Friday, June 23, 2006

A Complete Sweep? Wait for November!

Four for four! A complete sweep!

The Senate voted on four resolutions this week, and amassed a perfect record: the majority vote was on the wrong side of every issue. First, they considered a measure to improve accountability of defense contractors in Iraq. Sounds like a no-brainer, right? Ironically, the Republican stranglehold on Congress demonstrated exactly that - no brains. And so they defeated a measure that would have given us, the American taxpayers, a little clearer idea of what companies like Halliburton and Bechtel are delivering for the billions (yes, with a "b") of our tax dollars they're collecting. We all know how this current crop of Republicans feel about accountability - no sir, they don't like it! And, at least in Halliburton's case, we know one thing they actually delivered to our troops: untreated water contaminated with disease-causing bacteria. A little extra thrown in at no additional charge.

The second measure that deserved to pass - but didn't - would have raised the stagnant minimum wage in several increments. Our current minimum wage has been stuck at its current $5.15 per hour for nine long years. Do you know anything that costs the same as it did nine years ago? Not the gasoline you need to drive to work, that's for sure. Isn't there something amiss when working full-time for the minimum wage leaves you below the federal poverty line? But in the same week that they saw fit to vote down what would have amounted essentially to a cost-of-living increase for American workers, Congress quietly declined to stop an automatic pay increase for themselves - the eighth such annual pay raise since the last increase in the minimum wage. And richly deserved it was, too. Just look at the staggering record of corruption and incompetence that this Republican-led Congress has amassed. Surely, they've earned every penny of their bloated salaries. (Never mind all the free perks that lawmakers get that the rest of us poor working slobs have to pay for out of our shrinking buying power.)

The third measure that seemed like a given - until the Senate took it away - was a renewal of the Voting Rights Act. See, in a democracy, the problem with letting people vote is that they're liable to vote against you, particularly if you've been screwing them the whole time you've been in office. And if you're a Republican, the voters you've been screwing the most are the poor and lower middle class. Can't have them voting as easily as your rich lobbyist friends, now, can you? So let's make sure that those protections that guarantee every citizen access to the polls quietly disappear. And be sure to make it mandatory that everyone use those touch-screen voting machines from Diebold that produce no paper record from now on - you know how we feel about recounts.

The fourth measure was really a three-in-one...or, to be more exact, two resolutions and a non-resolution. One of the three passed, while the other two were defeated. Can you guess which one passed? If you said, "The non-resolution," give yourself a no-bid contract right now.

I'm referring, of course, to the three resolutions about the horribly bloody, hideously expensive, pointless war in Iraq that Dubya and his neocon scum wanted so badly that they were willing to lie to Congress, the United Nations, and the American people to get it. The first resolution, sponsored by Democrats Russ Feingold, Barbara Boxer, and John Kerry (the former presidential candidate who actually fought in the defense of his country, unlike our current president), would have set the end of 2007 for the withdrawal of most American forces in Iraq. It lost. A second Democrat-sponsored resolution (its sponsors included new "centrist" Hillary Clinton) merely called for the gradual re-deployment of American troops, without setting a timetable. It, too, was defeated.

The third, Republican-sponsored non-resolution was a shameless political ploy of the first order, introduced for no other reason than to give Republican Senators facing re-election this fall the opportunity to brand their Democratic challengers as "cut-and-run cowards." It said, essentially, that Iraq is the central focus of the "war on terror" (and it shall remain a favorite center for terrorist operations as long as we persist in staying there against the wishes of the Iraqis)...and that we should not leave until we defeat the insurgency. Not surprisingly, this partisan re-statement of failed policy easily passed. But, as Democrat John Murtha - a former Marine who knows a little bit more about combat than the armchair strategists currently running the show - said on the Senate floor, "Stay the course" is not a substitute for a plan. And this administration (and the Senate Republicans who think their role is to run interference for their idiot of a Chief Executive) clearly have no plan. C'mon, can you honestly tell me that announcing, "Withdrawal from Iraq will fall to the next administration" constitutes any sort of plan at all? Sorry, no sale.

Cowards cut and run. Stay the course. I'm old enough to remember when a different Republican president from a different time - one who was ultimately forced to leave office in disgrace - said exactly the same things about a bloody and pointless war. His name was Richard Nixon, and the war was Vietnam. It's nearly forty years later, and our leaders, who have learned nothing from our past mistakes, keep making them again and again...and the entire world suffers for it.

So, to come back to our four-for-four "sweep": there's one other thing that needs to be swept out, and that's the Republican incumbents in both houses of Congress, come this November. Let the righteous anger of the American voter wield a mighty broom in voting booths across this great nation - and let's sweep the corrupt, incompetent GOP out with the rest of the trash.


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