Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Where is Osama bin Laden?

As President Barack Obama is on the verge of announcing his strategy on Afghanistan the ghost of Osama bin Laden surfaces in the political discourse once again.

Democrats on the Hill resurrected old intelligence report on bin Laden to play the Blame Bush game again.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee released paper on Sunday that analyzes bin Laden’s escape from the Tora Bora caves of Afghanistan in late 2001. The report blames the missed opportunity on lack of coordination effort by President George W. Bush’s administration and U.S. military commanders. Chairman of the Committee is Democrat John Kerry. The report states with melancholic tone that:

“The failure to finish the job represents a lost opportunity that forever altered the course of the conflict in Afghanistan and the future of international terrorism”

President Obama always said that looking forward is a better way to go. So let us leave George Bush alone and take a look where we stand in the search for Bin Laden today.

Intelligence sources widely agree that the al-Qaida leader is hiding somewhere in the remote border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The USA and Britain tend to place him in Pakistan. The Pakistani officials tend to place him in Afghanistan in a world-wide “Where is bin Laden” blame game.

Just yesterday the British PM Gordon Brown lashed out at Pakistan accusing sympathizers in Afghanistan neighbor’s secret service of protecting bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri. Mr. Brown told Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari in a phone call that the world couldn’t understand why they hadn’t been dealt with.

Pakistani leaders did not let Brown insult them. Official position in the country is that if the USA and Britain have any intelligence of the location of bin Laden they should share it with Pakistan, not just blame the country. Wajid Shamsul Hasan, Pakistan’s high commissioner to Britain said that Pakistani military is fully engaged in these operations and many people have lost their lives in battle.

And so the blame games between the West and Pakistan continues as apparently nobody has a clue where bin Laden is.

For the former CIA director Michael Hayden hunting down bin Laden was at the top of the CIA’s priority list at the time. In his speeches he insisted that al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden appears to be isolated from the terrorist group’s day-to-day operations and has been forced to devote much of his energy to his own security.

Russian Prime-TASS floated the rumor last week that bin Laden is in Pakistan and just married young lady from a prominent Pashtun family.
Another popular idea about bin Laden’s fate is based on the fact that he is reportedly suffering from a range of sicknesses – diabetes, hepatitis C and severe kidney problems requiring hospitalization. The medical record of the top-terrorist leader made many believe that bin Laden is simply dead.

There is only one place where you can find Osama bin Laden for sure and that is the FBI Top Ten Wanted list. Until he is taken off that list the blame games will continue.

Does Joe Biden Win or Lose in Obama Afghanistan Review?

From what we know of Joe Biden's "skunk at the White House picnic" skepticism of increasing troop deployments to Afghanistan during President Obama's three month strategy review process, it would appear -- on the surface -- that Biden didn't come up with the winning hand.

After all, Obama is committing to sending 30,000 more US troops next year on top of the 68,000 there now. Doesn't sound like the Biden plan.

Or does it?

Scratching beneath the surface, the fact is that a lot of the new framing and focus -- and the so-called exit horizon -- are all solidly Biden.

Given what I have seen of the speech leaks thus far, Joe Biden deserves significant credit for key parts of the President's plan and also gave President Obama what he wanted through this process -- a public airing of civil debate and heterodoxy of thought that came smack dab up to President Obama's desk.

Biden played his advisor-in-chief role and worked vigorously for a "narrowing" of America's objectives and commitments in Afghanistan.

According to a senior White House source, Vice President Biden believes that the review led by the President has produced a sound strategy -- but that the Vice President's contributions helped shape clear, narrow and achievable goals for Afghanistan: denying Al Qaeda sanctuary, disrupting the Taliban so it can't topple the government, and accelerating transition to Afghan responsibility for their own security and governance.

Biden has helped choke down the nation building script and encouraged that the surge Obama will outline not be open-ended.

According to this senior White House official, "the strategy calls for a commitment of additional resources up front, but it also tells American people how and when this ends."

The how and when it ends part is very much Bidenesque.

Tomorrow morning, Vice President Joe Biden will be appearing on all three network morning shows explicating and defending President Obama's plan.

-- Steve Clemons

Gotti Gets Off for the Fourth Time

After 11 days of deliberations, the jury in John "Junior" Gotti's racketeering trial was still deadlocked today, leading a federal judge to declare a mistrial. This is the fourth mistrial for Gotti in five years. If convicted, he would have faced life in prison. Instead he'll get to go home for a few months until prosecutors try to convict him a fifth time. That one's supposed to be a charm, right? [NYP]

GM CEO Fritz Henderson resigns; interim CEO named

General Motors Chief Executive Fritz Henderson, the company's second CEO this year, has resigned and been replaced by interim CEO Ed Whitacre, a member of GM's board of directors.

GM made the announcement at a hastily called press conference at its Detroit headquarters "to announce significant decisions reached today by the GM Board of Directors," the website of the Detroit Free Press newspaper reported. also reported that Whitacre has been named chairman of GM.
Speaking at the conference, Whitacre praised Henderson and said the search for a new CEO would begin immediately. "I remain more convinced than ever that our company is on the right path," The New York Times reported Whitacre as saying. "We now need to accelerate our progress toward that goal."

The two men reportedly clashed over the future of the company. Whitacre led a board revolt over a plan to sell GM's German subsidiary, Opel, to a Canadian parts company, a deal that Henderson helped to shepherd through.

The deal fell apart last month after GM pulled the plug on the plan, which had the blessing of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. It was the third such pact to unwind this fall. Most recently a Swedish concern abandoned its plan to takeover Saab, and in September, Penske Automotive Group (PAG) pulled the plug on a deal to buy Saturn after CEO Roger Penske was unable to find a manufacturer to supply new vehicles.

Only One Up Month Since Bankruptcy

News of Henderson's resignation came amid two days of meetings by the board and on the day GM released sales figures for November showing sales slipped for a fourth month following its emergence from bankruptcy. October was the only month to show a rise when compared to sales figures from the comparable period a year ago.

Henderson became CEO of the world's largest automaker in March after the Obama administration asked then-Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner to step down. Henderson led GM through a brief bankruptcy from which the company emerged in July.

Obama's auto task force, put together to help revive GM as well as Chrysler, had sought to oust Henderson in March along with Wagoner, reported. But the group declined to do so, after it determined that finding a suitable replacement to lead the company would require about six months.

The administration wasn't involved in Henderson's decision, the New York Times reported on its website, citing a Treasury official.

GM has received $50 billion in government loans this year, and U.S. taxpayers hold a 60% stake in the company.

Super-Fight Between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao Nearly Finalized

It looks like the boxing mega-fight between Filipino superstar Manny Pacquaio and Floyd Mayweather Jr. is getting closer to becoming a reality.

Mayweather commented on a possible fight last month -- following Pac-Man's dominating win over Miguel Cotto -- saying that all Pacquiao had to do to get a shot was step up and say it. Well, Manny did, and talks have begun ... says reports.

According to the L.A. Times, Pacquiao's promoter Bob Arum flew to the Philippines on Tuesday (December 1) to discuss a possible meeting between the two boxers in the near future.

nA unidentified source told the paper that Mayweather has already agreed to some contractual details. However, further info was not revealed.

"I'm going over there to figure it out," Arum told The Times just before departing. "Everything."

Arum reportedly spent much of Tuesday resolving issues during negotiations with Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer, who represents Mayweather, before taking off for the Philippines.

He is expected back on Monday (December 7).

Kasim Reed wins Atlanta mayoral race, MyDD update

I couldn't stay up as late as it took last night to be sure that Kasim Reed won the mayoral race. And wow, what a close race. The tally currently:

Kasim Reed 41,901
Mary Norwood 41,143

Our WSG team has been working with Kasim Reed throughout his campaign, and a big hearty congrats to his campaign staff, the other consultants, and the candidate for a remarkable comeback. Just a few months ago, Reed languished in third at around 10-15% support, then made it into the runoff by finishing second with 37%, and wins the GE.

Norwood can request a recount, but 100% of the precincts have returned, and Reed has declared victory.

Also, MyDD is re-launching soon with a customization off of the WSG Netroots Platform. Its in staging right now, and zips along with ajax threaded & sortable comments, a strong back-end for community management (rec's flags, mojo), full integration with Twitter via a new, and photo/content integration with Facebook (Google too soon). We'll launch with all of that within days or a week or two at max.

We also have a new Follow/Friend concept that builds off of what we used for & SEIU local, and will integrate it with the event and action campaigns (& Act Blue)that are being revamped currently and will be added later. By the end of the week, I'll put out the staging info so a wider group of people can test it out and help make the transition smooth.

This will be MyDD4.0 and BB2.0 for those counting. Back in 2000, with Gray Matter, MyDD became one of the first community blogs, then relaunched successively on Movable Type in 2002, and then Scoop in 2004. We've been on this platform for 5 years, which is an awful long time. But in the meantime, the MyDD scoop platform also served for the rollout for the first couple of years, as we started up that company, and the energy thats went into SBN's current sites is amazing. I had started a rolllout of a new platform here a couple of times, but the technology was just not ripe enough for a new platform yet. The new will be Ruby on Rails powered, and its ripe. I love the new, which will be bookmarklet & mobile-enabled to post content there that can be pushed to both Twitter and MyDD. The upcoming rollout will be just the beginning, and the goal will be the strongest political community blogging platform in the blogosphere.

Tiger Woods Jaimee Grubbs (VH1 “Tool Academy”) Affair

Boy, that Tiger Woods is just pimpin’ all over the world. As the once respected pro golfer battles rumors that his demure wife went upside his head over a rumored affair with NYC party hostess Rachel Uchitel, another jumpoff has come back to bite the wildcat in the butt. Cocktail waitress-turned-reality-star Jaimee Grubbs, 24, has come forward with a sordid tale of a nearly 3-year affair she’s carried on with the married father of two.

According to a report featured in the Dec. 14 issue of Us Weekly, Jaimee claims she met Woods in 2007 when she was working as a 21-year-old coctail waitress on the Las Vegas strip. By then, Tiger had already been married to wife Elin for more than 3 years, but vows of loyalty and fidelity didn’t stop the athlete from embarking on a passionate affair with the pretty brunette. According to Jaimee her 31-month love affair with Tiger that included at least 20 sexual encounters.

Jaimee is also an aspiring screen starlet, having appeared in the VH1 reality show Tool Academy with wayward boyfriend Shawn Southern. The beauty was left broken-hearted on the first season of series after Shawn dumped her on the show after revealing he had another girlfriend.

Per the story, which hits newsstands Wednesday, Grubbs has email, text messages, and other information to prove her allegations.

Obama Sending 30,000 More Troops To Afghanistan

President Obama will send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, an administration official tells TPMDC.

The official, speaking on a condition of anonymity because Obama has not announced the new strategy yet to the nation, said the president "intervened" to make sure the military deploys these troops to the region faster than initially planned.

This will bring the total troops in Afghanistan to more than 100,000 - a jump of more than 60,000 since Obama took office in January.

They will be there within six months, the official said.

The New York Times describes it as a "more, sooner" policy. The president reached the conclusion after nine meetings of his war council.

In his speech tonight at West Point, Obama will talk about a timeframe for withdrawal. The official said after the nine meetings, "consensus" has emerged among the key players, which "will make it easier to implement."

Before leaving for West Point late this afternoon, Obama will meet with Congressional leaders to discuss the decision.

Demjanjuk trial day canceled due to illness

MUNICH — The trial of John Demjanjuk on Nazi war crimes charges has been abruptly canceled for the day after a doctor said the defendant had become ill and could not come to court.

Presiding Judge Ralph Alt says the doctor ruled that Demjanjuk could not be brought to court for Wednesday's session after he registered a fever that continued to rise even after medication.

The trial is now scheduled to resume Dec. 21.

The retired Ohio autoworker being tried on charges of being an accessory to the murder of 27,900 Jews in the Sobibor camp.

He denies the charges and says he is the victim of mistaken identity.

The 89-year-old Demjanjuk was deported from the United States in May to stand trial in Germany.

Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon convicted of embezzling gift cards

A jury on Tuesday convicted Mayor Sheila Dixon of taking $600 worth of gift cards donated to the needy for her personal use. The verdict throws Baltimore politics into disarray.

After more than six days of deliberation, a jury convicted Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon of embezzlement Tuesday, sending City Hall into confusion and putting the once-bright political future of the city’s first female mayor into jeopardy.

The conviction was on a misdemeanor charge of “fraudulent misappropriation of a fiduciary.” It alleged that the mayor had taken for her personal use more than $600 worth of Target and Best Buy gift cards that had been donated by a prominent local developer for the use of impoverished residents.

The jury, however, acquitted Mayor Dixon of two felony theft charges and another misdemeanor charge. It did not reach a decision on another count of fraudulent misappropriation of a fiduciary.

The verdict throws Baltimore’s political structure into disarray, since it is unclear how long Dixon will be able to stay in office.

Can she stay in office?

According to the Maryland constitution, public office holders are automatically suspended if they are convicted of certain crimes. But the state attorney general has said that Dixon will not be officially “convicted” until she is sentenced – a legal step that might not happen for months, and only if the judge rejects a number of post-trial motions her lawyers have vowed to file.

Even then, legal experts give different opinions about whether her conviction fits one of the criteria for removal: that the offense be related to the office holder’s public duties and responsibilities.

On the one side, lawyers say, the gift cards came through the mayor’s office. But on the other, she could argue that they were not directly related to any of her official duties.

“The distinction might be drawn between embezzling city funds versus embezzling funds from a charity donation kitty that was never part of city funds, and never part of her duties as mayor,” says David Gray, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Law.

Baltimore politics in confusion

For the time being, then, her status is up in the air. The confusion causes particular problems for Baltimore. The city has one of the most legally powerful mayors in the country, and little municipal business goes forward without her guidance and approval.

“The mayor basically holds all the cards,” says Donald Norris, chair of the Department of Public Policy at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. “This really could mean gridlock … and it will probably mean that everybody is going to be walking around on eggshells until this thing is revolved.”

If Dixon is removed from office, the city council president – Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, also an African-American woman with a strong political background – will serve as interim mayor.

At City Hall, council members expressed sadness today, giving praise to the embattled Dixon, who has been under investigation for more than four years. For her part, Dixon insisted in a statement that she would remain focused on “keeping Baltimore on course in these trying economic times.”

“The city will still continue to move forward,” she said on the courthouse steps after the verdict. “This city will continue to run…. We won’t miss a step.”

Asked by a reporter whether Dixon was headed home or to City Hall, the mayor pulled her suit sleeve back to check her watch.

“I’m going to City Hall,” she said.