elaborate.

Whatever it was, it was bad enough that Panetta canceled it immediately and on his own.

Later: Add this little bit from the CNN version.
Efforts to contact Cheney for reaction were unsuccessful.

After jumping on TV to defend anything regarding Bush policies, Cheney took himself out of pocket on this one? You'd think he'd jump to associate himself with a program that, as described, sounds popular, and yet he doesn't.....

Later Still: From the LATimes version, a description that might suggest a fear over diplomatic fallout,
But officials said that as recently as a year ago CIA executives discussed plans to deploy teams to test basic capabilities, including whether they could enter hostile territory and maneuver undetected, as well as gather intelligence and track high-value targets.

But that wouldn't seem to explain the seemingly toxic reactions of those who really knew the program.

Plus, if it was just this simple "strike team" description, I'm not sure that Dem Congress members would be putting themselves out on a limb hollering like this.

It just doesn't add up. It seems like there's gotta be some big, atrocious element we're not getting.

Picture of the Day

(Senator Al Franken looks on during the committee's confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor.(AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais))

So, what was today for exactly?

With all the Senators just making their opening statements today, Sonia Sotomayor didn't really need to attend the first day of her confirmation hearing.


I find it funny that a group of all white, all male privileged Republican Senators, most of which come from states with nationally known racial incidents in their past are worried that Sotomayor might have some kind of influence.

(The seven Republicans come from Alabama, South Carolina, Texas, Oklahoma, and Arizona, plus the lily whites Utah and Iowa.)

Yeah. America's problems with racism definitely rest with Sonia Sotomayor.

Don't let the wiretapping shockers be a Friday dump.....

I just want to relink this post with all the scandalous details from the IG's report on the various surveillance programs. The report was dumped on Friday before a Supreme Court nomination hearing, so the details are quickly off the news pages, but I don't think they should be.

There's some pretty revelatory stuff there. Data collection was far bigger than we yet know. The wiretapping programs were virtually useless in gathering data for terrorism investigations. And, the Bush administration hid the programs (possibly illegally) from from the DOJ and Congress.

If you didn't read any of the details over the weekend, take a quick peruse of some of the excerpts. This shouldn't just disappear.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Palin per the NYTimes

The NYTimes tries to write a definitive piece on why Sarah Palin resigned as governor. Bottom line: She was just overwhelmed by the pressure, the critics, and the tasks of office.

I came away thinking, "if you can't stand the heat in Alaska...."

Kim Jong Il is gonna die

According to a news report out of South Korea, Kim Jong Il has pancreatic cancer.

No word on how much time (or provocation) he has left.

Picture of the Day

Every modern President who has traveled to Africa has taken a tour of a slave export facility, but this visit is definitely different.

(President Barack Obama stand with his daughter Sasha, first lady Michelle Obama and daughgter Malia as they stand at the "Door of No Return" at the Cape Coast Castle, a former slave holding facility, in the town of Cape Coast, Ghana, July 11, 2009. (REUTERS/Jason Reed))

It's all in the game

Thinking about the two "leaked" stories in last night's post, I gotta wonder if the Obama folks are "leaking" Cheney's culpability in hiding CIA programs from Congress to limit him politically as they introduce the idea of a special prosecutor for torture.

I mean, as Cheney has been the loudest (and most effective?) voice defending the torture programs, doesn't leaking the "Cheney Is Linked to Concealment of C.I.A. Project" make any appearance by Cheney on talk shows much more difficult? If he tries to go out in the media to defend torture/secret prisons, his answers regarding possibly illegal concealment from Congress are likely to steal the headlines from his well known and oft repeated lines on torture.

So, he won't be able to do the high profile interview, and will have to try and make his point through a speech somewhere which is much harder to push into top media attention.

The Obama folks are trying to kneecap him, limiting his ability to respond. Interesting.

(And, I would guess that means Holder's pretty serious about a torture/secret prisons/detainnee prosecutor.)

OK, I think we're done here.....

I'm sure the Iraqi commanders are under political pressure to make this happen, but I'm still pleasantly surprised.
Iraqi forces have not called for U.S. help in urban combat since June 30, when U.S. combat troops withdrew from city and town centers under a bilateral security agreement.