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Bush the “Devil” and the “Axis of Evil” September 21, 2006

Posted by newsfittopost in bush administration, congress, international, politics.
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In what will most likely be the most notable speech during this session of the United Nations General Assembly, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez referred to President Bush as the devil. Speaking at the same podium at which Bush had spoke earlier, Chávez said, “It smells of sulfur still today, this table that I am now standing in front of.”

Apparently, the comments were met with applause from many of the diplomats in the General Assembly, a stark reminder of the tremendous increase in anti-American sentiment since the invasion of Iraq. Although Chávez’s comments sounded immature and inappropriate for the UN, the Bush administration and its friends often use the same simplistic, unproductive and mind-numbing rhetoric. Some examples:

  • In August 2005, televangelist and buddy of the Christian right Pat Robertson calls for the assassination of Hugo Chávez. Robertson: “If he thinks we’re trying to assassinate him, I think we really ought to go ahead and do it.”

  • In Bush’s 2002 State of the Union address, he cut off an opportunity for constructive dialogue by calling Iran, Iraq and North Korea an “axis of evil”. The phrase may have gone over well in the U.S., but I don’t believe anti-American sentiment was lessened by branding entire countries and its people as evil. Bush: “States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world.”

  • When the French government realized Iraq was a mistake years before the majority of Americans did, Republican lawmakers decided to get even by changing the name of the House cafeteria french fries to “freedom fries”. Aside from making ourselves the laughing-stock of the entire world, we further isolated ourselves from one of the most important countries on our dwindling list of allies. Now disgraced Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio): “This action today is a small but symbolic effort to show the strong displeasure of many on Capitol Hill with the actions of our so-called ally, France.” Apparently House Republicans forgot we would have no “freedom” at all if France hadn’t won the Revolutionary War for us.

  • Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld compared Hugo Chávez to Adolf Hitler earlier this year: “I mean, we’ve got Chavez in Venezuela with a lot of oil money. He’s a person who was elected legally — just as Adolf Hitler was elected legally — and then consolidated power…”. Owns lots of oil. Was elected legally. Consolidated power under one person. Sounds like an American president I know.

This is not a defense of the comments Hugo Chávez made at the General Assembly. These are examples of American leadership destroying dialogue with other nations through the use of loud-mouthed rhetoric that does nothing but hurt the world’s view of America. Hugo Chávez, President Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Pat Robertson and GOP House members need to quit the back-and-forth bullshit and engage in constructive conversations that will find compromise, not further anger. It probably took days for the Bush team to come up with and get approved the ‘axis of evil’ statement. Could these few days have been used to attempt to build bridges instead of testing angry rhetoric? I don’t expect miracles to happen overnight, but we need to move in the right direction before we come any closer to world peace.

Congress May Not Understand Priorities, but Today the Media Did July 18, 2006

Posted by newsfittopost in amendments, congress, lgbt Issues, marriage equality, media, politics.
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Today’s Headlines:

  • Israeli Planes Batter Lebanon Again, Killing 30 People [NY Times]
  • Gonzales: Bush Blocked Eavesdropping Probe [Washington Post]
  • Over 3,000 Iraqi Civilians Killed in June, U.N. Report Says [NY Times]
  • Car Bombing Kills Dozens in Iraq [BBC]

And as the worldwide crises deepen, the U.S. House takes decisive action… by debating the Federal Marriage Amendment for half the day. The amendment failed, as predicted, but somehow our representatives felt discussing same-sex marriage has priority over Iraq, domestic spying and the Middle East conflict.

Conservatives in the House are no longer just avoiding domestic issues to placate their base, they are avoiding taking action to save human lives. Our soldiers are dying on foreign soil, innocent Israeli and Lebanese civilians are being bombarded with rockets and missiles, but gay frickin’ marriage remains on the debate schedule?

The Good News: Republicans in the House were hoping to get another media blitz by debating the Federal Marriage Amendment… hoping against hope that if same-sex marriage is brought up enough by the mainstream media, moderate conservatives will forget about Iraq and the economy and still vote for them in the November elections.

However, cable news channels barely covered the debate today. The mainstream media (despite what you may think of them), realizes the loss of human life is much more important and immediate than banning gay people from walking down the aisle. Republicans did not get the media blitz they were hoping for because most Americans have found better things to worry about.

Political pandering to this degree is a disgrace to our democracy and our institutions. Let’s hope that November will help bring us a Congress that cares about real people, not just another group of politicians that place fundraising issues over real issues.

Today’s Heroes: Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and the 27 Republicans who had the courage to vote against their anti-gay base.

No “Activist Judges”, So Why Pass FMA? July 9, 2006

Posted by newsfittopost in congress, legal, lgbt Issues, marriage equality.
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Anti-gay groups are claiming victory after high courts in both New York and Georgia ruled against marriage equality. The loss for LGBT groups, however, also furthers the argument that a Federal Marriage Amendment is unnecessary and divisive. If the New York Court of Appeals, allegedly one of the more progressive high courts in the nation, does not find a right to marriage equality, then what is the need for a Federal Marriage Amendment?

The recent decisions and the anti-gay right’s continued call for an amendment banning marriage equality exposes the true intentions of proposing such an amendment… it is not to stop so-called “activist judges”, it is to make it more difficult to pass marriage equality legislation in the future. Anti-gay activists know the tide of public opinion is changing with the younger generation being much more supportive of same-sex marriage. These activists are attempting to subvert the will of the people by passing an amendment that requires 2/3 of the people to overturn it, unlike pro-gay legislation which would only require majority support. The Federal Marriage Amendment is not attempting to stop “activist judges”, it is attempting to keep a ban on marriage equality well after public opinion begins to support same-sex marriage.

Although the New York decision in particular was devestating, we can be grateful that it further undermines the argument for placing an anti-gay amendment in the U.S. Constitution. It will be interesting to see how anti-gay House leaders debate FMA now… the “activist judges” argument is invalid and the New York and Georgia courts furthered that point last week.

Iraq Rhetoric Instead of Action is Killing U.S. Troops and Iraqi Civilians July 1, 2006

Posted by newsfittopost in bush administration, congress, iraq, politics, public opinion.
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The Oklahoma City bombing was the worst terrorist attack in American history up until 9/11. Killing 168 people, a shocked nation mourned the loss and remained stunned over the evil necessary for such an attack to occur.

That same evil has manifested itself in Iraq this morning, as another domestic terrorist attack in a crowded Baghdad market killed 62 people and wounded 114 others. These 62 Iraqis will be added to a civilian death toll whose low estimate is currently at 38,764 dead. Dozens of unnecessary deaths is just another day in a country that feels unsafe walking city streets or waiting in line at checkpoints.

Congress continues to “debate” whether American troops should remain in Iraq. President Bush insists we will remain until the “job is done”, which continues to look increasingly unlikely. The majority of Democrats insist on a phased withdrawal, a withdrawal timeline or an immediate end to American troops in Iraq. Republicans are combating the Democratic strategy with electoral rhetoric like “cut and run,” but isn’t it time sound bites are traded in for a substantive conversation about why our troops should remain?

We can no longer trust Bush on Iraq. We have had “mission accomplished” and four years worth of guarantees that the country is headed in the right direction. This has been meet with increased violence and increased hopelessness in the country. I strongly support a phased withdrawal and non-binding timeline for Iraq, but I am less sure about an immediate withdrawal for American troops.

When considering these various withdrawl plans, it is imperative that Congress put aside politics and find answers to the following:

  • Will the deaths of more U.S. troops make an impact on the situation in Iraq?
  • Will Iraqi civilian deaths increase or diminish once American troops exit Iraq or remain in much smaller numbers?
  • Does a continued American presence give the Iraqi government the force it needs to succeed or does it hinder the government’s ability to be seen as an institution separate from the U.S.?
  • Is an American withdrawal a win for insurgents in Iraq or will it undermine their validity and lose favor in the eyes of most Iraqis?
  • Will terrorists thrive in Iraq without American troops and if so, will these terrorists be a threat to the United States?

For all the debate among Congressional leaders on Capitol Hill, on Fox News and in the New York Times, I rarely hear any consideration of these questions.

My criticism for Democrats: Are we considering withdrawal plans because of increased American troop deaths or because we have considered all the questions above? In my opinion, all of these questions hold equal weight in whether we should consider withdrawing significant numbers of American troops.

My criticism for Republicans: We have been hearing victory is near for four years. Are we avoiding withdrawal in Iraq because it is admitting the war was a mistake or because you truly believe we can win the war? Do you believe we should have stayed in Vietnam longer… would that have helped us achieve our objectives?

The war was a mistake… as far as I’m concerned that debate is over among Americans. It is now a lose-lose proposition… but which “lose” is worse? We must decide what the next step is instead of blindly “staying the course”. Congress must begin to address the important questions about Iraq instead of using rhetoric and politics to win support or keep face. Congressional leaders, Democrat or Republican, using rhetoric instead of substance should be condemned for patronizing Americans and choosing politics over policy in Iraq. Americans want a plan and a solution.

Here’s what Americans said in a June 20 Pew Poll:

  • 52 percent want a timetable for U.S. troop withdrawal; 42 percent oppose such a measure
  • 34 percent say Democrats have better judgement on Iraq; 28 percent say Republicans; 24 percent say both or neither
  • 17 percent have heard “a lot” of debate or Iraq in Congress; 44 percent have heard “a little” debate and 38 percent have heard “nothing at all”

It appears the American people believe Congress has been ignoring the financial and political drain that is Iraq in favor of other issues like same-sex marriage and flag burning. Republicans ignoring Iraq in favor of these social issues should be ashamed of their lack of concern for American troops’ lives. Force Congress to have true debates about Iraqi policy.

Respecting the Constitution June 27, 2006

Posted by newsfittopost in amendments, congress, politics.
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The “judicial activism” avengers are at it again… not with same-sex marriage, but with flag burning. As talked about in an earlier post, conservatives and some Democrats are attempting to pass an amendment banning flag desecration. In 1989, the Supreme Court decided in a 5 – 4 decision that laws prohibiting the burning or desecration of the American flag were a violation of free speech rights and therefore unconstitutional.

But if you don’t like what the Supreme Court decides, you can always waste taxpayer time and money with another amendment. During debate over the amendment, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R – Utah) once again used his “Congress knows best” argument to justify narrowing free speech laws. He claims a flag burning amendment would:

…restore the constitution to what it was before unelected jurists changed it five to four… Five lawyers decided 48 states were wrong.

He’s an idiot. The court system was never intended to be a numbers game… it is a check on the legislative and executive branches. If Hatch truly has respect for the constitution, he would honor the Bill of Rights (including the First Amendment’s right to free speech) instead of adding amendments of his own creation because the highest court in the land doesn’t agree with him.

Did Orrin Hatch speak out when the Supreme Court overturned the will of 50,996,582 Americans who voted for Al Gore in 2004 (540,520 more votes than Bush received)? No… the Supreme Court ruled and the Democrats respected the checks and balance system laid out in the Constitution (albeit grudgingly, of course).

However, Republicans are now accusing progressive Democrats of being “unpatriotic” because they refuse to ban flag desecration. These Democrats are standing up for free speech and civil liberties on an issue they know is just an election year tactic, so we should thank them for being true patriots even though they face an unpopular issue.

A final thought from Gary May, chairman of Veterans Defending the Bill of Rights:

We like the Constitution more than we dislike the damage to the symbol of the Constitution. To threaten to amend our most sacred document to include censorship is reprehensible. If the flag amendment passes, it would stifle dissent and send the dangerous message to the American people that we can alter the Constitution simply because we do not agree with a message and how it is expressed.

You can’t say it any better than that.

UPDATE: The amendment failed by one vote!