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Today, Sunday the 30th of April, the average price for a gallon of regular gas is the District of Columbia is $3.06. One month ago, the average price for a gallon of regular gas in the District of Columbia was $2.61. Gas prices have gone up nearly $.50 a gallon in one month in DC. For people like me who have 16 gallon tanks, that’s an extra $8.00 every time we fill up the car. It’s the highest it’s been since the weeks following Hurricane Katrina when prices climbed to $3.40. I personally remember scouring Georgetown one day in August with a friend and finding nothing under $3.60. Luckily, prices calmed down to around $2.00 a gallon or so in November of 2005, but here we are again, looking at prices over $3.00 a gallon.

Now, I drive a 2001 Jeep Cherokee Sport. It gets 12 MPG city and 18 MPG highway. If I drove as often as an average person in the DC area, I would be paying upwards of $150 or more a month. There are a million ways to be smart about conserving gas. Use the metro to get to work. If you’re going a short distance, walk or bike. If you’re shopping for a new car, try buying a hybrid. But with fill ups costing $50, college students looking to drive home for the weekend are wrestling with their own budget. In today’s New York Times, you can read about a student at Brandeis University who was excited about getting her brother’s 2004 Dodge Neon. But the car sits in the parking lot outside her apartment now. Another student, this one at Seton Hall, can’t drive home to Connecticut on weekends to see her family. Another student at Northwestern says he might turn down a $10 an hour delivery job because it requires him to drive his own car and pay for gas.

What is the Republican plan to help alleviate the energy crisis? Give Americans a $100 gas rebate. This is the bill being proposed by Senators Grassley, Stevens, Domenici, and Santorum. Is it just me, or does this sound utterly ridiculous to anyone else? Instead of searching for a real solution to the problem like Democrats who want to investigate the oil companies and enact federal legislation to punish price gougers, the Republicans are content to throw a little money at the problem in hopes of shutting up Americans. $100 will do nothing. It’s two tanks of gas with the prices the way they are now. The Republican leadership is conducting business as usual and protecting Big Oil at the expense of the American economy. ExxonMobil, between January and March of this year, recorded profits of $8.4 billion…$8.4 billion in profit in three months. This after Lee Raymond, the former chairman of ExxonMobil received a $400 million retirement package after leaving the company last year. He says that critics of the huge profits “don’t understand oil”. He probably wasn’t being asked about internal memos from the 1990’s that detail plans to purposely reduce refining capacities to raise profits.

Here’s the truth: Republicans think short-term. That’s why their plans seem so sexy to voters. They say, “give them a hundred bucks, let us drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge so we can destroy it and have enough oil to last us six months. Let us cut your taxes so you can get a $300 check- you’ll be able to get that foot massager from Sharper Image!” But with President Bush rejecting a call for a tax on oil company windfall profits, in the midst of $3 a gallon prices at the pump, the average American voter has to ask themselves: Are the Republican really looking out for my best interest? I think not, and with President Bush’s approval ratings in the low 30’s, the American people seem to be making their voices heard.

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I have just returned from seeing the film, "United 93." I cannot truly desribe in words the overwhelming combination of emotions I felt during the film and which I still feel now. The film was a poignant reminder of what transpired on September 11th.

Coming from this film, I feel immense sorrow. This sorrow mostly stems from my sense of helplessness. The passengers of Flight 93 are truly heroes, in every sense of the word. These passengers were sincerely terrified, knowing they would most likely die. I have no idea what I would do in similar circumstances. But these heroes rose to the occasion, and they courageously fought to take back the plane and selflessly save the lives of others.

The actions of these passengers is a testament to the human spirit. This spirit proves that when tested by fear, humanity will not shrink into cowardice. Instead, we will fight with everything we can muster to serve others, even if they are strangers.

The passengers on this plane did not know one another, but they united in a way that demonstrates the beauty of the human spirit. They did not sign up to defend life and liberty, but these men and women are as brave, as compassionate, as sincere, and as honorable as every soldier who died in Normandy. We should be enormously proud of what they did.

After seeing this film, I am reminded of the call to duty with which each of us is charged. The greatest memorial we can erect to celebrate the lives of these heroes is to constantly stand up to great challenges, to be courageous in our lives, to always tell the one we love just how much we love them, to be better people by serving strangers and helping those in our community, to learn from one another and open a dialogue with the world so that nothing like this can ever happen again.

I am reminded that I must dedicate my life to public service, to foster a world where peace and love are our highest ideals, where our children feel no fear, where everyday heroes are celebrated not just by our quiet respect, but by our certain purpose to better the lives of our fellow man.

We each have a duty to those that lost their lives on that tragic day to never forget who they were, what they did, and why they did it. These ordinary people sacrificed themselves to save the lives of others. I could not be more proud of humanity than I am after seeing the courage of these wonderful people.

I hope that in the future we come together as a world and realize that we are all better off when we love one another. Division can no longer be a fact of our lives. Though we should be enormously proud of our country, we are not just Americans anymore. We are citizens of the world, and our measure as a people must be our willingness to come together and work towards a better future. Let us each be heroes every day of our lives, and let us never forget.

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I've heard people like John McCain say that a military option isn't a great idea to deal with Iran but that a nuclear-armed Iran is worse. President Bush sets out as policy that he will not accept a nuclear-armed Iran. Seymour Hersh recently published a lengthy article in the New Yorker magazine regarding the administration's military planning for a war with Iran, including the use of tactical nuclear weapons, also known as bunker busters. Let me explain why we can accept a nuclear-armed Iran if it comes to pass.

First, I have yet to see any evidence to suggest that Iran has a clandestine nuclear weapons program. Advocates of war with Iran use the same tired arguments they used in preparation for a war in Iraq. AIPAC (American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, the largest pro-Israel lobbying group), neocons in the Vice President's office, and civilian ideologues at the Pentagon play up the argument that Iran is headed toward nuclear weapon production in the very near future. For instance, these advocates claim that a nation like Iran has no need for a peaceful nuclear energy program:

That explanation makes no sense for a nation with 10 percent of the world's known oil reserves, US officials and some outside experts say.
Sounds smart, right? An oil and gas rich nation has no reason to produce nuclear energy. Only problem with this formulation is that the neocons contradict their own argument. While neocons promote the idea that Iran has no need for nuclear power plants, they also argue that economic sanctions, especially sanctions on oil and gasoline, will force the hand of the Iranians and persuade them to give up their nuclear program:
But while Iran holds the world's second-largest reserves of oil and gas and is the fourth-largest oil producer, it is in fact a net importer of refined oil products, including gasoline. And internal consumption of oil products in Iran is growing by 5.2 percent a year, far faster than its ability to increase refining capacity. This means that the levels of imports necessary to make the Iranian economy function will only increase over time. Thus, sanctions that prevented Iran from importing, say, refined oil products, including gasoline, could bring its economy to a grinding halt.

There you have it, the same neocons who argue that Iran is an energy-rich nation is just like the U.S.A., a gas-guzzler net importer of oil who is consuming greater and greater amounts of energy. So, what does this mean? Well, Iran clearly does need alternative sources of energy to meet their growing demand and supply imbalance. Suddenly, the need for a nuclear energy program becomes more clear. But beyond these arguments, the administration, outside groups, even the inept I.A.E.A., the UN's nuclear "watchdog" as we've come to known it, fail to provide any strong evidence of this alleged clandestine nuclear weapons program. Again, with Iran as with Iraq, we see this administration cherry-picking intelligence and looking to intelligence and facts to support their decisions, instead of the other way around. Supposedly, A.Q. Khan, the Pakistani nuclear scientist, who is under house arrest in Pakistan, is "singing like a canary" to the Pakistanis and our intelligence assets. Apparently, Khan sold nuclear information to the Iranians. However, according to Khan, he gave Iran this information at around the same time in the late nineties that North Korea received the same information that led to thier nuclear program and the half dozen or so nukes they have today. But according to all sources, Iran's program has gone on longer and has more advanced scientists working on it, yet Iran is much farther behind than the North Koreans. What does all this mean? It means we don't know enough about the Iranian nuclear program to determine the intention or progress of the program.

But let's assume for a minute that the Iranians do want nuclear weapons and that they are very close to constructing one, as their recent progress on uranium enrichment suggests (a quick note to the fact that Iran has declared all of its enrichment activities and centrifuge program to the IAEA; doesn't seem smart for a nation seeking secret nuke program to tell the world's anti-nuke agency about their plans). But even if they do, what are we worried about?

Many say that once Iran gets a nuke, they'll use it on Israel, or American troops in the region, of which their are 250,000 in range of the Iranian Shihab-3 missile, or on oil facilities in the Persian Gulf. What these ideologues fail to see is that the American nuclear deterrent would preclude Iran from using its nuke unless it was on a suicide mission. Even with the use of terrorist groups like Hezbollah, any nuclear strike on US interests could be easily traced to the Iranians merely because there are few coutries with nuclear capability who want to do us harm. Some neocons claim that because of Iran's Shi'a Islam, Iranians would not care about annihilation; this is a serious misunderstanding of Shi'i Islam, which believes in the return of the twelfth imam, al-Mahdi, to establish justice and usher in Judgment Day, though nuclear annihilation has nothing to do with this. The United States, once it makes clear that a nuclear strike by Iran will result in Iran's elimination, Iran would not dare use its nuclear arsenal.

Obviously, it would be preferable to have an Iran without nuclear weapons. But there is no good option for doing this. Diplomacy will fail frankly because the US and the West and the UN have lost enormous credibility, mostly due to the fallout of the Iraq War. Sanctions will fail simply because they always do; smart sanctions targeted toward leadership have a negligible effect and nationwide sanctions just make indigenous populations worse-off, angry, and more anti-American. Sanctions will complicate any goodwill we have in Iran, especially among Iranian youth, who have a great affection for American pop culture. Some neocons and realists believe that a covert and overt program of regime change by promoting public diplomacy, supporting rebel and dissident groups, and using American Special Forces and intelligence operatives to undermine the Iranian government from within can change the regime in Iran to a pro-Western, democratic regime. I wouldn't bet on it. Iranians are not as dissatisfied with their system as we say they are and don't feel brutally oppressed like those in other nations.

Therefore, the only other options available to stop the Iranian nuclear program short of the Iranians miraculously changing their minds is a military strike or invasion. Let me summarize what will happen as a result of a military option being exercised in Iran.

1) Striking Iran, whether it be a conventional air strike, tactical nuclear strike, or ground invasion, will invite retaliation against key U.S. interests in the region. The United States, as I have previously said, has 250,000 troops within range of the Iranian Shihab-3 missile. Even without nuclear weapons, the Iranians could easily harm our troops, killing thousands around the Middle East. Lobbing missiles into neighboring Iraq would be even easier. an attack on Iran would spark an uprising among the Shi'a population in southern Iraq. Our troops in Iraq would be sitting ducks trapped in a tidal wave of Shi'a furor. Because of this, our nation would need to escalate the conflict in Iran, probably by following up the air strike with ground troops and by increasing our troop levels in Iraq to combat the increased Shi'a backlash against us. The Iraqi government would break apart and refugees from Iraq and Iran would flow into neighboring countries like Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, Syria, Turkey, and Jordan, and destabilize these already fragile regimes. We risk bombings of our embassies, our oil facilities, our businesses, and risk endangering all other US citizens in the Middle East.

2) Israel is a sitting duck if we attack Iran. Once we attack Iran, they have nothing to lose. Attacking Israel would lead to the destruction of Iran and therefore, they would not think about doing it. However, after an air strike on Iran, we would force the mullahs into a corner, and then any attempt at rational action on the part of the mullahs is thrown out the window, who would certainly fire everything they have into Israel. Israel's Arrow missile defense system could certainly defend against most of the incoming missiles but a few would get by, killing thousands of Israeli citizens. This is if Iran resorts to state action. We should only be so lucky; Iran's control over Hezbollah and Hamas and other terrorist groups would bring a wave of terrorism on Israel and possibly on key US allies and interests around the world.

3) If you think oil prices are high now, just wait! Iran has three kilo class submarines in the Persian Gulf, which they could use to bomb ships and disrupt shipping lanes, leading to a huge drop in supply and the skyrocketing of oil prices and an oil shortage. Iran could also mine the Strait of Hormuz, which would make it impossible to ship oil out of the Middle East, leading to price increases of up to $100 a barrel. If you think $3 a gallon gasoline is high, wait till oil prices top $200 a barrel and gas is $10 a gallon. The global economy will tank.

So, you can see why I'm willing to have a nuclear-armed Iran. Plus, as I said before, an air strike alone will not do the job, and the Iranian retaliation will require an escalation of the conflict to the point where we will have to put 500,000 troops on the ground to occupy a country of 75 million people for an indefinite future. Then again, we may be greeted with flowers and candy. But you know what they say? Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice... we can't get fooled again!

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We all know that the right wing of the Republican Party is beholden to crazy, religious zealots who do not care about the true message of Jesus Christ, a message of peace, love, brotherhood, charity, and non-violence. Instead, they care about dividing people, suppressing rights, forcing religious establishment, and persecuting individuals for how they were born. This is a dangerous philosophy.

I thought that this persecution was confined to our federal government and local school boards trying to misinform Americans about how life was created on this planet based on scientific evidence. It is not. Instead, persecution has extended right here to Georgetown's campus. Here are some recent examples:

1) H*yas for Choice do not receive any funding or recognition from the university and they are routinely persecuted by the university for speaking freely on university property or organizing small events on campus.

2) Georgetown administrators recently removed links to reproductive health centers from the Women's Resource Center website.

3) Earlier this year, there was a large-scale effort by the Cardinal Newman Society to ban the Vagina Monologues from being performed here at GU.

4) Speakers like Senator Dick Durbin, who spoke to College Dems last night, are not allowed to speak at university events because of their pro-choice views (speakers under the vespices of other organizations or schools within the university are allowed to speak if they hold pro-choice views, but not at university-sponsored events like commencement).

These policies and events are downright unAmerican, undemocratic, unacademic, and fundamentally contrary to Jesuit and Catholic philosophy. We are told from the moment we enter Georgetown that Jesuit philosophy is inclusive (we don't have Greek life for this reason), believes in the education of the whole person (promoting political debate by giving all sides of every issue an equal voice), strives for academic excellence (which can't be fulfilled until people can express their views freely), and believing in a vigorous pluralism (which must be characterized by a variety of political, moral, and religious views, including those that are pro-choice). These actions on the part of the administration represent a virulent effort by the university and outside groups to suppress free speech and expression.

The university does not ban pro-death penalty groups from speaking on campus and expressing their views, even though the death penalty is expressly against the Catholic Church's views (it is murder in their eyes, just like abortion). The university funds and supports Right to Life, a pro-life group. It's funny that a group with no opposition needs funding and recognition in a debate with only their side. These policies are extreme and inhibit Georgetown's own free speech and expression policy. The College Democrats is an organization that affirms the ideals and values of the Democratic Party of the United States of America, a party that expressly supports in its platform that a woman has an uninhibited right to choose any set of reproductive services they want, including abortion. College Democrats is the largest group on campus and we will not soon be silenced. We will begin a campaign against these policies and challenge the university to adhere to the American, Jesuit, and Catholic ideals of free expression.

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The talking heads on TV are constantly talking about how the Democrats aren't able to beat the Republicans on national security and values. Well, there's one issue where the GOP has not only failed miserably on national security, but they have failed their own alleged committment to moral values. This issue is Darfur.

The genocide in Darfur is a national security and values issue. Let's explain some background on Darfur. In early 2003, anti-Sudanese government rebels attacked government installations and the mostly Arab government used its proxy, an Arab militia called the Janjaweed, to massacre the rebels. The government provided air support, weapons, logistics, and training to the Janjaweed and they didn't stop with the rebels. Once the rebels had been killed, the Janjaweed moved on to civilians. Hundreds of thousands have been killed, as much as 400,000 if you include deaths from starvation and disease caused by dislocation. Millions more have been raped, injured, removed from their homes, and stripped of their most basic property. The Janjaweed has carried on this slow genocide for over two years now, and it is time to act.

Condoleeza Rice has called it a genocide, so has President Bush, so has Colin Powell, and so has Kofi Annan. It is time to act.

What we can do immediately is make this a major issue. President Bush should travel the world and build support for a UN anti-genocide force in Darfur. If China and Russia veto a UN force, we should go to NATO. If NATO refuses, we should build a coalition to take on this genocide. But we must build a force now, not in a matter of months, but in a matter of days. We can stop this genocide, if we put the troops on the ground. But it requires a spine, something this administration seems to lack.

There is a rally to Save Darfur on the Mall this Sunday from 2-4. Buses are leaving from Healy Gates at 1. Let's go and push the administration to work harder on this issue. Plus, Barack Obama will be there, and you guys know how much I love him!

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I've heard a lot of complaining over the last few weeks about gas prices and how high they are. We're right to be angry, gas prices are skyrocketing, oil and gas companies are reaping enormous profits, our nation's energy policy is run by polluters, and our government fails to create a windfall profits tax, a higher gasoline tax, or demand conservation and efficiency or invest in renewable energy alternatives. This is ridiculous.

However, with Republicans in power and the Republican party run by oil and gas lobbyists, gas prices are going to continue to rise unless we the people do something about it. Yes, we need to work hard to elect Democrats in the fall, so that we can investigate market failures and possible price gouging and corporate collusion, but that will be too late. We have to start the change now.

The oil companies know that they can raise prices as much as they want and we'll keep guzzling their gas and giving them the huge profits they crave. What we have to do is stop giving them exactly what they want. If we want to see the companies hurt as much as we do, we should stop buying their gas. Drive less, bike and walk more. Think about stocking up on food and supplies for longer periods of time so we can drive less. Take a summer vacation a half an hour away instead of five hours away. Buy more fiel efficient cars (the Toyota Prius will cost you a heck of a lot less in gas costs than that huge SUV you probably drive now.) Use more public transportation. Buses and subways and trains are almost never filled; think about paying much less for a bus ticket than for a drive somewhere. If we're going to fix problems, we can't wait for government to take charge, especially when the government is run by the GOP, we need to start the revolution in our own communities and make a difference. Let's start a national movement to use less gas and see the oil and gas companies squirm!

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You've probably heard about this-- the Sierra Club's recent endorsement of Lincoln Chafee in the RI Senate race. On the surface, this seems like a great idea for the Sierra Club. Endorse a moderate Republican who surely helps the environment as much as any Democratic, and send a message to the Republican Party that their help on environmental issues will be rewarded. What's not to like?

And I'm sure NARAL thought the same thing when they endorsed Chafee last year, especially with the prospect of a pro-life Democratic challenging him. Why not show those Republicans that it's in their best interests to come to the pro-choice side and establish a zero-tolerance policy for pro-life Democrats in the process?

Both of these groups are following the same short-term policy: look out for #1. They're interest groups, and maybe it's the nature of single issue interest groups to not care about anything except their own immediate interests. It's not in their job descriptions to care that they're hurting the Democratic Party. But in the long run-- and even in the not-so-long run-- NARAL, the Sierra Club, and almost all the other progressive groups who endorse Republicans are only hurting their own pet issues.

Let's come up with a dream scenario in 2006. We keep all our contested seats. We even take Montana, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Missouri, and Tennessee. But we lose the extremely liberal Rhode Island in a narrow race, thanks in no small part to environmental and pro-choice support for Chafee. Okay, no big deal-- he's a moderate, right? He's more liberal than some Democrats anyway (wrong, but we'll deal with that later). So now the Senate is tied 50-50 (counting the new Senator Sanders as a Democrat, of course). It's time to vote for Majority Leader. 50 votes go to Reid, 50 to whichever Republican replaces Frist as head of his party in the Senate (let's say McConnell just for kicks and giggles, since he's whip). Assuming he hasn't had another tragic hunting accident by then, Cheney steps in and casts his tie-breaking vote for McConnell.

Guess what, NARAL and the Sierra Club? Republicans still control the Senate. Republicans control the committees. Republicans decide what bills come up for a vote, and when. Conservative Republicans have plenty of leeway to shove whichever amendments they'd like down your bills. NARAL, Republicans will still control the Judiciary Committee, so they can pretty much get whichever judges they want. Oh, I forgot... the chair is a pro-choice Republican, so we don't ever have to worry about any anti-choice judges! Right, Justice Alito and Chief Justice Roberts?

Let's take the case of Samuel Alito. Harry Reid is a devoted pro-life Democrat, Arlen Specter is a devoted pro-choice Republican. I think it's safe to say that voting against Alito was probably the most important pro-choice vote you could make so far in the 109th Congress, and vice versa. Reid voted against Alito; Specter didn't. Why? Reid has a whole list of progressive agenda items, while Specter has his own list of Republican stances. Alito conformed with most of Specter's list, and pro-choice was just an unfortunate disagreement between the two men (note to NARAL: they were two men. A Democratic chairman of the judiciary committee could have shot down Alito and had Bush resend a nominee who wouldn't bring the court backwards in diversity.)

Now to the Sierra Club. I think it's obvious enough that having a Democratic Senate would give environmental legislation an astronomically better chance of reaching the Senate floor and passing, so I'll move on to the next step. Chafee's a wonderfully moderate Republican, but guess what? He's still more conservative than the most conservative Democrat. Some of you may know of Progressive Punch. For those who don't, it's a site that ranks all Senators and Congressmen from 1 to 100 by how progressive they are (with 100 being most progressive). Granted, there is no single definition for progressive and this is impossible to calculate entirely correctly, but if you look at Progressive Punch's methodology, I think you'll agree that they do a pretty damn good job at it. On the combined index of all issues, Chafee is more conservative than even Ben Nelson of Nebraska, by far the most conservative Democrat. Chafee is somewhat more progressive on the environment, but he's stull a full 45 points shy of Jack Reed's (the other Senator from Rhode Island, a Democrat) phenomenal score. Considering RI's liberal electoral, another Jack Reed is exactly what we'd be getting with a Democratic victory. Not to mention that the Sierra Club has opposed Chafee's environmental proporsals in the past...

There's a lot more to talk about in this subject. Markos Moulitsas of DailyKos is a big champion of ending this type of single issue politics, and he's written at length about the NARAL situation in Rhode Island. But even he falls into the trap of ideology over the tangible benefits of a Democratic Senate with his quest to topple Joe Lieberman (check his healthy Progressive Punch score for a shock... yes, he's a Democrat after all.) That probably belongs in a different blog entry, but the point is this: single issue groups aren't helping anyone when they endorse Republicans to make a point. They're hurting themselves, they're hurting their voters, they're hurting their issue, and most damagingly in the long run, they're hurting the Democratic Party.

...on second thought, maybe they are helping someone. With such a tough year, I'm sure Bill Frist and the Republican Senate appreciate the assistance.

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I have heard many Democrats and Republicans claim that the Bush Administration's goal of democracy in the Middle East has been proven foolish. After all, just look at Hamas in Palestine, Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Dawa and SCIRI in Iraq. Islamist parties are taking over, we cry! First of all, George W. Bush and his administration have little credibility at supporting democracy--look at our military and economic aid around the world, we're supplying some of the most brutal and undemocratic regimes with weapons and cash. Egypt gets $2 billion in military aid every year from the US and we let Mubarak rig his "multicandidate" presidential election and we don't push for Ayman Nour, the liberal democrat who founded pro-democracy Kifaya in Egypt, to be released from his imprisonment on ridiculous charges. But on a larger point, we Democrats do support democratization around the world too (it's our dirty little secret), we just don't support democratization at gunpoint and we are more realistic about how fast we can democratize the world.

But what I am confused about is that many of the Democrats and Republicans and other smart people I talk to seem to criticize Bush's democracy agenda for 1) being naive about the Muslim world (Muslim countries will elect Islamic parties into power and that is bad) and 2) we can't force other countries to have democracy (if they wants Islamic government, that's their choice, the "relativist argument"). These two positions that I hear almost simultaneously from these critics are contradictory; either we support the right of Muslims to have an Islamic state or we want our style of democracy (the neocon dream). My problem with all of this is that there is little difference between a truly Islamic political structure and our conception of Western-style liberal democracy with republican virtues at its core.

What is a democracy? We in this country tend to believe that a democracy requires free and fair elections that are open and transparent, where everyone has the right to vote, and anyone can run for office. These elections should elect legislators and an executive who can make the laws and administer them. As a check on their power, an independent judiciary interprets the law and follows and unchanging document that prescribes what laws the legislators can make and what they can't. Religious freedom is protected in a democracy, each faith is to be governed by their own moral code. Free speech, dissent, protest, assembly, petition of government, and expression are mostly guaranteed. Strict laws protecting life and property are the only areas where individual freedom does not take precedence. So this prescription sounds just like the United States, right?

Well, actually, this is the Islamic, Quranic view of a political system. The Qur'an makes it clear, and the early history of the Muslim world supports, that the political system should have an executive, a caliph, who administers the laws of the state, and a shura, a legislative council, that advises the caliph, passes laws that do not deal with moral questions, and helps the caliph administer the laws. The caliph and the shura "must be elected" and the process for those elections, called abaya in Arabic, is not specified. Nearly all Islamic scholars agree that a free and fair election by universal suffrage between political parties is an acceptably Islamic way of holding the abaya. In an ideal Islamic state, religious freedom is well protected; Jews, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, and all other faiths, while subject to the laws of the shura and the caliph, are free to create their own moral laws. In the early Muslim caliphate, Jews and Christians set up their own moral court systems that had jurisdiction over members of their own faith and Muslims had a court system that judged Muslims by Quranic law. In these states, no one was forced to be Muslim. In fact, Jews and Christians held positions of great power in the early Msulim empire. The vizier, or prime minister, of the state was almost always Christian or Jewish.

If we want democracy in the Middle East, we should get behind some of these Islamist parties. If we don't like the idea of an Islamist state, we should get out of the way and let Muslims decide for themselves how they want to run their own states. Our biggest problem in the Middle East lies not in Osama bin Laden or radical Islamists in Palestine but with oppressive, secular monarchs or dictators in states like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. Islamic states are not perfect, but they are far preferable to the secular tyranny we see now in so many Middle Eastern nations.

However, I do not want to suggest that Islamic government works everywhere in the Islamic world. Progressive, constitutional monarchies like Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Jordan all have the potential to eventually look like modern day Japan or Britain, with a figurehead monarch, Western-style democratic principles, and progressive, capitalist systems. While religious, the people in these nations do not have the same sort of fanaticism inherent in other Muslim nations. We need to understand that the Muslim world is not monolithic, and the more we allow for different experiments with freedom throughout the Muslim world, we will see some fail and some succeed. Eventually though, with tenacity and a committed effort to democracitzation by assisting democrats of all types and stripes all over the world, we can spread liberty to the farthest corners of the Earth. Democracy is a bottom-up process, not a top-down program. There are secularists, Islamists, and democrats in every Islamic state; all we need to do is bring all these varying parties to a table and get them talking, and then have them work together to bring freedom to their countries. Once a country is free from oppression, these parties can fight it out amongst themselves to see how their society will be organized. Freedom is about choice, and we liberals and all Americans have to support whatever choice societies make, but we also need to give them to chance to choose first.

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We live in dangerous times. Yes, the war on terror is a serious and important fight and we should do almost everything we can to stop terrorists from killing another 3,000 Americans. But we cannot sacrifice our liberty. Stopping terrorists cannot extend to our libetry, to our freedom. In the last five years, our government has taken unprecendented measures to restrict our freedom. NSA wiretapping, secret prisons, human abductions, military tribunals, Abu Ghraib and torture, the PATRIOT ACT, and Guantanamo Bay. We have seen these blatant abuses of liberty and power grabs on the part of the President and his lawyers who have built a body of sketchy legal evidence and constitutional arguments for a cammander-in-chief having essentially unlimited power in wartime. Look at this piece from Bob Herbert from the New York Times (you will need TimesSelect to read it):

"Below the Radar: Secret Flights to Torture and 'Disappearance' " is the title of a recent amnesty International report on the reprehensible practice of extraordinary rendition, a highly classified American program in which individuals are seized — abducted — without any semblance of due process and sent off to be interrogated by regimes that are known to engage in torture.

Some of the individuals swept up by rendition simply vanish.

There is no way to know how many people have been seized, tortured or killed. Since there are no official proceedings, there is no way to know whether a particular individual who is taken into custody is a legitimate terror suspect or someone who is innocent of any wrongdoing. But we have learned, after the fact, that mistakes have been made.

This program, while supected of existing for a long time, was more recently reported by Dana Priest of the Washington Post. Congress has yet to act to investigate and dismantle this secret rendition program. Take the examples of Khaled el-Masri and Maher Arar:

You may not be familiar with the name Khaled el-Masri, but the Bush administration sure knows who he is. Mr. Masri, a German citizen of Lebanese descent, was arrested while visiting Macedonia in December 2003. A few weeks later, he was handed over to a group of masked men dressed all in black — in the so-called ninja outfits frequently worn by the rendition cowboys.

Mr. Masri's clothes were cut off and he was drugged, put aboard a plane and flown to Afghanistan, where he was held in a squalid basement cell for five months. It turned out, as noted by Dana Priest of The Washington Post, who was awarded a Pulitzer Prize this week for her reporting on the government's covert counterterrorism programs, that "the C.I.A. had imprisoned the wrong man."

"Masri was held for five months largely because the head of the C.I.A.'s counterterrorist center's Al Qaeda unit 'believed he was someone else,' one former C.I.A. official said. 'She didn't really know. She just had a hunch.'"

Someone had a hunch that Maher Arar was a terrorist, too. A Canadian citizen who had been born in Syria, he was snatched by American authorities at Kennedy airport in New York on Sept. 26, 2002, and shipped off to a nightmare in Syria that lasted nearly a year. He was held for most of that time in an underground, rat-infested cell about the size of a grave.

No one, not even among the Syrians who tortured him, was ever able to come up with any evidence linking Mr. Arar to terrorism. He was released and returned to his family in Ottawa. Shunned and emotionally shattered, he seems a ruined man at just 35 years of age.

These two men were needless taken and stripped of their rights. Neither man was an American citizen, but because of the secrecy of this plan, no one knows if the United States actually has abducted its own citizens and sent them to foriegn countries to be tortured and imprisoned. We know about these problems and we should demand that this and NSA wiretapping without a warrant and the secret searches of library, medical, and business records in the PATRIOT ACT all be stopped. Let's take back our country and the liberties we hold dear. Call your congressman or Senator now and demand accountability!

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I'd like to thank Or for his arguments in the last post. This is an important debate to have. We need to discuss these issues so that we can choose a nominee in 2008 that reflects our values and our hopes and who is able to lead not only our party to victory but our country into the future. I do not believe Senator Clinton is the person to do that. I have looked to the rest of the primary field and I fail to find an alternative either. Evan Bayh is too cautious, Mark Warner is severely inexperienced, John Kerry is old news, John Edwards lacks gravitas, Wesley Clark is too new to politics, Bill Richardson doesn't inspire, Tom Vilsack is too boring, Tom Daschle is nuts to run, Russ Feingold is creating a perception of radicalism, and Joe Biden has been in the Senate far too long. This does not mean I will not eventually throw my weight behind any of these candidates. One of them will probably be our next president, or at least our nominee; but I fear that we as a party have an opportunity, presented to us by the failed policies of the conservative movement, to do something more than win an election. We have the chance to win in the battleground of ideas. Let me elaborate further.

Democrats are too timid. We lack a spine. There is no reason we shouldn't call for universal pre-school, universal college, universal health care, a balanced budget, and a concerted effort to eliminate poverty in our nation and around the world. Our policies are not unpopular with Americans; they're unpopular with corporations. I have not seen a single poll showing that the American people think that only the rich should get treatment for illness, that only the children of CEO's should go to college and pre-school, that only a few should have the opportunity to achieve the American Dream.

The reason I have called on Senator Obama to run is because he is the only person who I believe deeply cares about and understands these issues and the people affected by them, and the only person I believe has the ability to effectively communicate our values as a party. If this is too early, then maybe Senator Obama will fail. Maybe, like Ronald Reagan, who ran in 1968 after two years as governor, he will run again and again until he wins (Reagan ran again in 1976 and 1980 before being elected to the Presidency). But I am not calling for Senator Obama to run because I want him to eventually be President, I am asking him to run now because we need him to be our President.

Our country is in serious pain. I hear it on my dorm floor. Conservatives scream at me for wanting to kill babies, for destroying religious freedom by allowing deviant homosexuals to marry, for depressing the morale of our troops in Iraq by calling for them to come home, and for wanting to take away the "hard-earned money" of CEO's making $7 million bonuses so that poor kids can go to college. They call me a racist for supporting affirmative action simply as a temporary solution so minorities can seek their potential until we fix our broken educational and economic system. On race, religion, political affiliation, gender, age, sexual orientation, ideology, and nationality, there are enormous divisions in our country. It saddens me that we fail to look to the long-term and address dangerous problems like global warming, anti-Americanism in every continent, growing global poverty, HIV/AIDS, the financial insolvency of Medicare (while Social Security is very solvent for at least three generations, I will post on this later, Medicare will be insolvent in the next decade), the unnerving effects of globalization, the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and the problem of the uninsured and the undereducated. We need serious leaders committed to tackling these tough issues now, who have strong principles but who are willing to compromise to achieve good ends, who can challenge and inspire our nation to sacrifice a little self-interest for the common good, who will once again make the United States the moral and political leader of the free world, and who will debunk all the myths and lies about politics by demonstrating to the American people that our elected leadership genuinely cares about helping others and serving their communities.

Senator Obama is that man. He is the product of an interracial and international marriage (his father was Kenyan, his mother was Kansan). He used drugs as a teenager and got involved with gangs. But he also went to college (Columbia University) and law school (Harvard, where he was President of the Harvard Law Review, the first African-American in the position) because he worked hard, played by the rules, changed his life around, and believed in the American Dream. He was a practicing Muslim in his youth, and converted to Christianity, and is as devout as any evangelical. He moved to Chicago and New York after law school, not to seek big money, but to help the little guy by being a civil rights lawyer and then creating a voter registration initiative that registered 100,000 people in 1992 in Chicago. He has lived the lives of Americans from all walks of life and understands the issues that we all face. But through all the pain (his father left the country when he was two and Obama never saw him again), he never lost hope; even with a "funny name," this skinny kid is a United States Senator from the Land of Lincoln. In all the poverty that he has seen, he still believes that anyone in America can get ahead. With racism and intolerance subtly permeating every institution in our country, Senator Obama sees a world where African-Americans stop viewing intellectualism as "white" and where white people become better by working with and learning from their black friends. Senator Obama is the embodiment of the American character and the country needs him to lead.

Or makes good points about the political ramifications of Senator Obama's age and experience in comparison to other "lucky" Presidents like Wilson and Carter. But the winds are changing, and Senator Obama has only beaten the odds and pulled major upsets (he was running fourth in the Dmeocratic primary polls in Illinois until the primary and won a decisive majority in a large field). Senator Obama, even before the GOP changed candidates and the sex scandal with Jack Ryan came out, was ahead of his opponent by 22 points, before he was well-known. Senator Obama stuns people; he stuns me. I still believe in an America that challenges the conventional wisdom, embodied by Charlie Cook (whom I think is brilliant), and surprises the world. We have a choice in our party in 2008; do we want to win an election, do we want to defeat the Republicans, do we want to govern effectively, or do we want to change the world for the better? I want to do all of these things, and I strongly believe that there is no one in our party better suited than Senator Obama to accomplish them.

Maybe it is too early for Senator Obama, and maybe he will fail. But maybe he won't, and maybe we will see an America again that amazes us all, and makes us believe in miracles again.

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Like most Democrats, I'm an enormous fan of Barack Obama. I want him to be President. But I don't think Obama should run in 2008. Adam's right in that race is more an asset than a liability for Obama. However, I have a few problems with his argument about age, and completely disagree with his argument about experience. Finally, Adam leaves something important out of the equation: opposition.

Let's start with the section on age. Obama is definitely not physically too young to be president. However, in politics, actual age matters a lot less than perception of age. Kennedy was a young president, Clinton was not. The three years didn't make a difference; Kennedy was just "youthful." Similarly, Edwards was a young candidate. It doesn't matter at all that he was 51; the same youthful good looks that made certain people on the GUCD board fall head over heels for Edwards made sure that everyone saw him as a young guy. Of course, a good campaign can define the candidate as whatever age it wants to, but it takes a considerable amount of effort to redefine a "young" candidate as "seasoned." With that said, Obama's age is not an insurmountable obstacle, and with some effort, he can make his youth work for him strategically. However, it's not the non-issue Adam makes it out to be.

Next, let's talk about experience. The past presidents section is nice, but by only counting raw time as an elected official, it's missing a lot. I'll go through these guys one by one:

Wilson: Sure, he won election after being governor for only two years... with less than 42% of the vote. Wilson had the distinction of facing not one, but two serious Republican contenders for President. I'm sure Obama would win if, say, McCain and Frist both ran in the general election. Too bad that's not going to happen. Also, Wilson was a governor, and as we all know, being a governor is a lot better than being a senator if you want to win an election for President. There's a world of difference between being one of 100 legislators and being an executive, not to mention the contradictory morass you generally have to get yourself into in order to be an effective senator. This is going to be a recurring theme.

FDR: Adam left out his seven years of experience in the cabinet as Assistant Secretary of the Navy. Think that's a trivial post? It had already propelled Theodore to the vice-presidency three decades earlier. Additionally, like Wilson, FDR was a governor. FDR was elected twice (though he only completed one term), while Obama's been elected once (and wouldn't even complete that if he won in '08). FDR had also already been the (unsuccessful) Democratic vice-presidential candidate, which I hear is pretty good for name recognition. Finally, FDR was a Roosevelt. Family ties shouldn't count in a theoretical democracy, but in the real world, they do.
Eisenhower: Ridiculous comparison. Sure, he had no elected experience, but to paraphrase Ron Burguny, Supreme Allied Commander in WWII is kind of a big deal.
Carter: Ultimate outsider in a time of ultimate scandal. Yes, he didn't have much experience, but he came in the wake of Watergate. To add insult to injury, Ford was a terrible candidate (hey guys, let's pardon Nixon!), having barely won the nomination even though he was a sitting VP. And Carter managed to drop from a 30 point lead after the convention to a 2 point victory margin. I admire Carter, but things were just right for him to win a general election. Plus, as a governor, Carter got to be both an outsider and an executive; Obama has neither advantage.
Reagan: Like you said, eight years as governor. That's twice as long as Obama will have been a statewide elected official. And, governor. And, the largest state in America.
Bush 43: I'll put my revulsion aside to try and give an objective analysis of why his experience managed to get him elected. He was governor of a large state, and he won two terms (see: Reagan). Six years is inexperienced, but again, Obama will only have four. Also, he ran an outsider campaign (see: Carter). One of the advantages of inexperience is that you can be less entrenched, but that's much, much harder to do as a senator. Finally, he's a Bush (see: FDR).
Ultimately, only Wilson and Carter have as little experience as Obama will, and both were elected during exceptional circumstances that probably won't repeat themselves in 2008. And I can't stress this enough-- both were governors. Think about common perceptions of governors and senators: running a state vs. sitting in an ineffective body that talks all day. Being a governor is just a better qualification, and it can make up for not having been a senator for x number of years.
Finally, opposition. Remember that Obama basically got handed his senate seat; his last-ditch opponent was, shall we say, insane. Yes, he's a spectacular candidate and he would have won anyway, but he didn't have a serious campaign waged against him. Nobody's spent millions dollars to define him as a flip-flopping liberal, tax-and-spend liberal, weak-on-defense liberal, Massachussetts liberal, San Francisco liberal, or flaming liberal homosexual. Sure, these are all false, but if Republicans know how to do anything, they know how to find a negative label that sticks (see: 2000, 2004 campaigns.) Obama won't be the immaculate golden boy forever; huge negative ad buys and concentrated attack campaigns do take their toll.
I want to see President Obama as much as Adam does, but Charlie Cook made a great point when he said that Obama gets one chance. If he loses, regardless of why he loses, people will think America won't elect an African American president, and won't try again for decades. In 2012, or 2016, Obama could be an unstoppable dream candidate. But do we want to risk the Obama presidency on shooting the moon in 2008? Maybe things will change, but right now the answer looking like a firm no.

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I'd like to take the time to argue my case that Senator Barack Obama is the right man to be President come Janurary 20th, 2009. All of my Democratic friends, including many in GUCD maintain that Senator Obama is too young, too inexperienced, and too black to be President of the United States. As we heard from Charlie Cook a few weeks ago, Barack Obama would not even theoretically jump into the 2008 race. This is a mistake. Senator Obama should run and this is why:

1. Barack Obama has more than enough experience and he is not too young to be President. If inaugurated on January 20th, 2009, President Obama would be 47 years old. Sounds young, right? Well, actually not. He would be older than Bill Clinton (46), John F. Kennedy (43), Teddy Roosevelt (42), and Ulysses S. Grant (46), all of whom are generally regarded as above average presidents. For all those who supported Senator John Edwards for President in 2004, upon inauguration, Senator Edwards would have been 51 years old (I doubt that 4 years adds much to a person in preparation for the Presidency). Senator Obama also will have more experience in elected office than a number of Presidents. Having served eight years in the Illinois State Senate and what will be four years in the U.S. Senate upon inauguration in 2009, Senator Obama has more experience than Ronald Reagan (eight years as governor), George W. Bush (six years as governor), Jimmy Carter (four years in the Georgia state senate and four years as governor), Franklin Delano Roosevelt (two years in the New York state senate and four years as governor), Dwight D. Eisenhower (no elected experience), Woodrow Wilson (two years as governor), and many other Presidents. To say that Senator Obama is too young or too inexperienced to be President suggests that all the great young and inexperienced Presidents listed above should never have been President.

2. For those that want to defeat Senator Clinton in the primary for a number of reasons (she can't win, she is too conservative, she won't make a good president, she will divide the country), Senator Obama is the only person who can easily beat Senator Clinton. Take a look at this Quinnipiac poll measuring the feelings of Americans toward Senator Obama in comparison to other well-known elected officials:

Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and Arizona Sen. John McCain are the hottest figures in a Quinnipiac University national 'Thermometer' survey, in which almost 1,900 voters rate their feelings about national leaders.

The two Republican presidential front-runners and Sen. Obama, who is not yet on the '08 guess list, are more warmly received than Sen. Hillary Clinton and other contenders. The independent poll asked voters to rate leaders from 0 to 100 on a "feeling thermometer," with the highest numbers reflecting the warmest feelings.

The top 10 mean scores are:

(1) Rudolph Giuliani.........................63.5
(2) Barack Obama.............................59.9
(3) John McCain..............................59.7
(4) Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice......57.1
(5) President Bill Clinton...................56.1
(6) Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards..50.8
(7) Former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner.........50.7
(8) New York Sen. Hillary Clinton............50.4
(9) Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold.............49
(10) Virginia Sen. George Allen...............48.6

President George W. Bush is at 44.1 and Vice President Dick Cheney gets 41.

Think about that! Senator Obama, who does not have 100% name recognition around the country has the second highest rating, above John McCain, President Clinton, and Senator Clinton. The people that know Senator Obama love him and as he becomes more well-known, more will come to love him too. There is not a single Democrat I've met who doesn't love Senator Obama, and many I speak to can't stand Hillary Clinton. I have no personal dislike for Senator Clinton, who is a great Senator and leader in our party, but Senator Obama clearly has the support of national Democrats and of all voters nationwide. If we're looking for someone to beat John McCain, this national thermometer shows that Senator Obama, while not as famous as Senator McCain, is more popular.

There are also those that say that a black man can't win the Presidency. Well, according to SurveyUSA's latest survey of all 100 US Senators shows Senator Obama is the fourth most popular Senator in the US Senate and the second most popular Senate Democrat in his mostly white, moderate, Midwestern state, with 70% of the state approving of his job performance. In fact, 68% of white voters, 69% of seniors, 57% of conservatives, 76% of moderates, 49% of Republicans, 69% of Independents, 60% of pro-life voters, 67% of regular church-goers, 73% of suburban Chicago voters, and 63% of downstate rural Illinois voters approve of Senator Obama. As one can see, Senator Obama has broad-based support across Illinois, transcending racial, partisan, ideological, religious, and geographic lines. In comparison, Senator McCain has only 67% of white voters in his mostly white, much more conservative state of Arizona, approving of his job performance, with 64% of all Arizona voters approving of his job performance. Senator John Kerry, a white Senator in the much more liberal Massachusetts, has only 52% of white voters approving of his job. For those that argue that Senator Obama can't win an election because he is African-American, just look at the numbers. Senator Obama can win both the primary and the general election.

3. Senator Obama is the right man to be President. He is charming, charismatic, smart, thoughtful, and has an enormous record of accomplishments. As an Illinois state Senator, he created Illinois' Earned Income Tax Credit, moving the working poor out of poverty, he expanded early childhood education, giving all Illinoisans the opportunity to get ahead, and he passed legislation that increased safeguards for capital cases to prevent the use of capital punishment on falsely-convicted inmates. In the US Senate, he has continued to push for important issues including taking the lead on preventing a catastrophic avian flu pandemic in the US and working on nuclear nonproliferation issues in the former Soviet Union with Richard Lugar, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He has even cosponsored a bill to provide full disclosure of federal appropriations with Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, an extremely conservative Senator. Senator Obama has tackled tough issues with enormous diligence and thoughfulness and has the ability to reach across our nation's divides and unite our country and inspire us to be the great beacon of liberty we should be. If you really want to know why Senator Obama should be our next President, just listen to his 2004 Democratic convention speech; it is the best speech I've ever heard and I challenge anyone to show me a better written and better delivered speech. Watch it here.

If you guys disagree, write comments, but I am putting in my vote of support for a Barack Obama run in 2008. Run, Barack, run!

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In the latest in a series of political blunders, the Republicans' push for immigration reform has backfired on the party. In December, when the GOP first called attention to illegal immigration, it was commonly viewed as a winning electoral strategy; it would fire up their increasingly apathetic conservative base in addition to giving congressional Republicans an accomplishment to tout in their re-election bids. By appealing to security fears and the xenophobia of groups like the Minutemen (for whom legitimate immigration ended the moment their anscestors arrived), they predicted that it would be the wedge issue of the midterm elections (think gay marriage in 2004). Furthermore, anything that would take media attention away from a disastrous war, unpoplar president, numerous criminal investigations, etc., was viewed as a blessing.

And so, House Republicans passed HR4437, a testament to the complexity and innovation of Republican thought: "I've got it...lets build a really big wall!" To be fair, the bill contains other equally horrible ideas. For example, it outlaws aid to those immigranting illegally (thus criminalizing numerous church groups and Amnesty which provide food and water to people crossing the harsh Southwestern desert) and most horrendously, makes illegal immigration a felony. Lets ponder that last one: so we're not going to let them stay here and work and pay taxes, nor are we going to send them back to Mexico; we're going to spend tax dollars to keep them in prison, then deport them. Fantastic.

However, the millions who have protested in recent weeks in 140 cities accross the country demonstrated the importance of this issue to the Latino community and their ability to unite and mobilize into a potent political force. By stressing their hard work, intense patriotism, and the central importance of immigration in the history of America, illegal immigrants and their supporters have elicted sympathy for their cause and gained support for a more lenient measure which includes a path to citizenship for those who pay their taxes and obey the law.

Not only are the Republicans now facing legislation that will likely be more lenient than if they never broached the topic of illegal immigration in the first place, but their strategy is likely to result in electoral gains for the Democrats as well. Hispanics are the fastest growing voting bloc in the country, and despite Bush's dream of making them a Republican constituency, vote blue two thirds of the time. An explosive issue like this has the potential to increase turnout among the Latino population (which is among the lowest in the country) and make it a solid Democratic constituency for a generation. Analysts predict that Hispanic voters will help swing the southwest to the Dems by the 2012 election.

Immigration has become a lose-lose issue for Republicans. On one hand, they face letting down their conservative base with too lenient a bill, while on the other they risk alienating an entire voting bloc, not to mention the fact that their financial base in the business isn't eager to see cheap labor get deported. Enjoy the show.

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President Bush tried to talk down the possibility of an Iran strike today. However, according to administration officials, the planning for a military operation in Iran is already underway:


The Bush administration is studying options for military strikes against Iran as part of a broader strategy of coercive diplomacy to pressure Tehran to abandon its alleged nuclear development program, according to U.S. officials and independent analysts.

According to current and former officials, Pentagon and CIA planners have been exploring possible targets, such as the uranium enrichment plant at Natanz and the uranium conversion facility at Isfahan. Although a land invasion is not contemplated, military officers are weighing alternatives ranging from a limited airstrike aimed at key nuclear sites, to a more extensive bombing campaign designed to destroy an array of military and political targets.
We've got 130,000 troops in Iraq, our military is severely overextended, we're running up enormous deficits to pay for this war, and victory in the war on terror is slipping away quickly. Not only is it realistically impossible to attack Iran, it is ridiculously stupid. Military officers are even discussing the stupidity of such a move:

Many military officers and specialists, however, view the saber rattling with alarm. A strike at Iran, they warn, would at best just delay its nuclear program by a few years but could inflame international opinion against the United States, particularly in the Muslim world and especially within Iran, while making U.S. troops in Iraq targets for retaliation.
The revved up talk is almost identical to what we heard before the war in Iraq:

Bush and his team have calibrated their rhetoric to give the impression that the United States may yet resort to force. In January, the president termed a nuclear-armed Iran "a grave threat to the security of the world," words that echoed language he used before the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Vice President Cheney vowed "meaningful consequences" if Iran does not give up any nuclear aspirations, and U.N. Ambassador John R. Bolton refined the formula to "tangible and painful consequences."
Paul Krugman of the New York Times writes an excellent editorial about the similarity of language between now and the run up to the war in Iraq:

As Joseph Cirincione of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace recently pointed out, the administration seems to be following exactly the same script on Iran that it used on Iraq: "The vice president of the United States gives a major speech focused on the threat from an oil-rich nation in the Middle East. The U.S. secretary of state tells Congress that the same nation is our most serious global challenge. The secretary of defense calls that nation the leading supporter of global terrorism. The president blames it for attacks on U.S. troops."
The strategic mistake in Iraq cannot be repeated in Iran. Let's not let the President mislead Americans into another war based on the media's lack of ability to ask questions and challenge the conventional wisdom. There is very little proof that Iran has any nuclear weapons program at all and the Iranians could be telling the truth about uranium enrichment solely for the purpose of nuclear energy. It also doesn't help that we just gave India a sweatheart nuclear deal that completely undermines the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Tell me what you guys think our policy towards Iran should be and how we can prevent the Bush administration from convincing the American people of another strategic blunder.

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[Full story here]


Real estate broker Harry Taylor told President Bush to his face how ashamed he was of the President last week at a community college in Charlotte, N.C. Excluding last year's Bush-Kerry debates, it may be the first time that's ever happened, and so the story made national news. His complete statement:


Taylor: You never stop talking about freedom, and I appreciate that. But while I listen to you talk about freedom, I see you assert your right to tap my telephone, to arrest me and hold me without charges, to try to preclude me from breathing clean air and drinking clean water and eating safe food. If I were a woman, you'd like to restrict my opportunity to make a choice and decision about whether I can abort a pregnancy on my own behalf. You are...


Bush: I'm not your favorite guy. Go ahead. Go on, what's your question?


Taylor: Okay, I don't have a question. What I wanted to say to you is that I -- in my lifetime, I have never felt more ashamed of, nor more frightened by my leadership in Washington, including the presidency, by the Senate, and


Audience Members: Booo!


Bush: No, wait a sec -- let him speak.


Taylor: And I would hope -- I feel like despite your rhetoric, that compassion and common sense have been left far behind during your administration, and I would hope from time to time that you have the humility and the grace to be ashamed of yourself inside yourself.


This is what democracy is about. It is sad that such an occurence is newsworthy and not the norm, but it is heartening that someone's words finally got through. Finally, cheers to Harry Taylor for speaking so eloquently on the spot.

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