Polispeak: June 2007: Archives

June 29, 2007

Bush Touts Surge...Sunni's Boycott Iraq Cabinet genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Juggling Blindfolded

Even if one assumes that the latest troop surge in Iraq has some merit (which I doubt), the prevailing issue remains that the various sectarian groups are no closer to crafting a workable government or ending their years of animosity. The latest example of this elephant in the room...one that the Bush administration can't or won't acknowledge...is the Sunni withdrawal from participation in the Iraqi cabinet.

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq's main Sunni Arab bloc said on Friday it was suspending its participation in cabinet because of legal steps being taken against one of its ministers, deepening the sectarian gulf between the country's politicians.

The Sunni Accordance Front has six cabinet posts and the move is a blow to Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki at a time when he is under U.S. pressure to push through laws aimed at reconciling majority Shi'ites and minority Sunni Arabs.

The bloc also suspended its participation in parliament a week ago over the ousting of speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, one of its members. The latest move effectively removes Sunni Arabs from the cabinet and parliament, leaving Shi'ites and Kurds.

"We have suspended our membership in the cabinet until the government puts an end to procedures being taken against Culture Minister Asaad Kamal Hashemi," the head of the bloc, Adnan al-Dulaimi, told Reuters by telephone from Amman.

While I have no way to judge whether the Sunni's were justified in their actions, if one thinks about our own government (one that American's often view as dysfunctional) and tries to imagine what similar event would elicit the withdrawal of a large block of high ranking politicians, I would speculate that it would be a far more egregious event. I draw the comparison to highlight the distance the Iraqi's must travel before they can be expected to have a functional government.

Until Iraq's sectarian groups place more value on establishing a consensus government than on settling scores or defending their cronies from legitimate scrutiny or sanction, there is little chance that they will succeed in implementing a security force. At the moment, one would be hard pressed to presume that the current security structure is anything more than an assemblage of soldiers and police officers that first and foremost honor their sectarian allegiances.

With an Iraqi security force well over 300,000 strong...in addition to the 160,000 U.S. troops...one would expect far more law and order and far less violence. Unfortunately, there are indications that the Iraqi security forces may simply be using their positions to further sectarian objectives. Whatever the case may be, security remains elusive.

Washington has been urging Iraq for months to pass major laws aimed at drawing Sunni Arabs more firmly into the political process. None of the drafts have reached parliament.

The laws deal with sharing revenues from Iraq's huge oil reserves more equitably, holding provincial elections and amending a ban on former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath party serving in the government and military.

U.S. President George W. Bush pleaded for patience for his Iraq strategy on Thursday as he scrambled to prevent further defections by fellow Republicans skeptical of his war strategy.

Perhaps I'm just a pessimist but if the various groups in the Iraqi government are bickering over how to conduct investigations into possible wrongdoing by fellow members of the government, what are the chances they can reach agreement on the distribution of oil revenues or any other critical issues.

While the Bush administration attempts to focus the American public on the need for the latest surge in U.S. troops, I'm of the opinion that the surge's success or failure is irrelevant so long as Iraq doesn't have a functional government. In the last four years we have heard a litany of explanations and excuses for the lack of progress.

I fear that this latest surge and the associated campaign to persuade American's to stay the course will only be followed by an admission that Iraq simply lacks the wherewithal and the will to step in and assume responsibility for the country's security.

I hope I'm wrong but in the end I'm awfully thankful that I'm not George Bush or a supporter of his Iraq strategy. If my instincts are right, and the situation goes from bad to worse, the president and his apologists are in for an even rougher period of voter unrest. When that happens, look for many of the remaining Republican members of congress to jump ship.

Daniel DiRito | June 29, 2007 | 1:46 PM | link | Comments (0)
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June 28, 2007

Ann Coulter: A Symptom Of A Larger Ailment genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Ann Coulter

In the past week, Ann Coulter has once again made her way to the center stage…the place from which she likes to spin her tasteless diatribes against everyone and everything she elects to associate with the Democratic Party and Liberalism.

In Coulter’s most recent appearances, she succeeded in wishing that John Edwards be killed by a terrorist assassin…an attack she offered to substitute for her prior controversial statement that John Edwards was a faggot…one that drew harsh criticism from both the left and the right. She also suggested that Edward's work as an attorney had bankrupted good doctors and prevented them from delivering babies.

Coulter has drawn ample criticism for her latest screeds, but I believe the issue is much larger than a brazen blond in a dress far too short for a boney legged woman who is in her fifth decade of life (OK, I apologize for the ad hominem rant but if Coulter isn't deserving, then who is?).

In all seriousness, while she has earned all of the criticism directed her way, she is simply a symptom of a far wider disorder. The core problem is that her brand of tabloid trash talk has broad appeal. It speaks to hatreds that were suppressed by the civil rights movement in the 60’s and early 70’s…a movement that virtually shamed bigots into silence though it likely failed to change as many hearts as we may have hoped.

Her willingness to say what others are thinking has made her the cause celeb for a group of hatemonger’s who have decided its safe to come out of the closet. It’s an interesting dynamic for a group that is primarily misogynistic. Ironically, Coulter's supporters and apologists haven't tagged her with either the “b" word or the “c" word monikers that they frequently attach to prominent and powerful women…a feat accomplished because she routinely attacks the same women these individuals dislike.

When she attacks these powerful women (and the men who don’t embrace the perpetuation of a gender driven status of privilege) she not only appeals to a distinctly defined male demographic, but also to the women that are trapped in a generational pattern of male dominance.

Pejoratively speaking, she serves as their female Uncle Tom…a co-opted woman who is willing to do their bidding (for a handsome fee). The dynamic is such that her attacks meet with the approval of men who would otherwise frown upon an assertive and acerbic woman. In many ways, they realize that she is the ideal candidate to champion their agenda…the ideal bait and switch if you will.

A blond white Anglo male of Coulter’s same age and ethnicity simply couldn’t get the coverage she receives as well as the free pass she coerces with her sensual shtick…an act aimed at mainstream media pundits like Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly…men who are also predominantly white males that view sitting shoulder to shoulder with the vituperate vixen as an ego enhancing pseudo-sexual encounter…something to talk about over beers with other good old boys who languish in their own loofah lathered fantasies while objectifying women.

In some bizarre way, Coulter is a blessing in that she has been the catalyst which has served to illuminate a dormant, though festering fraternity of ebullient bigots who seek to normalize bias and demonize diversity. She is their mouthpiece and their megaphone.

Coulter hits all the hot buttons…she assails terrorism by calling Islam a “car-burning cult"…she talks about immigration with derogatory stories of illegal drug smuggling Mexicans…she has asserted that Bill Clinton is gay and that John Edwards is a faggot…she argued that there should be a literacy test and a poll tax for people to vote…she suggested that women should be armed but not able to vote.

When speaking about the 9/11 women who opposed the war in Iraq, she contended that they were enjoying their husbands deaths…she accuses liberals of hating America, flag-wavers, abortion opponents, and all religions except Islam after the 9/11 attacks…and she said her only regret with Timothy McVeigh was that he didn’t choose to bomb the New York Times Building.

Reality tells us that nothing is more attractive than words of hatred to a bigot…and if one were to think of Coulter as a magnet, she puts out a polarity that instantly unites her with virtually all things bigoted. That occurrence simply demonstrates that Coulter and her vitriol flourish because of the symbiosis that exists between her and her fanatical followers.

In that regard, Coulter is simply the ugly oozing wound through which the poison of a larger disease escapes its incubation chamber...a chamber filled with hatred and fomented by the flagrant face that she is able to attach to the insidious ailment of animosity and anger at all things anathema.

Silencing Coulter may make a number of her detractors happy but it will not expunge the disease from the body that it inhabits...a collective of citizens that would likely prefer a return to the times that preceded the civil rights era...a time when vigilante justice and the power of the posse mentality meted out justice on the branch of the nearest tree or through the barrel of a gun.

I have the utmost respect for Elizabeth Edwards and she, in my opinion, represents all things antithetical to Ann Coulter. I don't begrudge her efforts to confront Coulter during her hostile appearance with Chris Matthews...but I suspect that doing so only emboldens Coulter’s supporters and enables them to make Edwards the object of their toxic tirades.

In so noting, I would suggest that it should inform and guide us to reconnect with the only strategy that can serve to muzzle Coulter and her ilk...a strategy that refuses to give recognition to their untenable ideations and uses the power of group rejection and shaming to force them into silent retreat.

Its simple things like voicing disgust when her name is mentioned or when she appears on television...in order to make sure that one's disdain is heard by those nearby. It’s being heard making a comment in the bookstore when passing a Coulter book display...asking why anybody would buy such trumped up trash.

The strategy should be to make her and her followers pariahs...people to avoid...people to ignore...people that become identified as out of touch and out of the mainstream...people clinging to antiquated hatreds that are born of ignorance. The goal should be to shift her status from celebrity to notoriety...to label her...not in the same way she sets out to label all that she dislikes...but to label her as unacceptable, embarrassing, and ridiculous.

When identifying with Coulter is seen as an asinine alliance and an indication of ignorance, she will become inconsequential and her power will evaporate. The objective should be to establish a distinction between celebrity and notoriety whereby notoriety is a scourge; not a badge of honor.

Accolades and acclamation ought to be reserved for celebrity…celebrity that has at its core the betterment of society or at the very least a contribution that isn’t a detriment. Notoriety should have consequences…a far different outcome and one that shouldn’t reward inappropriate behavior but should instead relegate the notorious to a place of obscurity and insignificance.

In our instant gratification society, we thrive on the latest and greatest breaking story…and the more outrageous; the more we tend to indulge our appetites. We have accepted the notion that all publicity is good publicity…meaning that we have enabled the construct that fame and fortune will likely flow from every tragedy and every misdeed. Celebrity is no longer just the domain of those doing good deeds…in fact; it’s now as likely to be associated with horrific acts and horrible behavior.

Until we break this cycle, people like Ann Coulter will garner the spotlight and have a platform to connect with other ill-intentioned and ill-mannered agitators. As long as she and others like her are given celebrity status, the hatred they espouse will reinforce the mechanisms by which it has been, and will continue to be, perpetuated.

The power of a civil society lies in its ability to will those inclined to bad behavior into at least a reconsideration of that behavior…and at best a recognition that such actions would facilitate their being ostracized…thereby hopefully serving to extinguish the motivations and their bad behavior.

It’s by no means a perfect equation as there will always be miscreants that cannot or will not be rehabilitated. Nonetheless, it is safe to say that the equation we’ve recently adopted is an unmitigated failure that has the potential to unravel what remains of the fabric that has held us together in spite of our many differences.

Ann Coulter is the equivalent of a caustic solvent…a sharpened seam ripper…and she has as her goal to disassemble in order to denigrate. Hers’ is an equation of destruction premised upon the principle that division properly manipulated in fact serves to multiply. However, unlike the biblical story of Jesus multiplying the loaves and fishes in order to serve more humanity to more humans, Coulter seeks to multiply the hatred necessary for one group to seek dominion over all others.

Her book, Godless: The Church Of Liberalism is nothing more than the recipe by which she seeks to bring her plan to fruition. She is akin to the rogue angels that sought status over stability despite god’s original promise of bounty for all. In the many biblical fables, the clear instruction was that when humanity is torn asunder against itself, it will never achieve its potential. Coulter’s fable offers no such instruction and its title is nothing more than a projection of her misguided motivations.

In this human existence that we all share, our capacity for good is matched by our free will to choose evil. The challenge of humanity is to recognize that so long as one human is pitted against another; there will only be turmoil and torment…making it incumbent upon a majority of humans to choose to align with goodness and to elect to shun those who seek to divide. Our destiny is ours to determine. Our determination must be to let no human keep us from our destiny.

Image courtesy of www.salon.com

Daniel DiRito | June 28, 2007 | 10:27 PM | link | Comments (2)
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Immigration Bill Fails: Tick Tock, Tick Tock... genre: Econ-Recon & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Eleventh Hour

If one sought to characterize the implementation of U.S. policy on immigration, it might be safe to conclude that the old economic adage of laissez-faire is the most appropriate moniker. That is not to say that the law books are void of any legislation...plenty of laws exist. So where does that leave us? It leaves us with only one outstanding question, "Why do we have an immigration problem and what do we want to do about it?"

Finding the answer to that question may be a task we're not prepared to tackle...and if the latest vote in the Senate is any indication, it seems clear that our elected officials have chosen silence over solutions. Recall that the last time our elected officials confronted immigration in a comprehensive manner was in 1986. Twenty plus years and an estimated 12 to 20 million illegal's later, and we haven't yet found the wherewithal to try again.

From The Washington Post:

The most dramatic overhaul of the nation's immigration laws in a generation was trounced this morning by a bipartisan filibuster, with the political right and left overwhelming a coalition of Republicans and Democrats who had been seeking compromise on one of the most difficult social and economic issues facing the country.

Opponents of the bill painted the fight as a battle between the people of the United States against a government that has grown insensitive to an illegal immigrant invasion that threatens the fabric of the nation. Proponents said the Senate had succumbed to the angry voices of hate, venom and racism.

Conservatives saw the measure as amnesty for law breakers who had sneaked into the country. The ACLU objected to provisions that denied immigrants many legal rights. And labor unions saw its guest worker program as a license for big business to import cheap labor and drive down wages.

Even Latino organizations were split, with the League of United Latin American Citizens saying the guest worker program and new green card system were too punitive to support, while the National Council of La Raza pleaded with lawmakers to keep the legislation alive while its lobbyists sought changes.

My fascination with psychology and the human condition...what makes us tick...leads me to the following observations...observations that paint a woeful picture of a nation in turmoil and unable...no, make that unwilling...to find a middle ground.

Disassemble the debate anyway you want but there are only a handful of plausible explanations for what exists...a stalemate of competing goals and outcomes. Allow me to suggest that what we have witnessed is nothing more than a culmination of our self-interest, self-serving, self-centered society...a blatant demonstration of the “me first" obsession coming home to roost.

Let me explain by way of an example that is not associated with immigration...yet one that is fully related in its ability to provide an understanding of the problem. First, let me be clear that I am not offering this example to endorse Michael Bloomberg as a presidential candidate. I simply agree with his observation and I contend it speaks to the immigration issue and many others.

From USA Today:

NEW YORK — New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who became an independent last week, showed his non-partisan colors Wednesday by criticizing both political parties.
Bloomberg, who left the GOP and is asked almost daily about running for president, said Wednesday that neither the Republican nor Democratic Party "stands for anything."

"There isn't any philosophy" for either party, he said after a speech on improving public schools.

Bloomberg has repeatedly expressed frustration with Congress, saying lawmakers favor partisanship over progress and have failed to deal with immigration, health care or education.

"Party discipline requires you to make decisions based on what's good for the party rather than what the merits are of the piece of legislation before you," he said.

"I don't think I disagree with what any national party stands for, because I don't think that either national party stands for anything," he said.

Party platforms exist only "to give (the media) something to write about in the middle of a boring convention," he said.

There's an Old Italian saying that posits, "When a fish goes bad, it starts with the head." Let me attempt to draw the connections. What Bloomberg is alluding to is a lack of leadership...the end result of an evolutionary process whereby self-interest makes its way to the highest levels of society such that public service is no longer part of the equation. Every decision and every determination ends up being filtered through the prism of individually driven aspirations and objectives.

History tells us that the essence of government is the social contract...an agreement whereby the individual subrogates self-interest in order to establish cohesion through the establishment of a system of governance...one that can accommodate differing beliefs while still remaining impartial and equitable. Those who agree to the social contract do so knowing full well that decisions won't always serve one's self-interest but they believe that the elected caretakers will act fairly and in the best interest of the state or nation as a whole (the greater good)...avoiding preferential treatment and bias.

Coming back to immigration, I'm simply arguing that our leadership (the two parties) is so entrenched in the politics of self-interest that the welfare of the society (the greater good) is no longer the primary consideration. At the same time, the leadership has simply come to mirror the society...a society that has devolved into the machinations and minutiae of "what's in it for me?"

Politicians want to stay in power and to do so they need to appeal to their constituents as well as raise cash from corporations and interest groups. The problem is there isn't any real voter consensus for politicians to cater to. Some Americans see illegal immigrants taking their jobs...some see them as cheap labor...some see them racially as Mexicans that they don't like...some see them as more votes for the Democrats...some see them as a burden on social programs...some see them as contributors to social programs that they won't be able to benefit from due to their illegal status.

Strange as it may seem the existing immigration problem is the ironic result of all of this focus on self-interest. While everyone is jockeying to have there way, more and more immigrants have and will cross the border. In each group’s intransigent demand that they get what they want, all that is facilitated are more illegal immigrants and a compounding of the problem...making it far more complicated to resolve.

Even more disconcerting is the realization that altering the existing dynamic requires wholesale change...change that once again must originate with the individual being willing to subrogate self-interest for the benefit of the society as a whole...and that then has to percolate upward into individuals who want to lead because they accept and honor the benefits of the social contract and the cohesion it can bring to a society.

That will take time...time we may not have. That may mean we need a sea change event...a group awakening that includes a willingness to step back from self-interest in order to preserve the state...one that accepts less for the individual in order to reaffirm our commitment to preserving the social contract...the mechanism whereby equity and impartiality are given more value than individual interests.

Time moves forward...more immigrants cross the border...tick tock, tick tock...

Daniel DiRito | June 28, 2007 | 11:14 AM | link | Comments (0)
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June 27, 2007

Distrust Of U.S. Grows: How Low Can We Go? genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Doubting Thomas

To say that the foreign policy of the Bush administration defies logic is to presume that it had its origin in a rational, reasonable, and logical dialogue...a premise that may not be sustainable. Looking at the current status of our foreign policy efforts and the impression of its effectiveness held by other nations, one might well conclude that regardless of whatever the initial due diligence, it is time for a wholesale reevaluation.

In the latest Pew Research Center survey, distrust of the United States continues to grow...primarily as a result of a foreign policy that is viewed to be arrogant and arbitrary.

In one measure of Bush's unpopularity, the poll showed he is less trusted on foreign policy than Russian President Vladimir Putin by allies Britain, Germany and Canada, even as faith in Putin has plummeted. About half in the U.S. say they have little or no trust in either leader's conduct of foreign affairs.

Bush's sagging numbers partly reflect widespread opposition to the U.S. war in Iraq. Of the countries surveyed - which included the U.S. - more people favored the removal of American forces from Iraq in all but Israel, Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya.

"Even though there is a mixed view of the United States around the world, there is increasing disapproval of the principal cornerstones of our foreign policy," said Pew President Andrew Kohut.

Yet wide-ranging majorities think the U.S. does not consider their interests when formulating foreign policy; worry that U.S. customs are hurting their countries; and think the U.S. contributes to the gap between rich and poor nations.

As the U.S. has waged its war on terrorism over the past five years, its overall image has worsened. It has dropped from 75 percent favorable in Britain in 2002 to 51 percent now; from 60 percent to 30 percent in Germany; and from 64 percent to 56 percent in Mexico.

The report also found:

-While views of American people have gotten worse in many countries, they are generally better liked than the U.S. itself.

From the Pew Research Center:

Global Image

The most glaring piece of data is the fact that since 2002, twenty-six countries have a less favorable view of the United States. The key fact to recall is that following September 11, 2001, the United States was seen as an aggrieved nation with wide support and sympathy for the losses sustained in the terrorist attacks. In less than six years, the image of the U.S. has undergone a wholesale reversal. The nation with the moral high ground has followed a foreign policy agenda that has done little more than to tarnish its image.

While the data doesn't directly speak to the reasons, I would suggest that a large number of respondents simply don't view our efforts to have been effective in reducing the threat of terrorism and they likely view our invasion of Iraq coupled with our inability to bring security and stability to the nation as an accelerant for extremist ideology and animosity.

Instead of maintaining our image as a force for good and an honest broker in the international arena, our actions have planted the seeds of doubt that we can be impartial. No doubt there are concerns that we have taken advantage of our status as the singular superpower...becoming a bully that is inclined to actions that focus on augmenting our authority and demanding that other less formidable nations comply.

The fact that the Bush administration chose to ignore the Palestinian leadership rather than continuing to seek a lasting resolution simply heightened concerns that the United States was no longer focused on acting equitably and with the best interest of all the parties in any given conflict around the world. While those perceptions may not be fully accurate, the rhetoric used by the Bush administration has failed to assuage the concerns; serving to add fuel to an already smoldering suspicion.

Despite the generally negative data, Americans can be encouraged that those surveyed were able to distinguish the actions of the U.S. government apart from their impressions of our citizenry...a sign that with new leadership our image should be able to rebound as quickly as it deteriorated. I know I'm not alone in hoping that will soon be the case.

Image courtesy of anti-corporation.blogspot.com

Daniel DiRito | June 27, 2007 | 12:34 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Understanding The Damage Done By Alberto Gonzales genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Blind Justice

American's have heard ample analysis on the role of Alberto Gonzales and how his actions have impacted civil liberties and the established rules of law in the United States, but the op-ed piece by Joel Connelly in the Seattle Post Intelligencer may be one of the most thoughtful. Connelly takes the time to look beyond the momentary ramifications and towards the long term considerations of the Attorney General's disregard for the concept of justice.

In a 1994 alumni banquet speech at the UW Law School, the late U.S. District Judge William Dwyer quoted a famous gloomy line from Yeats -- "Things fall apart; the center cannot hold."

He then suggested that America has a "center" that holds the country together. "That center is the rule of law," Dwyer said. "By the rule of law, I do not just mean law and order, although that is important, but much more.

"I mean equality before the law, access to the law and freedom under the law. I mean the jury system, the Bill of Rights, constitutional liberty and justice provided through a fair, honest and open court system."

I wrote yesterday about a new poll that surveyed American's view of major institutions in the United States...a survey that indicated people did not view the justice system with much confidence...even though they did rate the police and the military highly. Looking at this data in conjunction with Dwyer's observations, one begins to see the damage done by an Attorney General that has diminished the core components of our view of justice.

American citizens have been held without access to counsel, let alone the jury system.

The federal government has, without warrants, intercepted telephone communications to and from the United States -- in direct violation of a law passed by Congress setting down procedures for obtaining warrants.

What has been the role of Gonzales, nicknamed "Fredo" by the president? As White House counsel, and now attorney general, he has played the roles of both knave and fool, serving as an enabler for Dick Cheney and Karl Rove, and then claiming he can't remember the details.

"Fredo" signed a famous 2002 memo to Bush on the treatment of so-called enemy combatants. It described provisions of the Geneva Convention as "quaint," and dismissed then-Secretary of State Colin Powell as a defender of "obsolete" rules on the treatment of prisoners.

The real author apparently was David Addington, legal adviser to the vice president. Along with others in a tight-knit group of White House lawyers, "Fredo" undermined and went over the heads of Cabinet secretaries. Powell was cut out of the memo's circulation, and would read about it in the press.

The legal gang did some famous redefining, such as casting "torture" as actions of "equivalent intensity" to "the pain of organ failure or even death."

It seems to me that what Connelly is describing is the pride one has in one's system of governance or justice...pride that emanates from one's sense of the equity it affords to all it touches. People that are proud of their affiliations generally believe in the decency and civility of the organization or institution with which they are associated.

The actions of the Attorney General have, in my opinion, led a number of Americans to shy away from embracing or touting our justice system. Many Americans now equate it with those governments we have criticized for years as arbitrary and dictatorial...systems reserved for cloistered and clandestine societies that first and foremost serve the goals of those who hold power...regardless of any true measures of fair and equitable treatment.

A curious reversal of roles has taken place in America, notably over the past seven years.

"Conservatism" once stood for checks and balances, restraint on what Lyndon Johnson's critics called "the imperial presidency," and the principle that government works best when closest to the people.

Bush-era conservatism means unchecked presidential power. Authorities have the right to run roughshod over the individual in the interest of "security" or, in an opinion this week by Chief Justice John Roberts, to "protect those entrusted in their care."

As the Aesopian justifications pile up, one turns to Dwyer for the antidote, only in this case a warning.

"George Orwell showed us brilliantly how freedom depends on the integrity of language: If words are debased, the liberties that are sustained by words are in peril," he told the Washington Library Association.

"In the late 20th century, there is a disturbing trend toward the debasement of language, as well as toward a reliance on symbols and catch phrases."

The "other" Washington is, increasingly, an Orwellian place of twisted language and wars by proxy. As in Iraq, the casualties are those of lower ranks.

Cheney gets angry about Ambassador Joseph Wilson's editorial, and retaliates by "outing" Wilson's CIA agent wife, Valerie Plame. What happens? Scooter Libby is convicted, Cheney carries on. "Fredo" fires a bunch of U.S. attorneys for improper reasons. The consequences? Virtually all of his top deputies resign under pressure. Gonzales goes free.

The imagery is that of a banana republic that crafts its rules on the fly...dependent upon the amount of information that may seep into the purview of the masses either by accident or by dissent of those who still maintain higher ideals. Its the wizard who thinks he remains behind the curtain while pulling the levers to suit his fancy...all the while rationalizing his actions primarily because he has set out to create a system in which he and his cohorts cannot be challenged.

What remains to be seen is the degree to which the American electorate will reject this intentionally amorphous approach to justice. If the data reported yesterday is accurate, one thing is certain...Americans are increasingly disenchanted with the apparent malleability and manipulation that they perceive exists in many of their established institutions.

The most recent example is that of the Vice President's assertion that he isn't part of the executive branch and therefore sits alone and autonomous outside of the presidential order that dictates and details the handling of classified documents. Not surprisingly, the White House quickly launched a litany of labored language to defend the Vice President...leaving many Americans further questioning whether this administration has any limits upon its efforts to obfuscate.

The warnings offered by Dwyer and Orwell are noteworthy. I am remiss to recall a prior time when language was so intentionally crafted and corrupted to serve the goals and objectives of those in power. 2008 will provide the voting public with an opportunity to issue a clear and concise rebuttal...one that can be spoken, measured, and delivered as an unmitigated rejection of the status quo...one that can begin to restore the confidence necessary to "hold the country together".

Daniel DiRito | June 27, 2007 | 8:34 AM | link | Comments (2)
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June 26, 2007

The Pendulum Swings: Young Voters Lean Democratic genre: Gaylingual & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Left And Right

When talking about the weather in a number of locales, one often hears the expression, "If you don't like the weather, give it a few minutes and it will change." Politics seems to be a much slower process that is even less predictable...but one thing is certain...the principle of the pendulum will always remain a significant factor. The latest New York Times/CBS News/MTV poll tells us that an inevitable shift may be emerging.

Young Americans are more likely than the general public to favor a government-run universal health care insurance system, an open-door policy on immigration and the legalization of gay marriage, according to a New York Times/CBS News/MTV poll. The poll also found that they are more likely to say the war in Iraq is heading to a successful conclusion.

More than half of Americans between 17 and 29 years old — 54 percent — say they intend to vote for a Democrat for president in 2008. They share with the public at large a negative view of President Bush, who has a 28 percent approval rating with this group, and of the Republican Party. They hold a markedly more positive view of Democrats than they do of Republicans.

At a time when Democrats have made gains after years in which Republicans have dominated Washington, young Americans appear to lean slightly more to the left than the general population: 28 percent described themselves as liberal, compared with 20 percent of the nation at large. And 27 percent called themselves conservative, compared with 32 percent of the general public.

Forty-four percent said they believed that same-sex couples should be permitted to get married, compared with 28 percent of the public at large. They are more likely than their elders to support the legalization of possession of small amounts of marijuana.

By a 52 to 36 margin, young Americans say that Democrats, rather than Republicans, come closer to sharing their moral values, while 58 percent said they had a favorable view of the Democratic Party, while 38 percent said they had a favorable view of Republicans.

By any measure, the poll suggests that young Americans are anything but apathetic about the presidential election. Fifty-eight percent said they are paying attention to the campaign. By contrast, at this point in the 2004 presidential campaign, 35 percent of 18-to-29-year-olds said they were paying a lot or some attention to the campaign.

It remains to be seen if one of the candidates can capitalize on the traditionally idealistic tenets that this age group is likely to embrace. The poll suggested that there is enthusiasm for universal health care and a liberal immigration policy as well as the legalization of gay marriage. Responders also indicated they would support a woman or a black candidate for president...signs that clearly provide an opportunity for Senator Clinton and Senator Obama.

These voters are also paying far more attention to the upcoming 2008 presidential election than the same age group did in 2004...a very favorable trend for the Democratic nominee. Of potential concern to Democrats is this group’s belief that the war in Iraq will have a favorable outcome.

I'm of the opinion that this should signal Democrats to do more than oppose the war; they need to offer constructive alternatives that may bring a positive end to an otherwise negative situation. While that may be difficult to achieve, it would behoove the Democrats to explore a proposal being offered by Senator Biden whereby Iraq is partitioned into three autonomous political entities with some loosely established national structure.

Such a plan might allow the U.S. to begin withdrawing troops and shifting responsibility for success to the people of Iraq...a plan that might at least provide a more palatable conclusion to the U.S. effort. If implemented, it may solidify independent voter support for the Democratic nominee as well...a key factor to the success of the Democrats in 2006.

Image courtesy of www.thechiefsource.com

Daniel DiRito | June 26, 2007 | 8:36 PM | link | Comments (0)
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June 23, 2007

George W. Bush & John McCain: A Tale Of Two Fools genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Why Do Fools Fall In Love?

Is it any wonder that George W. Bush has the lowest approval ratings since Richard Nixon? This President has pursued his vision of Iraq for over four years despite numerous signs and signals that it was an exercise in futility. His most recent stab at salvaging Iraq has been his highly touted surge...the addition of some 30,000 U.S. soldiers...and it too, is beginning to look like a miscalculation.

With the surge fully implemented, once again we are hearing that the troop level may not be sufficient to bring stability to the war torn country and that it is likely that the sectarian and insurgent violence will simply shift to regions of the country that are not secure...a la the notorious game of whack-a-mole we've been playing since the outset.

As the U.S. offensive, code-named Phantom Thunder, has been greeted with a week of intensified fighting in areas outside the capital -- areas that the U.S. military has largely left untouched for as long as three years -- the push raised fears from security experts and officers in the field that the new attacks might simply propel the enemy from one area to another where there are not as many U.S. troops.

Retired Army Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey, who in 2003 was among the first to call public attention to the relatively small size of the U.S. invasion force, said that the new operation shows how outnumbered U.S. troops remain. "Why would we think that a temporary presence of 30,000 additional combat troops in a giant city would change the dynamics of a bitter civil war?" he said in an interview yesterday. "It's a fool's errand."

An officer working in Arrowhead Ripper, the subsidiary offensive in Diyala province, said wearily, "We just do not have the forces in country right now to have the appropriate level of presence across the country."

Many counterinsurgency experts agree. Andrew F. Krepinevich Jr., the director of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a national security think tank, said flatly that Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, does not have enough troops. "I suspect General Petraeus is taking a risk here, but that's what commanders do," he said.

I keep coming back to the original assessment by General Shinseki, the general who was forced into early retirement after arguing that it would take 300,000 U.S. troops to bring security and keep the peace after the toppling of the Hussein government. At what point are we going to admit that it would still take something closely approaching that number to achieve our goal of securing the country?

Senator McCain, one of the last staunch supporters of the president's Iraq war, has time and again admitted that we made a number of mistakes in the early stages of the war...yet he seems to be suggesting that we've ceased making those same mistakes. I believe Senator McCain was the first person to use the term whack-a-mole when describing our undermanned effort...yet he now contends that the surge is the right thing...despite evidence that there will not be enough troops to secure and hold the peace. Is it any wonder that McCain's campaign is struggling?

There is a tendency to presume that voters don't take the time to understand the nuances of any particular problem and that Iraq is simply one of those problems. I would argue that the voting public has understood the issues in Iraq for far longer than they have been given credit...and their waning support for Senator McCain simply represents their recognition of his inconsistent and insufficient analysis of the Iraq war...and his sellout to win the President's favor.

The issue of the number of troops has dogged the Bush administration and its generals since before the war began. Retired Gen. Colin L. Powell, then secretary of state, told Gen. Tommy R. Franks in September 2002 -- seven months before the U.S. invasion -- there were not enough troops in the war plan. Most famously, Gen. Eric K. Shinseki, then the Army's chief of staff, told a congressional hearing a month before the assault that the plan did not call for a sufficiently large occupation force.

"I believe we have enough U.S. troops for this specific operation," said a U.S. military strategist there, referring to Phantom Thunder. "I do not believe we've ever had enough troops to do all of the tasks we should be doing in Iraq."

One of Petraeus's nerviest gambles is that enemy fighters will not be able to move and disrupt other areas. The biggest concern for U.S. commanders is the big northern city of Mosul, where insurgents counterattacked the last time the U.S. military conducted an operation this size, in November 2004. That is especially worrisome because the United States now has only one battalion of about 1,000 troops stationed there, far fewer than were there then.

"For the control and retain phases, we will need reliable Iraqi security forces in sufficient numbers," said Lt. Col. Douglas A. Ollivant, a senior Army planner in Baghdad. "There are clearly not yet enough reliable forces."

Iraqi security forces are "the weak link," said counterinsurgency expert Krepinevich. The Iraqi government is so factionalized that Iraqi forces remain largely ineffective, he explained: "This is the principal weak spot in our strategy -- and I'm afraid it may be fatal."

A senior commander in Iraq, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said that U.S. plans do not call for holding cleared areas.

Perhaps I'm dense, but the only thought that comes to mind when reading an analysis of this latest strategy is, "Been there, done that". How many times are we going to go into an area, kill and capture some low level insurgents, hand the ongoing security effort over to the woeful Iraqi security forces, then watch the insurgency return again?

George Bush may be a man of conviction but he wouldn't be the first man whose convictions made him nothing more than a stubborn fool. I'm not sure how far George Bush would go to avoid an admission of failure or a concession that others were right and that he and his neocon cronies were wrong...but it appears he's nowhere near his limit...and he's racking up the casualties to prove it.

John McCain used to present himself as a man of conviction (and I occasionally thought he was) until he decided he needed George Bush to anoint him to be his successor. Since that moment, John McCain has not only lost his standing as a man of conviction, he has proven that George Bush has no monopoly on foolishness...though Senator McCain appears to be the type of fool reserved for someone who sells out in hopes of a bigger prize. Regardless, I have to hand it to Senator McCain...he may have demonstrated that it’s possible to be a fool's fool.

Daniel DiRito | June 23, 2007 | 10:39 AM | link | Comments (7)
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Keith Olbermann On Cheney's Stealth Vice Presidency genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Keith Olbermann takes a look at White House spokesperson Dana Perino's explanation that Dick Cheney's role is unique. Perino and the White House have sought to downplay the refusal of the Vice President to honor an executive order with regards to the National Archives oversight of classified material.

In typical fashion, the White House has offered piecemeal commentary while avoiding any real defining statement on the intent of the executive order and how it might relate to the Vice President. No surprises here...when you write the rules as you go, this is what it looks like.

Daniel DiRito | June 23, 2007 | 9:39 AM | link | Comments (0)
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June 21, 2007

Dick Cheney: Not A Patriot...Barely An American genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

My initiation into the world of politics took place at the age of five while riding in a car with my dad to Safeway and hearing that the President, John Kennedy, had been shot. From that day forward, I became enthralled with the governance of this great nation.

When Robert Kennedy was campaigning, I watched every speech and every report on the various primaries. My parents made me go to bed before the winner of the California primary was announced and when I awoke the next morning, I raced to turn on the television to see if RFK had prevailed. Instead, I learned that an assassin had prevailed. Just months after the assassination of Martin Luther King, once again, I felt crushed and I spent the next few days watching and witnessing the sadness of a nation.

Perhaps JFK, RFK, and MLK were nothing more than the heroes an adolescent boy often identifies with...but they each made me love my country more. For me, they represented all that I held dear about my country and they epitomized my understanding of public service and patriotism. Trite as it may sound, they made me want to be a better American.

I was a teenager during the Watergate years and I followed the investigation and the hearings religiously. I did so because Richard Nixon's actions dealt a crushing blow to the idealism that I thought was the backbone and the mainstay of our political system. For me, he defiled our system of government and he made me question whether politicians actually served the public or whether the public was simply manipulated to serve the politician.

Tricky Dicky

Today's assertion by Dick Cheney that his office is exempt from a presidential order reconnected me with the disappointment I felt all those years ago...disappointment that a leader of our great country could demonstrate such disregard for the integrity of the highest office in the land. From this day forward, Dick Cheney can be nothing more that the modern day version of "Tricky Dicky"...and his fate should be no less punitive than that of his namesake.

Observers of the Vice President's actions need ask themselves but one question, "What is Dick Cheney hiding and why is he hiding it?" All other attempts to explain the Vice President's refusal are synonymous with what became known as the Watergate cover-up...the very same obfuscation that brought the demise of Richard Nixon and so many of his associates...the same actions that are sending the Vice President's right hand man, Scooter Libby, to jail.

All that remains to be seen is whether those entrusted with upholding the integrity of our system of government and assuring that no one is above the law will perform their duty and diligently proceed to bring the Vice President into compliance. Anything less is an unmitigated affront to all that we hold sacred. This blatant breech must not be allowed to stand.

Daniel DiRito | June 21, 2007 | 8:57 PM | link | Comments (1)
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U.S. Politics: Time To Reject Religious Litmus Tests? genre: Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Religious Litmus Test

The notion of a litmus test has long been associated with politics. Strangely, when asked if they employ such a methodology, the vast majority of politicians vehemently deny that they would bring any such bias to their position as a public servant.

On the other hand, voters tend to display their litmus standards as a badge of honor and a measure of conviction. We've all heard the proclamations..."I won't vote for a pro-choice candidate"..."I can't endorse a candidate that supports gay marriage"...and so on. Rationally speaking, the fact that politicians and voters approach the notion of litmus tests so differently defies logic and makes little sense.

Other contradictions abound...but I would like to focus on the litmus test that I believe has done more to paralyze our objectivity and to polarize our political process than any in recent memory. It’s the litmus test of religion...which includes the requirement by many voters that elected officials embrace religion or faith and act in accordance with a specific set of beliefs...as well as the acceptance that politicians need to be coy about their litmus standards to maintain a broader appeal in order to be elected.

Over time, the litmus test mentality continues to evolve to include ever more specific measurements. It isn't enough for a candidate to espouse a religious affiliation...one's particular affiliation and one’s adherence to the prescribed values is now a matter of review and it may serve to nullify one's consideration as a viable candidate for some portion of the electorate. Case in point...Mitt Romney's Mormonism.

Gathering for their April meeting at the county courthouse, Republican activists from Warren County, Iowa, planned for this summer's county fair and vented about illegal immigration.

And then the county chairman for Senator John McCain's presidential campaign, Chad Workman, made an unexpected digression: He took direct aim at Mitt Romney's religion, according to four people at the meeting.

Workman questioned whether Mormons were Christians, discussed an article alleging that the Mormon Church helps fund Hamas, and likened the Mormons' treatment of women to the Taliban's, said participants, who requested anonymity to discuss the meeting freely.

One participant summed up Workman's argument this way: "The fundamental flaw of Mitt Romney…was that he was Mormon, not because he thinks this way or that way on one issue."

The most recent example came to light earlier this week when the Washington Post reported that Emma Nemecek, an Iowa field operative for Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas, had recently forwarded an e-mail to Iowa Republicans containing a number of criticisms of Mormonism, including a charge that it is not a Christian faith. The e-mail closed with a quote from a Founding Father, John Jay: "Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers."

The campaign of former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani was forced to make a similar apology this month after The New York Sun reported that Katie Harbath, Giuliani's deputy e-campaign director, had forwarded to a blogger a story in The Salt Lake Tribune linking Romney to an unofficial Mormon prophecy that a leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would one day save the Constitution. "Thought you'd find this interesting," Harbath wrote to the blogger, the Sun reported.

Romney has faced repeated slights against his religion from other quarters as well. A Florida televangelist, Bill Keller, told followers recently that a vote for Romney is a vote for Satan. And a small group of worshipers from the Faith Christian Outreach Church in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, has been going door-to-door distributing a DVD that takes a critical look at the Mormon Church.

"Our concern was simply that Mormonism has continued to try and pass itself off as a Christian religion, which it is not," said Monte Knudsen, senior pastor at the church, who insisted the effort was not aimed at hurting Romney's candidacy.

"In some ways, [Romney's candidacy] is the best test of whether Americans have really put some of the old religious differences aside," said Alan Wolfe, director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life at Boston College. "And my guess is that they haven't."

Its worth noting that each time a campaign operative has called a candidates religion into question, the candidate who employs that operative has issued an apology as well as a statement that the personal faith of their opponent should not be an issue. The obvious question is whether these attacks...which are frequently described as lapses in judgment...are actually part of a strategy to manipulate the well known bias that exists within the electorate? While we've all heard the expression "accidents happen", my suspicious nature doubts that, when it comes to politics, they happen all that often.

Look, the bottom line is that Romney served as Governor of the state of Massachusetts...and he seems to have conducted himself in an acceptable manner (my personal political preferences aside). I'm just not sure what threat he poses to his fellow Americans...and if he does in fact pose a threat as a direct result of his faith, what is that threat? If he isn’t a threat, what does the belief that a threat exists tell us about this country?

Let me attempt to answer my own questions. I don’t believe Romney’s faith presents anymore of a threat than Rudy Giuliani’s failure to adhere to the precepts of his faith (his divorces are presumably breeches of Catholicism). The threat comes from those who believe that one faith ought to trump all others, that seek to impose their particular faith upon others, and that believe they are imbued with the god given mandate to pursue both.

I would argue that it is incumbent upon politicians to be neutral with regards to the application of any one particular faith. A glance at the sectarian violence in Iraq ought to suffice to demonstrate what happens when religious groups are determined to make their particular beliefs the law of the land. There are numerous other examples.

To a lesser degree, our current president is an example of the dangers and risks associated with a narrow ideology and a belief that a particular belief set ought to be institutionalized. At some point, adamant proponents of differing ideologies determine that the state is illegitimate and that subverting or overthrowing the state is consistent with one’s religious tenets…and in the extreme…that doing so is the justifiable will of god.

What remains to be seen is whether we can step back from this dangerous trend and revisit the guidance of our founding fathers…guidance that sought to prevent the victimization of different faiths while establishing a government that would be tolerant of diverse beliefs but guided by a bill of rights that remained ideologically impartial…though institutionally equitable.

Far too many Americans endorse the misconception that the United States is a nation guided by a specific vision of Biblical law…and that our constitution and our legal system must adhere to one interpretation of that law. On the contrary, America was founded to avoid the pitfalls of that very notion. In fact, our existence emanates from a rejection of that very construct.

We are a nation that sought to judge its inhabitants by their commitment to fair and equitable treatment…by their willingness to allow alternate beliefs so long as they would adhere to the notion that each of us is entitled to humane treatment.

Goodness is not measured by affiliation…goodness is an individual action; not an act of admonition by one individual or one group towards another. Goodness is a choice that is mindful of the sanctity of humanity…even when that humanity may hold beliefs that do not comport with our own. Goodness is not the domain of one faith…it is not unique to one set of beliefs.

A religious litmus test is not a test of goodness…it is a demand for compliance…it is a rejection of difference…but once applied it is also an egregious application of bias…it is a judgment we are not entitled to make…and when we do make that judgment, we ridicule those who sought to rid us of such bias; wise men that century's prior had the foresight to understand the risks that come with demands for ideological compliance.

Isn't it time that voters and politicians recommit themselves to an honest dialogue, an acceptance of differences, and an awareness and willingness to see beyond them in order to move forward? If not, where and when will the inevitable and torturous machinations cease?

Image courtesy of www.thelitmustest.org

Daniel DiRito | June 21, 2007 | 10:24 AM | link | Comments (0)
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June 20, 2007

Cyndi Lauper Unveils Hate Crime Video To Benefit HRC genre: Gaylingual & Polispeak & Video-Philes

Cyndi Lauper is headlining True Colors, a concert tour to benefit the Human Rights Campaign, an advocacy group for LGBT rights. The following video is being aired during the tour and it is intended to make people aware of the need for hate crimes legislation. The Matthew Shepard Act would make hate crimes legislation a reality.

If you would like to support the effort, please go to the HRC site and use their "Take Action" feature to voice your support for the bill to your representatives in Washington.

Daniel DiRito | June 20, 2007 | 5:00 PM | link | Comments (0)
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June 19, 2007

The Immigration Dilemma: Serving Too Many Masters? genre: Econ-Recon & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Deception Mode

Every now and then the efforts of political parties to contort themselves in order to appeal to more and more constituent groups in the hopes of establishing a winning majority comes back to haunt them. I would argue that immigration is a case in point for our elected officials...and the bill put forth by House Republicans shines a bright light on their painful conundrum.

WASHINGTON -- In a sharp rebuke to President Bush, House Republicans unveiled legislation Tuesday that would bar illegal immigrants from gaining legal status in the U.S., require tamper-proof birth certificates for Americans and make English the nation's official language.

The measure's core principles include gaining control of the border and enforcing existing immigration laws -- it does not provide a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants as the Bush plan does.

The House bill stands virtually no chance of becoming law, or even advancing, in the Democratic-controlled Congress. Still, it casts in bold relief the split between Bush and many fellow Republicans in the immigration debate.

The authors of the House bill also are pushing for a congressional resolution detailing ways in which they believe the federal government has failed to enforce immigration law and made it easier for illegal immigrants to stay in the U.S.

"The current illegal immigration crisis is a direct result of this and previous Administrations failing to enforce or adequately enforce at least eight immigration laws," the resolution said.

Frankly, why either party chose to politicize immigration is questionable. Few issues in American politics involve so many competing interests and while politicians fashion themselves to be adept at juggling diverse constituent groups, they may have hit the proverbial brick wall with this one. They have no one to blame but themselves.

Big business has been a longtime beneficiary of our lax immigration system and we all know how politicians pander to deep pockets. At the same time, the Bush campaign sought to capitalize on his experience in Texas and make immigration reform the substrate upon which the GOP would roll out the welcoming mat for Hispanic voters.

Add in self interest in the form of nanny's, gardeners, and housekeepers...regional concerns predicated upon proximity to the Mexican border...plain old bias and prejudice...the objections of labor unions and those near the lower end of the wage scale...concerns about easy access for terrorists...and a nasty ten way tractor pull emerges.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has told administration officials that she will not take up the bill unless about 70 Republicans are brought on board to help pass it.

The bill unveiled Tuesday is the equivalent of a warning flag that conservatives intend to fight for those Republican votes.

"It seems a formal way of putting proponents on notice that there will be resistance from those quarters in the House," said Roberto Suro, director of the non-partisan Pew Hispanic Center.

The measure would require that 18,000 border patrol agents be deployed by Dec. 31, 2008. Currently, the force totals about 12,000.

It would also require the full implementation of US-VISIT, a program that is meant to track entries and exits at all ports-of-entry but has fallen short of that goal.

U.S. citizens would be affected by many of the changes proposed for work site enforcement, including mandatory checks of all employees' eligibility and a nationwide electronic system for tracking birth and death records.

Lost in all the wrangling is any sense of responsibility for our role in enabling the mass infusion of illegal immigrants. While I recognize the fact that illegal entry is just that...illegal; the reality is that it happened because our government turned its head as those in power believed they stood more to gain from the entry of 12 million immigrants than from enforcing the existing laws that were sufficient to limit, if not prevent, the massive influx.

In the end, I'm amused by all the righteous indignation being tossed about by elected officials. An honest analysis would no doubt place blame where blame belongs...squarely on the shoulders of our pandering politicians. This latest round of feigned leadership is little more than an effort to rewrite the woeful history of a nonexistent immigration policy.

The 12 million illegal’s…servants in their own right to the ever changing interests of this country’s politician masters… have simply been pawns in a game of political cat and mouse. Isn't it time that our public servants actually begin to serve a legitimate master...the American public...and give us an honest assessment of how they intend to clean up this mess of their own making?

Daniel DiRito | June 19, 2007 | 9:33 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Outside The 2008 Ballot Box: Gonna Take A Miracle? genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Outside The Box

Conventional thought suggests that third party candidates are spoilers who do little more than cost one of the two major party nominees the eventual victory. That belief tends to preclude many voters from even considering an unaffiliated candidate. In understanding that likelihood, the two parties tend to take voters for granted and focus their attentions on drawing distinctions with the other major party candidate while ignoring the independent challenger.

It would be easy to heap blame on the two parties in light of the above dynamic...but that would be giving them more credit than they deserve. No doubt they've learned the art of opportunism...but those opportunities are being handed to them by a voting public that cedes its power all too quickly. By accepting the established formula, voters shut the door on the possibilities and by default, endorse the very mediocrity they lament. Instead, they look for the major party's to craft the latest frontrunner out of all too ordinary and familiar cloth...cloth that makes a nice place setting but rarely delivers the sought after meal.

With continued speculation that Mayor Bloomberg might enter the 2008 presidential race...coupled with today's announcement that he has changed his affiliation to independent...it will be interesting to see whether voters will reconsider the status quo. What makes Bloomberg an intriguing prospect is that he can overcome the obvious obstacle that leads voters to discount third party candidates...even if they have star potential...the lack of money to be competitive.

Michael R. Bloomberg, a longtime Democrat who switched to the Republican Party to run for mayor of New York City in 2001, announced this evening that he is changing his party status and registering as an independent. His office released this statement at 6:05 p.m. (EST):

I have filed papers with the New York City Board of Elections to change my status as a voter and register as unaffiliated with any political party. Although my plans for the future haven’t changed, I believe this brings my affiliation into alignment with how I have led and will continue to lead our city.

[...] Any successful elected executive knows that real results are more important than partisan battles and that good ideas should take precedence over rigid adherence to any particular political ideology. Working together, there’s no limit to what we can do.

On Monday, the mayor gave a speech at “Ceasefire! Bridging the Political Divide," a conference intended to improve the quality of public discourse in America. In the speech, he said, “The politics of partisanship and the resulting inaction and excuses have paralyzed decision-making, primarily at the federal level, and the big issues of the day are not being addressed — leaving our future in jeopardy."

Should Bloomberg enter the race, the outstanding question will be whether voters are willing to demonstrate the vision they so frequently say they're seeking in their political candidates...a vision that can see past convention and break with longstanding traditions...traditions that have led us to the very place so many of us bemoan.

In the end, a visionary emerges when ordinary citizens employ their own extraordinary vision to see beyond the prescribed and the routine. I don't know enough about Michael Bloomberg to determine if he is the visionary America needs. At the same time, I grow increasingly skeptical that one will emerge out of the existing malaise we call our two party system. Notwithstanding, until American's demonstrate their own commitment to thinking outside the box, don't expect any miracles.

Daniel DiRito | June 19, 2007 | 6:50 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Democrat's Pledge Of Transparency Nowhere In Sight genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

A Distinction Without A Difference

Unless the Democrats have a rapid change of heart, their opponents in the upcoming 2008 elections will be running ads with Nancy Pelosi repeating her eloquent pledge to "Make this the most honest, ethical, and open Congress in history." Perhaps meaningful changes will still be implemented but the Democrats run the risk of being tagged with falling far short on their promise to bring transparency to government.

If a new CNN report is an indication of things to come, Democrats have seemingly taken for granted the voter sentiment that swept them into power in 2006. My own impression is that today's voters, unlike the politicians they elect, have a low tolerance for broken promises and wouldn't hesitate to undertake another house cleaning in 2008.

(CNN) -- Despite the new Democratic congressional leadership's promise of "openness and transparency" in the budget process, a CNN survey of the House found it nearly impossible to get information on lawmakers' pet projects.

Staffers for only 31 of the 435 members of the House contacted by CNN between Wednesday and Friday of last week supplied a list of their earmark requests for fiscal year 2008, which begins on October 1, or pointed callers to Web sites where those earmark requests were posted.

Of the remainder, 68 declined to provide CNN with a list, and 329 either didn't respond to requests or said they would get back to us, and didn't.

In 2006, Congress approved a record $29 billion in earmarks -- those spending requests derided as "pork" that fund everything from road construction and research grants to ski lifts and minor league baseball diamonds. Legislators view these projects as important proof that they are serving their constituents back home.

The 2006 total was 6.2 percent more than 2005's $27.3 billion.

When Democrats regained control of Congress last fall, they promised to create the most honest, open Congress in history.

"We will bring transparency and openness to the budget process and to the use of earmarks," Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi said in December 2006, "and we will give the American people the leadership they deserve."

Democrats said that Republicans had corrupted the earmark process while they controlled Congress.

Earlier this year, the House implemented rules changes that require greater disclosure of earmark requests, and the Senate passed a bill that would require lawmakers to post a list of their earmark requests on the Internet. The bill, however, has not passed the House.

I know I know...the Democrats will blame the Republicans and visa versa...and the bottom line will be a watered down version of a bill that is filled with opportunities for politicians of all stripes to hide spending earmarks. Is it any wonder that the latest poll indicates a huge majority of Americans believe that the country is headed in the wrong direction...is it any wonder that both the President and the Congress have horrendous approval numbers...is it any wonder that more and more voters are clamoring for an end to a two party system?

Each election cycle we watch as both parties’ rally their supporters with hot button issues and then we witness each side deliver tepid results. In the end, the situation seems to epitomize the notion that there actually exists little more than a distinction without a difference. Absent real choices, it’s no wonder we have such low voter turnout.

Further, the two parties’ repeatedly warn voters that casting a vote for a third party is a wasted vote that will do little more than put the opposition in power...and we believe them. Sadly, until enough voters reject the formula and break the cycle, we'll continue to enable our own victimization. On that note, I feel the need for a shower.

Daniel DiRito | June 19, 2007 | 3:06 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Senate Committee: Big Oil Needs To Ante Up genre: Econ-Recon & Polispeak

Big Oil

Could Washington actually be serious about reducing our dependence on foreign oil? In a move that seems to signal as much, the Senate Finance Committee moved forward with a bill that would impose 29 billion dollars in new taxes on the U.S. oil industry. The bill is designed to funnel money into alternative energy exploration programs.

WASHINGTON - A proposal to hit oil companies with $29 billion in new taxes advanced in the Senate on Tuesday, targeting the money to energy conservation, wind turbines, electric hybrid cars and clean coal technology.

But Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said, "We have entered a new era in energy markets ...(that) requires a dramatic shift away from tax incentives for oil and gas production" and toward support for other energy sources and efficiency.

The tax package that emerged from the Finance Committee reflected the dramatic tilt of congressional sentiment toward renewable fuels — and away from support of oil companies — since Democrats took over control of Congress. In part, the shift stems from growing concerns about the impact of fossil fuels on global warming and motorists' anger over soaring gasoline prices.

The measure would extend and increase taxes paid under an oil spill liability law and eliminate existing tax credits involving foreign oil production. In all, the tax changes were expected to cost the industry more than $15 billion over a decade.

Another measure, pushed by Sen. Jeff Bingaman (news, bio, voting record), D-N.M., was aimed at collected $10.7 billion in royalties the government has been unable to collect because of flawed oil leasing contracts issued by the Interior Department in 1998-99. The government would collect an excise tax on any oil taken from the Gulf of Mexico, subject to royalties not being paid.

The bill has a long way to go to become law but lawmakers are likely concerned that high gas prices may play a role in the 2008 election cycle. Given voter frustration with energy costs, record oil industry profits, and the impression that our ongoing efforts in Iraq may be partially attributed to our need for oil, politicians may be ready to abandon their long love affair with big oil and their huge lobbying apparatus. I would suggest that the shift is long overdue.

Daniel DiRito | June 19, 2007 | 2:18 PM | link | Comments (1)
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June 18, 2007

Turn Out The Lights...The Party's Over In Iraq genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Mission accomplished...the lights are out. Sometimes one simple fact can provide more perspective than a thousand page report. I think this obscure report by United Press International speaks volumes about our efforts in Iraq as well as the potential...

Daniel DiRito | June 18, 2007 | 6:44 PM | link | Comments (1)
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June 16, 2007

Troop Surge At Full Strength - Baghdad 40% Secure? genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak

I'm no math whiz but the numbers in Iraq continue to defy logic...and the rhetoric that has characterized the Bush administration's four year fiasco continues to sound more like fairy tales than facts. We've been told that all of...

Daniel DiRito | June 16, 2007 | 7:59 PM | link | Comments (1)
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June 13, 2007

Middle East: Banging Our Head On, Head On The Wall genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

It's been said by former presidents and high ranking public servants, by numerous scholars, and by leaders of other nations...and yet George Bush and his neocon klatch have chosen to virtually ignore it for the bulk of his presidency....

Daniel DiRito | June 13, 2007 | 3:06 PM | link | Comments (0)
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GWB's Song Of Iraq: Doin' The Boot Scootin' Boogie genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

I'm not sure how one ought to measure the level of incompetence with regard to managing the war in Iraq and our efforts to bring stability and democracy to its citizenry, but I've been pondering my own formula for...

Daniel DiRito | June 13, 2007 | 8:53 AM | link | Comments (0)
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June 11, 2007

The Evolution Of The GOP genre: Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak & Tongue-In-Cheek

Typically we view the passage of time to be commensurate with enlightenment and knowledge...and the advances we have seen in science, technology, medicine, and countless other areas over the centuries are a testament to man's capacity for growth. Unfortunately, we...

Daniel DiRito | June 11, 2007 | 1:46 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Dr. X - Bush To Pope: "Go Stick It" genre: Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Gifts are fascinating things to psychoanalysts. An analyst does not accept a gift from an analysand without giving careful consideration to the possible meanings of a gift to the gift-giver. Like the dreams and stories recounted by the analysand during...

Dr. X | June 11, 2007 | 11:39 AM | link | Comments (2)
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Sen. Brownback: On Managing Mommy's Uterus genre: Hip-Gnosis & Little Red Ribbon-Hood & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Kansas Senator and GOP presidential candidate, Sam Brownback not only opposes a woman’s right to choose whether to terminate a pregnancy, he believes that if a man rapes a woman, she should still not be permitted to have an...

Daniel DiRito | June 11, 2007 | 9:29 AM | link | Comments (4)
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June 5, 2007

GWB: Iraq Is Korea...And The Earth Is Flat...Uh-Huh genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Well that didn't take long. The attempt by President Bush to frame the situation in Iraq as an equivalent to our long standing presence in Korea is being roundly dismissed by a number of former high ranking military officials....

Daniel DiRito | June 5, 2007 | 5:57 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Let's Hope God Offers A Liberal Statute Of Limitations genre: Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Over my many years of contact with the Catholic Church, one of its more detestable and defining traits has prevailed…deniability. Despite a history checkered with inconsistency and intolerance, the Church has maintained its air of institutional intransigence couched in...

Daniel DiRito | June 5, 2007 | 9:13 AM | link | Comments (0)
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June 4, 2007

Getting The Giggles When The Right Eats Its Own genre: Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

While I readily admit that my parents taught me not to laugh at the misfortune of others, I have to admit that I get the giggles when I read about schisms in the religious right. In truth, it should...

Daniel DiRito | June 4, 2007 | 11:48 AM | link | Comments (0)
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June 1, 2007

Top Ten Reasons GOP Voters Prefer Fred Thompson genre: Polispeak & Tongue-In-Cheek

GOP voters are anxiously awaiting the presidential candidacy of Fred Thompson. In response to a Thought Theater survey, the following are the top ten reasons they prefer Fred Thompson be the Republican nominee: 10. If you’re going to tell...

Daniel DiRito | June 1, 2007 | 1:05 PM | link | Comments (5)
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