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Sunday, July 04, 2004

Happy 228th Birthday America!!!

Some Quotes In Honor Of The Holiday

None have spoken of patriotism as fervently or as sincerely as these men, our Founding Fathers.

"It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more. You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not."
John Adams, letter to Abigail Adams, July 3, 1776

"Citizens by birth or choice of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affections. The name of American, which belongs to you, in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of Patriotism, more than any appellation derived from local discriminations."
George Washington, Farewell Address, September 19, 1796

"[I]t is a common observation here that our cause is the cause of all mankind, and that we are fighting for their liberty in defending our own."
Benjamin Franklin, letter to Samuel Cooper, May 1, 1777

"This was the object of the Declaration of Independence. Not to find out new principles, or new arguments, never before thought of, not merely to say things which had never been said before; but to place before mankind the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and firm as to command their assent, and to justify ourselves in the independent stand we are compelled to take. Neither aiming at originality of principle or sentiment, nor yet copied from any particular and previous writing, it was intended to be an expression of the American mind, and to give to that expression the proper tone and spirit called for by the occasion."
Thomas Jefferson, letter to Henry Lee, May 8, 1825

"This new world hath been the asylum for the persecuted lovers of civil and religious liberty from every part of Europe. Hither have they fled, not from the tender embraces of the mother, but from the cruelty of the monster; and it is so far true of England, that the same tyranny which drove the first emigrants from home, pursues their descendants still."
Thomas Paine, Common Sense, 1776

"Happily for America, happily, we trust, for the whole human race, they pursued a new and more noble course. They accomplished a revolution which has no parallel in the annals of human society."
James Madison, Federalist No. 14, November 20, 1787

Enjoy the holiday. -AA


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Saturday, July 03, 2004

Freedom Fries And The Axis Of Evil

Earning Back International Respect

The seed for this week's suggestion was this post from the Yahoo! News messageboards:

Hypocrisy......
by: kenok1 (34/M/Colorado) 07/03/04 06:01 pm
Msg: 1415 of 1422
1 recommendation

1) Torturing prisoners is wrong (of course), but beheading people isn't.

2) Invading Iraq for oil is wrong (of course), but signing contracts with Saddam isn't.

3) Protesting the war is right (it was), but not assisting the new Iraqi government is wrong until you get contracts??

4) Calling America evil, and calling the terrorists okay?

5) Calling the UN useful, but not doing anything about it when Saddam blows it off.

obviously, people hate America when this sort of unfair hypocrisy exists in Europe...thanks friends


Who sets a better example for the behavior of American citizens than our government? In the past two years our elected officials have called for "freedom fries" and "freedom ticklers", used the f-word on the Senate floor (Hi Dick!), and labeled many nations across the globe an "Axis of Evil". That was the tame stuff. More inciting things were: Ignoring the UN mandate on Iraq by forcing out weapons inspectors, trying to slap tariffs on imported steel from the EU, and GWB twisting the knife in Turkey - EU relations.

What I'm still trying to iron out is how Americans could be so naive as to believe it doesn't all add up; that the rest of the world doesn't hear us when we bash other nations or break our diplomatic treaties. How could many Americans think other nations weren't keeping score? Lord knows Americans are.

I saw it time and again, especially during our negotiations to have the French join us in Iraq. We bashed their military, their women, their honor, their food; in short anything anyone could think of. Did the Americans who spoke these things honestly believe those nations were asleep at the wheel? No, probably not. What those people were doing was follow in the bad example set from their President on down as to how to conduct yourself with the world at large. Bush and other politicians behaved abominably, and their constituency followed suit.

I have news for that Yahoo! poster:

No one in Europe thinks terrorism is OK, and they ought to know. Europeans have been dealing with bouts of terrorism on their own soil far longer than Americans. If we had utilized a little more common sense in our foreign policy, they might have been able to give us a few tips to help us deal with it.

If you don't like nations signing contracts with other nations - even ones that were approved by the UN, then I suggest you run for an office dealing with international law in the Hague. Oh wait... The US is not a signatory to the Hague's International Court. Your short sighted comments tell me exactly why.

Assisting an independent Iraqi government by any nation has never been an issue. The only questions that remain to be answered are: where can they help and what can they provide. I can't blame them for not wanting to get involved in the humanitarian and PR nightmare we call the Iraq war until the country was sovereign.

As to point number three, "calling terrorists OK", please see above.

The UN and Iraq were following specific mandates for weapons inspection when we invaded. As a matter of fact, the UN had to pull weapons inspectors out of Iraq because of the imminent American invasion. Check your UN resolutions very carefully and you will find that Saddam did comply with all of them. We had no grounds to invade and the UN called us on it.

So the next time you start throwing stones at Europe or anywhere else, it might be a good idea if you started looking for problems in the backyard of America before accusing anyone else of impropriety. If you choose to continue your unfounded bashing, don't be surprised if they throw back.

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A Few Announcements

If You're Not Part Of The Solution, You're Part Of The Problem

It's easy to point out governmental ills, they're all around us. What's harder is to put forward your own solution. Each weekend we'll be picking a topic and putting forward ideas on how to make government better for everyone. You may or may not agree, but in opening up this new series of articles we'll be doing our part towards making this country a better place; we'll be part of the solution.

The weekend news is mostly full of fluff and rehashed weekly news we've already covered, so you won't be missing much. If something earthshaking should happen, AA will be right here giving you an independent angle, as always.

A Special Thanks To AA Readers

On a side note, AA is eleven days old today and welcoming it's 300th unique reader. Thanks for clicking in.

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Does Politics Make You Ill?

Click On Over To Ipecac For Instant Relief

Ipecac is witty, analytical and stingingly accurate. Definitely a site for the thinking voter. It's also the only place to go for logical extensions of current events on our American culture. For example:

"Perhaps party politics has been infused with hate because it is one of the few discourses left in which hate-speech is still protected. No one should be surprised if, in the face of a future onslaught of third, fourth and fifth party activism, the Republicans and Democrats unite in a bi-partisan effort to pass legislation that protects their representatives and members from "hate speech." Criticism of government will no longer be unpatriotic, it will be a hate crime. Think it can't happen? In a recent First Amendment Center poll, "just 30 percent of those surveyed agreed" that "the First Amendment goes too far in the rights it guarantees." Two years ago, 49% agreed. In line with the central ideological operation of the national security state, rights are not taken away, they're trampled upon and given up."

There are very few gems out there, gang. This is one of them.
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Friday, July 02, 2004

Airing Our Dirty Laundry

US Lawmakers Request UN Presence At Nov Election

No matter which party you're in, this is great news. I've been waiting for this one. The UN has already offered and been turned down by the Bush Administration to send impartial overseers to the November elections in case of another year 2000 fiasco.

I think all sides will agree there is a lot riding on the November elections. Rumor of foul play abounds on both sides of the fence. I predict a very high voter turn out, especially from the younger voters. Although I was proud that our nation didn't fall apart during the dispute of the last election, I'm not entirely sure under the same scenario it would go as smoothly this time.

Many Americans still harbor hard feelings about the UN's lack of involvement in Iraq. Some of those same people will undoubtedly ask why we need the UN involved in our elections. The answer is simple: it will encourage fair play on all sides of the political spectrum and give much-needed world-wide legitimacy to the results whomever comes out on top. With all of the speculation about Diebold's partisan politics and electronic voting, I can't think of a better way to reassure the voters.

Very, very good move.

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Breaking News! Pot Calls Kettle Black

GOP Cries Foul At Dems Partisan Tactics

Democratic Massachusetts lawmakers are setting a new precedent for replacing John Kerry's Senate seat should he win office. Reuters reports the state Senate voted 31 to 7 establishing special elections to replace Kerry instead of allowing Republican Governor Mitt Romney to appoint a replacement. The bill passed with sufficient support to overcome a probable Governor's veto.

Right now the U.S. Senate is split at 51-49 with the GOP holding the upper hand. If the tussle in Massachusetts falls the way I think it will, the Dems will close the lead to a dead heat, and the GOP is beside themselves.

The GOP is calling it dirty politics. I had to laugh at that. These are the same guys that went all the way to the Supreme Court to push redistricting, which wound up adding quite a few Republican seats in both houses of Congress.

I don't believe the Democrats have done anything wrong. After all, they're not appointing anybody; they're giving the voters the choice. There is no guarantee that a Democrat will go into that Senate seat. If the GOP doesn't like what's going on, how about doing something to earn the voters' respect?

It is possible other states could adopt this same language, especially ones where, as in Massachusetts, the Legislature and the Governor sit on opposite political parties. That could be good news for the voters: finally having a say filling empty seats in Congress or the Senate.

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Thursday, July 01, 2004

Virginia's Error Is Worker's Gain

Too Bad They're Taking It Away

I usually limit myself to national politics, but I found something on CNN that I think everyone can relate to: time off from work.

It seems that the Virginia Legislature was trying to clean some house and clear some old, archaic laws off the books. One of those laws banned working on Sundays. For those lucky few of you who live in Virginia and are not managers at your jobs this means:

You are now entitled to a 24 hour consecutive rest period each week, and you may formally request in writing to take off either Saturday or Sunday as your day of worship. If the business you work for fails to let you have that day, they face a fine of $500 per violation and may have to pay you up to triple your normal wage.

However, Virginia's businesses aren't thrilled at all, the service, retail and manufacturing industries in particular. They thrive on cracking the whip over their workers as often as they can for as little as they can and the Virginia Legislature is falling all over itself to please them. They're trying to pass new laws that would put everything back the way it used to be.

God forbid someone get a regular day off to worship and spend time with their families. I mean, we all know the sky will fall if people are given 24 hours off in a row! Sure.

This was a great step closer to equalizing all workers and promoting lower stress on families and in the workplace. I don't see the CEO's working Sundays, do you? Even though I know it was an accident -imagine that, a legislature thinking of their constituents before big business! - it was a happy one. They should leave well enough alone and take the pat on the back for rejoining the human race, instead of passing more legislation that lets business take advatage of it's workers. Think spin, Virginia, think spin.

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Take A Peep At The Bard

Greatest Quote Of The Day: Excellent Dumb Discourse

"Most informed people in the United States agree things could be going a whole lot better in Iraq. If you are not one of these people, you may want to lay off the Fox News Kool Aid, 'cause your brain is clearly being washed by Murdoch MindControl Inc."

He's the only 21st century bard I know, give him a holler.

-AA

If you's like to see some other great sites, check my blogroll.
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With This Ballot I Do Pray

Christian Fundamentalism In Bush Campaign

The Washington Post never ceases to amaze me with the articles they come up with. This time Alan Cooperman, a Post staff writer has uncovered some shady dealings by the Bush campaign involving church activists across the country. Always a great writer, Cooperman has this to say:

"The Bush-Cheney reelection campaign has sent a detailed plan of action to religious volunteers across the country asking them to turn over church directories to the campaign, distribute issue guides in their churches and persuade their pastors to hold voter registration drives."

Further than the tax ramifications of non-profits acting more like 527 groups, this move smacks of Christian Fundamentalism. Bush is appealing to the ultra-conservative right in an effort to infiltrate American churches with his rhetoric. Political potlucks with your church group? Gather five members of your church and put them to work for the campaign? Post Bush/Cheney literature on church bulletin boards? I thought the Christians only believed in one God and no false idols?

Politics is a private thing for most folks; they don't want to rock the boat, start an argument or be laughed at for liking Ralph Nader. Church is supposed to be the one place where no matter who you are or what you've done, you'll be accepted. This move by the Bush campaign seeks to take that haven from church-goers and turn it into a politically charged arena, potentially ostracizing them from their local community.

I don't know about you, but I think the last place politics belongs is in the church. There's separation of Church and State for a reason, and this is one of them.

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Wishful Thinking In the White House

McClellan Insists Bush Making Us Safer

Buried under the usual bs news this morning is a small mention of a Wednesday press conference at the White House. White House spokesman Scott McClellan challenges the results of several national polls on the impact of Bush's policies on homeland security. At least three polls show increasing numbers of Americans think the Bush Administration is making America and the world a more dangerous place.

Typical of the Administration mouthpiece, McClellan said,

"Because of the action that this president is taking, we are making the world a safer and better place and making America more secure."

Sure you are, Scott, you keep right on believing that. The rest of us will think about the failures of the Homeland Security's airline safety initiatives, the disgruntled prisoners from Abu Gharib and Guantanamo who will run right out join up with any local yoohoo group that supports the killing of Americans. We're thinking about the capture and beheading of U.S. soldiers and civilians in Iraq, we're thinking about the future ramifications of rattling sabers with the North Koreans, and the denial of rights to American citizens.

GW is not making any part of our country, let alone the rest of the world a safer place and all the White House wants to say is a juvenile "Nuh-uh". Gimmie a break.

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Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Ang's Weird Ideas

Ralph Nader, Everybody's Favorite Chew Toy

The Controversy Surrounding Ralph

Over the past few weeks, a string of unusual events have taken place and they all revolve around Ralph Nader. Instead of becoming the strong third party candidate he'd hoped to be, Nader is turning into everybody's patsy. Let me show you what I mean:

It wasn't hard to see why the Democrats wanted him out of the race, with their erroneous convictions that he somehow 'stole' Florida from Al Gore in 2000. On June 22nd the Congressional Black Caucus took him into the basement of the Capitol building and a heated exchange ensued. It was reported Caucus members had asked Nader to resign from the race. Nader refused. Although Kerry's campaign insists he had nothing to do with it, I can't help but see the donkey prints in the dirt after that scuffle. Article

On June 26th a consumer watchdog group (The Citizens For Responsibility And Ethics In Washington) filed a formal complaint against Nader's campaign alleging improper use of reduced rent office space and shared telephone lines with his non-profit corporation Citizen Works. Nader dismissed the allegations. Article

Nader continued to solicit endorsements, but came up empty with the Green Party on June 27th. The Greens dealt a serious blow to third party candidates of all stripe by not endorsing him and putting forward their own candidates. AA Article

Meanwhile, the GOP, sensing the fear of the Democrats, vowed to fight to get Nader on the ballot in as many states as they could. They went so far as to call their members in Oregon to sign a petition to get Nader on the ballot in Oregon. Today those same groups find that they have landed in hot water with the same consumer watchdog group that called Nader on the carpet earlier this week, The Citizens For Responsibility And Ethics In Washington. (If that's not an oxymoron, I don't know what is.) Article

A few short weeks from the major conventions and some very important things have become apparent: The Democrats are opposed to having a third party candidate in the race, demonstrating their fear that Kerry doesn't have the broad support he'll need in November. The Republicans feel quite confident with themselves, manipulating Nader's standings in several states at will. And the watchdog group CREW? They're just out to sink him anyway they can.

It might all appear to be politics as usual -and sadly, it is- but when we add these three things together, we can see a tiny bit of resigned acceptance of third parties in the Presidential race. Certainly Nader's not respected by either party, with each side yanking him to and fro while jockeying for position, however, the voters are watching. They're seeing how afraid the Democrats are of lost votes, how important the Republicans think Nader's ballot access is to their success and they're watching the Washington Big Boys take the impact of a third party candidate seriously. Those same voters will soon be asking themselves if the two main camps are taking a third party seriously, why shouldn't they? Then we'll see a real scramble for voters.




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I'm Giving Her All She's Got, Captain

Justice Department Insists Copying Files Crashes System

I never felt more like I was in an old episode of Star Trek than yesterday. Ted Bridis, AP writer put out an article detailing why a request for the Justice Department's Foreign Lobby database could not be turned over to the press under the Freedom of Information Act.

The reason? Thomas J. McIntyre claims: "Implementing such a request risks a crash that cannot be fixed and could result in a major loss of data, which would be devastating".

Riiight.

My first instinct would be to say print it off. Spooling a job that large would take time, but it wouldn't risk the original in any way. Then they can pass it off to the Government Printing Office for duplication and distribution. There are current paper records in Washington open to the public, but the index is dated rendering the information totally useless.

Even on old machines, there would be back up tapes made. The back up tapes would be one of several different kinds, although the most widely used are incremental. The incremental tapes are used daily to record changes in the database. Most large companies keep one year of these tapes on hand, although I suspect that the Federal Government would keep many times that, perhaps up to seven years. Collating the information on those tapes would in no way risk the original database.

There are many other ways that something like this could be done, and the risk of a crash is as transparent a bad excuse as I've seen coming from the Justice Department in a long time. The question we've all got to ask ourselves is: What are they hiding? Why not just come out with the information?

Another reason my eyebrow went up was the date the Justice Department spokesperson said this database would possibly be available: December, after the election. Combine that with Rumsfeld's 2001 edict further allowing Governmental Agencies to withhold any information from the public if it's thought to cause "foreseeable harm".

Foreseeable harm to whom, Mr. Rumsfeld? I wonder.

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Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Hillary Wants To Raise My Taxes?!

Pony Up To The Angel Of Restraint? I Don't Think So.

Hillary Clinton (D-NY) was quoted in an article on the AP Wire today addressing San Fran Democrats, and for grins and giggles, I'll quote it here:

"Many of you are well enough off that ... the tax cuts may have helped you. We're saying that for America to get back on track, we're probably going to cut that short and not give it to you. We're going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good."

Now, ordinarily, we all expect this same rhetoric from the Democrats, why would I call this one on the carpet? Well, in all fairness, I've been slamming the Republicans of late (they are making such easy targets of themselves) and I thought it was time to pull the rug out from under those of you who erroneously think I'm a Democrat.

Now I don't mind paying more, if indeed, we really need to, so I did some checking on where the tax dollars I'm ponying up now are going with my friends at Citizens Against Government Waste. These are the same folks ever year who publish the little pink Pig Book outlining government fraud, waste and abuse like a yearbook chronicles your pimples. They also have a handy page scoring each of your Congressmen and Senators on how well they guard your federal monies against pork.

It's not hard to guess that Senator Clinton was nowhere near a "Taxpayer Superhero" rating of 100. Nor did she slide in at 80% (taxpayer hero), 60% (friendly) or even 40% (lukewarm). Her respective ratings were 16% (hostile) for 2003 and -get this- 7% (hostile) lifetime.

To be fair, I'll compare her to the Democratic Senators of my own state, Wisconsin. Feingold came in at a 44/41 and Kohl with a 20/39, respectively. Now certainly these guys aren't my heroes, but it just goes to show you how irresponsible she is with my money. This year alone there were 10,656 projects in 13 appropriations bills totaling more than 22.9 billion dollars. Yes, that billion with a B.

And this lady wants more of my money? Forget it.

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There Are No Divisions In Grief

Americans Mourn The Loss Of Spc. Keith M. Maupin

It seems left and right Americans never agree on anything. We fuss and argue, backbite and clamor about the state of the Nation and who's right or wrong. We climb over one another in the great roaring arena of free speech to be heard. In the middle of the din, a small report comes across the AP Wire, solemn and poignant: Spc. Keith Maupin, USMC has been killed. A hush falls over us all. In that moment, we are no longer left or right, we are no longer different races or creeds; in that galvanizing moment we are all simply Americans and we mourn one of our own.

All too often we didn't know him; we never shook his hand, never looked him in the eye, never knew where he lived. We only know what we needed to know: he was a fellow American. He was our brother.

Today I remember Spc. Keith Maupin and all the hostages who won't be returning to their families and friends. I send my heartfelt condolences to his family and to all the families who've had to deal with the extraordinary grief of losing a loved one. I ask you to take comfort in knowing you are in the hearts, minds and prayers of Americans everywhere.

Today all of America weeps for her fallen son.

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Monday, June 28, 2004

Supremes Allow Detaining US Citizens As Enemy Combatants

Holy Burning Bill Of Rights, Batman!

Largely painted as a defeat for President Bush in the press, the announcement of the Supreme Court decision on Hamdi -vs- Rumsfeld will send shockwaves through this nation. Although the justices allow access to lawyers and the court system, they back the President in declaring American citizens "enemy combatants".

A quote from Justice O'Connor's slip opinion.

"We hold that although Congress authorized the detention of combatants in the narrow circumstances alleged here, due process demands that a citizen held in the United States as an enemy combatant be given a meaningful opportunity to contest the factual basis for that detention before a neutral decision maker."

Although this did disappoint the Bush Administration in allowing accused US citizen "enemy combatants" access the American justice system, it stopped short of declaring the seizure of said citizen-combatants as being a violation of the Section I of the Fourteenth Amendment, which states:

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

This is a slippery slope, ladies and gentlemen. Today, with this open-ended legislation from Congress declaring "war" on terrorism, any and all of us may be seized without probable cause and without a subpoena by a grand jury, a clear violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. Up until this point, even in cases of treason a grand jury had to hand down the indictment. No longer. This is a sad day in America, the day the Constitution was snubbed by it's own Supreme Court.



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Passing The Baton

Then Running Like Hell

The big story this morning is the early grant of Iraqi sovereignty to the Iraqi Provisional Government. The Iraqi leaders are insisting the handover occurred due to their readiness to deal with insurgents, some press members are saying it was a way to duck promised terror attacks during the ceremony. The Bush administration has been casting about for a move to deflate increasing terrorism and anti-American sentiment in the country, and what better way than to make a symbolic transfer of power?

I say symbolic because the U.S. will continue to maintain 135,000 troops in Iraq and with a new agreement from NATO, the ranks of foreign soldiers will swell by 20,000 more. The NATO troops will be training the Iraqi security forces, while the American-led Coalition will continue to be responsible for interim security. Aside from Bremer leaving, not much has changed. Americans will still be in the line of fire from Iraqi insurgent groups. None of our men and women are coming home, as a matter of fact more troops have been requested stabilize the area; 15,000 more.

What have we really accomplished here? Iraq is now an occupied but sovereign nation, the Interim Government was appointed not elected, and Iraqi debt (which we are responsible for) is now more than all other third world countries combined. Up until Saturday, the January 31st elections were still up in the air, and despite new promises to hold firm to the date, I remain unconvinced. For the Iraqi people, I don't see much security, as hundreds have died in clashes with the insurgents since the official cease fire. Instead of hiding from Saddam, they are now hiding from secret groups of terrorists. Instead of being tortured by their old leader, they've been tortured by us, and the transference of oppressed anger has been tangible. The Iraqi people have not been fooled.

We leave the country on a wobbly promise of elections free but naked, unable to pay it's debts or defend itself from any internal or external threat, unable to easily pass new laws or rescind those passed during the American occupation. We leave Iraq every bit as unstable as it was, except now, there is more anti-American sentiment than ever before.

While Bush and company stated this was a move for sovereignty of the Iraqi people, I see it more as election prattle: it's simply a way to try and distance himself from the disastrous results of this invasion prior to November. Iraq is not ready to stand on it's own- and if we were going to salvage anything out of this catastrophe, a complete handover to an independent democracy of elected officials (with elections monitored closely by the UN) was the only way to do it. Bush is setting this entire country up to fail in an effort to garner more votes in November.

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