Today the Senate passed a $97 billion appropriations bill for the U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan with a stipulation that U.S. troops must begin withdrawing within 120 days after the passing of the bill, with the goal of complete redeployment by the end of March 2008. The House of Representatives has a similar bill that calls for all troops to be removed by September 2008. These bills will have to be reconciled, but the more pressing issue is the imminent presidential veto.

President Bush has stated numerous times that any spending bill calling for a withdrawal would be vetoed, and, as of right now, he appears to be sticking to his guns.

The bill passed by a vote of 51-47, with Michael Enzi (R, Wyoming) and Tim Johnson (D, South Dakota) again not voting.

While it is an accomplishment for the new Democratic Congress, the Democrats will probably not be able to sway the necessary 15 or so more Senators they will need for the 2/3 majority required to overcome the President’s veto.

For my opinion on this, see my previous post.


Democrats in the House and Senate voted to keep a troop withdrawal timetable in the Iraq appropriations bill (a bill allowing an additional $122 billion in war funds) by razor thin majors.

The motion (which, to clarify, did not pass the bill, merely kept a clause in the bill calling for a timetable) passed 50-48 in the Senate, with Mike Enzi (R, Wyoming) and Tim Johnson (D, South Dakota) not voting because they were absent. A similar motion (calling for troops to be recalled by September ’08) passed in the House by a margin of 218-212.

While Senator Kennedy (D, Massachussetts) called the votes “momentous,” in reality, they showed just how divided Congress still is on the matter of Iraq, and President Bush has vowed to veto any bill that contains a timetable for withdrawal. Given that the vote was so close, it’s highly unlikely that the Democrats will be able to muster the 2/3 majority needed to overcome a Presidential veto.

Both Democrats and Republicans defected from their party lines, and even moderate Republicans were extremely worried about setting a concrete timetable for withdrawal. They had this to say:

“This bill should be named the Date Certain for Surrender Act. A second-year cadet at West Point could tell you that if you announce when the end will be, it’s a recipe for defeat. We cannot give up just as we’re starting to turn things around in Iraq.”
John McCain (R, Arizona)

“I don’t think it’s wise to have an abrupt withdrawal from Iraq. This doesn’t mean I support an unending commitment of our troops in Iraq. I don’t.”
Susan Collins (R, Maine)

“It would be the bugle of retreat. It would be echoed and repeated through every minaret in Iraq: the coalition forces have decided to take the first step backwards. We cannot send that message. Not at this time.”
John W. Warner (R, Virginia)

While I consider myself liberal-moderate, I also find myself siding more with the Republicans on this issue. Iraq is not going to solve itself. Yes, we’ve created a terrorist recruitment ground there. Yes, we’ve lost thousands of troops.

Will pulling out fix those things? Well, it will end the casualty rate, but it will not end the terrorist presence, stem their ability to recruit, or help stabilize the Middle East in any way. As I’ve stated in a previous post, leaving Iraq will, beyond being a serious moral blow to our military and our country, create the kind of chaotic situation in which terrorism thrives.

We’ve seen this kind of example throughout history, a failed democratic project that slips into chaos. What does it lead to? There are two very famous examples. Two men rose to power and changed history: Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. Other governments that have arisen from a chaotic state are usually despotic in nature: European feudal governments after the Viking invasions in the 9th and 10th century, Japan after Commodore Perry forcefully opened the country to trade, China and Russia after their early 20th century revolutions, Hitler and Mussolini, Tito in Yugoslavia, the Taliban, the list goes on.

Doe we want to be responsible for creating another despotic state in the Middle East? Wasn’t the goal to create a model democracy?

I’m not saying that Iraq is going well. Or that the current course will lead to victory if given enough time. However, pulling the troops out IS NOT THE ANSWER.

NFL Free Agency

Apologies for the large gap between posts – I was on vacation.

NFL free agency is well underway and it has definitely calmed down a bit from the flurry of signings in the first week. There was a huge amount of movement and a lot of major signings, and I’m going to assess some of the winners and losers.


San Fransisco 49ers
The 49ers made quite possibly the boldest moves in the beginning of free agency, signing five players in the first five days. Some of the top names include Nate Clements, Michael Lewis, and Tully Banta-Cain. Aubrayo Franklin will give them a wide body in the middle. Many have questioned the amount of money given to Nate Clements; however, his contract, in essence, is a front-loaded bonus and a back-loaded base contract, so he’ll get paid good money during the first few years, and if he doesn’t pan out, the 49ers will be able to get rid of him without a massive cap hit. It’s still a lot of money, but Clements is a very good, durable corner. The signing of Ashley Lelie is a gamble, but they’re paying him back-up money and will likely seek a receiver in the draft (potentially Robert Meachem from Tennessee). When asked about the amount of big free agent signings, VP of Pro Personnel Scot McCloughan replied that the 49ers needed to raise their overall talent level and that this was a one year phenomenon. He continued by saying if the 49ers ever spend this much in free agency again while he’s here, he’ll probably be fired soon after

New England Patriots
The Patriots haven’t been big players in free agency the last few years, but this year they made big splash by stealing Adalius Thomas away from the 49ers (which, if he had signed with them, would’ve made the 49ers far and away the winners of this years free agency). Thomas will help improve an already solid defense. The signings of Donte Stallworth and the trade for Wes Welker will add speed and talent to the Patriots wide receiver corps. All in all, the Pats improved an already stacked team and are ready to threaten for the Superbowl yet again.


Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons basically let Patrick Kerney out the door (though they couldn’t really afford to keep him), and with John Abraham healthy for about 4 games a season, defensive end becomes a huge question mark for them. Joe Horn is a intriguing signing, but he’s 35 and hasn’t played a full season in a while. And $18 million for a fullback? I’m not sure what the Falcons’ brass is thinking.

Baltimore Ravens
They lost several players, and gave up what I would deem a little too much for Willis McGahee. They lost a starting right tackle, their starting left tackle might retire, they lost their starting fullback, one of their best defensive players, and a few key reserves, and two draft picks this year. They still remain a talented team, but this off-season has not helped.

Buffalo Bills
They let Willis McGahee walk, which gives them a hole at running back, and they lost their top tackler and top corner from the defense. They bolstered the offensive line, but paid way way way too much for Derrick Dockery.

Today I watched An Inconvenient Truth, the documentary on Al Gore’s fight to spread the word on global warming.

Anyone who has watched the documentary has seen much of the overwhelming evidence that shows that global warming is indeed a fact – not some made up theory about current climate change.

The global warming debate is one of the must puzzling in a long time. All scientific evidence shows that global warming is not some kooky theory – it is fact. The scientific community is not debating this, they are in agreement that global warming exists. The problem comes when people, for what they deem economic reasons, come out against it in the public media. While there is no debate over global warming in the scientific community, the literature in the scientific community is not widely read by the American public. The literature that is widely read by the public has many articles that have been published by Big Oil and those who feel that global warming presents an economic threat to them, and, as such, the American public reads articles and sees speeches that are divided on whether or not global warming is an actual phenomenon.

The sad part of it is, that while the American public remains sadly ignorant, global warming is occuring all around us. Now I did not need to see An Inconvenient Truth to inform of the problems associated with global warming, it did remind me of the fact that people still don’t believe it exists!

How can we fix this problem? It’s a difficult thing to think about, as a major part of the problem resides in where Americans get their information from (see my previous post on this). Because so many Americans get so much of their information from sources who may not be accurate, many Americans remain somewhat ignorant on many issues.

Until the American public speaks out about global warming, the American government will not speak out about global warming. Representatives in Congress will only press on matters they believe will get them votes from their electorate, as Gore states in the documentary.

John Clayton for ESPN wrote an article regarding this year’s crop of rookie wide receivers.  Mentioning such collossal failures as Charles Rodgers and Mike Williams (who both, coincidentally, play for the Detroit Lions), Clayton offered the recent trend that “bigger is not necessarily better.”

But, as he brings up in the article, this year’s class of big wideouts is different.

They’re big AND fast.

Here are a few examples –

– Calvin Johnson (WR – Georgia Tech): 6’5″ 239 lbs. – 40 time: 4.35 secs
– Robert Meachem (WR – Tennessee): 6’2″ 214 lbs. – 40 time: 4.39 secs
– Jason Hill (WR – Washington State): 6’1″ 204 lbs. – 40 time: 4.32 secs

Calvin Johnson, obviously, is an athletic freak, match-up nightmare, and the clear top prospect of this year’s draft. However, there are other big, fast receivers in this draft. This is probably one of the best drafts for wide receivers in the last few years.

As a side note, Steve Smith (WR – USC), already known for his hands of glue, increased his draft stock dramatically when he ran two 4.40 second 40’s on Sunday.

CNN recently wrote an article about how Republican candidates will be concentrating time and effort on winning California during the primary since it has a huge chunk of the delegates required for the nomination.

Well, duh.

Even in the Democratic primaries, which are not winner-take-all, candidates concentrate on the “big states” (California, New York, Texas, Florida). “Super Tuesday” in March is the biggest day of the Democratic primary, and candidates of both parties are obviously going to concentrate on the states with the highest number of delegates, just as much as they concentrate on the first few primaries, where gaining momentum for the rest of the primary circuit is key.

Many times I’ve felt that the “political” news coverage provides us with many “duh” moments, and an entire entry on CNN.com about how candidates will concentrate on a big state merely reinforced that.

In a visit to Buckhead for a fundraiser tomorrow (2/28/07), Mitt Romney came under fire for changing his abortion views. In a clear attempt to appease the Religious Right in the Republican primaries, Romney has been supporting more restrictive abortion laws.

These kinds of moves seem to be becoming quite popular among some of the more moderate Republican candidates (McCain, Romney, Giuliani). Knowing that the more conservative wing of the party votes in the Republican primaries, each of these candidates has, in recent months, made an attempt to show that they are “more conservative.” McCain, in particular, seeing what happened in the 2000 primaries, has made very visible overtures to the conservatives in the party.

Oh well. This is the reality of the primaries. Due to much lower turnout, primaries are not highly representative of the nation as a whole. Obama, Clinton, Edwards, and Biden will all face this in the Democratic primaries – the pull of the liberal wing of the Democratic party. Hopefully, in the election (and most importantly, in governing) the candidates will move toward the center.

On another note, the fact that Romney is coming under fire for, as he puts it, “changing his mind” brings up an entire other subject. Its common knowledge that the American public loves the politician who “sticks to his guns,” but the idea that a politician, or any person for that matter, can’t change his mind when he perceives that a previous position was wrong is ludicrous. The President is renown for his “unwavering” stances. However, when those “unwavering” stances are wrong, wouldn’t you rather he change his mind? That’s less likely to happen if politicians continue to get crucified for changing any of their positions (which is actually quite common).