The Commonwealth Comment

Friday, November 09, 2007

We're Here! We're Queer!

In a 235-184 vote, the US House of Representatives passed a bill that would make firing, hiring, promoting, or paying someone based on sexual orientation a crime.
The Employment Non-Discrimination Act faces an uphill battle in the narrowly divided Senate. Senator Kennedy is planning on introducing a similar plan. If the bill does pass a Senate vote, it is likely to be vetoed by President Bush.
CNN reports Bush and the White House have cited constitutional concerns and that this bill could infringe religious rights. Many Republicans share these concerns saying that the bill may undermine people who oppose the lifestyles based on religious reasons.
However, supporters of the bill call it a major step in civil rights for the homosexual community. House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) said, "Bigotry and homophobia are sentiments that should never be allowed to permeate the American workplace."
Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) is one of only two openly gay members of Congress. He said this bill tells "...millions of Americans who are gay and lesbian that they are not bad people, that it is not legitimate to fire them simply because of who they are."
This bill did face some criticism from the GLBT community because it does not guarantee protection of transgender people. A measure for transgender rights was in the bill's original draft, but leaders felt it would cause many conservative and moderate Democrats to vote against the bill. Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Virginia) said, "It's better to take this one step at a time."
Federal law forbids job discrimination based on race, gender, and religion. Nineteen states have their own laws in place banning discrimination due to sexual orientation, and nine have laws banning discrimination of transgender people.

My Opinion: I am pro-gay rights in case you haven't figured it out by now.
What I don't understand is what the GOP means when it says the bill would trample religious rights. The bill doesn't apply to churches or the military, so its hard for me to see their logic. Maybe they mean the religious right?
The Republican party's argument is flawed, and in 2008 when the Democrats are running the show again, I think we will see major advances in Gay and Lesbian and possibly Transgender rights.
I believe this is a good bill. It is just a shame that it will be vetoed by the bigot in the White House, and the Democrats won't have the votes to override him this time. We'll see what Senator Kennedy's bill brings when he introduces it in the Senate. Sadly, I feel it will fall in a similar fashion.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

A First Time For Everything

For the first time in the "W. Era", The House of Representatives has voted to override a Presidential veto, and the Senate is expected to follow.
The battle is over a $23 billion water bill for projects to help the still devastated Gulf Coast, which is still trying to recover from Hurricane Katrina 2 years later. The bill has strong bipartisan support; 223 Democrats and 138 Republicans came together to vote to override Bush's veto. The 361-54 vote was more than the two-thirds needed to pass the override.
President Bush vetoed the bill saying that it was too expensive. This drew instant criticism from Democratic leaders. ""He doesn't pay for a single cent of that $196.4 billion [for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan]," said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD). "But he says in order to develop the levees to save New Orleans that's cost us billions of dollars ... that's too much money."
"My administration has repeatedly urged the Congress to authorize only those projects and programs that provide a high return on investment and are within the three main missions of the Corps' civil works program: Facilitating commercial navigation, reducing the risk of damage from floods and storms and restoring aquatic ecosystems," Bush said. "This bill does not achieve that goal."
Some of the projects included in the rejected bill include reconstruction of levees around New Orleans and the closure of the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet, a man-made channel blamed for bringing Katrina's storm surge into the Big Easy's Lower 9th Ward.

My Opinion: A high return on investment? Yup, hundred of billions spent in Iraq has given us plenty of return. Oh yea, did I mention 2007 has been the deadliest year for US soldiers in Iraq? I'm so glad the President is so concerned with the continued depletion and extended tours of our already fatigued armed forces. Wasting money on something as trivial as the impoverished Gulf Coast? What are the Democrats thinking?!
I cannot wait for the Senate to override this veto and kick George W. Bush square in the pants. Congratulations to the Congress for standing up to the guru of responsible spending and doing what is right for the Gulf Coast and the United States. No more will important domestic issues be overshadowed by the politics of fear...I hope.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

All Wet

President Bush has tapped Michael Mukasey to replace Alberto Gonzales Attorney General of the United States. Mukasey has served 18 years as a judge in New York's Southern District Court. 6 of those years were as Chief Judge. However, the man George W. Bush hoped would have breezed through Senate confirmation has hit a snag.

Some members of the Senate are disturbed by Mukasey's vague opinion on the government's use of water-boarding. Water-boarding is when a suspect is brought to the brink of drowning in order to get information.

Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has announced the committee will likely put the nomination to vote on November 6th. Leahy also announced he would vote against Mukasey's nomination based on his answers on torture. "I am eager to restore strong leadership and independence to the Department of Justice. I like Michael Mukasey. I wish that I could support his nomination. But I cannot. America needs to be certain and confident of the bedrock principle -- deeply embedded in our laws and our values -- that no one, not even the president, is above the law," he said.

Hours later two key Democratic members of the Judiciary Committee, Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Charles Schumer (D-NY) proclaimed their support of the President's candidate. If all of the committee's Republican members vote in favor of Mukasey, which they are expected to, he would move on to a full Senate vote. With such small majority of Democrats in the Senate, and at least two of them voting in favor of Mukasey, it is likely he will be confirmed by the Senate and become the next Attorney General. If the vote comes to a 50-50 tie, Vice President Dick Cheney would cast the deciding vote. In either scenario Mukasey is confirmed.

As of November 1st, 5 Senators (not counting Leahy) have come out in opposition to Mukasey's confirmation. Sens. Edward Kennedy and John Kerry (D-MA), Chris Dodd (D-CT), Joseph Biden (D-DE), and Bernie Sanders (D-VT) all plan to vote against the nomination because of the controversial stance on torture.

My Opinion: This man should not be confirmed as Attorney General. With Mukasey I feel we will simply see more of the same; looking the other way or interpreting the law and Constitution differently (as the President sees/breaks it). Water-boarding is a terrible form of torture and it should not be used on any human being. It is both inhumane and ineffective. Prisoners will say anything to get the torture to stop. This is not the way the United States should go about collecting intelligence. The United States is better than this, and the Justice Department is better than Micahel Mukasey. Shame on any Senators that vote in favor of this nominee and this medieval form of torture.