The Guardian had an article today discussing the fact that there is dissention within the ranks of the religious right. Read the full article here.
In his consulting room in a suburb of Montgomery, Alabama, gastrologist Randy Brinson is a worried man. A staunch Republican and devout Baptist, Dr Brinson can claim substantial credit for getting George Bush re-elected in 2004. It was his Redeem the Vote initiative that may have persuaded up to 25 million people to turn out for President Bush. Yet his wife is receiving threats from anonymous conservative activists warning her husband to stay away from politics.
The reason he has fallen foul of men whose candidate he helped re-elect is that he has dared to question the partisan tactics of the religious right. "Conservatives speak in tones that they have got power and they can do what they want. Only 23% of the population embraces those positions but if someone questions their mandate or wants to articulate a different case, for the moderate right, they are totally ridiculed."
In his office in Washington DC, Rich Cizik, vice-president of the National Association of Evangelicals, the largest such umbrella group in the US, is also feeling battered. His mistake has been to become interested in the environment, and he has been told that is not on the religious right's agenda.
"It is supposed to be counterproductive even to consider this. I guess they do not want to part company with the president. This is nothing more than political assassination. I may lose my job. Twenty-five church leaders asked me not to take a political position on this issue but I am a fighter," he said.
Another Washington lobbyist on the religious right told the Guardian: "Rich is just being stupid on this issue. There may be a debate to be had but ... people can only sustain so many moral movements in their lifetime. Is God really going to let the Earth burn up?"
The inconsistency and tortured logic of those on the extreme right becomes more pronounced on a daily basis. As they have felt embolden to show more and more of their true colors, I'm convinced they have set in motion their own diminishing credibility and influence.
What becomes more and more apparent is the underlying prejudice and bias that they have previously attempted to portray as a comprehensive moral doctrine. Clearly, as they have been confronted by an array of moral choices, the glaring incongruence’s have been illuminated leaving many to conclude that their movement is merely a fraudulent attempt to dictate the selective application of the judgmental and punitive beliefs they support.
To respond to the religious right lobbyist in DC who posits, "Is God really going to let the Earth burn up?"...the answers are many:
1. If God will solve global warming, then why do those on the religious right feel they need to interject their will on other issues...wouldn't the same God solve their concerns for the family and marriage...why do we need a constitutional amendment for some issues and not others?
2. Clearly, the goal of those on the right is to dictate the behaviors they value...especially relating to issues like sex, abortion, and marriage. Issues that relate to the pursuit of wealth at the expense of the climate interfere with the unfettered pursuit of power and influence...since they see the imposition of their beliefs as being dependent upon obtaining wealth which leads to the power to impose. They embrace the notion that he, who has the gold, writes the rules.
3. Does Pat Robertson wants to sell supplements that allow one to leg press 2,000 pounds because he accepts that God has a plan for each of us...or because he is afraid to die and wants to counteract Gods plan that includes the natural process of aging...or because he can make more money off the fear of death if he sells both salvation AND supplements to his followers?
4. If God will intervene to prevent the world from burning up...and at the same time he sent Katrina to punish the immorality of New Orleans (although his aim seemed a bit off since it also damaged other areas), then how will God make the subtle distinctions necessary to punish the bad and preserve the good? Is he only warming areas he dislikes? Will he provide AC to the good people?
5. If they are so convinced that the Lord is going to be returning shortly (rapture crapture) then why build bigger churches and amass wealth...why worry about what the Supreme Court may do 20 years from now...why worry about redrawing congressional districts in Texas to insure that Republicans will hold those seats?
It is being reported that the United States is ready to enter into talks with Iran in an effort to resolve the issues surrounding Iran's efforts to obtain nuclear capabilities. In the past, the administration has opposed direct talks with Iran but under this new arrangement, the U.S. would join other countries in the dialogue. Bloomberg.com has the full story here.
May 31 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. will join European talks with Iran about its nuclear program if enrichment of uranium is ``verifiably'' halted, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will say later today, according to excerpts of her remarks released by the State Department.
"There are going to be some changes'' in the U.S. approach that Snow said would make the allies' previous position "more robust and muscular.''
"There are not going to be direct talks with Iran, one-on- one,'' he said.
Full details have yet to be made available, but more information is expected from Secretary Rice later today. Speculation includes the possibility that the U.S. will join the talks in an effort to gain assurances from Russia and China that they would not block the passage of a resolution by the United Nations Security Council that would impose sanctions on Iran if it continues to pursue nuclear capability.
The Bush administration, in an effort to win Russian support, has agreed to narrow the relevant language from the UN Charter, the New York Times reported today, citing U.S. and European officials.
If the council invokes only Article 41 of Chapter Seven, instead of the whole thing, the resolution will make no mention of the possible use of force. Article 41 lists the "complete or partial interruption of economic relations'' and communications, along with diplomatic curbs as possible punishments.
The stock market tumbled over 180 points today as inflation fears continue to grow. The New York Times has the full article here.
"The main thing that ails the stock market is uncertainty about the Fed and inflation," said Ethan Harris, chief United States economist for Lehman Brothers. "I think the stock market is beginning to figure out that inflation is becoming a danger. Where they pretty much ignored inflation for a long time, now it's becoming an issue."
Adding to the anxiety on Wall Street today, Michael Moskow, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, expressed concerns that inflation was running high. His remarks, broadcast on CNBC during an interview, raised concerns that the central bank could raise interest rates for a 17th straight time when it meets next month.
Wall Street analysts also pointed out that market downturns are symptomatic of an economy that is cooling. "Until the stock market can feel comfortable that this is going to be a modest inflation pick up," Mr. Harris said, "investors are going to be worried. So it's understandable that there's some repricing going on."
The latest news cannot be welcome since Karl Rove and other Republican strategists are suggesting the Party feature the strong economy in the upcoming midterm elections in November. Bloomberg.com has an article detailing the possible problems with such a strategy here.
May 30 (Bloomberg) -- Karl Rove, President George W. Bush's top political adviser, laid out a plan to win the 2002 congressional elections by stressing national security. For 2006, Rove is framing a strategy for Republicans to sell the U.S. economy.
In a recent speech, Rove argued that Bush's policies of tax cuts and trade agreements had pulled the nation out of recession, created millions of jobs, boosted productivity and increased disposable income. That record can help lead Republicans to victory in November, Rove said in the May 15 speech at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington.
Political experts say it may be a tough sell: Voters don't feel optimistic, polls show, and growth rates are expected to slow as the housing market cools and gasoline prices remain near all-time highs.
Seventy percent of 1,002 respondents in a May 8-11 Gallup poll said the economy was in fair to poor condition, up from 63 percent in an April poll.
Two days after Rove spoke, the government revised upward the inflation figure he had cited to 2.3 percent, the biggest year-over-year gain since March 2005. Economists say that may be a sign the robust economy is allowing companies to pass along higher costs of labor and commodities.
The Fed is watching the real estate market, recent comments by central bank officials indicate. Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke, in testimony last month to the Joint Economic Committee of Congress, said a slowdown in housing "could prove a drag on growth this year and next.''
While many of the economic numbers have indicated a relatively strong economy over the last 12 to 18 months, the data has not translated into consumer confidence in the economy. With that in mind, touting the economy as a winning issue may prove to be a difficult proposition. If the economy does take a marked downturn, the Republican Party may have even less to talk about as it seeks to hold control of the House and the Senate.
______________________________________________________________ Original Posting:
There is growing evidence that the economy is beginning to slow. As interest rates have risen steadily, it appears they are having an impact on house sales. Read the full article here. While the Bush administration has touted their policy of tax cuts as the leading factor in the strength of the economy, many would argue the historically low interest rates have actually been responsible for keeping the economy growing.
As interest rates move closer to traditional levels, it will be interesting to watch the economic indicators. I've long felt that low interest rates have falsely supported spending for several years and allowed many homeowners to fund added spending through refinancing to remove equity as well as to take advantage of even lower rates found in adjustable rate loan products offered in the highly competitive mortgage business.
New-home sales rose last month, but failed to keep up the robust growth pace of March. The home sales numbers, along with a second government report yesterday that showed a steep decline in orders for durable goods, were seen as pointing to a softening economy.
But the numbers did little to reassure investors hoping that the economic data would encourage the Federal Reserve not to raise interest rates when it meets next month.
With consumer prices on the rise and fears of inflation growing, many investors worry the Fed may raise rates for the 17th consecutive time in two years.
The new housing data appear to confirm what many economists have already said: as real estate speculators bow out of a peaking market and mortgage rates rise, the torrid pace of home sales is cooling. Compared with last April, sales of new homes fell 5.7 percent.
Inventories are also rising, yet another sign of weakness in the latest housing data. At the end of April, the number of homes for sale reached a record 565,000.
With mortgage rates climbing, many economists believe home sales will decline this month.
If interest rates continue to rise, many homeowners who gambled on adjustable rate loans may find their mortgage payments increasing to unexpected levels. Foreclosures are on the rise in several areas of the country and may continue to accelerate as loans are adjusted to current rates.
Many in the Bush administration have been troubled by the lack of consumer confidence in what appears to be a healthy economy based on a number of indicators. I'm inclined to believe that the tepid sentiment reflects the awareness by many consumers that should interest rates continue to rise, they will find themselves with higher mortgage payments and an inability to refinance in order to withdraw the equity that has been used to fuel much of the economic growth. The average consumer realizes that wage growth and new employee demand has not driven their ability to increase spending.
I've long feared that we are operating in an artificial economy that cannot ultimately be sustained. Given recent signs of inflation, there may be mounting pressure to return to a more traditional and conventional monetary policy. How that may impact the economy is difficult to predict which in my view makes the recent economic policies all the more questionable. We have little historical data to predict the impact of the policies of the last several years. The next president may find that he or she will have to deal with the situation in Iraq as well as a troubled economy and a burgeoning national debt.
President Bush and fellow Republicans in favor of a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage will appear in an event in the White House Rose Garden to express strong support for its passage according to an article in the Weekly Standard.
JUNE 6, 2006, is an important date, not only because it's the 62nd anniversary of D-Day. It's also the day the Senate will vote on the so-called marriage amendment, which would amend the Constitution to restrict marriage in America to a man and a woman.
It won't pass. A constitutional amendment requires a two-thirds majority in the Senate and the House. When the Senate voted in 2004, the amendment got only 48 votes. This time, it's likely to get more--probably between 52 and 58--in part because a powerful and unusually ecumenical religious coalition is now backing the amendment. And President Bush, despite his wife Laura's admonition that the marriage issue ought to be kept out of politics, plans to host a pro-amendment event at the White House and speak out in favor of the amendment.
Thought Theater previosuly expressed the opinion that the apparent differences over the issue between Laura Bush, Bill Frist, and others was likely less about dissention and more about sending the necessary signals to various constituency groups.
The Weekly Standard article, written by Fred Barnes, goes on to point out that many Republican senators agree with Laura Bush that the issue should not be politicized and "requires a lot of sensitivity". Nonetheless, Senator Frist has moved forward with the scheduled debate and a likely vote. Again, I am convinced the Republican Party is simply playing the issue from all sides in order to appease those on the far right while also assuring moderate and liberal Republicans, the group with the biggest drop in approval numbers, that they are thoughtful and aware of the sensitive nature of the issue. Keep in mind that there is little doubt the measure will fail so the move to bring a vote is strategically motivated. Note the following excerpt:
Much of the conventional wisdom about the amendment and the marriage issue turns out to be wrong. For instance, the amendment is not being pushed by Republicans as a wedge issue aimed at dividing Democratic voters. Republican senators regard the issue as touchy and awkward.
Really? What's that little saying about a duck being a duck? Barnes conveniently goes on to connect the issue to the activist judge's rhetoric. The inference is that Republican's are being forced to confront the issue. I have no doubt this coy framing of the issue is entirely an orchestration by Karl Rove.
A second misconception is that it's sufficient for an elected official merely to declare his opposition to gay marriage. It's not anymore. The question now is whether an official will support efforts to block gay marriage from being imposed by judges at the federal or state level. And the way to do that in the Senate is to vote for the amendment.
The problem is not voters or legislators. They overwhelmingly support traditional marriage. Thirty-seven states have enacted laws in recent years--19 by referendum, the others by statute--to bar gay marriage. The problem is judges. On May 16, a Georgia judge struck down the state's ban on gay marriage, which had been enacted in 2004 with 76 percent of the vote. The judge seized on a technical point, ruling the referendum covered two issues, same-sex marriage and civil unions, and not one, as Georgia law required. In truth, the referendum was drafted to deal with one issue, the protection of heterosexual marriage. At least nine states face lawsuits challenging their traditional marriage laws.
Note how Barnes clearly establishes the courts as the problem and even goes so far as to use the words "in truth" when telling the reader the judge is wrong. Whose truth is Barnes referring to with that remark? Clearly this is a continued escalation of the attempt to undermine the authority of the courts to interpret the law...which by the way is solely their constitutional purpose.
In Nebraska as well, a federal judge on May 12 nullified a referendum barring gay marriage. And in Massachusetts, the state supreme court by a 4-3 vote imposed same sex marriage, basing its decision on a state constitution adopted centuries before gay marriage became an issue.
Here we see Barnes using the strict constructionist rhetoric that is frequently put forth by Supreme Court Justices Scalia and Thomas. The suggestion is that anything not specifically mentioned in the constitution cannot now be adjudicated based upon new information or changing circumstances. That notion is ridiculous.
In response, the Religious Coalition for Marriage was formed specifically to back the amendment. [...] The coalition was created to put strong public pressure on both politicians and judges.
The coalition's initial statement said: "We take the unprecedented stand of uniting to call for a constitutional amendment to establish a uniform national definition of marriage as the exclusive union of one man and one woman. . . . This is the only measure that will adequately protect marriage from those who would circumvent the legislative process and force a redefinition of it on the whole of our society."
Once again, Barnes seeks to point out that these good people are simply responding to the unwarranted actions of others in order to defend the will of the majority. Clearly he is wrong. The courts are not in place to simply support the will of the majority. Were that the case numerous instances of injustice would have remained in place far longer and may have potentially still been in place today. Anyone that believes that the Republican Party is in the midst of wholesale disarray might want to take another long hard look. This is full-on campaigning.
Abortion rights proponents in South Dakota submitted in excess of 37,000 petition signatures, more than double the amount required, in an attempt to force the issue to the ballot for a vote in November. Reuters has the full article here.
The South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families said it had obtained nearly 38,000 signatures on a petition aimed at repealing an abortion ban signed into law by Gov. Mike Rounds on March 6.
The petition would be filed with the Secretary of State's office on Tuesday afternoon, and if at least 16,728 signatures are certified as valid, the scheduled July 1 implementation of the ban would be nullified and voters would be allowed to decide the issue at the ballot box in November.
"This law is just not feasible and is just very extreme," said Dr. Maria Bell, an obstetrician who helped sponsor the petition drive, in a press conference.
The South Dakota measure is considered one of the most restrictive in the United States. It bans nearly all abortions, even when pregnancies result from incest or rape. The law says that if a woman's life is in jeopardy, doctors must try to save the fetus as well as the woman. Doctors who perform an abortion could receive a $5,000 fine and five years in prison.
The ban's supporters have said they want the law to be challenged in court so it can make its way to a more conservative U.S. Supreme Court. They hope the law will help overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that established a woman's right to an abortion.
The news out of Iraq over the weekend offered little encouragement that the establishment of a new government is directly connected to more stability or likely to lead to less violence. Two recent articles discuss the continued sectarian violence fueled by growing militia activity. Nir Rosen offers additional pessimism in a Washington Post article here and The New York Times reports that reserve troops stationed in Kuwait are being moved to western Iraq here.
From the Washington Post:
The sectarian tensions have overtaken far more than Iraq's security forces and its streets. Militias now routinely enter hospitals to hunt down or arrest those who have survived their raids. And many Iraqi government ministries are now filled with the banners and slogans of Shiite religious groups, which now exert total control over these key agencies. If you are not with them, you are gone.
From the New York Times:
WASHINGTON, May 29 — The top American commander in Iraq has decided to move reserve troops now deployed in Kuwait into the volatile Anbar Province in western Iraq to help quell a rise in insurgent attacks there, two American officials said Monday.
Although some soldiers from the 3,500-member brigade in Kuwait have moved into Iraq in recent months, Gen. George W. Casey Jr. has decided to send in the remainder of the unit after consultations with Iraqi officials in recent days, the officials said.
At the same time, with each instance that the Iraqi's engage in activities to further construct a government, the Bush administration touts the action as a key step in the Iraqi transition to democracy. Granted, the moves to form a government are noteworthy, but at some point these actions taken under heavily protected cover will have to translate into security and safety for the average Iraqi citizen. While the government is considering the number and type of armored vehicles to purchase for each elected official, the latter continues to move in the opposite direction.
From the Washington Post:
Sunnis and Shiites alike were pushed into the arms of their respective militias, often joining out of self-defense. Shiites obtained lists of the Baath party cadres that were the foundation of Hussein's regime and began systematically assassinating Sunnis who had belonged. Sunni militias that had fought the American occupier became Sunni militias protecting Sunni territory from Shiite incursions and retaliating in Shiite areas. The insurgency became secondary as resistance moved to self-defense. In the Shiite-dominated south, meanwhile, Shiite militias battled each other and the British forces.
Sectarian and ethnic cleansing has since continued apace, as mixed neighborhoods are "purified." In Amriya, dead bodies are being found on the main street at a rate of three or five or seven a day. People are afraid to approach the bodies, or call for an ambulance or the police, for fear that they, too, will be found dead the following day. In Abu Ghraib, Dora, Amriya and other once-diverse neighborhoods, Shiites are being forced to leave. In Maalif and Shaab, Sunnis are being targeted.
The world wonders if Iraq is on the brink of civil war, while Iraqis fear calling it one, knowing the fate such a description would portend. In truth, the civil war started long before Samarra and long before the first uprisings. It started when U.S. troops arrived in Baghdad. It began when Sunnis discovered what they had lost, and Shiites learned what they had gained. And the worst is yet to come.
From the New York Times:
The movement of the brigade comes as several senior American officials in Iraq have begun to raise doubts about whether security conditions there will permit significant troop reductions in coming months.
"General Casey has been working with the government of Iraq, and he has asked permission to draw forward more forces that will be operating in Anbar," a senior military official said. The officials were granted anonymity because they were not authorized to talk officially about continuing troop movements.
One senior American commander said recently that military officials still remain hopeful that they can reduce the troop presence in Iraq by 25 percent by the end of the year, but he admitted that there was no timetable and much of that hope rests on the performance of the fledgling Iraqi government in coming months.
It seems apparent that the Iraqi forces are not prepared to assume the responsibility for security. Further, the Iraqi forces that are functional may have become so sectarian in nature that they may simply add to the violence as groups seek to assume power and purge areas of opposition populations. The fact that the training of the Iraqi forces was late in its execution and fully inadequate likely gave local militias the necessary opportunity to infiltrate and assert influence over newly forming government forces. See prior Thought Theater postings here and here.
The question that I keep coming back to is what will it take to have an Iraqi government and security force to control the violence and settle the sectarian conflict when it cannot currently be contained with the presence of the full U.S. deployment combined with the reportedly growing and functional Iraqi military? If one were to assume that the Iraqi forces are nearing an equal level of ability as the U.S. forces, then by any mathematical calculation we are still only half way towards the goal of concluding that the Iraqi forces are able to assume full responsibility for the security of the country. Further, it has taken in excess of three years to reach this point. Again, mathematically that would indicate we may be as far as three more years away from the reality of full U.S. troop withdrawal. Lastly, all of these assumptions are reliant on the hope and belief that sectarian issues do not grow, that terrorist insurgency remains relatively stable, and that neighboring countries refrain from attempting to exert additional influences. I'm going to need a little more time to adjust my optimism.
In the winter of 2004, I traveled around the world. One of my most memorable stops was in Rome just before Christmas. The following was written while in Rome and I sent it to friends and family as a Holiday message. On Memorial Day weekend it captures much of my thinking about the meaning of Holidays and the need to remember those who have passed away:
I woke up this morning in Rome with one of those nondescript feelings of unease, the kind we all have on occasion but rarely stop to understand. As is typical, I shrugged it off and set about distracting my mind with routine. I got up and went about getting a shower and preparing to move on with my day despite the fact that I had no particular plan or destination. Routine has a way of soothing those moments of uncertainty. After getting cleaned up and ready, I went out to grab some breakfast. While walking down the street, I decided I wanted something American…good old McDonalds was exactly what I needed. One thing is certain…wherever you go in the world it seems you can find American standards like McDonalds or KFC in touristy areas. Being near the Termina Roma (the train station) meant only a short walk to find not one but two McDonalds to soothe my discomfort and satisfy my American hankering.
Given the time of year, the Termina is lavishly outfitted for the approaching holiday season. As I walked into the station, of course Christmas music was playing and I was quickly reconnected with my feelings of unease. Refusing to acknowledge the feelings, I made my way to the lower level McDonalds; the one more remotely situated allowing for some minor degree of solitude. I placed my order in Italian, complimented myself in my head for having done so, got my order, found a quiet corner and sat down to have a familiar breakfast. With my time in Europe now approaching two months, I find it easy to order and eat alone in crowded places. I think one eventually learns that nobody actually pays any attention despite one’s own feelings of self consciousness. Quite frankly, you realize you’re just not that important, which segue’s nicely into the real subject of today’s musing.
Those that know me are aware that I don’t like holidays or special occasions since they elicit unwanted attention. When asked why, I usually respond that I think every day should be special and it seems inappropriate to make a few days more important. That answer is for the most part true but it really is only a partial answer. Today, the fullness of my feelings became crystal clear as I began to cry while eating my breakfast sitting in a McDonalds. Apparently my feelings were not to be denied. The fact that I am in Rome seems to add significance and context to this moment of expanded awareness.
I will be leaving Rome tomorrow and have virtually toured the entire city. Last evening, I went walking with Giuseppe and Danillo, two Italians I met the other evening. It was quite nice since I hadn’t walked the city at night and seeing some of the sights lit up at night was quite spectacular. During my time in Rome, a couple thoughts have repeatedly entered my mind over and over again. I keep pondering the lives of the people who lived when these ancient buildings and monuments were shiny, gleaming tributes to the societies they represented. I keep wondering about all the good people who came and went without recognition and, even worse, were persecuted or killed for sport and the entertainment of others. Secondly, I keep thinking about my grandparents who came from Italy to America. They often talked about these places in Italy and I remember having heard their words but never really understanding what these places were like or really meant in general or to them specifically. These thoughts are connected in that my grandparents are also no longer here and all I can do is imagine how they viewed this city, these sights, and their own lives in relation to it all.
All of these thoughts rushed together as I sat crying in McDonalds. I have to admit it’s not the first time I have cried while here in Rome. Sometimes it has come from the fact that my grandparents are gone and that I only now see what they spoke about or have any real understanding and I wish I could tell them that I appreciate the efforts they made and what they tried to explain to all of us. Other times while walking the city, it’s because they are gone just like the many people who perished at these sites and all that remains of their lives are the memories those of us who knew them have in our minds. As my thoughts cleared, I realized its not that I dislike holidays in and of themselves…it’s the fact that they seem to only be about the “here and now" and the “me and I". We give lip service to the meaning of most holidays and that is easily understood by anyone who has been in traffic or shopping the malls around Christmas. Anyway, the underlying meaning of most holidays is far too remote and removed from people’s real lives to have the intended value and meaning. It suddenly seemed that it would be more appropriate for the holiday to be about remembering those that are now gone.
So as I cried I concluded that I also dislike the holidays because of what they aren’t. I think holidays should be primarily about remembrance. I understand that can be difficult, but I believe its also transforming. I suddenly realized I needed my holidays to be about remembrance. It doesn’t seem right to be celebrating without remembering, acknowledging, and honoring those that influenced and impacted the person I have become. I think everyone has some of these same uneasy feelings at holiday time. If we would listen and embrace this discomfort we might restore some meaning to the holidays and at the same time uncover answers and consolation in the emptiness that comes from the loss of people we have loved. Each day we wear the fabric of those important people. They are part of our being and their spirit is all that lives on and it can only be seen in those who are unafraid to consciously honor their memory. If that connection is broken, it seems apparent that so too are we.
Everywhere I have traveled I have seen the spirit of those that went before…I know this is true because this is why people flock to see sites like the Coliseum and the Parthenon. These places tell the story of those who are gone…they are the spirit’s legacy. These sights also fail to tell every story and my tears are for those lost or unknown life stories. Maybe that’s why I have never really liked touristy sights. They seem to disregard all the other significant people that were lost without recognition. I’ve also never wanted my picture taken in front of these sites and, until today, I never really asked or knew why. It’s because those sights are a tribute to others and I don’t want to take away from that honor. I don’t belong in those pictures. Life should be about what we create, not about what we take from what others have created. Our mission should be to give something, to leave a part of us in others. Each of us has the opportunity to build a legacy and it is done in the living of our lives…buildings will crumble and statues will fall but a memory born of truth and goodness remains perfectly intact and will live on forever in those we touch.
I find that people are often sad around the holidays and I think that’s unfortunate. I don’t mean to say it’s wrong to be sad but we should be aware in our sadness. For me, some of my greatest comfort comes from embracing the things that bring sadness. I find it to be cathartic. Its one of the primary reasons I am not afraid or ashamed to cry. As I summarized my thoughts, I concluded that this holiday season would be about remembering the people I have known. I finished my breakfast and hurried back to my hotel to write these thoughts. My gift this holiday season will be to share some remembrances. I offer these thoughts to celebrate the spirit of those who are gone. This may be outside the norm but maybe that’s part of what’s wrong with society. Death is one of those topics people seem to avoid…likely because it makes people confront their own mortality. I know that this can be difficult but it seems stifling and sterile to remain silent when there is so much to celebrate about those who have impacted and influenced so many others. Sometimes I wish I could just stop the world long enough for everyone to remember those that are gone. I hate thinking that anyone is ever forgotten and it’s hard to accept that the world moves on so easily.
Many of you won’t know some or all of the people I mention but it doesn’t matter…you see they live on through me and they are a part of who I am and much of what people know of me is because of them. I loved them all and I know of nothing more valuable than to share some of my memories. I’m sure it will trigger your own memories of these and other people now gone and I honor them all. I wish you all Happy Remembrances!
Ben and Rose DiRito
I never knew either of you but in my dad I see your beauty every day…dad I am sure you were right to say they were saints. The many sayings and words of wisdom attributed to them that you’ve shared with me are always in my mind and guide me daily.
Nat and Mary Senatore
I’ve seen you both all over Rome…Grandma I always wanted you to be happy…I saw your will to live every day. Grandpa, when you died I kept hearing you say buona sera in my head and I still hear it today…good night Grandpa. You were both good grandparents and I have countless happy memories. You were my connection to Italy.
Everyone saw your difference and I only saw your beauty. Your heart was gold because you only had love for everyone, no matter who they were or how they saw you. It’s no wonder Uncle Teddy loved you.
I never knew you, but I knew what you meant to so many including my mom and grandparents. You were so young and yet so strong. It seems so often when children are terminal, they have a presence beyond their years…perhaps you have to in order to cope with the situation. When my grandpa was older, I remember him crying once and saying he was afraid he would forget your face after so many years. Some faces are unforgettable and I have only seen pictures of you but you had one of those unforgettable faces. You were never forgotten. Mom, I always knew how difficult it was to lose your sister but I also knew it made your heart all the more giving and loving. Doris died with a smile on her face…we should all be so lucky.
JFK, RFK, MLK
They were what KKK should stand for…Kennedy, Kennedy, and King. JFK because the day you were killed is my first vivid memory and I still see my mom crying in the kitchen that day and it started my curiosity and passion for the belief that through politics you can change the world. RFK I followed your campaign with intensity and I was heartbroken when you were assassinated. I watched your coffin travel across the country by train as people lined the tracks in tears. MLK, truer words were never spoken. You all gave me my idealism and the belief that you really can change the world.
Benny DiRito & Delores DiRito
Your laughter will always be remembered…you made people laugh even if it was hard work. I hear your laughter in my memories all the time. I hope your laughter lives forever. Laughter is beautiful, people don’t do it enough!
Imagine all the people living life in peace…I really hope one day everyone will join you. Your songs spoke your heart and touched the world and you did it regardless of how you were viewed. I obviously never knew you but in everyone’s life are people that touched them with a song or with words. Many songs have touched me but yours were special.
Mike Farmer & Jim Farmer
Mike, the light in your eyes at the moment you died is the light you brought every day…your eyes were as bright and true as your heart. You saw goodness in everyone you met, you made everyone welcome, and you brought out the best in everyone. You found me after Grayland and changed my life. I mention Mike’s dad Jim too. Jim you are a tribute to strength and I will always remember your ability to adapt and see goodness when thrown a curve. You knew we loved Mike and that was all you needed to know.
Only someone who knew true beauty could paint true beauty. Your work was true just like you. You painted what was real because you saw what was real. I think about all that you never got to paint every time I think of you.
Jim (Jimmie) Rapp
I never once heard you complain and I know you smiled when it was hard to smile. You gave your time and effort to good causes without notice or reward. Your gentleness is always in my mind when I think of you.
You were brave and even though your life was short, you lived it fully. You were the first of our generation of cousins to pass. Your funeral and the time at the house afterwards are vivid memories in my mind. It was a magical night when everyone felt a unique closeness.
Willie Senatore, Eleanor Senatore
I can’t think of two kinder people. Wherever you were, the room was always brighter and warmer, and love was always there. Some people just overflow with goodness and you were two who did.
The Catholic Church lost a star when you left the Priesthood but stars shine best when they are true. You were truth when the Church wasn’t. When Ed Toomey said you taught him how to love, I knew what he meant. You and Ed Toomey were my proof that the world was a great place and that knowledge, dignity, and integrity are powerful forces that can be used to make a difference in peoples lives. You both nurtured and inspired everyone around you. You taught what religion should be about and it was your religion that I took from Catholic schools, not Catholicism.
If everyone lived like you, what a better world this would be. I respect you as much as anyone I ever met…you gave dignity and honor true meaning. Your pride in your work matched your sincerity. One of the most moving memorial services I have ever witnessed.
There are others I remember and not including them is not intended to lessen the meaning that they have had in my life. I think about them all from time to time. They are always remembered.
Christmas is also about birth and renewal so it only seems appropriate to make a special wish for my niece Stephanie and my nephews Vince and Nicholas. I wish for each of them a world that shows them as much love and compassion as they are shown by their parents and grandparents, a curious and eager mind, an idealism to match their minds, a world that never disappoints them, the strength and will to change it when it does disappoint them, the strength to be good people in a world where its too easy to be bad, and most importantly the beautiful spirit that comes from all the people around them and that was found in all those I have remembered.
To all my family and friends, I love you and I honor your spirits and the beauty that is found in each of you today and every day! Though I am far away, you are all here with me and that makes all the difference. You are part of who I am and who I will be and that is humbling and brings me untold happiness.
The following two clips are both music videos of the song "California Dreamin". The first is by the original artists, The Mamas and the Papas performed on the television show Hullabaloo. The show only ran from 1965 through 1966. The second clip is a remake performed by Royal Gigolos that was released in 2004. Note that both versions were intended to be dance songs and make sure you don't miss the Hullabaloo dancers in the original. I love the contrast and the fact that I enjoy both versions. Let me know what you think.
The category “Rhyme-N-Reason" is intended to be a place to share poetry that stimulates thoughtful reflection. For me, writing poetry is cathartic. It’s a way to encapsulate a group of feelings or thoughts that might be on my mind such that when I’m done writing, I experience a level of resolve that is both comforting and motivational. It has the same effect for me as listening to a song with which one has a significant connection. It takes you somewhere you’ve been or to something you’ve felt or experienced and allows you to further interpret the intended meaning or the lesson learned. Hopefully this can be a place for readers to pause and reflect on their own thoughts and feelings. Your comments are welcomed as well as any poetry you might want to share.
The following poem is called "Circles". I decided to include a video clip from the movie Finding Neverland with this poem because I believe they capture much of the same sentiment. If you've never seen the movie and you plan to at some point you may not want to watch the clip. If you have seen the movie, the clip is the final scene. I loved the movie so I would certainly recommend you see it if you haven't.
Life begins, the curtains rise
A mother smiles, a tear is cried
A step, a word, the flower blooms
Doors are opened, a million rooms
A world of wonder, so much to see
The canvas waits, what will you be?
Quill in hand, the story’s written
The scene is set, reveals what’s hidden
Watch with wonder, the plasters poured
Time and toil, the shape takes form
Wind and weather, they toss the boat
The waters deep, can the spirit float?
The road, the fork, where is home?
Miles are traveled before its known
The roots take hold, embrace the land
A light to follow, perhaps a plan
Familiar steps, we build the net
A job for life, safety’s regret
The spider strikes, the poison flows
The tree is felled, the dream implodes
Look to the light, it flickers still
Missed your turn, but found your will
The paths are many, but one is true
Lights and mirrors, the stage in view
The play of life, so many parts
Choose just one, choose the heart
The play of life, the spirit wins
A child cries, the journey begins
The acts of life, so simple now
But plays must end, so take your bow
I just don't get it. Has this administration put something into the water of those they employ that makes them prone to bad judgments and unexplained acts of arrogance and incompetence? As I read that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, his second in command, FBI Director Robert Mueller, and others within the Justice Department, had threatened to resign if they were forced to return documents seized from embattled Congressman William Jefferson's office, I scratched my head in wonder. Just to be clear, while Jefferson is innocent until proven guilty, I am inclined to believe he has broken the law and is fully deserving of all appropriate punishment. My remarks are not intended to defend him.
At a time when the President is experiencing the lowest polling numbers of his presidency, what would possess any appointee to make such a statement? What could possibly be gained from such a precipitous action? As I began to think about the possibilities, it struck me that those answers may provide the best insight into the tone and tenor of this presidency and how this circle of selected warriors view all those who are outside their privileged and proprietary perimeter. Is this apparent war mentality that pervasive? If so, where did it come from?
I've written before about some of the possible explanations. Unfortunately, I keep coming back to the President and his state of mind. Earlier this morning I was listening to Jonathan Turley, nationally recognized legal scholar and professor at George Washington University. He went on at length about the constitutional ramifications of the actions of the Justice Department in executing the search and seizure of documents from Congressman Jefferson's office. However, what caught my attention was his comment that this President began to push for the broad expansion of executive powers well before 9/11.
I suddenly remembered a paper I had written many years ago about Richard Nixon...a couple of years after his resignation. Recently, I ran across the paper in a box of old documents although I didn't read it at that time. After listening to Turley, I pulled the paper out of the storage box and read it for the first time in decades. The comparisons to George Bush were astonishing. I won't reproduce the paper here as it was nearly twenty typed pages, but I offer the following points in order to draw the necessary comparisons.
Both men seemed to have closer relationships with their mothers than their fathers and both mothers doted over and frequently defended their sons. Much of what I read about Nixon in sourcing the paper seemed to indicate that his mother had a significant influence in his life. As I compare this to George Bush, it seems to be the same. When President Bush speaks about toughness, he has often referenced his mother. When asked about consulting his father for advice, few can forget his remark that he instead consulted the heavenly father. Similarly, Nixon's mother is often the parental influence cited when reading about the former president.
While little can be concluded from these observations, one can put forth the argument that George Bush has a tepid relationship with his father...one that was characterized by a son who followed in his fathers footsteps but rarely achieved the same successes. In many ways, I view their relationship as competitive and I suspect that Barbara Bush has often been the arbiter. One is left to wonder what part this dynamic may have played in the motivation and justification to invade Iraq. As with much of psychology, little can be proven. Nonetheless, sometimes when one strings together enough information it can remain inconclusive but it can also be powerfully convincing.
Both Nixon and Bush were driven to achieve success and both struggled in their early efforts although Nixon had a rather charmed childhood as an excellent student…he was an accomplished debater, and he had a much clearer set of goals. Both demonstrated erratic behavior that seemed to be characterized by periods of highs and lows.
Nixon's first political opponent, Jerry Voorhis, stated after being defeated in a campaign filled with attacks, "Mr. Nixon had to win. Nothing else would do at all. I had not yet grasped the idea that what was good for Richard Nixon must be good for the U.S." In contrast to George Bush, I don't recall reading that Nixon asserted his decisions were made with guidance from God. Nonetheless, both men demonstrated a stubborn certainty in the decisions they made despite evidence to the contrary.
Winning was important to both men and their early political careers were similarly checkered with hardball campaigns that often focused on attacking the other candidates. Nixon often accused his opponents of being sympathetic to communism and routinely cited the voting records of his opponent to make the assertion...despite often having cast many similar votes. I've previously written about the alliance of George Bush and Karl Rove that spans the bulk of Bush's political career. I'm convinced they are both driven to win and have the same attack instinct that does not hesitate to discredit the opponent. There are numerous examples that support this observation.
In one particular speech during the Eisenhower - Nixon candidacy, Nixon stated, "Ninety-six percent of the 6,926 communists, fellow travelers, sex perverts, people with criminal records, dope addicts, drunks, and other security risks removed under the Eisenhower security program were hired by the Truman administration." I was immediately drawn to the comparison to the swift boating of John Kerry. Granted, elections are dogfights...but the tactic of dismantling the opponent’s cornerstone of credibility seems to be a clear objective.
When Nixon ran for president in 1960, he sought to appeal to all Americans...not unlike the strategy used by George Bush to appear as a compassionate conservative who would be a uniter, not a divider. Both men made measured calculations to win election and sought to connect with common folk...eager to be likable and magnanimous...all the while fostering campaigns to discredit the opposition. Crafting a majority coalition remained the driving force and principles were not allowed to impede the effort.
During Nixon's successful run for the presidency in 1968, he and his staff used television to their advantage. The campaign scheduled some ten events before Republican clubs and organizations. The groups were handpicked and coached. They were instructed when to applaud and even to rush to surround Nixon at the conclusion of his remarks. Reporters were not allowed to attend these events. The campaign was quite regimented and concise and repetitive answers were given to each topical question. The similarity to the Bush campaign strategy, including the many scripted and staged events, is remarkable.
Once elected, it was clear that Nixon lacked knowledge of the mechanics of governance. As an expert political strategist and partisan operative, he surrounded himself with a select group of trusted advisors. Most of these advisors had little experience in government. Rather than transitioning to running the country, he seemingly continued to function as if still engaged in a campaign. Again, the comparisons are obvious.
Once in office, Nixon began to concentrate executive power and authority. He was isolated from contrary opinions and held fewer press conferences than any of his predecessors. At the same time, he sought more structured television time than those who previously occupied the White House. He demanded conformity from his staff and sought to bypass congress when considering policy decisions. Quoting from my paper, "It was within his trusted staff, if not within his own mind, that decisions were made." Again, the similarities are abundantly apparent.
Returning to the present situation with regards to the office of Congressman Jefferson, while the entry to this office was likely not illegal (although some contend it wasn't consistent with the constitution), it is fraught with the same questionable judgment that went into the Watergate break-in. Was the motivation to enter the office driven by a grave concern as to the significance of what might be found (keep in mind there are existing methods to obtain the desired access...although it would have taken longer) or were these the actions of men who have lived in an environment rife with secrecy, suspicion and an unmitigated fear of all that is contrary to the prescribed order?
If Jonathan Turley is correct, then it appears that this administration is intent on consolidating power within the executive office in order to establish and maintain a new and dominant political order. Is it possible that six years in this administration has taken such a toll on the foot soldiers (otherwise thoughtful people) that they can no longer make rational judgments and decisions? Has the din of war drowned out the prudent restraint of dialogue and debate? Are there any limits that will overcome the execution of unprecedented actions that seek to exert power? Do the other branches of our government have the will and the integrity to challenge what may well be the greatest threat to our democracy since the actions of Richard Nixon led to a virtual revolt that forced his resignation?
George Bush has frequently sought to cast his legacy in with the likes of Ronald Reagan...and in the end history may well equate him with the notoriety of Richard Nixon. We can only hope that the miscalculations that allow for such divergent perceptions can be successfully overcome in the near future. The stakes are enormous.
I found this video the other day while looking for a music video. It is kind of weird but I thought it was an interesting combination of the woman who went nuts on the television show Trading Spouses and criticism of the Bush administration and many of their policies. I thought it was creative to use the words of a "christian" fanatic to voice that criticism.
The issue of immigration has captured the attention of the American public. Those on both sides of the issue are passionate and vocal in expressing their preferred solutions. Having traveled throughout Europe in 2004, I learned that many of these countries have been dealing with their own growing influx of immigrant groups. Since the fall of the Soviet Union and other regional conflicts, many Eastern Europeans and North Africans have sought better security, jobs, and an improved standard of living in other well established countries. By comparison, the cultural and religious diversities they have encountered far exceed the American experience with the burgeoning influx of Mexicans. I found an interesting article on the difficulties associated with immigration and assimilation in The Hill. Some excerpts follow.
The six largest countries in the European Union are considering adopting an integration contract, proposed by French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy at a G-6 meeting March 23, that would require immigrants to learn the language of their adopted country and accept relevant social norms or risk expulsion.
Integration processes often reflect one-way integration, in which the immigrant is expected to take the initiative to accomplish the level of integration that the state prescribes. However, in practice integration occurs as a two-way process: the state changes along with the immigrants it accepts.
For example, the United States has no formal immigrant-integration policy, other than a citizenship test requiring the demonstration of basic English language skills and knowledge of U.S. history.
Evidence suggests that integration is more successful when governments make education programs accessible and provide individualized integration plans.
The recent rise in perceptions of insecurity and deep social divides between immigrant and existing populations are prompting immigrant integration reform in most European states.
Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Austria, Denmark, Switzerland and parts of Belgium now all mandate integration. While tailored to the individual state, these programs generally require the immigrant to be able to speak a basic level of the host-country language and to learn the country’s culture and customs.
Not only are European states becoming more proactive about integration but, as these examples demonstrate, nearly all the changes being debated are moving these states’ models toward being more restrictive. The Dutch government is seeking to revolutionize the integration process by requiring pre-immigration “integration screening" in the country of origin.
Much of the immigration debate throughout the West focuses on security concerns given events like 9/11, the London bombings, the Madrid bombings, the riots in France, and the murder of Theo Van Gogh in the Netherlands by a Muslim fanatic. Complicating the debate is the potential for fomenting hidden, though palpable, racist sentiments. Racism has been a topic of debate in Europe and many believe it has surfaced in the United States as the government has made a push to address the immigration issue.
Beyond security fears are public concerns about national identity. As globalization facilitates legal and illegal migration flows, a concurrent rise in public fears about changing national identity is occurring.
While such fears are often rooted in submersed racism, active integration policies are believed by the voting public to ‘protect’ the national culture, language, and identity.
Immigration also is perceived as a threat to the welfare state — even though the growth rate in most European countries probably would drop to near-stagnation if zero immigration were imposed.
The key risks in such immigration reform are the limitations of the models that states adopt. Indeed, at the same time as countries such as the Netherlands are shifting from multicultural to more assimilationist integration models, the failures of immigrant assimilation are becoming increasingly apparent.
Islamic immigrants in particular perceive policies such as the French rule requiring removal of conspicuous religious symbols in schools as a threat to their religious identity. Political rhetoric also contributes to these perceptions: Dutch Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk turned the murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh into an integration issue, stating on the evening of the murder that “[failed integration] has gone this far, and it goes no further". Host country citizens may also blame failed assimilation on racial or religious differences, further exacerbating intercommunity tensions.
Indeed, integration is not achieved merely by labor-market and community participation; it also requires that the immigrant identify with and have loyalty to his new country. Mandating integration compels a speed of assimilation which may impede the developments of loyalty.
This observation is particularly interesting given the recent debate and passage of two bills that seek to identify the need to speak English as a key piece of assimilating into the American culture. During the debate, one of the arguments made was that successful integration was necessarily dependent upon the acquisition of a sufficient proficiency in English. Essentially, the point being made is that learning the language is in the self-interest of the immigrant. The article points out that mandating detailed programs intent on integration and assimilation runs the risk of actually creating resistance.
The article goes on to point out that security fears may be misplaced and misguided when countries attempt to mandate more stringent programs of assimilation and integration in the hopes of preventing terrorist activity.
Evidence suggests that most terrorists either are temporary visitors to the country or second-generation ethnic minorities — not aspiring immigrants. The Nixon Center reports that only 3 percent of known terrorists who have crossed Western borders since 1993 had permanent-resident status. Portraying long-term immigrants as a security threat may isolate them from broader society, inhibiting their integration.
If states were instead to focus on political assimilation — encouraging immigrants to accept the values of liberal democracies — while accepting cultural diversity, they would be better fitted both to reduce security concerns and to encourage immigrant identification with their new home. Managing integration programs effectively with this new goal in mind requires several key elements:
• Ideally, flexible and individualized plans for integration should be established for each immigrant as soon as possible after arrival, taking into account the main reasons the immigrant has moved, his/her cultural background, and the location to which s/he has moved.
• Integration fundamentally is a local process, and communities would benefit from funding to establish their own tailored integration programs.
• Political participation, such as the right to vote in local elections, can empower new immigrant groups.
• The strengths of tight-knit immigrant communities can also be leveraged to facilitate the integration process. Mentorship programs linking new immigrants with more experienced counterparts — such as exist for Somali youth in some U.K. communities — can strengthen community relationships.
• Perhaps most important, immigrants themselves are the best gauge of their integration needs. Encouraging immigrants to participate and contribute in planning for their own integration may be the best way to jump-start the process.
While an extreme analogy, all too often the integration and assimilation of immigrant populations is more akin to the zoo animal model than to a comprehensive program that humanizes immigrants beyond economic and political calculations. Evidence seems to suggest that such approaches run the risk of creating an outcome that is antithetical to the stated objective.
With regard to immigration, looking at the conflict and unrest that has surfaced in Europe may provide valuable insight and guidance as the United States begins this difficult debate. By comparison to many of the immigrant populations in Europe, Mexican immigrants have been peaceful and cooperative and are remarkably well integrated into the American culture. The decisions we are about to make may well determine if that will continue or if we will allow emotions, fear, and bias to hijack the process.
United Press International has a good article on how the West needs to rethink its approach to the growing wave of Islamist extremism. Read the full article here. Bassam Tibi, a professor-at-large at Cornell University and faculty member of Germany's...
The Los Angeles Times reports that military discharges of gays increased 11% in the last year. Read the article here. WASHINGTON — The number of military members discharged under the Pentagon's "don't ask, don't tell" policy on homosexuals rose by...
The latest HIV infection information from Uganda seems to indicate that the abstinence approach may be a disaster in the making. Uganda, long viewed as a model for HIV prevention success in Africa, appears to have taken a wrong turn...
Using a new process to view the actual structure of the HIV virus, scientists were able to get the best look at the virus structure since it's discovery. The hope is that the new information will hasten the process to...
The Senate moved to limit debate on immigration legislation which makes it likely that they will vote on legislation before the weekend. The final bill is expected to call for tougher border security and to provide an opportunity to obtain...
As a kid, I used to watch the Gong Show. Recently I saw the movie "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind", the movie about Gong Show host Chuck Barris and his assertions that he was a CIA operative. I enjoyed...
Michael Hirsh of Newsweek offers some interesting observations on what he believes will be the new Bush administration policy of "containment" with regard to a number of persistent issues. Read the full article here. May 22, 2006 - An old...
New York Senator Hillary Clinton offered her thoughts on a comprehensive energy plan today at the National Press Club in Washington. Bloomberg has the full story here. May 23 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton attacked the Bush administration for...
Update II: Reuters has an article detailing the pending opposition from the religious right to Gardasil, Merck's new cervical cancer vaccine. Read the full article here. "We don't think it should be made mandatory for school attendance," said Peter Sprigg,...
Evidence continues to mount that the world holds an increasingly negative view of America and Americans. In the past, polling seemed to indicate that many abroad held a dislike of American policies but remained favorable towards the American citizenry. Unfortunately,...
United Press International reports that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel believes that Iran is mere months from having a nuclear weapon. The fact that Olmert has chosen to make such a public assertion raises the question if Israel is...
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The New York Times has an excellent article on the failure of the Bush administration to anticipate the security needs in Iraq and to plan for rebuilding a police force to maintain order in the wake of toppling Hussein. Read...
The category “Rhyme-N-Reason" is intended to be a place to share poetry that stimulates thoughtful reflection. For me, writing poetry is cathartic. It’s a way to encapsulate a group of feelings or thoughts that might be on my mind...
The current debate on immigration reform has brought focus to the conflicting and confusing politics of George Bush. In the current issue of Newsweek, Eleanor Clift explores Bush's position on immigration reform and his lost opportunity to be a centrist...
English only...what did you say? It is completely shameful that some politicians are willing to exploit existing prejudices towards Mexican speaking immigrants in order to appeal to certain voting blocks. Can someone explain to me why we have time to...
Since failing to find WMD's in Iraq, the Bush administration has made the exporting of democracy to oppressed countries a key talking point when explaining the invasion. We routinely hear about the 25 million people who were freed and given...
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia continued his criticism of the consideration of foreign legal decisions when reviewing U.S. constitutional issues. Generally speaking, Scalia has a point if it were true that such considerations were overruling the U.S. Constitution. In fact,...
“You Just Didn’t Say That?" is a recurring posting here at Thought Theater. The intention of the category “Nouveau Thoughts" is to present a provocative thought for debate and discussion. A key objective is to take established or accepted ideas...
President Bush and many Republicans have hailed the bill extending the reduction in capital gains and dividends as an important measure to keep the economy growing. Missing from the analysis is the impact that such tax reductions actually have on...
The Southern Poverty Law Center has an interesting article on their site about the impact of the increasingly heated immigration debate. You can find the full article here. Prior Thought Theater postings on the immigration issue can be found...
Think Progress has a posting on the roll out of a campaign supported by big oil companies to downplay the role of global warming and to paint some as alarmists. Included in that group would be Al Gore. Read...
Hello! I saw you on the street today. I don’t actually know you well but we’ve crossed paths many times before. You looked the same as I had remembered. I don’t think you had the kids with you today. I...
The latest Washington Post - ABC News poll shows that voters are increasingly dissatisfied with the GOP controlled government. Some 69% say the country is not headed in the right direction while 56% would like to see Democrats control...
A recent push by the GOP to bring the issue of judicial appointments to the forefront has once again raised the question of the "nuclear option". The term is the name given to the possibility of changing the rules to...
I’ve noticed a strange confluence of events that has piqued my inherently cynical curiosity. Given my fascination with Karl Rove as a political strategist, some of what I’m seeing makes me increasingly suspicious. I have come to believe that Rove’s...
True to form, Senator Arlen Specter has agreed to remove the teeth from his bill that is intended to clarify the legality of the NSA surveillance program. The key provision would have forced the administration to bring the program before...
Where oh where can they be? The Pentagon has released a list of all the detainees held at Guantanamo Bay In Cuba; however none of the known high profile individuals appeared on the list. The absence of these well known...
UPDATE: Despite some progress towards establishing a new government, the situation on the ground in Iraq continues to be troubling. The problem is that the establishment of a new government may have little relationship to the violence that is taking...
“Proverbially Speaking" is a recurring posting here at Thought Theater. The intention of the category “He Said, She Said" is to present sayings, proverbs, and quotations that provoke thought. From time to time, I will try to relate them to...
Al Gore appeared on Saturday Night Live last night. Crooks & Liars has video here. I enjoyed the skit but I wanted to share an observation that struck me as I watched his performance. Of late, Al Gore has made...
Since the revelation that the NSA surveillance program includes the widespread collection and review of domestic telephone activity there has been a great deal of debate. Today’s release of the Washington Post – ABC News poll seems to demonstrate that...
The category “Rhyme-N-Reason" is intended to be a place to share poetry that stimulates thoughtful reflection. For me, writing poetry is cathartic. It’s a way to encapsulate a group of feelings or thoughts that might be on my mind...
Managing alliances is a complicated proposition. Since 9/11, many believe the U.S. has done a less than stellar job in that regard. Today in an article by the Associated Press, it appears that even countries we currently count as "friendly"...
President Bush's approval rating has dropped to an all time low of 29% in the latest Harris Interactive poll. WASHINGTON, May 11 (UPI) -- U.S. President George W. Bush's job approval rating has fallen to 29 percent in a...
Paul Begala just made an excellent comment on CNN. He pointed out that the large telephone companies that have agreed to cooperate with the administration on domestic surveillance may have an ulterior motive. Begala reminded viewers that the phone companies...
Ford shareholders voted by an overwhelming 95% to suport the continuation of protections and benefits for LGBT employees. The motion was forced onto the ballot by shareholders sympathetic to the groups that are currently boycotting Ford. The primary organizer has...
The New York Times reports that the FBI currently has some 2,000 investigations into public corruption. This includes the Abramoff and Cunningham cases. Read the full article here. From the New York Times: As one of the Bush administration's least...
UPDATE: Senator Arlen Specter indicates he wants the telephone company executives named by USA Today to testify regarding their participation in the NSA surveillance program. Specter is known for blustering on the front end of issues...we will see if he...
There is a good article by Howard Fineman on the strategy plans of Karl Rove for the upcoming midterm elections. You can read the entire article here. The big question that remains is whether Rove will have the opportunity to...
Hispanics remain the fastest growing segment of the American population. Despite what many may assume, the bulk of that growth is fueled more by births than by illegal immigration. The information comes from newly released census bureau information. The full...
UPDATE: The New York Times has an article today that indicates the administration has decided that the Medicare prescription drug benefit will provide votes during the midterm elections in November. In the original part of this posting, I highlighted the...
I thought this clip was very interesting because it seems to be related to my prior posting on "Does Science Need Religion To Have A Conscience" which you can read here. Reza Aslan, author of the book No God...
This is an AIDS awareness video (gay version) that was aired in France. Not only is it well done, it is candid and clear in its message. Sadly, something like this would likely never be approved for viewing in...
This is a straight version of a French AIDS awareness campaign ad similar to the one seen in this other posting here at Thought Theater. Unfortunately, this would never be approved for television in the United States....
UPDATE: Secretary Jackson's office has issued a statement that the story he recounted in his speech was simply "anecdotal". "He was merely trying to explain to the audience how people in D.C., will say critical things about the secretary, will...
In the latest CBS News/New York Times poll, President Bush sank to a new low approval of just 31%. You can read the details here and here. Given the constant stream of negative news and additional issues of corruption, it...
With the administration hovering at all time low approval ratings in several recent polls, we now hear that the Republican controlled House is seeking to again increase the national debt ceiling; this time to 10 trillion dollars as part of...
An email from the office of an Indiana congressman to the Department of Health and Human Services prompted the Center for Disease Control to alter the previously peer reviewed panel for an upcoming conference on sexually transmitted diseases (STD's). Those...
As the May 15th deadline to sign up for the Medicare prescription drug benefit approaches, it appears that those with the greatest need, the poor, are participating the least. Read the full article here. A report out today by Families...
Offering the administrations first response to the letter sent by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said, "It isn't addressing the issues that we are dealing with in a concrete way." Many feel the letter was timed...
It was at a meeting in 1984 when I first heard the theory that AIDS would be a force in mainstreaming homosexuality. I was meeting with the publisher of a gay magazine at the time. His words have never left...
I recently did a comment posting on Pharyngula, at scienceblogs.com. The topic was about whether or not "science needs religion in order to have a conscience, to know that, just because something is possible, it may not be a good...
British sources confirmed that a helicopter crashed in a residential area of Basra. Early reports indicate that it appears to have been shot down by ground fire. A large crowd of Iraqis chanted and cheered in the area around the...
Situations like this lead me to question the rhetoric being used in right leaning educational institutions. I find it hard to imagine anyone decides to go out and burn down an adult bookstore at 20 years old without being fed...
Porter Goss, the Director of the CIA has resigned. No replacement has yet been named although an announcement is expected shortly. UPDATE: President Bush has just announced the resignation of Porter Goss. Goss was only on the job since his...
President Bush continued his string of record low approvals in the latest AP-Ipsos poll. Only 33% of voters surveyed approved of the Presidents job performance. The President's approval among conservatives continued to erode. Six months out, the intensity of opposition...
Reuters is reporting that the Senate moved closer to the passage of an amendment to allow congress to prohibit the burning of the American flag. Some excerpts from the article follow as well as a satirical skit that aired on...
Hal Varian of The New York Times reports on a recent paper by two Harvard economists about the significance of the red state, blue state divide. The full article can be found here. The following excerpts are highlights of the...
Oy Vey Day is a recurring posting here at Thought Theater. It’s strictly lighthearted and meant to bring a smile or a chuckle. Strange as it may seem, even though I grew up in an Italian American Catholic home, I’ve...
The category “Rhyme-N-Reason" is intended to be a place to share poetry that stimulates thoughtful reflection. For me, writing poetry is cathartic. It’s a way to encapsulate a group of feelings or thoughts that might be on my mind...
The following is a posting by John at AMERICAblog. The basic issue is that a gay friend of John's was fired by Howard Dean shortly after the partner of the fired man wrote a letter objecting to the lack of...
A new study by the Harvard School of Public Health indicates that virginity pledges are not that effective and the ability to monitor the participants is fraught with difficulties. Todd Zeranski of the Bloomberg News Service reports the following. Boston...
I had lunch with a friend Tuesday. I've only known her for a few months as we recently met while I was in the process of purchasing insurance. She went to public schools and I attended Catholic schools. She is...
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has finally submitted his resignation thereby acknowledging his narrow defeat in the election held last month. Despite resigning, Berlusconi is expected to remain active in Italian politics and will likely make it difficult for incoming...
Senator Joe Biden [D] of Deleware suggesting Monday in an Op/Ed piece in The New York Times that it may be necessary to divide Iraq into autonomous sectarian segments in order to bring stability to the struggling country. You can...
I've grown increasingly convinced that the current administration has one defining problem. They know how to run a campaign; not a country. Secondly, I have my suspicions as to why. The answer may be nothing more than two words...Karl Rove....
We hear a lot from the Bush administration about Democracy. President Bush has often said that “Democracy is on the march". When talking about the spread of democracy, he often goes on to say that freedom is sought by all...
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