November 2006 Archives

World AIDS Day: Strange Math & The Phone Call genre: Gaylingual & Little Red Ribbon-Hood & Video-Philes

The following video is the first release of an original Thought Theater video. I thought it would be appropriate to kick off the sites video content with a message on World AIDS Day. Perhaps not every Thought Theater reader has lost someone to HIV...but I have lost a number of friends and I think it’s important to be reminded that HIV is currently the number four cause of death and is expected to soon become number three. There has been a lot of progress in controlling the virus but millions are unable to afford the drugs needed to extend their lives.

I often imagine a world without HIV or at least one where a vaccine exists or that is able to treat and cure the disease. That day may never come but we must continue working towards that goal. Many people are living longer and more normal lives but not without the difficulty that comes with any serious ailment…especially one frequently viewed as socially unacceptable.

World AIDS Day is also a good time to acknowledge the courage and commitment the gay community has demonstrated over the years in its effort to combat the disease and bring awareness and attention to the need for more research and funding. Many of us lived through the early years of HIV and will never forget the many vibrant friends that were lost in what seemed to be an instant. I remember and honor them all this and every day.

Daniel DiRito | November 30, 2006 | 8:20 PM | link | Comments (1)
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Olbermann Tells Bush How Iraq Is Like Vietnam genre: Just Jihad & Six Degrees of Speculation

Daniel DiRito | November 27, 2006 | 9:11 PM | link | Comments (1)
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Post Election Thoughts On Our Human Identity genre: Nouveau Thoughts & Six Degrees of Speculation

The human identity

Since the midterm election I have been pondering the purpose of blogging and I've spent much of my time observing what is now being written in the blogosphere in the wake of an important election. In my virtual silence, I haven't actually had a goal in mind. I found myself having little to say as I sought to digest the meaning of the results...not for one politician or one party but for the country and the world...all the while centered on my passion, humanity. You see, my passion isn't for blogging but for the potential to advance humanity that blogging may provide. I write with a passion for the issues that impact our humanity rather than a passion to blog...and that makes it difficult to blog just for the sake of blogging.

Perhaps that makes me a bad blogger...or at the very least a blogger who would make decisions that may well be contrary to the goal of growing a blog in order to turn it into a money making enterprise. Unfortunately, if my goal were making money, I shouldn't have walked away from a career that certainly did a good job of providing it. With that said, I realize that making money is a necessity...but for me it has to be done as a adjunct to an act of passion for me to feel whole...and more importantly for me to want to continue doing whatever it is that potentially brings home the bacon.

As I've pondered my decision to blog, it has been clear since the outset that passion would have to precede profit...and so it has to this point. As I look back on my blogging, I can pinpoint the choices I've made that have had an impact upon the pursuit of profit. Philosophically, I think of myself as a liberal but by no means am I a purist nor would I want to be. I don't say that as a criticism of liberalism, but as an admission that life isn't that simple nor could I accept living it that way as a matter of prudent considerations.

In starting Thought Theater, I chose to follow my principles regardless of their impact upon popularity or profitability. In describing myself in the section titled "Read about the Director and Cast", I stated "Perhaps I am best described as a contradiction in that I've spent a lifetime searching for an affiliation that I could accept and maintain...one that would, for the most part, define me like a word in the dictionary...and yet I have come to the realization that my identity is always evolving and I am better explained by my inability to be characterized." That in itself is somewhat contrary to blogging. Many, if not most bloggers choose to fit into ideological categories that can be easily discerned by readers and therefore serves to allow quick affiliations and allegiances. That has never worked for me nor was it a consideration when I began to blog.

Early on, I drew readers from a number of the mainstream left leaning blogs as many of my postings were consistent with their liberal content. However, with the candidacy of Ned Lamont, my ideological independence began to emerge which alienated a number of readers and put me at odds with some of the larger blogs. I knew at the time that such postings would potentially undermine my appeal...but as I've stated above, the goal wasn't to be popular and profitable at the expense of my principle goal of pursuing more "truth"...whatever that might ultimately turn out to be. Frankly, I wanted to see if I could be me and still grow a readership...and so far it has succeeded.

Statistically speaking, my experiment in blogging has been to broaden my sampling in order to see if it was possible to amass a following that valued independent thought. To prove my hypothesis, I would have to find readers that were willing to risk leaving the safety of affiliation in favor of what I call the pursuit of more "truth". That would require readers to deliberately place more value upon seeking whatever "truth" can be found or ascertained than in finding support for the "truth" that one might prefer or endorse as a matter of choice. Frankly, that's a tall order given our aversion to conflicting evidence.

From a psychological perspective, one might call Thought Theater an identity experiment. By that I am suggesting that we humans are prone to finding and choosing our identities at an early age and we then spend the rest of our lives attempting to justify that identity...to collect "truths" that support ones beliefs. My own view of my identity is that it will forever remain flexible subject to the discovery of new "truths" and I will therefore forever fail to fit into a standardized identity. The goal of Thought Theater was to see just how many others might view their identity similarly and thus might be open to debate and dialogue that challenged convention and ignored the tidiness of clear and concise categorization.

In high school, it was one of my teachers who made me aware of this identity issue that I am describing. The class was about religion and philosophy and my opinions failed to comport with any prescribed ideology and often left me at odds with both sides of an argument. He made the comment that all I ever sought was more input and more information in order to refine the analysis and distill more "truth"...in fact he said, "You're like a computer trying to solve a problem and insisting that it can't be done without more facts and more information." At the time, he meant it as a compliment but over the years I found it had the potential to be a liability...at least from any practical calculation.

Over the years, many have chosen to call me a contrarian...but that too is an oversimplification. If "truth" is so simple to find, why do we live with wars, have perpetual battles about religion, engage elaborate judicial systems to determine fact from fiction, and vote in order to define tomorrows "truth?" Further, despite all these efforts to expose "truth", we live in a world that determined the earth to be flat, that put people to death for being witches, that supported the notion that some of us were meant to be slaves and therefore not even have a say in defining "truth", and a world that continues to support bias and prejudice in spite of its disconnection from "truth".

So in my post-election silence I've found myself thinking again about the pursuit of more "truth". While I'm glad that the Democrats have wrestled power from the GOP, I remain skeptical that the "truth" will suddenly be found or illuminated. Nancy Pelosi, immediately after the election, told us that she would seek to make this the most ethical congress ever...and within days she supported two ethically challenged individuals for important positions. I don't even know how to find the "truth" in this minor, though relevant incident...let alone how to find the confidence to believe that our votes will lead us to where I would prefer to go...closer to seeking more "truth"...because its pursuit is actually a worthwhile goal regardless of the "truth" that it may uncover.

I fear most of us are forever engaged in the process of supporting the "truth" we prefer and then seeking to impose and institutionalize it rather than attempting to refine more "truth" out of that which we encounter. I can't understand what reward is found in doing as much. Perhaps it equates with the denial that I perceive must be employed to hold any absolute ideology...and therefore it serves to diminish the anxiety that comes with uncertainty or the potential to be wrong.

That all seems contrary to the revered notion of faith which is a concept I admire though do not embrace. I find it troubling that many who assert that they accept the uncertainty of faith simultaneously seek to argue the absolute nature of their beliefs while refuting other matters of fact that do not comport with their ideology. Faith is not fact though many act as if it is. If faith is sufficient for the promise of an afterlife...shouldn't that same faith be sufficient to accept those facts that are certainties in this existence without attempting to overrule them because they stand in opposition to our beliefs? Apparently not...but that supports my identity argument and explains why so many of us humans cling to absolutes despite evidence to the contrary. The closest I can come to faith is found in my unwavering belief in the pursuit of "truth"...but even that isn't an accurate representation of faith since it relies on certainty.

With that said, it is as if where I am going is where others have already concluded that they have arrived. Unfortunately, that difference isn't premised upon "truth" but merely the willingness of some to assert that they already know all or enough of the "truth". That's the problem with elections...they are an opportunity for many to conclude that the "truth" they embrace has been validated and the "truth" embraced by the opposition has been repudiated. Neither assumption can be fully supported yet such is the prevailing conclusion in the aftermath of most elections.

For me, most elections are a letdown...not because of the outcome...but because of what so many believe the outcome means. If one believes that the Bush administration had strayed from "truth" (and I do), then the goal of the election would appropriately be to move the country towards more "truth". Unfortunately, many believe that that "truth" is fully embodied in the president's opponents...a notion I find wholly inadequate and fancifully naïve. Hence my nagging reservations.

Much of what I have read since the election has been a celebration of the vindication of the victor and the vilification of the vanquished. I understand that sentiment but I deny the attempts to portray it as an unequivocal substantiation of "truth". That may eventually come to fruition but winning a majority of the votes doesn't assure as much. In fact, my fear remains that victory is viewed as an opportunity to reject the opponents "truths" and instill the victor's "truths" regardless of either's proximity to any actual "truth". The conclusion seems to be as they say...to the victor go the spoils or he who has the gold writes the rules. Unfortunately, the winning of elections doesn't necessarily bring "truth" or even the pursuit of "truth". All too often it simply brings the opportunity to impose "truth" or at least manipulate or reconstitute it.

Since the victory by the Democrats, it seems that there has been a virtual role reversal. Democrats are now scrutinized as the party in power and the success or failure of the nation is now expected to be measured as a function of their actions. The recognition of our mutual humanity and therefore the importance of our shared objectives are frequently lost in that process. Instead, the winner seeks to advance its prescribed version of humanity...whether it is actually connected to more "truth" often becomes secondary to the ability to impose ones own version of "truth".

Perhaps that is the prevailing limitation of a two party system. It leads to the presumption that there are actually two "truths" rather than the much more logical and harmonious conclusion that we actually share nothing more than our common human "truth"...even though that may at times be very difficult to ascertain. Notwithstanding, if we approached it accordingly, then "truth" would be sought by all rather than imposed by few and the more "truth" that would be obtained, the better served would be the whole of humanity.

Don't get me wrong...there will always be differences of opinion. However, if we agree that "truth" trumps opinion and that it serves humanity, then the search for more "truth" will eventually narrow the gap between opinions and fact will prevail...but only if fact is accepted...and more importantly...accepted even when it negates beliefs or refutes faith. To do otherwise is to separate us from our own humanity such that it becomes possible to condemn it...and therefore to destroy it.

Just as the individual seeks to define his or her identity, so too does humanity. In fact, our human identity precedes our individual identity and therefore we can't find a true identity if we fail to first accept our fundamental human identity. The individual identity can only be authentic if it is "true" to its human identity. Those who elect to first establish the individual identity and then subsequently define our collective human identity in conformance with that specifically chosen, though inauthentic identity, damage all of humanity. Further, they suffer the disease of denial...the ailment that will eventually end humanity if it isn't extinguished.

Such is the danger attached to our selective interpretations of election results. So long as we continue to view our elections as referendums on right and wrong whereby half of the country is affirmed and half is rebuked, we will continue to deny our human connections and cultivate the divisions that undermine our collective humanity and set in motion our collective demise.

As I resume blogging now that the election has passed, I will continue to offer my own efforts to expose more "truth". Rest assured I have my own opinions...but be even more assured that I welcome differing opinions and I am always open to amending mine in the presence of more "truth". Being right or wrong at the expense of others is not my objective. Being right in honoring the sanctity of our mutual human identity is my passion. I hope you will continue to visit Thought Theater as we explore the meaning of our fascinating and fragile human identity.

Daniel DiRito | November 26, 2006 | 8:55 PM | link
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Robert Altman Has Died At 81 genre: Happy Remembrances & Video-Philes

Maverick film director Robert Altman has died in California at the age of 81. Altman's most recent work, A Prairie Home Companion didn't get a lot of attention but I really enjoyed it. The following are excerpts from Breitbart.com. You can read the full details on Altman here.

From Breitbart.com:

No director ever got more best-director nominations without winning a regular Oscar, though four other men - Alfred Hitchcock, Martin Scorsese, Clarence Brown and King Vidor - tied with Altman at five.

In May, Altman brought out "A Prairie Home Companion," with Garrison Keillor starring as the announcer of a folksy musical show - with the same name as Keillor's own long-running show - about to be shut down by new owners. Among those in the cast were Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin, Kevin Kline, Woody Harrelson and Tommy Lee Jones.

"This film is about death," Altman said at a May 3 news conference in St. Paul, Minn., also attended by Keillor and many of the movie's stars.

The following clip is from A Prairie Home Companion:

Daniel DiRito | November 21, 2006 | 1:51 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Daily Show: John Oliver On Humbled President Bush genre: Tongue-In-Cheek & Video-Philes

Daniel DiRito | November 21, 2006 | 11:52 AM | link | Comments (0)
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Bush Appoints Fox To Guard The Henhouse genre: Hip-Gnosis

Fox in the henhouse

On Friday President Bush appointed Dr. Eric Keroack to head the Health and Human Services Office of Population Affairs which oversees a budget of $280 million dollars aimed at reproductive-health issues. The appointment has drawn criticism from a number of groups and has led a group of Democrats to call for his replacement. Read the full story at Reuters.

From Reuters:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Several Democratic lawmakers asked the Bush administration on Monday to replace its new family-planning chief because he has worked for a health provider that opposes the use of birth control.

"We are concerned that Dr. Keroack has promoted policies -- including the refusal to distribute contraception even to married women -- that directly conflict with the mission of the federal program," the letter said.

Keroack last week was named head of HHS's Office of Population Affairs, which funds birth control, pregnancy tests, breast-cancer screening and other health services for 5 million poor people annually. HHS estimates that the program helps to prevent 1.3 million unwanted pregnancies each year.

The office also oversees a $30 million program that encourages sexual abstinence among teens.

An HHS spokeswoman said Keroack is a skilled doctor and a nationally recognized expert on preventing teen pregnancy.

I don't know that much about Keroack but it isn't difficult to realize that he has an agenda and his appointment fits the Bush administration pattern of putting religious ideology above science in an effort to promote his own evangelical bias. This appointment and a number of others point to a growing problem with regard to the separation of science and health from religion. While I don't doubt the doctor’s credentials, the problem is whether he is guided by the science at the core of his education credentials or the religious beliefs that he holds. There are a growing number of experts that are using their influential positions to promote positions that may actually be in conflict with hard science and proven research.

Keroack previously served as medical director for A Woman's Concern, a chain of Boston-area pregnancy clinics that advise against the use of contraception and advocate abstinence as a way to avoid pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

Keroack has spoken at abstinence conferences across the country and has written that people who have more than one sex partner have a diminished neurological capacity to experience loving relationships.

On Friday the Washington Post ran a story on the appointment. The following are excerpts from that article that elaborate on Keroack's background.

From The Washington Post:

The Keroack appointment angered many family-planning advocates, who noted that A Woman's Concern supports sexual abstinence until marriage, opposes contraception and does not distribute information promoting birth control at its six centers in eastern Massachusetts.

"A Woman's Concern is persuaded that the crass commercialization and distribution of birth control is demeaning to women, degrading of human sexuality and adverse to human health and happiness," the group's Web site says.

The quotation from A Woman's Choice should remove any doubt as to the biased ideological leanings of Keroack. Frankly, the bulk of the quotation is a matter of opinion and not a function of scientific research...hardly the impartial professionalism one would expect for an appointment to oversee a program focused on reproductive-health. I would equate the appointment with hiring a fox to guard the henhouse.

I'm sure there are numerous qualified Doctors who would not bring an ideological agenda to this position. That logically suggests that Keroack’s appointment was intended to alter the purpose of the program and allow it to be skewed by religious considerations. If this is an indication of the President's willingness to set aside partisan politics, the next two years should be very interesting.

Daniel DiRito | November 20, 2006 | 6:09 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Too Big To Miss genre: Front and Center & Snapshot Thoughts

Bus in London - 2004
If Good Things Come In Small Packages, Why Worry About The Big Stuff?

Daniel DiRito | November 20, 2006 | 9:10 AM | link | Comments (0)
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For Sale: McCain 2008 genre: Polispeak & Snapshot Thoughts

Senator John McCain continues to shift his positions in anticipation of his run for the GOP 2008 presidential nomination. Think Progress has the video of McCain's appearance this morning on This Week with George Stephanopoulos. In this particular appearance, McCain argues for the overturning of Roe v. Wade in order to give states the right to determine how they prefer to handle a woman’s right to choose. The subtle shift allows McCain to appeal to those conservatives who oppose abortion.

It seems to me that McCain is slowly walking away from his persona as a maverick with strong principles in order to better his chances to win. While I understand his desire to be president, he becomes less appealing each time he compromises to become a viable candidate. Frankly, I view his actions to be similar to the George Bush equation for gaining and holding power. If that observation is correct, then McCain, like so many others who seek power, is for sale. That's unfortunate.

McCainForSale.jpg

Daniel DiRito | November 19, 2006 | 1:56 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Iraq - The Money Pit: Pentagon To Ask For Billions genre: Econ-Recon & Just Jihad

Money down the drain

The GOP likes to talk about Democrats enabling the terrorists when they voice concerns that the war in Iraq is a mess...that we need to establish a time frame for our exit...and that it isn't reducing the threat of terrorism. At the same time, according to an article in USA TODAY, he Bush administration is preparing to ask for somewhere between 127 and 160 billion dollars to fund the U.S. efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Depending on the final request, the war on terror could be the most expensive war since World War II.

If memory serves me, one of the stated objectives of Osama bin Laden was to force the U.S. into spending itself into decline in its efforts to combat the threat of terror. At the current level of spending, one might well argue that the Bush administration is the one that is actually enabling the terrorists.

The Pentagon is considering $127 billion to $160 billion in requests from the armed services for the 2007 fiscal year, which began last month, several lawmakers and congressional staff members said. That's on top of $70 billion already approved for 2007.

Since 2001, Congress has approved $502 billion for the war on terror, roughly two-thirds for Iraq. The latest request, due to reach the incoming Democratic-controlled Congress next spring, would make the war on terror more expensive than the Vietnam War.

Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., who will chair the Senate Budget Committee next year, said the amount under consideration is "$127 billion and rising." He said the cost "is going to increasingly become an issue" because it could prevent Congress from addressing domestic priorities, such as expanding Medicare prescription drug coverage.

Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., who put the expected request at $160 billion, said such a sizable increase still "won't solve the problem" in Iraq.

To make any meaningful conclusions requires some important contextual review. Clearly the invasion of Afghanistan was a reasonable and necessary action intended to put an end to al-Qaeda and those who carried out the attacks on 9/11. Unfortunately, before that mission was completed, the Bush administration turned their attention to Iraq...premised upon the assertion that Sadaam possessed weapon of mass destruction that could find their way into the hands of terrorists. It wasn't long before the WMD justification morphed into full fledged nation building in order to export democracy to the Middle East.

So what have we achieved for our half a trillion dollars and counting? Afghanistan remains a tribal nation with an economy driven by drug production and a resurgent Taliban intent on toppling the U.S. backed government. Osama bin Laden remains a free man who is likely intent on radicalizing a remote region of Pakistan into a mirror image of the domain he held in Afghanistan. Pakistan's leader, Pervez Musharraf, holds power by force over a population that opposes the U.S. and supports al-Qaeda and the Taliban. He must walk a thin line between appeasing the Bush administration and preventing the toppling of his tenuous rule which limits our ability to capture or kill Osama and his minions. Regarding al-Qaeda and the Taliban, one might argue that aside from some hard to quantify weakening, we have achieved little more than forcing a geographic shift.

In Iraq, we have in excess of 140,000 soldiers in harms way...a government that is ineffectual and lacking the power, the influence, and perhaps the motivation to put an end to the escalating sectarian conflict. Democracy seems more symbolic than endemic as longstanding allegiances and ethnic animosity appear to far exceed the desire for unifying the nation under a consensus government. Each time more executions are carried out and more people are kidnapped and murdered, the potential for resolution diminishes while deep seated revenge and rage run rampant.

At the same time, our presence in Iraq...in conflict with many of the religious beliefs in the region...has fueled the recruitment efforts of numerous terrorist groups...all intent on harming the United States and its allies. The effort to resolve the Israeli - Palestinian conflict has been set to the side and suffers the unintended, though tangible, consequences of our incursion in the region. Syria and Iran continue to fuel extremism while we virtually refuse to engage them in dialogue. Frankly, one could argue that the bulk of our efforts have served to undermine the goal of democratizing the region.

The new request being considered for the war on terror would be about one-fourth what the government spends annually on Social Security — and 10 times what it spends on its space program.

The new request is top-heavy with Army and Air Force costs to replace and repair equipment and redeploy troops, Hoagland said. That's why the 2007 cost is likely to top the war's average annual price tag.

Overall, he said, "we're easily headed toward $600 billion." That would top the $536 billion cost of Vietnam in today's dollars. World War II cost an inflation-adjusted $3.6 trillion.

Here at home, politicians haggle over raising the minimum wage, negotiating better drug prices for seniors, building a fence on our southern border, spending federal funds on stem cell and other important research, and finding the means to provide health care to well over 40 million uninsured Americans. The GOP tries to portray the Democrats as the irresponsible tax and spend party...while the cost of our war and our debt and our deficit swells at a record pace and will eventually have to be funded by the American public. I can't help but wonder what the country could do to make the lives of more Americans better with the half a trillion dollars spent on the war on terror. I doubt those who suffer the struggles of poverty and hunger feel the cost of the war has improved their day to day lives or made them any safer. I would suspect that the toil to survive each day far overshadows any concerns of safety.

In the end, while we contend that we are defending our way of life, our way of life looks to be on the decline and the road back to better days gets steeper each day. For the few that prosper, the reality is that it is dependent upon the masses achieving some level of success. The longer their needs are ignored, the sooner the established mechanisms of this increasingly narrow band of prosperity will unravel. The President likes to talk about the importance of winning the war in Iraq. If that can only be achieved at the expense of our American way of life, then I must not understand the definition of victory.

Daniel DiRito | November 17, 2006 | 12:00 PM | link | Comments (1)
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Christina Aguilera On SNL genre: Tuned Out & Video-Philes

Christina Aguilera Sings Hurt

Christina Aguilera Sings Ain't No Other Man

Christina Aguilera Ain't No Other Man Live on SNL

Add to My Profile | More Videos

Daniel DiRito | November 17, 2006 | 10:34 AM | link | Comments (0)
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The Colbert Report: Sam Harris On God & Faith genre: Hip-Gnosis & Tongue-In-Cheek & Video-Philes

Daniel DiRito | November 16, 2006 | 11:03 AM | link | Comments (0)
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Is Pelosi Punch Drunk With Power? genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Don't drink the punch

I'll admit that I have never been a big fan of Nancy Pelosi. During the campaign preceding the 2006 elections, I found her remarks in numerous interviews to lack certainty and her answers were filled with hesitancy...she just didn't seem to have a good handle on how the Democrats intended to proceed if they were to win control of the House or the Senate.

Notwithstanding, in the first few days after the election she seemed to have found her stride and I found myself reconsidering my view of the Speaker-to-be. Her statements were clear and I felt she was setting the right tone for the Democrats to position themselves as hard-working, roll up your sleeves public servants intent on bringing the changes that the election results clearly demanded.

Unfortunately, within another few days my opinion has changed once again as it now appears that Pelosi has found her way to the ever dangerous punch bowl that is filled with that magical potion called power...and her actions with regard to the selection of the House Majority Leader suggest that she has been over served. Let me be clear. I have no problem with Pelosi endorsing Murtha as a matter of loyalty...but she appears to be intent on making this leadership election her first foray into the politics of power. In my opinion, her actions in that regard are a mistake and they are apt to undo the goodwill she likely gained in the immediate aftermath of the midterm election.

As I browsed the news in the last couple days, there was ample evidence of the damage being done by this apparent effort to wield power. Pelosi's willingness to make an issue of Murtha's quest to become the Majority Leader is undermining her assurances to the American people that this 110th Congress would be about integrity and would begin the process of "draining the swamp". Take a look at what is being written about Murtha in the Washington Post and in the Opinion Journal.

From The Washington Post:

The videotape is grainy, dark and devastating. The congressman and the FBI undercover agents -- the congressman thinks they represent an Arab sheik willing to pay $50,000 to get immigration papers -- are talking business in the living room of a secretly wired Washington townhouse.

Two other congressmen in on the deal "do expect to be taken care of," the lawmaker says. But for the time being -- and he says repeatedly that he might change his mind and take money down the road -- he'd rather trade his help for investment in his district, maybe a hefty deposit in the bank of a political supporter who's done him favors.

"I'm not interested -- at this point," he says of the dangled bribe. "You know, we do business for a while, maybe I'll be interested, maybe I won't, you know." Indeed, he acknowledges, even though he needs to be careful -- "I expect to be in the [expletive] leadership of the House," he notes -- the money's awfully tempting. "It's hard for me to say, just the hell with it."

This is John Murtha, incoming House speaker Nancy Pelosi's choice to be her majority leader, snared but not charged in the Abscam probe in 1980. "The Democrats intend to lead the most honest, most open and most ethical Congress in history," Pelosi pledged on election night. Five days later she wrote Murtha a letter endorsing his bid to become her No. 2.

I don't dislike John Murtha. In fact, he was instrumental in steering the country towards a discussion about the benefits of a prolonged presence in Iraq without the potential for meaningful results. Nonetheless, his history as a Congressman who has played the margins with regards to influence peddling only serves to hurt Pelosi's credibility. That is not to say Murtha is guilty of any significant ethical offenses or that the opposition isn't exaggerating his questionable activities...but if Pelosi is as smart as many think she is this is one ill-chosen fight. Take a look at John Fund's efforts to spin the Murtha situation into a major issue.

From The Opinion Journal:

House Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi's endorsement of Rep. John Murtha for majority leader, the No. 2 position in the Democratic leadership, has roiled her caucus. "She will ensure that they [Mr. Murtha and his allies] win. This is hardball politics," Rep. Jim Moran, a top Murtha ally, told the Hill, a congressional newspaper. "We are entering an era where when the speaker instructs you what to do, you do it."

But several members are privately aghast that Mr. Murtha, a pork-barreling opponent of most House ethics reforms, could become the second most visible symbol of the new Democratic rule. "We are supposed to change business as usual, not put the fox in charge of the henhouse," one Democratic member told me. "It's not just the Abscam scandal of the 1980s that he barely dodged, he's a disaster waiting to happen because of his current behavior," another told me.

Melanie Sloan, the liberal head of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, was cheered on by Democrats six weeks ago when she helped reveal the Mark Foley scandal. Now she says that "Ms. Pelosi’s endorsement of Rep. Murtha, one of the most unethical members of Congress, show that she may have prioritized ethics reform merely to win votes with no real commitment to changing the culture of corruption."

In contrast to Sen. John McCain, whose experience in the 1990 Keating Five scandal turned him into a good-government reformer, Mr. Murtha's brush with infamy stirred in him a conviction that members of Congress deserve more protection from ethics probes. In 1997 Mr. Murtha joined with Rep. Billy Tauzin, a Louisiana Republican, in blocking outside groups and private citizens from filing complaints directly with the House Ethics Committee.
Mr. Murtha also pushed for a law that would require the Justice Department to reimburse the legal bills of any member of Congress it investigated if it was shown the probe was not "substantially justified"--a privilege no other American enjoyed. Only after Henry Hyde, then chairman of the Judiciary Committee objected was the bill amended to allow reimbursement for anyone--member of Congress or not--acquitted in a "bad faith" prosecution.

Gary Ruskin, director of the liberal Congressional Accountability Project, told Roll Call that "when it comes to institutional policing of corruption in Congress, John Murtha is a one-man wrecking crew." Now with the support of Ms. Pelosi, that "wrecking crew" stands just one ballot away from becoming House majority leader. Should he win the sealed-ballot election of his peers tomorrow, Democrats may have a hard time explaining just what has changed regarding the Congress's "culture of corruption."

I just don't get it. Many have said that Pelosi is a very loyal person and John Murtha has proven his loyalty to Pelosi in the past and that required she reciprocate. I'm sorry but we just concluded an election that repudiated a President who many Democrats said was blindly loyal to numerous incompetent and wrong thinking associates. Why would Nancy Pelosi make her first act a carbon copy of all that Democrats found wrong with a circle-the-wagons presidency? Even if one sets aside the loyalty factor it would be difficult to understand the benefits of Pelosi drawing a line in the sand on Murtha being the Majority Leader.

Given that many Pelosi detractors argue that she is to the far left ideologically, the Murtha endorsement is being used to portray her as adamant that we withdraw from Iraq as soon as possible without consideration for the risks to our national security. The fact that Pelosi doesn't intend to appoint Jane Harmon to chair the House Intelligence Committee further supports that contention. I am not suggesting that I agree with those who seek to paint Pelosi as an anti-war liberal...I am merely pointing out that her actions may be used to advance that assertion.

There is no doubt that every move made by Pelosi will garner scrutiny and the GOP will seek to discredit her and the Democrats at every turn. With that said, it is imperative that Pelosi and the Democrats avoid providing the opposition with the fodder to fuel such efforts. I don't know definitively why Pelosi has chosen to engage in a very public power struggle so early into her leadership role...but it doesn't do much to advance the agenda she and the Democrats have indicated they will pursue. While she hasn't asked for my advice, I would simply suggest that Nancy Pelosi step away from the punch bowl.

Daniel DiRito | November 15, 2006 | 8:18 AM | link | Comments (0)
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Catholic Bishops To Gays: Don't Act, Don't Tell genre: Gaylingual

Don't act, Don't tell

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has released a new document outlining the guidelines for ministering to gay Catholics. The general gist of the document states that having gay feelings isn't a sin but acting upon those feelings is in fact a sin. Read the full article at the Houston Chronicle.

BALTIMORE — The nation's Roman Catholic bishops overwhelmingly approved new guidelines Tuesday on outreach to gays, trying to support gay parishioners while strictly affirming the church stance that same-sex relationships are "disordered."

Gay Catholic activists immediately judged the document a failure that will push gay and lesbians away from the church.

The statement, "Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination," upholds the Catholic prohibition against same-gender marriage and adoption by gay or lesbian couples.

Yet bishops insisted that they're trying to be more "welcoming than condemning."

From my perspective, the Bishops would be better served to implement this policy with their own priests. Given that the Church prohibits its clergy from engaging in sex, this new guideline seems perfectly suited for the many gay priests who have a long history of ignoring their need to be celibate and ignoring the laws regarding sex with minors. Further, their own experience with the repression of sexual identity should serve as an example of the fully negative implications of such practice...and yet they enact it as policy!

Still, under the guidelines, parishes must instruct gays to remain celibate. The bishops are also discouraging gays from making "general public self-disclosures" within their churches about their sexual orientation.

Sam Sinnett, president of DignityUSA, an advocacy group for gay Catholics, said the new guidelines reflect the bishops' ignorance about sexuality. He said the document would alienate gays.

"This document recommends the most unhealthy thing to do which is to stay emotionally and spiritually in the closet," Sinnett said.

Some bishops anticipated such criticism.

On another matter Tuesday, bishops overwhelmingly adopted a statement encouraging Catholics to obey the church's ban on artificial contraception.

Church leaders at the gathering are also discussing how Catholics can make themselves worthy to receive Holy Communion. Several bishops said Monday that Catholics who persist in ignoring church teaching, including gays who are sexually active, should not take the sacrament.

After decades of experiencing the ramifications of celibacy...both heterosexual and homosexual...the Catholic Church is once again proving its intransigence with regards to all things sexual. When Bishops moved pedophile priests from parish to parish as soon as their molestations were exposed, it apparently wasn't important to honor their own doctrines or the laws that existed to punish their criminal actions. Notwithstanding, they find it necessary to tell gays who are living loving and well-adjusted lives that their actions are unacceptable.

My own feelings regarding the Church and its need to dole out acceptance are one of rejection. The Church has nothing I need and therefore I refuse to give them any power or authority over my life. Frankly, given my many years in Catholic schools, I'm content to take my chances that if there is a god; he will not judge me any worse than the majority of priests and nuns I encountered.

Pardon my sarcasm, but if I am condemned to hell (which I don't believe exists) along with the many priests who committed crimes against innocent children, I would hope that the devil (who I don't believe exists) allows me and my gay friends who lived authentic lives to reject these misfits. I would suggest that god (who I don't believe exists) allow them into heaven (which I don't believe exists) so these righteous Bishops can minister to them. I see no reason to turn hell into a dysfunctional den of denial. Let's keep that reserved for heaven.

Daniel DiRito | November 14, 2006 | 1:21 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Borat & Martha Stewart Appear On Jay Leno genre: Tongue-In-Cheek & Video-Philes

Jay Leno Interviews Borat

Jay Leno Interviews Borat - Part II

Jay Leno With Martha & Borat

Daniel DiRito | November 12, 2006 | 11:43 AM | link | Comments (0)
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Bill Maher: New Rules 11/10/06 genre: Tongue-In-Cheek & Video-Philes

Daniel DiRito | November 12, 2006 | 11:26 AM | link
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Thoughts On Veterans Day genre: Happy Remembrances

When I think about Veterans Day, the first thought that enters my head is context…and by that I mean the timeframe and the events within that timeframe that have shaped my own particular perceptions. Since I’m fast approaching fifty,...

Daniel DiRito | November 11, 2006 | 8:31 AM | link | Comments (0)
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Finding Value genre: Rhyme-N-Reason & Six Degrees of Speculation

In the aftermath of the election, the prevailing instinct is to either feel vindicated or vanquished. Unfortunately, that is an oversimplification and likely a skewed perspective. Granted, elections create winners and losers in the conventional sense…but if one was...

Daniel DiRito | November 10, 2006 | 8:58 AM | link | Comments (0)
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Making The Sun A Moon genre: Front and Center & Snapshot Thoughts

Why Can A Cloud Make The Sun A Moon?...

Daniel DiRito | November 8, 2006 | 7:33 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Rumsfeld To Resign genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak

The Associated Press is reporting that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld will resign and that Robert Gates, former head of the Central Intelligence Agency. Gates served under the first President George H. W. Bush and there are indications that...

Daniel DiRito | November 8, 2006 | 10:57 AM | link | Comments (0)
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Karl Rove: The Architect Blows It!! genre: Polispeak & Snapshot Thoughts

Daniel DiRito | November 8, 2006 | 10:22 AM | link | Comments (1)
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2006 Election Results (Updated As Results Change) genre: Polispeak

This posting will be the first posting on the site until tomorrow. New postings between now and then will appear following this one in typical time sequencing. Be sure to scroll down if you're looking to read or view...

Daniel DiRito | November 7, 2006 | 6:40 PM | link | Comments (1)
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Senate Election Results genre: Polispeak

Regarding the Senate, I will be posting the winner in the races that are considered pivotal to majority control. Those races include Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, Tennessee, and Virginia. Bob Casey (D) - Pennsylvania...

Daniel DiRito | November 7, 2006 | 6:29 PM | link | Comments (0)
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The Whole World's Watching genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

As we await the returns on this Election Day, this may be the most watched election in recent history...and most of those watchers don't even live here in the United States. Howard Fineman provides his thoughts on the topic in...

Daniel DiRito | November 7, 2006 | 11:27 AM | link | Comments (0)
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Bill Maher: New Rules 11/03/06 - Advice To Dems genre: Tongue-In-Cheek & Video-Philes

Daniel DiRito | November 7, 2006 | 8:51 AM | link | Comments (0)
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Waving Good-bye To The GOP!! genre: Polispeak & Snapshot Thoughts

Daniel DiRito | November 6, 2006 | 5:08 PM | link | Comments (0)
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GOP Robocalling Scheme: The Party Of Values? genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

The GOP has added robocalling to their final get out the vote / suppress the vote effort in a number of Congressional districts. The gist of robocalling is to make repeated calls to voters at annoying times and with...

Daniel DiRito | November 6, 2006 | 4:32 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Attempting To Decipher The Polls genre: Polispeak

As expected, there has been a barrage of polls in the last few days. While it is impossible to determine what the final outcome will be on Tuesday night, I think it warrants a look at the polls to...

Daniel DiRito | November 6, 2006 | 10:05 AM | link | Comments (0)
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The Midterm: Predicting The Postmortem genre: Polispeak

Every election cycle the media scrambles to quickly characterize and define what the results actually mean and what message has been given by the voters. This election will be no different though it may turn out that voters have...

Daniel DiRito | November 5, 2006 | 9:25 AM | link | Comments (0)
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Four Military Papers: Rumsfeld Must Go genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak

The war in Iraq has been the albatross around the Bush administrations neck for some time now. Last week, the President reaffirmed his support for Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Cheney. Today we find out that...

Daniel DiRito | November 4, 2006 | 10:03 AM | link | Comments (0)
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Ted Haggard Update (Updated) genre: Gaylingual & Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak

From KUSA Channel 9 in Denver, we have the following update on the allegations that Ted Haggard, the president of the National Association of Evangelicals had a "sexual business" relationship with a gay male escort. I've posted the entire...

Daniel DiRito | November 2, 2006 | 11:51 PM | link | Comments (7)
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Ted Haggard: Another Demon In Deacon's Clothes genre: Gaylingual & Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak

I've long argued that most forms of extremism harkens back to one's own psychological issues. I'm reminded of the psychological theory that suggests that the psyche is similar to a tube of toothpaste. The gist of the argument is that...

Daniel DiRito | November 2, 2006 | 11:26 AM | link | Comments (17)
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The Independent: A Candid Assessment Of Iraq genre: Just Jihad

On the heels of the leaked Central Command report suggesting that Iraq was as close to chaos as one can get without calling it a civil war, The Independent pulls back the drapes and gives the reader a down...

Daniel DiRito | November 1, 2006 | 9:06 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Latest Polling: It's All About Iraq genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak

Despite the GOP's best efforts to divert attention from the war in Iraq, the latest poll from The New York Times / CBS News clearly shows that the lengthy conflict is the dominant issue on voter’s minds as we...

Daniel DiRito | November 1, 2006 | 7:23 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Will This Midterm Election Be A Myth Buster? genre: Polispeak

Each election, there seems to be a belief that the youth vote is going to be a deciding factor...and yet in most recent election cycles that potentiality has failed to materialize. A new survey conducted by Harvard's Institute of...

Daniel DiRito | November 1, 2006 | 3:21 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Iraq: The Uncivil Civil War That Wasn't A Civil War genre: Just Jihad

While the GOP tries to make hay with the blundered John Kerry remarks, the war in Iraq remains a disaster and a new assessment by the United States Central Command suggests that the sectarian violence has the nation on...

Daniel DiRito | November 1, 2006 | 8:14 AM | link | Comments (1)
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