The telephone industry immunity act (also known as the Protect America Act) expires on February 1st, so it is time for the Republicrats to ‘argue’ amongst themselves for a couple days about whether or not to include immunity. The Democrats will stand up and say it is unfair if these companies – who broke federal law simply because the president asked them to – get off scott-free (or maybe we should start calling it scooter-free). The Republicans will say that they refuse to accept any kind of extension or immunity and if the Democrats use their majority to provide either, they are being weak on terror and it is completely their fault if the United States gets attacked again. As Glenn Greenwald points out, the Democrats do not want to appear weak (even though the majority of their base would prefer no immunity) and will therefore cave in and give the Republicans whatever they want, thereby proving that they are tremendously weak. The three major candidates for president on the Democratic side (who also happen to be the top three receivers of money from the telecommunication companies) are all claiming that there should be no immunity, but are too busy campaigning to actually do anything about it. Every time I think that I might vote Democrat in November, I receive a reminder like this that they may be even worse than their Republican ‘opposition’. I’m starting to think that maybe Bush and his crew should be getting less blame then I have been giving them; if the Democrats showed the slightest sign of backbone, Bush would not be able to do most of the things he does. Blaming Bush (or even the Republicans) is just as misguided as blaming Adolph Hitler for everything that occurred during the holocaust and World War II. Without the cooperation of both his friends and enemies, doing whatever he wanted would have been impossible. How are things going to be different if we elect a Democrat into office? As long as there is still one Republican or member of the media screaming that the Democrats will be weak if they don’t do this or vote that way, they will cave. How can we elect someone to run our country in a time of such global turmoil when he or she can’t even stand up for what they believe in? Another topic that is important to the future of our country – and that none of the major candidates on either side have put any effort into addressing – is the growing amount of contractors in both Iraq and Afghanistan and the lack of prosecution when they do something illegal. Our tax dollars, the money that we are forced into paying just to participate in society, are being used to pay people large amounts of money to go to other countries (countries where we are trying to win hearts and minds) and basically do whatever they want, knowing that they are not going to be held responsible. During the few days last year when most newspapers actually did some reporting on this (because of Blackwater employees, after shooting randomly into a crowd of Iraqis, killed 17 humans) people were truly outraged. Unfortunately, due to our short-term memories and inability to care about anything that isn’t being reported by the mainstream media, people seem to have moved on to other things. There were over 600 reports of ‘serious incidents’ committed in a nine-month period by contractors in Iraq, yet only one person has been tried for a crime. There are men and women who are over there (rightly or wrongly) risking their lives because they want to protect their fellow countrypeople or get money to go to college; they are getting paid an average salary of $30k a year and being held responsible for (most of) their actions. Meanwhile, mercenaries are over there getting paid ten times as much, with better equipment and protection, and are not held accountable for anything they do. Maybe I’ve missed something, but neither Barrack Obama, Hilary Clinton, nor (the man for the people) John Edwards have said a word about what a travesty this is. Even if our troops are in Iraq doing the best they can, trying to make friends with the regular citizens, and honestly trying to make a difference, it doesn’t matter because the average Iraqi cannot tell the difference between a soldier and a mercenary (who, by the way, outnumber the soldiers by about 20,000- even after the surge). Could the fact that no one is being held accountable for the mercenaries running wild and none of the candidates are speaking out have something to do with the fact that Blackwater alone has hired three separate lobbying firms?
Egypt has finally spouted a bit of a heart; a day after firing at Palestinians crossing the border for food, fuel, and other supplies they have decided (thanks in part to the giant holes the Palestinians blew in the border wall) to allow them to cross. Israel has allowed a couple days supply of fuel to cross their security lines, but is still imposing a blockade of most goods to the suffering residents of the Gaza Strip. Attempts at settling this confrontation and trying to stop the budding humanitarian crisis have gone nowhere, as the representatives from both sides spent more time arguing at the UN than actually trying to hammer out a solution. Israel continues to say that they will not give in until Hamas ceases the rocket fire while Hamas says they will not stop firing rockets over the border until Israel begins treating them fairly. Based on the past 50 or so years, it doesn’t look like either side will cave any time soon.
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