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February 4, 2009

Capitalism At The Crossroads: Time To Wing It? genre: Econ-Recon & Hip-Gnosis & Nouveau Thoughts & Six Degrees of Speculation

In Beckett's "Waiting For Godot", time is both passed and suspended in anticipation of arrival. Neither the passage of time or the thoughtless suspension of its value is a worthwhile endeavor...yet so much of the human condition is spent accordingly.

Fortunately, the ebb and flow of life frequently compensates for this miscalculation and we are rarely forced to face the futility of our allegiance to being unaware.

At the same time, history, in retrospect, has meticulously recorded such periods of ambiguous angst with the application and affirmation of a seemingly all-encompassing "ism" of merit. Sadly, we humans rarely understand our migration from one "ism" to the next...at the moment it transpires...frequently leaving us in the same suspect and suspended scenario as those waiting for the transformational Godot to arrive.

America, in its quaint yet quixotic commitment to the courtesan we call capital "ism", is being confronted with such a stretch of meaningless moments...waiting anxiously and aimlessly for the arrival of someone or something to remove the paralysis that permeates our propensity to participate in the chain letter economics that powers our Ponzi scheme psyche...even though we "share" in the ironic experience of watching our pyramid collapse under the weight of its own egocentric and ignoble ideations.

Two events provide perspective on our predicament - one a calamity and the other a harbinger of hope. The former, 9/11, brought us together long enough to offer consolation and condolences before scurrying out the door with our credit cards and the cash created by our homage to home equity high jinks...in hopes of perpetuating perceptions rather than recognizing realities.

The latter, the safe landing of an aircraft on the Hudson river and the preservation of every single passenger's life, allowed us to reconnect with the principals and perseverance associated with the mythical America and the essence of the collective spirit that had come to define it...all of which evaporated so quickly following 9/11.

Here's the problem. Today, Captain Sullenberger's landing on the Hudson is no longer just a job well done or an act of American stick-to-itiveness; rather it must be morphed into an extraordinary act of unexpected hero "ism"...a deed beyond the pale...an act of selflessness in a society all about the self. In America, tragedy is synonymous with litigation and triumph with accolades...both of which have material enrichment as their expected outcome. Hence American decency is but a function of fault or fame...not an intrinsic component of character.

As such, in this dark hour of economic uncertainty, the core constructs of capital "ism" still trump our actual ability to embrace the noble identity that gave it life. Like spectators at a Gladiator match, we sit on the sidelines of our "Super Bowl" society admiring the exceptional athlete or the precise pilot...ever focused on the means and methods to our own nascent notoriety...never mindful of the inevitable intersection of motivation and moral maturity.

Let me be clear, when I mention moral maturity, I am not invoking an absolutist ideology or an adherence to religion; rather I'm imploring us to understand the essence of our shared humanity. Moral maturity is not the means to superiority...it is the simple act of enabling and embracing equality in lieu of cachet and celebrity. In fact, doing so not only fosters an appreciation of altruism over the accumulation of assets, it disarms the drive for deification by substituting the satisfaction of service for the seemingly endless search for the satiation of selfishness.

Should there be any doubt as to the dubious nature of our situation, and therefore our ever expanding and suspect sense of entitlement, look no further than the latest Gallup Poll on the merits of the President's stimulus plan. Only 38% of respondents believe the stimulus plan should be passed as proposed by Barack Obama. Another 37% are in favor of a stimulus plan but they believe it must include major changes.

While the majority of Americans favor Congress' passing some type of stimulus plan, there is remarkably little confidence on the part of the public that the plan would have an immediately positive impact on the U.S. economy. Americans are also pessimistic about the plan's potential positive impact on their own families' financial situations.

There's only one way to interpret these numbers. Self-interest is the primary motivation that drives debate in America. Confronted with the worst economy since the Depression, and an uncertain future, most Americans cannot view the stimulus plan absent the bias of the status quo...and most of our elected officials must be included in this group. The shortsightedness is astounding.

A comparison may help explain my concerns as well as my contention that capital "ism", in its current form, is no longer viable. Let's start by assuming that our economic situation is dire. If so, then one should be able to construct a scenario to evidence the gravity of this moment as well as the complacency that has grown out of our commitment to the tenets of capital "ism" as they have existed since the Watergate years.

For this exercise, let's assume that NASA has identified an asteroid heading towards earth in ten years and that its trajectory puts the U.S. at great risk. Now suppose that in response, our government decides to establish safe shelters in all major metropolitan areas. Logically, one should be able to presume that Americans will get behind the effort and pitch in to insure that the country is prepared for the worst. One should also be able to expect that individuals will put self-serving objectives aside in hopes of achieving maximum safety and survival. In other words, while some people might feel slighted by the placement of shelters...or other aspects of any response plan...the gravity of the situation undoubtedly dictates that such concern is set aside in order to work towards a collective solution to an anticipated crisis.

Notwithstanding, I'm of the opinion that our adherence to a "me first" mentality may well preclude our ability to react effectively to this or any other plausible threat. Therein lies the inability to visualize the risks of maintaining our seemingly insolent and intransigent mindsets. You see; the instincts we momentarily demonstrated in the aftermath of 9/11 still exist. Unfortunately, the fact that we so easily slipped back into more of the same doesn't portend well for addressing the current economic crisis...a crisis that is more than a glitch in the U.S. economy...a crisis that won't be solved by imploring Americans to go shopping...a crisis that is the leading edge of a reordering of the world and the manner in which we humans serve as stewards of this earth...and therefore whether we will be purposeful proponents for the ongoing existence of humankind.

The fact that so many of us latched onto the "Miracle on the Hudson" as a tangible measure of the enduring human spirit serves to illustrate the paradox we seem so unwilling to acknowledge. On the one hand, we marvel at the fact that a trained pilot was able to land an airplane on water...yet we forget that absent years of training...a concern by the flight crew for the safety of their fellow man...and finally...the presence of wings...it not only couldn't have successfully landed on the water...it would have been unable to support and sustain the 155 individuals who stood upon those wings while waiting (and believing) that kind and compassionate passers-by would come to their aid.

America is a plane in trouble...but our fate need not be dependent upon the heroic acts of a select few. At the same time, we must be wise enough to listen to those who may have more insight. This plane of ours will never achieve a safe landing if each of its passengers demands their turn in the cockpit...regardless of ability. The role of being a good citizen is also an act of hero "ism"...even if it means sitting quietly in coach while the pilot brings us to safety or helping an elderly passenger make their way onto the wing once the plane has landed.

America can no longer wait for our Godot to arrive. We needn't a savior or a heroin...we needn't aspire to the adulation we believe accompanies a seat atop the pyramid...we needn't support or negate our leaders based upon political ideology...Godot is every man and every woman...Godot is merely a belief in each other predicated upon the notion that we grant the humanity we seek...Godot need not come if he is already here...Godot does not exist if we need him...humanity does not exist if we betray it.

If we humans are too survive, it's time for us to wing it...which is nothing more than believing that the service of humanity floats all boats...as well as the plane in which we are all passengers. Fighting over the stimulus plan while the plane is crashing is absurd. Human "ism" may lack the glitter and glamour of capital "ism"...and it may mean less in a few pockets but more in most...but it may well be the only remaining "ism" of consequence.

Its merits will never be fully known if its value is never fully affirmed...yet it has always been there for us to accept. If it isn't adopted in the here and now, history will fail to recognize and record it. You see, in the absence of humanity, there is no future. If there is no future, there will be no history. In the end, all "isms" lead to the same destination. We can travel willingly or we can jeopardize our very existence. The waiting must end...the wings exist. There's room for everyone.

Tagged as: Beckett, Capitalism, Civilization, Economics, Godot, Hudson, Humanism, Obama, Politics, Sullenberger

Daniel DiRito | February 4, 2009 | 2:02 PM | link | Comments (1)
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January 22, 2009

Driving For More genre: Do Not Resuscitate & Hip-Gnosis & Rhyme-N-Reason

Driving For More

I drove a Dodge
He drove a bargain
I asked for more,
He left me starvin'

Easy street may never get you there
But the expressed way seems vacant
And the bus driver stares

Life passes us by
On the way to the grave
You can drop in your tokens
But the bill's never paid

If your debts are defined
But the numbers won't sum
Is the soul so sublime,
If we live on the come?

The bargains we make
May make us feel fine
But the living it takes
Negates the divine

I'm driving for more
I hope to arrive
To those keeping score
Fuck death...today I'm alive

Tagged as: Death, Faith, Poetry, Religion

Daniel DiRito | January 22, 2009 | 3:38 PM | link | Comments (1)
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November 11, 2008

Keith Olbermann Special Comment On Proposition 8 genre: Gaylingual & Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak & Video-Philes

The following video is the latest special comment by Keith Olbermann. In it, he offers an impassioned rejection of the passage of Proposition 8 to ban same-sex marriage. We can only hope that more Americans will stand up to defend the rights of their fellow citizens.

Tagged as: Civil Rights, Equality, Gay Marriage, Keith Olbermann, LGBT, Same-Sex Marriage

Daniel DiRito | November 11, 2008 | 7:36 AM | link | Comments (1)
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October 31, 2008

100K Match Pledge - Donate To No On Prop. 8 NOW genre: Gaylingual & Hip-Gnosis

URGENT NOTE TO THOUGHT THEATER READERS:

The effort to protect gay marriage in California is in need of our support. Tim Gill and Scott Miller have offered to match No On 8 donations up to $100,000. The campaign needs to raise 1.5 million by midnight tonight and your help is needed. I'm publishing the following request from No On 8 and I ask you to consider making a donation.

This morning's Field Poll carries news that Prop 8 is narrowly losing, 44 to 49%.

This initiative battle is razor thin. We know that 7 to 10% of voters are still up for grabs.

And Tim Gill and Scott Miller will match your donation up to $100,000 if you respond NOW.

We knew we needed something more. Something big. Something to remind California voters that there were times in our history when we did not stand up against discrimination, and these are times we now regret.

So our new ad -- which we call "History" -- focuses on the central fact of this campaign: it is wrong to discriminate and wrong to treat people differently under the law.

This new ad, narrated by renowned actor Samuel L. Jackson, drives home the message that discrimination is always wrong. Watch the ad and make a donation to keep it on the air.

Now it's our turn. It's our turn to make sure we do everything we can do so the next generation grows up in a more decent society -- a society where discrimination against LGBT Americans remains part of that sorry past rather than enshrined in our Constitution.

We must keep this ad on television statewide through Election Day. To make that happen we must raise at least $1.5 million today. Please donate NOW.

With your help, we will defeat Prop 8. Please continue your support with a donation and ask the people who care for you to do the same.

In solidarity,

Geoff Kors
Executive Committee Member
No On 8

DONATE. HERE. NOW.

Tagged as: California, Civil Rights, Gay Marriage, LGBT, No On 8, Proposition 8, Same-Sex Marriage

Daniel DiRito | October 31, 2008 | 3:15 PM | link | Comments (1)
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October 25, 2008

No Child Left Behind - What About The Parents? genre: Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak & Video-Philes

While "no child left behind" is the battle cry of many Americans who worry about the state of our education system, there's more evidence that far too many parents were left behind.

Look, I realize that politics makes people emotional...but the fact that so many adults devolve into uneducated irrationality is frightening. Yes, it makes for great comedy on The Daily Show but the fact that the Republican Party has chosen to capitalize on this vulnerability and what seems to be a growing disregard of logic and reason is an unfortunate development at a time when this country needs clarity and calm.

In the following two videos, taken at a Sarah Palin rally in Henderson, Nevada, we see the degree to which some McCain supporters have been led to believe that Barack Obama is a threat to this country. The responsibility for fostering this notion rests squarely on the McCain-Palin campaign's shoulders. For every instance where John McCain corrects the misconception of a follower, he and his minions incite the same in thousands of others by resorting to the politics of fear.

Unfortunately, I'm not sure what can be done to repair the damage being done and reverse these unfounded impressions. Fomenting these views with code words and innuendo may be politically expedient for John McCain but it is clearly contrary to his assertion that he puts country first.

It's hard to imagine the benefits of educating children when they suffer the bias and prejudice of their parents on a daily basis. Promoting the politics of ignorance is simply fuel on the fire. Absent the right leadership, this nation is apt to suffer further regression. Should that happen, we'll all be left behind.

Henderson Rally - The Tame Version

Henderson Rally - The Down & Dirty

Tagged as: 2008 Election, Barack Obama, Bias, Education, John McCain, Prejudice, Racism, Sarah Palin, Socialism

Daniel DiRito | October 25, 2008 | 1:07 PM | link | Comments (0)
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October 21, 2008

Christian Values: Our Bigoted Mouths Trump Your Safety? genre: Gaylingual & Hip-Gnosis

Did you know it's radical to seek the punishment of gay bashers through hate crimes legislation? Did you know that those religious leaders opposed to hate crimes legislation believe their right to condemn homosexuality trumps the right of gays to seek stricter punishment for those who engage in gay bashing?

Well if you didn't take a look at the following video. Tony Perkins and Bob Knight, two of the right wingers usual suspects offer their take on the evils of enacting hate crimes legislation. Like so many of their arguments, they never focus upon the intent of the actual legislation. Instead, they present their slippery slope conjecture that one thing will lead to another and before you know it, Christians will find themselves being persecuted.

Here's the problem. When was the last time you read an article about a Christian being assaulted by a gang of homosexuals? Can you name the Christian equivalent of Matthew Shepard? You see, a number of Christians are determined to prevent gay issues from receiving any recognition or passing legislative protections that they are willing to give tacit approval to acts of violence.

In the end, the message being delivered by these zealots is that their right to say whatever they want is far more important than protecting gays from physical violence. With Christians like this, the world is bound to be a kinder, gentler place, eh?

Tagged as: Bob Knight, Coral Ridge Ministries, Family Research Council, FRC, Hate Crimes, LGBT, Religion, Tony Perkins

Daniel DiRito | October 21, 2008 | 10:28 AM | link | Comments (0)
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October 20, 2008

Prop 8: Why It Is Wrong To Reject Gay Marriage genre: Gaylingual & Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak

As I've thought about Proposition 8, the California ballot initiative designed to deny gays the right to marry, and what I could do to oppose it, I've continued to come back to a missive I wrote nearly eighteen months ago. I'm of the mind that in order to discuss gay marriage, one must understand the state and meaning of marriage as it exists today, what impact, if any, gay marriage may have upon the institution of marriage, the progression of gay culture, and what is at stake for the gay community.

All too often, those opposed to gay marriage speak of it in terms of the harm it will do to their marriages. I summarily reject that premise...contending instead that whatever ails marriage has little, if anything, to do with homosexuality. It's also true that the quality of love isn't heightened with the attachment of a state approved license any more than it is diminished by its absence. Notwithstanding, the decision to deny that affirmation to gays is a tacit rejection of the merits of love.

I can't force anyone to support gay marriage...but I think I can argue that a recognition of love should not be withheld because one happens to be a homosexual. In suggesting as much, it should be apparent that efforts to deny gays the right to marry is antithetical to love. Should you conclude the same after reading the following words, I implore you to consider making a donation to oppose Proposition 8.

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Does Where You're Going Depend Upon Where You've Been?

I was gay when being a homo was a mental illness...when queer sex was illegal...when you didn't discuss being a faggot with your doctor...when sodomites were chased down and thrown out of the military...when AIDS was god's punishment for being a fairy. I was gay before being gay was remotely fashionable. Nonetheless, I was always just me.

Perhaps the most shocking part...I wouldn't necessarily be opposed to returning to those days if given the opportunity. Not because I enjoyed being a mentally ill criminal who was likely to die well before my time...not because it was easy to hide my identity and live in secret...not because I might find myself the victim of hatred and violence.

No, I would return to those days to remind me why I must still fight today...why it isn't enough to no longer be a mentally ill criminal destined to die young...why it isn't enough to be allowed to serve in the military if I just keep quiet and conceal my lifestyle...why it isn't enough to be an acquaintance that hip heterosexuals get to namedrop at a dinner party like a new pair of Pravda shoes...why I don't want to abandon my gay culture in order to have a place at the insiders table...why I don't want the right to marry to be held over my head as if it were the Holy Grail.

I don't accept that my destiny is to assimilate myself into heterosexual culture such that I no longer create discomfort for those who demand homogeneity over homosexuality. I don't want the music I hear in gay clubs to be the same music I hear everywhere else...I don't want my sense of fashion to be identical to that of my straight counterparts...I don't want heterosexuals to understand everything I say...I want gay slang to remain gay slang. I don't want to have a party that is so nondescript that the neighbors can't tell that a gay man lives on the same block.

Let me be clear. I don't say this to reject heterosexual culture or to assert the superiority of gay culture...I appreciate and honor the validity of all cultures. I say it to remind myself and my gay brethren that acceptance need not come with capitulation...the world is large enough for every cultures to exist...and the world ought to be educated and enlightened such that acceptance equates with the ability...no, the desire and the demand to embrace and celebrate them all.

If society is akin to the palette of an artist, then it is essential that all the colors remain...lest we become a canvas absent contrast...imbued with the blandness born of banality. America may be the proverbial melting pot but our greatness results from the soup we serve from that pot...a complex soup that maintains an array of distinct flavors...all perfectly blended such that each maintains its identity and each is enhanced by the presence of the others...not overwhelmed or masked such that the independent flavors are indistinguishable.

The need for acceptance is no stranger to trepidation. How one responds to that anxiety may define the degree to which the achieved acceptance is authentic or, conversely, it may define the distance one has traveled from one's authenticity in order to obtain enough acceptance to mitigate the trepidation. The distance between the former and the latter may well describe a journey of betrayal that is predicated upon the need to extinguish discomfort at the expense of preserving identity.

That which is authentic need never become inauthentic to achieve acceptance. Any society that expects as much becomes a faceless, colorless canvas which consumes itself while feeding upon its fears. The same is true of any subset of that society which would accede to those expectations.

The issue of gay marriage is an excellent case in point. Marriage has become the gauntlet upon which the war for acceptance of homosexuality and the associated authenticity of our existence and our relationships is being waged. I reject that premise. So long as we allow marriage to define the legitimacy of our relationships, we enable the opposition to defile us.

Are we entitled to the rights afforded by marriage? Absolutely. Should we wage the battle for gay acceptance on that platform? I don't think so. Let me explain. At the core of a large share of the opposition to gay marriage is an inherent bias and prejudice against homosexuality. The message sent by those opposed to gay marriage is that we refuse to give your lifestyle the legitimacy afforded by such state sponsored recognition...your relationships are lesser than ours and we intend to maintain the institutional constructs to demonstrate as much.

Simultaneously, the dialogue that opposes gay marriage is couched in the argument that it would represent an affront to family and longstanding societal and religious traditions. By design, this is intended to steer voter debate around and beyond the realm of civil rights and the basic notion of equality. It also leaves gays on the outside asking to be let in...and nothing communicates the perception that I'm not as good as you as demanding another admit, acknowledge, and accept that I am.

An example is warranted. If you've ever watched a group of children playing, you've seen the situation where a couple children form an alliance that excludes another child or group of children...and they often flaunt a possession or a privilege...telling the outsiders they have the newest Game Boy or their parents take them to the country club on the weekends. The goal is to establish a distinction of inequity whereby those on the outside long to be included.

Fortunately, circumstances can change and the excluded can become a sought after commodity...maybe it results from a discussion about animals in a science class whereby it is exposed that one of the outsiders lives on a farm with horses...and the teacher elects to take the class on a field trip to the farm. That can lead to realignments such that some children choose to befriend the child with horses in the hopes of being invited to go riding after school. You get the picture.

Coming back to gay culture and the issue of gay marriage...beginning in the early nineties, society became fascinated with all things gay...gay music, gay fashion, gay theater, gay television characters, and many of those elements were mainstreamed...or If I may gently suggest...they were co-opted by society at large.

Conventional thought argues that familiarity breeds contempt...but on the contrary, with regards to being gay, I would contend that familiarity brought a degree of tacit acceptance on the part of society which was followed by complacency on the part of the gay community. In the wake of our perceived assimilation, we ran for the cover of conventionality...embracing many of the means and measures of conformity...which included the traditional model of marriage.

Sometimes, in order to understand one's own progression (the place at which one has arrived)...whether that be individually or collectively as a group...one must consult the perceptions of those with whom we now consort. During a past airing of This Week with George Stephanopoulos, I was struck by a comment made by George Will as the panel was discussing the issue of gays in the military. Mr. Will remarked, "The culture is moving anyway...I have a daughter...26...in her cohort...being gay is just like being left handed...it's just boring".

In terms of acceptance, perhaps that is a good thing which will ultimately, by default, manifest itself in the full granting of recognitions...including gay marriage. Call me a skeptic, but while many heterosexuals worry that including gays will diminish the integrity of marriage, I worry that our acceptance of marriage as the means and the measure by which we define our relationships may in fact diminish the fundamental premise of those relationships.

Perhaps loving someone in spite of society's validation of that love is an added demonstration of love...a love that must be found and fostered absent the endorsements and benefits that society grants when recognizing an announcement of marriage. Frankly, I'm not convinced that marriage, in its current iteration, requires much more consideration than we bring to bear on the purchase of a new automobile. It seems to me that marriage has become another commodity in this zero-sum equation that typifies our consumption crazed society.

As such, when gays bestow idyllic attributes upon the acquisition of marriage rights, do we not endorse a failing system and in the process begin to minimize the relationships we chose to form in spite of their rejection by society? I, for one, reject the notion that society, in its current form, represents the best we can do and I believe that the state of marriage no doubt supports my premise. Gays should not accept the role of villain with regard to the state of marriage and they should not seek its sanction if it simply becomes a vehicle for their ongoing victimization.

If acceptance and the affording of full participation in society were to require we give up portions of our cultural identity...or if we were to succumb to the premise that it does in order to best achieve our objectives...then I would opt to remain detached but whole. Unfortunately, I'm worried our history and our heritage may be slipping into the abyss...exacerbated by the loss of a generation to HIV....a generation that facilitated so much of the progress we've made by standing strong and living large.

At the same time, I'm inclined to reject the current state of America's morality...a morality that is worn as an external badge upon hollow human holograms of holiness. Our proximity to hallowed temples on Sunday is not a measure of our piety any more than another's absence is a measure of their dedication to the devil. Morality cannot and should not be reduced to a sexual preference scorecard, a campaign slogan, or policies that deny or impose.

The state of grace must be our goal. It holds the power to promote change and to heal hearts. Graciousness is a conscious choice that is elected when innocence has been lost...an innocence that has long since evaporated but remains forever valued and painstakingly imitated. It is not an emblem we acquire...it does not flow to the winner of an election...it is an endeavor of example whereby words are not sufficient...it must be lived.

Our gay authenticity is no different and it mustn't be wagered or mortgaged for any imagined or perceived prize. We must never accept that homosexuality and morality are mutually exclusive. Morality is an internal state; not a litany of state installed mandates. Morality maligned by the majority is nothing more than the manifestation of institutionalized immorality.

One's love for humanity requires no higher being, no promise of salvation, no threat of damnation...it should be unconditional and absolute. It need not elevate nor annihilate those who are similar or dissimilar. It honors humanity simply because it is humanity. It seeks no special treatment nor does it require one to adopt any specious identity in order to find acceptance. We humans share the same origin but we also possess different identity's...which is as it were intended. We mustn't forget.

I love beauty queens and drag queens...I love girls who are cowboys and boys who are cowgirls...I love tin soldiers, toy soldiers, and our soldiers...I love rednecks and red lipstick...I love drama whether it's on the big screen or just plain old big drama...I love cry babies and babies crying...I love hetero sexy and homo sexual...I love girls with big boobs and boobs that are big girls. They give us our texture, our color, and our depth.

I'm reminded of the words from an old song that have always spoken succinctly and eloquently to these issues that I hold near and dear, "Don't make me over, now that I'd do anything for you...Don't make me over, now that you know how I adore you...accept me for what I am...accept me for the things that I do". May I suggest that there is no finer song to honor the sanctity of our shared humanity?

No individual...no sexual orientation...no skin color...no party...no religion...no nation...has a monopoly on goodness. We're all at our best when we embrace the best our identity has to offer. I am not an opinion poll...I am not a debate question...I am not a threat to marriage...I am not that queer homo fairy faggot sodomite gay guy who blogs. I have always been first, foremost, and forever human. I should not need to tell you and you should not need to ask me...I have always been me. I will always be me.

Are gays not human enough to grant them the right to marry? Wouldn't it be grand if we Americans could find a way to embrace and celebrate the simplicity of that which connects us...our humanity? Isn't the affirmation of love the place to start?

LINK TO DONATE

Tagged as: California, Equality, Gay Culture, Gay Marriage, LGBT, Love, Marriage, No On 8, Proposition 8

Daniel DiRito | October 20, 2008 | 11:13 AM | link | Comments (23)
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October 14, 2008

Abstinence Only Hindering US AIDS Efforts In Uganda? genre: Hip-Gnosis & Little Red Ribbon-Hood & Polispeak

I've previously written about the Bush Administration's focus upon abstinence in its efforts to combat AIDS in Africa, particularly in Uganda. Under the program, a significant portion of the funding has been earmarked for abstinence only initiatives, a move criticized by a number of the organizations on the ground in Africa.

In the following video, al Jazeera takes a look at the status of AIDS infections in Uganda and the possibility that these abstinence only programs may have resulted in rising infection rates. Unfortunately, it is often difficult to discern the facts as those who promote abstinence are often motivated by religious ideology and therefore have a vested interest in promoting morality based programs.

No doubt those committed to allowing the scientific data to determine policy are anxiously awaiting the end of the Bush administration and its insistence upon requiring questionable funding stipulations. With the aggressive expansion of PEPFAR funding, there is reason for hope...so long as the money is utilized wisely to reduce infection rates and expand access to treatment.

Tagged as: Abstinence, AIDS, al Jazeera, George Bush, HIV, PEPFAR, Sex Education, Uganda

Daniel DiRito | October 14, 2008 | 9:27 AM | link | Comments (0)
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October 9, 2008

The Evolution Of Elections - Intelligent Design Debunked genre: Hip-Gnosis & Nouveau Thoughts & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

As we move closer to the election, I've witnessed a phenomena that has only recently begun to make sense to me (by the fact that it doesn't make sense). First, I have to hand it to my Republican friends...their tenacity in creating tangible talking points out of thin air is unmatched.

Let me provide an example before I attempt to draw the connection between the manner in which they analyze and strategize elections and the predisposition of some Christians to promote intelligent design over evolution.

Over at the National Review, flummoxed politicos are desperate to craft a salient narrative to leverage John McCain back into a position to win the election. What they fail to realize is that their lurching from one idea to the next is simply supporting the Obama mantra that John McCain and the GOP are erratic. Take a look at the following.

From Jonah Goldberg (Part One):

I have no idea whatsoever if there's merit to this, and if there is how much merit, but lots of email like this:

When are people going to start talking about the REAL reason the markets are down - Obama up in polls. If I was McCain, I'd start telling people, "If you want to lose more money, vote Obama."

From Jonah Goldberg (Part Two):

Now, it's far more likely that the causation and correlation suggested by some readers is backward: the markets tank for non-political reasons and Obama does well as a result, rather than Obama does well and then the markets tank. Still, I think Pethokoukis' point that Obama's success may make investors more pessimistic about the future has some plausibility to it.

Finally, it sounds like this reader has it right (and I should correct a bunch of emailers who seem to think I was suggesting McCain blame Obama for the crashing markets, which I think would be ludicrous).

Jonah,

The suggestion that markets are down because of Obama's rising in the polls shows a preposterous misunderstanding of economics, and McCain will be (rightly) pilloried if he tries to make that claim. I have no doubt Obama will be an utter disaster for business and economic growth/recovery in this country, but the markets are reacting to fact that unemployment is way up (and climbing), manufacturing numbers are way down, housing prices are still falling, credit has seized up, overnight funding is near impossible to acquire at anything but prohibitive cost, there continue to be real questions as to the solvency of financial institutions and their nightmarish balance sheets, etc. Just about every piece of data that comes back these days is negative, with the exception of falling commodity prices and a strengthening dollar, as Kudlow correctly mentioned last week. Companies growth prospects in this kind of environment are bleak at best, and the markets are reacting in kind. In addition, the ban on short selling of financials rolled off today, so some of the downward pressure that had built up over the past week released itself today.

We'll reach a bottom of the market eventually, however--and I mean no disrespect to the previous e-mailer you quoted below--it's naïve to suggest the continued hammering we're all taking has anything material to do with the political zeitgeist.

OK, to argue that the ascension of Obama in the polls is responsible for our crashing financial system requires the suspension of reality. Now in fairness, I have to note that Jonah, in his second posting, dismisses the notion offered by the emailer in his prior posting. At the same time, this has seemingly become standard operating procedure for my friends on the right. Again, there's no fault in testing trial balloons; though there is folly in releasing the ones that don't merit a moments consideration. Doing so gives them an air of legitimacy that fosters more of the same.

Here's the problem...all too often GOP operatives establish an outcome (the preferred fact or belief) and then they create a hypothesis to support it. Clearly this isn't out of the ordinary with regards to scientific study. Virtually every hypothesis has at its origin some level of belief that it may be true, which leads to its testing. The problem with many on the right is that their bias and partiality leads them to corrupt the construct in order to rig the results. In other words, the scientific method is an acceptable construct when it yields the preferred result. Should it refute the optimal outcome, the kitchen sink must be tossed at it in order to discredit it.

That brings me to the connections between those who oppose the theory of evolution in favor of creationism or its most recent stepchild, intelligent design, and those who would put forth an intellectually dishonest explanation to further their political objectives.

Let me be clear, it's a free country and we're all entitled to attempt to influence others with whatever arguments we choose to employ. The problems arise when the credible and convincing means to measure the validity of a theory are cast aside in deference to ideological intransigence. You see, when an individual can dissect the Bible into those portions they accept and those segments they set aside...all the while maintaining the infallibility of the process and the indisputable nature of the conclusion...fiction has been elevated to a level commensurate with fact.

Even worse, there is no rational or reasonable means to compel these believers to abandon their arbitrary assertions in favor of a fact driven formula. Once this rejection of reasonability is rejected relative to religion, the distance to its dissolution with regards to other disciplines is easily abridged. In the field of politics, once dogma is allowed to dethrone dutiful deduction, extremism is enabled.

Hence, the efforts to assign arbitrary attributes to Barack Obama is the epitome of embracing this elusive equation. Not only does this promote discord, it precludes its resolution. Before it can be corrected, the quintessential question must focus upon uncovering the underlying motivations.

As I watch John McCain and his minions grapple with the prospect of defeat...and the fear that imparts...it supports my suspicion that terror management is at the core of our conundrum. Terror management posits that we humans are prone to obsessing upon the fear of our mortality and acting to diminish it.

As such, religion and the promise of an afterlife is a strategy to assuage the anxiety. Those predisposed to acting from fear are therefore susceptible to strategies that allow irrational ideations to override objective analysis. When confronted with fearful events, the instinctual reaction is to resort to the suspension of reason in order to construct a place of comfort.

Unfortunately, this behavior has an "imprinting" quality such that it is self-reinforcing the longer it persists. In the political realm, it is manifested in a refusal to allow or applaud alternate avenues of governance. The Clinton presidency is an excellent example. There is little doubt that his tenure was a period of relative peace and prosperity...and yet many on the right refuse to recognize as much. These individuals often argue that the time a president is seated in office isn't the essential measure of his merit...or they prioritize other considerations...such as morality in the case of Clinton.

Here's the problem. This approach isn't applied consistently. Ronald Reagan receives credit for his time in office as well as for a number of ensuing years. Questions of morality, such as his having been married twice and his silence on the AIDS epidemic, are ignored. Shades of gray are danger zones and the pursuit of black and white...regardless of either's availability...is the ultimate safe haven from which to view the world. With the passage of time, the GOP and its pliable and therefore palatable propaganda becomes the only amenable world view...facts be damned.

Doubt is equated with death and it must, therefore, be banished. Science, though seemingly certain, is still too slow in providing a palatable domicile from which to proceed. To embrace it is to risk the possibility that one's earthly existence could end before it can afford acceptable answers to free one from fear. A retreat to the malleability of irrational ideations is the only avenue by which one can construct an illusory and idyllic island, insulated from the unmovable manifestation of mortality.

Death is certain; political suicide is optional. Come into the light my GOP friends...I promise it won't kill you. Besides, you'll still have heaven as a backup, right?

Tagged as: 2008 Election, Bill Clinton, Creationism, Death, Economy, Evolution, GOP, Intelligent Design, John McCain, Jonah Goldberg, National Review, Religion, Ronald Reagan, Science, Scientific Method, Terror Management

Daniel DiRito | October 9, 2008 | 4:30 PM | link | Comments (1)
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September 29, 2008

Bailout Imbroglio: Politics, Power, Pulpits, & Profit genre: Econ-Recon & Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak

We're in uncharted waters with a leaky boat and a storm on the horizon...but the GOP wants us to know that Nancy Pelosi is a mean-spirited partisan.

Let me see if I can get this straight. The Republican president of the United States sends the Secretary of the Treasury and the Federal Reserve Chairman to Capital Hill with a message of impending economic doom...asking the party in power to put aside partisanship and pass necessary legislation.

The party in power (Democrats) holds its nose and puts together a bill premised upon the gravity of the situation, endures John McCain's grandstanding at the eleventh hour, allows him to characterize his involvement as critical to the success of the process, spends hours meeting with those in the GOP who want to amend the bill, comes to an agreement on a bill the GOP leadership can support, and then brings the bill to a vote.

In that vote, over sixty percent of Democrats support legislation that was requested by the head of the opposition party, two thirds of the presidents fellow Republicans jump ship and oppose the bill, and the GOP house leadership wants Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats to shoulder the blame?! Well there you have it...nothing illogical about that, right?

Frankly, I've personally reached the point at which I'm opposed to any attempt to glue what remains of our failed government back together. Unless and until politicians are held accountable for the consequences of their actions, I'm in favor of pulling the rest of the metaphorical china from the cupboard and smashing it all on the floor. I say as much because I don't think anything will change until the American public is forced to face reality...even if that means standing in line for a loaf of bread and a bowl of soup.

Look, let's be honest as to what all of this GOP partisanship is about. From their self-serving perspective, it's power and money...and they're willing to do whatever it takes to obtain both. Voters, on the other hand, have allowed themselves to be drawn into an ideological struggle to define morality. Taken together, this is the underlying formula for the disaster we're witnessing.

Instead of a candid discussion on the merits of rescuing our financial structure, the political combatants have spent years defining our differences in terms of good versus evil; right versus wrong. While voters blindly engage in this theoretical tug of war, the real battle for dominance is waged in the trenches...replete with lobbyists looking to commit larceny in tandem with their trusted troopers...the political elite.

The unseen metrics of today's maelstrom center upon the pursuit of profit. Those house Republicans who opposed today's legislation tell us they are concerned about main street. In truth they, in concert with their corporate benefactors who want the government to insure their success without foregoing the profits that may eventually result from the government's intervention, see main street as a peripheral player.

Let me explain. If the bail out takes the current form, the companies that avail themselves of it will have to forego the upside of the very assets that have made them a ton of money during the housing bubble and now leads them to the edge of financial ruin. Conversely, if the legislation is structured as an insurance mechanism, they receive the financial assist they need without foregoing the future profits that may ensue with the passage of time and an improved economy.

In other words, house Republicans are carrying the water of Wall Street while telling us they're looking out for the interests of taxpayers. You see, one need only look at the proposal that came from the Bush administration...a virtual blank check to assist their wealthy benefactors...to understand their intentions. Only when the legislation, as modified by the Democrats and a handful of Republicans, became apparent, did the GOP revolt materialize. It did so at the behest of their capitalist (and opportunist) friends who stood to see their profit potential handed over to the American taxpayer.

Don't be fooled...the motivation of many in the GOP, who voted against this bill, has little to do with those of us living on Main Street. The proof is found in today's vote...and the reality that a bail out is inevitable. The acrimony simply centers on who gets the lion's share of the benefit.

In fact, I expect the gap between the two side will grow as the Democrats push for limitations upon corporate hand outs and insist upon provisions designed to allow taxpayers to recoup the money they dole out as well as the profits it may facilitate. At the same time, look for house Republicans to seek to structure the deal so that taxpayers bear all of the risk without reaping any of the profits...or limiting the compensation executives can receive. No doubt their rhetoric will suggest that they've minimized the taxpayer's exposure, when in truth, they've sought to maximize corporate autonomy and profitability. Not a bad strategy given the voting public's overwhelming displeasure with the bail out.

That brings me to the vehicle by which the GOP has been able to prosecute the pilfering of the public. In my opinion, their success has come from characterizing this country's political divide in terms of values while subverting any meaningful awareness of economic inequality. As such, I believe this illuminates the importance of driving a wooden stake through the heart of the ideologues who have hijacked the Republican Party and finally putting an end to their cynical symbiotic alliance with religious conservatives. This country will only find its bearings when the primordial goals of governance are a sound economy and a commitment to the principles that come with an adherence to freedom, equality, and the necessary separation of church and state.

Yesterday, in the midst of an economic crisis, the Alliance Defense Fund carried out it's plan to breach this separation by encouraging churches to participate in "Pulpit Freedom Sunday"...a move to fully politicize faith and push the imposition of values as the primary political objective. Hence, the wooden stake needs to be long enough to inflict a fatal blow to this ill-conceived assertion that Biblical law should supersede our foundational doctrines. Further, there can be little doubt that the selection of Sarah Palin as John McCain's running mate is the final act in this flawed farce.

Truth be told, the strategy of the GOP's hierarchy is a death spiral. Each time they anoint a candidate willing to lead with the morality meme, they push aside those politicians in the party who are still motivated by prudent conservative political principles. It becomes a go along to get along construct and traditional conservatism is one of its primary victims. If a Republican politician wants to climb the ladder, he or she must first don the dogma and internalize the ideology. In doing so, they simply become caricatures of the voters they violate...and the deceitful dumbing down is institutionalized. In the end, this approach reduces leadership to an expediency equation and undermines the party's historical identity as well as its future viability.

Look, I have no interest in excising religion from our culture...I simply believe it must remain a personal construct; not a political platform. Yes, it is impractical to expect that religion refrain from influencing one's political preferences. Notwithstanding, we're perilously close to allowing it to contradict our core constitutional constructions and divorces us from relevant realities and the rationality to distinguish democracy from dogma.

Government cannot and should not be a surrogate for the saving of souls. Instead, government must provide the structure that allows the soul to be sovereign and the nation to be neutral. As it now stands, the pulpit is being used to provide cover for the pursuit of profit. Perhaps clarity can be achieved without catastrophe. At the moment, that seems unlikely as far too many voters have accepted the ethereal at the expense of the essential. The infectious nature of this illegitimate and intransigent ideology is on the verge of metastasizing. Should this utterly calamitous cancer be allowed to stand, the country may not.

Tagged as: 2008 Election, ADF, Alliance Defense Fund, Ben Bernanke, Church & State, Corporate Corruption, Democrats, Evangelicals, GOP, Hank Paulson, John McCain, Main Street, Nancy Pelosi, Religion, Taxpayers, Voters, Wall Street

Daniel DiRito | September 29, 2008 | 2:04 PM | link | Comments (3)
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September 23, 2008

Concerned Women For America Make The Case For Theocracy genre: Gaylingual & Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak

Never let it be said that the religious right minces its words...instead they prefer the tactic of charging their words with fear and casting all others as the enemy. In the following video, Wendy Wright, the president of Concerned Women for America, makes the case for evangelicals to get out and vote. Note how Wright uses the Christians are victims meme to scare her viewers into voting.

Look at some of the other verbiage she includes to push the message that Christians are in danger and non-believers are out to get them - Liberals who mock Christians...Prefer America be weak...Devastating for America...Keep this a country worth living and dying for...People ruling over us...Continue the slaughter of unborn babies...Silence those who love God...People who govern righteously...People who don't believe will achieve an ironclad majority.

Yes, the big bad liberals want to ruin America and send all Christians into concentration camps where they will be forced to worship the devil, burn Bibles, and deny their allegiance to the United States of America.

Hence, the CWA offers their own "reasonable" alternative...to win the election so that Christians can establish a theocracy, install a litmus test for all judicial appointments, prohibit non-believers from participating in government, and install Biblical law so gays and those who favor a woman's right to choose can be punished accordingly.

Ahh, yes...that would make America so much better...you know...the one nation, under God kind of America. After all, who can be bothered by that silly thing we call the Constitution?!

Tagged as: Abortion, Church & State, Concerned Women For America, CWA, Gay Marriage, LGBT, Religion, Theocracy

Daniel DiRito | September 23, 2008 | 11:24 AM | link | Comments (0)
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September 9, 2008

The Truth & Nothing But The Truth About Sarah Palin genre: Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak & Tongue-In-Cheek

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Well I've had it with all of the Sarah Palin hyperbole. We're a better nation than this and we need to stop with the ad hominem attacks on the Alaska governor.

To that end, I've taken the time to compile some relevant facts that will set the record straight on the governor's positions as well as the motivations for her selection by John McCain.

In the interest of efficiency, I've condensed the issues into a list of ten factoids.

Number Ten:

All of this talk about the bridge to no where is so unfair. Everyone knows that Sarah Palin was first for the bridge to no where, then she was against the bridge to no where, then she took whatever money the federal government would allot for the bridge...and spent it on something else. Let's lay off Governor Palin...she's assured us that if Alaska needs that bridge, Alaska will build it...and I believe her.

Number Nine:

Sarah Palin is a reformer...she'll work tirelessly to bring Alaska's version of corruption and cronyism to Washington. Besides, the White House library needs some updating.

Number Eight:

It's unfair to say that Sarah Palin speaks out of both sides of her mouth. Nothing could be further from the truth... everyone knows she's talking to God when she speaks in tongues.

Number Seven:

It's a good thing Sarah Palin is opposed to earmarks and wasteful, pork-barrel spending...it's going to be needed to help offset Cindy McCain's monthly credit card expenditures of over $250,000.00.

Number Six:

Sarah Palin won't be anything like Dick Cheney. Everyone knows that Dick Cheney is a curmudgeon who spends his time holed up in an undisclosed location. Quite the contrary, Sarah Palin is a pit bull who spends her time holed up at home...collecting per diem from the state of Alaska.

Number Five:

Sarah Palin is a visionary politician. She knows that Alaska is a pivotal state in U.S. foreign policy...and no, it's not because her state is next to Russia. It's because Alaska is a religiously defined refuge state and she's been preparing her state to accept the refugees that God told her to expect from the lower forty eight states when the rapture begins.

Number Four:

Sarah Palin is the dream candidate for millions of women. She's a neo-feminist...the kind that thinks a raped woman should pay for her own forensics kit...right before she's forced to carry that baby to term. Now that's a woman every woman should support.

Number Three:

You have to love the idea of John McCain putting a fellow maverick on his ticket. Just look at the facts...John McCain hired a governor who knew her state didn't need the expense of a state-owned jet...and he married another woman who told the press that she and her husband need a jet to get around Arizona. Everyone knows travel in Arizona is far more complicated than in the largest state in the union.

Number Two:

It's unfair to criticize the GOP's platform position on a woman's right to choose...they've actually proven they will defend a woman's right to choose...the time and place when she'll answer any of the media's questions.

Number One:

We need to stop making light of Sarah Palin's pit bull metaphor. Everyone knows that the difference between a two star national guard general and a three star national guard general in Alaska is the lipstick on the pit bull's ass.

Tagged as: 2008 Election, Abortion, Alaska, Cindy McCain, Dick Cheney, Feminism, Foreign Policy, John McCain, National Guard, Pentecostal, Religion, Sarah Palin, Snark, Top Ten, Women's Rights

Daniel DiRito | September 9, 2008 | 12:35 PM | link | Comments (1)
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September 8, 2008

The Loaves And Fishes Election? genre: Econ-Recon & Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak

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If this election turns out to be about religious ideology...while ignoring the real implications of electing a candidate who supports the same policies of the president who created the troubled economy we're now enduring...it may well be appropriate to call this "The Loaves and Fishes Election"...although I doubt either will be abundant...and they most certainly wont be free.

Troubling as it is, a number of voters seem poised to place matters of morality in front of their own economic self-interest. What remains to be seen is the depths to which voters are willing to sacrifice their pocket books in deference to the religious rhetoric being bantered about by the GOP.

Perhaps the news of the decision by the government to take over the troubled mortgage giants, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, will provide the impetus for voters to think twice before granting the GOP another four year...on top of the eight during which the national debt nearly doubled and personal income failed to advance.

Let me attempt to make this simple. Under the Bush administration, huge tax cuts were enacted...primarily for the wealthiest of Americans. At the same time, mortgage interest rates were kept artificially low. That allowed for a housing bubble which enabled millions of Americans to borrow and spend newfound equity. It also allowed for those with capital (think those who received the tax cuts) to invest in and profit from the financial market.

Jump forward to the end of 2008. The Bush administration and John McCain favor extending the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans...arguing that we can't raise taxes in a down economy. The problem with that logic is that the tax cuts helped facilitate the shoddy economy we have. It also allowed the rich to get richer and it allowed millions of Americans to borrow what they thought was an expanading equity in their homes. That ability to access equity served as the candy coating on an otherwise unsound economy.

However, as they say, it's now time to pay the piper. So what does this mean for the average American? Well, it means that millions of Americans will see their home values decline, their debt increase, their access to better jobs diminish, and ownership of an expanding national debt that will have to be addressed.

And what does this mean for the wealthiest Americans under John McCain's more of the same administration? It means that they will have benefited from years of a reduced tax burden. It means they were able to invest this and other money in a finance industry that was fueled by artificially low interest rates...which means that they pocketed billions of dollars.

At the same time, the government has now stepped in to salvage the insolvency of the two largest mortgage providers in the United States...shifting their debt to the government and therefore to the taxpayer...in what will likely be the largest bail out in U.S. history...a bail out that will exceed the last one that allowed the wealthy to scam the public, the Savings and Loan scandal.

What this means is the government provided the manipulated means for the wealthy to profit...and profit they did...and then when this pyramid imploded under the lack of government oversight...the government, in typical form, concluded it would have to step in to stabilize the financial markets...and that, of course, will mean it's time to divide the losses amongst the remainder of the taxpayers. Enter John McCain...who argues we simply can't increase taxes (code language for rolling back the tax cuts) on the wealthy because it will hurt the troubled economy.

Look, this scenario isn't remotely the equivalent of the Loaves and Fishes story. In fact, it's actually the opposite. Instead, the average American will have provided the wealthiest amongst us with an abundance of enrichment...via tax cuts and government policy...which in turn damaged the economy...which "forced" the government to step in...to now bill that very enrichment...to none other than the average American.

Now the McCain campaign will tell us that the Democrats will tax and spend Americans into oblivion...citing the Democrats desire to give middle class Americans a tax break as well as plans to provide health care to all Americans as examples of their ill-advised fiscal oversight. The GOP will do so while attempting to bury billions of dollars in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac debt...debt that originated under the misguided management of the GOP...all the while asserting their own fiscal bona fides...and never once admitting that these same billions of dollars would allow us to fund a tax cut as well as initiate an equitable and accessible health care system.

My friends, John McCain and the GOP are burning the candle at both ends and the middle class is the quickly disappearing wax in between. Look, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac hold six trillion dollars of mortgage debt...and taxpayers will have to pay the portion of that debt that will be unrecoverable. They'll do so while watching their own wealth decline.

If all of this tangible sacrifice and suffering warrants the election of a party that gives lip service to social issues, then perhaps faith is far more powerful than I imagined. Notwithstanding, the last time I checked, faith, placed in false Gods, isn't faith at all; it's folly.

I suspect if the one called Jesus were still walking this earth, he'd be leading the effort to toss the tax collectors out of the temple. The man who bonded with the dregs of society...the likes of Mary Magdalen...would be able to discern deceit from devotion. He'd be telling the flock that faith is not a blind endeavor and our acts of affirmation must translate into more than tangential testimonies meant to massage the angst that accompanies our own divergence from living doctrine as opposed to wearing it as a label on one's lapel.

The corruption of Christian values for political expediency can be traced to those whose ambitions exceed their inclinations towards maintaining morality. Morality is more than a catch phrase coined by partisans for political gain. Those who enable these interlopers may take solace in surrendering their own responsibility to the ruse of rhetoric...under the guise of genuflection...but should there actually be the defined deity who drives their dogma...I suspect the line he's labeled "sinners" has continued its exponential expansion.

John McCain and the GOP may succeed in November...but it won't result in the feeding of the massed and it certainly won't be viewed as a miracle. Given that magic is equated with a sleight of hand, I suspect history would record his election as the efficient execution of one exceedingly cynical, but equally slick, illusion.

Tagged as: 2008 Election, Christianity, Democrats, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, George W. Bush, GOP, Jesus, John McCain, Morality, Religion, Values

Daniel DiRito | September 8, 2008 | 3:09 PM | link | Comments (1)
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2008 Election: Why The Supreme Court Matters genre: Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak

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Sarah Palin's selection as John McCain's running mate has evangelicals feeling all warm and fuzzy. Her presence on the ticket has energized the conservative base and rekindled concerns that this election will see the reemergence of a full-scale culture war. Truth be told, the culture war had never ended...it had just been sent into a funk with the selection of John McCain.

While many in the media have focused on the enthusiasm Palin has brought to this election cycle (high ratings and ad revenues anyone?), few have actually attempted to impart the significance of the Palin selection. It's my suspicion that John McCain, unable to gain traction in the polls, elected to heed the lessons learned by those who are now leading his campaign...those who previously crafted the campaigns of George W. Bush. What this means is that the GOP, once thought to be moving away from values politics, has again opted to return to what it knows best...the politics of division.

Those who think this is a momentary relapse may want to think again. The appetite for wedge issue politics is immense...and the size and enthusiasm of the crowds, at the once lukewarm McCain campaign stops, is all the evidence one needs.

While I believe there is a movement in the evangelical community towards expanding their list of relevant issues...a movement that would likely lead some values voters to reconsider the merits of always voting with the GOP...there must be concern that the Palin selection will do little to advance that shift. Frankly, who could blame these fledgling pastors for abandoning their efforts to expand the consciousness of their followers and return to the red meat issues that have proven so successful in motivating the masses. If nothing else, it becomes a question of financial viability. Vegetarian values may seem vogue...but it's still the red meat that sells.

What is often lost in the media's focus is an understanding of the actual objectives of those voters who have seen a new dawn in the selection of Sarah Palin. Yes, the generalized analysis offered by the media chooses catch phrases like "God, guns, and gays"...but the stakes that underlie this culture war are far more ominous.

In fact, the tactics used by the GOP are much the same as those employed by the religious right. An example may be beneficial. For years, Christian conservatives have utilized a strategy of repetitious rhetoric...designed to define their opponents as an imminent threat to their beliefs. The best example is the constant assertion that there is a "militant homosexual agenda".

Now aside from the Stonewall Riots, a skirmish between subversives in skirts and the police department that sought to harass them, the notion of militancy is strictly hyperbole. Regardless, this hyperbole establishes an extremely effective mindset in the moral minions...one that believes the enemy seeks to vanquish their values and install a new world order. Where this strategy deviates from past propaganda employed by partisan politicos is in its effort to cast the opposition as the aggressor...not the aggrieved.

I'm of the opinion that the lessons learned in the civil rights era serve as the foundational basis for this new strategy. The efforts to maintain segregation (think George Wallace) were eventually viewed as extreme by a majority of Americans. Proponents of maintaining racial inequality did little more than voice their prejudice...exposing their objectives and alienating the fair minded.

In the last thirty to thirty five years, many of those who shared these ideological leanings have reconstituted themselves as evangelicals. Let me be clear...by no means am I implying that all evangelicals hold the same views or that being an evangelical is evidence that one does. What I am saying is that it became the chosen vehicle for a group of like minded individuals intent upon waging war against the social issues they opposed.

Call it a softer gentler strategy...at least on its surface. Insert language that implies one is defending family values and Christian principles...from militant groups who have no regard for our long standing cultural traditions...and one begins to see the shift, subtle as it may be. At the same time, it is essential to argue that the enemy's objective has no connection to civil rights or constitutional inclusion; rather it is a rogue lifestyle intent upon undermining our values.

Now let's look at goals. Again, a look at the civil rights era sheds light on the strategy. What was learned from the civil rights era is that any legitimization is apt to insure more...eventually leading to judicial justification, legislative affirmation, and ultimately societal acceptance. When social conservatives invoke the slippery slope argument, they are actually explaining their own perceptions of the process that led to racial inclusion and therefore guides their opposition to any and all measures that validate homosexuality.

Like their black and white interpretations of the Bible, they see the battle against gays in the same manner. The rush to embrace Biblical literalism represents the commitment to this new strategy. As such, any compromise is akin to capitualtion...which means ideology must be absolute if one is to successfully repel the efforts of the enemy. At the same time, the ultimate goals must be disguised and deflected with rhetoric that is palatable to the general public. The door must be shut (constitutional amendments) before they can ultimately unveil their moral manifesto.

That leads me to the latest and clearest evidence of the obscured, but unfolding, objective. I wrote about this subject previously, when it was in its foundling state. As it turns out, the first foray into the execution of the plan has proceeded and is scheduled to be implemented at the end of this month. Take a look at the details.

From The Washington Post:

Declaring that clergy have a constitutional right to endorse political candidates from their pulpits, the socially conservative Alliance Defense Fund is recruiting several dozen pastors to do just that on Sept. 28, in defiance of Internal Revenue Service rules.

The effort by the Arizona-based legal consortium is designed to trigger an IRS investigation that ADF lawyers would then challenge in federal court. The ultimate goal is to persuade the U.S. Supreme Court to throw out a 54-year-old ban on political endorsements by tax-exempt houses of worship.

"For so long, there has been this cloud of intimidation over the church," ADF attorney Erik Stanley said. "It is the job of the pastors of America to debate the proper role of church in society. It's not for the government to mandate the role of church in society."

Couple this goal with the rumblings over pharmacists refusing to dispense contraceptives as a matter of religious belief, insistence that religious hospitals be exempt from offering services that conflict with their ideology, demands that private employers be free to discriminate against those whose lifestyles conflict with their values, and one begins to see the end game.

If the ADF and its adherents can succeed in breaching the separation of church and state, under the guise that they are actually defending victims of religious discrimination, they will have successfully elevated religious ideology to the same status as constitutional law. At that point, government would be handicapped in distinguishing and delineating matters of constitutional equality from matters of faith.

The goal is to insure that religion's influence on government isn't limited to the ballot box...but actually that God's law is placed on par with the constitution. In other words, they seek to insure that religious beliefs cannot be subjected to constitutional rebuke...and if they are, there should be recourse to claim religious discrimination.

An example may be helpful. Let's look at LGBT employment. The end game of the ADF and its allies is to insure that religious views cannot be abridged by constitutional interpretation. They want religious freedom to be on a par with civil rights...beyond simply having the freedom to choose which religion one elects to embrace and vote accordingly. In other words, if homosexuality is contrary to one's religious beliefs, one should be allowed to refuse to hire homosexuals...regardless of the possibility that such acts may be unconstitutional.

Currently, private groups like the Boy Scouts and religious institutions have been allowed to discriminate accordingly...as a matter of their religious beliefs. Generally speaking, I understand and acknowledge the constitutional basis of this practice, However, I believe the goal is to establish that right for any individual regardless of the environment in which such discriminations take place. In simple terms, an individual forced to work in close contact with a homosexual could claim his religious beliefs are being abridged.

Should there be any doubt as to the comprehensive nature of this objective, take note of the rhetoric that seeks to cast judges as judicial activists. Lest there be any doubt, the same logic for biblical literalism underlies calls for an "originalist" view of the constitutional...a view that virtually ignores current cultural considerations and relies strictly upon those issues that were addressed at the time it was adopted.

In other words, since it was silent on issues of sexual orientation, such issues cannot be adjudicated through the constitution...they weren't considerations at the time and they can't be retroactively included by interpretation. The argument suggests that since no one is preventing gays from forming relationships, albeit absent judicial or legislative recognition, they can't be construed as being denied anything intended by the constitution.

At the same time, if groups like the ADF can succeed in granting religious ideology equal standing with the constitution, arguing that we were, in fact, created as a Christian nation, they could possibly succeed in their goal of removing the prohibitions against commingling church and state...based upon an argument that doing so would remove a form of discrimination.

What is different is the Alliance Defense Fund's direct challenge to the rules that govern tax-exempt organizations. Rather than wait for the IRS to investigate an alleged violation, the organization intends to create dozens of violations and take the U.S. government to court on First Amendment grounds.

"We're looking for churches that are serious-minded about this, churches that understand both the risks and the benefits," Stanley said, referring to the chance that they could lose their coveted tax-exempt status or could set a precedent.

Stanley said three dozen church leaders from more than 20 states have agreed to deliver a political sermon, naming political names.

"The sermon will be an evaluation of conditions for office in light of scripture and doctrine. They will make a specific recommendation from the pulpit about how the congregation would vote," he said.

"They could oppose a candidate. They could oppose both candidates. They could endorse a candidate. They could focus on a federal, state or local election."

Such endorsements are prohibited by a 1954 amendment to the Internal Revenue Code that says nonprofit, tax-exempt entities may not "participate in, or intervene in . . . any political campaign on behalf of any candidate for public office."

Founded in 1994 by Christian conservatives including James C. Dobson of Focus on the Family and William R. Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, the ADF has challenged same-sex marriage initiatives, stem cell research and rules that limit the distance protesters must keep from abortion patients. It helped the Boy Scouts ban gay Scout leaders.

Defining its latest mission, the ADF declared that pastors have "too long feared" the loss of tax exemptions.

"We're not encouraging any congregation to violate the law," Stanley said. "What we're encouraging them to do is exercise their constitutional right in the face of an unconstitutional law."

The outstanding question, as we approach the 2008 election, is just how close are the ADF and the religious right to achieving their goal? Well, a quick look at recent Supreme Court rulings instructs us that it may well be one vote shy of victory. Should there be any doubt as to the gravity of this election, the next president is assured of at least one appointment...and likely more.

While voters are being distracted by rhetoric, the minions of morality are maneuvering to institutionalize a manifesto that would alter America forever. The fact that they've honed their strategy to portray themselves as victims has been exceptionally effective. Nevertheless, the underlying goal is no less heinous than that of those who sought to to support segregation.

In fact, one could argue that by overlaying their objectives with Biblical doctrine, the end results could be far more oppressive. Even worse, it could be the first step towards the criminalization of all things contrary to "Christian" ideology. Lest anyone doubt this purpose and its potential, heed the frightening words of Tom Delay, a man who has demonstrated a willingness to pursue his objectives regardless of propriety and legality, "He [God] is using me, all the time, everywhere, to stand up for a biblical worldview in everything that I do and everywhere I am. He is training me."

The stakes are enormous.

Tagged as: 2008 Election, ADF, Alliance Defense Fund, Barack Obama, Christianity, Church & State, Constitution, Culture Wars, Discrimination, ENDA, John McCain, LGBT, Religion, Sarah Palin, Supreme Court

Daniel DiRito | September 8, 2008 | 8:38 AM | link | Comments (0)
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September 6, 2008

The Daily Show: The Republican National Convention genre: Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak & Tongue-In-Cheek & Video-Philes

They say it's the truth behind the humor that makes it so funny. In the following videos, The Daily Show proves this premise beyond a shadow of a doubt.

This past week, Jon Stewart and his cohorts traveled to Minneapolis-St. Paul to cover the Republican National Convention. As it turns out, it's what they uncovered that will make you howl with laughter. Then again, given the gravity of the upcoming election, it could also make you cry. Go figure!

The John McCain Bio

Small Town Values

Sarah Palin

Tagged as: 2008 Election, John McCain, Jon Stewart, Karl Rove, Republican National Convention, RNC, Sarah Palin, Teen Pregnancy, The Daily Show

Daniel DiRito | September 6, 2008 | 5:55 PM | link | Comments (0)
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