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Hmmm? Where would Chuck Schumer come down on the withdrawal of Chas Freeman? In the shy and retiring style which Brooklynites and all New Yorkers know so well, the Senior Senator declared:

Charles Freeman was the wrong guy for this position. His statements against Israel were way over the top and severely out of step with the administration. I repeatedly urged the White House to reject him, and I am glad they did the right thing.

I will confess to being a total agnostic on Freeman's appointment to the National Intelligence Council. My friend James Fallows made a good case for him as did my boss, Josh Marshall. My former New Republic colleague and friend, Jonathan Chait, made the case against him here. All are pretty thoughtful looks at the guy, unlike Schumer's I-told-you-so.

President Obama's science adviser and NOAA nominee aren't the only ones getting held up by mysterious Senate Republican concerns.

As Bloomberg reported on Friday, two nominees to join Obama's Council of Economic Advisers -- Austan Goolsbee and Cecilia Rouse -- have also stalled amid anonymous GOP objections.

But that delay could come to an end as soon as this week, according to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). He told reporters today that "we're going to have a discussion of the nominees" and "they probably will be confirmed later this week."

In his Times opinion column this morning, David Brooks urged Republicans to adopt a singular focus on the financial crisis as a way of countering President Obama's agenda. As Brooks wrote:

Republicans could admit that they don't know what the future holds, and they're not going to try to make long-range plans based on assumptions that will be obsolete by summer. Unlike the Democrats, they're not for making trillions of dollars in long-term spending commitments until they know where things stand.


Do I expect them to shift course in this manner? Not really.

But Brooks appears to have underestimated his own influence. Senior Republicans came out in force today to contend that the financial crisis was getting short shrift from the White House, expanding on the "Obama is distracted" meme that Matt has blogged about this week to accuse the president of not tackling the economy as intensely as he should.

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) relayed the new message loud and clear, as The Hill reports:

Following the GOP's weekly conference meeting, the second-ranking House Republican told reporters that President Obama should be focusing on the "economic crisis," as opposed to holding four-hour meetings on healthcare, as the president did last week. The efforts may be laudable, Cantor said, but the White House should be devoting all resources to fixing the economy and not to "impose these cap-and-trade schemes."

And Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-AZ) echoed the assertion that Obama's team needs to do more intense work on the economy. "I wish Secretary Geithner and the president would actually begin to solve the problem that's Number One, the credit crisis," he told me today, urging the president to "attend to the problems of the most importance to our country first."

The GOP also seems to be moving forward on Brooks' other recommendation this morning: the introduction of a coherent conservative alternative to the Obama administration's financial policies. Ideas under consideration include a tax credit to homebuyers who make a 5% down payment, tax benefits for those who sell investment properties ... and likely more breaks in the tax code.

We told you earlier today about Allen Stanford's lobbying to get some businesses taxed at the US Virgin Islands rate rather than the US rate. And about how Stanford had lately been in the process of moving his Caribbean headquarters to St. Croix, in the Virgin Islands.

Well, one Virgin Islands paper, the St. Thomas Source, has some more interesting details on those subjects...

The paper reports that, in a speech at a 2007 economic summit in St. Croix, Stanford made his pitch for more favorable tax laws that he said would spur more investment. He sought changes that would have allowed money from companies headquartered in the Virgin Islands (like his own) to flow into the US virtually tax free.

Stanford presented this change as a boon to the whole region:

"If that were to happen, the Caribbean Basin as a whole, and the Virgin Islands in particular, would see serious investment begin to flow in almost overnight."

Stanford even said he brought up the idea to US Treasury Department officials, and hoped to have "draft legislation" ready to present by mid October.

He repeated the pitch at a ceremony to break ground on his new planned Caribbean headquarters in the V.I.

"The law must include all Caribbean-created revenues, as long as the company is headquartered in the Virgin Islands," he told the crowd, which contained local dignitaries and lawmakers.

There is no record of any such legislation being introduced since at least 2005, says the paper.

The Great Siberian War Of 2030

The Revival Of Chinese Nationalism: Challenges To American Ideals

The Future Of Undersea Warfare

Chinese And Russian Asymmetrical Strategies For Space Dominance (2010-2030)
--Index of Office of Net Assessment studies

A tiny office in the Pentagon employs a handful of military officers, teamed up with outside contractors, to study the future.

An index of reports produced by the Office of Net Assessment over the past 20 years, obtained by TPMmuckraker through the Freedom of Information Act, provides a window into the thinking and concerns at the highest levels of the Defense Department.

The jargony official description of the office -- often called the Pentagon's internal think tank -- refers to comparing U.S. "military capabilities" to those of other countries and identifying "emerging or future threats or opportunities for the United States." And, indeed, many of the ONA studies' titles reflect the abstruse interests of military academics (one effort is called Non-Standard Models Of The Diffusion Of Military Technologies: An Alternative View). Others, though, are downright Strangelovian: Fighting A Nuclear-Armed Regional Opponent: Is Victory Possible? [December 2007]; After Next Nuclear Use [July 2002].

The range of subjects includes energy: Future Asian-Pacific Hydrocarbon Demand (1996-2015) [December 1997]; weapons: Role Of High Power Microwave Weapons In Future Intercontinental Conventional War [July 2007]; and Islam: Occultation In Perpertuum: Shi'ite Eschatology And The Iranian Nuclear Crisis [May 2007].

There's the geopolitical: Preventing Large Scale State Failure [April 2008]; the historical: Normandy Retrospective [November 1996], The End of Religiously Motivated Warfare: Lessons From The Puritans And Beyond [June 2007]; and the postmodern: Information As Advertisement And Advertisement As Information [July 2008].

Some of the studies are more inscrutable: The Changing Images Of Human Nature [April 1995], Biometaphor For The Body Politic [March 2006].

The office specializes in looking at issues "20 to 30 years in the future," according to Jan van Tol, who served at ONA before becoming a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

Van Tol says ONA has no more than 15 staffers. Most of the work is done by outside contractors. Despite its size, the influence of the office has been vast since its creation in 1973 by Andrew Marshall, the guru-like figure who still leads ONA. Fred Kaplan, in his book Daydream Believers, profiles Marshall, the so-called "Yoda" of the Pentagon. Kaplan explains the key to Marshall's longevity (he has kept his job longer than anyone at a policy level in Washington) -- and his influence:

"he built a far-flung network of acolytes and loyalists: officers whose unconventional projects he had encouraged and helped to fund; analysts whose work he had sponsored and whose ideas he had helped form; and high-ranking officials, as well as committee chairmen on Capitol Hill, who simply valued having a man of ideas so high up in the Pentagon."

The office reports to the Secretary of Defense, but "its informal channels are probably more important than what you'd find on an organizational chart" says Paul Bracken, professor of management and political science at Yale, who has written at length on net assessment.

"I think it is a powerful influence not just on the building, but on the country. Because there are so few organizations taking fresh looks at problems and not just looking at the fad of the moment," Bracken says.

ONA is perhaps best known for its Cold War work evaluating the strength of the Soviet Union relative to the United States. (The lingering Soviet focus is evident in the index of studies, for example a July 1991 report titled Could The Soviet Threat Go Away?). More recently Marshall was intimately involved in Donald Rumsfeld's project of "military transformation."

One of the preoccupations of the office is American dominance. As I've previously reported, the office earlier this decade ordered a monograph, the length of a short book, that examined ancient empires to glean lessons for the U.S. Two studies in the index are titled simply Preserving American Primacy [January 2006] and Preserving U.S. Military Superiority [August 2001].

In the past decade-plus, ONA has turned its sights to Asia, focusing obsessively on China as the next Soviet-style rival power to the United States. In some of the China work, the apprehension of American military planners is palpable. One March 2006 study is called Rising China Redux: Imperial Memories In A Modern Milieu; a 2005 report addresses The Chinese Penchant For Surprise. Another from 1997 is on Chinese Defense Equipment Modernization to the Year 2020.

The index, while extensive, is not comprehensive. Several studies with classified titles were withheld. The studies' authors are generally listed as individual academics or outside contractors like the Hudson Institute, a Washington think tank, government consulting giant Booz Allen Hamilton, or lesser-known firms like Scitor Corporation and IHS International.

Some more highlights from the index, which you can read in full here, after the jump:

Read More →

The Franken campaign will be provisionally resting their case tomorrow, lead attorney Marc Elias announced at his post-court press conference today.

A few tasks will remain in sorting evidence -- for example, the Coleman camp is ready to introduce a spreadsheet of rejected ballots that it's pulling for, though Elias doubted this would cause his side to delay resting. It's also possible that they may delay resting if severe weather prevents some witnesses from coming in tomorrow, or if Team Coleman lodges further objections, but again Elias didn't think these were likely.

"So far we've had 73 witnesses -- 62 of them were voters," Elias said. "That's actually more witnesses in our case than they they had in their case, though their witnesses testified for a longer time."

Just a week ago, Elias said their case would take two to three weeks -- but instead, they've only gone for one week. After this, the Coleman campaign will get to wage a rebuttal to the Franken case (Coleman legal spokesman Ben Ginsberg said this would be "not terribly lengthy") and the Franken side will get to make a rebuttal to the rebuttal, followed by closing arguments.

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Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner spent two hours behind closed doors last night with House Democrats. He told lawmakers that the economic crunch would get worse before it gets better, either later this year or early next year, while vowing action on small business lending.

What Geithner didn't mention -- but what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi acknowledged today after a forum with several leading economists -- is that more taxpayer money is likely to be needed to shore up foundering banks.

After economist Mark Zandi of told reporters that "another stimulus package is a reasonable probability, given the way things are going" and that "more money for financial stability to shore up the banking system is likely," Pelosi said she agreed with his statement.

But can Democrats find the votes to push through another round of capital for the banks, should the Obama administration ask for one? House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-MA) said on Thursday that "it's not clear that the political support would be there to" approve another infusion aimed at loosening stalled credit markets, although several Democratic senators said today that they were giving Geithner the benefit of the doubt as he works to handle the conflagrations in the housing markets, credit markets, and bank balance sheets.

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Another day, another guilty plea in the Abramoff saga.

This time it's Ann Copland, the former longtime aide to Mississippi GOP senator Thad Cochran, who was indicted recently on charges that she accepted gifts from Team Abramoff including tickets for concerts and sports events. In exchange, Copland used her position to help Abramoff's clients, the Mississippi Choctaw Indians.

The plea was announced in a Department of Justice press release.

Todd Boulanger, the Abramoff crony who has already pleaded guilty in connection with the wide-ranging scam, once sent an email to Abramoff arguing that Copland should be kept happy because, ''she's more valuable to us than a rank-and-file House member.''

Emails suggest Copland was particularly demanding in seeking favors from Abramoff's crew.

Copland worked for Cochran for 29 years, before abruptly quitting last spring, as her name began to surface in connection with Abramoff.

Today's plea deal, which presumably involves a pledge to cooperate with the ongoing prove, will likely increase speculation that Cochran, who has not been charged with anything, could be in prosecutors' crosshairs.

Those steamy texts, exchanged by former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and his girlfriend Christine Beatty, have been released, as prosecutors develop possible perjury cases against the two.

You can pore over them here.

And since there are 6000 of them ... if you want to help us out, tell us about the most interesting ones in comments, or by emailing the talk address.

Happy hunting!