Polispeak: September 2007: Archives
Well that didn't take long. In the aftermath of the demand to condemn the questionable MoveOn.org advertisement singling out General Petraeus' for his role in supporting the Bush administration policy in Iraq, it seemed likely that one of the many Bush apologists would soon step into some deep doodoo. As fortune would have it, the winner turns out to be none other than Rush Limbaugh.
From Media Matters:
During the September 26 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, Rush Limbaugh called service members who advocate U.S. withdrawal from Iraq "phony soldiers." He made the comment while discussing with a caller a conversation he had with a previous caller, "Mike from Chicago," who said he "used to be military," and "believe[s] that we should pull out of Iraq." Limbaugh told the second caller, whom he identified as "Mike, this one from Olympia, Washington," that "[t]here's a lot" that people who favor U.S. withdrawal "don't understand" and that when asked why the United States should pull out, their only answer is, " 'Well, we just gotta bring the troops home.' ... 'Save the -- keeps the troops safe' or whatever," adding, "[I]t's not possible, intellectually, to follow these people." "Mike" from Olympia replied, "No, it's not, and what's really funny is, they never talk to real soldiers. They like to pull these soldiers that come up out of the blue and talk to the media." Limbaugh interjected, "The phony soldiers." The caller, who had earlier said, "I am a serving American military, in the Army," agreed, replying, "The phony soldiers."
As Media Matters for America has documented, Limbaugh denounced as "contemptible" and "indecent" MoveOn.org's much-discussed advertisement -- titled "General Petraeus or General Betray Us?" -- critical of Gen. David Petraeus, but has repeatedly attacked the patriotism of those with whom he disagrees. For instance, on the January 25 broadcast of his radio show, he told his audience that he had a new name for Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE), a Vietnam veteran: "Senator Betrayus."
Limbaugh has been pushing the envelope for years...frequently jumping up and down on the line but seemingly succeeding in not crossing the threshold of no return. With the timing of his latest remarks...so close on the heels of the MoveOn.org fiasco...Rush may have finally failed to sneak one by.
The man who fashions himself to be a skillful tactician...on the order of an Olympic diver...able to jump into an issue head first, speak his piece, and leave behind insufficient evidence of his obtuse and offensive persona...may have finally committed the proverbial belly flop; leaving behind enough proof to warrant his disqualification.
Limbaugh's reflections have long been directed at the unwitting...and with this latest assault upon soldiers who serve their country honorably...he has once again chosen to wield his haughty hammer like a crazed carpenter in a glass house. Fortunately, the self-absorbed oxy-gen receptacle (code for pill popping windbag) may have misjudged his swing and shattered his own house of smoke and mirrors.
If it isn't obvious, I'll not lose any sleep while his actions are probed...in ways that he'll hopefully find to be reminiscent of a visit to the one fingered physician. All I can say is, "Enjoy the examination, Rush!"
Tagged as: Drugs, Hypocrisy, Michael J. Fox, MoveOn.org, Phony, Rush Limbaugh, U.S. Troops
Daniel DiRito | September 27, 2007 | 7:53 PM |
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In a moment of karmic irony, Mitt Romney's seemingly limitless desire to court the religious right, through his unabashed demonstrations of opposition to gays, may only be matched by the christian's displeasure with his Mormonism. Call me evil, but I love when one "fundie flock" has the potential to cancel out another.
Leading the way on an issue almost certain to be resurrected during the general election, Mitt Romney issued a statement this morning condemning the Democratic candidates for their refusal at last night's debate to rule out teaching about gay issues to second-graders.
Romney said that the answers proved "how out of touch the Democratic presidential candidates are with the American people."
"Not one candidate was uncomfortable with young children learning about same-sex marriage in the second grade," Romney notes. "This is a subject that should be left to parents, not public school teachers."
This is not the first time Romney has seized on teaching about gay issues to young children. In July, he took Obama to task after the Illinois senator told a Planned Parenthood conference that "it’s the right thing to do to provide age-appropriate sex education, science-based sex education in schools." A rival to Romney pointed out that the former governor himself had supported "age-appropriate" sex ed in his 2002 gubernatorial bid.
While I have no particular axe to grind with Romney, I can't help but view his sudden "do-over demagoguery" as a demonstration of his zeal for power and an important measure of his integrity quotient. I know...he wants us to believe that he has simply changed his mind on abortion and gay rights...and I'm suddenly dating women...yea, right!
The problem the Romney strategy presents for the Democrats is that his insistence on carrying the values torch for the GOP will likely force his primary opponents to jump on the values bandwagon in an effort to prove their christian credentials. The fact that he instantly seized upon remarks made at last evenings Democratic debate support my concerns.
Fortunately (for those opposed to Mitt), Romney has an obstacle which may well prevent him from being anointed as the bastion for bible beaters. You see, they believe he suffers from the ailment of Mormonism...a belief system which many christians contend is unacceptable and nullifies his presidential pedigree. A new survey suggests Romney's religion may be a formidable obstacle.
MEDIA ADVISORY, Sept. 26 /Christian Newswire/ -- ChristiaNet.com, the world's largest Christian portal with twelve million monthly page loads, recently asked, "Would you elect a Mormon for president?" President of ChristiaNet, Bill Cooper, responds, "An overwhelming majority of Christians have spoken on the issue, they won't vote for a Mormon."
Out of 2,000 Christians surveyed, 59% claimed they would not vote to elect a Mormon for president. Most comments resulted from the belief that Mormonism is a cult, "The church of Mormonism is a cult and I would never vote for a cult leader." Most in this category also felt that Mormons were not Christians, "A Mormon is not a Christian, and they don't follow the Bible like Christians do." In fact, almost all responses in this category suggested that a Mormon's belief in Christ and God were contrary to a Christian's belief. "They believe in a different Jesus and a different God," is an example of one such comment.
I'm not certain how reliable this survey data may be, but one would be naive to think that Romney's faith will have no bearing on the votes cast by the religious right. From a political strategy standpoint, Romney's efforts to engage the values voters may complicate the GOP equation. If he forces the other front-runner candidates to the right, it may hurt the appeal of a Rudy Giuliani with moderate and independent voters.
Whatever happens, the GOP race is bound to be a fascinating look at a party attempting to craft a winning identity in the aftermath of the 2006 election. While I have no dog in the show, I suspect Romney may be barking up the wrong tree.
Image courtesy of The Economist
Tagged as: 2008 Election, Christianity, Evangelicals, GOP, LGBT, Mitt Romney, Mormonism, Religious Right, Rudy Giuliani
Daniel DiRito | September 27, 2007 | 12:50 PM |
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The christians are not happy campers at the moment. Their anger centers upon an advertisement for the Folsom Street Fair, a gay event held annually in San Francisco. The ad uses the format of The Last Supper as the setting for the print image; populating the table with individuals dressed in stereotypical gay regalia...and the table is "sinfully" littered with a variety of sex toys. Naturally, the bible brigade finds the image to be sickeningly sacrilegious...which of course means they have reacted with more than sufficient sanctimony.
Enough of my sarcasm...I'll let the christians speak for themselves. The following excerpts are a sampling of the outrage found on the internet.
From CNS News:
Organizers of San Francisco's Folsom Street Fair -- sponsored by Miller Brewing Co. -- have portrayed Christ and his disciples as half-naked homosexual sadomasochists in the event's promotional advertisement, and the conservative group Concerned Women for America is complaining about the hypocrisy of it.
"The bread and wine representing Christ's broken body and lifegiving blood are replaced with sadomasochistic sex toys in this twisted version of Da Vinci's The Last Supper," CWA said on its Web site.
CWA is calling on California politicians -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sens. Feinstein and Boxer among them -- to "publicly condemn this unprovoked attack against Christ and His followers.
"We further challenge the media to cover this affront to Christianity with the same vigor as recent stories about cartoon depictions of Mohammed and other items offensive to the Muslim community," CWA said.
The fair describes itself as "the world's largest leather event." The city supports it by shutting down several city blocks and providing security. It is financed in part by the same South African–owned Miller Beer that has also supported illegal alien rallies.
Oh that disgusting city of San Francisco...how dare they grant permits and block off streets for gay events...and that naughty Miller Brewing Company...how dare they sponsor gay events and activities by those terrible illegal immigrants...and let's not forget the evil and liberal mainstream media! Apparently, the christians are prone to persecution complexes. I'm sure the city of San Francisco wouldn't deny them permits for events and I'd bet Miller would be happy to offer its sponsorship. Of course I suspect the christians would find San Francisco an unacceptable city and Miller an inappropriate sponsor.
Anyway, here's what the folks at Moonbattery.com think it would take to get anyone to pay attention to their concerns:
Unfortunately, Christians would have to fly a few planes into buildings full of people before that will ever happen. The media only sides with the bad guys.
I guess this confirms that the GOP has succeeded in portraying liberals and the media as unpatriotic terrorist sympathizers to their base. It also appears that the christians have mobilized and captured Miller's attention...enough so that the company has asked to be immediately removed from the print material...issuing the following statement on their website:
From Miller Brewing Company:
Statement Regarding Folsom Street Fair
While Miller has supported the Folsom Street Fair for several years, we take exception to the poster the organizing committee developed this year. We understand some individuals may find the imagery offensive and we have asked the organizers to remove our logo from the poster effective immediately.
Well, after a little research, it seems that the Folsom Street Fair isn't the only group that has found The Last Supper to be an attractive theme for publicity campaigns and print materials. I've included a couple of the most recognizable ones in the graphic at the bottom of this posting.
Yes, as you can see, The Last Supper served as the setting for the characters in the Star Wars movies and for the cast of the HBO series, The Sopranos. No, I don't think the Soprano family will receive an exception for being Italian Catholics...they seem to have a bit of a problem with most of the commandments. It is interesting that I've never heard any criticism of these depictions of The Last Supper...but then again, they aren't tied to the gay community.
Given Miller's decision and the lack of focus on the other depictions, I decided to take a look at the advertiser's who have been featured on the Sopranos. Keep in mind that HBO doesn't run advertisements; instead they place name brand products in their programs...providing exposure that has great value. The following excerpts provide the relevant details:
From USA Today:
The creators of the HBO shows do accept free use of cars and other goods. It cuts costs and adds realism. The days of TV characters drinking generic "beer" are over. Sopranos creator David Chase and his team of writers frequently write brand names into scripts to add reality to the show, which is averaging 10.8 million viewers per week, according to Nielsen Marketing Research. Jersey boy Chase is a stickler: When Carmela Soprano reaches for milk, he demands it be a brand distributed in New Jersey, says Landress.
If marketers had to pay for ads on The Sopranos, the cost would equal $287,325 for a 30-second spot and HBO would pocket $6.8 million per show, according to a study by DiMassimo.
Landress rejects "exclusive" offers that would make HBO borrow products from a single marketer in a category. She says consumers see competing brands, so The Sopranos' writers want variety: Motorola and Nokia cell phones; Apple and Gateway computers; Mercedes (Tony's girlfriend Gloria was a Mercedes dealer), Lexus and Range Rover autos (both driven by Christopher Moltisanti); Coke and Pepsi (the gangsters drink Coke; the feds like Pepsi); SnackWell's and Turkey Hill foods favored by Carmela.
Strange as it may seem, I'm not aware of anyone objecting to these high profile companies supporting The Sopranos...a show which has used The Last Supper imagery and that is arguably not an ideal representation of family values.
Now that the Sopranos has ended its run on HBO, the rights to the series have been purchased by Arts & Entertainment...and they do sell advertising...and they need to given what they paid for the privilege of airing the show. In addition to the companies mentioned in the following excerpts, ad time has also been bought by Ford, Sonic, and Paramount Pictures.
From Broadcasting & Cable:
Once-stodgy A&E surprised many in the TV community when it won a January 2005 bidding war for rights to rerun the HBO show, agreeing to pay $2.55 million an episode. The searing crime drama roared out of the gate with 4.4 million total viewers, including 1.9 million in the key adults 18-49 demo.
At the same time, the show helped coax 30 new advertisers to A&E in 2006, with another 20 already set for 2007, says AETN Ad Sales Executive VP Mel Berning. The client list includes Yellow Book, Texas Instruments, Alltel, TGI Friday's and Taco Bell.
“They're meeting their guarantees and obligations," says PHD Executive VP/Director of National Broadcast Harry Keeshan, who bought ads for his client Quiznos and is pitching the show to new advertisers this year.
Let's take a look at Star Wars and the cash cow marketing monster it has become with the reworking of the original trilogy, the subsequent prequel movies, and the release of enhanced DVD's and countless other products. Oh, and let's not forget Fox's connections to the Star Wars money machine.
From USA Today:
Star Wars is one of the all-time moneymaking franchises, generating nearly $3.4 billion in global box office and $9 billion in retail sales since 1977. As the buzz builds for the finale of George Lucas' space series, consumers won't be able to swing a light saber without seeing, hearing or reading references to Darth Vader, Yoda or Obi-Wan Kenobi over the next month.
Promotional partners Pepsi, Burger King, Cingular Wireless, America Online, M&M/Mars and Kellogg are launching a multimillion-dollar cross-promotion to push their own brands while basking in the reflected glory of Hollywood. As partners, they get the rights to use Star Wars characters in their advertising.
In 1999, to promote Episode I: The Phantom Menace, the remaining "Special Edition" films (V and VI) aired on U.S. broadcast network Fox (they bypassed premium cable for direct broadcast airing). That same year, Fox acquired all television rights to Episode I after the premium cable networks declined due to cost. A similar situation nearly happened with Attack of the Clones, until HBO struck a last-minute deal with Fox and Lucasfilm for the exclusive pay-cable rights.
The Fox network acquired the U.S. network television rights, in April/May 2005, to promote the then-upcoming Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, with Episodes I, IV, V, and VI placed in limited syndicated television distribution, (on Fox affiliates in most markets) while the Fox network was able to air Episode II in mid-May, prior to Episode III's initial theatrical release.
So the "fair and balanced" network has been a key player in the marketing of Star Wars...which we know means that the network made a fair share of money from the sale of advertising time to big name companies. Again, I can't recall anyone calling on Fox and the many advertisers involved with Star Wars to cease their involvement with these movies as a result of the blasphemous Last Supper depiction.
No, the christians apparently give Star Wars and The Sopranos and Fox and countless large corporate advertisers a free pass; instead deciding to go after a gay event held in San Francisco...one which most Americans have never heard about or attended. Are we to conclude that the pursuit and condemnation of the "militant" gays and their inferred insistence upon defiling religion at an event in San Francisco is a greater threat to christianity than the likes of Star Wars, The Sopranos, and Fox Network?
The following excerpts provide the latest reactions from The Catholic League:
Catholic League president Bill Donohue announced a national boycott of Miller Beer on this morning’s “Fox and Friends." He explains why today:
“Never have we experienced greater corporate arrogance than in this dispute with the Miller Brewing Company. Miller is sponsoring an incredibly outrageous and palpably anti-Christian event in San Francisco: the Folsom Street Fair (see its website at folsomstreetfair.com and be prepared to see the shocking photos of what goes on).
“Accordingly, Miller leaves us with no options: we are calling on more than 200 Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu organizations to join with us in a nationwide boycott of Miller beer. We feel confident that once our religious allies kick in, and once the public sees the photos of an event Miller is proudly supporting, the Milwaukee brewery will come to its senses and pull its sponsorship altogether. If it doesn’t, the only winners will be Anheuser Busch and Coors."
Contact: Miller spokesman Julian Green at email@example.com
Phone: 1-800-MILLER 6 or 414-931-2000
Perhaps all of these outraged groups need to take a look at the other depictions of The Last Supper before they decide to single out the gay community and one large corporate sponsor. While the christians love to accuse the gay community of hypocrisy and bigotry, it seems to be the christians who fail to grasp the meaning of hypocrisy.
Until they begin applying their outrage equitably, I see this latest assault as more of the same...an opportunity to further their hateful agenda...an agenda focused upon dispersing anti-gay propaganda whenever and wherever they find an opportunity.
I guess I'm going to have to start drinking Miller Beer and watching The Sopranos on A&E and Star Wars on my Fox Network affiliate. Oh the inhumanity of it all!
Tagged as: Catholic League, Fanatacism, Folsom Street Fair, Fox Network, Homophobia, LGBT, Miller Brewing Company, Religion, San Francisco, Star Wars, The Last Supper, The Sopranos
Daniel DiRito | September 26, 2007 | 11:44 PM |
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So much for Iran's commitment to freedom. Following the appearance of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at Columbia University, the Iranian government has scrubbed the portion of the Iranian President's remarks which included his assertion that there aren't any homosexuals in Iran. Apparently, President Ahmadinejad and those in power in Iran now believe that the mere mention of gay is unacceptable.
H/T to Page One Q
While many American's opposed Columbia's decision to allow the Iranian President to speak, I believe it provided the world with another opportunity to see the degree to which this man is out of touch with reality. Hopefully, the Iranian people will see his comments and the reactions. If they do, perhaps they will begin the process of replacing Mr. Ahmadinejad and his extremist government.
I decided to have a little fun with Mr. Ahmadinejad and his outrageous comments. Fortunately, his first name, Mahmoud, provided the perfect opportunity to create the following graphic spoof...Mahmoud Dearest.
Tagged as: Columbia University, Humor, Iran, LGBT, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Daniel DiRito | September 26, 2007 | 2:51 PM |
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Rick Perlstein has an important posting at Common Sense...one that attempts to examine the transformation of the American mind set in the aftermath of 9/11. In offering some much needed historical context, he seeks to disavow the American citizenry of the behavior that characterized the reaction to Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's U.S. visit and his invitation to speak at Columbia University.
Perlstein's piece is premised upon his attempt to answer a series of questions he believes must be answered. In my opinion, he accurately contends that the success of the United States is dependent upon exploring and understanding the answers.
Here's a big question that I want to start addressing in upcoming posts: what is conservative rule doing to our nation's soul? How is it rewiring our hearts and minds? What kind of damage are they doing to the American character? And can we ever recover?
Perlstein astutely describes the current environment as a "conservative Republic of Fear"...a philosophy which has been successfully spun by the current administration. That philosophy is one that views diversity as a detriment, dialogue as an act to legitimize the defined disease, and dissent as an endorsement of defeat.
Sadly, the Bush administration strategy was likely endorsed more as a matter of political calculation than as a function of sound policy...a theory seemingly supported by the events surrounding the failed efforts in Iraq and the willful refusal to reconsider. While nothing prevents any individual or entity from selling a subjective, though suspect product...should that campaign succeed, it has probably ingrained a false construct which will no doubt be difficult to extinguish or expunge.
Perlstein attempts to begin this daunting task by recounting a time in America's history which provides an important contrast to the current construct...one that identifies an alternate approach...an approach which not only succeeded in thwarting a formidable enemy; but one which was conducted with dignity and an undying commitment to maintaining our cherished values. That approach not only made our demise doubtful; it rendered our ill-intentioned enemies impotent.
The following excerpts are the backbone of Perlstein's argument.
Let me put before you an illustrative example: one week in September of 1959, when, much like one week in September of 2007, American soil supported a visit by what many, if not most Americans agreed was the most evil and dangerous man on the planet.
Nikita Khrushchev disembarked from his plane at Andrews Air Force Base to a 21-gun salute and a receiving line of 63 officials and bureaucrats, ending with President Eisenhower. He rode 13 miles with Ike in an open limousine to his guest quarters across from the White House. Then he met for two hours with Ike and his foreign policy team. Then came a white-tie state dinner. (The Soviets then put one on at the embassy for Ike.) He joshed with the CIA chief about pooling their intelligence data, since it probably all came from the same people—then was ushered upstairs to the East Wing for a leisurely gander at the Eisenhowers' family quarters. Visited the Agriculture Department's 12,000 acre research station ("If you didn't give a turkey a passport you couldn't tell the difference between a Communist and capitalist turkey"), spoke to the National Press Club, toured Manhattan, San Francisco (where he debated Walter Reuther on Stalin's crimes before a retinue of AFL-CIO leaders, or in K's words, "capitalist lackeys"), and Los Angeles (there he supped at the 20th Century Box commissary, visited the set of the Frank Sinatra picture Can Can but to his great disappointment the premier did not get to visit Disneyland), and sat down one more with the president, at Camp David. Mrs. K did the ladies-who-lunch circuit, with Pat Nixon as guide. It's not like it was all hearts and flowers. He bellowed that America, as Time magazine reported, "must close down its worldwide deterrent bases and disarm." Reporters asked him what he'd been doing during Stalin's blood purges, and the 1956 invasion of Hungary. A banquet of 27 industrialists tried to impress upon him the merits of capitalism. Eleanor Roosevelt toured him through Hyde Park. Nelson Rockefeller rapped with him about the Bible.
Had America suddenly succumbed to a fever of weak-kneed appeasement? Was the general running the country—the man who had faced down Hitler!—proven himself what the John Birch Society claimed he was: a conscious agent of the Communist conspiracy?
No. Nikita Khrushchev simply visited a nation that had character. That was mature, well-adjusted. A nation confident we were great. We had our neuroses, to be sure—plenty of them.
But look now what we have lost. Now when a bad guy crosses our threshhold, America becomes a pants-piddling mess.
When one compares the treatment of Khrushchev with the response to Ahmadinejad's visit, one begins to see Perlstein's point...and the reason for his concern and his criticism. In the Bush administration's rush to co-opt the fear and anger generated by 9/11, they have fueled a level of irrational fear which clearly exceeds any threat posed by the visit of a hostile leader.
In knowing that we can defeat Iran...both militarily and in terms of world opinion...we needn't react with fear...we need only resolve to honor our beliefs and defend them should they or any other enemy act to harm us or our allies. Our strength should be our resolve...fear simply serves to undermine it.
Tagged as: 9/11, Bush administration, Diplomacy, Fear, Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Nikita Krushchev, Rick Perlstein
Daniel DiRito | September 25, 2007 | 5:36 PM |
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Every now and again, news events create a uniquely instructive conflation. Such a situation can be found in the events and the headlines of the last two days. Yesterday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad responded to a question about the mistreatment of homosexuals in Iran with an answer that would befuddle anyone with remotely identifiable cognitive abilities. In suggesting that Iran doesn't have homosexuals, the defiant leader, who seems so determined to establish his own legitimacy, elicited little more than laughter and ridicule. The response was appropriate and should have been anticipated.
Today, the discussion centers upon the apparent decision by the four GOP presidential front-runners to forego attending a PBS sponsored debate being held at a prominent Black college in Baltimore this Thursday. While the invitations were issued back in March, somehow each of the four leading candidates has declined due to "scheduling conflicts".
One might be inclined to extend the benefit of the doubt had these same candidates participated in a debate sponsored by the Hispanic television network Univision and a forum in July hosted by the NAACP.
"I think the best that comes out of stupid decisions like this," said former Oklahoma Rep. J.C. Watts, is "that African-Americans might say, 'Was it because of my skin color?' Now, maybe it wasn't, but African-Americans do say, 'It crossed my mind.'"
All four GOP presidential front-runners -- former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson -- have said they will not attend a PBS debate at a historically black college in Baltimore hosted by Tavis Smiley.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who's weighing getting into the race, called that excuse "baloney" and called the no-shows "fundamentally wrong." On "Good Morning America" today, Gingrich said GOP candidates are making a mistake because "African-Americans have been hurt more by the failures of government" than any other group.
Watts pointed out that some of the candidates with more liberal histories on issues such as guns and abortion have reached out to conservative groups that don't share their views.
African-Americans are the most reliably Democratic voters around, with up to 90 percent voting Democratic in the last five presidential elections, but Watts and other Republicans including former vice presidential nominee Jack Kemp, and former RNC chairman Ken Mehlman, have said that's exactly why Republicans need to reach out to them.
These no-shows come just days after the Spanish-language channel Univision canceled its debate because only one of the 11 Republican candidates -- McCain -- accepted.
Frankly, I view the refusal of these GOP candidates to participate in the PBS debate, as well as the prior NAACP forum, in much the same manner as I view the Ahmadinejad statement. For all practical purposes, these candidates are telling Americans that there are no blacks in America.
To understand the degree to which blacks have been ignored by the GOP, one need only look to the sitting President...a man who attended his first NAACP meeting in the sixth year of his presidency. Whether his decision to attend was at all intended as atonement for the poor handling of Katrina can't be determined...but the about face seems rather suspect.
More telling, Robert Draper, author of the new Bush biography, Dead Certain: The Presidency of George W. Bush, during an appearance on Real Time With Bill Maher, offered some added insight into the President's views on the lack of interest in courting black voters. Draper recalls the words of George Bush following his election as Governor of Texas, "The Blacks didn’t come out for me like the Hispanics did, so they’re not going to see much help from me." Draper qualified his statement...elaborating that the remark was offered as an example of the President's petulance; not any innate bigotry.
While the President doesn't speak for all Republicans, the fact that the four front-runners seem to be responding accordingly simply highlights the apparent complacency on the part of the GOP with regard to the issues of Blacks in America. We need candidates who seek to represent all Americans...and that holds true for both Democrats and Republicans.
While not participating in a forum or a debate isn't the equivalent of the spoken words of Iran's fanatical leader, the refusal seems to send a similar message...one that would rather ignore an American constituency than address their presence and their issues. Let me be clear...refusing to attend a debate should never be seen on par with Iran's execution of gays. Clearly, the former is a unwarranted snubbing and the latter is a blatant disregard of basic human rights.
Regardless, I find it fascinating to watch the outrage from the right at the Iranian President on an issue (gay rights) which the GOP has a less than stellar record. When this outrage and this record are juxtaposed with the silence by many on the snubbing of Blacks and Hispanics, it provides an important look into the prevalence of bias and the refusal to acknowledge and address it.
Fortunately, the United States isn't Iran and our record on human rights issues is commendable and often regarded as a model for the rest of the world. Nonetheless, as we prosecute this war on terror and extremist ideology, we would be well advised to recognize the comparison and contrast found in these recent events. We must avoid the inclination to suspend civil liberties in order to preserve and protect our hard earned freedoms.
Further, we must never forget that our freedoms will prevail so long as we extend them equitably and without bias. What led us to demand and create them will always provide the motivation and the passion to defend them. We can only be defeated by succumbing to our own shortsightedness and fear.
Tagged as: 2008 election, Bias, Equality of Opportunity, Fred Thompson, Freedom, George W. Bush, GOP, Iran, John McCain, Katrina, LGBT, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Mitt Romney, Robert Draper, Rudy Giuliani
Daniel DiRito | September 25, 2007 | 12:41 PM |
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The President continues to threaten a veto of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) should Congress, as expected, pass the measure which expands the program by $35 billion dollars over the next five years. The bottom line for the President centers on his displeasure with the prior rejection of his efforts to expand health care by offering tax cuts to those who will purchase private insurance.
Unfortunately, the President's plan has already been rejected...primarily because tax deductions do little for those who live in poverty. Giving a tax deduction to those who do not pay taxes is akin to offering fifty percent off on fine jewelry...it sounds like a deal to those who can afford the reduced price but it is meaningless to the customer who can't even afford to purchase the costume jewelry.
While the GOP frequently attempts to portray liberals as ideological elitists, the truth of the matter is that Republican's of George Bush's ilk are often guilty of functional elitism...a mind set that frequently finds its origin in a life of affluence...a mind set which is accompanied by a misguided belief that all that ails Americans can be addressed through tax cuts. Try as he might, the President cannot separate his ideology from the silver spoon that fed him.
With a five-year, $35 billion expansion of the children's health insurance program due for a final vote in the House today, Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and White House aides agreed that Bush's opposition to the legislation stems not from its price tag but from far larger health policy issues. The White House wants to use the issue of uninsured children to resurrect the president's long-dormant proposals to change the federal tax code to help the uninsured, adults and children alike, Grassley said, calling that a laudable goal but unrealistic politically.
In talks this spring with Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt, White House National Economic Council Director Al Hubbard and Hubbard's deputy, Keith Hennessey, Grassley discussed linking an extension of the 10-year-old SCHIP program to a more ambitious effort to address the adult uninsured. Grassley encouraged the White House to try to round up Democratic support for that approach, but when White House officials made no such effort, Grassley told them in April that the children's health program would have to stand alone.
That is why he said he was surprised when Bush brought it back up in a phone call Thursday, just minutes before the president went before microphones at the White House to blast the SCHIP deal.
Asked if Bush was holding the children's health bill hostage, Grassley said, "Yes."
Reading between the lines, perhaps the President retains unrealistic visions of passing his preferred health insurance legislation. Notwithstanding, he would be better served to listen to Senator Grassley.
Sadly, the President has shown little interest in consulting his opponents and seeking to forge bipartisan solutions...a hesitance likely born of a philosophy held by George Bush and his surly strategist, Karl Rove...one that places partisan success ahead of pragmatic policy. Frankly, George Bush has rarely met a reasonable bipartisan measure he hasn't attempted to politicize...and his recent comments on the SCHIP program are in keeping with the well established pattern.
With a veto almost inevitable, both sides are gearing up for the next step. Congress is likely to pass a short-term extension of the existing SCHIP program before it expires Sept. 30, then begin a second legislative effort. Grassley said if he were the Democrats, he would send the SCHIP expansion to a vote every three months, along with campaign advertisements accusing Republicans of abandoning children. That way, pressure would mount either on Bush to sign the bill or on House Republicans to override the veto.
Americans United for Change, a group closely allied with the Democratic leadership, will begin airing television ads this week in Kentucky, accusing Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) of abandoning his state's children.
The White House is looking increasingly isolated on the issue. America's Health Insurance Plans, the largest insurance lobbying group, endorsed the measure yesterday, undercutting Bush's contention that the bill is a step away from private insurance and toward government-run health care.
"It repairs the safety net and is a major movement toward addressing the problems that states and governors have been trying to address, which is how to get access for children," said Karen Ignagni, the group's president.
The issue appears to be a winner for the Democrats and I personally find it encouraging to see Americans United For Change adopting the same strategy being used by the GOP to support the President's failed war in Iraq. Doing so has the added advantage of supporting a policy that actually has the potential to benefit Americans...an outcome not likely to result from the GOP campaign.
As noted by Grassley, a Republican, the President's stubbornness may well provide the Democrats another club with which to beat the already battered GOP in the run up to the 2008 election. I would expect many Republicans to abandon the President...realizing that George Bush is more concerned with his rigid ideology and his legacy than avoiding a repeat of the 2006 elections.
In the end, historians and a fair share of Republican's will likely note that George Bush was far more petulant than compassionate. This anticipated veto may simply be the icing on George Bush's less than edible legacy cake.
Tagged as: Americans United For Change, Charles E. Grassley, George W. Bush, GOP, SCHIP, Veto
Daniel DiRito | September 25, 2007 | 9:23 AM |
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Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made an astonishing statement during his appearance at Columbia University earlier today. In response to a question about the mistreatment of gays in Iran, the leader offered the following comment.
“In Iran, we don’t have homosexuals like in your country. We don’t have that in our country."
The comment drew an immediate spattering of laughter and boos. Ahmadinejad simply reiterated his statement with the following.
"In Iran, we don't have this phenomenon. "I don't know who's told you that we have it."
Gays in Iran are subject to the death penalty and the above photo shows a recently documented hanging of two gay teenage Iranians. The President, before being pressed to directly answer the question, attempted to gloss over the issue by comparing the enforcement of U.S. law with the enforcement of Iranian law...an attempt to simply suggest that Iran upholds its laws just as is done in the United States.
Apparently the persistence of the questioner led the less than nimble leader to use a well know tactic of oppressive regimes...to simply act like the situation doesn't exist. I guess the Iranian leader believes denial is an effective strategy. Frankly, I'm happy Columbia asked him to speak...it gave American's a first hand look at a man who cannot withstand the basic scrutiny that accompanies a free society and open dialogue.
I thought he looked like a fool as he spent the bulk of his time attempting to weave a divine justification for the beliefs he espouses...arguing that scientific ability is a gift given to a select few. In essence, I believe he sought to assert that his science comes from legitimately blessed individuals...not the impostor's found in Western culture.
The following video clips are from a CBC News Sunday Night documentary, Out In Iran, which chronicles the secret lives of Iran's gay community. Unfortunately, having to keep their lives secret is not only discriminatory...it is apparently the only way to stay alive. Please be warned that the video contains some disturbing images.
Tagged as: CBC News, Columbia University, Freedom of Speech, Homophobia, Iran, LGBT, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, United Nations
Daniel DiRito | September 24, 2007 | 1:58 PM |
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Despite his admitted sexual indiscretions, David Vitter remains a poster boy for family values...as well as an apparent champion for funding the programs of evangelical groups through the use of government earmarks.
The Times-Picayune reports that Vitter has included an earmark of $100,000 in recent legislation for the Louisiana Family Forum, a group which challenges the theory of evolution...seeking to have it characterized as an unproven theory and to introduce intelligent design as a viable scientific alternative.
From The Times-Picayune:
WASHINGTON -- Sen. David Vitter, R-La., earmarked $100,000 in a spending bill for a Louisiana Christian group that has challenged the teaching of Darwinian evolution in the public school system and to which he has political ties.
The money is included in the labor, health and education financing bill for fiscal 2008 and specifies payment to the Louisiana Family Forum "to develop a plan to promote better science education."
The nonprofit Louisiana Family Forum, launched in Baton Rouge in 1999 by former state Rep. Tony Perkins, has in recent years taken the lead in promoting "origins science," which includes the possibility of divine intervention in the creation of the universe.
The group's stated mission is to "persuasively present biblical principles in the centers of influence on issues affecting the family through research, communication and networking." Until recently, its Web site contained a "battle plan to combat evolution," which called the theory a "dangerous" concept that "has no place in the classroom." The document was removed after a reporter's inquiry.
"Using an earmark to dictate that the Louisiana Family Forum receive the funding to develop a science education program ironically ignores a hallmark of scientific research, making decisions on the basis of competitive, empirical research," Ellis said.
The fact that a sitting Senator is using the earmark provision to fund efforts to undermine existing scientific evidence with religious ideology seems a complete misappropriation of funds and a breach of the separation of church and state. Many educators have not opposed the discussion of intelligent design in non-scientific classes. However, most educators are strongly opposed to the teaching of intelligent design as part of a science class.
The following video is from the Louisiana Family Forum and it focuses upon the distinctions between the actions of David Vitter and Larry Craig. Apparently the Council believes that the Vitter's apology is sufficient reason to support his continuance in the Senate while Senator Craig's efforts to overturn his guilty plea fail to strike a sufficiently contrite tone. They avoid mentioning the fact that the Larry Craig situation involves a same-sex indiscretion.
Note that the speaker in the video incorrectly identifies Senator Craig as being a Senator from Colorado. I also find it interesting that the speakers are so certain of Senator Vitter's contrition and rehabilitation. I wonder if a $100,000 earmark helped them reach that conclusion.
Tagged as: Creationism, David Vitter, Earmarks, Evolution, Intelligent Design, Larry Craig, LGBT, Louisians Family Forum
Daniel DiRito | September 24, 2007 | 12:18 PM |
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Time and again we hear the argument that liberals hate America...or that they support the terrorists...or that they lack patriotism. The accusations are often made because of their opposition to the war in Iraq...fully lacking any real substantiation.
Well we now have a body of evidence that values voters may be the ones who hate America...primarily because it doesn't support their narrow version of religious ideology.
Comparison is a useful tool, and in this instance, it provides some much needed perspective. The same people who assail liberals for exercising their basic constitutional right to free speech seem more than willing to blur the lines of the constitution in order to impose their particular religious views upon the entire society.
At the GOP Values Voters debate last week, The Church Of God Choir opened the event by singing a rendition of God Bless America...one where the words have been changed to instead asks "Why Should God Bless America?"...continuing on to state that America has "turned her back on everything that made her what she is". While liberals may disagree with specific U.S. policy, one would be hard pressed to find an event of this stature...one with candidates for the presidency in attendance...where the sponsorship is issuing an across the board condemnation of their country.
In fact, I suspect that such a brazen defiling of a cherished patriotic song at a Democratic debate...in order to spew one's displeasure with the state of our nation...would draw calls for a Congressional resolution of condemnation similar to the one issued against MoveOn.org.
To further make my point, I've included a defiling of the same song by Fred Phelps' Westboro Baptist Church. If you're not familiar with this group, they travel the country protesting at funerals of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan...asserting that the deaths are little more than god's punishment for America's sins.
The Westboro version of God Bless America is called God Hates America, and while it uses arguably harsher language than the one at the Values Voters debate, they present a similar message...a message that America isn't acceptable because it has failed to adopt the religious beliefs of a certain segment of society.
I would suggest that liberals adopt a tactic frequently used by the GOP...one that takes every possible opportunity to repeat the following meme..."Why does the GOP hate America?"
Tagged as: Fred Phelps, God Bless America, GOP, MoveOn.org, Religion, Values Voter Debate, Westboro Baptist Church
Daniel DiRito | September 23, 2007 | 12:57 PM |
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Twenty two Democratic Senators broke ranks and voted with the GOP to issue a resolution condemning the recent MoveOn.org advertisement in the New York Times. The advertisement asked the question, "General Petraeus or General Betray Us?", insinuating that the report of the General was little more than carrying water for the Bush administration's failed war in Iraq.
Take whatever side you choose on the advisability of the advertisement, but the fact that the Democratic Party allowed such a measure to pass is perhaps the single most stupid act of political suicide I've witnessed in years. To think that an act of free speech rises to the level of requiring such a resolution is mind boggling.
The fact that the entire event was masterfully manipulated to include the President slamming a softball of a question on the subject out of the park at the end of his hastily arranged press conference ought to be seen for what it was...a full-on partisan stunt and an insult to the intelligence of the voting public.
Worse still, the Democrats tucked their tails and cowered in the corner. Maybe we need to requisition diapers for our infantile Senators. What an absolute load of childish political drama on the part of the GOP; what a disgusting demonstration of spineless submission on the part of the Democrats.
Once you've had a chance to barf at the idiocy of the bungling burros, perhaps the following graphic will help you muster a much needed chuckle.
Tagged as: Democrats, General David Petraeus, George W. Bush, GOP, Iraq, MoveOn.org
Daniel DiRito | September 20, 2007 | 5:48 PM |
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During the President's press conference this morning, he accused Democrats of "putting poor children at risk" in order to score political points. Unfortunately, the accusation is absurd since the Democrats intend to submit legislation to expand health care to more children through the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) program.
In reality, the Democratic proposal is to expand SCHIP by $35 billion dollars and the President is threatening to veto the legislation...arguing that the expansion of the program "is a step toward federalization of health care". The President believes the proposal would allow states to offer health benefits to families which already have private insurance. Lacking in his analysis is any recognition that the added funds will provide needed health care to many children who lack coverage.
Apparently the President believes some children who lack health insurance aren't poor enough to warrant coverage. I guess trying to provide health insurance to more Americans makes the actions of the Democrats a political stunt. Conversely, wouldn't a presidential veto suggest the same of George Bush?
Further, if SCHIP's goal is to help those in need, then the actions of the Democrats is in keeping with the intent of the legislation...and the President's actions are in keeping with his propensity for drawing arbitrary distinctions out of thin air. In this particular case, the President ought to admit that his own political ideology trumps his assertions of compassion.
The State Children's Health Insurance Program is set to expire Sept. 30. Democrats are pushing for a $35 billion spending increase for SCHIP, and Bush has threatened to veto it. He has proposed a $5 billion increase.
SCHIP is a state-federal partnership designed to provide health coverage to families with incomes too high to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to afford private coverage. More than 6 million people, primarily children, participate.
"The president hides behind the word 'federalization' because his political base opposes doing what is decent and humane," said Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass. "The Senate and the House both approved legislation that would extend health care coverage for poor kids, not cut it back."
"Instead of expanding SCHIP beyond its original purpose, we should return it to its original focus, and that is helping poor children, those who are most in need," Bush said. "And instead of encouraging people to drop private coverage in favor of government plans, we should work to make basic private health insurance affordable and accessible for all Americans."
The problem with the above statement by the President is that insurance isn't becoming more affordable and he would be hard pressed to identify any tangible measures in place to do so. As such, more families are unable to purchase health insurance and the trend will continue as long as health care costs outpace increases in income. Further, those on the lower end of the income scale typically see their income levels rise far slower than all others...leaving them all the more vulnerable.
Lastly, I find it rather disingenuous for this President to lecture us on compassion when he enacted one of the largest tax cuts in recent history...tax cuts that overwhelmingly benefited those at the top of the income scale. If he's actually committed to helping those in need, why not reduce the tax cuts in order to expand the SCHIP funding. I guess compassion for this president comes to a sudden halt when it requires those who have to give to those who have not.
Tagged as: George W. Bush, Health Care, Health Insurance, Poverty, SCHIP, Tax Cuts
Daniel DiRito | September 20, 2007 | 11:06 AM |
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If you want to understand the grim situation in Iraq, you need to read the following excerpt...at least once...maybe twice. Keep in mind that we're talking about the oil produced in the Kurdish region of Iraq...the region that is almost always referred to as the most secure and peaceful region in Iraq. Unfortunately, getting that oil out of the area is a much different dynamic.
From CNN 09/19/07:
Persistent acts of sabotage to that pipeline [Iraq-Turkey] have shut down Iraq's northern oil exports for most of the time barring a few days since the U.S.-led invasion.
So the bottom line is that oil has only flowed through this key pipeline "a few days" in well over four years of American occupation. Now take a look at the rest of the story...it gets even better (and in this instance "better" means much worse).
From CNN (cont.):
AMMAN (Dow Jones) Unknown attackers have blown up part of an Iraqi pipeline that pumps crude oil from Kirkuk oil fields to the Turkish export terminal, Ceyhan, a senior Iraqi oil official and a shipping agent said Wednesday.
"The pipeline was attacked and damaged Tuesday," the official told Dow Jones Newswires by telephone from Baghdad.
The attack took place in the section of the pipeline connecting the oil-rich city of Kirkuk to the Baiji, home to Iraq's largest oil refinery. Iraq usually pumps Kirkuk crude oil to the refinery, 250 kilometers north of Baghdad, which takes what it needs before it pumps the rest to Ceyhan.
The official said the pipeline blast was "catastrophic" as it caused huge quantities of crude oil to spill into the Tigris River.
The latest incident hits Iraq's Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahristani's bid to resume sustainable exports from Iraq's northern oil fields after adopting new security measures to guard the export pipeline.
While I'm no expert on the oil industry in Iraq, some basic thoughts crossed my mind upon reading this article. First, in noting that the exporting of oil from the northern fields has been at a virtual standstill since we invaded Iraq, one has to determine the motivations which may be leading to the repetitive destruction of this pipeline.
To ascertain those reasons, we first have to acknowledge that the bulk of the oil produced in Kirkuk has been sent south to a refinery located north of Baghdad (an area that is heavily Sunni)...apparently supplying the oil needed for internal consumption and then intending to pump any excess oil to Ceyhan from that location.
The truth is that the line to Ceyhan was just made operational less than a month ago...creating the first meaningful pumping of oil to the area in years. With this latest sabotage, hopes to reestablish a dependable flow to this important export point have been dashed. To understand the magnitude of this disaster and its relevance to the revised U.S. strategy, one must review the efforts which went into restoring the pipeline.
The following excerpts are from an article announcing the restoration of oil flow through the pipeline to Ceyhan. The article touts the fact that the pipeline had been tested and was ready to begin sending oil to Ceyhan. More importantly, the article heralds a new security force designed to halt the ongoing incidents of sabotage.
From Qatar's The Peninsula 08/22/07:
DAMASCUS • Iraq is preparing to resume oil exports through Turkey in a few weeks through a new pipeline built in the midst of violence to help handle the flows, Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani said yesterday.
Crews have finished testing a 500,000-barrel per day pipeline covering a section of the northern export route and a special security force numbering thousands is being deployed to guard the network, Shahristani said.
“We have executed construction in a region practically on fire and we now have a bigger margin for manoeuvre as far as countering sabotage," Shahristani said.
“The tests have been successful and the new security force is a different breed from the corrupt one of old," he said on a visit to Damascus as a member of an Iraqi delegation negotiating improving ties with the Syrian government.
Let's step back even further and look at some of the history since the U.S. invasion and prior to the repair of the pipeline. From the excerpts below, it is clear that sectarian issues have hampered efforts to export oil to the North through this particular pipeline.
Additionally, the refinery from which this pipeline originates is plagued with issues of corruption and theft...all of which serve to hinder efforts to restore export levels necessary to insure the financial stability of Iraq. Absent that revenue stream, it is difficult to imagine a nation which can become self-sustaining.
From Energy Publisher 09/14/07:
Baiji: Iraq’s two largest sister refineries in north-central Iraq (with 310,000 bbl/d capacity) is a point of sectarian contention as the facility currently processes crude from the northern fields, but is located in nominally non-Kurdish territory. In January 2007, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh reported to Parliament that the country is losing $1.5 billion annually from attacks and theft at Baiji. The facility has been subject to repeated disruptions and power loss, and generally operates at around 75 percent capacity. The January 2007 SIGIR report indicated that at least some of the oil storage facilities were under “insurgent control" as of December 2006.
Iraq’s inability to secure crude pipelines in the north has meant that exports are generally routed through the southern port of Basrah.
According to IRMO/ITAO, crude oil exports have fallen from a post-war high of around 2.0 million bbl/d in 2004, to an average of 1.5 million bbl/d in 2006.
However, there is some marginal improvement recently mainly due to the intermittent ability to export crude through a northern pipeline, and improved loading capabilities in Basrah. In June 2007, Iraq issued its first tender in almost six months to sell Kirkuk oil.
In the north, the major international crude oil pipeline is the 1.1 million-bbl/d capacity Kirkurk-Ceyhan (Iraq-Turkey) pipeline. This pipeline and its 480,000-bbl/day sister-installation have been subject to repeated attacks and function intermittently, particularly in the Beyji-Fatha area. The KRG is reportedly considering building another pipeline that avoids unfortified areas. The inability to export oil through this pipeline has severely limited exports from the northern fields.
So all the anticipation (positive spin) which has been disseminated prior to today's "catastrophic" blast seems to have been overly optimistic. At the end of the day, the hopes and efforts to restore this pipeline...and therefore increase oil exports...have been dashed. While too early to determine, the interruption may also limit the ability of Iraq to negotiate further tender offers. The impact must be analyzed and viewed in its proper context.
As one attempts to understand the effectiveness of the latest U.S. troop surge, there are many relevant considerations. What is the likelihood that it can achieve the established benchmarks as well as prevent significant setbacks of this nature? How does one determine if the recent analysis provided by the Bush administration can be trusted to be accurate and impartial? What can be gleaned from catastrophic events similar to this one...especially when seeking to gauge the potential for a political reconciliation capable of extinguishing the unrest and defining a path to viability...both politically and economically?
If the restoration of sufficient oil production and higher exports have been ignored or inadequately safeguarded in order to focus on restoring some level of security in Baghdad, what has actually being achieved? Aren't both of these issues essential priorities? Beyond that, how many other issues may be simmering and on the verge of erupting?
Perhaps I'm far too cynical, but as I read about today's event...and then did some added research...I couldn't help but feel like the American public is being drawn further into a deadly game of paint ball...wearing unusually large blinders and rose colored glasses...in a room where the light has been suspiciously dimmed. Thinking ahead, even if we're able to eventually extricate ourselves from this fiasco, I have no idea how we'll be able to wash away the inevitably messy stains.
Tagged as: Ceyhan, Iraq, Kirkuk, Kurds, Oil Exports, Petraeus Report, Sectarian Conflict, Sunni's, Troop Surge
Daniel DiRito | September 19, 2007 | 5:52 PM |
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I've decided to tattoo the word "stupid" on my forehead. I've been considering it throughout the last four plus years of being treated as such by the Bush administration. As soon as I get my tattoo, I'm signing up to become one of the live moles in a new carnival game called human whack-a-mole...a game that has grown in popularity since the President spent most of the last five years making it a feature of his strategy in Iraq.
Some have argued that the game's resurgence can be directly traced to the latest troop surge...but there seems to be divergent opinions on that attribution. On the one hand, last week General Petraeus told us the troop surge was succeeding...suggesting that the resurgent insurgency was being abated. Not to be outdone, the Pentagon released its latest quarterly report yesterday...arguing that the insurgency was in fact resurgent...just in different regions of Iraq.
Upon reading about this latest episode of back and forth, my decision to join the carnival was sealed. I just can't continue to sit on the sidelines and let the Bush administration exclude me from the fun they must be having while playing games with the American public. After all, if the insurgents can figure out how to beat the President at his game, I can surely make a go of it in the carnival. I'm convinced the bar just hasn't been set all that high.
Security is deteriorating in southern Iraq as rival Shiite militias vying for power have stepped up their attacks after moving out of Baghdad to avoid U.S.-led military operations, according to the latest quarterly Pentagon report on Iraq released yesterday.
The growing violence in the south is one factor making it unlikely that Iraq's leaders -- hampered by a "zero sum" mentality -- will make headway in the fall on key political resolutions, the report concluded. "In the short term, Iraqi political leaders will likely be less concerned about reconciliation than with consolidating power and posturing for a future power struggle," it said.
Overall, the report detailed both progress and setbacks. It highlighted positive trends such as a recent nationwide drop in sectarian violence, high-profile bombings and total attacks [...] .
But in another trend seen in earlier reports, attacks spread outside the Baghdad area, rising in neighboring Diyala and Salahuddin provinces, where security remains "fragile," as well as in some southern provinces, the report said.
Violence and instability in some southern provinces reflects primarily the growing strength in the region of the Mahdi Army or Jaish al-Mahdi (JAM), the militia of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, the report said.
Moreover, the Pentagon assessment said the Mahdi Army reasserted itself in Qadisiyah province after coalition forces withdrew, illustrating how areas can revert to violence.
In Basra, the city through which 90 percent of Iraq's oil is exported, the report said that the expected continued reduction of British forces had led to insurgent groups "posturing themselves to control the city, where violence has increased due to the presence of multiple Shi'a militias -- most notably JAM and its splinter groups, the Badr Organization and the Fadilah Organization -- and criminal groups."
Meanwhile, the report stated that Iraqi security forces, though improving and maturing, remain hindered by sectarian infiltration.
Amid uneven trends in security and the Iraqi government's "indecisiveness and inaction" on key political goals, the report found that some segments of the population have lost confidence in the government's ability to improve the situation.
As Bill Maher put it today on CNN, it was logical to expect that adding 30,000 troops in Baghdad would reduce violence...in Baghdad. At the same time, the predictions of many other observers was equally rational...predictions which relied upon past experience and concluded that the violence would simply shift to other areas which were less secure. Hence, more of the same old game of whack-a-mole.
Perhaps the most significant finding in this new Pentagon report involves the shifting strategies being adopted by the Iraqi's...a strategy which now fully understands the limitations of the current U.S. strategy and has led the Iraqi's to be "less concerned about reconciliation than with consolidating power and posturing for a future power struggle". In other words, the Iraqi's realize there is little to be gained in hashing out issues they expect to explode upon the withdrawal of U.S. forces.
They are simply biding their time while we spin our wheels, train and arm them, and pour cash into a system which is arguably being diverted to the various factions in preparation for future battles. For those who doubt this strategy, keep in mind Moqtada al-Sadr's recent announcement to suspend his militia activities for six months...a move I contend is further evidence of this newly emerging paradigm.
One added likelihood needs to be explored...the one which argues that whoever controls the port city of Basra (think oil) will have an inordinate amount of power and influence over Iraq's future. The fact that the British have pulled most of their troops out of the region and the U.S. has been focused on Baghdad may well play into the plans of those groups intent on capturing control of Basra.
Frankly, the longer we have spent in Iraq, the more breathing space we have afforded to those groups with aspirations on obtaining the lions share of power. In fact, our presence likely provides the time each group needs to better organize for the eventual and inevitable battles.
On second thought, maybe its our President that needs to make a visit to the tattoo shop? While I'm thinking about it, does anyone know of a good the carnival he can join? Oh, one last thing...make sure it's one that needs an experienced whack...a-mole.
Tagged as: Basra, David Petraeus, George W. Bush, Iraq, Moqtada al-Sadr, Pentagon, Sectarian Conflict, Troop Surge
Daniel DiRito | September 18, 2007 | 6:54 PM |
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A ruling by Maryland's Court of Appeals and a statement issued by California Governor Schwarzenegger effectively kills efforts to adopt same sex marriage in both states.
The ruling in Maryland reverses a lower court ruling that determined a 1973 ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional. In its decision, the higher court rejected the argument though it stated that the ruling in no way prevented the legislature from adopting same sex marriage if it was so inclined.
With regards to California, despite hopes for a change of heart, the announcement from the Governor was in line with his prior veto of similar legislation. Schwarzenegger contends that signing such legislation would nullify Proposition 22, a voter initiative passed in 2,000 which bans the recognition of same sex marriages enacted in other states. Supporters of the new legislation argued that Proposition 22 didn't specifically ban same sex marriage in the state.
The California Supreme Court is scheduled to take up the issue of same sex marriage later this year or in early 2008.
From The Washington Post:
BALTIMORE -- Maryland's highest court on Tuesday upheld a state law defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman, ending a lawsuit filed by same-sex couples who claimed they were being denied fundamental rights.
Maryland's 1973 ban on gay marriage does not discriminate on the basis of gender and does not deny any fundamental rights, the Court of Appeals ruled. It also said the state has a legitimate interest in promoting opposite-sex marriage.
"Our opinion should by no means be read to imply that the General Assembly may not grant and recognize for homosexual persons civil unions or the right to marry a person of the same sex," Judge Glenn T. Harrell Jr. wrote for the majority.
(Sacramento, California) Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has announced he again will veto legislation that would allow same-sex couples to marry in California. And he warned lawmakers that they can keep on passing the bill and he will continue to veto it.
The only thing that would change his mind, he said Monday, is if voters overturned Proposition 22 which was passed by the electorate in 2000 to stop gay marriage, but which courts have ruled only applies to marriages performed out of state.
"It would be wrong for the people to vote for something and for me to then overturn it," Schwarzenegger told reporters at a news conference.
While the decisions are disappointing, the issue is far from over as efforts to enact same sex marriage are ongoing in a number of states as well as through the judicial system. With the upcoming 2008 election, the timing of any legislation or court rulings in favor of same sex marriage would have the potential to motivate evangelical voters who currently appear less motivated than they have been in past elections.
Despite predictions that same sex marriage will not be an issue of significant attention in the upcoming election, I expect the GOP to utilize the controversy in the period just prior to the election. Past campaigns suggest that raising the fear of same sex marriage in values voters proximate to an election serves as an effective motivating tool. There is little reason to believe that the GOP would forego the use of any weapon in their arsenal.
Tagged as: 2008 Election, Arnold Schwarzenegger, California, LGBT, Maryland, Same-Sex Marriage
Daniel DiRito | September 18, 2007 | 9:22 AM |
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Black and white...white and black. America has struggled with these two words for decades. No doubt race is the first thought which comes to mind when one mentions black and white...but the issue is much broader than skin color...it...
Tagged as: Affirmative Action, Border Security, Chris Crocker, Duke Lacrosse, Emmy Awards, FCC, Fox Network, Homophobia, Immigration, Islam, LGBT, Sally Fields, Stanley Kurtz
Daniel DiRito | September 17, 2007 | 10:32 AM |
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Bill Maher spoke with Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska last night. During the appearance, Hagel offered perhaps his most open criticism of the Bush administration, the Republican party, and the failed war in Iraq. Hagel's remarks were a refreshing...
Tagged as: Bill Maher, Bush administration, Chuck Hagel, GOP, Iraq
Daniel DiRito | September 15, 2007 | 10:02 AM |
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Fred Thompson is someone to watch...someone who may have a strategy which is far more evolved than many may think. Personally, I'm not inclined to support Thompson but as I've kept an eye on the 2008 presidential candidates, I...
Tagged as: 2008 Election, Evangelicals, Federalism, Fred Thompson, No Child Left Behind, Religion, Same-Sex Marriage, Terri Schiavo
Daniel DiRito | September 14, 2007 | 10:59 AM |
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I don't often watch Dan Abrams on MSNBC but I recently caught a segment during which he and his panel...which included Patrick Salmon of the Log Cabin Republicans, Joan Walsh of Salon, and Pat Buchanan...were discussing the inconsistencies in...
Tagged as: Dan Abrams, David Vitter, Homophobia, Joan Walsh, Larry Craig, LGBT, MSNBC, Pat Buchanan, Patrick Salmon
Daniel DiRito | September 13, 2007 | 10:55 AM |
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Not long ago Miss South Carolina botched her answer to a question in the Miss Teen USA pageant...a move that sent millions of viewers racing to watch her tortured response on YouTube and made her the unfortunate butt of...
Tagged as: Bible, Christianity, Existentialism, First Amendment Center, Iraq, Islam, Miss Teen USA, Religion, U.S. Constitution
Daniel DiRito | September 12, 2007 | 2:18 PM |
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The United States, in it's efforts to combat terrorism under the Bush administration, has chosen military intervention as its preferred approach...an approach which successfully toppled anti-American regimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. In my opinion, the larger objective remains elusive...that...
Tagged as: Afghanistan, Benazir Bhutto, George W. Bush, Iraq, Nawaz Sharif, Neoconservatism, Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, Terrorism, War On Terror
Daniel DiRito | September 12, 2007 | 9:48 AM |
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Before George Bush was elected in 2,000, my Republican friends were touting the potential of Colin Powell joining the Bush team...a move they felt overwhelmingly amplified their desire to support George Bush. After the election and the Cabinet appointments,...
Tagged as: Colin Powell, Democracy, Diplomacy, George W. Bush, GQ, Guantanamo, Iraq, Islamic extremism, Nation Building, Terrorism
Daniel DiRito | September 11, 2007 | 10:08 AM |
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Results of a new study intended to gauge the brain differences between liberal and conservatives suggest that it all comes down to the "W''s...and in the case of George W. Bush, it may make perfect sense. All kidding aside,...
Tagged as: Conservative, George W. Bush, Iraq, Liberal, Neurobiology, Psychology, Same-Sex Marriage
Daniel DiRito | September 10, 2007 | 10:13 AM |
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Never let it be said that George Bush isn't a man of vision...unfortunately his visions have become a virtual nightmare for a majority of Americans. The similarities between Iraq and Vietnam are eerily highlighted by the overlay of one...
Tagged as: George W. Bush, Iraq, Middle East, Nation Building, Richard Nixon, Troop Surge, Vietnam
Daniel DiRito | September 8, 2007 | 9:29 AM |
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As we wait with bated breath for the Petraeus report on the troop surge and progress in Iraq, the Bush administration appears to be busy redefining the manner in which the facts are gathered. If it weren't so clearly...
Tagged as: Casualty Counts, David Petraeus, George W. Bush, Iraq, Sectarian Violence, Troop Surge
Daniel DiRito | September 7, 2007 | 2:01 PM |
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I've previously written about our "chain letter society"...my own hypothesis that our society has become obsessed with winning, the notion of number one, and all that can be associated with the position at the front of the line...such that...
Tagged as: Bill Richardson, California Electoral Votes, Chain Letter Society, Dog Fighting, Iowa, Jennifer Granholm, Michael Vick, Michigan, Presidential Primaries
Daniel DiRito | September 4, 2007 | 1:04 PM |
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Recently, there has been a significant amount of debate as to the meaning of U.S. troop casualties in Iraq. The premise behind this dialogue is an attempt to gauge the success or failure of the Bush administration's troop surge...
Tagged as: Baghdad, Civilian Deaths, Iraq, Sectarian Conflict, Troop Deaths, Troop Surge, War Casualties, Whack-a-mole
Daniel DiRito | September 3, 2007 | 12:01 PM |
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