Bookman: Republicans in Limbaugh’s shadow
January 28, 2009 2:32 p.m. PT
Phil Gingrey, a Republican congressman from Marietta, Ga., stood up for GOP leaders in the House and Senate this week, defending them against harsh criticism from Rush Limbaugh and other conservative commentators.
“I think that our leadership, Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, are taking the right approach,” Gingrey said. “I mean, it’s easy if you’re Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh or even sometimes Newt Gingrich to stand back and throw bricks. You don’t have to try to do what’s best for your people and your party. You know you’re just on these talk shows and you’re living well and plus you stir up a bit of controversy and gin the base and that sort of that thing.”
He’s exactly right, of course. Limbaugh has built a weekly radio audience approaching 15 million “dittoheads.” In commercial terms that’s formidable, and it has earned Limbaugh a literal fortune. It’s an audience that takes great satisfaction in seeing ideological purity enforced and having its resentments validated, and Limbaugh is very talented at both.
However, as Gingrey tried to point out, building a national party capable of winning a majority in Congress and competing for the White House requires a lot more than an audience of 15 million. And the things you do to build loyalty in a radio audience — for example, getting nonconservatives to hate your guts, so your own audience loves you even more — don’t make sense for a mainstream political party.
Limbaugh’s own career suggests the limits to his approach. Every time he has tried to go mainstream, from launching a syndicated TV show in the mid-’90s to his short stint at ESPN as a football analyst, he has failed. Those who like him love him, but they constitute a distinct if devoted minority.
Nonetheless, in the absence of strong Republican leadership, Limbaugh’s presence looms large. He has expressed hope that Barack Obama fails as president and he has insisted that congressional Republicans refuse to compromise with the president, portraying any cooperation as an act of betrayal. And the GOP seems to be following his lead.
Last week, in fact, a frustrated Obama warned Republican leaders that “you can’t just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done,” a statement that Limbaugh quickly seized upon as proof of his own importance.
“He’s obviously more frightened of me than he is Mitch McConnell,” Limbaugh said on his radio show. “He is more frightened of me than he is, of, say, John Boehner, which doesn’t say much about our party. I mean, to tell you the truth folks, if the president is a little more worried about somebody on the radio than he is about somebody on Capitol Hill. …”
Republicans have tried for years to cast the Democrats as a party dominated by George Soros, Moveon.org, filmmaker Michael Moore and others they can paint as extremists. For the most part, they’ve had little success except among their own true believers. That’s in part because Democrats have always rejected such characterizations, and in part because it just wasn’t true. The Democrats aren’t disciplined enough to be controlled by anybody.
The Republicans are a different story. In fact, within a day of trying to create a little space between talk-radio hosts and party leadership, Gingrey was a picture of abject contrition.
Citing “the high volume of phone calls and correspondence,” Gingrey pledged that “on so many of these things, I see eye-to-eye with Rush Limbaugh. Regardless of what yesterday’s headline may have read, I never told Rush to back off.
“Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Newt Gingrich, and other conservative giants are the voices of the conservative movement’s conscience,” he said. “Every day, millions and millions of Americans — myself included — turn on their radios and televisions to listen to what they have to say, and we are inspired by their words and by their determination.”
And in case of any doubt, Gingrey went on air with Limbaugh to express “my very sincere regret for those comments I made yesterday.”
Limbaugh, like a regular Vito Corleone, graciously let Gingrey kiss his ring.
Jay Bookman writes for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
From: http://tinyurl.com/bbbdrr (seattlepi.nwsource.com)
“Number One voice for conservatism” Rush Limbaugh wastes no time leading assault on Obama
With a Democrat back in the White House, Rush Limbaugh has wasted no time in hurling false and baseless attacks against President Obama, echoing his slanders and smears of President Clinton, his family, and his administration during the 1990s.
Limbaugh allowed Cantor to falsely claim on his show that CBO said recovery bill “is not a stimulative bill”
On his radio show, Rush Limbaugh allowed Rep. Eric Cantor to falsely claim of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009: “Even the Congressional Budget Office … says it is not a stimulative bill.” In fact, the CBO stated in its January 26 report: “CBO anticipates that implementation of H.R. 1 would have a noticeable impact on economic growth and employment in the next few years,” while the CBO director said that the bill would “provide massive fiscal stimulus.”
Davos Live Blog: Rosen Sees ‘a Long, Deep Recession’
Wall Street Journal (*requires registration)
January 28, 2009
Each day, we’ll ask Davos participants for their projections on the world economy – how deep the recession will get, how long it will last and where growth eventually comes from.
KEN ROSEN CHAIRS THE FISHER CENTER FOR REAL ESTATE AND URBAN ECONOMICS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, BERKELEY. He speaks on a Davos panel Thursday called “Can the World Live with the Frugal American?”
How deep? “I wouldn’t expect a quick recovery. It’ll be a long, deep recession. Government policy can maybe help the bottoming of the process….
How long? “In 2009, hopefully we can stop the slide….
What gets us out? “It has to be a consumer-led recovery. The consumer is two-thirds of the [US] economy. The government can’t take the place of the consumer for very long. The consumer has to spend at least something extra. Otherwise, we don’t get growth.”
Jobless rates up in every state
By Christine Vestal, Stateline.org Staff Writer
While some states fared better than others, December was a cruel month for many workers nationwide, and economists predict job losses will continue for the rest of this year.
Find your state’s unemployment rate and compare jobless rates across the nation over time in a new interactive map on Stateline.org’s Economy and Business page.
Read More http://tinyurl.com/b557zm (www.stateline.org)
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula: Desperation or New Life?
January 28, 2009
By Fred Burton and Scott Stewart
The Devolution of Al Qaeda
The media wing of one of al Qaeda’s Yemeni franchises, al Qaeda in Yemen, released a statement on online jihadist forums Jan. 20 from the group’s leader Nasir al-Wuhayshi, announcing the formation of a single al Qaeda group for the Arabian Peninsula under his command. According to al-Wuhayshi, the new group, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, would consist of his former group (al Qaeda in Yemen) as well as members of the now-defunct Saudi al Qaeda franchise.
The press release noted that the Saudi militants have pledged allegiance to al-Wuhayshi, an indication that the reorganization was not a merger of equals. This is understandable, given that the jihadists in Yemen have been active recently while their Saudi counterparts have not conducted a meaningful attack in years. The announcement also related that a Saudi national (and former Guantanamo detainee) identified as Abu-Sayyaf al-Shihri has been appointed as al-Wuhayshi’s deputy. In some ways, this is similar to the way Ayman al-Zawahiri and his faction of Egyptian Islamic Jihad swore allegiance to Osama bin Laden and were integrated in to al Qaeda prime.
While not specifically mentioned, the announcement of a single al Qaeda entity for the entire Arabian Peninsula and the unanimous support by jihadist militants on the Arabian Peninsula for al-Wuhayshi suggests the new organization will incorporate elements of the other al Qaeda franchise in Yemen, the Yemen Soldiers Brigade.
The announcement also provided links to downloadable versions of the latest issue of the group’s online magazine, Sada al-Malahim, (Arabic for “The Echo of Battle”). The Web page links provided to download the magazine also featured trailers advertising the pending release of a new video from the group, now referred to by its new name, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
The translated name of this new organization sounds very similar to the old Saudi al Qaeda franchise, the al Qaeda Organization in the Arabian Peninsula (in Arabic, “Tandheem al Qaeda fi Jazeerat al-Arabiyah”). But the new group’s new Arabic name, Tanzim Qa’idat al-Jihad fi Jazirat al-Arab, is slightly different. The addition of “al-Jihad” seems to have been influenced by the Iraqi al Qaeda franchise, Tanzim Qaidat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn. The flag of the Islamic State of Iraq also appears in the Jan. 24 video, further illustrating the deep ties between the newly announced organization and al Qaeda in Iraq. Indeed, a number of Yemeni militants traveled to Iraq to fight, and these returning al Qaeda veterans have played a large part in the increased sophistication of militant attacks in Yemen over the past year.
Four days after the Jan. 20 announcement, links for a 19-minute video from the new group titled “We Start from Here and We Will Meet at al-Aqsa” began to appear in jihadist corners of cyberspace. Al-Aqsa refers to the al-Aqsa Mosque on what Jews know as Temple Mount and Muslims refer to as Al Haram Al Sharif. The video threatens Muslim leaders in the region (whom it refers to as criminal tyrants), including Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, the Saudi royal family, and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. It also threatens so-called “crusader forces” supporting the regional Muslim leaders, and promises to carry the jihad from the Arabian Peninsula to Israel so as to liberate Muslim holy sites and brethren in Gaza.
An interview with al-Wuhayshi aired Jan. 27 on Al Jazeera echoed these sentiments. During the interview, al-Wuhayshi noted that the “crusades” against “Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia” have been launched from bases in the Arabian Peninsula, and that because of this, “all crusader interests” in the peninsula “should be struck.”
A Different Take on Events
Most of the analysis in Western media regarding the preceding developments has focused on how two former detainees at the U.S. facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, appear in the Jan. 24 video — one of whom was al-Shihri — and that both were graduates of Saudi Arabia’s ideological rehabilitation program, a government deprogramming course for jihadists. In addition to al-Shihri who, according to the video was Guantanamo detainee 372, the video also contains a statement from Abu-al-Harith Muhammad al-Awfi. Al-Awfi, who was identified as a field commander in the video, was allegedly former Guantanamo detainee 333. Prisoner lists from Guantanamo obtained by Stratfor appear to confirm that al-Shihri was in fact Guantanamo detainee No. 372. We did not find al-Awfi’s name on the list, however, another name appears as detainee No. 333. Given the proclivity of jihadists to use fraudulent identities, it is entirely possible that al-Awfi is an alias, or that he was held at Guantanamo under an assumed name. At any rate, we doubt al-Awfi would fabricate this claim and then broadcast it in such a public manner.
The media focus on the Guantanamo aspect is understandable in the wake of U.S. President Barack Obama’s Jan. 22 executive order to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and all the complexities surrounding that decision. Clearly, some men released from Guantanamo, and even those graduated from the Saudi government’s rehabilitation program, can and have returned to the jihadist fold. Ideology is hard to extinguish, especially an ideology that teaches adherents that there is a war against Islam and that the “true believers” will be persecuted for their beliefs. Al Qaeda has even taken this one step further and has worked to prepare its members not only to face death, but also to endure imprisonment and harsh interrogation. A substantial number of al Qaeda cadres, such as al-Zawahiri and Abu Yahya al-Lib i, have endured both, and have been instrumental in helping members withstand captivity and interrogation.
This physical and ideological preparation means that efforts to induce captured militants to abandon their ideology can wind up reinforcing that ideology when those efforts appear to prove important tenets of the ideology, such as that adherents will be persecuted and that the Muslim rulers are aligned with the West. It is also important to realize that radical Islamist extremists, ultraconservatives and traditionalists tend to have a far better grasp of Islamic religious texts than their moderate, liberal and modernist counterparts. Hence, they have an edge over them on the ideological battlefield. Those opposing radicals and extremists have a long way to go before they can produce a coherent legitimate, authoritative and authentic alternative Islamic discourse.
In any event, in practical terms there is no system of “re-education” that is 100 percent effective in eradicating an ideology in humans except execution. There will always be people who will figure out how to game the system and regurgitate whatever is necessary to placate their jailers so as to win release. Because of this, it is not surprising to see people like al-Shihri and al-Awfi released only to re-emerge in their former molds.
Another remarkable feature of the Jan. 27 video is that it showcased four different leaders of the regional group, something rarely seen. In addition to al-Wuhayshi, al-Shihri and al-Awfi, the video also included a statement from Qasim al-Rami, who is suspected of having been involved with the operational planning of the suicide attack on a group of Spanish tourists in Marib, Yemen, in July 2007.
In our estimation, however, perhaps the most remarkable feature about these recent statements from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is not the appearance of these two former Guantanamo detainees in the video, or the appearance of four distinct leaders of the group in a single video, but rather what the statements tell us about the state of the al Qaeda franchises in Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
That the remnants of the Saudi al Qaeda franchise have been forced to flee their country and join up with the Yemeni group demonstrates that the Saudi government’s campaign to eradicate the jihadist organization has been very successful. The Saudi franchise was very active in 2003 and 2004, but has not attempted a significant attack since the February 2006 attack against the oil facility in Abqaiq. In spite of the large number of Saudi fighters who have traveled to militant training camps, and to fight in places such as Iraq, the Saudi franchise has had significant problems organizing operational cells inside the kingdom. Additionally, since the death of Abdel Aziz al-Muqrin, the Saudi franchise has struggled to find a charismatic and savvy leader. (The Saudis have killed several leaders who succeeded al-Muqrin.) In a militant organization conducting an insurgency or terrorist operations, leadership is critical not only to the operational success of the group but also to its ability to recruit new members, raise funding and acquire resources such as weapons.
Like the Saudi node, the fortunes of other al Qaeda regional franchises have risen or fallen based upon ability of the franchise’s leadership. For example, in August 2006 al Qaeda announced with great fanfare that the Egyptian militant group Gamaah al-Islamiyah (GAI) had joined forces with al Qaeda. Likewise, in November 2007 al Qaeda announced that the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) had formally joined the al Qaeda network. But neither of these groups really ever got off the ground. While a large portion of the responsibility for the groups’ lack of success may be due to the oppressive natures of the Egyptian and Libyan governments and the aggressive efforts those governments undertook to control the new al Qaeda franchise s, we believe the lack of success also stems from poor leadership. (There are certainly other significant factors contributing to the failure of al Qaeda nodes in various places, such as the alienation of the local population.)
Conversely, we believe that an important reason for the resurgence of the al Qaeda franchise in Yemen has been the leadership of al-Wuhayshi. As we have noted in the past, Yemen is a much easier environment for militants to operate in than either Egypt or Libya. There are many Salafists employed in the Yemeni security and intelligence apparatus who at the very least are sympathetic to the jihadist cause. These men are holdovers from the Yemeni civil war, when Saleh formed an alliance with Salafists and recruited jihadists to fight Marxist forces in South Yemen. This alliance continues today, with Saleh deriving significant political support from radical Islamists. Many of the state’s key institutions (including the military) employ Salafists, making any major crackdown on militant Islamists in the country politically difficult. This sen timent among the security forces also helps explain the many jihadists who have escaped from Yemeni prisons — such as al-Wuhayshi.
Yemen has also long been at the crossroads of a number of jihadist theaters, including Afghanistan/Pakistan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, the Levant, Egypt and Somalia. Yemen also is a country with a thriving arms market, a desert warrior tradition and a tribal culture that often bridles against government authority and that makes it difficult for the government to assert control over large swaths of the country. Yemeni tribesmen also tend to be religiously conservative and susceptible to the influence of jihadist theology.
In spite of this favorable environment, the Yemeni al Qaeda franchise has largely floundered since 9/11. Much of this is due to U.S. and Yemeni efforts to decapitate the group, such as the strike by a U.S. unmanned aerial vehicle on then-leader of al Qaeda in Yemen, Abu Ali al-Harithi, in late 2002 and the subsequent arrest of his replacement, Mohammed Hamdi al-Ahdal, in late 2003. The combination of these operations in such a short period helped cripple al Qaeda in Yemen’s operational capability.
As Stratfor noted in spring 2008, however, al Qaeda militants in Yemen have become more active and more effective under the leadership of al-Wuhayshi, an ethnic Yemeni who spent time in Afghanistan as a lieutenant under bin Laden. After his time with bin Laden, Iranian authorities arrested al-Wuhayshi, later returning him to Yemen in 2003 via an Iranian-Yemeni extradition deal. He subsequently escaped from a high-security prison outside the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, in February 2006 along with Jamal al-Badawi (the leader of the cell that carried out the suicide bombing of the USS Cole).
Al-Wuhayshi’s established ties with al Qaeda prime and bin Laden in particular not only provide him legitimacy in the eyes of other jihadists, in more practical terms, they may have provided him the opportunity to learn the tradecraft necessary to successfully lead a militant group and conduct operations. His close ties to influential veterans of al Qaeda in Yemen like al-Badawi also may have helped him infuse new energy into the struggle in Yemen in 2008.
While the group had been on a rising trajectory in 2008, things had been eerily quiet in Yemen since the Sept. 17, 2008, attack against the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa and the resulting campaign against the group. The recent flurry of statements has broken the quiet, followed by a Warden Message on Jan. 26 warning of a possible threat against the compound of the U.S. Embassy in Yemen and a firefight at a security checkpoint near the embassy hours later.
At this point, it appears the shooting incident may not be related to the threat warning and may instead have been the result of jumpy nerves. Reports suggest the police may have fired at a speeding car before the occupants, who were armed tribesmen, fired back. Although there have been efforts to crack down on the carrying of weapons in Sanaa, virtually every Yemeni male owns an AK-variant assault rifle of some sort; like the ceremonial jambiya dagger, such a rifle is considered a must-have accessory in most parts of the country. Not surprisingly, incidents involving gunfire are not uncommon in Yemen.
Either way, we will continue to keep a close eye on Yemen and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. As we have seen in the past, press statements are not necessarily indicative of future jihadist performance. It will be important to watch developments in Yemen for signs that will help determine whether this recent merger and announcement is a sign of desperation by a declining group, or whether the addition of fresh blood from Saudi Arabia will help breathe new life into al-Wuhayshi’s operations and provide his group the means to make good on its threats.
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The Serpent in Our Garden: Al-Qa’ida and the Long War.
Authored by Colonel Brian M. Drinkwine.
The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 (9/11) caused Americans to realize that our sense of invincibility had been shattered. This paper will identify al-Qa’ida and Salafi-Jihadists as our enemy and will recommend new approaches to fighting terrorism. Colonel Brian Drinkwine will explore al-Qa’ida’s organization, leaders, doctrine, and their radical ideologies. It is argued that the war we must fight is one against Islamist transnational actors who openly engage in terrorism or support terrorism. It will highlight that our current national and military strategies to combat terrorism are inadequate to take on an ideologically emboldened transnational foe. It is emphasized that we must refocus our efforts and prepare to fight a war of several generations (long war), and several initiatives will be recommended to include development of a cogent grand national strategy. These recommendations are intended to assist future planners in the development of a grand national strategy and an integrated long war campaign plan aimed directly at al-Qa’ida, the al-Qa’ida Associated Movement, and Islamist terrorists and executed through the application of diplomatic, informational, military, and economic instruments of national power by an unified interagency effort in coordination with our multinational partners, international governmental and nongovernmental organizations, and regional security organizations.
Iraq Oil Report – ‘Iraq oil exports in December highest in five months’ … and more
*Iraq reduces 2009 as oil price slides
*Iran not involved with Majnoon development
*Dora expansion is ready, Shahristani says Iraq to meet domestic fuel demand this year
*Elections coming up
*Alive in Baghdad: Pastry Shops Thriving in Iraq
Iraq’s oil exports in December were the highest since July as northern exports carried the weight of a drop in the [...]
You may view the latest post at
Iraq Oil Report – ‘Former SCOP official laments ‘golden era’ for Iraq oil, optimistic for future’
*Oil terminal moving from U.S. to Iraqi security
*Finance Ministry orders oil report from Oil Ministry, issuing $5B in bonds, courting international banks
*World Bank: 44 percent of Iraqis make less than $85/month
*Battle Against Brutality: women in Iraq
*Alive in Baghdad: Fake Pharmacies Plague Iraq
*New SIGIR reports
*Iraq Press Roundup
“The 1970s was a golden era for Iraq’s [...]
You may view the latest post at
EIA, the Nation’s clearinghouse for energy statistics – Energy in Brief — Who are the major players supplying the world oil market?
Thursday, January 29, 2009
ENERGY IN BRIEF
January 29, 2009
Who are the major players supplying the world oil market?
Governments of oil-rich countries have a major influence on the world supply of oil through ownership of national oil companies and, for some governments, their membership in OPEC…
Read the entire article:
Borowitz Report – Starbucks Cost-cutting Shocker
January 28, 2009
Starbucks Eliminates Coffee, Cups, Stir-thingies
Latest Cost-cutting Measures
In its latest cost-cutting moves designed to improve its bottom line, Starbucks announced today that it would no longer offer coffee, cups, or stir-thingies beginning February 1.
In an official statement, company spokesman Carol Foyler said that Starbucks “wrestled long and hard” with the decision to eliminate the three items, “especially coffee.”
“We are aware that many of our customers have come to Starbucks in the past looking for a cup of coffee,” Ms. Foyler said. “We hope, however, that they will continue to come even though we no longer offer coffee or cups, for that matter.”
She said that she did not think that Starbucks customers would be disappointed by the absence of stir-thingies, adding, “Since we’re also eliminating sugar, Equal, and half-and-half, there’s really nothing to stir.”
When asked what Starbucks hoped would attract customers to their stores in the future, Ms. Foyler said, “We hope customers will see our stores as a place for the unemployed and/or homeless to come out of the cold and warm themselves over a scalding hot cup of water, as long as they bring the cup.”
Elsewhere, House Minority Leader John Boehner explained House Republicans’ opposition to President Obama’s economic stimulus package: “We’re ginormous assholes.”
April 30, 2009 at 8:00PM
Andy’s Only Scheduled NY Show!
Andy reviews Obama’s first 100 days with special guests Hendrik Hertzberg (The New Yorker), Jonathan Alter (Newsweek, MSNBC) and comedian Judy Gold
The 92nd Street Y, Lexington and 92nd Street
For tickets go to 92y.org
three thousand words
Nate Beller: 0% — Act Now !
Tom Toles: … now what??