Friday, February 25, 2011

Gingrich's D'oh!MA Moment

In response to the Obama administration's recent decision to "no longer defend the constitutionality of a federal law banning recognition of same-sex marriage," Idiot Asshole-in-Chief Newt Gingrich said today that such a move demonstrated "a dereliction of duty" by the president and "a violation of his constitutional oath."

Speaking to the lunatic right-wing website Newsmax, Gingrich presented the following thought experiment regarding Obama's DOMA position:

"Imagine that Governor Palin had become president. Imagine that she had announced that Roe versus Wade in her view was unconstitutional and therefore the United States government would no longer protect anyone’s right to have an abortion because she personally had decided it should be changed. The news media would have gone crazy. The New York Times would have demanded her impeachment."
In short, the major problem (one of many) with Newt's ignorant analogy is that Roe v. Wade isn't actually unconstitutional, while DOMA certainly is.

DOMA institutionalizes discrimination based on an archaic religious doctrinal definition of "marriage" as being inherently heterosexual. This definition - which, in effect, denies the right of a US citizen to enter into a marriage with a partner of one's choice, regardless of gender - is actually a violation of both the Due Process Clause and Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Thus, it is unconstitutional and should not be upheld.

Roe v. Wade, on the other hand, lawfully protects women's rights against the very same kind of religious doctrine that DOMA wrongfully enforces. The right of a woman to choose is, in fact, constitutional. The legality of the ruling can be found in the Ninth Amendment (people's rights) as well as the Privileges or Immunities Clause and Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

To deem Roe v. Wade unconstitutional would be a wholly incorrect application of law, whereas to deem DOMA unconstitutional is totally correct.

Furthermore, it really should be pointed out to poor Newt that Sarah Palin is a former beauty pageant contender, sportscaster, and half-term governor who attended five different mediocre colleges over five years (University of Hawaii - Hilo briefly in 1982, Hawaii Pacific University for a semester in 1982, North Idaho College for spring and fall semesters if 1983, University of Idaho in fall 1984 and spring 1985, Matanuska-Susitna College in the fall of 1985, and returned to the University of Idaho in the spring of 1986) to finally receive a bachelor's degree in communications with an concentration in journalism in 1987. Her opinion or understanding of the unconstitutionality of anything wouldn't hold much weight even if she had been elected to an office for which she wasn't even running (as Gingrich would have us imagine).

Meanwhile, Barack Obama attended Occidental College in Los Angeles for two years before transferring to Columbia University, where he received a B.A. in political science with a concentration in international relations in 1983. After working at a consulting firm, an NGO, and as a community organizer over the next five years, he went to Harvard Law School where he became president of the Harvard Law Review during his second year. He earned his J.D. from Harvard Law in 1991 and graduated Magna Cum Laude. From 1992 through 2004 - a span of twelve years - Obama was a constitutional law professor at the University of Chicago Law School. Obama's opinion and understanding of the unconstitutionality of DOMA makes a whole lot more sense than Palin's theoretical decision-making regarding the legality of Roe v. Wade.

It should be noted that Gingrich also claimed Obama, during his swearing in, took an oath affirming that "he would uphold the Constitution and enforce the laws of the United States." Gingrich, as usual, is wrong. Obama never took took that oath. No president in the history of this country has. The Presidential Oath of Office, as set forth in Article Two, Section One, Clause Eight of the United States Constitution, is clear and is as follows:
"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."
Nothing in there about "enforc[ing] the laws of the United States," as Gingrich suggested. He just made that up.

That and everything else.


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

It's Pretty Easy Being Green in Iran:
A Photographic Rebuttal to Michael Ledeen's Lies

Claims that the Iranian government attempted to ban the color green (which had been appropriated by those opposed to the reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) have yet to disappear completely from the public discourse. Just this week, a comment posted on Cyrus Safdari's excellent Iran Affairs blog asked,

"If the Green Movement was not a real movement that posed a fundamental threat to this regime then why did they BAN THE COLOR GREEN FROM THE FLAG? The continuing concern about the Green Movement by the regime PROVES the green movement's relevance and importance." (emphasis in original)
In addition to being patently absurd in its conception, the accusation that Iranian officials would feel so threatened by the protests and demonstrations which followed the June 2009 election that they would resort to chromatic censorship is completely devoid of fact.

Nevertheless, the claim was repeated again and again, but never more ridiculously than by career warmonger Michael Ledeen. In early March 2010, during a debate at the Atlantic Council alongside Flynt Leverett, Ledeen suggested that the prime example of the Iranian government's "charming wackiness" was that it "is now committed to the obliteration of 'green.' Very bad for Kermit the Frog."

Seemingly making it up as he went along, Ledeen continued:
"And so green is now banned from Iran. The opposition was writing revolutionary slogans on the money in green ink – that is banned. You can't wear green. I'm wearing green today as a sign of solidarity with them.

"But the funniest is that there are streets in Tehran – as I'm sure you've seen – which have green stripes on them to tell you where you can park and where you can't, and there are now teams of people out spraying black on top of the green because you can't have green. That is not a self-confident and stable regime, Flynt. These are people who are scared to death even of a bit of colored paint on a sidewalk."
Quite simply, Ledeen, who currently lends his aggressive Islamophobia and Israel-apologia to the neoconservative D.C. think tank Foundation for Defense of Democracies as its "Freedom Scholar" (whatever that means), was lying. During the debate, Ledeen referred to himself as "an historian" and claimed that "the Islamic Republic is based on hatred of America; a desire to destroy or dominate us along with all the other infidels," neither of which are true, but demonstrate clearly both Ledeen's high opinion of himself and contempt for Iran and its revolution.

To his credit, Flynt Leverett, who had recently returned from a trip to Iran, addressed Ledeen's bogus assertions. "I can tell you, just back from Tehran, I don't know where these stories about green being banned in Iran come from," he said. "Excuse me, green is one of the colors of the Iranian flag. There is no shortage of green in Tehran or in the Islamic Republic. We can tell stories; we can take comfort in certain kinds of stories; but look at facts. Look at on-the-ground reality."

Less than a month after that debate, I was lucky enough to explore that very on-the-ground reality myself when I spent three outstanding weeks traveling around Iran that Spring. To say that there is "no shortage of green" in Iran is a gross understatement. The color is ubiquitous, as is seen in some of the pictures I took in various Iranian cities.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Hos(ni) Before Bros:
Tony Blair's Unapologetic Policy of Wretchedness

Former British Prime Minister and current unpunished war criminal Tony Blair has been on a roll lately. On January 21, 2011, Blair revealed to the Iraq Inquiry, led by Sir John Chilcot, that he felt no personal responsibility for the millions of lives affected and destroyed by the 2003 invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq. "I regret deeply and profoundly the loss of life, whether from our own armed forces, those of other nations, the civilians who helped people in Iraq or the Iraqis themselves," Blair told the panel, as if the majority of the dead had lost their lives due to a smallpox outbreak or polar bear attack rather than an unprovoked, illegal, calculated, and devastating military assault.

As a result of his belief that the "calculus of risk" regarding threats posed by so-called rogue states had been forever changed by the attacks of September 11, 2001, Blair made the decision in 2002 to stand "shoulder to shoulder" with the Bush administration's revenge fantasies and imperial designs on the Middle East (including being "up for" the invasion and overthrow of Iraq). As of December 2008, the Iraqi Ministry of Health and Forensic Medicine reported that, due to the invasion and occupation led by US and UK forces, two and a half million Iraqis had been killed.

Additionally, various Iraqi ministries have reported that, since 2003, over four million Iraqi children have been orphaned, over a million Iraqi women have been widowed, four and a half million Iraqi refugees have fled the country, and there are two and a half million Iraqi refugees displaced inside Iraq. According to the Iraqi Ministry of Health, there were 114 registered cases of AIDS in Iraq before the occupation; just under five years later, that number had skyrocketed to over 76,000 registered cases.