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July 20, 2008

The "Order" Of Things: Let Them Kill...Yes - Let Them Marry...No genre: Gaylingual & Just Jihad & Nouveau Thoughts & Uncivil Unions

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I'm always amazed at public opinion...especially when it provides some insights into human nature in 21st century America. Over the years, I've always marveled at the prudish obsession with all things prurient.

I could be wrong, but I suspect a majority of Americans would rather allow their children to watch depictions of violence on television and at the movies than anything remotely sexual. In some ways, I understand how this happens, but in my moments of lucidity, I wonder why we never take the time to understand or alter this seemingly incoherent ideation.

To find evidence of this phenomenon, one need look no further than the polling relevant to same-sex marriage and the military's policy of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Despite the occasional outlier, it's fairly safe to state that more Americans oppose same-sex marriage than favor it. At the same time, numerous polls in recent years suggests that a significant majority of Americans are in favor of allowing gays to serve in the military. I find those two incongruent positions fascinating.

First, a look at the latest polling on both issues.

From The Washington Post On DADT:

Public attitudes about gays in the military have shifted dramatically since President Bill Clinton unveiled what became his administration's "don't ask, don't tell" policy 15 years ago today.

Seventy-five percent of Americans in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll said gay people who are open about their sexual orientation should be allowed to serve in the U.S. military, up from 62 percent in early 2001 and 44 percent in 1993.

Today, Americans have become more supportive of allowing openly gay men and women to serve in the armed forces. Support from Republicans has doubled over the past 15 years, from 32 to 64 percent. More than eight in 10 Democrats and more than three-quarters of independents now support the idea, as did nearly two-thirds of self-described conservatives.

From CBS News On Same-Sex Marriage:

(CBS) Most Americans continue to think there should be some legal recognition of gay and lesbian couples, and 30 percent say same-sex couples should be allowed to marry - the highest number since CBS News began asking this question in 2004.

Twenty-eight percent think same-sex couples should be permitted to form civil unions, but more than a third - 36 percent - say there should be no legal recognition of a gay couple's relationship.

Americans' views on this issue have changed since 2004, although opinion has not changed substantially in the last two years. In November of 2004 (soon after the presidential election) just 21 percent of Americans supported the idea of same-sex couples being allowed to marry.

Majorities of both men and women support some form of legal recognition for gay and lesbian couples, but more women (36 percent) than men (24 percent) back the idea of same-sex marriage.

With regard to DADT, it seems fairly clear that the country is ready to embrace gays serving in the military. Virtually every constituent group agrees. As such, it would be difficult to contend that the favorable response is due to the vague or uncertain nature of the survey question.

With regard to gay marriage, the results are more nebulous. Don't get me wrong, there's little doubt that the trends are encouraging. In fact, one could make the argument that a narrow majority of Americans actually favor some recognition of same-sex relationships. Defining the specifics of that recognition would likely provide less encouraging results.

I'm intrigued by the disparity. On the one hand, it seems that patriotism and a desire to defend one's nation elicits thoughts of equality on the part of the electorate. In other words, if gays are willing to kill and die for their country, by God, we shouldn't deny them that opportunity. [Wave flags now] On the other hand, who a gay person chooses to love and how that love is recorded by society apparently elicits thoughts of moral rectitude on the part of the electorate. [Cover eyes now]

In other words, views about homosexuality seem to mirror the general pattern of allowing our children to be exposed to violence (masculinity...or behavior associated with men?) while shying away from exposure to, or discussion about, sexuality (intimacy...or behavior associated with women?). Is that an anecdotal observation and a broad brush approach to the subject? Perhaps. Does it offer a plausible explanation for the divergent data? In part, I think so.

Let's take it a step further. When one thinks about the treatment of those in the LGBT community, three things emerge. One, lesbianism (often associated with being a tomboy), while still objectionable to many, is also a source of male fascination, and as such, serves to insulate lesbians from intense societal derision. Secondly, gay men (often associated with being effeminate) draw the intense ire of a number of heterosexual men which is much more likely to lead to acts of derision and/or violence being perpetrated on homosexual men. Lastly, transgender males, seeking to identify as women (adopting virtually all aspects of feminine behavior), are potentially at the greatest risk for vitriol and violence.

I contend that if one were to ask all voters to quantify each groups social acceptability, each groups acceptability to serve in the military, and the acceptance of the love relationships each group forms, the discomfort would mirror the rankings I've noted above.

Let's return to the apparent discomfort with all things sexual and the seeming tolerance for depictions of violence. If one looks at the dance of sexuality, generally speaking, the male is in pursuit which can easily be construed as an aggressive act. Since men generally accept this role...and they also have daughters...a disconnect emerges which may well lead to the seeming silence with regards to all things sexual.

In simple terms, men, aware of each other's inclinations, are uncomfortable admitting and acknowledging that their daughters will be pursued sexually and anything that reminds them of this creates dissonance that is rarely resolved. The carnal nature of sex as conquest (masculine) can prevent them from viewing sexuality favorably as intimacy (feminine).

This may also explain the difference in men's and women's reported acceptance of gays in the military. Men, by virtue of their own views of sex, are apt to view the homosexual male similar to themselves...meaning they assume a gay man is in pursuit of a sexual encounter. At the same time, women are apt to be more comfortable with gay men as a result of their inclination to share expressions of intimacy.

I'll offer one additional observation. Sex, by its nature, involves unspoken understandings about penetration and being penetrated...tops and bottoms if you will. That again brings us back to the above ordering. Lesbianism, from a conventional view of gender roles, is often thought to be about penetration...meaning there is a perception that someone adopts the position as the top (the masculine aggressor). With gay men, the perception is that someone adopts the position as the bottom (the feminine placater). Lastly, with regard to the transgender male, the assumption is that the individual seeks to adopt the feminine role...although in this instance, with a heterosexual male.

Simply stated, the subconscious predisposition to favor masculinity over femininity (imposed over centuries by the prevalence of misogyny as opposed to any innately ordered hierarchy) therefore leads to ranking the three accordingly.

All of the above, in my opinion, helps explain why voters are more inclined to support gays in the military than to endorse same-sex marriage. The former is consistent with established societal norms that favor masculinity which makes it more palatable. Conversely, the latter serves to threaten the established order and unseat the stereotypical male identity from its lofty perch.

When it's all said and done, I contend humanity hasn't navigated that far from its awareness that the king of the jungle's demands are usually met (he writes the rules) and he is therefore afforded a wide berth...simply based upon an unspoken understanding that he has the ability to impose his will (penetrate) upon those who can't do the same.

Whether all of this suggests that love does or doesn't exist as we define it is open to debate. In the meantime, the message to the LGBT community is rather convoluted...and fully impeachable. In a world too easily inclined to violence, it's a shame to be rewarding gays for propagating aggression as the acceptable status quo while stifling their potential to act as loving agents for constructive change. It's time for the sleeping giant to assemble its parts and uproot the tree to which it has too long been tethered. It's time for a new order.

Tagged as: DADT, Discrimination, Don't Ask Don't Tell, Gay Marriage, LGBT, Military, Misogyny, Polling, Relationships, Same-Sex Marriage, Sexuality, Society, Violence, War

Daniel DiRito | July 20, 2008 | 2:27 PM | link | Comments (5)
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July 16, 2008

Sam Harris & Hugh Hewitt Debate The Pros & Cons Of Religion genre: Hip-Gnosis & Just Jihad

Sam Harris, the author of The End Of Faith, has argued that religion is, by its nature, a mechanism for conflict in the world. Harris contends that the belief in, and adherence to the words contained within the various religious books...supposedly written by the one divine being...are often the justification for the imposition of dogmatic laws and/or rules (Sharia law as an example).

Further, in its worst form, Harris believes these documents serve as the rationalization for the destruction and death of those whose beliefs come from an alternate source. When these conflicting beliefs are pitted against each other, there is little reason to believe that compromise is possible...and that often leads to the lack of rational dialogue which Harris finds to be so very dangerous. In other words, ideological intransigence born of an unwavering belief in a document, viewed to be incontrovertible, will invariably lead to violence couched in the rhetoric of righteousness.

Hewitt, on the other hand, contends that Harris is simply in favor of religious intolerance...immediately retreating to the newfangled argument of evangelicals...the one suggesting that people of faith are the victims of those who favor purging religion from the public square and installing a wholly secular system. In other words, all efforts to point out the problems with the doctrine and its application is viewed as an attempt to persecute the beliefs of the faithful.

Unfortunately, Hewitt, and many of those who embrace a particular book, have a propensity for interpreting their documents as they find most advantageous...calling for literalism where it fits their own preferences...and discounting those portions they find offensive or contradictory.

Rather than engage in an honest discussion, Hewitt moves quickly to hyperbole while Harris continues to reiterate his basic contention...stating on more than one occasion that it behooves societies to monitor and tamp down the absolutism of religious zealots in order to prevent the kinds of atrocities that populate much of our human history.

Hewitt then completes the circular argument by suggesting that God's presence prevails and enlightenment will emerge if people will simply open themselves to His message. Of course, that certain though subjective view, held by opposing religions, is the very source of the conflict Harris believes must be constrained by rationality. Unless society forces reasoned tolerance and debunks the plausibility of absolutism, we will remain a short fuse from factional fragmentation and the inscrutable and irrational violence it foments.

Sam Harris vs. Hugh Hewitt - Part One

Sam Harris vs. Hugh Hewitt - Part Two

Tagged as: Christianity, Factionalism, Faith, God, Hugh Hewitt, Rationality, Religion, Sam Harris, Sectarian Violence, Secularism, War

Daniel DiRito | July 16, 2008 | 6:00 PM | link | Comments (2)
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July 9, 2008

Do It In The Name Of Heaven, We Can Justify It In The End? genre: Hip-Gnosis & Just Jihad & Polispeak

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When we hear the terms Fatwa or Jihad, we often think about radical Middle Eastern extremists whose intention is to impose their religious beliefs upon those they define as infidels. As Americans, we find the declarations of those leaders (Mullahs, Imams, etc.) who support such actions to be offensive and predicated upon intransigent ideological beliefs. We also look with disfavor upon those who carry out these Fatwas or Jihads in the name of their spiritual leaders and, by inference, their supreme being.

At the same time, we have witnessed a Bush administration that has sought to characterize our involvement in the region as a mission inspired by the president's consultations with his father...the holy one...not George H. W. Bush. Early on, he made the strategic mistake of referencing the Crusades when speaking of our efforts in the war on terror. While there was some admission that the statement was insensitive and unwarranted, it speaks to the mind set of our President and the pervasive influence his religious beliefs have played in coloring his views and guiding his actions.

In what I would call the ever creeping influence of evangelism, the president also appointed some 150 graduates of Jerry Falwell's Liberty University's School of Law to positions in his administration. I would suggest that these and may other examples are evidence of the pervasive influence religion has been allowed to play during the nearly eight years of George Bush's presidency.

That brings me to the lawsuit of Army Spc. Jeremy Hall, in which he accuses the U.S. Department of Defense of violating his rights to religious freedom. Hall, in his claim, suggests that "the United States military has become a Christian organization"...which he contends led to his mistreatment...predicated upon his status as an atheist.

From CNN:

KANSAS CITY, Kansas (CNN) -- Army Spc. Jeremy Hall was raised Baptist.

He served two tours of duty in Iraq and has a near perfect record. But somewhere between the tours, something changed. Hall, now 23, said he no longer believes in God, fate, luck or anything supernatural.

His sudden lack of faith, he said, cost him his military career and put his life at risk. Hall said his life was threatened by other troops and the military assigned a full-time bodyguard to protect him out of fear for his safety.

Hall said there is a pattern of discrimination against non-Christians in the military.

Hall isn't seeking compensation in his lawsuit -- just the guarantee of religious freedom in the military. Eventually, Hall was sent home early from Iraq and later returned to Fort Riley in Junction City, Kansas, to complete his tour of duty.

He also said he missed out on promotions because he is an atheist.

"I was told because I can't put my personal beliefs aside and pray with troops I wouldn't make a good leader," Hall said.

Michael Weinstein, a retired senior Air Force officer and founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, is suing along with Hall. Weinstein said he's been contacted by more than 8,000 members of the military, almost all of them complaining of pressure to embrace evangelical Christianity.

The Pentagon refused to discuss specifics of Hall's case -- citing the litigation. But Deputy Undersecretary Bill Carr said complaints of evangelizing are "relatively rare." He also said the Pentagon is not pushing one faith among troops.

Weinstein said he doesn't buy it and points to a promotional video by a group called Christian Embassy. The video, which shows U.S. generals in uniform, was shot inside the Pentagon. The generals were subsequently reprimanded.

Another group, the Officers' Christian Fellowship, has representatives on nearly all military bases worldwide. Its vision, which is spelled out on the organization's Web site, reads, "A spiritually transformed military, with ambassadors for Christ in uniform empowered by the Holy Spirit."

Weinstein has a different interpretation.

"Their purpose is to have Christian officers exercise Biblical leadership to raise up a godly army," he says.

I don't know if Hall will prevail in his lawsuit, but his dilemma clearly illustrates the dangers of having a Commander In Chief whose words and actions are steeped in the rhetoric of religious certainty. To believe that the president hasn't utilized promotions and appointments to stack the military leadership with those who share his evangelical leanings is to ignore the clear bias demonstrated by the inordinate number of Liberty University appointees.

Add in the regimentation and chain of command mentality that permeates the military and it isn't difficult to conclude that an atmosphere of rewarding those who share the beliefs of their superiors has allowed some palpable level of proselytizing to take hold...which would undoubtedly be accompanied by a propensity to demonstrate disfavor with those who fail to march in lockstep.

The fact that fellow soldiers demeaned Hall's disbelief suggests they felt emboldened to do so...likely knowing their aspersions were consistent with the thinking of their superiors. To believe otherwise is contrary to everything we know about the military's methods of maintaining order amongst men who are often immature and malleable.

It appears that the Bush administration, in its zeal to promote its own religious agenda, fell victim to the very same extremist absolutism that it believes it is combating in the Middle East. Let me be clear...I am not suggesting that the U.S. military engages in intentional acts of violence against innocent civilians nor am I condoning the actions of terrorists by means of comparison.

However, when it's all said and done, I'm left to wonder why the conduct of military operations are ever allowed to be premised upon establishing the legitimacy of one army's god from that of another. Further, to what extent are the combatants willing to go in order to establish the superiority of their beliefs in relation to all others when each side is convinced theirs is the only legitimate religion?

In the end, if religious beliefs are allowed to be the basis upon which the mistreatment of some U.S. soldiers is justified, have we not knowingly redefined the mission of our military? If its purpose isn't to defend and preserve the freedoms of each individual...freedoms that include the right to hold one's chosen religious beliefs or to have none whatsoever, without retribution, have we not succumbed to the very tyranny that we seek to dislodge in other nations?

If our military is to be an extension of the religious ideology of those in command, then our forces can't be seen any more favorably than the Crusaders of which George Bush spoke. Even worse, such a construct is a recipe for endless death and destruction...all conducted with deference to our deity of choice.

UPDATE:

The following video on Spc. Hall's case is from CNN's Anderson Cooper 360:

Tagged as: Army Spc. Jeremy Hall, Atheism, Commander In Chief, Crusades, George W. Bush, God, Iraq, Jerry Falwell, Liberty University, Middle East, Pentagon, Religious Intolerance, Terrorism, U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Military, War on Terror

Daniel DiRito | July 9, 2008 | 8:47 AM | link | Comments (0)
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June 6, 2008

The Bush Legacy: A Bad Case Of "ED" Or A Royal Screwing? genre: Econ-Recon & Just Jihad & Polispeak

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Today, President Bush, in the following video clip, tells us that we face "turbulence in the housing market and slow growth for our overall economy". At the same time, the number of U.S. homeowners in foreclosure or delinquent on their mortgage payments is nearly nine percent, unemployment jumped a full half percent to 5.5%...the largest increase in over two decades, oil jumped by over ten dollars a barrel today...after rising five dollars on Thursday, and the stock market lost nearly 400 points.

Perhaps I don't understand economics, but I have a hunch that the president's use of the words "turbulence" and "slow growth" are inadequate descriptors of what we are experiencing. Unfortunately, the indicators suggest the worst is yet to come. So what is the president's solution? He chose to admonish the Democrats for not making his tax cuts permanent (that would be the same ones that were enacted to fix a sluggish economy) and he called on Congress to pass legislation that would allow more oil exploration (now that we're nearing the end of eight years of a non-existent energy policy...save for Dick Cheney's secret meetings with oil execs).

As George Bush nears the end of his second term, it looks safe to say that he'll exit the White House with a legacy of starting an endless war with little more than a slew of suspect rhetoric and granting the wealthiest Americans one of the largest tax cuts in recent history. But there's more. His policies will leave the rest of the public facing unprecedented gas prices, staggering debt, rising unemployment, and millions of jobs lost or outsourced to foreign countries.

I know, you're thinking I'm being too pessimistic. Not to worry. George Bush, once he chose to admit the economy was in the midst of a "rough patch" (that's code for a deep recession) also gave millions of Americans a paltry stimulus check that might allow them to pay off some of the credit card debt they've amassed in order to survive the "fundamentally strong economy" the president insisted existed despite evidence to the contrary.

As I looked for the words to describe the president's anemic performance in dealing with the economy, I couldn't help but think about the highly touted stimulus package. Unfortunately, my mind chose to rearrange the words to better explain the reality of the president's embarrassing performance...a performance that should have culminated in an admission that we're dealing with a fully flaccid economy.

With a healthy sprinkling of sarcasm, and an abundance of antipathy, I think this administration has exhibited all the signs of a serious case of "ED"..which is rather surprising since its leader spent most of his eight years prancing around like the biggest cock in the barnyard. In my opinion, the last thing America needed was a president obsessed with puffing his feathers and stimulating his own package. Then again, once George Bush exits the White House, I suspect one would be hard pressed to identify many Americans who didn't feel violated.

Tagged as: Deficit, Dick Cheney, Dow Jones, Economy, Energy Policy, Foreclosures, George W. Bush, Iraq, Oil Dependency, Outsourcing, Recession, Sub-Prime Mortgage Crisis, Tax Cuts, Unemployment

Daniel DiRito | June 6, 2008 | 1:31 PM | link | Comments (1)
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June 2, 2008

Voters To McCain: Lose The Bush Cowboy Diplomacy genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak

John McCain likes to ridicule Barack Obama's belief that we should meet with the leaders of nations we consider to be our adversaries. A new Gallup poll might have John McCain rethinking this rhetoric. If the polling is accurate, it seems clear that voters don't believe that a continuation of George Bush's "cowboy diplomacy" is a wise strategy.

From Gallup:

PRINCETON, NJ -- Large majorities of Democrats and independents, and even about half of Republicans, believe the president of the United States should meet with the leaders of countries that are considered enemies of the United States. Overall, 67% of Americans say this kind of diplomacy is a good idea.

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The issue of using presidential diplomacy with U.S. enemies distinguishes Barack Obama from the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, John McCain, and even from his opponent for the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton.

Obama is the only one of the three who has said he would personally meet with the leaders of countries like Iran, Syria, Cuba, and Venezuela as president, and he recently defended his position by saying "strong countries and strong presidents talk to their adversaries." Clinton has criticized Obama's approach as "naïve," and McCain has been unrelenting in his attacks on the issue, accusing Obama of being dangerously inexperienced and having "reckless judgment."

Frankly, the rationale behind the Bush approach has always been suspect. There just isn't ample evidence to suggest that refusing to meet with these leaders provides any measurable benefit. In my opinion, the problem with men like George Bush may well originate with their own awareness of their inability to engage in thoughtful dialogue or protracted negotiations.

Whether this reticence is the result of a questionable intellect, a fragile ego, a bellicose bravado, or some combination thereof may never be fully understood. Regardless, I suspect that the passage of time will reveal more of the motivations that led George Bush and his like-minded cronies to adopt such a strident strategy.

From my perspective, men like George Bush believe that a safe nation can only be achieved by presenting America's persona as a powerful preemptive presence in the world. Instead of adopting the oft referenced historical approach of "speak softly and carry a big stick", the Bush administration seems to have chosen to speak loud and large while swinging a big stick... indiscriminately.

Truth be told, the Bush-McCain machismo is contrary to the conflict resolution that most of us have been reared to respect. From our first adventure in socialization as a school child to the many years we spend navigating the difficulties that frequently characterize the workforce, we learn that the best resolutions often result from difficult, though diplomatic, dialogue. If one were to imagine either our schools or our places of employment utilizing the Bush-McCain mentality, it is virtually impossible to visualize a functional environment.

Granted, conducting foreign policy is far more complex than the above referenced experiences, but any situation involving human interaction can ultimately be reduced to the need for individuals to engage in constructive communications...even if those communications are with an obvious and obstinate enemy.

Perhaps the worst consequences of the Bush-McCain strategy is the collateral damage that accompanies this ideological intransigence. An example might be helpful. Time and again we've heard discussions of the degree to which a large segment of Iran's population is in sync with the West...even to the extent that they might, at some point, entertain and enact some type of people's revolt to overthrow their radical religious regime.

Unfortunately, though the Bush administration occasionally invokes the sensibilities of the Iranian citizenry, he and his minions more frequently rattle off the rhetoric that suggests we revile and reject all things Iranian...and Islamic. In so doing, we alienate those Iranians...and millions of Islamists...that might well be our ally (or at least not our mortal enemy) under the right circumstances...circumstances that may never mature in an atmosphere of elevated animosity. As such, they are left unable to distinguish our disdain for their demagogic leaders from our compassion for the common man.

In fact, the events that have led many Americans to distrust the Bush administration are the same ones that have likely undermined our hopes for an internal insurrection in Iran. Hence, one of the fundamental benefits of a direct dialogue with the leadership of Iran is the message it would send to the people of Iran. We can't expect Iranians and the rest of the world to see the United States as a force for good unless we demonstrate that goodness is our preferred means of force.

Look, I have no illusions that goodness is a force that can solve all conflicts...and I'm sure the American public feels the same. At the same time, underlying all acts of physical force must be the perception that they have been enacted as a last resort, by good people, who have concluded that good order (safety and security) cannot be restored otherwise. In this way, goodness can remain the fundamental attribute and the means by which a nation of America's strength and power can be seen as both a giant capable of imposing its will...and also as a benevolent big brother who chooses to insure that the will of the individual will not be arbitrarily abridged.

Cowboy diplomacy is a rich relic of our Old West history. It should remind us of where we've been and where we've arrived. An awareness of that journey should illuminate our growing commitment to civility; not our willingness to suspend it. In the end, we are strongest when our rational and reasoned restraint is the force by which the world finds the courage to reject and resist conflict. Each time a calamity is prevented because of it, America...and the world...grow even stronger.

America leads the world best when others choose to follow her on her journey to make it the best world she can lead. The future has patiently awaited her return. After eight long years, she must turn around and move forward. When she does, the world will once again follow.

Tagged as: Barack Obama, Cowboy Diplomacy, Gallup Poll, George Bush, Iran, Iraq, Islam, John McCain, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Daniel DiRito | June 2, 2008 | 6:00 PM | link | Comments (0)
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May 30, 2008

The Daily Show: Supporting The Troops Is Just A GOP Slogan genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Tongue-In-Cheek & Video-Philes

Ever since 9/11, the GOP has made a habit of flaunting their support for our troops...while also accusing their adversaries of not doing so. Each time a Democrat criticized the Bush administration's handling of the war in Iraq, questioned the merits of continuing the war, or voiced concerns with the huge costs to fund the war, their patriotism was questioned.

Times have apparently changed. The moment Democratic Senator Jim Webb submitted legislation to insure that support for the troops would include a much needed expansion of the educational benefits provided under the existing GI Bill, George Bush and John McCain are suddenly leading the opposition.

You see, the bottom line is political expediency. When supporting the troops can be exploited for partisan advantage, the GOP couldn't talk long enough and loud enough about their commitment to our troops. Now that support for our troops has been transformed into a tangible benefit, the president and his clone are both leading the charge to defeat the measure.

Truth be told, these current actions only reinforce the assertions of Scott McClellan, the president's former Press Secretary. McClellan, in his newly released book, tells us that this president frequently placed his focus on the partisan benefits of his actions. The fact that the troops were a pawn in his political arsenal seems to be clear at this juncture.

It's also increasingly evident that John McCain, the former straight-talking maverick, has opted to follow in the footsteps of his predecessor. Our troops and the American public cannot afford four more years of supporting the political ambitions of men like George Bush...and his well-trained lap dog...John McCain.

Tagged as: Barack Obama, George Bush, GI Bill, Jim Webb, John McCain, Jon Stewart, The Daily Show

Daniel DiRito | May 30, 2008 | 11:24 AM | link | Comments (0)
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May 28, 2008

Oy Vey: Donuts, Dogma, & A Damn Scarf genre: Hip-Gnosis & Just Jihad

If you haven't figured out the topic of this posting from the above title, let me be the first to tell you that the right leaning blogosphere is in an uproar over a scarf worn by Rachael Ray in a Dunkin' Donuts advertisement.

Here's the gist of the objection - the scarf looks similar to a "keffiyeh"...which is the type of scarf "polularized by Yassir Arafat and a regular adornment of Muslim Terrorists." Hence, blogs like Little Green Footballs, Atlas Shrugs, and Michelle Malkin...amongst others...decided to bring the offense to the attention of Dunkin' Donuts and ask for the advertisement to be pulled. Dunkin' obliged the request and explained that nothing malicious was intended by the inclusion of the scarf.

Look, had the scarf been utilized to make a political statement, one could argue that it was offensive and inappropriate. Clearly Dunkin' Donuts is in the business of making a profit and anything that might offend portions of their customer base isn't apt to be selected to appear in their marketing materials. Hence, inferring Dunkin' is guilty of anything more than an insensitivity to the diversity of their customer base would be, in my opinion, unreasonable.

I have no reason to doubt Dunkin's sincerity so I'll move on to the rhetoric of those who view the scarf as an opportunity to launch a veiled assault upon those who object to some of the actions of the Bush administration in the aftermath of 9/11.

Pardon my skepticism, but when I realized who was behind the protestations, the first thought that crossed my mind was that this was part of an endless effort to link every possible event with terrorism in the hopes that they will invoke the fear of a threat to our national security. No doubt much of the GOP's political success under George Bush results from efforts of this very nature.

In light of the fact that the GOP brand isn't highly regarded at the moment, my cynical side tells me that invoking terrorism and fear is evidence of some level of desperation...especially when it involves nothing more than donuts, a domestic diva, and a damn scarf.

Moving on, I decided to have some fun and highlight the hyperbole and the hysteria being broadcast on this particular topic by one of the blogosphere's biggest bloviators...Michelle Malkin. Always righteous and perpetually pedantic, Malkin is dogmatic in directing her derision towards all those who ignore her ideological incantations. As such, it only seemed appropriate to rename Dunkin' Donuts in deference to her defiant demagoguery.

With that said, I'm introducing Dogma's Donuts. They're divinely delectable, faithfully flavorful, and religiously ready at the crack of dawn. Stop by soon...Michelle is on standby to stuff you full of her Christian confections.

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Tagged as: 9/11, Atlas Shrugs, Christianity, Dogma, Dunkin' Donuts, Faith, Fear, GOP, Ideology, Intolerance, Islam, Keffiyeh, Little Green Footballs, Michelle Malkin, Muslim, Rachael Ray, Religion, Terrorism, Yassir Arafat

Daniel DiRito | May 28, 2008 | 4:45 PM | link | Comments (3)
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May 23, 2008

Are Those Opposed To GI Bill In Favor Of Stealth Conscription? genre: Econ-Recon & Just Jihad & Polispeak

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The passage of Senator Jim Webb's expansion of the GI Bill to provide expanded educational benefits highlights a topic most don't want to discuss. Since abolishing the draft and making service in the military voluntary, critics have argued that an inordinate number of the ranks are filled by those who lack other opportunities...including the ability to afford a college education. In other words, they contend that the election to join the military can often be a de facto economic decision.

When critics, like New York Representative Charlie Rangel, raise concerns that an inordinate number of new enlistments come from lower income families, those opposed to reinstating the draft accuse them of insulting our service people. Essentially, they contend the criticism impugns the patriotism of those who have volunteered to serve their country. If that deflection fails, they have also argued that the criticism insults the intelligence of military personnel by suggesting that those who serve in the military are uneducated.

That brings us back to the Senate's passage of the Webb bill. One of the redeeming benefits of the passage of time is that is frequently shines a bright light on hyperbole and hypocrisy. In what can only be seen as a reversal of logic, some of those who rejected the assertions of men like Charlie Rangel are now opposed to expanding the benefits provided by the GI Bill. Yes, they are now arguing that those expanded benefits might entice some service members to exit the military in order to take advantage of the educational benefits. In other words, given other and better opportunities, some members of the military might not want to continue serving.

Let me be clear. The patriotism of those who enlist has never been the issue and it wasn't for those who criticized the all volunteer army. Those who contended that it attracted individuals who lacked other opportunities always believed in the patriotism of those who enlisted...just as they will continue to believe in it should some service members elect to leave the military in order to utilize their expanded educational benefits.

Those who aligned with George Bush and John McCain in opposing this bill have simply exposed their inclination to make military service a matter of necessity. Voting to deny service members the same level of educational benefits that existed when the GI Bill was first passed is evidence that they recognize the differences between conscripted service and volunteer service. Why else would they not support a bill that would give volunteer service members the same benefits that were afforded to conscripted ones?

Truth be told, those opposed to this bill don't want to provide a plausible alternative to military service because they know that the decision to enlist is, in fact, often a decision of economic necessity because there is a lack of other opportunities for those whose families lack the means to send them to college.

Look, I don't object to the government using carrots to entice enlistment. The military can be the means to advance one's education that might not otherwise be possible. Regardless, choosing to deny former service members access to benefits that will reward their patriotism and service is a far more egregious act than to question the inequity of an all volunteer military.

So what is the message given by those who would deny these benefits? Well it clearly states that they favor a system that facilitates the enlistment of the economically disadvantaged and they certainly don't want to do anything that might take away the leverage that it provides. In other words, it tells our enlisted persons that we're happy to have them defend their country's commitment to freedom but we're opposed to providing them the opportunities that would grant them the opportunity to exercise that freedom.

While I'm not in favor of a draft, I am in favor of an honest discussion on the shortcomings of the existing all volunteer system. It seems entirely hypocritical for those who have attempted to ignore the contention that economic motivations may lead to the population of our military to now be speaking out against providing the very opportunities and alternatives that their adversaries have long suggested were lacking.

When Charlie Rangel suggests that a draft would make members of Congress think twice about sending American soldiers into harms way if they knew their own sons and daughters might have to serve, he's simply pointing out the same hypocrisy. In the end, if our volunteer military results from the fact that some individual's lack or are denied reasonable alternatives, then it is, in essence, a form of conscription.

If I didn't know better, I might conclude that those opposed to the expansion of the GI Bill are not only in favor of stealth conscription; they may actually be endorsing de facto enslavement...with pay...of course.

Tagged as: Barack Obama, Charlie Rangel, Conscription, Economics, Education, George Bush, GI Bill, Iraq, James Webb, John McCain, Military Draft, Patriotism, Socioeconomic, Underprivileged, Veto, Volunteer Military, War

Daniel DiRito | May 23, 2008 | 10:35 AM | link | Comments (0)
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May 13, 2008

George Bush Brings Out The Bogeyman One More Time genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak

FearFactorII.jpg

It was bound to happen. Despite the president's numerous statements that he doesn't want to wade into the 2008 election, his remarks today not only signal that he's reneged; they reflect his intention to employ the same tactic that he and the GOP used so successfully in the run up to the 2004 election. If you haven't already guessed, let's just say that it's time to scare the bejeebers out of the voters by raising the prospect of a terrorist attack should the Democrats prevail in November.

WASHINGTON - President Bush said Tuesday he was disappointed in "flawed intelligence" before the Iraq war and was concerned that if a Democrat wins the presidency in November and withdrew troops prematurely it could "eventually lead to another attack on the United States."

He acknowledged concerns about leaving the unfinished Iraq war to a Democratic successor. Both Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton have said they will bring troops home if elected.

Bush said his "doomsday scenario of course is that extremists throughout the Middle East would be emboldened, which would eventually lead to another attack on the United States."

This ominous message of potential doom comes from the same man who stood on an aircraft carrier nearly five years ago and declared "Mission Accomplished". I don't know about anyone else, but I'm still trying to figure out which George Bush we're supposed to believe...the one who thought the war in Iraq was a cake walk or the one who thinks the bogeyman is lurking around every corner.

Since I love metaphors, it's worth noting that the president's daughter was married at the family ranch in Texas over the weekend. While I wish her well in her marriage, unfortunately I can't say that America's eight year relationship with George W. Bush was all that successful. As is often stated when speaking about a troubled marriage, the honeymoon has been over for quite some time. I for one can't wait to part ways.

Tagged as: 2004 Election, 2008 Election, Barack Obama, Fear Mongering, George W. Bush, Hillary Clinton, Iraq, John McCain, Mission Accomplished, Terrorism

Daniel DiRito | May 13, 2008 | 6:37 PM | link | Comments (3)
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April 12, 2008

Do The New Ads By Hanes Make You Feel Good All Over? genre: Gaylingual & Just Jihad & Six Degrees of Speculation

Hanes used to tell us they would make us feel good all over. With the following ad campaign, one might question whether the underwear company has had a change of heart. The tagline states, "Because the world gives you enough tags" and it's intended to highlight Hanes' new line of tagless products. While the ads were produced in India and aren't scheduled to run in the U.S., they are certainly drawing the attention the ire...of a number of Americans. I certainly understand the reactions, though I'm not sure I fully concur with all of the criticisms.

Let me attempt an explanation by first asking a question. If acceptance emanates from understanding, can the former be achieved if the latter is ignored? Here's the point. Labels are a form of understanding...or in the case of prejudice...misunderstanding. Changing those misunderstandings...and therefore the beliefs (prejudices) that underlie the labels we apply...requires two things. First, there must be an open discussion of all that is incorporated into the conceptions (both good and bad) of those we seek to enlighten. Second, there must be an honest disclosure of the identity (both good and bad) we seek to substitute for the faulty, or more likely, incomplete perceptions.

In looking at the "Faggot" image, my first inclination was to apply my own version of a truth test. Hence, I wanted to know if the image represented any, all, or none of my understandings of being gay. Yes, the first thing I noticed was the word "Faggot"...and it would have been easy to allow this word...frequently used as a pejorative...to halt my thought process.

I didn't do that because I'm convinced that the word itself has no power or meaning. That can only be determined contextually. With that said, an understanding of the ads intent soon emerged as did an appreciation for the journey others (on the outside) must travel in order to comprehend the true essence of those who "wear" this label. The transformative process cannot otherwise begin.

The journey, by those who don't wear these labels, to achieve an acute awareness of those who do, requires an effort that must exceed the obtuse understandings of those who have made known their negative intentions when applying the label. While many complete this journey in spite of the dissonance, real community can only be achieved when the words and the intentions of all the parties becomes harmonious. Reaching that point of stasis can only be achieved when full understanding is realized. Unfortunately, that can only happen when and if it is sought.

Hence, the power or meaning behind these labels cannot be stripped away unless and until the motivations and misconceptions that bolster them can be removed or repaired. Therefore, efforts to forbid the labels circumvent the process necessary to alter the intentions and misunderstandings that corrupt or color them. Their absence from the vernacular has little, if any, correlation with extinguishing the hatred that remains virulent, though hidden and harbored...but perhaps no longer vocalized (at least in public).

We may think silence is solace but that is akin to believing the lamb can safely lie down with the lion without ever having reached the understandings that are required to enable it. Such an act must be predicated upon a mutual respect for the worth of the other...and therefore an acceptance of the right of the other...to exist. Absent that, peril will always persist and quiet must not be misconstrued to mean that cunning has suddenly been quelled.

Faggot, nigger, and paki are labels that appropriately perpetuate corresponding tags like homophobe, racist, bigot, and many more. The incendiary fuel that hides behind all of these words...ready to erupt...will only abate when both sides entertain and pursue transcendent understandings. While logic may tell the lamb it would be foolish to even imagine a direct discussion with the lion...it nonetheless instructs both parties that the primordial change is otherwise precluded.

In the end, the change we seek must be an action, not an admonition. The former moves us forward; the latter moves us apart. The faggot will lie down with the homophobe when the humanity that undoubtedly joins them is allowed to undo the doubts that divide them. In allowing that miraculous moment of awareness, one man can and will choose to lie with another...not as faggot and homophobe...but as nothing more than all we are...human beings. Only then will we all feel good all over.

The three images follow. If you click on the two smaller images, they will be opened as full size images comparable to the larger one that precedes them.

If you would like to see even larger images (far more readable detail is revealed), visit the following link and click on the images:

Ads Of The World

HanesFaggot.jpg

HanesPaki.jpg

HanesNigger.jpg

Tagged as: Bigotry, Gay, Hanes Underwear. LGBT, Homophobia, India, Labels, Prejudice, Racism

Daniel DiRito | April 12, 2008 | 3:17 PM | link | Comments (1)
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McLaughlin Group: Dancing In The Dark In Iraq? genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak

The following video contains a good discussion on the recent remarks of General Petraeus as well as George Bush's subsequent statements about the status of the war in Iraq. From the video, one quickly sees the disconnect between what the General believes and what the President wants the American public to accept as fact.

On the one hand, Petraeus tells us we haven't turned any corners, there is no light at the end of the tunnel, and the champaign has been pushed to the back of the refrigerator. On the other, the President paints a pretty picture of progress and probable victory in Iraq. The outstanding question remains, "Should we embrace the former or entertain the latter when determining our next course of action with regard to the troubled nation?"

History tells us the estimations of the Bush administration have been a colossal miscalculation. Healthy skepticism should therefore instruct us that the views of the General are apt to be closer to the truth. With that in mind, there is little reason to believe the war in Iraq is nearing an end or that it will result in a functional nation. Hence, everything else we are being told must be manufactured noise intended to keep us dancing in the dark. Whether it is the dance of the swans remains to be seen.

Tagged as: Eleanor Clift, General David Petraeus, George W. Bush, Iraq, John McLaughlin, Pat Buchanan, Troop Surge

Daniel DiRito | April 12, 2008 | 1:04 PM | link | Comments (0)
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April 10, 2008

Bush Puts Hold On Troop Cuts: Back To The Future? genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak

DocBrown.jpg

I was sure the writers strike had ended...but then I tuned in today to see the President repeating the same script he's been promoting for years...the one that suggests the war in Iraq will come to a happy ending...eventually.

One has to wonder whether those in charge of directing this production are engaged in an endless edit...locked in a hopeless power struggle to determine if this incursion into Iraq should be billed as a comedy or a tragedy. Regardless, it seems to me that they have mislabeled their latest episode. Rather than call the current act "The Surge", I think it might be best to have titled it "The Stall".

From The Associated Press:

WASHINGTON - President Bush on Thursday ordered an indefinite halt in U.S. troop withdrawals from Iraq after July, embracing the key recommendations of his top war commander. Bush said Gen. David Petraeus will "have all the time he needs" to consider when more American forces could return home.

Bush's decisions virtually guarantee a major U.S. presence in Iraq throughout his term in office in January, when a new president takes office.

Bush said U.S. forces have made major gains since he ordered a buildup of about 30,000 U.S. forces last year. "We have renewed and revived the prospect of success" the president said.

"While this war is difficult, it is not endless," Bush said in a message directed to troops, but surely to the American public as well.

The president said that only as conditions in Iraq improve will he bring more troops home, a policy he calls "return on success."

"The day will come when Iraq is a capable partner of the United States," Bush said. "The day will come when Iraq's a stable democracy that helps fight our common enemies and promote our common interests in the Middle East.

"And when that day arrives, you'll come home with pride in your success," Bush said to the military and U.S. civilians in Iraq.

BushCo's refusal to pull the plug on a war with woeful ratings and little hope of a salient story line mirrors the miscalculations of a network intent on running with a stagnant sitcom that is arguably well past its prime. Unfortunately, the BushCo "network" lacks a player with the willingness to open the window and shout out, "I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore".

Sadly, the war in Iraq isn't a situation where life imitates art...and George Bush isn't the equivalent of Michael J. Fox. Despite our President's many steps backwards, the future isn't apt to be altered or improved. The war in Iraq is akin to a movie most Americans would gladly exit despite the high cost of admission.

Unfortunately, that isn't an option we've been able to impose. Alas, we're left to watch and wait. Let's just hope the new director will insist upon the installation of a new program.

UPDATE:

I think the following video does a good job in describing the BushCo Iraq strategy as an endless war prosecuted on an installment plan...six months at a time.

Iraq: Six Months At A Time

Tagged as: Back To The Future, Doc Brown, General David Petraeus, George W. Bush, Iraq, Network, Troop Cuts, Troop Surge

Daniel DiRito | April 10, 2008 | 10:37 AM | link | Comments (0)
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April 3, 2008

You Decide: Are Americans Stupid? genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Tongue-In-Cheek & Video-Philes

It's one thing to be uneducated; it's another to be stupid. If a new report on drop out rates in major U.S. metropolitan cities is to be believed, fewer Americans are educated. If the following video represents a cross section of the United States, far to many Americans are also stupid. Taken together, they paint a frightening picture. It's a mixture that may well explain our diminishing economic advantage and it may also signal our waning relevance on the world stage.

From The Washington Post:

WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration announced Tuesday it will require states to report high school graduation rates in a uniform way instead of using a variety of methods that critics say are often based on unreliable information.

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings announced the change at a news conference at which a report was released showing that 17 of the nation's 50 largest cities had high school graduation rates lower than 50 percent.

Nationally, about 70 percent of U.S. students graduate on time with a regular diploma and about 1.2 million students drop out annually.

"When more than 1 million students a year drop out of high school, it's more than a problem, it's a catastrophe," said former Secretary of State Colin Powell, founding chair of the alliance.

Now take a look at the following video. While this piece was a tongue-in-cheek presentation aired on Australian television, it is difficult to ignore the subtle threads of truth that underly the humor.

When I traveled around the world in late 2004 and early 2005, it became apparent that many foreigners were beginning to mistrust the American public. Generally speaking, the message I received was that the world could excuse the unfortunate election of George Bush in 2000...but his reelection in 2004 had set in motion doubts about the electorate's judgment. Further, the prior willingness to separate the unpopular actions of the U.S. government from the generally positive perceptions of the average American was beginning to erode.

At the same time, I sensed a forgiving tone predicated upon America's long history as a force for good in the world. Notwithstanding, it was apparent that granting the benefit of the doubt would eventually come to an end if our trajectory remained the same.

While the 2006 election may have been viewed as a step in the right direction, I think it's safe to surmise that little has happened since my travels to reassure the rest of the world that a sea change has occurred. The seeming ineffectiveness of the Democrats to reduce or remove our troops from Iraq couldn't have been encouraging.

The world may well view 2008 as our defining moment. Should the American voter install a president who "stays the course", I would anticipate a much stronger backlash and an accelerated erosion of credibility.

In the end, it becomes a question of the meaning of freedom. America has always been a beacon for independent thought and the champion of the oppressed. If our actions in November appear to be an affirmation of the status quo and an acquiescence to conformity, I suspect we will not only be seen as uneducated and stupid; we will soon be relabeled as representative of a mindset that chooses dictation over diplomacy and preemption over persuasion.

If that should transpire, the world may rightly conclude that fear has become the catalyst that will lead a once fearless people to further embrace the suspension of freedom. Hopefully, most Americans are smarter than that. Only time...and the ballot box...will tell.

Tagged as: 2008, Australia, Diplomacy, Education, High School Drop Outs, Humor, Intelligence, Iraq, Israel, John Howard, Preemption, Tony Blair, War on Terror

Daniel DiRito | April 3, 2008 | 12:51 PM | link | Comments (0)
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March 21, 2008

The Surge, The Will Of The People, & Mission Accomplished genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak

Here in the United States, when we think of the troop surge in Iraq, we worry about the increasing number of troops who are being asked to participate in a war that seems to be endless. The Bush administration likes to tout the reduction in troop fatalities and a seeming decline in violence as evidence that the troop surge was warranted and is achieving its goal.

Unfortunately, there is more to the story...and the Guardian has a report that takes a look at the surge from the perspective of the tribes that have been enlisted to assist the U.S. in reducing the violence. According to the report, many of the Iraqis who signed up to assist the U.S. in quelling the violence and identifying al Qaeda sympathizers have yet to be paid for their efforts and are on the verge of a strike.

In his speech marking the fifth anniversary of the war George Bush highlighted the significance of what he called "the first large-scale Arab uprising against Osama bin Laden". Iraq, he said, "has become the place where Arabs joined with Americans to drive al-Qaida out."

But dozens of phone calls to Sahwa leaders reveal bitterness and anger. "We know the Americans are using us to do their dirty work and kill off the resistance for them and then we get nothing for it," said Abu Abdul-Aziz, the head of the council in Abu Ghraib, where 500 men have already quit.

"The Americans got what they wanted. We purged al-Qaida for them and now people are saying why should we have any more deaths for the Americans. They have given us nothing."

In Dora, a southern suburb of Baghdad, the leaders of a Sahwa group of 2,400 men said they were considering strike action because none of the 2,000 applicants they had put forward for jobs with the police and military had been accepted.

The Shia-dominated government of Nouri al-Maliki has found jobs for only a handful of the Sahwa fighters.

It seems to me that this situation demonstrates the fragile nature of the Iraqi situation. Yes, we can pay these people ten dollars daily to gain their support...but that simply points out the economic desperation of many Iraqis. I doubt the U.S. can sustain this recent success without the promise of ongoing payments...a fact that highlights just how tenuous the recent successes may be.

If we cannot continue to fund these "Awakening Councils" indefinitely, those who are participating will need to seek out other sources of income. I suspect that means two things. One, the success of the surge could instantly evaporate. Two, the underlying dynamics necessary to establish a stable and secure Iraq do not exist and may not be possible without a long term U.S. presence.

To be frank, we're simply taking advantage of people who are desperate for the means to survive. As such, should the U.S. cease supporting these individuals, they will be susceptible to the overture of others. Hence, the tribalism and sectarian strife that has plagued Iraq for many years is apt to resurface as soon as we attempt to scale back the measures that accompanied the surge.

The bottom line is that the surge has been a stopgap measure designed to buy the Bush administration the time and political cover to continue its ill-advised war. What lies beneath this facade is a fractious and fragmented society that currently lacks sustainable economic wherewithal and is struggling to find the political will to establish a functional nation.

The 2008 election is an opportunity for Americans to voice their political will. The war in Iraq will be a key consideration and it is critical that Americans have a clear understanding of the real conditions in Iraq as the next president will likely determine how much longer we will remain.

John McCain has recently sought to step back from his assertion that the United States may have to remain in Iraq for a hundred years. Those who believe that John McCain is a straight talking maverick who is willing to level with the American public must not forget his words. Political expediency may force him to modify his prediction, but there should be no doubt that McCain's resolve to remain in Iraq equals that of George Bush.

While I'm inclined to agree with the Senator that it may take decades to complete George Bush's mission in Iraq, I believe it is quite clear that it's a mission we shouldn't have undertaken. It's also a mission that must end. Neither George Bush or John McCain can will the Iraqi people to adopt the outcome we imagine would best serve our interests. Even if both men believe they can, reality should tell us we can't afford the cost.

The 2008 election is our opportunity to send an important message...a message of restoration that reconnects us with our defining principles. Consistent with the intentions of our founding fathers, it should be the will of the American people that determines whether the war in Iraq should proceed. Likewise, it must be the will of the Iraqi people that determines the defining principles that will guide their future. Only then will our mission be accomplished.

The following video was included as part of the Guardian article.

Tagged as: 2008 Election, al Qaeda, Awakening Councils, Baghdad, Diyala, George Bush, Iraq, John McCain, Troop Surge

Daniel DiRito | March 21, 2008 | 10:27 AM | link | Comments (0)
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March 7, 2008

The Colbert Report On FISA: The Word - AT & Treason genre: Just Jihad & Tongue-In-Cheek & Video-Philes

Steven Colbert takes on the battle over FISA and the Bush administration's demand that Congress pass the Protect America Act in order to insure the safety of all Americans. In this segment of "The Word", Colbert explains the meaning of "AT & Treason". Colbert, in his typically sarcastic schtick, blames the evil Democrats for delaying the passage of legislation that would grant the telco's the immunity they deserve.

He moves on to shows us the latest knockoff of the Clinton campaign's 3:00AM phone call ad...one he states was designed by the phone companies to effectively scare the crap out of us...by showing us just how frightening the telephone can be.

Tagged as: 3:00 AM, AT&T, Comedy, Fear, FISA, Hillary Clinton, Humor, Immunity, Politics, Protect America Act, Stephen Colbert, Terrorism

Daniel DiRito | March 7, 2008 | 2:08 PM | link | Comments (1)
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