Hug the truth for dear life

September 8th, 2007 by Steve

Brace yourselves, my children, for we’re about to enter into the worst spin fest possible — one built on the bodies of our troops and innocent civilians in Iraq.  All hail the mighty surge!  There’s no longer any doubt what we’ll be hearing from Petraeus the Great: the surge, he’ll tell us, while only a modest and uneven success, has, nevertheless, been producing more than enough progress to warrant soldiering on.

Much of the media, in some cases on cue, will then swoon.  Meanwhile, GOP politicians and pundits — feeling liberated after years of bad news out of Iraq — will go on a “we’re kicking ass” frenzy.  And, yes, far too many Democrats will meekly look at General Petraeus’s medals and dissolve into a puddle of Velveeta.

It will all be a fucking lie, of course — one that’s been carefully choreographed through months of meticulously staged congressional junkets to the Green Zone and related media events.  Sadly, in the real world, things will continue to degenerate.  Eventually the blowback from our strategy of snuggling up to the same Sunni insurgents who’ve been killing our troops (the only thing that’s actually produced some results) will hit us with the force of a tornado.  Bottom line: we’ve been trying to play both ends against the middle in a cultural swamp where we don’t know our ass from a hole in the ground.  It will end badly.

But for now, with all eyes on Petraeus, it’s the time to hear the squawks of the hawks.  And, frankly, it’s going to be a painful spectacle to watch.

So hug the truth for dear life.  No matter what, don’t let go — because only an absolute and unflinching commitment to truth, as ugly as it may be, will ever offer us hope of ending this national nightmare. 

Note from Steve: This will be my parting post (at least for the most part) for about four days: I’m currently one hundred percent engrossed in a professional obligation, the disclosure of which would require me to go out of character in my role at the cafe.  So I’m keeping it to myself.  In any case, my engrossment should end sometime Thursday and then I’ll be back to regular blogging.  I may check in again once or twice in the meanwhile, but no promises.)

Question of the day: When do you think the war will finally end for America?

September 6th, 2007 by Steve

I wish I was more optimistic about this, but the three most likely “best case” scenarios I see for the “early” withdrawal of our troops are as follows: 

First, Bush bombs Iran, causing our troops to come under such ferocious attacks from both Iran itself and outraged Iraqi Shiites that staying in Iraq becomes untenable.  Unfortunately, our troops don’t get to come home, since other wars pop up around the region due to the destabilizing effect of the attack on Iran.

Second, congressional Republicans panic as the election draws near, withdrawing their support for the war in mass.  Bush refuses to back down, but an antiwar consensus forms that paves the way for a decision to withdraw being reached shortly after the election in November of 2008: our troops are gradually drawn down over the course of the following year.

Third, congressional Republicans (and GOP presidential candidates) stand strong for the war all the way to Election Day: the general public slaughters pro-war candidates of both parties, with by far the biggest blow falling on the GOP.  This causes Beltway insiders to finally come to terms with the fact that continuation of the war isn’t politically feasible: our troops are gradually drawn down over the course of the following year.

Best-case scenario overall: our troops are out of Iraq by November 2009.

Worst-case scenario overall: in 10 years I drive my son (currently 8-years-old) to Canada to keep him from being drafted and sent to Iraq.

So what do you think?

Justice-2009: Because justice delayed is better than no justice at all

September 5th, 2007 by Steve

Many of us in the Democratic rank and file remain strongly committed to the belief that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney should be impeached.  That’s certainly the unanimous view of the regulars at The Last Chance Democracy Café.  But in today’s episode, as we continue our long road trip to Washington, DC, Winston forces us to confront the unhappy reality that — barring dramatic new disclosures of wrongdoing — the odds are very good that neither Bush nor Cheney will ever actually be impeached.

No, that isn’t what’s right, but it’s probably what’s true.  And who said being part of the reality based community is always going to be fun?

But does that necessarily have to mean that there will be no justice at all for the crimes of the Bush years?

The Last Chance Democracy Cafe
Episode 69: Justice-2009:
 Because justice delayed is better than no justice at all
by Steven C. Day

We were following a two-lane highway across Central Indiana, a patchwork of flat farmland and thick woodlands — a pleasant monotony broken up occasionally by a small town or city.  I-70 into Indianapolis would have been faster, but we were holding fast to our decision to use Blue Highways, instead of expressways, as much as possible.  A summer rainstorm had stalked us all the way across the Hoosier State, and looked likely to continue into Ohio: nothing violent, just on-again, off-again showers, barely enough to clean away the remains of the insects periodically performing kamikaze dives into the windshield. 

Still at least nine full hours from Washington, DC, we were determined to get there before bedtime.

It had been unusually quiet in the van for the last few hours.  After three days on the road, I suppose we were all talked out.  But there was also something else at play.  Horace, usually our de facto group leader, had barely spoken a word all day.    

I’d noticed the trend the day before as we plowed across Southern Illinois.  About the time we finished the happy silliness of our progressive fictional account of Colin Powell’s kidnapping of Dick Cheney — something Horace had thoroughly enjoyed — he’d grown quieter.  He mostly kept to himself that evening over dinner at “Chicken Big,” the self-proclaimed “Greatest Chicken Restaurant Anywhere in the Milky Way and the Eastern Third of Andromeda.”  By this morning he had clammed up almost completely.  We would later learn why, but that’s the story for our next episode.  

Back on this one, we had just crossed into Henry County, Indiana, not far from the Ohio border, when Winston said something from the back of the van.  I couldn’t make out the words, although I could tell he wasn’t happy.

“Sorry, Winston,” I shouted back from the front seat where I was driving — Zach, our young college friend, was riding shotgun next to me.  “With all the road noise and the rain we can’t hear you very well up here.”

“I heard him fine,” said Zach.

I laughed.  “Okay, those of us with middle aged ears can’t hear you.”

Normally I’d have expected Winston to say something smart alecky, but this time he just repeated himself in a strikingly glum voice.

He said, “They’re not going to impeach Bush and Cheney, you know.”

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A tale of two media reports on Iraq: one lazy, one not

September 4th, 2007 by Steve

As General David Petraeus prepares to announce — consistent with the Bush company line — that The Great Surge is going just swimmingly, two diametrically opposed media storylines are appearing: one grows out of the type of lazy “reporting” that consists of little more than taking dictation from US political and military leaders; the second, of course, comes from reporters who actually do the hard and expensive work of independently checking out the government’s claims. 

Not surprisingly, the first approach tends to produce a much rosier picture of progress in Iraq than the second.

(Laziness, incidentally, doesn’t necessarily refer to the motivations of a particular journalist.  Often it’s a matter of resources, as corporate bean counters continuously squeeze media outlets for cost savings.)

Well, as it happens, the Gods of Blogging have been kind to me today, providing excellent, and more or less contemporaneous, examples of each approach.

Read the rest of this entry »

Question of the day: how big a price will we pay if we bomb Iran?

September 3rd, 2007 by Steve

According to the Sunday Times of London, the Pentagon has drawn up plans “for massive airstrikes against 1,200 targets in Iran, designed to annihilate the Iranians’ military capability in three days.”  Well now, isn’t that special.

There’s still part of me that finds it hard to believe Bush will actually pull the trigger. With our military already badly overextended, to gratuitously start yet another war against a dangerous foe would be nothing short of insane.  It’s certainly possible Bush is just bluffing.  But then, this is Bush we’re talking about.

So how big a disaster would such an attack turn out to be for this country?  My guess, based on reading what a variety of experts have to say, is that the initial attack would likely be very successful, devastating Iran’s military assets.  Our pilots would probably very quickly gain complete air dominance, free to bomb at will and greatly restricting Iran’s ability to strike back directly.

Who knows?  Maybe we’d be honored with another “Mission Accomplished” moment (perhaps Bush could parachute in this time). 

But soon enough, just like in Iraq — only worse — everything would go to hell.  Contrary to the neoconservative’s dreams, the Islamic extremists in charge wouldn’t be overthrown — they’d be strengthened due to outrage against the United States.  Attacks would increase against our troops in Iraq; Afghanistan would likely fall into complete anarchy.  Terrorist attacks against US interests would increase across the globe.  Meanwhile, oil prices would go through the ceiling, with the global economy taking a nosedive.

And George W. Bush and the neocons, having never imagined that things might not work out perfectly, wouldn’t have a clue what to do about it.

That’s my take, anyway.  What do you think?

When hypocrisy hangs thicker than manure, and smells even worse

September 2nd, 2007 by Steve

This isn’t about either Larry Craig or David Vitter: may they both find peace (and perhaps a little tolerance for others) in their respective closets.  No, this has to do with something infinitely more important — an act of hypocrisy that involves nothing less than an attempt by the GOP to steal the 2008 presidential election, this time by way of California.

Travel with me, if you will, back to those gut-wrenching days following the voting in the 2000 presidential election.  George W. Bush — a new kind of Republican, as you’ll recall, a compassionate conservative and someone who preached humility and restraint in foreign affairs — had just been declared (by the media following the lead of Fox News) to be the winner of the election.  This despite the fact he received 500,000 less votes than Al Gore nationally and the winner in Florida remained unresolved.

As the days dragged on, with Bush’s “victory” ever more in doubt, Team Bush fought on in scorched earth style.  Pulling out all the stops they accused Gore, almost certainly the actual winner, of trying to steal the election.  They fought to stop Florida from counting legal votes, and moved aggressively in both Congress and the Florida legislature to declare Bush the winner whatever the result of the recount.   Finally, of course, they turned to a shamefully partisan Supreme Court to overturn the actual decision of the voters.

Oh — and there was another part to this take no prisoners strategy — something the GOP shouted from every mountaintop: Al Gore, they insisted again and again, was duty bound to voluntarily concede the election to Bush, whatever the merits of his position.  Patriotism, they said, demanded it.  The uncertainty over the election’s outcome would otherwise tear the nation apart.  Gore, by insisting on a recount, was throwing the nation into a dangerous and unnecessary constitutional crisis.

Here’s a particularly spiteful example from that charmer Peggy Noonan:

(Time) Why Gore Should Concede

Al Gore should hang it up. And then he should hang his head in shame. In a great irony of which he may someday become aware, Gore proved at the end of his presidential campaign what he had spent most of that campaign trying to disprove. In words and deeds, in photo ops and tactical decisions, he kept trying to demonstrate that he was not Bill Clinton. And now at the end, by putting the country through a terrible trauma to serve his own needs and retain personal power, he shows that if he is not a complete Clinton clone, he is at the very least a man who has absorbed and accepted the central ethos of Clintonism: “We’ll just have to win, then.” No matter what.

Ah, yes, the awful national trauma of an unsettled election (although the polls at the time showed that a clear majority of the American people favored taking the time necessary to reach the correct result).  It’s a wonder, if we give credence to the Republicans’ expressions of alarm, that the very walls of the republic didn’t come tumbling down.

*  *  *

Fast forward almost seven years.  Facing poor prospects of retaining the White House in 2008, GOP operatives are back at their old tricks — trying to steal an election.  And they’re doing it in a way which, should they succeed, will virtually guarantee a true constitutional crisis.  Setting their sights on the most important blue state of them all, they’re pushing an initiative in California for a constitutional amendment that would fundamentally change how the state’s electoral votes are awarded.

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Framing conservatism: Profits over healthy children

August 31st, 2007 by Steve

The outrages just keep coming: instance after instance where the Bush Administration has sold out the health and welfare of the American people in order to protect corporate profits. And what’s probably the saddest part of the whole sordid affair is how hard it is to work up even of modicum of surprise as each new atrocity is disclosed.

My first Framing Conservatism post 10 days ago was about the disclosures over how the Bush Administration had actually fought efforts — on behalf, in part, of China, of all patrons — to assure that no lead paint is used in the toys our kids play with.

Now there’s this:

(Washington Post) HHS Toned Down Breast-Feeding Ads

In an attempt to raise the nation’s historically low rate of breast-feeding, federal health officials commissioned an attention-grabbing advertising campaign a few years ago to convince mothers that their babies faced real health risks if they did not breast-feed. It featured striking photos of insulin syringes and asthma inhalers topped with rubber nipples.

Plans to run these blunt ads infuriated the politically powerful infant formula industry, which hired a former chairman of the Republican National Committee and a former top regulatory official to lobby the Health and Human Services Department. Not long afterward, department political appointees toned down the campaign.

So here we go again: Given a choice between working to improve the health of America’s children or fighting to protect the profits of corporate America, conservatives always come down squarely on the side of profit: let the babies be damned.  This, of course, is the true face of those often discussed right wing family values: conservatives care a lot about who’s having sex with whom; but when it comes down to protecting American families where it really counts, they always seem to have other priorities.

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Don’t discount the Justice Department’s Gonzales probe

August 30th, 2007 by Steve

I suspect that a lot of people had an instant, “Yeah, right,” reaction when they first heard that the Inspector General of the Justice Department is investigating Alberto Gonzales’s misleading testimony before Congress.  Given past experience, only a fool would not be at least a little skeptical.

But don’t be too surprised if this turns out to be a good deal more than a toothless PR exercise.  There are still a lot of fine public servants at the Department of Justice, including, of course, many lawyers working in the career service.  And I will guarantee you that a bunch of these folks are furious over the way Gonzales has pissed all over their department’s reputation.

Up to this point in the Bush Administration, all too often the political hacks at Justice have held inappropriate sway over criminal investigations, and there’s no reason to think the administration’s basic game plan has changed: but the ability of the Bushies to manipulate the process has almost certainly diminished now that the spotlight is on them and many of the top politicos are heading for the hills.  As a practical matter, it would probably be impossible at this point for any political appointee to successfully derail an active investigation into the former AG’s conduct.

Believe it or not, I actually won’t be that surprised if I wake up some morning to discover that an indictment has been handed down or even a plea agreement reached.  It could happen without our ever having known that a criminal investigation, as such, had even formally been opened.

It may not happen: but it’s not nearly as long a shot as some people may believe.   

Update: Related to the point that there are still many fine lawyers serving at Justice, see this post by Scott Horton.

Thank you, Republican Governor Perry

August 30th, 2007 by Steve

I had seen the stories that Texas was getting ready to execute the getaway driver in a botched robbery turned homicide.  Obviously, he deserves to pay dearly for his crimes, and he will.  But to impose capital punishment under those circumstances would be an abomination.

Thankfully now that will not be happening, at least in this case.

Tucker Carlson: Smiter of “evil” — the multiple choice test

August 30th, 2007 by Steve

As you’ve no doubt heard by now, that ultimate Alfa Male himself, Tucker Carlson, recently did a little bragging on TV about the time he and a pal beat up a gay man who “bothered him” in a public restroom.  I actually heard the exchange live, and can attest from firsthand experience that it was, to say the least, a little creepy.

Now, first, go to Media Matters to watch the video (there’s also a transcript).  They have also posted a rather odd explanation sent in by the Tuckinator himself, wherein he “explains” that he wasn’t gay bashing at all, but, to the contrary, heroically (if you can call going to get a buddy to help you rough someone up heroic) defending himself against a sexual assault.

Having viewed the video, now please answer the following multiple choice question:  Is the Bow-Tied Avenger,

Number (1): a gay bashing predatory freak who needs to be locked up forever for the protection of the public at large;

Number (2): a homophobic coward who thinks he can impress people with his Macho Manhood by, shall we say, creatively “writing” a story that portrays himself facing down an evil gay person (meaning, of course, that he should be forever barred from our television screens for dishonesty); or,

Number (3): a heroic defender of virtue who single-handedly (with the help of a friend) brought down an evildoer, and, thus, should be held up as an example to our children as a hero to be emulated.

Choose one of the following answers:

a. Number 1 is true;

b. Number 2 is true;

c. Number 3 is true;

d. Oh, for Pete’s sake, Tucker Carlson couldn’t fight his way out of a paper bag even if he did have a friend helping him.