Thursday, July 20, 2006

Election year grumbling

This is supposed to be a good year for Democrats. By every measure, the signs are pointing toward big Democratic gains in the mid-term elections. President Bush’s approval rating has been stuck in the mid-30s for a couple of months now, the war in Iraq is every bit the quagmire that Democrats warned it would be, gasoline prices are edging toward $4 a gallon and the domestic economy, while not currently in recession, is nothing to write home about.
And yet I’m still in a particularly pessimistic mood about Democratic prospects this year. Maybe it is because I’m living in a Red State where the Democratic candidate for governor is in serious danger of coming in fourth behind Kinky Friedman. Or maybe it’s because I see all the big time liberal bloggers out there right now obsessing over defeating a Democrat - Joe Lieberman - who should he lose his primary race will probably turn around and run as an Independent - and win.
If I had to make a prediction right now, I would say that Democrats will probably fall short of taking either the House or the Senate. I don’t doubt that they will pick up seats this year, but probably not enough to wrest control away from the Republican yahoos who have been screwing things up so royally. I hope that I am wrong, but I would have to bet that the Republican’s advantages of incumbency and corporate financing will continue to prop them up.

From very bad to worse

More than 100 people a day are dying violent deaths in Iraq, according to the U.N.

An average of more than 100 civilians per day were killed in Iraq last month, the highest monthly tally of violent deaths since the fall of Baghdad, the United Nations reported today. The death toll, drawn from Iraqi government agencies, was the most precise measurement of civilian deaths provided by any government organization since the invasion and represented a dramatic increase over daily media reports. United Nations officials also said that the number of violent deaths had been steadily increasing since at least last summer. In the first six months of this year, the civilian death toll jumped more than 77 percent, from 1,778 in January to 3,149 in June, the organization said.

The news is so bad that it is finally forcing some Republican lawmakers to actually face reality!

Faced with almost daily reports of sectarian carnage in Iraq, congressional Republicans are shifting their message on the war from speaking optimistically of progress to acknowledging the difficulty of the mission and pointing up mistakes in planning and execution.

"It's like after Katrina, when the secretary of homeland security was saying all those people weren't really stranded when we were all watching it on TV," said Rep. Patrick T. McHenry (R-N.C.). "I still hear about that. We can't look like we won't face reality."

The shift is subtle, but Republican lawmakers acknowledge that it is no longer tenable to say the news media are ignoring the good news in Iraq and painting an unfair picture of the war.

Oh, my! It is no longer tenable to just blame the media??? I know a few conservative bloggers who will be most unhappy to hear that news.

Some Republican lawmakers are even beginning to sound like Sen. John Kerry or Rep. John Murtha!

Rep. Gil Gutknecht (R-Minn.), once a strong supporter of the war, returned from Iraq this week declaring that conditions in Baghdad were far worse "than we'd been led to believe" and urging that troop withdrawals begin immediately.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Prepared to spin

Here is an interesting addendum to the blustering last week about the supposed treason by media outlets reporting on the Treasury Department’s program that tracks terrorist financial activities:

That Times Leak Was No Surprise
Before you jump in with those heaping scorn on the New York Times for using a leak to reveal the secret Treasury program to search financial transactions for terrorist activities, know this: The Treasury Department expected it to leak. When the program was developed in 2003, a press plan was included. The goal: Get out front with the spin that there are safeguards to prevent snooping on private accounts, that it is legal, and that there are big benefits to it. "These three elements needed to be in the first-day story," says an insider. The plan worked. When the Times told Treasury it was running the story, top Treasury aides were OK'd to talk to the Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and Los Angeles Times, which presented the three points. "It was a textbook case of very good PR management," says the insider.

So not only did the administration not try and keep the story from being published by refusing to cooperate with the media, they had a plan all ready on how they would spin the story once it leaked out - which they assumed would happen all along.

Radical Right

Just got “Conservatives Without Conscience” by John Dean for my birthday. Dean, legal counsel to Richard Nixon, makes the same point I’ve been making for sometime - today’s so called “conservatives” are not conservative at all. They are radicals.

Dean summarizes the book in this Boston Globe op-ed piece:

Contemporary conservatism and its influence on the Republican Party was, until recently, a mystery to me. The practitioners' bludgeoning style of politics, their self-serving manipulation of the political processes, and their policies that focus narrowly on perceived self-interest -- none of this struck me as based on anything related to traditional conservatism. Rather, truth be told, today's so-called conservatives are quite radical....
I can find nothing conservative about the Bush/Cheney White House, which has created a Nixon ``imperial presidency" on steroids, while acting as if being tutored by the best and brightest of the Cosa Nostra.

I’ve just started reading the book and the opening chapter talks about how conservatives today are not even sure how to define conservatism. But even though people are not sure how to define it, they have a good reaction to the term and more people are willing to embrace that label than the villified term “liberal.”
I’ve noted many times how I tend to be “conservative” in my personal habits, but “liberal” in how I treat other people. How you treat other people is the key, in my opinion. I can forgive people for their own personal foibles, but I have a hard time when they are in turn intolerant of the foibles of others.
If being conservative means being prudent and efficient with government resources, then I am all for it. But if it means spending billions on military misadventures overseas while being tightfisted with spending here in our own country, then I have a big problem with it.
It grates me the way many conservatives today hyperventilate about patriotism and go on and on about how much they love their country, when in truth the only thing they really love is the symbolism (like the flag) while actually despising most of the people and the institutions that make up the country.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Is Bush losing it?

Or is this just how he normally expresses himself when not reading from a prepared text?

One of those pesky open microphones caught President Bush in a foul-mouthed tirade against Hezbollah the other day.

"See the irony is that what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this s--- and it's over," Bush told British Prime Minister Tony Blair during the closing lunch at the Group of Eight summit.

Generally, it is a sign of a poor intellect when someone has to routinely resort to using swear words in their conversations. It means they don’t have a proper command of the language to adequately express themselves and so they fall back on these common words that are considered offensive in polite society. It is sad, really, to know that this is how our President talks to foreign leaders when he is not being scripted by his handlers.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Middle East mess

Civilian casualties in Lebanon are up to 86, including 16 children just today. And the Israelis don't seem to have any intention of letting up anytime soon. President Bush isn't even bothering to suggest that they use restraint on civilians anymore.
In fact, most conservatives act like this is great news. Why is that? Never mind that the escalation has caused the Dow Jones average to plummet, wiping out all of the gains for the entire year, and as oil prices surge towards $80 a barrel we could soon find ourselves paying $4 a gallon for gasoline.

But none of this phases most conservatives - not the civilian deaths nor the economic carnage back here in Bushland. I think Kevin Drum comes closest to explaining the conservative response:

"...most conservatives simply take the uncomplicated stance that Palestinians are terrorists and that Israel should always respond to provocation in the maximal possible way. The fact that this hasn't worked very well in the past doesn't deter them."

And apparently all Lebanese and all Syrians are terrorists, too. Not to mention all Iranians, most Iraqis and just about anyone of Arabic descent. Therefore, civilian deaths in those countries do not matter and they don't merit human treatment when captured by our side either.

It is a sad situation over in the Middle East right now. The folks who touted the Iraq war as some kind of boon to Democracy across the region have a lot of explaining to do right now. Instead of a domino effect of democratization springing up everywhere, we have increased militancy by terrorist groups that are threatening to overthrow the more moderate governments in those countries, not unlike the way Hamas did in Palestine.