Thursday, September 20, 2007

Al-Qaeda Not In Iraq

While Republicans have been working hard to make sure that our military forces remain stuck in the Iraqi quagmire — so that they can continue to play whack-a-mole with the anti-occupation insurgents in the midst of a civil war — the real terrorist threat — let’s call them Al-Qaeda Not In Iraq — has been slowly rebuilding its operations and regaining its strength.
The fact that the real al-Qaeda is still a threat six years after 9/11 while we pour billions of dollars and sacrifice thousands of U.S. soldiers chasing down an al-Qaeda sock puppet in Iraq is the biggest scandal of our generation.
It disgusts me that whenever Osama bin Laden or one of his lieutenants puts out a video today, the Republican enablers of Bush’s failed foreign policy respond by trying to brush it off and attacking Democrats claiming that we are in essence providing “aid and comfort” to the enemy whenever we criticize Bush’s misguided war efforts.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Filibuster follies

There were three important votes in the Senate today. Each one garnered a clear majority of senators. The bill to give the half million residents of the District of Columbia representation in Congress had the support of 57 senators. A bill to restore habeus corpus rights had the support of 56 senators and so did a bill to provide our troops with an equal amount of downtime with their families as they spend on active duty in Iraq had the support of 56 senators.
But in each case the legislation failed to pass. Why? Because Republicans are filibustering everything under the sun.
As Kevin Drum shows here, the GOP is obstructing legislation at three times the normal rate and are on pace to set an all time record on filibuster usage this term. The same Republicans who were ready to eliminate the filibuster when Democrats used it to block a small handful of the hundred-plus judges that Bush nominated to the federal courts, are now embracing the filibuster with all their might and using it to block every single action in the Senate.
This is an abuse of our democratic process by a party that has lost the support of the American people. One more election, however, and they won’t have the filibuster or the veto to fall back on. The 2008 election will be a bloodbath for Republicans and while I will be happy to see it and believe it is well deserved, I’m also wary of having absolutely no checks and balances in place. As much as I support the Democratic agenda, I still think it is necessary to have a functional and coherent opposition party to keep the other side from overreaching as the Republicans have clearly done recently.

Taxation without representation wins again

I was thoroughly disgusted to see the Republican minority once again blocking legislation that would have finally given residents of the District of Columbia full representation in Congress. The compromise legislation would have given a House seat to D.C. that would most likely go Democratic and one to Utah that would most likely go Republican. Utah was just shy of getting another House seat during the last Census.
The District of Columbia has more than a half million residents which makes it larger than the state of Wyoming and very close to Vermont and North Dakota. And yet, the residents have no voting representation in Congress. The fact that this situation has been allowed to fester for so long is an affront to our democratic system of government. No other democratic country in the world denies representation to the citizens of its capital city.

The excuses given by Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for opposing the bill were lame, lame, lame. He claims that because the Constitution says that representation in Congress is for the “people of the several states”, this means that D.C. does not qualify because it is not technically a state. But as it is pointed out here, that even though the Constitution says Congress has the authority to regulate commerce “among the several states”, that has not prevented Congress from regulating commerce in D.C. Likewise, the 16th Amendment gives Congress the power to levy an income tax on the citizens of the “several states”, yet this has somehow not allowed the residents of D.C. to skip out on paying their taxes all these years.

So the half million residents of D.C. pay their taxes, fight in our wars, are bound by our laws, and yet they get no say whatsoever in the drafting and formation of those laws. That is absolutely and without a doubt unAmerican. We had another opportunity to rectify this situation the other day, but 41 Republicans and one Democrat stood in the way. I don’t know what Max Baucus’ problem is, but the Republicans were, in my opinion, acting out of sheer partisan spitefulness. They are afraid that once D.C. gets representation in the House, they will demand representation in the Senate. And the Republicans don’t want to see two more Democratic seats in the Senate, so they are willing to let half a million people continue to be without representation because of their likely political affiliation.
Two prominent black Republicans pleaded with their GOP cohorts in the Mooney Times to support the legislation to no avail.

Here is the full list of Senators who support taxation without representation:

Alexander (R-TN)
*Allard (R-CO)
Barrasso (R-WY)
Baucus (D-MT)
Bond (R-MO)
Brownback (R-KS)
Bunning (R-KY)
Burr (R-NC)
Chambliss (R-GA)
Coburn (R-OK)
Cochran (R-MS)
Corker (R-TN)
Cornyn (R-TX)
*Craig (R-ID)
Crapo (R-ID)
DeMint (R-SC)
Dole (R-NC)
**Domenici (R-NM)
Ensign (R-NV)
Enzi (R-WY)
Graham (R-SC)
Grassley (R-IA)
Gregg (R-NH)
*Hagel (R-NE)
Hutchison (R-TX)
Inhofe (R-OK)
Isakson (R-GA)
Kyl (R-AZ)
Lott (R-MS)
Martinez (R-FL)
McCain (R-AZ)
McConnell (R-KY)
Murkowski (R-AK)
Roberts (R-KS)
Sessions (R-AL)
Shelby (R-AL)
Smith (R-OR)
**Stevens (R-AK)
Sununu (R-NH)
Thune (R-SD)
**Vitter (R-LA)
*Warner (R-VA)

A * means the Senator has announced plans to retire before or after this term. A ** means the senator is involved in a scandal currently which could force them to step down in the near future.
There will be an accounting during the next election and the results will not be good for Republicans who are likely to lose a half dozen more seats at least. Then, perhaps, we will finally be able to pass legislation that removes this blot from our national conscience.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Greenspan: It's all about the oil

Former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan writes this in his new book:

“I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil.”

Of course it's about oil! But we're not allowed to say it. It is blasphemy to even think such a thing and people who do are attacked as heretics. But there can be little doubt that we would not have gone into Iraq if it was not the third largest oil producing nation in the world.

The fact that Greenspan can admit this without getting burned at the stake is a promising development. Maybe we are finally coming out of the Bush Dark Ages and having the scales removed form our eyes. As people begin to see more clearly what has gone on the past seven years they will continue to react with disgust and dismay.

A surprise choice for AG

Hey! It looks like President Bush nominated an attorney general who won’t treat the Constitution like a handy roll of toilet tissue. Good for him!
Beyond that, however, I have to agree with Bill. Michael Mukasey is just going to be keeping the seat warm for whoever Hillary Clinton nominates.

Too little, too late

Poor Lincoln Chafee should have switched parties when he had the chance. Now it makes little difference to anyone. Still, I’m glad to see him repudiating his past GOP affiliation.