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21 January 2008

SC Dem Debate Live Thread

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Has been started here...

and here...

Posted by Geoff

Myrtle Beach Debate II

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So I'm in the press filing center waiting to eat our free meal. I'm surrounded by the "liberal media" if you listen to the goofball behind me. An anti-Hillary guy is running around here trying to push the Central America-CIA-cocaine connection... Anyway.

This debate is crucial. The polls predict an Obama win Saturday but you have to remember New Hampshire. The most recent polls have Obama at around 45%, Hillary in the 30s and Edwards in the teens. Grain of salt. I'd be interested in a poll of people in SC that are undecided going into this debate and the primary.

I personally am hoping Obama does well. I saw him first as an intern at the Center for America Progress and was impressed. since then he grew on me. The fact that he did not vote for the authorization to use force on/in Iraq all but wins him my vote. But the idea of another Clinton presidency scares me. I'm tired of Bush and Clintons running our country. We had the end of Reagan which was basically a H. W. Bush administration due to Reagan's age. Then H. W. Bush. Then Clinton. Then W. Bush (less than a year left in that disaster. Thank you very much Supreme Court). So you see, this can't continue... imho.

Not much to say now. It's still cold. Tonight, instead of trying to cover this debate as a live blog (plenty are doing that), I'm going to try to capture the essence of what the press go through especially the spin room. I've got a camera but a slow laptop computer, so I'll try to put video up tonight but might wait till tomorrow so I can use a quicker desktop (render times are a bitch!). Not to mention I'll be doing my 9 to 5 as well and that, of course, takes priority.

More later, enjoy the debate.

Posted by Geoff

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The Democratic Primary Debate in Myrtle Beach, SC

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As I indicated a few days ago, I'm working the SC Democratic Debate with SCETV and will be doing some blogging along the way...

First things I noticed this morning is how different this is when compared to the first SC debate I covered (here is the first post from that debate). For one thing the world will be watching as this is the last debate in SC before the Democratic Primary this coming Saturday. Another is the weather. It's nice here. Sunny, beautiful clear blue sky. And near freezing.

The candidates should be used to this considering Iowa and New Hampshire's weather this time of the year, but I'm sure they were hoping for some warmer weather as a break. Well they aren't going to get it. It's cold here. Standing water is frozen. Coats are mandatory.

So far I've only picked up our credentials and visited the debate hall. This event is being held in the Myrtle Beach tourist-trap known as Broadway on the Beach. Along 17 near where Planet Hollywood is. The press room is across the street in the Phillips Seafood restaurant. The security here is already much more intense. And the ground troops for the three candidates (especially Clinton and Edwards) are out in force putting up signs, et cetera. (BTW- What is it with the signs? Does anyone know anyone who votes on account of a yard sign?).

Myrtle Beach has a sand sculpture outside of the Palace Theater (the debate hall) that's pretty interesting (I'll have some specs on that soon). A lot of work to put in to it... at least it's not going to rain... But the faces (of Sens. Clyburn (D-SC) and the candidates Clinton, Obama and Edwards) are incredibly goofy. Especially John Edwards... I tried to capture this in the video but the sculpture was surrounded by near freezing puddles of water, the sun was in an awful place and I'm going totally hand-held. My apologies in advance but have a look.

here's a photo for now... Video soon, I hope. Video below.


More later....

Posted by Geoff

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17 January 2008

Another Republican aiding and abetting the enemy?

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This is yet one more instance in which a Republican operative or politician is accused of supporting terrorist activities. First it was Yasith Chhun, a member of and fund raiser for the Cambodian Freedom Fighters. The CFF is designated a terrorist organization by the State Department and Chhun is charged with "attempting to kill the prime minister, attack government buildings and launch small-scale attacks on karaoke bars and fuel depots" in order to destabilize the Cambodian government. Chhun also raised $6,550 for the National Republican Congressional Committee and had a role on the NRCC Business Advisory Council.

Then there's the case of Abdul Tawala Ibn Ali Alishtari. This individual was arrested in February 2007 for terrorism financing and material support of terrorism. He was also a NRCC fund raiser and a lifetime member of the National Republican Senate Committee's Inner Circle. (Read more here and here.) Ali Alishtari raised $15,000 for the Republican party in the 2000s, none of that money has been returned or donated pending a conviction. He maintains that he was in it for the money not the "cause."

Now we have Republican congressman from Michigan, Mark D. Siljander, who has been indicted in federal court for alleged ties to a charity that sent money to suspected Islamic terrorists.

The WaPo reports:
The indictment alleges that he lied to the FBI about his work on behalf of the Islamic American Relief Agency, which the Treasury Department designated as a terrorist organization in 2004.


The charity, which was based in Columbia, Mo., allegedly paid Siljander $50,000 in March 2004 to lobby the Senate Finance Committee in an attempt to be kept off a list of terrorist organizations. Senate records indicate that Siljander has not been registered as a lobbyist since 1998.

According to the indictment, the money was stolen from the U.S. Agency for International Development, and Siljander lied to federal agents about his role.

If this is the foreign policy gravitas the Republicans claim to have over the Democrats then the United States will be even safer if/when the Democrats get a firm control of DC.

Posted by Geoff

16 January 2008

Republican-voting squirrel-eating truck drivers

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Well Mike Huckabee may be a very spiritual guy and a potential Republican presidential candidate but he has at least two other contenders in his party with a legitimate bead on the nomination as well and maybe more in the coming weeks. This includes South Carolina.

For the most part the religious right loves him. There are many reasons for this including the Baptist Minister card and the Ayatollah-esque proclamation to amend the Constitution to fit his impressions of what "God's standards". These points indicate that he'll do well in SC Saturday. To be sure, someone, on his behalf, started push-polling SC voters and criticizing Huck's rivals.

One would hope citizens in SC have learned to see through such tactics (which SC law prohibits, by the way). Or perhaps people will consider that these tactics are illegal and hold that against the Huck-ster. I'm not holding my breath.

But none of this really matters. SC is Huck territory, according to Huck:
"South Carolina's a great place for me. I mean, I know how to eat grits and speak the language. We even know how to talk about eating fried squirrel and stuff like that, so we're on the same wavelength." [start @ 1:40]

What? People brag about eating fried squirrel?

He continues:
"When I was in college, we used to take a popcorn popper, because that was the only thing they would let us use in the dorm, and we would fry squirrels in a popcorn popper in the dorm room." [start @ 1:55]


I'm the only guy that's just getting hammered from some of these special interest groups. And I think that'll turn for me and against some of these folks, because it's pretty obvious... There's just an anxiety that exists in the Washington power circles about our candidacy. ... Truck drivers know why they're voting for Mike Huckabee ... and that's why I'm convinced we're going to win." [start @ 3:25]

Watch the full clip here:

There you have it. If SC is a state full of squirrel-eating truck drivers then it's a lock for Huck.

I don't know who looks worse here, Huckabee or South Carolina?

(h/t Raw Story)

Posted by Geoff

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15 January 2008

Blowback: Once in Pakistan. Twice in Pakistan. Next from Iraq?

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I'm not the first one to suggest that the so-called "Anbar Awakening" is precisely the type of policy that invites blowback (read here for more about blowback) and I won't be the last.

Time will tell if the Awakening is as bad a move as many believe it is. Don' get me wrong, it's an improvment but is it thought out? One of the big problems with this administration is that is lives in the present. It wants only to look good now and doesn't care about consider what will happen down the road (long or short). It used to be that they could spin their error around using the media and their devotees like Fox News and conservative bloggers. now they'll just pass it along to the next administration.

Who ever the next president is will have plenty to deal with coming out of Iraq.

Retuning to blowback, this NYT article highlights one point: Blowback is not an American phenomon.

Here's a snip:
Pakistan’s premier military intelligence agency has lost control of some of the networks of Pakistani militants it has nurtured since the 1980s, and is now suffering the violent blowback of that policy, two former senior intelligence officials and other officials close to the agency say.

As the military has moved against them, the militants have turned on their former handlers, the officials said. Joining with other extremist groups, they have battled Pakistani security forces and helped militants carry out a record number of suicide attacks last year, including some aimed directly at army and intelligence units as well as prominent political figures, possibly even Benazir Bhutto.

Makes you wonder if one day, 15 to 30 years down the road, there will be a 9/11-esque attack with roots in the Awakening. Much like 9/11 had root in our occupation of Saudi Arabia in 1990.

I hope the change that is in the air surrounding the 2008 general elections will apply to foreign policy.

Posted by Geoff

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14 January 2008

Photos: Barack Obama visits the College

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I'm a bit late on this but here are some pics I snapped while filming the recent visit by Senator and presidential candidate-hopeful Barack Obama to the College of Charleston (full video at the Bully Pulpit website).

If you're interested, here are some photos from the July Democratic debate and the Citadel in Charleston: Pre-debate, Part I, Part II and Part III.

On that note. There is a good possibility that I'll be at the next Democratic debate in Myrtle Beach a week from now. Stay tuned...

Posted by Geoff

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11 December 2007

Baghdad, Iraq: The City of Sectarian Lights

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Strings of bulbs festooning the Imam Kazim shrine's four majestic minarets light up the sky over Baghdad's Shiite Kazimiyah neighborhood, attracting thousands of nighttime worshippers.

Coffee houses and restaurants are packed with customers along nearby streets, where turbaned clerics, chador-clad women and families buy furniture, toys and clothes in teeming shops. The district's gold market, the largest in the city, does brisk business until well after dusk.

But a drive from Kazimiyah over an unlit Tigris River bridge into Azamiyah, a Sunni stronghold, reveals only darkness and no signs of life along the main road. What nightlife does exist is confined to a walled area of about two square miles heavily patrolled by U.S. troops. One glaring exception: Kasrah, a Shiite enclave, with its lively outdoor market and coffee houses.

Night is the time when the Shiite dominance of the capital becomes most apparent following the sectarian "battle of Baghdad," which displaced tens of thousands of Sunnis and reshaped a city where the two sects had lived in relative peace.

A city divided. Where there are Shiites, there's normalcy. In Sunni sections... a lifeless shell of the past.

Once upon a time, any light in this city was progress. But the way it is now, you have to wonder where this progress is taking us.

My bet we'll find out sometime after the President retreats to Texas a little over a year from now.

Posted by Geoff

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07 November 2007

al Maliki on political reconciliation and benchmarks

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Over the past week or so I've written about the supposed success of Bush's surge strategy. In reality the strategy to facilitate political reconciliation has largely failed, while the tactic of placing more troops between a civil war has been moderately successful. Wow! Who would have thought that? The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) knows this and has said as much recently (.pdf):
U.S. efforts lack strategies with clear purpose, scope, roles, and performance measures. The U.S. strategy for victory in Iraq partially identifies the agencies responsible for implementing key aspects of the strategy and does not fully address how the United States would integrate its goals with those of the Iraqis and the international community. U.S. efforts to develop Iraqi ministry capability lack an overall strategy... The weaknesses in U.S. strategic planning are compounded by the Iraqi government’s lack of integrated strategic planning in its critical energy sector. (p.2)
The Iraqi government continues to make limited progress in meeting eight legislative benchmarks intended to promote national reconciliation. As of October 25, 2007, the Iraqi government had met one legislative benchmark and partially met another. (p. 7)

I'd like to return to a post of mine from February to highlight the point that this has always been the number one issue: seems that until you have an actual plan that has some chance of success (by saying this, I’m stating that I believe that if we could muster enough man power to match the recommendations of the counterinsurgency manual, then we would be looking at a statistical chance of military success; at least one worth looking into provided we reassess what the final result in Iraq will look like and lose the rose-colored glasses)... . NO war has ever had the characteristic of total and complete victory or perfection... . The fundamental problem is that no level of military successes will ever win this war. There has to be political progress and the likelihood of that happening is slim, even with zero or a million troops in Iraq.

The Democrats know this but are repeatedly cowed into submission by Republican politicians and conservative pundits (which is a sign of a chronic flaw on their behalf).

What is most striking to me is how clear this is to to the Shiite political parties in Iraq. It's been quite clear for some time now that the Shiite government has abandoned the goals set for them by the president and the Congress. Now the PM al Maliki is on record saying not only is it not his responsibility to meet these benchmarks but that a large portion of them have indeed been met. Marc Lynch observes:
Friday, [al Maliki] elaborated on his views of the current Iraqi political scene in a very intriguing, and frankly troubling, interview with al-Arabiya (I couldn't find any English-language mentions of it at all via Google News, sorry). The interview did not break any particularly new ground, but it did make one thing very clear: do not expect Maliki to pursue seriously any moves towards national reconciliation, defined in terms of legislation at the national level or agreements with Sunni political parties. The deadlock at the national political level, so clear at the time of the Petraeus-Crocker hearings in September, will not end any time soon.
Maliki argued on al-Arabiya that Iraqi national reconciliation has not only already been achieved, it is "strong and stable and not fragile". There is no civil war in Iraq, or even any real sectarian conflict anymore - the sectarian hatreds incited by "some" in the past have been overcome. He made clear that he does not equate national reconciliation with political progress at the national level: "I think that national reconciliation will come about not as some understand it, as a reconciliation with this political party governed by an ideology or a specific mentality." Real national reconciliation, to Maliki, takes place at the local level, when "you can go into the street and meet with a Sunni in Shia areas or with a Shia in Sunni areas, where they live together once again." That, he suggests, has happened. The various Sunni awakenings demonstrate reconciliation at the local level, and their support for his national government. He claims that people who fled mixed Sunni-Shia areas are now returning (or are welcome to do so), and that the people now reject sectarianism in favor of national unity and his government. True, some politicians are still demanding reconciliation, but he dismisses them as "minor political parties" whose tiresome complaints now fall on deaf ears with the people. The attempt to unseat him last year by various political factions? An attempted coup against the political process by those (regrettably mainly Sunnis) who want to return the Baath Party to its monopoly on power.

Good Lord!

The only corner we've turned in Iraq is one that put right back where we were late last year. The only difference is were are all but arming the opposition Sunnis and Maliki's national government has quit the reconciliation business.

Hold on tight!

Posted by Geoff

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06 November 2007

Brown (R-SC) condones Limbaugh's "phony soldiers" remark

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I get letters, I write letters back. Here's a snippet of todays:

Dear Congressman Henry Brown, Jr.
I've just received and read your defense of shock-jock Rush Limbaugh -- a man with "strong ideological leanings" -- regarding his labeling of anti-war soldiers as "phony."

Your defense of the pundit is weak and, frankly, embarrassing (at least for your supporters). You claim Rush was speaking of Jesse MacBeth and not any number of soldiers who would question the policies of your party, our president and people who share "strong ideological leanings" such as your own. Well, that's what Fox News 'reported' (possibly stretching the meaning of that word past the max). When Rush first used the name Jesse MacBeth on the 26 September 2007 show, it was nearly 2 minutes after he used the phrase "phony soldiers." In several calls in subsequent minutes and days he continued to use his new attack rhetoric numerous times. For example, in a 28 September 2007 broadcast, Rush expanded his group of "phony soldiers" to include Vietnam veteran, and your colleague, Rep. John P. Murtha (D-PA) and Pvt. Scott Thomas Beauchamp (who is currently serving in Iraq). These men are both anti-war and, therefore, to Rush and many sharing "strong ideological leanings" they are "phony soldiers". Finally, If Rush was talking about this one soldier -- Jesse MacBeth -- he would have been quoted as calling him a phony soldier since he is but a single man.

I don't accept your response nor do I appreciate your defense of a man such as Rush Limbaugh. He is no better than the folks at Move On who questioned the political intentions of a military general in a similarly inflammatory way. I'm embarrassed that you stooped to this level to protect such a man.


Posted by Geoff

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