Polispeak: August 2007: Archives

August 31, 2007

Code Blue: Judge Rules Gays Can Marry In Iowa genre: Gaylingual & Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak & Tongue-In-Cheek

Rinse Away The Gay

Iowa evangelicals were undoubtedly shocked and alarmed by the ruling of Polk County Judge Robert Hanson. The ruling states that Iowa's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional and orders that the six plaintiff couples be granted marriage licenses. In his ruling, Judge Hanson argued that the Iowa Constitution provides for equal protection and due-process and that the passage of Iowa's Defense Of Marriage act violates that provision.

The ruling will be appealed and the attorney for Polk County is expected to seek a stay until the decision has been reviewed by a higher court...likely the Iowa Supreme Court.

The ruling will certainly add a new wrinkle to Iowa's presidential primary. Clearly, candidates who may have sought to limit their comments on the subject will now be forced to weigh in on the ruling...which will certainly increase the attention placed upon the outcome of the states primary.

From The Des Moines Register:

Polk County is expected to appeal the ruling to the Iowa Supreme Court.

County Attorney John Sarcone said the county would immediately seek a stay from Hanson, which if granted would prevent anyone from seeking a marriage license until an appeal could be heard.

The case will be appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court, which could refer it to the Iowa Court of Appeals, consider the case itself or decide not to hear the case.

Des Moines lawyer Dennis Johnson represented the six gay couples who filed suit after they were denied marriage licenses. He called the ruling "a moral victory for equal rights."

Johnson argued that Iowa has a long history of aggressively protecting civil rights in cases of race and gender. He said the Defense of Marriage Act, which the Legislature passed in 1998, contradicts previous court rulings regarding civil rights and should be struck down.

From Yahoo News:

With the decision of a county judge to strike down Iowa's law banning same-sex marriages, the state becomes a front-line battleground in America's ongoing political wrestling match over gay and lesbian rights.

Democratic and Republicans candidates will not be able to campaign in Iowa -- as all will be doing in coming days and weeks -- without addressing the ruling and the broader issue of same-sex marriage.

Of course, most of the candidates have already done this with varying degrees of specificity. But now they will be thrust into the center of a real-life struggle in a state where they will be spending a great deal of time between now and the day in December or January when Iowa's first-in-the-nation caucuses are held.

Both Democratic and Republican candidates will be forced to offer specific responses to precise legal arguments, as well as to the very human demands of men and women in Iowa who have gone public with their struggle for the right to marry their partners.

The equal protection clause has been used in other similar rulings. Perhaps the most notable was the ruling in Colorado striking down Amendment Two. The amendment was passed by voters in 1992, stayed from being enacted by Judge Bayless in December of that year, and subsequently ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.

I decided to have a little fun with the ruling and the evangelicals who will certainly be mobilizing to protect the institution of marriage from the destructive influences of same-sex unions. The following is a list of suggestions designed to protect the marriages of evangelicals...which they may want to enact until such time as the ruling can be stayed or stricken down by a higher court.

Rumor has it that wearing a necklace of corn cobs will ward off the negative and evil influences one may experience when encountering a married homosexual.

Evangelical women should encourage their husbands to avoid any possibilities of being identified as a metro-sexual...such men are prime targets for conversion efforts.

Evangelical men must monitor the television their wives are watching during the day. The militant homosexuals have infiltrated daytime programming in order to convert unsuspecting women of faith. Under no circumstances should evangelical women be allowed to watch Ellen or The View. While the V Chip was intended to monitor the programs viewed by children, husbands are encouraged to utilize the device to prohibit the watching of inappropriate programs by vulnerable wives.

Evangelical businesses are encouraged to remove all coffee tables and coffee table books and magazines from their waiting areas as it may attract married homosexuals.

Evangelical males who may be traveling by airplane are encouraged to avoid the use of airport restrooms...there are concerns that heterosexual men may be vulnerable to the lure of these palatial potties. Women should encourage their husbands to use the bathroom before departing the home and not again until they are on the plane. Evangelical women need not worry about the sex their husbands have on a plane as the Mile High Club currently prohibits the formation of a homosexual affiliate. Notwithstanding, there are concerns that a secret sect of stewards are planning to form a similar club called "In The "O" Zone". Please check back for updates.

In extreme situations, it may be necessary for husbands to hire the services of a prostitute. Recent research by Senator Vitter of Louisiana suggests that a threatened marriage can be renewed by such measures...and it has an added communal effect which was evidenced by the standing ovation the senator received upon his return to Washington. He is a true champion of heterosexual marriage. Thought Theater has learned from an anonymous source that the Senator will announce a new campaign designed to defend marriage...the campaign is called "Marriage: One Man, One Woman, & A Shit Load Of Hookers".

A word of caution to the wives of evangelical ministers. Under no circumstances should you allow your husbands to travel out of town on trips that require an overnight stay or time alone. It is being reported that information provided by hotel staff and informational literature found in hotel rooms has been co-opted by militant homosexuals. Completely innocent massages have been reported to lead to man on man sex and the use of illicit drugs which are designed to convert the unsuspecting minister. Those who doubt the veracity of this warning need only be reminded of the fall of well-known Colorado Springs minister, Ted Haggard.

Lastly, should your spouse lose their way and succumb to the tireless efforts of the homosexual agenda...fear not. The same program that restored Ted Haggard in a matter of a few weeks is being made available to the people of Iowa on a priority basis. If you suspect your spouse has fallen, please contact Gay-B-Gone and they will forward you a trial sample of their revolutionary product Rinse-Away-The-Gay...a quick penetrating shampoo that will leave your spouse tingling from the infusion of the holy spirit...and you feeling confident that your betrothed is on the road to recovery. Call now...the phones are staffed by sympathetic and satisfied customers.

Tagged as: 2008 Primary, David Vitter, Evangelicals, Iowa, Larry Craig, LGBT, Same-Sex Marriage, Ted Haggard

Daniel DiRito | August 31, 2007 | 10:01 AM | link | Comments (0)
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August 30, 2007

Deciphering What Is Written On The Bathroom Stall genre: Gaylingual & Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

The Writing On The Stall

As the blogosphere has sought to digest the meaning of the Larry Craig incident, it has begun to spur a worthwhile debate...one which has been ignored and has lurked in the background in ways eerily similar to the behavior that led to the arrest of the Senator.

Generally speaking, the public is opposed to encountering unexpected or offensive behaviors in public environments...and that is a reasonable concern for those within government to address. Clearly, the opinions regarding which behaviors constitute a nuisance or create the conditions under which to charge an individual with a crime will vary from individual to individual...often dependent upon one's values, one's religious beliefs, ands one's propensity for tolerance. The fact that there are discordant beliefs simply complicates the task for those charged with monitoring such activities.

By and large, citizens believe that law enforcement departments are committed to treating each individual fairly and with the same level of respect for their civil liberties. At the same time, history tells us that this isn't always the case. Regardless, most citizens afford our law enforcement departments the benefit of the doubt...which is as it should be...but only to a point.

In writing about the Larry Craig situation, I broached the question of whether the targeting of men who have sex with men (I avoid using the term gay because studies indicate that many of the men who participate in these clandestine encounters are married and consider themselves to be heterosexual) receives a level of attention that is commensurate with that given to those who engage in opposite sex liaisons in public locations.

I have asked readers and colleagues to ponder the question and to cite any examples whereby tactics similar to those employed in the Senator's case are being utilized to charge those engaged in opposite sex public encounters. At the moment, I have not been provided with any such examples...though a few individuals have cited prostitution stings as examples. I have discounted such examples because they constitute a specific crime that is not at play in circumstances like that of Senator Craig...meaning that the individuals charged in men's restrooms are engaging in consensual sex without the exchange of money (by definition the exchange of money is an act of solicitation), which generally leads to charges of lewd behavior, indecent exposure, or disorderly conduct.

I don't want to devolve into a legalistic discussion though some basic understandings are required for this debate. Firstly, laws can and do vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction so one size doesn't fit all. Secondly, courts have offered a number of rulings on the subject though no definitive across the board position can actually be derived.

Relevant to this topic, the Senator's actions constituted disorderly conduct...despite what he may have intended to do. In essence, intention doesn't necessarily equate with the ability to convict on the lewd behavior charge. The fact that he plead to the lesser charge (disorderly conduct) is evidence of this reality. Further, in some of these cases, the accused have successfully argued that their actions in a closed door stall in a restroom facility cannot equate with disorderly conduct because their actions didn't actually take place in public. The argument is open to interpretation and it can progress into questions of a fundamental granting of constitutional privacy privileges.

With that said, one can see that the issue is more complex than one might expect. Notwithstanding, it is important to note that the issue isn't solely one of legality as it is reasonable to consider other factors...such as what the public can legitimately expect upon entering a public restroom. While I am personally opposed to using these restrooms for sexual liaisons, the issue requires a much more comprehensive analysis.

To introduce the other considerations, let me begin with a simple example that will hopefully illuminate my concerns. Suppose one conducted a survey whereby the objective was to gauge the public's reaction and response to witnessing an apparent sexual encounter in a public restroom. In the study, the respondents witness 50% of the situations involving same sex participants and the other 50% involving opposite sex participants. In both cases, the sex of the participants is obvious, as is the sexual nature of the activity.

The respondents are then confronted as they exit the restroom in order to gauge their reaction as well as what they believe to be the appropriate response from law enforcement. Each respondent is asked to explain what they believe they witnessed to insure that they properly identified the sex of the participants. Once that is determined, they are asked to respond to a multiple choice question outlining the action they believe should be taken.

The first answer is, "While I don't think they should be doing this in a public restroom, I'm not in favor of it being a crime." The second answer is, "I think that they should be charged with a crime in the event that a law enforcement officer were to be summoned". The final answer is, "I think that law enforcement needs to establish a sting operation to target those who might intend to engage in such activity in order to catch and charge them".

My own belief is that the responses would be skewed towards answer number one with regards to opposite sex participants and towards answer number three with regards to same sex participants. I say as much because it would likely reflect the beliefs held by most Americans...meaning that heterosexual sex is viewed to be more acceptable than homosexual sex. In fact, I would contend that many of the respondents would laugh off the heterosexual activity while many of those witnessing homosexual activity would be outraged.

Therefore, one must ask whether the existing law enforcement actions being conducted in situations similar to that in Minneapolis...which led to the arrest of the Senator...reflect a societal bias with regards to homosexuals. In the absence of similar operations aimed at heterosexual activity, it seems safe to conclude that the treatment is not equal...and is likely reflective of prejudice.

Let me offer an even simpler example to reinforce my argument. All things being equal, a kiss between same sex couples in public will elicit a negative reaction (a moral judgment)...while a heterosexual kiss may elicit no reaction or at worst a negative reaction that such behavior doesn't belong in public...but rarely a negative moral judgment.

If that same bias is being applied to the actions of law enforcement (and it seems difficult to assume otherwise), we have a problem with selective and unfair discrimination.

Let me share part of a discussion I've been involved with on this very topic. The information is from an individual who works with this issue and the men who are being charged with these types of offenses. I am not including his name or the organization as a matter of privacy. While I don't agree with every point made, I think it provides some important insight into a perspective that is often omitted from discussions of this issue.

Ok. The agency I work for has worked on hundreds of these cases. We have won lawsuits on the matter so I am going to respond to this last post with a few items.

1. Undercover operations have 0 deterrent effect. There is no evidence that sting operations against gay men have a deterrent effect. In fact the opposite is true. When members of the public see uniformed police – THAT is a deterrent. It makes many people feel more safe and if you combine it with signs saying that illegal behavior will be prosecuted or that surveillance is occurring (it doesn't have to be occurring) then you could argue there is a deterrent goal by the facility. But hiding a police officer does not prevent crime all it does is A. catch criminals or B. invites entrapment by overzealous cops who are frustrated with cautious perpetrators that refuse to take the bait. This is the reality.

2. Charging people is the goal. Police are very politically motivated. Their jobs and their bosses jobs are very much designed around getting rid of undesirables including queers. These operations usually carry a higher charge like in the Craig case where he claimed he had to negotiate it down to a misdemeanor. Charging felonies is about getting queers on the sex offender registry, shaming them in public, or costing them so much money they won't dare fight the charge in court. We had a case of 770 arrests in 4 months. Almost all were innocent. 50 of the guys got in touch with (agency name omitted) and all were acquitted because the officer refused to show up for court, meaning that he would commit perjury about what he put in the police reports. There is a fine for the charge, a fine for the court fees, attorney fees and sometimes there is a “nuisance abatement" charge so they can take your car which costs hundred to get it back. This is thousands more if you go to court. I repeat. These charges do not deter men or else every cruisy area where there were arrests would see reductions. This is not the case.

3. Police mostly are not responding to public complaints. Police know about cruisy restrooms because of websites and a few public complaints. We have filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) after FOIA after FOIA and never once have we received a public complaint of public sex. If this is such a big problem, which justifies an undercover operation, there should be some documentation. Nada. In (state omitted), the State Police even called their operations “Bag a Fag" operations and printed T-Shirts saying so. This is the sign of bias not serving and protecting. If there are really people observing public sex (which is rare because most of this activity is committed by guys that do not want to be seen or caught) then a uniformed cop walking in should be able to see the same thing right. Right. But they don't want to deter it or stumble across it, they want to invite it. They want it to happen. 9 times out of ten these men never get a warning and sent away. They invest so much money and time that they love charging on the first offense, charging high and publicizing the hell out of it.

4. I have trained over 1000 police, some as a condition of our lawsuit and nearly all of them believe that gay sex is so sick they would do anything to root it out. I have had cops say out loud in a training that they would watch two women go at it, send a str8 couple home and bust a gay couple. I have also had cops admit in these trainings that these operations are scams designed to make money and shame people. Some chiefs and some prosecutors won't honor them at all. In (state omitted) we have shut down many of these when high level chiefs have admitted that uniformed cops are an effective way of dealing with the “problem."

I think this is invaluable information...information that gives the reader a first hand view of the realities confronted by those who have engaged in such activity and the obstacles they face...but it also provides insight into which methods may be effective in limiting or deterring these activities as well as exposing the possibility that the motivations of those who establish programs like the one found in Minneapolis may be biased and misguided.

It's difficult to argue in favor of a program that isn't effective...unless, of course, one is particularly prejudiced against those who are participating in the behavior. If the goal is to extinguish this activity, it appears that these sting operations are less than effective.

Rather than rely upon one source, I consulted a document prepared by the U.S. Department of Justice titled, "Illicit Sexual Activity in Public Places". The following excerpts are from this lengthy document and they reiterate and reinforce some of the concerns shared in the prior quotation.

There are widely different perspectives on public sexual activity. Some do not believe the behavior constitutes a public safety threat; some view the behavior as a "victimless crime" involving two consenting partners; and some see the behavior as a threat to the community's "moral decency." "Impersonal," "casual," and "anonymous" sexual behaviors have negative connotations to many people, as they stand in contrast to ideals of romantic love, monogamous relationships, and long-term commitments. Moral overtones pervade discussions of nudity and sexuality, particularly when they address same sex interactions. These judgments often underlie the public's concern. Community morals and beliefs about how the law should regulate morality will affect how each community addresses the problem. This guide does not adopt any particular moral perspective; it is intended to inform you about the effectiveness and consequences of various approaches to controlling public sexual activity.

Primarily, such activity constitutes nuisance behavior and does not pose a serious threat to community safety.

The responses to public sexual activity can be fraught with difficulty. Charges of harassment, entrapment, bias and discrimination against homosexuals have historically surrounded efforts to address public sexual activity between men. Therefore, it is vital that you objectively analyze the problem so that you develop fair and effective responses.

Certain patterns (e.g., opposite-sex coupling at a "lovers' lane") have not been studied empirically, while others (e.g., same-sex contact in public restrooms) have been studied much more extensively. It is important to note that engaging in same-sex activity does not necessarily imply a homosexual identity; in fact, many men who have sex with men in public places are married or otherwise heterosexually involved, and do not consider themselves to be gay.

When apprehended, many offenders may suffer substantial social repercussions, in addition to any criminal justice related consequences that may ensue. Threats to their
marriages, friendships, jobs, reputations, and social standing often cause them to try to distract attention from their behaviors by showing exaggerated degrees of respectability, such as strong ties to the religious community or passionate condemnation of homosexuality. The larger the community's moral objections to public sexual activity mean that participants have much to lose if they are discovered.

Two things are immediately apparent. One, The Justice Department realizes that efforts to limit this type of activity have moral considerations...and that can lead to prejudicial judgments. Two, the fact that same-sex activity is the only activity that has been extensively studied supports my contention that little effort is expended to suppress similar heterosexual activity. It also suggests that a bias has existed for many years with regard to homosexual activity and it has often been targeted.

A lack of privacy may also be the reason for male sexual activity in public restrooms. In particular, men with heterosexual identities may want to conceal their behavior
from significant others. Their heterosexual identities also deter them from using other, less-public venues such as gay bars or sex clubs. Some homosexual men also lack the freedom to pursue same-sex partners privately due to family or peer disapproval. A community's condemnation of homosexuality may drive the behavior to remote, although public, locations, particularly among those exploring their sexuality and not yet connected to the gay community.

Most researchers and practitioners agree that focusing solely on arresting those engaging in public sexual activity is unlikely to reduce the overall scope of the problem. In your response strategy, you should acknowledge that it will be difficult to affect people's motivations for engaging in the activity. A balanced approach combining enforcement strategies and those targeting environments that support the behavior is most likely to decrease the prevalence of the activity and the public's concern about it.

Used alone, enforcement efforts are likely to lead to displacement. Although not the most desirable outcome, there is evidence that when displacement does occur, the magnitude of the problem decreases with the move to a new location.

In addition, an exclusive focus on environments in which same-sex interactions occur can result in charges of bias and discrimination. Therefore, you must address the full range of public sexual activity and target particular locations based on objective, justifiable assessments of threats to public safety.

Again, the report confirms many of the same conclusions offered by the party quoted above and with whom I discussed the issue. I view the warnings in the last paragraph to be a tacit acknowledgment that there has been a focus upon same sex encounters. Note the use of the word objective...a word which tells me that the Justice Department has encountered programs that are subjective.

The report proceeds to list a number of possible responses to the presence of illicit sexual activity in public places. The list begins with 17 suggested responses (proactive actions intended to reduce the activity and make locations less favorable meeting places). This is followed by numbers 18 and 19 which are listed under the heading "Responses With Limited Effectiveness". Those two items are "Using Undercover Decoys" and "Harassing Or Intimidating Suspects".

18. Using undercover decoys. While using undercover officers to pose as interested parties in illicit same-sex public activity can lead to many arrests, such operations have not had long-term effectiveness in reducing overall activity levels. At best, they temporarily displace the activity to other locations, and the activity usually returns to prior levels once the operations have ceased. Further, given the active role that undercover officers must take to confirm suspects' intentions, the police may be vulnerable to entrapment claims. In addition, many officers are reluctant to serve as decoys because of the customary behavioral scripts they must follow. Finally, some may see the serious social consequences of the publicity following an arrest as disproportionate to the severity of the offense.

19. Harassing or intimidating suspects. Many who engage in public sexual activity do not want witnesses and try to avoid being seen. Thus, it can be difficult for police to obtain probable cause for an arrest. When the community pressures police to address the problem, officers may resort to harassing or intimidating those observed loitering in parks or rest areas. This approach undermines police integrity, can create tension with the gay and lesbian community and other residents concerned about civil rights, and has not proved particularly effective.

For the most part, the Justice Department document seems to be a reasonably objective discussion of the topic. I interpret the tenor to be impartial and informative...all of which I find rather refreshing given the well-publicized concerns as to the Bush administrations possible inclinations to politicize the department.

When one considers the arguments I've presented, in conjunction with the information provided by external sources, a picture begins to emerge. Clearly, there has been an inordinate historical focus upon the pursuit and punishment of those engaged in same sex encounters...likely a derivative of established social norms and values.

Over time, it also appears that there has been a growing awareness that programs to limit public sexual activity need to evolve and to begin incorporating methods that seek to extinguish the behavior as opposed to criminalizing it. That is a positive development.

Regardless, those in positions of authority are still forced to confront the views, opinions, and complaints of the citizens which they serve and/or represent. In so doing, there is likely to remain a focus upon, and a bias against, same sex activities.

Responsible leadership would be wise to approach the sensitive subject with caution, with an emphasis upon deterrence, and with the ample evidence necessary to prevent overreaction and the imposition of prejudicial programs that are simply designed to appease an angry public.

At the same time, the society at large must do its part to foster an environment that doesn't penalize, ostracize, or marginalize those who are desirous of same sex relationships. Simultaneously, closeted gays must summon the courage to come out in order to foster greater understanding in the society...and more importantly...to allow themselves to experience the healthy and meaningful relationships they may feel are unattainable in a judgmental environment.

As I've explored this topic, I cannot help but acknowledge the irony found in the opposition to same sex marriage or its equivalent. Truth be told, those who decide to vilify homosexuality may actually do more harm by acting to oppose the recognition of such relationships...a fact that may well be evidenced by the behavior of the Senator and many others.

Clearly, people are entitled to oppose homosexuality. At the same time, denying homosexuals the opportunity to establish meaningful and recognized unions seems to contribute to the damage that can be done to decent human beings...individuals who seek little more than the same acceptance and rights as their heterosexual counterparts.

Let me be clear. I am not suggesting that adults who participate in same sex sexual activities in public locales aren't culpable for their actions or that they are entitled to interpret opposition to same sex relationships as a justification for their suspect behavior. Nonetheless, I contend one cannot be discussed in the absence of the other.

In the end, if we're truly a nation which prides itself upon its compassion and its affinity for Christian values, why would we be so careless as to refuse to extend these considerations to our fellow citizens? It's an inconsistency worth pondering.

Tagged as: Homophobia, Homosexuality, Justice Department, Larry Craig, LGBT, Public Sex, Religion, Same-Sex Marriage, Sexuality, Sting Operations

Daniel DiRito | August 30, 2007 | 11:45 AM | link | Comments (1)
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Carrying GWB's Water: GAO Shoots Holes In Bucket genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

George Bush's Water

Oh I just can't wait for the good news...you know...the good news about the success of the surge and the progress being made on the political front in Iraq. With every nugget of good news, the Bush administration apologists race to report the shifting tide while also chiding the defeatist Democrats. You have to admire their fortitude...their undaunted willingness to push the rock back up the hill over and over again...as if to be reenacting the plight of the mythical Sisyphus.

Unfortunately, the rock appears poised to slide back down the hill once again with the release of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) report. According to a draft of the document, the White House has apparently engaged in an effort to offer an assessment that may well conflict with the more negative views found in the administration. In other the words, the spin doctors have been very busy in anticipation of the GAO report as well as the findings to be offered by General Petraeus in September.

To demonstrate the divide that exists between those who are carrying the President's water and the GAO assessment, I decided to put one statement next to the other and allow the reader to draw their own comparisons and conclusions.

From The Boston Globe:

Good news, but not for Democrats
By Jeff Jacoby | August 29, 2007

For months, observers have been crediting General David Petraeus's "surge" with remarkable progress on the ground. That message has come not only from longtime supporters of the war, but from some tough critics as well.

Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack, analysts at the left-leaning Brookings Institution, jolted Washington with their July 30 op-ed column, "A War We Just Might Win." Eleven days later, the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel, which had long pronounced the war a misbegotten disaster, radically revised its view. "The US military is more successful in Iraq than the world wants to believe," journalist Ullrich Fichtner reported. So much so that the outcome the Bush administration "erroneously predicted before their invasion -- that the troops would be greeted with candy and flowers -- could in fact still come true."

More good news came just this week in a breakthrough announced by Iraq's top Shiite, Sunni, and Kurdish politicians. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, President Jalal Talabani, Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi, and the Kurdish regional president, Massoud Barzani, are joining forces on legislation to settle some of the thorniest issues bedeviling Iraqi politics, including a national oil policy, an easing of de-Baathification, and the release of certain detainees.

For most Americans, positive developments in Iraq are very welcome. But good news is bad news for the Democratic left, where opposition to the war has become an emotional investment in defeat.

From The Washington Post:

Report Finds Little Progress On Iraq Goals
GAO Draft at Odds With White House
By Karen DeYoung and Thomas E. Ricks
Thursday, August 30, 2007

Iraq has failed to meet all but three of 18 congressionally mandated benchmarks for political and military progress, according to a draft of a Government Accountability Office report. The document questions whether some aspects of a more positive assessment by the White House last month adequately reflected the range of views the GAO found within the administration.

The strikingly negative GAO draft, which will be delivered to Congress in final form on Tuesday, comes as the White House prepares to deliver its own new benchmark report in the second week of September, along with congressional testimony from Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker. They are expected to describe significant security improvements and offer at least some promise for political reconciliation in Iraq.

"While the Baghdad security plan was intended to reduce sectarian violence, U.S. agencies differ on whether such violence has been reduced," it states. While there have been fewer attacks against U.S. forces, it notes, the number of attacks against Iraqi civilians remains unchanged. It also finds that "the capabilities of Iraqi security forces have not improved."

"Overall," the report concludes, "key legislation has not been passed, violence remains high, and it is unclear whether the Iraqi government will spend $10 billion in reconstruction funds," as promised. While it makes no policy recommendations, the draft suggests that future administration assessments "would be more useful" if they backed up their judgments with more details and "provided data on broader measures of violence from all relevant U.S. agencies."

Look, the bottom line is that the Bush administration is waging multiple wars...the ones in Afghanistan and Iraq...and the one at home designed to justify the quagmire in Iraq.

Jacoby's tortured defense cites the widely criticized O'Hanlon and Pollack article...the one that received broad criticism and which the authors felt compelled to point out that they had no input in deciding the title of the article...stating that it may have been too optimistic and inconsistent with their actual conclusions.

Worse still, Jacoby goes so far as to quote a German article which repeats the pre-war assessment of Dick Cheney that our soldiers would be greeted by candy and flowers. I hate to point this out to Jacoby, but that was nearly five years ago and at this point...assuming they ever existed...the candy is undoubtedly stale and the flowers have long since wilted. In fact, stale and wilted seems like a much better assessment of the situation...as well as the one voters seem much more inclined to accept.

Jacoby then pivots to discuss the al-Maliki government's announcement of political reconciliation...failing to acknowledge the fact that the government is being boycotted by nearly half of the cabinet or the fact that former Bush administration officials are actively seeking to unseat the al-Maliki government. Essentially, this announcement of a tentative meeting of the minds comprises a portion of what little progress is being reported by the GAO. Jacoby fails to mention the numerous other benchmarks that remain unmet.

Clearly, Jacoby is entitled to his optimism...but reality tells us that his article is little more than a biased attempt to build momentum for a failed strategy and an unpopular war. His final spin seeks to suggest that Democrats are falling all over themselves as they attempt to disavow themselves from their partisan negativity. His effort to depict the position of the Democrats as an "emotional investment" seems to be little more than a classic case of projection.

Suffice it to say that Jacoby's ginned up garble lacks substance, does little to impugn the position of the Democrats, and serves to highlight the desperation of the White House as it approaches the eleventh hour of a malaise which arguably mirrors a mythical tragedy.

The following excerpts from the Post article provide further contrast and cast additional doubt on the veracity of the Jacoby piece.

One of eight political benchmarks -- the protection of the rights of minority political parties in the Iraqi legislature -- has been achieved, according to the draft. On the others, including legislation on constitutional reform, new oil laws and de-Baathification, it assesses failure.

"Prospects for additional progress in enacting legislative benchmarks have been complicated by the withdrawal of 15 of 37 members of the Iraqi cabinet," it says. An internal administration assessment this month, the GAO says, concluded that "this boycott ends any claim by the Shi'ite-dominated coalition to be a government of national unity." An administration official involved in Iraq policy said that he did not know what specific interagency document the GAO was citing but noted that it is an accurate reflection of the views of many officials.

The GAO draft also says that the number of Iraqi army units capable of operating independently declined from 10 in March to six last month. The July White House report mentioned a "slight" decline in capable Iraqi units, without providing any numbers. The GAO also says, as did the White House in July, that the Iraqi government has intervened in military activities for political reasons, "resulting in some operations being based on sectarian interests."

The Bush administration and those inclined to defend it seem to be ignoring one crucial consideration...they fail to realize or accept that their campaign to tout progress cannot succeed without some actual progress. The American public is generally patient...but to assume that they are also stupid is a grave misjudgment.

George Bush may have little to lose at this point...but those within the GOP who are willing to ignore the message of the 2006 election do so at their own peril.

Tagged as: 2008 election, al Maliki Government, Democrats, GAO, George W. Bush, GOP, Iraq, Jeff Jacoby, Sectarian Conflict

Daniel DiRito | August 30, 2007 | 9:28 AM | link | Comments (0)
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August 27, 2007

At The Airport With Sen. Craig: Preparing For Takeoff genre: Gaylingual & Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak & Tongue-In-Cheek

Sen. Larry Craig

Senator Larry Craig (R-Idaho) recently plead guilty to disorderly conduct in relation to an incident in a men's restroom in a Minneapolis airport. According to the undercover policeman who made the arrest, Craig's behaviors were consistent with previously witnessed actions intended to solicit sex from the officer.

Craig's office released a statement indicating that the Senator erred in handling the situation without the benefit of legal counsel but that he had done so while hoping to quickly resolve what he characterized as a he said, he said misunderstanding.

Craig’s arrest occurred just after noon on June 11 at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. On Aug. 8, he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct in the Hennepin County District Court. He paid more than $500 in fines and fees, and a 10-day jail sentence was stayed. He also was given one year of probation with the court that began on Aug. 8.

A spokesman for Craig described the incident as a “he said/he said misunderstanding," and said the office would release a fuller statement later Monday afternoon.

According to the incident report, Sgt. Dave Karsnia was working as a plainclothes officer on June 11 investigating civilian complaints regarding sexual activity in the men’s public restroom in which Craig was arrested.

“At 1216 hours, Craig tapped his right foot. I recognized this as a signal used by persons wishing to engage in lewd conduct. Craig tapped his toes several times and moves his foot closer to my foot. I moved my foot up and down slowly. While this was occurring, the male in the stall to my right was still present. I could hear several unknown persons in the restroom that appeared to use the restroom for its intended use. The presence of others did not seem to deter Craig as he moved his right foot so that it touched the side of my left foot which was within my stall area," the report states.

Craig then proceeded to swipe his hand under the stall divider several times, and Karsnia noted in his report that “I could ... see Craig had a gold ring on his ring finger as his hand was on my side of the stall divider."

Karsnia then held his police identification down by the floor so that Craig could see it.

Craig stated “that he has a wide stance when going to the bathroom and that his foot may have touched mine," the report states. Craig also told the arresting officer that he reached down with his right hand to pick up a piece of paper that was on the floor.

“It should be noted that there was not a piece of paper on the bathroom floor, nor did Craig pick up a piece of paper," the arresting officer said in the report.

Senator Craig has been a staunch supporter of an amendment to ban gay marriage and he is also opposed to the adoption of hate crimes legislation. He joins a growing list of Republicans, religious leaders, and social conservatives whose obsession with all things homosexual seems to suggest they possess a suspect and sullied set of values.

One need not be an expert on airport sexual encounters to be capable of interpreting suspicious behavior that is clearly of a sexually suggestive nature. Further, I'm sure the officer involved in the incident was well trained in identifying such actions.

Generally, I try to reserve my twisted humor and my occasional penchant for crude commentary for my closest friends...but this situation is a classic comic set up that simply demands a response.

As I read the Senator's explanation...the one that stated, "he has a wide stance when going to the bathroom", I have to admit the first thought which entered my mind was to wonder which way the Senators feet were pointing...and that of course led me to wonder if Mr. Craig may have improperly positioned himself on the toilet...you know...such that he was on the receiving end of things.

In defense of my illustrative imagery, the article did indicate that the Senator was being investigated for lewd conduct...I simply allowed my mind to fill in the blanks and embellish the scene.

Now if you'll excuse me...I need to wash my hands and jump in the shower...I'm feeling a little less wholesome all of a sudden.

Tagged as: Closeted, Hypocrisy, Idaho, Lewd Conduct, Senator Larry Craig

Daniel DiRito | August 27, 2007 | 6:28 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Curtains To Cry Havok And Let Slip The Dogs Of War genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

The Dogs Of War

Today was a day of vindication for our four legged friends in the canine world. A dog killer met with justice and the President's bulldog will no longer be in a position to administer injustice. Michael Vick will likely be headed to the big house and Alberto "Fredo" Gonzales, who has been in the dog house for months, will finally be leaving the White House...and in so doing, perhaps the disregard of civility and the calculated dismantling of civil liberties will no longer be in vogue nor will its continuance be granted a free pass.

Michael Vick will no longer be able to fight dogs and the dog fight over the manipulation and mismanagement of the Department of Justice may have finally turned an important corner with the resignation of Alberto Gonzales. The welcomed news suggests that man's best friend may longer be a tool for twisted amusement and upstanding men may no longer be dogged because they refuse to carry the water of partisan pit bulls.

Despite the resignation of Gonzales, it is likely too early to believe that the Bush administration is about to embark on a course replete with a repertoire of new tricks. Fortunately, the President and his pack of political hacks are on a short leash with little more than fifteen months remaining on their tenure as America's often amateurish and antagonistic army of alpha-males.

With the departure of the President's leading lapdogs, the Fredo and Rove "Gravy Train" era of acrimony...that period of time during which they sought to turn every political office and operative into a rabidly red recruit...has finally come to an end.

Whether all of the bodies these yard dogs meticulously buried can be found is doubtful...but they will at least be prevented from any further littering of the lawn with lame excuses, lapses of memory, and long-winded legalese.

Its been a long time coming, but I suspect a large number of Americans are breathing a welcomed sigh of relief knowing "that dog won't hunt" again...at least not in what remains of the Bush administration. In light of the news...and as with all tragedies...its nice to know that the days of rewarding these men for bad behavior has finally come to an end.

Tagged as: Alberto Gonzales, Department of Justice, George W. Bush, Karl Rove, Michael Vick, NFL, U.S. Attorneys

Daniel DiRito | August 27, 2007 | 10:10 AM | link | Comments (0)
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August 24, 2007

Debunking The Myth Of The "Troop Surge" genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

The Myth Chip

Everybody's talking about the surge...is it succeeding...is it a failure...will it allow the Iraqi government to turn the corner?

Some Democrats have been willing to acknowledge that the additional 30,000 troops has had a positive impact...which has led other Democrats to accuse them of capitulation. Simultaneously, these seemingly favorable remarks have also led some within the GOP to conclude that the President's persistence is paying off and that the Democrats are finally realizing that victory is achievable.

Lost in the dialogue is an important reality...one that requires little more than the appropriate comparisons...comparisons that the President and his supporters have wisely avoided...comparisons that the Democrats have been remiss to expose.

My thoughts on the subject were crystallized by a comment from a reader. The comment came in response to a posting which discussed a recent survey on the ability of the surge to succeed. The experts consulted overwhelmingly concluded that the surge would not succeed...and the reader disagreed...offering the following closing statement.

Like it or not, the surge is working, just ask Hillary or any Democrat (in private of course).

Victory or defeat, you decide.

In reading the comment, I realized that the Bush administration has succeeded in framing the discussion of the surge to its advantage. Let me explain. I've previously argued that the notion of defeat is the one thing which prevents Americans from demanding an immediate end to the war. The polling suggests that while a large majority of voters feel the war has been mismanaged...and while there is a majority consensus that a withdrawal timeline should be established...a strong majority seem to be struggling with the notion of losing...and that mindset is the very point upon which the Bush administration framing is focused.

Clearly, that is a powerful force for the Democrats to overcome...and each time a Democrat affirms the success of the surge, they reinforce the hopes of those voters who do not want to accept defeat. I contend that the Democrats need to change the way they discuss the surge and they need some plausible examples to make their point.

Here's what I would suggest. As long as the surge is characterized in traditional terms as a military offensive, the results will continue to be viewed in terms of victory or defeat. To change that dynamic, the Democrats need to frame it differently.

I contend the surge should be portrayed as comparable to increasing the number of police officers in a large city in order to reduce a troubling crime rate. In that model, the 30,000 additional troops is approximately a 22 percent increase in police officers.

Clearly, most Americans would understand this line of reasoning and in presenting the surge in this manner, it then allows the Democrats to pivot to the crucial message...the one that tells voters that crime prevention is a persistent and ongoing battle...it isn't a war that is won; it is simply the means to manage and deter the inherent potential for crime that will always exist.

As such, the struggle in Iraq is predicated upon a similar situation. More troops will deter the inherent potential for sectarian violence and insurgent activity...so long as the troops remain. However, a surge isn't a means to victory; it is a management strategy. Unfortunately, it cannot end until such time as the Iraqi government puts in place the means to self-manage the policing of their society.

Further explanation is needed to complete the framing. If one looks at the city of Chicago and its long period of crime and corruption, one begins to see the task at hand in Iraq. Not only is there a large "criminal" element in the Iraqi population at large; there is at a minimum a void in the Iraqi leadership...and at worst, they may well be complicit in fostering the violence and the corruption. Evidence suggests the latter is more likely.

In other words, we are no longer engaged in a military conflict; we are attempting to build a civil society through the insertion of an occupying force. The problem with that scenario is that it is divorced from the realities that exist within both the civilian population and the political leadership. Iraq not only has the equivalent of the rampant organized crime gangs that plagued Chicago; it also has a similarly corrupt government that isn't inclined to extinguish the gang warfare.

Lastly, the history of Chicago informs us that change occurred when the will of the people of Chicago mandated that change...a process that wasn't achieved in short order...a process that is most accurately viewed as generational shift; not a function of a surge mentality. In fact, one could argue that the addition of more police officers during Chicago's dark days would have simply given the combatants more wherewithal to prosecute their objectives. The situation simply lacked the innate institutional means for reform.

Iraq is no different...and while throwing 30,000 honest officers into the equation may limit the wheeling and dealing of those intent on the acquisition of power and profit...the society lacks the ability and the initiative to embrace the proposed social and political shifts.

Taking a current example...the city of Baltimore has already seen 200 murders this year. Using the surge mentality, the city could decide to increase the number of police officers in hopes of reducing this alarming trend...but the dynamics that created the trend in the first place must be eliminated in order to achieve sustainable improvement. Reality tells us such an endeavor will take a long time (see Chicago or any other city that confronted such a dilemma)...and it involves more than expanding the ranks of the police force. Undoubtedly, the city has issues with poverty, drugs, education, gangs, race, and any host of other factors that can be expected to precipitate such a decline.

Now imagine a similar situation in a nation that completely lacks the long standing governmental structure found here in the United States. We have the benefit of a stabilizing force that cannot be underestimated and yet we still encounter situations like Chicago in the early 20th century and Baltimore in the here and now. Iraq has none of that to bring to bear on the situation.

By providing the above argument to establish the magnitude of the tasks facing Iraq, the final piece of the rationale can be introduced...and it is best done through the asking of one essential question..."If another nation had intervened in Chicago or one chose to intervene in Baltimore now, how would the inhabitants of either city react and what response could we expect from the vast majority of Americans?"

I think the answer is obvious but I'll provide an example to illustrate my point. The European Union recently implored the governor of the state of Texas to reconsider the state's intention to execute a convicted criminal...and to place a moratorium on capital punishment. Governor Perry's office offered the following response.

The governor's spokesman, Robert Black, said in a statement that "230 years ago, our forefathers fought a war to throw off the yoke of a European monarch and gain the freedom of self-determination.

"Texans long ago decided that the death penalty is a just and appropriate punishment for the most horrible crimes committed against our citizens," Black said. "While we respect our friends in Europe, welcome their investment in our state and appreciate their interest in our laws, Texans are doing just fine governing Texas."

Suffice it to say that we would be fooling ourselves to presume that the same sentiment doesn't exist in Iraq. In fact, the recent remarks of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, in response to U.S. criticism of the lack of political progress, highlight the degree to which self-determination will remain an obstacle to our efforts.

The Democrats would do well to remind voters of the position held by George Bush prior to the 2000 election. At that time, candidate Bush rejected the notion of nation building. Let's give the President his due...his position on nation building was right before he was elected to the presidency. Unfortunately, one would be hard pressed to offer the same assessment of his track record since he became the sitting president.

U.S. voters need to understand that the United States is no longer engaged in a war in Iraq...that ended in short order with the toppling of the Hussein regime. Our troops successfully completed their mission long ago. When the Bush administration uses the words of war...words like "troop surge"...to discuss our failed effort at nation building, it is the responsibility of Democrats to firmly and fiercely rebut this foolish fairy tale.

Its time voters knew the truth...we won the war...our presence in Iraq is no longer a question of victory or defeat...the only outstanding decision is the one confronting the people of Iraq..."Are they ready to begin the difficult task of building a nation?"

Tagged as: Crime, George W. Bush, Governor Perry, Iraq, Nation Building, Nouri al-Maliki, Saddam Hussein, Troop Surge

Daniel DiRito | August 24, 2007 | 11:43 AM | link | Comments (0)
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August 23, 2007

The Daily Show On "America To The Rescue" genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Tongue-In-Cheek

Jon Stewart gives viewers the rundown on the role the United States has played in arming the combatants in the Middle East and beyond...with billions of dollars worth of weaponry.

As he details the numerous occasions the U.S. has "come to the rescue", the viewer quickly realizes that we've played a game of musical chairs with the nations of the region...sometimes a country is our pal and they get billions of dollars...sometime later they aren't our pal so we give their enemies billions of dollars.

Once Stewart finishes pointing out the utter schizophrenia that has typified our foreign policy, he rhetorically asks where the money is for our infrastructure or for rebuilding hurricane ravaged cities...at which point no one comes to the rescue and the screen goes silent.

Sometime comedy tells a twisted tale...funny as it may be...tragic all the same.

H/T to Crooks and Liars

Tagged as: Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Jon Stewart, Middle East, The Daily Show

Daniel DiRito | August 23, 2007 | 11:18 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Understanding Iraq...One Analogy At A Time genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation & Tongue-In-Cheek

Existential Angst

As I read the summaries of the latest National Intelligence Estimate, I found myself lacking for words to explain my ongoing frustration with the utter mismanagement and growing futility that seems to plague this misguided war in Iraq.

Instead of offering more of the same criticisms, I decided to make my commentary a creative and corny exercise in existential angst...thereby seeking to identify a few analogies that capture my feelings about this never ending war in Iraq. Feel free to share some of your own.

If Iraq were an orchestra, not only would the director's baton be broken, half of the musicians chairs would be empty, the ones at which musicians were seated would all have different sheet music on their stands, the auditorium would be dark due to a lack of electricity, and the audience would be fighting over the few bottles of water that are available from the concessionaires...who can neither speak the same language nor issue change in the same currency.

If Iraq were a Seinfeld episode, the animosity between Jerry and Newman would result in assassination attempts, Kramer and his assistant would never get the oil bladder to the window to drop on Jerry's former girlfriend...and if they did get it to the window, black market thugs would intercept it in order to sell it for a few extra bucks...long before it could land upon Jerry's former girlfriend, and Elaine would never need a case of sponges because Putty's putter wouldn't work anyway.

If Iraq were a football team, the coach's son would have been unfairly installed as the quarterback...only to have been subsequently voted off the team by his teammates...after which a majority click would then elect the inept kicker to replace the coach's son at quarterback. He would then attempt to drop kick his passes to his receivers...who would intentionally drop the ball to undermine the new quarterback because they belong to a minority click. When every drive therefore ended short of the red zone, he would mistakenly throw the ball through the uprights; resulting in a fifteen yard penalty and a loss of downs.

If the war in Iraq were an episode of Leave It To Beaver...it would be Voodoo Magic. In the program, the United States would be Wally, Iraq would be the Beaver, Iran would be The Rutherfords, Ward and June are the United Nations, and George Bush would be the inimitable Eddie Haskell.

In typical fashion, Eddie convinces Wally to go to a double feature movie on voodoo magic despite the objections of Ward and June. Wally listens to Eddie and drags the Beaver kicking and screaming into an ill-advised adventure that goes from bad to worse. The Beaver, angry at Eddie for creating a mess, places a curse on Eddie and spends the rest of the episode undermining the weaselly Eddie Haskell. Ward and June have to step in and manage the situation because Wally's had it with Eddie and the Beaver will have no part of Eddie's schemes.

If George Bush were Bill Gates and Iraq were an up and coming Fortune 100 company...well...in this case...that would be analogous to the rhyme, "If wishes were horses, Beggars would ride"...and that isn't gonna happen anytime soon.

Tagged as: Al-Maliki, Existentialism, George W. Bush, Iraq, Leave It to Beaver, National Intelligence Estimate, Sectarian Conflict, Seinfeld

Daniel DiRito | August 23, 2007 | 5:03 PM | link | Comments (0)
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White House: Obstruction To The Nth. Degree? genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

No Access

At some point, it is impossible to avoid suspecting that the Bush administration has something to hide...something that they are willing to keep from the American public regardless of expense, regardless of propriety, and even regardless of their own written words.

The Washington Post is reporting that the White House, in a motion responding to a lawsuit initiated by Citizens For Responsibility And Ethics In Washington (CREW), is now asserting that the White House Office of Administration isn't subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

CREW is seeking information related to the reported deletion of some five million emails...some of which were thought to be relevant to the investigation into the firing of a number of U.S. Attorneys by the Bush administration.

The Bush administration argued in court papers this week that the White House Office of Administration is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act as part of its effort to fend off a civil lawsuit seeking the release of internal documents about a large number of e-mails missing from White House servers.

The claim, made in a motion filed Tuesday by the Justice Department, is at odds with a depiction of the office on the White House's own Web site. As of yesterday, the site listed the Office of Administration as one of six presidential entities subject to the open-records law, which is commonly known by its abbreviation, FOIA.

CREW said it understood that internal White House documents had estimated at least 5 million e-mails were missing from March 2003 to October 2005.

The Bush administration has not provided a number publicly. Some of the records may have been subject to a document preservation law administered by the National Archives and Records Administration.

Melanie Sloan, CREW's executive director, said that "one has to wonder if this is an effort by the White House to keep secret the details of how millions of White House e-mail suddenly went missing. The OA's disingenuous claim that it is not subject to the FOIA is contradicted by its own actions and statements."

[...] the Office of Administration, which was formed in 1977 and handles various administrative and technology duties, responded to 65 FOIA requests last year and even has its own FOIA officer, records show.

In its 20-page motion, the Justice Department argues that past behavior is irrelevant, pointing to a 1996 appellate court ruling that found the White House-based National Security Council was not covered by FOIA even though it had complied with the law previously.

I keep coming back to the same question...why is the White House so focused upon preventing the public from seeing this information? Not only has this office previously provided access to information under the FOIA, it has an employee on staff intended to handle such matters. If the office isn't subject to the FOIA, why would it need an employee for such activities? The only rational answer is that the release of the information being sought by CREW would suggest acts of impropriety.

Look, I understand that Washington is a very partisan environment and no doubt both parties seek opportunities to embarrass and discredit the opposition. As such, I expect for there to be some level of resistance to fishing expeditions that may be intended to do little more than find political ammunition.

Notwithstanding, the degree to which the White House seems willing to resist any and all investigations cannot be ignored. I've said it before and I'll state it again, "I haven't seen this level of obfuscation since Richard Nixon"...and that is certainly a discomforting realization.

Perhaps this persistent resistance is nothing more than an indication of the President's confrontational Texas cowboy mentality...and a realization that being the sitting President gives one significant latitude...latitude that might as well be used to advantage. The fact that George Bush depicted himself as a uniter prior to his election only adds to the angst many voters experience when witnessing his affinity for acrimony.

If the White House has, in fact, played fast and loose with the law, it seems safe to assume that it will eventually be exposed. Whether that happens prior to the end of his second term remains open to debate.

Frankly, I'm just looking forward to that point in time when the voting public can focus its attention on the actions of a new President...one who we can hope won't be so obsessed with keeping the citizenry in the dark.

Image courtesy of Talk Left

Tagged as: CREW, George W. Bush, Justice Department, U.S. Attorneys, White House Office of Administration

Daniel DiRito | August 23, 2007 | 10:06 AM | link | Comments (0)
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August 22, 2007

George W. Bush: Not A "Stickler" For Mine Safety? genre: Econ-Recon & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Stickler And Murray

UPDATE:

The Salt Lake Tribune is reporting that public records indicate that many of the statements made by mine owner Bob Murray during the Crandall Canyon Mine rescue attempt have been less than accurate.

Since the outset of the mine collapse, there has been a dispute as to the type of mining taking place at the site. According to the records reviewed by the Tribune, retreat mining was in fact taking place...despite statements to the contrary by Murray.

Records of the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) show that, after Murray acquired a 50 percent ownership in the mine on Aug. 9, 2006, his company repeatedly petitioned the agency to allow coal to be extracted from the north and south barriers - thick walls of coal that run on both sides of the tunnels and help hold up the mine.

That stands in stark contrast to statements Murray made Monday asserting that his company's mine plan, and that of the previous owner, were one and the same.

Documents on file with the Utah Division of Oil Gas and Mining show Andalex had previously decided not to mine those barriers, determining it posed a risk to worker safety.

"There was a change of philosophy there," said Tony Oppegard, a former MSHA attorney and Kentucky mine official. "It's certainly very questionable. They wanted to get as much coal out of it as they can."

Calls to the company's attorney and spokesman Michael McKown were not returned Tuesday.

In February and March, the company did "retreat mining" in the north barrier, a practice that involves cutting away the remaining support pillars to extract the last coal deposits, leaving the roof to fall in.

Those who watched Bob Murray during the rescue attempt would have been hard pressed to miss his confrontational demeanor and his air of certainty. Having been around coal mining in my younger days, Murray is typical of many of the operators I've encountered.

Why Murray would see fit to misrepresent the type of mining taking place is somewhat puzzling given the likelihood that the mining records would be made public. I suspected then, and I suspect now, that Murray has been attempting to parse words in order to deflect the inevitable criticism.

In my own experience, it isn't unusual for there to be an ongoing battle between mine operators and MSHA...with mine owners frequently involve attorneys as they attempt to avoid cost creating rulings on the part of the government agency. It's a classic case of big business seeking to subvert regulations in order to improve the bottom line.

While I have witnessed valid arguments coming from both sides of these disputes, all too often the impact on the actual miners isn't the primary consideration. Mining is undoubtedly a risky endeavor...both from a financial standpoint for the operators and with regards to those who actually remove the coal.

In recent years, it appears that MSHA has acquiesced to the owner/operators. Given the recent spate of accidents, I would argue that the emphasis needs to return to the safety of the miners.

_____________________________________________________
ORIGINAL POSTING:

I've not written about the most recent mining disaster in deference to the feelings of the families who may have lost loved ones. Given the possibility that the rescue efforts are about to halt, I felt it was the right time to address the issue and the ongoing disregard for mine safety...a disregard that has become more evident since the Sago Mine disaster in early 2006.

Thought Theater previously posted on the differences between safety standards present in the Canadian coal mining industry and those here in the United States...differences that can be directly traced to saved lives in Canada...and lost lives here in the United States. I highly recommend that readers take the time to read that posting which can be found here.

Adding to the egregious nature of this most recent disaster is the fact that the man appointed by President Bush to head the Mine Safety & Health Administration was met with significant Congressional opposition (bipartisan) due to legitimate concerns about his safety credentials...yet the President still chose to proceed...awarding the position to Richard Stickler by virtue of a recess appointment.

Today, the Washington Post offers more details on the subject...raising more doubts as to the merits of the appointment.

Members of Congress, union officials and worker advocates were skeptical before the Aug. 6 accident that Richard Stickler was dedicated enough to worker safety.

Now all three groups are pointing out mistakes they say Stickler has made in handling attempts to rescue six trapped miners. The situation grew more grim last week when three rescue workers were killed in a subsequent cave-in.

Critics think any investigation of the accident will ultimately ask why MSHA signed off in June on a mining plan for the area where the collapse occurred.

Experts have said the terrain there was already risky for the type of mining the operators wanted to do. Concerns about the roof's stability after a cave-in damaged another part of the mine in March made MSHA's approval even more questionable, they say.

But the mine workers union and others say Stickler has failed to change the climate at MSHA from one of "really coddling mine operators," said Phil Smith, a spokesman for the United Mine Workers of America, which opposed Stickler's appointment and is calling for an independent investigation of the accident.

In the early days of the rescue, the bespectacled Stickler was regularly upstaged during news conferences by the mine's blustery co-owner, Bob Murray, who used press conferences to rail against his critics and insist that an earthquake - not a structural failure - caused his mine to collapse.

Critics say Murray has a reputation as a bully in the industry and he has openly criticized MSHA's inspectors. Murray's dominance led many observers to wonder whether Stickler was able - or willing - to control the scene.

In fairness, Stickler has his defenders and he earned praise for releasing a candid report on the Sago Mine disaster. Regardless, questions remain about Mr. Stickler's allegiance to mine operators and their economic considerations. As he is confronted with requests to implement improved safety measures designed to protect the miners...measures that would be costly to operators...there is concern he will defer to the wishes of these powerful and influential company executives.

Stickler's meek performance at Crandall Canyon...in contrast to the brash demeanor of Bob Murray, owner of the mine...simply heightened the nagging concerns. When Stickler's actions are coupled with the Bush administration's propensity to defer to big business and afford them with significant regulatory leeway (think toys contaminated with lead), it is difficult to conclude that safety is a priority. Factor in a review of the superior Canadian mine safety measures and the picture isn't very pretty.

Sadly, it seems that miners suffer an injustice akin to that referenced in the well known adage, "Out of sight, out of mind". It's time to prioritize their well-being and enact measures focused upon improving mine safety in America.

The following video clip is from Countdown with Keith Olbermann. He discusses the Stickler appointment and speaks with Arianna Huffington on the need to pass legislation meant to provide better safety.

Keith Olbermann On Mine Safety & The Bush Administration

Tagged as: Bob Murray, Canada, Coal Mining, Crandall Canyon Mine, George Bush, MSHA, Richard Stickler, Sago Mine

Daniel DiRito | August 22, 2007 | 1:30 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Mr. President...Democracy Is As Democracy Does genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Democracy

I like it when a simple situation can provide insight into more complex matters...and a new article in the Washington Post delivers the goods. It has long been thought that the Bush administration has sought to orchestrate events...big and small...for political advantage. In fact, if one has read much of what has been written about Karl Rove since his announced departure, the Bush administration rarely missed an opportunity to exploit an event for partisan gain.

The latest example involves a lawsuit filed by two individuals who were ejected from a Bush event because they wore objectionable clothing that wasn't favorable to the President. As a byproduct of that lawsuit, the Bush administration was forced to release an instruction manual which details the measures taken to insure that presidential appearances were partisan events...events where protest and dissent were quickly quashed.

In viewing some of the detail contained in that document, one is able to see the degree to which this administration was willing to circumvent opposing views. It also helps explain the concerns that this President has chosen to isolate himself from those who do not share his vision or his views...leaving him unaware of the other relevant arguments and convinced that his thoughts are not only mainstream; they are majority mandates that must be maintained.

Not that they're worried or anything. But the White House evidently leaves little to chance when it comes to protests within eyesight of the president. As in, it doesn't want any.

A White House manual that came to light recently gives presidential advance staffers extensive instructions in the art of "deterring potential protestors" from President Bush's public appearances around the country.

Among other things, any event must be open only to those with tickets tightly controlled by organizers. Those entering must be screened in case they are hiding secret signs. Any anti-Bush demonstrators who manage to get in anyway should be shouted down by "rally squads" stationed in strategic locations. And if that does not work, they should be thrown out.

But that does not mean the White House is against dissent -- just so long as the president does not see it. In fact, the manual outlines a specific system for those who disagree with the president to voice their views. It directs the White House advance staff to ask local police "to designate a protest area where demonstrators can be placed, preferably not in the view of the event site or motorcade route."

The "Presidential Advance Manual," dated October 2002 with the stamp "Sensitive -- Do Not Copy," was released under subpoena to the American Civil Liberties Union as part of a lawsuit filed on behalf of two people arrested for refusing to cover their anti-Bush T-shirts at a Fourth of July speech at the West Virginia State Capitol in 2004.

The manual demonstrates "that the White House has a policy of excluding and/or attempting to squelch dissenting viewpoints from presidential events," said ACLU lawyer Jonathan Miller. "Individuals should have the right to express their opinion to the president, even if it's not a favorable one."

I find it interesting that a man who likes to fashion himself as a champion of freedom and democracy has so little regard for enabling it...when it may take the form of dissent...and therefore not agree with his vision of it. Even more ironic is the fact that the President, just this week, chose to label himself as a dissident. Its difficult to avoid the contradictions.

As to providing insight into more complex matters, I can't help but wonder what can be discerned about other policies enacted by the White House that have yet to be exposed. I also can't help but think back to the presidency of Richard Nixon...the last occupant of the Oval Office who had a compulsive streak with regard to those whom he regarded as his opponents.

As I allow myself to explore the possibilities, I find no comfort in my thoughts. Permit me to offer some plausible concerns. There are many. They include the surveillance programs discussed in the NSA scandal and subsequently monitored by the FISA court, issues of torture with regard to enemy combatants, the holding of prisoners in Guantanamo and other unidentified facilities without due process, the possibility that U.S. Attorneys were fired for failing to better serve the partisan goals of the GOP, the institution of signing statements designed to modify legislation which fails to meet with the President's favor, and the outing of Valerie Plame in order to discredit her husband's contentions with regards to WMD's and the intelligence used to justify the invasion of Iraq.

Let's look at one particular item. With the recent expansion of the surveillance measures allowed under the FISA court...a move the Bush administration argued was essential to combat terrorism...we clearly see an area vulnerable to the abuses of power one might expect from a leader who is obsessed with conformity and who has a history of seeking to silence those who would undermine his message (as evidenced by the "manual".

Yes, we can all agree that it is important to prevent terrorist attacks...but just this week we saw the Pentagon cancel the TALON program...an anti-terror database used to gather information...information that included the activities of anti-war groups as well as LGBT advocacy organizations...groups clearly unrelated to the purpose underlying the establishment of the program. Again, if abuse exists in this program, what other abuses are taking place that we have yet to uncover?

The questions raised by this and other examples are many and they all center on concerns about the misuse of power. If a president is willing to create a manual to manage and monitor those who attend his public appearances...and such activities typify a mentality prone to pushing the partisan envelope...one must wonder what other measures have been established...or what other legitimate programs have been hijacked in order to carry out other similar activities.

Once one begins to explore this area of thought, another concern emerges...the one that became known as "stonewalling" during the Nixon years...and is now being called "executive privilege" by the Bush administration. Let's again look at the contradictions.

Here we have a President who has made the exportation of freedom and democracy the flagship of his administration...and at the same time...here at home...he has made it a practice to circumvent both under the guise of national security. Am I alone in seeing the inconsistencies? I struggle to understand a man who would...on the one hand...be willing to risk his legacy upon a doctrine of creating democracies around the world and accepting of the likelihood that history will be unkind in recounting his actions ...and then on the other hand, be willing to approach issues of established democratic process at home with such disdain and a seeming disregard for all that he so firmly and fervently espouses.

If he has done no wrong, then no wrong can come from allowing the democratic process to verify as much. In doing so, would he not be demonstrating his commitment to the form of government he insists can bring peace and prosperity to the world? When his actions seem just the opposite, one must view the dissonance with skepticism...all the while looking for a palatable explanation. Stepping back, his actions with regard to public appearances and the creation of a manual offer the necessary blocks upon which to build a reasoned rationale.

The President's apologists would contend that his actions at home are simply a reasonable response to the partisan proclivities of his detractors which have been designed to cast disfavor on the President and the GOP. In the absence of his unpopular and controversial actions with regard to Iraq, I might accept that argument...an argument that could sensibly conclude that no president should do that which is detrimental to his retention of power...especially if it is part and parcel of a partisan effort to undermine his support.

Unfortunately, this President casts himself as a man of principle and conviction...arguing that while his actions in Iraq may be unpopular with the voting public, they are the right thing to do. Is it logical for a man of this ilk to take a completely opposite approach at home? If democracy is the holy grail for the people of Iraq and other oppressed nations, why subvert it here in the United States? If the President has done no wrong, why not let the democratic process do what it does best...expose truth...and therefore illuminate the promise of a free and open society.

The fact that he hasn't and the fact that he continues to employ efforts to obstruct and obfuscate serve to invalidate his intentions...leaving objective observers suspicious as to his sincerity. Let me be clear...I'm not suggesting that a President should never refuse to cooperate with Congress...but in looking at the Bush administration it becomes a question of degree. Clearly, this President has made it a matter of practice...a quantitative fact which must be viewed in its proper historical context...leaving one doubtful and disturbed by the persistent patterns.

In the final analysis, the difference between the activities of the Bush administration and those of Richard Nixon are little more than the fact that the Bush administration has had the benefit of a war on terror upon which it has been able to legally piggyback it's efforts to monitor and manage those who are viewed as opponents. Regardless, the intentions and the abuses which have resulted are no less heinous and no less indicative of a man obsessed with maintaining power and silencing or stifling those who might seek to unseat him.

When the President characterizes the quest to bring freedom and democracy to the world as the fundamental struggle confronting civilization, I can't help but think of the Michael Jackson song...the one that says "I'm starting with the man in the mirror". Mr. President, may I sincerely suggest you take a look?

Artwork by Phil Scroggs

Tagged as: Democracy, FISA, Freedom of Speech, George W. Bush, Guantanamo, Iraq, NSA, Richard Nixon, TALON, Torture, U.S. Attorneys

Daniel DiRito | August 22, 2007 | 8:53 AM | link | Comments (1)
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August 21, 2007

A Cynical View Of GWB's Comments On The Maliki Govt. genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak

Bush And Maliki

It seems that many observers were surprised by the President's remarks on the Maliki government. In his comments, the President indicated that the progress of the Maliki government was insufficient. He also signaled he would accept the replacement of the embattled leader if it were the will of the Iraqi people.

I'll offer my own cynical take on the President's comments after providing the following excerpts.

MONTEBELLO, Canada, Aug. 21 -- President Bush pointedly declined Tuesday to offer a public endorsement of embattled Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, expressing his disappointment at the lack of political progress in Iraq and saying that widespread popular frustration could lead Iraqis to replace their government.

"The fundamental question is: Will the government respond to the demands of the people?" Bush said. Stopping short of directly endorsing Maliki, as he has on several previous occasions, Bush continued, "If the government doesn't respond to the demands of the people, they will replace the government."

White House aides said later that Bush's comments did not mean he was withdrawing support from Maliki but were simply a statement of reality -- that Iraqis were growing frustrated and that under the country's new democratic system, the people could decide to replace the current government with a more capable one. But the president's tough words -- together with similar strong statements from the top U.S. diplomat in Baghdad -- suggested that the administration's patience with the current leadership is wearing thin.

"There's not a strong sense anywhere, really, of the central government being present and active in making conditions in Iraq better," Crocker said at a news briefing three weeks before he and Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, are scheduled to present a progress report to Congress. "They've got to do more of that."

I view the statement of the President to be a strategic calculation in anticipation of General Petraeus' report on the troop surge which is scheduled to be delivered by mid-September. Here's the equation. September is going to be a critical month in determining the future of Iraq.

The Iraqi government is scheduled to reconvene in early September and will likely face a challenge to the Maliki government as well as growing U.S. demands to reach some long expected political resolutions. Simultaneously, the Bush administration has committed to provide Congress with a progress report on the troop surge.

Let's suppose that the Petraeus report will indicate some progress but will also suggest that the troop presence cannot be maintained in the long term...meaning that the Iraqi government must forge some agreements which will quickly begin to lessen the sectarian conflict that is undermining the military progress.

Let's also suppose that the Bush administration is doubtful that Maliki can withstand the coming onslaught and they believe he is likely to be removed from office. All indications suggest that such an outcome would likely come sooner than later...very possibly in September.

Now putting two and two together, the worst possible scenario for the Bush administration would be to find itself still strongly supporting the Maliki government while also receiving a report from Petraeus stating that military progress has been achieved but also that it will be for naught if the Maliki government can't forge a functional government.

In order for the Bush administration to have any hope that Congress (especially the many Republicans who have hinted they are ready to jump ship) will afford the President more time to succeed in Iraq, it must not find itself having touted a surge that was nullified by the political meltdown of the Maliki government.

Further, if the Maliki government is destined to fail, the Bush administration cannot be seen as being blind-sided by the event; it must distance itself now and be prepared to handle the probability of a new government as an orderly transition and a matter of fact rather than as an unforeseen crisis with uncertain ramifications. Such an event must be portrayed in a favorable light even if it is difficult to predict that reality or to plan for such an eventuality.

The bottom line is that the Bush administration cannot allow the Petraeus report to be issued in the midst of a government collapse for which it hasn't prepared Congress and the American people. I believe it is safe to assume that the Petraeus report is going to be more positive than negative...and that will happen one way or another.

For the Bush strategy to have any hope of proceeding, the Petraeus report has to be accompanied by some semblance of political progress...even if that will inevitably be the installation of a new government. A fully supported Maliki government on the precipice of collapse would be a disaster for the President. At least a new government would allow the Bush administration to spin it as part and parcel of demonstrable progress. It would also allow the Bush administration to contend that the long-standing political logjam had been broken...and that could be coupled with a positive military report to form the rationale for a continuation of the existing strategy.

The bottom line is that the Bush administration knows full well that September is a make or break moment. As such, distancing itself from the Maliki government is required. To do otherwise is far too risky. It also allows Bush to find common ground with those in Congress who are calling for the ouster of the Maliki government...a move that would serve to neutralize the use of such demands as the reason to halt the ongoing U.S. involvement. In the end, September must be spun as a success or Congress will begin the process of forcing an end to the occupation.

Those opposed to the war need to be mindful of the stakes and the various strategies or they will find themselves outfoxed and moving into October with little to show for their efforts. Bush's brain may be departing soon but the President's detractors would be foolish to underestimate the determination of this President and his fellow neocons to complete their intended mission. Look for the President to pull out all of the stops.

Tagged as: General David Petraeus, George W. Bush, Iraq, Neocons, Nouri al-Maliki

Daniel DiRito | August 21, 2007 | 9:38 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Fred Barnes: Journalist, Apologist, Magician? genre: Econ-Recon & Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

The Wizard Behind The Curtain

Fred Barnes, in an editorial at the Wall Street Journal, offers his manifesto for Republican resurgence. Unfortunately, from my perspective, the piece is a textbook demonstration of the degree to which GOP insiders haven't a clue with regards to the concerns of ordinary Americans as well as the existing political realities. Even worse, much of the piece is an exercise in the "if only" mentality one might expect to find in the Harry Potter world of fantasy and magic. The following excerpt is wholly illustrative.

Clearly the war hurt, more than a little. Just as clearly, a turnaround in Iraq would help enormously.

But even if the "surge" is as successful as it appears it might be, there's a problem. While public support has increased recently, the war still faces deep-seated opposition. There's a widespread view that its cost in lives, money and national prestige has been too high. This won't change overnight. Public opinion isn't quite that fickle.

It's not immutable, however. What if military success by Gen. David Petraeus, the American commander, is matched by a political breakthrough engineered by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki? Or matched by the acceleration of political reconciliation at the provincial rather than the national level in Iraq? Either scenario is possible.

I'm willing to concede that anything is possible in this world of uncertainty...but to assume that all of the above will transpire seems akin to Mr. Barnes believing that he holds the winning Power Ball ticket. Yes, it could happen...but it is hardly a reasoned piece of journalistic conjecture.

While Barnes is imagining a political breakthrough, Senator Levin and others are suggesting that the Maliki government is not only an obstacle to progress; it may need to be removed for any hope of political reconciliation to emerge. Shouldn't a Wall Street Journal piece offer more than the fanciful thought one might find on a slip of paper removed from a fortune cookie?

For the sake of those within the GOP who are actually seeking a blueprint for a return to relevance, may I suggest that the content of this editorial may not be the horse upon which to hitch their hopes?

Mr. Bush can't erase the memory of his inept handling of Hurricane Katrina. But if another disaster occurred and the president responded effectively, that would counteract the memory of his Katrina performance.

OK, if this is part of the Barnes plan, why not be bold and ask Pat Robertson and the 700 Club to pray that god's wrath be brought upon another sinful city so that the President can redeem his poor performance. Never mind that this sounds like Barnes is wishing America experience a natural disaster in order to achieve political gain.

As I recall, each time a Democrat has mentioned the possibility of a terrorist attack and that we are no safer as a result of the invasion of Iraq, the GOP has pounced upon such statements as vile, unpatriotic demonstrations of blatant partisanship...going so far as to argue that the Democrats hate America and calling such statements a willingness to sacrifice American lives for political capital. Conversely, is hoping for a natural disaster a noble cause if it helps the GOP?

On fiscal issues, Democrats foolishly dismissed the president's insistence on cutting $22 billion from overall discretionary spending, claiming it was a puny amount. To them, it is. To the public, it's not. A veto war on spending bills is likely to work in Mr. Bush's favor, though not if weak-willed congressional Republicans cut and run. Should it lead to a government shutdown--call it the shutdown trap--that would be all the more harmful to Democrats.

On taxes, Democrats appear confident there's no trap at all, so long as they don't raise taxes on the middle class. Thus congressional Democrats have felt free to pass tax hikes this year on energy companies, foreign corporations and cigarettes, and they're poised to repeal the Bush tax cuts for those earning more than $200,000 a year.

Republicans believe Democrats have misread their mandate on taxes. We'll see.

Fred, where have you been while this President has nearly doubled the national debt from 5 trillion to 9 trillion? Have you forgotten that this is the President who enacted the largest entitlement program in recent history with the passage of his prescription drug benefit? When the Democrats fail to get excited about 22 billion dollars, they do so while pointing to the borrow and spend backdrop that has typified the Bush administration.

As to the tax hikes which Barnes feels will hurt the Democrats, clearly the number of Americans impacted by such increases is miniscule...but then again, I doubt Barnes spends much time with ordinary citizens. Frankly, Barnes might want to consider the possibility that voters have grown weary of tax cut promises from the GOP. Putting a few dollars into a voters pocket...while at the same time taking it out through inflation, wage stagnation, a suspect economy, declining home prices and sales, tightening credit, and the expenditure of 10 to 12 billion dollars each month on an endless war effort...doesn't seem like much of a winning strategy.

They practically invited Democrats to trump them on ethics and lobbying reform. And they've allowed their obsession with illegal immigrants to get out of hand. This drives away Hispanic voters and leaves the impression that Republicans are small-minded, ungenerous and nasty. The worst offenders are the presidential candidates, who would be wise to tone down their rhetoric on immigration.

Yes, nothing like embracing a strategy premised upon the notion that a leopard can suddenly lose its spots. The glaring omission in this suggestion is any understanding of where the GOP actually stands with regards to immigration...other than where Barnes posits may be most politically advantageous. Perhaps the fact that the Republican Party seems to treat this and so many other issues as nothing more than political calculations is what is troubling voters?

From my vantage point, Republican candidates have spent years using the immigration issue to pander to competing constituents such that the majority of the wells have been poisoned and the kool-aid is no longer potable. Weaving a workable message at this point would be akin to pulling a rabbit out of a hat.

As Karl Rove has noted, Republicans need a big idea. The best available is the one Mr. Bush abandoned: ownership. Allowing private investment of payroll taxes for Social Security would only be a start. An Ownership Society would allow individual Americans, rather than government, to control how and where their health care, public education, 401(k) and IRA funds are spent.

I'll give Barnes credit...if you're in the last act of a show that is undoubtedly destined to go dark...you might as well pull out all of the stops. Sadly, like most men who become enamored with their own self-interest, Barnes' Ownership Society finale is little more than the wish list of a man and a Party that has not only sought to raid the cookie jar...but has also decided that it is entitled to devour all of the delicacies on the dish.

In the ultimate miscalculation, Barnes' final words ring hollow to the many voters who can't afford this months rent, who work jobs that do not provide health insurance, who couldn't put money in a 401K even if the company offered one, and who haven't the time or the energy to invest social security funds for a future they can't begin to imagine as they try to scrape together the means to put enough food on tonight's dinner table.

I hate to be the one to break this to Fred...but after reading his manifesto, the final thought that crossed my mind was that it would be far easier for voters to simply vote for the Democrats than for them to hope that the Republicans can shed their sullied skin and suddenly become the compassionate conservatives they so masterfully marketed as none other than George Bush.

In the end, the Barnes piece has served one valuable purpose...it has made it abundantly clear why voters will likely relegate the GOP to the sidelines for the foreseeable future. In the meantime, maybe Mr. Barnes and his fellow Republicans can craft the next iteration of an ill-conceived illusion. One thing is certain, they would be well advised to choose a better wizard...one that isn't quite so visibly unable to manipulate the machinery as the drapes of deception are dismantled.

Tagged as: 2008, Fred Barnes, GOP, Immigration, Iraq, Katrina, Ownership Society, Social Security, Wall Street Journal

Daniel DiRito | August 21, 2007 | 10:29 AM | link | Comments (0)
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August 20, 2007

Mama's Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Poor genre: Econ-Recon & Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak

Health Insurance

UPDATE:

More good news for parents and children! The Bush administration, in conjunction with China, sought to limit the testing of imported products for lead contamination...which includes children's toys.

From McClatchy:

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration and China have both undermined efforts to tighten rules designed to ensure that lead paint isn't used in toys, bibs, jewelry and other children’s products.

Both have fought efforts to better police imported toys from China.

Now both are under increased scrutiny following last week’s massive toy recall by Mattel Inc., the world’s largest toymaker.

The Bush administration has hindered regulation on two fronts, consumer advocates say. It stalled efforts to press for greater inspections of imported children’s products, and it altered the focus of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), moving it from aggressive protection of consumers to a more manufacturer-friendly approach.

“The overall philosophy is regulations are bad and they are too large a cost for industry, and the market will take care of it," said Rick Melberth, director of regulatory policy at OMBWatch, a government watchdog group formed in 1983. “That’s been the philosophy of the Bush administration."

Today, more than 80 percent of all U.S. toys are now made in China and few of them get inspected.

“We’ve been complaining about this issue, warning it is going to happen, and it is disappointing that it has happened," said Tom Neltner, a co-chairman of the Sierra Club’s national toxics committee.

So not only does our President oppose providing health care to children in need, he has no problem exposing them to the risks of lead poisoning...so long as its good for the economy...you know...the robust economy that has allowed China to gain a virtual stranglehold on U.S. currency.

From a public relations standpoint, I can't imagine a worse scenario given the recent confluence of events. Here we not only have the Bush administration issuing a change in policy designed to limit the number of children who will have access to health care during a Congressional recess...we have a report that the same administration has put the health of these same children at risk.

I'm not sure how one could make the situation worse...but perhaps if we give it a day or two, the powers that be can announce another measure intended to assure Americans that George Bush is nothing short of Mr. Scrooge. I can't wait to see what the administration may have planned for Christmas. Perhaps the government can assure the voting public that there will be a lead laden toy in every child's Christmas stocking?

___________________________________________________
ORIGINAL POSTING:

The Bush administration loves children...really they do. First they promoted and passed No Child Left Behind...and failed to properly fund it. Then they agreed to provide insurance for children living in households that are unable to afford health insurance...and followed that with a new set of guidelines designed to limit the number of children eligible for the program.

Perhaps this is just a tough love message for children...one that is intended to let them know that there is no time like the present to get out there and find a job...you know...like the Bush twins did. It's also possible the President is hoping to spare children the scourge he felt when political opponents joked that the Bush family had lived a life of privilege...complete with a silver spoon. Regardless, nothing says I love you quite like punishing innocent American children.

Administration officials outlined the new standards in a letter sent to state health officials on Friday evening, in the middle of a month-long Congressional recess. In interviews, they said the changes were aimed at returning the Children’s Health Insurance Program to its original focus on low-income children and to make sure the program did not become a substitute for private health coverage.

After learning of the new policy, some state officials said today that it could cripple their efforts to cover more children by imposing standards that could not be met.

As on other issues like immigration, the White House is taking action on its own to advance policies that were not embraced by Congress.

In the letter sent to state health officials about 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Dennis G. Smith, the director of the federal Center for Medicaid and State Operations, set a high standard for states that want to raise eligibility for the child health program above 250 percent of the poverty level.

Before making such a change, Mr. Smith said, states must demonstrate that they have “enrolled at least 95 percent of children in the state below 200 percent of the federal poverty level" who are eligible for either Medicaid or the child health program.

In his letter, Mr. Smith said the new standards would apply to states that previously received federal approval to cover children with family incomes exceeding 250 percent of the poverty level. Such states should amend their state plans to meet federal expectations within 12 months, or the Bush administration “may pursue corrective action," Mr. Smith said.

Completely ignored in the issuance of this policy statement by the Bush administration is whether or not insurance is available to a family or whether a family has the means to afford the cost of such insurance. Even worse, the letter indicates that some children must be dropped from the program in order to meet the new guidelines.

The fact that this new policy rationale attempts to portray the issue as a matter of choosing between private insurance and that which would be provided by the government program is laughable. Reality tells us that the choice is actually between having any insurance and having no insurance.

I'm sorry, but this is the same administration that routinely justifies the United States invasion of Iraq as a moral necessity intended to end the mistreatment of the Iraqi people by the Hussein regime. Maybe this new policy letter should have instructed the parents of uninsured children to pack up and move to Iraq...that country where the American compassion compass continues to matter.

Those parents who fail to understand the decision to limit the availability of health care need to understand that the 10 to 12 billion dollars being spent each month in Iraq is for a noble purpose...one that our president believes is in keeping with his divinely inspired mandate.

After all, it should come as no surprise that this President only takes orders from his heavenly father. As such, its really quite simple...all these parents need to do is convince their uninsured children of the need to pray a little more frequently.

Tagged as: Childrens Toys, China, George W. Bush, Health Care, Insurance, Lead Poisoning, Poverty

Daniel DiRito | August 20, 2007 | 8:19 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Sen. Levin: Maliki Government Should Be Replaced genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak

Levin And Warner

Following a trip to Iraq, Senator Carl Levin has suggested that the current Maliki leadership should be replaced with a less sectarian government...one that will seek political solutions to the many issues which remain unresolved and are serving as a source of ongoing conflict and violence.

In early September, the Iraqi government is set to reconvene following a month long break. At approximately the same time, General David Petraeus is scheduled to offer his much anticipated report on the troop surge and the prospects for an end to the ongoing violence.

In a tragic and ironic twist, it is possible that General Petraeus could be reporting the progress achieved by the recent troop surge at the very same time during which the Maliki government is being removed. The fact that this possibility exists simply highlights the oft made argument that the addition of more U.S. troops cannot provide the political solutions which will be necessary to establish a functional Iraqi society.

"I hope that the Iraqi assembly, when it reconvenes in a few weeks, will vote the Maliki government out of office and will have the wisdom to replace it with a less sectarian and a more unifying prime minister and government," said Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee.

The two senior lawmakers issued a joint statement saying that while the U.S. military "surge" in Iraq has given Iraqi politicians some breathing room, they have failed to make the compromises needed to bring peace to that war-torn nation.

"We are not optimistic about the prospects for those compromises," the Levin and Warner said in their joint statement.

Levin in a teleconference with reporters went a step further, suggesting the Iraqi parliament have a vote of no confidence and replace the Maliki government, which he said is built too much upon sectarian allegiances and connections.

"There's a consensus that there is no military solution and there is only a political solution, and that's truer now than it has ever been, and the gridlock has got to end in that government if there's going to be a political solution," Levin said.

Once again, I expect to hear the Bush administration tout the temporary progress while asking the American public and Congress to be patient as we near the achievement of our elusive goal.

Unfortunately for the President, anyone remotely connected to reality will view such a request with utter contempt. Each and every time the Bush administration has requested and been granted the latitude to prosecute this war as it sees fit, the results have failed to meet the projections.

The administration continues to ignore the clear and consistent obstacles...obstacles that have originated with the failures of the Iraqi leadership and which will not cease until such time as there is a government focused upon a united Iraq. Until Iraq has a leadership that isn't focused first and foremost upon establishing a sectarian hierarchy designed to pursue power and profit, the efforts of the United States will be little more than the means by which U.S. soldiers are placed in harms way.

While most Americans would like to see a solution to the Iraqi quagmire, history tells us to expect more of the same. Such a strategy is no longer tenable and should not be tolerated.

Tagged as: Carl Levin, David Petraeus, Iraq, John Warner, Nuri al-Maliki, Sectarian violence, Troop surge

Daniel DiRito | August 20, 2007 | 7:02 PM | link | Comments (0)
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August 20, 2007

Bill Moyers On The Karl Rove Departure genre: Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak & Video-Philes

In the following video clip, Bill Moyers provides a fitting footnote to the Rove legacy...an honest assessment of the man behind the manipulations. Moyers outlines the basis of the Rove strategy and he also explains the carnage left in...

Tagged as: Bill Moyers, George W. Bush, Karl Rove

Daniel DiRito | August 20, 2007 | 6:14 PM | link | Comments (0)
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A Thoroughly Modern America...Think Again? genre: Econ-Recon & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

We Americans like to think of ourselves as evolved individuals who embrace freedom and equality for all...and in many ways our history has demonstrated the truth found in this assumption. At the same time, we haven't encountered that many...

Tagged as: 2008 Election, 9/11, Barack Obama, Equality, Hillary Clinton, Immigration, Prejudice, Racism

Daniel DiRito | August 20, 2007 | 11:16 AM | link | Comments (0)
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Experts Agree: Surge Will Not Work, U.S. Not Safer genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak

Karl Rove and other GOP operatives like to tell the American public that President Bush is a man who has demonstrated strength and conviction when confronted with difficult situations. Unfortunately, many of the President's critics view those same traits...

Tagged as: Foreign Policy, George W. Bush, Iraq, Islamic extremism, Middle East

Daniel DiRito | August 20, 2007 | 9:08 AM | link | Comments (6)
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August 15, 2007

Rootin' Tootin' Rudy "Rassles" Foreign Policy genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Rudy Giuliani apparently thinks our next president ought to conduct America's foreign policy in the same manner he navigated the end of his last marriage...an in your face flaunting of one's ability to do what one chooses regardless of...

Tagged as: 2008 Election, Dick Cheney, Foreign Policy, Israel, Palestine, Rudy Giuliani

Daniel DiRito | August 15, 2007 | 3:28 PM | link | Comments (0)
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August 14, 2007

The ABC's Of The 2008 Presidential Election genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

For a number of years, the GOP political strategy has been characterized by a focus upon three prevailing issues that many have chosen to call "God, guns, and gays". As we approach the 2008 election, there seems to be...

Tagged as: 2008 Presidential Election, Fred Thompson, GOP, Iran, Iraq, LGBT, Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, War on Terror

Daniel DiRito | August 14, 2007 | 4:56 PM | link | Comments (0)
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August 13, 2007

An Epitaph For Karl Rove genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Epitaphs are typically reserved for the dead...but after reading the many views on the passing of Karl Rove...from his role in the George Bush White House...one might conclude that the "Wicked Witch" has had the misfortune of being under...

Tagged as: George Bush, Karl Rove, LGBT, Partisanship

Daniel DiRito | August 13, 2007 | 9:59 AM | link | Comments (25)
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August 11, 2007

Kos: Defining The Center With A Circular Argument? genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

It is human nature to want to be right...and unfortunately, it is also human nature to make such assertions even in the absence of the necessary evidence. While I understand the instinct, I'm not sure it serves to advance...

Tagged as: Daily Kos, DLC, Markos Moulitsas, Nancy Pelosi, Ned Lamont, Netroots, Progressive, Susan Gardner, YearlyKos

Daniel DiRito | August 11, 2007 | 10:03 AM | link | Comments (1)
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August 10, 2007

Thoughts On Logo's Democratic Candidate Forum genre: Gaylingual & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

After watching the Democratic presidential candidate forum on Logo, I've given some further thought to a few issues that I've pondered for some time and I decided now was the appropriate time to share those thoughts. Generally speaking, the...

Tagged as: 2008 Presidential Election, Equality, LGBT, Logo, Same-Sex Marriage

Daniel DiRito | August 10, 2007 | 9:06 AM | link | Comments (4)
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August 9, 2007

Iran's Ahmadinejad & Iraq's Al-Maliki Hold Hands genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation & Snapshot Thoughts

Trite as it may sound, a picture is, on occasion, worth a thousand words...and the following picture may best tell the story of the Bush administrations miscalculations with regards to Iraq and our efforts to establish a democracy that...

Tagged as: Dick Cheney, George Bush, Iran, Iraq, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Nouri al-Maliki, Sectarian Conflict

Daniel DiRito | August 9, 2007 | 3:36 PM | link | Comments (1)
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Musings On Musharraf & Bush: Birds Of A Feather? genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Every now and again, I decide to post an item that offers little more than an interesting observation...with little relevance in the larger scheme of things. I've been preoccupied with Pakistan and Pervez Musharraf of late...likely a function of...

Tagged as: al Qaeda, George W. Bush, Osama bin Laden, Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, Taliban, War On Terror

Daniel DiRito | August 9, 2007 | 1:10 PM | link | Comments (0)
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August 8, 2007

Political Strategy: Pakistan/Musharraf Calculation genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Keep a close eye on Pakistan...both in terms of Musharraf's ability to hold power and also with regard to how the Democratic candidates frame their positions on handling the sensitive relationship. Bear with me while I elaborate. Reuters is...

Tagged as: 2008 Election, al Qaeda, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Osama bin Laden, Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, War On Terror

Daniel DiRito | August 8, 2007 | 2:09 PM | link | Comments (6)
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August 3, 2007

No Water Or Power: Winning Hearts & Minds In Iraq? genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Nothing says we're here to help you better than turning off the power and shutting down the flow of water when it's 122 degrees outside. Yes, the United States is busy winning the hearts and minds of the people...

Tagged as: Baghdad, General Shinseki, George Bush, Iraq, Troop Surge

Daniel DiRito | August 3, 2007 | 11:34 AM | link | Comments (0)
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August 1, 2007

Rudy's Health Plan Comes With A Tax Break & A Tiara genre: Econ-Recon & Polispeak

GOP presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani offered his notion of a national health care plan...one that sounds fit for a king or a queen...but not the average citizen. Then again, if the recent Vanity Fair article on the latest Mrs....

Tagged as: 2008 Election, Healthcare Reform, Insurance, Rudy Giuliani, Tax Breaks

Daniel DiRito | August 1, 2007 | 8:31 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Dominoes: Musharraf, Malaise, & More Of The Same genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

I've got dominoes on my mind today...but unfortunately they're not the type that one would find to be entertaining. The primary domino I'm watching is the unstable situation in Pakistan...the country one might call the new Afghanistan... and the...

Tagged as: al Qaeda, George W. Bush, Iraq, Osama bin Laden, Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, Saudi Arabia, War On Terror

Daniel DiRito | August 1, 2007 | 2:28 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Zogby Poll: Are American Voters Sore Losers? genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

As I reviewed the data from the latest Zogby Poll, I came to a new conclusion that will undoubtedly draw the criticism of some of my fellow citizens...but what the hell...I think it needs to be spoken. A majority...

Tagged as: Congress, Democrats, Iraq, Republicans, War On Terror, Zogby Poll

Daniel DiRito | August 1, 2007 | 11:07 AM | link | Comments (0)
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