Obasketball

If you want to be President, you've got to have a mean jump shot:

(H/T Marc Ambinder).

Of course, it's not beating the point guard of the Bobcats at HORSE, but it's something. Just one question: what would CNN be saying if he missed? I can almost see it now: "This is a HUGE gaffe by Obama, thinking that he can play, when he can't even make an open three. Very damaging... Why is he distracting voters from the issues?"

YouTube also has old school Obamastketball/Obamaball/Obasketball for your viewing pleasure.

Three-term Arizona congressman Rick Renzi, who the watchdog group CREW ranks among the "20 most corrupt members of Congress," said yesterday that he won't seek reelection in '08, a decision that surely has something to do with the fact that he's under investigation by the FBI for a suspect land deal.

The Arizona Daily Star reports:

Renzi helped promote the land sale that netted $4.5 million for his former business partner and campaign donor James Sandlin, according to state records and officials.

Renzi also found himself caught up in the controversy over the firings of eight U.S. Attorneys after it was revealed that Arizona prosecutor Paul Charlton was targeted for dismissal by the Justice Department shortly after opening an investigation into Renzi.

Surge-tastic!

Kevin Drum over at the Washington Monthly has some data from the Brookings Institution (home of Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack, surge defenders extraordinaire) and finds that, contrary to O'Hanlon and Pollack's recent upbeat assessment in the New York Times, "the news sure doesn't look very good." The numbers are from Brookings' own Iraq Index Project, so Matt Yglesias wonders "how it is that Brookings fellows like Peter Rodman, Michael O'Hanlon, and Kenneth Pollack seem so unaware of it."

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times reports the Joint Chiefs want significant troop cuts in Iraq, Yglesias notes Fred Kagan evaluating his own work on the surge in the Weekly Standard, and Iran invades Iraqi Kurdistan. Back in the White House, President Bush has "stepped up his high-pressure sales job... to stay the course in Iraq." But then again, as a Bush aide told Ron Suskind, people like Kevin Drum and McClatchy reporters and Peter Pace and the Los Angeles Times and Suskind himself — people who criticize the President — are "In what we call the reality-based community," and "that's not the way the world really works anymore.... We're history's actors... and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."

— Nick Baumann

The Los Angeles Times reports that outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Major Gen. Peter Pace will call for cutting U.S. forces in half next year, putting him at odds with another general whose September report is much anticipated:

Administration and military officials say Marine Gen. Peter Pace is likely to convey concerns by the Joint Chiefs that keeping well in excess of 100,000 troops in Iraq through 2008 will severely strain the military. This assessment could collide with one being prepared by the U.S. commander in Iraq, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, calling for the U.S. to maintain higher troop levels for 2008 and beyond.
Petraeus is expected to support a White House view that the absence of widespread political progress in Iraq requires several more months of the U.S. troop buildup before force levels are decreased to their pre-buildup numbers sometime next year. ....
Pace is expected to offer his advice privately instead of issuing a formal report. Still, the position of Pace and the Joint Chiefs could add weight to that of Bush administration critics, including Democratic presidential candidates, that the U.S. force should be reduced.

The newspaper further reports, "the Joint Chiefs in recent weeks have pressed concerns that the Iraq war has degraded the U.S. military's ability to respond, if needed, to other threats," including Iran.

Pace retires at the end of September.

Today several of Chile's Supreme Court judges had trouble staying awake as the court continued to consider the human rights charges against former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori. Does their exhaustion stem from a night of agonizing over the ex-dictator's extradition proceedings? Highly unlikely. As much as I'd like to believe that the court appreciates the gravity of Fujimori's crimes, it just does not seem to be the case. In fact, earlier this week I wrote how odd it was that Chile fast tracked the case days after Peru's catastrophic earthquake, apparently hoping few people would notice.

It seemed likely that Chile's court would render a quick verdict in the favor of Fujimori when it was reported that the proceeding would be wrapped up in a day. But perhaps because members of the victims' families and human rights organizations have been present in court, and the judges realized they had to put on a bit of a show, a thorough reading of the corruption and human rights charges is being allowed.

— Rafael Valero

Bush is set to release a regulation tomorrow that will allow mining companies to blast the tops off mountains and dump the resulting waste in nearby streams and valleys.

To learn more about Bush's latest assault on the environment, continue reading this post on our science and health blog, The Blue Marble.

IraqSlogger reports that on August 17, White House-connected lobby powerhouse, Barbour Griffith & Rogers (BGR), purchased a domain name, Allawi-for-Iraq.com.*

The timing was interesting. As Slogger's Christina Davidson reports, former Iraqi prime minister Ayad "Allawi argued in an August 18 Washington Post op-ed that Iraq will descend into chaos unless Maliki is replaced as prime minister."

Presumably, replaced by himself, he might have been hinting.

A couple months ago, I reported here on BGR's lobbying for another of Iraq's players, the Kurdistan Regional Government.

*Update: Whois registration for the Allawi domain below the fold:

Politico's Mike Allen reports that a new pro-war group, Freedom's Watch, fronted by former Bush White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, has launched a $15 million advertising blitz to promote the surge:

A new group, Freedom's Watch, is launching Wednesday with a $15 million, five-week campaign of TV, radio and Web ads featuring military veterans that is aimed at retaining support in Congress for President Bush's "surge" policy on Iraq. ...
The board consists of Blakeman; Fleischer; Mel Sembler, a Florida Republican who was Bush's ambassador to Italy; William P. Weidner, president and chief operating officer of the Las Vegas Sands Corp.; and Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition. The donors include Sembler; Anthony Gioia, a Buffalo businessman who was Bush's ambassador to Malta; Kevin Moley, who was Bush's ambassador to the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in Geneva; Howard Leach, a former Republican National Committee finance chairman who was Bush's ambassador to France; Dr. John Templeton of Pennsylvania, chairman and president of the John Templeton Foundation; Ed Snider, chairman of Comcast Spectacor, the huge Philadelphia sports and entertainment firm; Sheldon Adelson, chairman of the Las Vegas Sands Corp. and ranked by Forbes magazine as the third-wealthiest American; and Richard Fox, who is chairman of the Jewish Policy Center and was Pennsylvania State Chairman of the Reagan/Bush campaign in 1980.

The Washington Post and ThinkProgress have more. "Freedom's Watch will go head to head with Americans United for Change, a Democratic Party ally, backed by organized labor, that is pressuring the same wavering Republicans to break with the White House," the Post reports. "Although louder and more experienced, Americans United is not so moneyed, with a fundraising goal of $10 million for the year, and $1.75 million to $2 million already spent on ad campaigns."

Watch has money, organization and the White House on its side. But the recently released NIE on Iraq does not easily lend itself to the flag-backed ad blitz, which rallies "those who believe we must win the war on terror" to call and tell their congressperson "defeat is not an option."

An early copy of the unclassified key judgments from the new National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, "Prospects for Iraq's Stability: Some Security Progress but Political Reconciliation Elusive," prepared by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and available to the masses in a few hours.

Hot off the presses (.pdf) and below the fold. Analysis to come.

Now the smugglers have subs:

A submarine-like vessel filled with hundreds of millions of dollars worth of cocaine was seized off the Guatemalan coast, U.S. officials said....Several drug-carrying submarines operated by Colombian drug cartels have been discovered in recent years. [emphasis mine]

There's nothing like basic economics to undermine the drug war. If you buy it, they will come. In subs, if necessary.

— Nick Baumann