Polispeak: February 2008: Archives

February 28, 2008

The Price Of Economic Inequality? genre: Econ-Recon & Little Red Ribbon-Hood & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Behind Bars

A report on the rising number of incarcerated Americans provides a disturbing look at the unspoken impact of economic inequality and the high cost we pay for perpetuating it. At the same time, during each election cycle, politicians from both parties accuse each other of practicing suspect fiscal discipline.

For this discussion, I want to look at the costs of incarceration in relation to providing universal health care as well as the Bush tax cuts. Time and again, the GOP points out the exorbitant costs that might be associated with providing universal health care. From what I've read, the plans being pushed by Senators Clinton and Obama are reported to cost 10 to 15 billion dollars annually. That's a big expense...but before one concludes we can't afford it, one must consider the burgeoning costs of incarceration and the distribution and impact of the Bush tax cuts.

From The Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

NEW YORK -- For the first time in U.S. history, more than one of every 100 adults is in jail or prison, according to a new report documenting America's rank as the world's No. 1 incarcerator. It urges states to curtail corrections spending by placing fewer low-risk offenders behind bars.

Using state-by-state data, the report says 2,319,258 Americans were in jail or prison at the start of 2008 - one out of every 99.1 adults. Whether per capita or in raw numbers, it's more than any other nation.

The report, released Thursday by the Pew Center on the States, said the 50 states spent more than $49 billion on corrections last year, up from less than $11 billion 20 years earlier. The rate of increase for prison costs was six times greater than for higher education spending, the report said.

So in the course of 20 years, we have increased our annual corrections spending by a whopping $38 billion dollars. That is roughly three times the projected annual cost to provide universal health care...health care that would help elevate the very people who are disproportionately represented in the prison population. Factor in the following data on the Bush tax cuts and one will begin to see the larger picture.

From MSNBC.com:

WASHINGTON - Since 2001, President Bush's tax cuts have shifted federal tax payments from the richest Americans to a wide swath of middle-class families, the Congressional Budget Office has found, a conclusion likely to roil the presidential election campaign.

The conclusions are stark. The effective federal tax rate of the top 1 percent of taxpayers has fallen from 33.4 percent to 26.7 percent, a 20 percent drop. In contrast, the middle 20 percent of taxpayers -- whose incomes averaged $51,500 in 2001 -- saw their tax rates drop 9.3 percent. The poorest taxpayers saw their taxes fall 16 percent.

Unfortunately, these percentages are deceptive. Let's look at a practical explanation of what these tax cuts meant to the working poor.

From BusinessWeek.com:

Imagine you are a waitress, married, with two children and a family income of $26,000 per year. Should you be enthusiastic about the tax cuts proposed by President Bush? He certainly wants you to think so. He uses an example of a family like yours to illustrate the benefits of his plan for working Americans. He boasts that struggling low-income families will enjoy the largest percentage reduction in their taxes. The income taxes paid by a family like yours will fall by 100% or more in some cases. This is true--but highly misleading.

President Bush fails to mention that your family pays only about $20 a year in income taxes, so even a 100% reduction does not amount to much. Like three-quarters of working Americans, you pay much more in payroll taxes--about $3,000 a year--than in income taxes. Yet not a penny of the $1.6 trillion package of Bush tax cuts (in reality, closer to $2 trillion over 10 years) is used to reduce payroll taxes. Moreover, should your income from waitressing fall below $26,000 as the economy slows, your family could be among the 75% of families in the lowest 20% of the income distribution that stand to get absolutely zero from the Bush plan.

The President claims that the "typical American family of four" will be able to keep $1,600 more of their money each year under his plan. Since you won't be getting anything like that, you might be tempted to conclude that your family must be an exception. Not really. The reality is that the President's claim is disingenuous. Eighty-nine percent of all tax filers, including 95% of those in the bottom 80% of the income distribution, will receive far less than $1,600.

In other words, when a 100% tax cut is the equivalent of $20.00, a family of four might be able to translate that twenty dollars into a meal at McDonalds...one time in 365 days. On the other hand, if one is lucky enough to be in the top one percent (those with $915,000 in pretax income...and first class health care) of earners and receive a 20% tax reduction, I suspect the savings would buy more than one fast food dinner over the course of a year. The skewed advantages...and disadvantages...suddenly become obvious.

If that isn't bad enough, let's return to the costs of incarceration and look at future cost projections.

From The New York Times:

By 2011, the report said, states are on track to spend an additional $25 billion.

The cost of medical care is growing by 10 percent annually, the report said, and will accelerate as the prison population ages.

In less than four years, we will spend another $25 billion annually (more than enough to pay for universal health care) to incarcerate more and more Americans...the bulk of which come from the economically underprivileged.

More From The New York Times:

Incarceration rates are even higher for some groups. One in 36 Hispanic adults is behind bars, based on Justice Department figures for 2006. One in 15 black adults is, too, as is one in nine black men between the ages of 20 and 34.

The report, from the Pew Center on the States, also found that only one in 355 white women between the ages of 35 and 39 are behind bars but that one in 100 black women are.

Let me be clear...crime is wrong...and it should be punished. However, we cannot ignore the factors that facilitate crime. Failing to provide opportunities to those most lacking in resources is also wrong...and it often leads to a lack of education and therefore a susceptibility to participating in crimes that are driven by poverty.

We have likely exceeded the point at which it will cost us more to punish and incarcerate those who commit these crimes of poverty than it would have cost us to insure their education, to raise the minimum wage above the poverty level, and to grant them the dignity and peace of mind that comes with knowing one's family members can receive health care when it is warranted; not just when it is necessary to prevent death.

Instead, under the guidance of the GOP, we have elected to ignore the fact that 47 million Americans lack health care and to focus upon further enriching the wealthiest...all the while being forced to endure asinine arguments that doing so will create jobs and thus facilitate a rising tide to float the boats of all Americans. It simply isn't true.

At a savings of $20 a year, millions of Americans can't even buy a seat in the boat...let alone stay afloat by treading water in the midst of the steady deluge of ever more ominous waves. If the number and availability of life preservers continues to dwindle, we are fast approaching the point at which our society will collapse under the weight of the inequity we chose to ignore.

If that happens, it will be as my grandfather argued many years ago, "They can eat you, but they can't shit you". The cannibalism has begun. What follows will not be pleasant.

Tagged as: 2008 Election, Barack Obama, Economics, George Bush, GOP, Health Care, Hillary Clinton, Incarceration, Jobs, Minimum Wage, Poverty, Prison, Racism, Tax Cuts, Tax Rates, Wealth

Daniel DiRito | February 28, 2008 | 3:27 PM | link | Comments (0)
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February 27, 2008

Mac & Sleeze: When Serving Kinder Gentler Compassionate Conservatism Just Won't Do? genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Mac & Sleeze

Those hoping for a kinder gentler presidential election complete with a heaping helping of compassionate conservatism might want to prepare themselves for a plate of partisan politics that will be far less palatable. I find myself suspecting that the GOP may be laying the groundwork for a bait and switch strategy aimed at satisfying voters newfound penchant for a civil campaign.

With the emergence of John McCain as the seemingly inevitable Republican nominee, voters may be under the impression that we're moving beyond choreographed character assassinations and stealth swiftboating strategies. My hunch is that the GOP's alternate approach includes John McCain appearing to take the high road while the usual suspects redouble their efforts to eviscerate the enemy.

I'll try to explain. This week, we may have witnessed a preview of the plan. My concern is that the orchestration was evidenced in Bill Cunningham's introduction of Senator McCain (and his effort to define Barack Obama)...which was followed by Senator McCain rapidly renouncing Cunningham's remarks...even though the campaign had arranged the appearance of the raucous radio personality.

What happened before and after McCain's criticism seems implausible to me. How could the McCain campaign have been so oblivious to what Cunningham was going to say? Why did Cunningham almost instantly withdraw his support for the Senator...stating instead that he would now join Ann Coulter in supporting Hillary Clinton? One, I can't imagine the McCain campaign didn't discuss the introduction with Cunningham. Second, I doubt anyone who is so well connected to a campaign such that they are chosen to introduce the candidate makes such an instantaneous about face. Hence, it's important to analyze his actions; searching for the underlying objective.

Note that in shifting his support to Clinton, Cunningham has left himself room to change his mind should Obama be the Democratic candidate (the same candidate he sought to define as a soft on terror Muslim sympathizer). If we project ahead, let's suppose Obama is the Democratic nominee; leaving the Coulter's and Cunningham's of the GOP without a candidate. We could assume they won't vote...or we could assume something far more strategically savvy. Using Cunningham's own word, I look for these current outliers to suddenly announce their own "kumbaya" moment...the one that states, "I actually supported Hillary Clinton...and that's a difficult calculation to make...but when I imagine an Obama presidency as the alternative to John McCain, I have to support John McCain".

So what does this achieve? Well, it sends GOP voters two important messages. First, it says that some establishment conservatives were actually willing to support one of the most reviled Democrats (Clinton)...a candidate the base could never support. Second, once Obama became the candidate, those same establishment conservatives decided to come back and support John McCain...because Barack Obama must be worse than Hillary Clinton. So what is the conclusion GOP voters will be asked to draw? If the choice in November is between John McCain and a candidate that is worse than Hillary Clinton, they have to get out and support John McCain.

By utilizing this approach, it allows people like Cunningham and Coulter to continue to rail against Obama as they supposedly support Clinton...all the while further defining Obama as worse than Hillary...doing the work for the McCain campaign while he keeps his hands clean and moves to higher ground. At the same time, the media darling McCain can stay below the radar and avoid being directly associated with the scorched earth strategy.

The bottom line is that the GOP desperately needs to define Obama...negatively. Having the GOP candidate do this dirty work isn't ideal in 2008 given that a majority of voters don't seem inclined to accept more of the partisanship fostered by the likes of Karl Rove. If this can be achieved by unattached surrogates who also have the ear of those Republican's less apt to be enthused with a McCain candidacy, all the better.

If they succeed, then the entire GOP can sit down at the table...together with the independent and moderate voters they must have to win in November...ready to indulge in the equivalent of a twice baked batch of kinder, gentler, compassionate and conservative, comfort food...a delectable dish of "Krafty Mac & Sleeze".

Tagged as: 2008 Election, Ann Coulter, Barack Obama, Bill Cunningham, Democrats, GOP, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Swiftboating

Daniel DiRito | February 27, 2008 | 9:58 PM | link | Comments (2)
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February 22, 2008

Hillary's Stellar Debate Moment - Part Two genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation & Uncivil Unions


A number of readers responded to the posting Hillary's Stellar Debate Moment. I truly appreciate hearing the thoughts and observations of my readers and I welcome engaging dialogue. I was going to reply in the comments section of the prior posting but I soon concluded it warranted a second posting.

I do so because I've noticed a trend that troubles me...one that is innately important to me and that highlights one of the overarching motivations behind the creation of Thought Theater. I'll attempt an explanation.

Throughout my life, I have prioritized the pursuit of more truth above all else (that doesn't mean I always lived it). In so doing, I often find I'm unable to permanently attach myself to any particular group, club, party, or affiliation. All too often, such allegiances include the requirement that each member adopt and affirm all of the beliefs (truths) of the organization...even if that arrests the pursuit of the truth...or...heaven forbid...demands the wholesale suspension of the truth.

What this means in practical terms is that I'm often viewed as a contrarian. I've accepted my role, though I prefer to characterize it as a commitment to seeking more truth...even if I find it painful...even if it makes me unpopular. What I've learned is that my pursuit of truth is far more sustaining than any of the perceived spoils that accompany affected affiliations.

Before I proceed to the topic at hand, some background might be beneficial. I attended high school at an all boys Catholic boarding school. We were allied with an all girls Catholic boarding school. Over time, it became vogue to denigrate the girls at our sister school and it became cool to date girls from the local high school. As with most trends in teenagers, the shift was facilitated by a vocal few and followed by the pliable masses.

Ironically, I (the closeted gay guy) came to the defense of the girls at our sister school...writing opinion pieces in the school paper assailing the mob mentality and the thugs who had triggered the entire ordeal. Simply stated, I defended the truth because it was the right thing to do. I took my share of flack from a few students but over time I won the respect of far more. In retrospect, it merely took someone to stand up and state the obvious. Sadly, it reinforced my belief that in the absence of a voice, the truth becomes little more than an amalgam of invented and inflicted animosities heaped upon the helpless and the hapless.

Having been bullied in grade school until I finally stood up for myself and bloodied the nose of the ringleader, I developed a keen sense of injustice and an unyielding commitment to fairness. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't remotely perfect then and I'm still not...but I can recognize a mean spirited assault in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, life isn't black and white or neat and tidy. Yes, when it comes to people, it's much easier to lump and label than it is to dissect and discern...but then who ever said the search for truth should be easy?

Hence, the most important thing I learned was that truth can be found in places and in people one wouldn't expect or predict. I came to realize that even a thug can speak the truth or act with fairness...but that required suspending my own bias in order to be objective...even while knowing I could rationalize doing otherwise. So what was the essential lesson? If I wanted fairness, I had to grant it to others...regardless of my own bias.

As I've followed politics and the upcoming election, I've found myself experiencing many of the same feelings and circumstances...and that includes allowing my own bias to interfere with the pursuit of truth. Fortunately, I'm still committed to fairness. With that in mind, I offer the following observations with regards to last evening's debate and the ongoing need to seek truth.

First, I'm including the content of an email I received in response to the posting. I also encourage readers to take a moment and read the comments in the posting as they provide the context for my remarks.

hi: i think you fell for a bit of theater--have you seen the utube of john edwards "after this is all done, we'll be ok" and its america he's worried about? or the clip of bill yakking about taking"hits." hill's greatest moment was empty gesture. the question was soft ball and hill was prepared with stolen words in an attempt to hit a home run. i thought you were more sophisticated than to buy her performance. or maybe your use of stellar was merely acknowledging the performing aspect. the message was old, the delivery not bad.

First, I love politics and I understand that it often involves emotions and that can lead to pettiness, anger, animosity, and partisanship. Human nature is such that we're all prone to bias...and politics may be the arena where it is most noticeable.

As such, I find myself troubled by the refusal of so many individuals to acknowledge any positive acts on the part of the candidate(s) they don't support. Even worse, I'm amazed that one Democrat is willing to assail another simply because they don't support the same candidate. Truth be told, how can Democrats call Karl Rove and the GOP ruthless when Democrats engage in the same behavior...within their own party's primary?

I understand the desire to win...but I have never sought to win if it involved having to abandon my belief in the pursuit of truth. That means that I accept that "the truth" won't always be on my side...and it won't always vindicate me and vanquish those that I oppose. At the same time, if I'm committed to the truth, it will always lead me towards more of it...sometimes willingly and sometimes kicking and screaming. I cherish that reality even if it has the potential to kick my butt.

I mean no disrespect by the following remark, but it needs to be said. Time and again, people, motivated by their own bias, make statements that make them appear to be "full of shit". It's the equivalent of calling a square a circle and then expecting everyone to agree with you...simply because it supports the reality you're promoting. Sometimes it works...especially if one is skilled at manipulation...but it never circumvents the actual truth...ever.

Sadly, those who choose this approach, often aim their efforts at those who, by and large, share their same basic goals and objectives (e.g. Dems on Dems)...but for any number of reasons they seek to achieve those goals and objectives by virtue of their preferred path. I view such acts as unenlightened episodes of intellectual dishonesty. It's akin to the notion that the end justifies the means. I don't think it's that simple.

Let me explain. Truth is a function of consistency and those who seek to be affiliated with the truth can only remain so if their words and deeds are in fact consistent with it. Truth requires vigilance and commitment. Call it being on the watch for the flip flop effect...call it being willing to call a lie a lie...call it an insistence that deception and deceit must be exposed whenever it rears its head...but that which isn't consistent with the truth can never be called an impartial demonstration of objectivity and rationality. Hence truth can set us free or it can make us prisoners of our refusal to face it.

So let's return to the email and the issue of Senator Clinton's "stellar debate moment". A number of folks have pointed to the hypocrisy found in Hillary Clinton accusing Barack Obama of plagiarism and then proceeding to use the words of others in her closing remarks. So what truth can we discern from this inconsistency? Here's where it gets complicated.

First, I would argue that the definition of plagiarism has been stretched to score political points. We're all guilty of using words, ideas, and expressions that we've heard or read...but that fails to meet the intent of plagiarism. Making such an accusation may be an acceptable political strategy but it isn't consistent with the pursuit of truth.

Second, this means that Hillary's actions were inconsistent with the manipulated truth she had previously sought to create. At the same time, the fact that she demonstrated this inconsistency doesn't nullify the truth of the words (borrowed and original) she spoke last night...just as her accusations directed at Senator Obama didn't negate the truth of the words (borrowed and original) he recently spoke.

The fact that the Obama campaign employed the same manipulation of the truth in accusing Senator Clinton of plagiarism following last evening's debate was also inconsistent with the truth...albeit done as a tit for tat response (a rationalization). You see...this is the danger of deviating from the consistent pursuit of truth. It becomes a never-ending struggle to create truth rather than to find it and to honor it.

So let's look at Senator Clinton's actual remarks. Those intent on assailing the Senator have focused upon a small portion of a statement that was nearly three minutes in duration. I view that as an obfuscation of the truth. Her statement was more than "we're going to be ok but I'm not so sure America will be" and "I've taken some hits in my life". Ignoring the entirety of the statement is an attempt to score political points through manipulation. It's done all of the time...but it isn't consistent with the pursuit of truth.

Further, we've all found ourselves in situations where the words of others best describe our truth as well as larger, far more encompassing "truths". After all, the bulk of our thoughts have been experienced, spoken, or written by others. There just aren't that many original thoughts or wholly unique ways to express them. If there were, we'd all be esteemed authors and poets.

That brings us back to the intended meaning of the word plagiarism. The manner in which it has been utilized in this campaign is absurd...and the more we all embrace its false meaning; the more we convolute its true meaning. Such is the process that accompanies the destruction of language and therefore our ability to communicate effectively and honestly. It's truly an example of the slippery slope effect...and the deconstruction of fundamental truths.

I challenge everyone to go back and look at Senator Obama's face while he listens to Senator Clinton's closing remarks. I'm convinced that what you will see in his face is an acknowledgment and an affirmation of the truth he's hearing...regardless of whether some small portion of it was "lifted" from others. In the end, the truth of the words she spoke resonated with Barack and with the audience. It was a real moment because the listeners grasped the truth of the spoken words...even if it was a "performance"...even if Barack thought it was a performance.

To discount her statements because one thinks she prepared and practiced speaking them is to suggest that she should be singled out as a candidate who isn't entitled to avail herself of the long-established practices of public speaking and politicking. To suggest that the question was "a softball" ignores the fact that both candidates were given the same opportunity to answer it. It was a level playing field. Negating Senator Clinton's "home run" answer because she was prepared for the question is utterly illogical.

The truth is that most of what we see in a debate is performance. Criticizing a candidate for a stellar performance is akin to shunning a good movie because one of the actors (who you don't particularly like) was superb. Yes, we're all entitled to our subjective conclusions...but passing a biased opinion off as an objective analysis circumvents the discernment of truth.

It happens all the time in politics and all too often in life. It is a virulent virus...one that has the potential to replicate so fast that we're on the verge of untruth becoming a pandemic infection. Even worse, how does one cure a disease that is self-inflicted and self-perpetuating? If the motivation to pass a virus exceeds the desire to defeat it, then sickness has trumped sanity.

Truth is never old and it remains truth whenever and wherever it is delivered. Truth isn't the sole domain of any individual; it is bigger than than...because it must be. One can dislike the messenger while still acknowledging and accepting the message.

Politics is an attempt to get voters to embrace both. Regardless, if we collectively focus on affirming truth whenever and wherever we see it, hear it, read it, or find it, we send our own message of rejection to those who may be engaged in delivering a corrupted version of it. If we consistently send that message, we inoculate ourselves from the ravages of untruth and we single out those who have become its carriers. In so doing, we begin the process of retraining the body politic to reject deceit and deception and we set in motion a system that rewards those who pursue it and perform it...consistently.

The truth is...when the end and the means are one and the same...the truth is.

Tagged as: 2008 Election, Austin Debate, Barack Obama, Bias, Democratic Nomination, Fairness, Hillary Clinton, Justice, Karl Rove, Partisanship, Politics, Truth

Daniel DiRito | February 22, 2008 | 6:07 PM | link | Comments (5)
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February 21, 2008

Hillary's Stellar Debate Moment genre: Polispeak & Video-Philes

Favor who you will in the Democratic nominating process, but one of the finest moments of this campaign season was delivered by Senator Clinton at the close of tonight's debate in Austin. It was both magnanimous and uplifting and it warrants an acknowledgment.

It's a shame that the Senator is unable to show this side of herself on a regular basis. Nonetheless, it certainly affirms the opinions of those who know her best - that she is a warm and thoughtful individual who sincerely cares about her country and its citizens.

For the life of me, I've yet to figure out why she elicits such vitriol from so many in the media as well as with a segment of the voting public. Unfortunately, such is the nature of politics.

However it turns out, the Senator will always be able to reflect back upon this stellar demonstration of her decency and her dignity. You go girl!

Tagged as: 2008 Election, Austin Debate, Democratic Nomination, Hillary Clinton

Daniel DiRito | February 21, 2008 | 8:47 PM | link | Comments (14)
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McCainometrics: Yes He Can...If You're Young & Pretty? genre: Polispeak & Tongue-In-Cheek


Honestly, I couldn't care less if John McCain is a womanizer. If so, that puts him on par with most of his colleagues and many of his fellow citizens. Frankly, if he is, it's not a predictor of competence and it shouldn't automatically disqualify a candidate from consideration. Nonetheless, it may make sense to seek an understanding of the behaviors that might accompany an individual's propensity to engage in such escapades.

I've known men that are virtually unable to function without the prospect of a budding relationship...whether married or not. Men of this ilk are prisoners of their prurient pursuits. They are apt to make compromising decisions that jeopardize their existing relationships as well as their own well-being. Money is often no object and they will frequently take unwise and unwarranted risks. Hence, when these individuals are in the throes of their latest interlude, their judgment is not only suspect; it may well be incorrigible.

As I read the accounts of Senator McCain's involvement with lobbyist Vicki Iseman, I immediately recalled watching an episode of Headliners and Legends chronicling his life. The pursuit of women was a persistent theme of the biography...a pattern not only confirmed by friends of McCain; but also by McCain himself.

In one particular segment of the program, McCain basically states that he and his fellow servicemen were preoccupied with seeking female companionship. While understandable given the circumstances, the manner in which the Senator recounted the story immediately reminded me of my discomfort with his habit of winking at people on the campaign trail. Instinctually, both instances strike me as part and parcel of a persona I might be inclined to suspect is focused on the pursuit of the opposite sex...a behavior set I would equate with a tendency towards objectification.

As the biography progresses, the narrator notes that McCain's first wife Carol waited patiently for his release from his captors only to see their marriage fall apart as a result of the Senator's many extramarital dalliances. When asked about that period of time, McCain's former wife, a victim of a disabling car accident, apparently told others that once her husband turned forty, he decided he wanted to be twenty five again. Hence, he divorced his first wife and soon married his much younger (and wealthy) current wife Cindy.

In the biography, McCain speaks about his affairs and while he accepts blame and acknowledges his actions were inappropriate, he also posits that he was motivated by "selfishness and immaturity". In my way of thinking, I could entertain giving him the benefit of the doubt had he suggested that his actions may have been a reaction to his years of confinement and the denial it certainly included. To his credit, he refuses to offer that rationale, though it's possible he did so because it wouldn't square with his history of womanizing prior to his stint in Vietnam.

Returning to the New York Times report, I was particularly struck by the following excerpt:

A female lobbyist had been turning up with him at fund-raisers, visiting his offices and accompanying him on a client's corporate jet. Convinced the relationship had become romantic, some of his top advisers intervened to protect the candidate from himself -- instructing staff members to block the woman's access, privately warning her away and repeatedly confronting him, several people involved in the campaign said on the condition of anonymity.

What troubles me about this revelation is the sense, by his advisors, that the Senator was capable of sabotaging his own campaign. Presumably, the advisors had a good sense of their candidates idiosyncrasies...a fact that seems to have led them to conclude the Senator lacked the proper judgment with regard to romantic involvements. Whether this caution resulted from prior experiences wasn't revealed...but it isn't much of a stretch to draw that conclusion given the Senator's self-confessed track record.

So where does that leave us? Well, as is so often the case with such stories, we're forced to rely upon the speculations of others. Clearly, the Senator's history has contained instances of a similar nature and he freely admits as much. Whether he does so to help him arrive at the current straight talking maverick war hero image may never be known...though he wouldn't be the first public figure to craft a message that masks the actual man. Lastly, he can ill-afford to acknowledge an infidelity or an influence peddling impropriety at this critical juncture in his political life. Such is the nature of the political beast.

Rather than focus on this current assertion, I decided to have a little fun developing my own theory of McCain-ometrics. First, some background facts are needed. In 1965, at the age of 29, McCain married his first wife. In 1979, 14 years later, at the age of 43, McCain began courting his future second wife. In 1980 he left his first wife, who was 2 years his junior, for his new 27 year old wife...17 years younger. Nearly 20 years later, in 1999, at the age of 62, McCain is reported to have become "involved" with a 31 year old woman who was also roughly 31 years younger than he.

So here's the formula and a riddle. John McCain spends 14 years with his first wife (Carol)...and then finds a new love interest (Cindy in 1979 - 1980)...and then, down the road, in approximately half again more years...minus one...(14 + 7 - 1 = +20 = 1999), he finds Vicki. Simultaneously, he doubles the net age difference between himself and each subsequent (love) interest...going from a baseline of a woman 2 years younger (Carol) to one 17 years younger (Cindy) for a net of 15 additional years younger...which means we must double the 15 year age gap to predict that the subsequent (love) interest would be approximately 30 years younger (Vicki 31, John 62 in 1999). Let's also assume that John McCain doubles the years he stays married to each wife...plus one...thus 14 years with Carol x 2 + 1 = 29 years with Cindy. As such, he should be due for both a new (love) interest and wife in 2009 (14 + 7 - 1 = +20 plus half again more (minus one) = 20 + 10 - 1 = +29 years...or 2009).

OK, so if one applies this formula, how old would you approximate his new (love) interest and bride to be when he marries her and how many years would you anticipate he'd remain married (assuming he lives that long, of course) to this third wife?

You see, when it comes to the "evil" New York Times, I just hate to think that Republicans would conclude that its tawdry invective can't be substantiated through a mathematical metric. I know I feel better having put pencil to paper.

P.S. Feel free to offer your answers...or your own equations in the comments. I'll provide the answer derived from my metric in the comments at the end of the day.

Tagged as: 2000 Presidential Campaign, 2008 Election, Adultery, Divorce, Headliners & Legends, Humor, Influence Peddling, John McCain, Lobbyist, New York Times, Prisoner Of War, Psychology, Vicki Iseman, Vietnam

Daniel DiRito | February 21, 2008 | 9:49 AM | link | Comments (6)
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February 19, 2008

One Unforeseen Crisis Away From A Military Draft? genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak


The fact that the bulk of the American public's military assessments are filtered through the prism of the powers that be...a la the Bush administration...can be rather misleading and may well engender a false sense of security. Implied in these assessments is an assurance that our nation is being sufficiently protected from harm. It's not only possible that this is a rose colored view; we may be one unforeseen crisis away from the need to reinstitute a military draft.

A survey of a few thousand current and former military officers overwhelmingly concludes that our military has been stretched dangerously thin by the war in Iraq. What the survey doesn't state may be the ominous six hundred pound gorilla in the room.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. military has been stretched dangerously thin by the Iraq war, according to almost 90 percent of retired and current military officers polled on the state of America's armed forces.

Eighty percent said it would be unreasonable to expect the U.S. military to wage another major war successfully at this time, according to the poll by the Center for a New American Security think tank and Foreign Policy magazine.

More than 3,400 serving and retired officers took part in the poll, organizers said. Around 90 percent were retired officers, a large majority had combat experience and about 10 percent had served in Iraq or Afghanistan.

"We are putting more strains on the all-volunteer force than it was ever designed to bear," Army Lt. Col. John Nagl, a prominent counterinsurgency expert, said at a panel discussion in Washington on Tuesday to announce the results of the survey.

Eighty-eight percent of respondents said the U.S. military had been stretched dangerously thin by Iraq. Sixty percent said the military was weaker than five years ago, 25 percent said it was stronger and 15 percent said it was about the same.

Truth be told, most Americans still look at military service as an abstract notion that rarely hits home. Yes, they are aware of the failings evidenced during the execution of the Iraq war and the tragic and prolonged loss of life...but they rarely have to worry that their family members might face the prospect of a draft.

If this survey provided only one insight, it should be a recognition that we may be one military crisis away from the necessity to reinstate a policy of involuntary military service. Even more disquieting is the prospect that we may not be able to properly respond to an unexpected military conflict.

In reality, the implementation of a draft would not facilitate an instantaneously fortified military nor would it come without a tremendous price tag. Hence, we could well find ourselves in the unenviable position of having to prioritize our military engagements...or prosecute them with dangerously compromised strategies.

Not only does that suggest a level of vulnerability not seen since being forced to ramp up in order to meet the challenge of past World Wars...it points out just how absurd it was for George Bush to ask Americans to go shopping in the aftermath of 9/11. It also demonstrates the inherent short-sightedness of our commander in chief and the degree to which he prefers placation and prevarication to the direct dissemination of the low-down.

The fact that we have repeatedly found ourselves in unrevealed and/or unexpected positions and predicaments suggests that Americans shouldn't take comfort in the assurances that a draft is out of the question.

A look at the recent Pakistani election and the evaporating power of Pervez Musharraf highlights our current president's propensity to put all of America's proverbial eggs into one basket. All too often that basket has turned out to be a leaky sieve filled with little more than broken and empty shells. The need for a draft may be the next egg scheduled for a surprise scrambling. That would not be a delectable dish.

Tagged as: 9/11, George W. Bush, Iraq, Military Draft, Military Preparedness, Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, War

Daniel DiRito | February 19, 2008 | 9:14 PM | link | Comments (2)
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February 18, 2008

Mo Rocca Makes His Own "Obama Girl" Music Video genre: Polispeak & Tongue-In-Cheek & Video-Philes

Who knew Mo Rocca could carry a tune? In the following clip, Mo tears it up with his own Obama music video. The premise of Mo's little ditty is that Barack needs to win the Hispanic vote...so Mo decides some salsa is in order.

Mo doesn't stop there...take a look at the shirt he's wearing...now that's bedazzling...and he probably used his own BeDazzler! Unfortunately, he forgot to put on his pointy toed Old Gringo Valentino cowboy boots.

The funniest thing about the video is the fact that Mo sings his song with the same perfect syllabic enunciation he uses when he speaks. Regardless, he does a killer job of rolling his R's. You go Mo!

Tagged as: Barack Obama, BeDazzler, Hillary Clinton, Hispanics, Humor, La Bamba, Mo Rocca, Obama Girl, Old Gringo, Salsa, Spanish

Daniel DiRito | February 18, 2008 | 2:31 PM | link | Comments (0)
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February 12, 2008

Housing Crisis: "Project Lifeline" Dead On Arrival genre: Econ-Recon & Polispeak


For homeowners facing rising interest rates, higher payments, and dwindling or nonexistent equity, the roll out of "Project Lifeline" seems little more than a "dying by inches" strategy. The plan's 30-day freeze on foreclosures seems to be the equivalent of offering a band-aid to a patient in need of an organ transplant.

Project Lifeline is premised on the notion that granting homeowners a 30 day reprieve will lead them to contact their lender and provide some new financial information that will magically alter their grave situation such that the lender will forego the completion of foreclosure proceedings.

Feb. 12 (Bloomberg) -- Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc. and four other U.S. lenders agreed with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson to take new steps to help borrowers in danger of foreclosure stay in their homes.

Paulson and the banks offered a 30-day freeze on some foreclosures while loan modifications are considered. The Treasury chief, with Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson, said today at a news conference in Washington that "Project Lifeline" would help stabilize communities disrupted by mortgage defaults.

"If someone is willing to make a call, to reach out, there's a chance they can save their home," Paulson said. "As our economy works through this difficult period, we will look for additional opportunities to try to avoid preventable foreclosures."

In a statement, the banks said the program would start with a letter to homeowners more than 90 days delinquent on payments that lays out procedures for them to "pause" the foreclosure process. The homeowner has 10 days to respond to the notice and give additional financial information so the lender is able to weigh new payment options.

Having worked in commercial real estate through the Savings & Loan scandal of the late 80's, my cynicism was piqued by the announcement of this plan. In truth, I suspect most delinquent homeowners with some mathematical potential to save their homes have already contacted their lender in the hopes of renegotiating. Those homeowners who haven't spoken to their lender are apt to already know they lack the financial means to forestall foreclosure or to withstand the terms of a restructure that may provide some minimal relief. Further, most lenders already know what I've just stated.

So the unasked question remains, "What is this plan really intended to achieve?" I'll posit two answers. First, the lenders participating in this plan are themselves in dire straits and the Bush administration, the Federal Reserve, the U.S. Treasury, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development know as much. Given the desire to avoid expanding recessionary pressures, it behooves the government and these lenders to slow the flow of home foreclosures. More bad news on the precipice of a recession simply accelerates the speed with which the economy falls further into recession. Thus, the plan hopes to blunt the bad news.

Secondarily, banking disclosure provisions require lenders to account for bad loans and to maintain acceptable loss ratios to remain viable. Should these huge institutions fall short on these formulas, an injection of additional capital is frequently required. Absent the ability to meet these capital calls, these lenders face insolvency and regulatory intervention...the very events that preceded the S&L fiasco and the subsequent creation of the Resolution Trust Corporation (RTC)...the entity charged with the management and administration of failed S&L's, the bad loans they held, and the liquidation of the properties associated with those loans.

Given the huge amount of capital that has already been injected to stabilize the industry, I suspect the powers that be fear the impact of announcing even more stopgap capital infusions. If my hypothesis is correct, then my characterization of the situation as "death by inches" is certainly appropriate.

There's no doubt the governments' hands-off approach to regulatory oversight clearly enabled the industry's careless and shortsighted practices. Truth be told, the government and the lending industry subsequently underestimated (or chose to bury their heads in the sand) the magnitude of the crisis. Too little has been done too late to solve the problems or to quell the growing consumer fears that hasten the trajectory of the recessionary spiral. Further half-measures to right the ship will only prolong the inevitable and heighten consumer mistrust.

A look into the pipeline simply indicates more bad news is on the way.

Federal Reserve officials project about 2 million homeowners face higher mortgage rates over the next two years as their loans reset higher. Economists at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. estimate foreclosures this year will be about 1 million more than average, a level that FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair has said "is just too high." They average about 600,000 in a typical year.

"This [Project Lifeline] is good, but we've seen this over and over again," said Kathleen Day, a spokeswoman for the Center for Responsible Lending in Washington. "The fact that they keep having to roll out subsequent rescue plans every few weeks underscores that each plan is inadequate."

I'll close with an observation relative to the 2008 election. George Bush's pattern of ignoring the economic warnings and the opinions of his underlings...coupled with his new focus upon bolstering his "fiscal conservative" legacy...may serve to enhance the Democrats' argument that voters can ill-afford the continuance of a Republican in the White House.

Each time the President asserts that the economy is sound and will soon weather the storm...and then has to backpedal...he risks placing his fellow Republicans in the unenviable position of asking voters to send them back to Washington smack-dab in the middle of an economic shitstorm.

Not only is Project Lifeline apt to be dead on arrival, the intransigent leader of the GOP may be unknowingly orchestrating his party's death march...one stubborn George W. Bush inch at a time.

Tagged as: 2008 Election, Economy, Foreclosures, George W. Bush, GOP, Housing Bubble, Housing Crisis, Interest Rates, Mortgage Industry, Project Lifeline, Recession, RTC, S&L Scandal, Sub-Prime Lending, U.S. Treasury

Daniel DiRito | February 12, 2008 | 2:42 PM | link | Comments (1)
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February 11, 2008

McCain - Yes We Can...But Would We Want To? genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation & Video-Philes

If you haven't seen the video touting Barack Obama and his message of "Yes We Can", you can view it below. I've also included a parody of that video (John.he.is) that is intended to illuminate John McCain's unfavorable contrast.

Given the reach of YouTube and other similar sites, the hype surrounding the 2008 election will be unlike any other. What remains to be seen is whether these messages reach individuals who haven't already chosen a candidate or if they simply provide an outlet for the enthused partisans.

Yes, on the surface, the number of views is amazing...but further consideration may simply tell us that the internet is merely replacing the mainstream media as our preferred means of communicating with like minded individuals. Clearly, the lack of limitations on the content found on the internet currently provides for sharper critiques and the creation of more unfiltered "swiftboating" strategies.

The belief that communication serves a worthy purpose in its ability to connect us may actually be morphing into a medium that provides the means to form even more narrow affiliations with even more ability to carry out pointed attacks and to push targeted agendas.

Time will tell if we've unleashed progress or simply advanced the progression of heightened partisanship. One thing is certain, every individual now has the opportunity to participate, to pontificate, and to promulgate. Whether that's good or bad remains to be seen. In the meantime, good luck with separating the wheat from the chaff.

h/t to Joe Gandelman at The Moderate Voice

Yes We Can - Barack Obama Music Video

John.He.Is - A Parody Aimed At John McCain

Tagged as: 2008 Election, Barack Obama, John McCain, Partisanship, YouTube

Daniel DiRito | February 11, 2008 | 3:58 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Sometimes When You Get Too Close, You Get Too Far genre: Do Not Resuscitate & Nouveau Thoughts & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation


"Sometimes when you get too close, you get too far" is one of many pearls of wisdom handed down from my Italian immigrant grandparents. They used the expression to warn their children that all relationships weren't the same and that there are circumstances whereby getting too involved is ill advised. Fortunately, my parents passed those same words along to their children. I've been focused on the saying for several weeks as I've been seeking an understanding of my own indeterminate malaise.

Let me offer some background and then some explanation. I love politics and psychology and I often focus on their overlap when writing. I've done so because I'm convinced that all of our actions can be traced back to the individual's psyche. Try as we might, I suspect we actually understand very little about the mechanics of that entity...other than the fact that it undoubtedly makes each of us uniquely flawed individuals.

If we look close enough, perhaps we can find themes or threads that connect some of us. At the same time, it seems safe to infer that the reverse is true...meaning there are also threadbare holes in this imperfect human tapestry that divide us. Politics is thus the tundra upon which these commonalities and these differences unfold.

This current election cycle is a unique moment in our American history. Never before has it been inevitable that either a woman or an African American would be the nominee of one of our political parties. Part and parcel of that eventuality is the concept of change. Confronting this change, in my estimation, involves many of the same dynamics found in my grandparent's thoughtful insights.

There is a spoken belief that our nation long ago confronted issues of race and gender and set in motion the removal of the barriers associated with either. There is also an unspoken reality that neither has been achieved. As we approach the moment where our lip service may well be forced to acquiesce to the living of these lofty proclamations, we begin to see that the closer we get to its achievement, the further we may be from its existence.

The evidence that exists is no doubt the equivalent of a DNA match. Whether it's a product of our capitalistic mindset that idealizes winning and posits that the opposite is losing, I don't know for sure...but I suspect it may well be. If so, then nothing could be more divisive than to ask voters to affirm one oppressed group over another. It's as if fate is bringing us to the precipice of progress...only to ask us to make a choice that will catapult one group to the pinnacle while seemingly pushing the other into the abyss. While this isn't actually the choice, it may be the perception.

Worse still, those groups who lack a contestant in the competition for the quintessential prize worry that the elevation of one of their fellow second class societal equivalents may well result in the further disproportionate distribution of the spoils of success. Hence, if the perception exists that the proverbial pie isn't large enough to nourish us all, then the thought that one's longtime competitor (for the crumbs that fall off the table) is about to receive not only a place at the table, but a plate...and a bigger piece of the pie, is apt to create angst...and resentment. Therein lies what we must attempt to understand.

An example might be beneficial. I received a distressing call from my younger sister last week. As I picked up the phone and said hello, all I heard on the other end was my sister sobbing...telling me that she had just gotten off the phone with my mother. My heart sunk as my mind raced to guess who had died or was diagnosed with a terminal disease or fallen gravely ill. It's amazing how many thoughts can occupy a few seconds. I immediately asked, "What's the matter?" As I braced for the bad news, she replied, "I told mom I had caucused for Obama and she got mad and hung up on me".

You see my mom is in her seventies...and the thought that a fellow woman would choose to support "the other candidate" (a man who happens to be black) is akin to treason. Add to that the fact that she grew up in a small Colorado community as a Catholic whose Italian immigrant parents had distinct accents and customs that were foreign to those around them and one begins to see the generational impact.

Such is the insidious nature of discrimination and prolonged periods of lost or limited opportunities. Let me be clear...my mom doesn't have a racist bone in her body and I can't recall a single disparaging remark about any minority (save for her angry comments at my announcement many years ago that I was gay). Nonetheless, she is a product of a society that relegated her and other women to a lesser status and in so doing served to rob her and many others of the same opportunities as their male counterparts. The fact that she saw similar limitations placed upon her foreign born parents only exacerbated her awareness of the issue.

When I subsequently spoke with my mother on the phone, the gravity of the situation was revealed when she stated, "I want to see a woman elected to the presidency before I die." Yes, the same woman who idolized the charisma and the hope she found in JFK couldn't envision that my sister had seen the same in Barack Obama. She could only feel her own sense of loss and sadness at the fact that time is cutting short her chances to witness the culmination of her dreams and her hopes.

2008 will be a historical election...but whether it will be a transformative one remains to be seen. Sometimes the closer we get to fulfilling the hopes and dreams of the least of us, the more difficult it can be to preserve them for the rest of us. Hence, transformation can be a double-edged sword.

My love for my mom and my sister is unlimited...and yet it can't always bridge the gaps that come between people from disparate eras. When injustice has been administered and experienced over lengthy periods of time, it may be impossible to repair the damages or remove the regrets that accompany it.

We each see life through our own prisms. We occasionally see the same thing when looking through those prisms...yet if we see those things in our lives at differing chronological points, they will likely have different meanings. In the end, sometimes when you've gone too long without, you've gone too far within. Perhaps the lessons learned in 2008 will bring all of us closer to where we belong.

Tagged as: 2008 election, Aging, Barack Obama, Chauvinism, Death, Gender Inequality, Generation Gap, Hillary Clinton, Immigration, Italian Immigrants, JFK, Misogyny, Racism

Daniel DiRito | February 11, 2008 | 10:01 AM | link | Comments (2)
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February 8, 2008

The Daily Show: Mittens, Marriage, & Massachusetts genre: Gaylingual & Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak & Tongue-In-Cheek & Video-Philes

If you didn't see Mitt Romney's announcement that he is suspending his campaign, you missed the coup de grace of Mittens' prolific pandering. It seems that on the heels of contributing 35 million dollars to his campaign, repositioning himself on virtually every issue, and attempting to wipe away his record as the governor of Massachusetts, Mittens chose to feed all the red meat he could muster to the rapacious CPAC crowd.

I must say that Mittens "Not-Knute-Rocked-Me" right out of my knickers when he offered his illogical linkage of all that ails America with none other than gay marriage. Not only does Mittens connect gay marriage with moral decay, he infers that it is the final piece in the long progression from a responsible citizenry to a society filled with lazy welfare gamers who do little more than watch pornography while engaging in wanton sexual escapades that bear illegitimate children...and they do all of this without ever having to pay taxes.

All he needed to complete his cockeyed soliloquy...and what has to be viewed as the epitome of a compassionate Christian clusterfuck...was to assert that same-sex marriage is also responsible for the acceleration of illegal Mexican immigration. Poor Mittens...always one conservative criteria short of a trifecta.

Here's Mittens in his own words:

ROMNEY: In the 1960s, there were welfare programs that created a culture of poverty in our country. Now, some people think we won that battle when we reformed welfare. But the liberals haven't given up.

At every turn, they tried to substitute government largess for individual responsibility. They fight to strip work requirements from welfare, to put more people on Medicaid, and remove more and more people from having to pay any income tax whatsoever.

Dependency is death to initiative, risk-taking and opportunity. Dependency is culture killing. It's a drug. We've got to fight it like the poison it is.


ROMNEY: The attack on faith and religion is no less relentless. And tolerance for pornography, even celebration of it, and sexual promiscuity, combined with the twisted incentives of government welfare, have led to today's grim realities: 68 percent of African- American kids born out of wedlock, 45 percent of Hispanic kids, 25 percent of white kids.

How much harder it is for these kids to succeed in school and in life. A nation built on the principles of the founding fathers cannot long stand when its children are raised without fathers in the home.


ROMNEY: The development of a child is enhanced by having a mother and a father. Such a family is the ideal for the future of the child and for the strength of the nation.

I wonder how it is that unelected judges, like some in my state of Massachusetts, are so unaware of this reality, so oblivious to the millennia of recorded history.

It's time for the people of America to fortify marriage through a constitutional amendment, so that liberal judges cannot continue to attack it.

Fortunately, Jon Stewart has done a yeoman's job in deconstructing Mittens' moribund manifesto. Stewart focuses on Mittens assertion that he's withdrawing from the race in order to keep America safe from the terrorist onslaught that would result from a Democratic president's rush to admit and accept defeat> Mittens just can't allow himself to empower and encourage the terrorists...he loves America too much...not to mention that he loves his money and hasn't a chance in hell of winning the nomination.

In the end, I think Mittens should have run as an independent candidate...perhaps a Reconstructionist Republican? After all, who can name another politician with the ability to reconstruct his positions at the drop of a hat? Let's just hope that Mittens doesn't try to reconstitute himself into one of his remaining eight political identities. I'm of the opinion that it's best to let sleeping dogs...err...Mittens...lie. He does it so well!

Jon Stewart On The Mittens Appearance At CPAC

A Daily Show Classic On The Impact Of Gay Marriage

Tagged as: 2008 Election, Conservatism, CPAC, Humor, Immigration, Jon Stewart, LGBT, Massachusetts, Mitt Romney, Religious Right, Same-Sex Marriage, Terrorism, The Daily Show

Daniel DiRito | February 8, 2008 | 1:25 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Private Citizen James Dobson Endorses Mike Huckabee genre: Gaylingual & Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak


At long last, the infamous Dr. Dobson has elected to endorse a candidate for the 2008 presidential contest. Having eliminated most of the GOP's candidates in prior proclamations, "private citizen Dobson" has announced his support for Mike Huckabee.

I am endorsing Gov. Mike Huckabee for President of the United States today. My decision comes in the wake of my statement on Super Tuesday that I could not vote for Sen. John McCain, even if he goes on to win the Republican nomination. His record on the institution of the family and other conservative issues makes his candidacy a matter of conscience and concern for me.

That left two pro-family candidates whom I could support, but I was reluctant to choose between them. However, the decision by Gov. Mitt Romney to put his campaign "on hold" changes the political landscape. The remaining candidate for whom I could vote is Gov. Huckabee. His unwavering positions on the social issues, notably the institution of marriage, the importance of faith and the sanctity of human life, resonate deeply with me and with many others. That is why I will support Gov. Huckabee through the remaining primaries, and will vote for him in the general election if he should get the nomination. Obviously, the governor faces an uphill struggle, given the delegates already committed to Sen. McCain. Nevertheless, I believe he is our best remaining choice for President of the United States.

(NOTE: Dr. Dobson made these statements as a private citizen. This article is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as a reflection of the opinions of Focus on the Family or Focus on the Family Action.)

Well there you have it...the good Doctor is merely expressing his personal opinion and the fact that the endorsement is the "top story" on the Focus on the Family action center shouldn't be interpreted as an admonition for his followers to get out and support the former Arkansas governor.

Yea, right! After all, we wouldn't want this and other "religious" organizations to lose their tax exempt status as a result of politicking. In other words, making sure they get and keep their followers money trumps their willingness to openly urge their flock to vote for a chosen candidate.

Apparently being forthright and honest is a virtue...and a function of skirting the law...so long as one first stays focused on the need to keep every conniving contribution that comes into the church's coffers. Priorities people, priorities.

Tagged as: 2008 Election, Evangelicals, Focus on the Family, James Dobson, John McCain, LGBT, Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, Religious Right, Same-Sex Marriage

Daniel DiRito | February 8, 2008 | 9:14 AM | link | Comments (0)
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February 5, 2008

Super Tuesday - Tabulating The Dems Delegate Count genre: Polispeak

NOTE: This posting will appear as the lead item throughout the day and any new entries will be added below it until Wednesday morning.

At long last, Super Tuesday has arrived...and with it an opportunity for millions of Americans to make known their choice for the next president of the United States. A total of 24 states will weigh-in today.

Thought Theater will track the delegate count hourly for the two remaining Democratic candidates via the following graphic. Please note the following caveats when viewing the delegate counts throughout the evening.

1. The tally only includes the delegates assigned by virtue of the primary election or caucus process and doesn't include the super delegates who have expressed their preferences. I have excluded them since they can still change their vote in the future.

2. As the night progresses, I will apportion delegates, on the hour, based upon the then current percentage of popular votes each candidate is receiving at that moment...or the best available information as to their distribution. In doing so, the numbers will provide an approximation; not an exact count (delegate counts aren't a function of an exact percentage formula).

3. As the delegate counts are finalized, I will note those numbers in a final tally. No doubt that total will not be official until Wednesday for some states. When delegate counts reflect final tallies, the numbers will be followed by an asterisk.

4. I will provide updates on the GOP race as information is available...though I won't track those numbers with a graphic.

Feel free to offer your predictions, comments, and observations as the day progresses.


Mike Huckabee has won the West Virginia convention and will receive 18 delegates. Romney led after the first ballot but failed to obtain a majority. There is speculation that the McCain campaign asked its supporters to support Huckabee on the subsequent vote in order to deny Romney the victory.


States called for Obama: Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Kansas, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Idaho, Utah, Connecticut, & North Dakota

States called for Clinton: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Oklahoma, Tennessee, New Jersey, Massachusetts, & New York

States called for McCain: Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Missouri, New Jersey, Oklahoma, & New York

States called for Romney: Colorado, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, & Utah

States called for Huckabee: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee, & West Virginia


Well the only state outstanding for the Democrats is New Mexico. The pundits seem to think the state will lean towards Obama so I have apportioned the delegates 14 to 12 in favor of Obama...though I remain somewhat skeptical.

The numbers for California are still quite early so the delegate count can certainly change as different demographics from around the state are tallied. Regardless, I've made some assumptions in order to project the final delegate split in the state.

As you can see from the graphic, I have Obama and Clinton separated by merely one single delegate (excluding any super delegates) at the end of the day.

I'll update the totals tomorrow with the final information.


Keep an eye on John Edwards in the coming days as he collected some delegates under the radar tonight. His endorsement will become all the more sought after.

Also, don't forget about Michigan and Florida. If this race continues to stay close, the decision by the Democrats to exclude them will become more significant and it will also be subjected to more second guessing and criticism.


Tagged as: 2008 Election, Barack Obama, Caucus, Democrat, GOP, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, Primary, Ron Paul, Super Tuesday

Daniel DiRito | February 5, 2008 | 3:20 PM | link | Comments (2)
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Kansas Supreme Court Halts Abortion Grand Jury genre: Hip-Gnosis & Little Red Ribbon-Hood & Polispeak & Uncivil Unions

Conservative Nanny State

If you've never heard of Phill Kline, consider yourself lucky. At the same time, if you oppose those who have made a career of vilifying abortion providers for political gain, Phill Kline may be enemy number one. When one hears the expression, "What's the matter with Kansas?", the former Attorney General's fingerprints are apt to be found. Fortunately, Kansas voters rejected Kline's reelection bid. Sadly, the defeat did little to deter Kline's obsession with criminalizing the actions of abortion providers and intimidating those who have had the procedure or might consider it in the future.

Today, the Kansas Supreme Court has dealt a blow to the latest efforts of Kline and his zealous supporters to review the medical records of some 2,000 women who visited the clinic of Dr. George Tiller, a prominent medical provider who has become the focus of the anti-abortion crusade.

The Kansas Supreme Court on Tuesday temporarily blocked a grand jury from obtaining patient records from a physician who is one of the nation's few late-term abortion providers.

The grand jury is investigating whether Dr. George Tiller has broken Kansas laws restricting abortion, as many abortion opponents allege. The grand jury subpoenaed the medical files of about 2,000 women, including some who decided against having abortions.

Abortion opponents forced Sedgwick County to convene the grand jury by submitting petitions, the second such citizen investigation since 2006 of Tiller, who has long been at the center of the nation's abortion battle. His clinic was bombed in 1985, and eight years later a woman shot him in both arms.

Tiller's attorneys asked the Supreme Court to quash the grand jury's subpoenas, and the court agreed to block their enforcement until it considers the issue.

Chief Justice Kay McFarland said Tiller's challenge raised "significant issues" about patients' privacy and a grand jury's power to subpoena records.

The grand jury is seeking records of all women who visited Tiller's clinic between July 2003 and last month and were at least 22 weeks pregnant at the time. The grand jury also subpoenaed information about current and former employees and referring physicians.

The edited patient records would not have the women's names, but they would have patient identification numbers. Tiller's attorneys claimed in court last week that in an earlier investigation, former Attorney General Phill Kline was able to track down patients' names using the identifying numbers on patients' files.

The tactic has been employed by Kline and his supporters for a number of years and many of his detractors see it as an effort to terrorize women who might seek out an abortion.

Kline's effort to portray himself as a law and order prosecutor are little more than a sleight of hand designed to oppose abortion. His willingness to victimize women who have made the difficult decision to terminate a pregnancy demonstrates his disregard for the privacy of these individuals as well as the lengths he will go to advance his political aspirations.

Additionally, Kline and his ilk hope to highlight the flexibility granted to physicians in making exceptions to late term abortion restrictions. The courts have required that many of the laws limiting late term abortions be designed to allow physicians to protect the health and welfare of the pregnant woman...a provision abortion opponents would prefer be omitted from such laws.

One can only hope that the Supreme Court will limit these virtual witch hunts and maintain the privacy and dignity of the women in question. All too often, those vehemently opposed to abortion fail to consider the difficult circumstances confronting these women.

The fact that these same activists frequently object to comprehensive sex education and unrestricted access to birth control simply compounds the issue. I find it ironic that many within the GOP accuse the Democratic Party of favoring a nanny state. Truth be told, countless Republicans not only favor a nanny state; they would like to mete out their own brand of punishment to those who fail to comply with the imposition of their narrowly defined beliefs.

Tagged as: Abortion, Contraception, Dr. George Tiller, Kansas, Kansas Supreme Court, Late Term Abortions, Phill Kline, Planned Parenthood, Premarital Sex, Pro-Choice, Pro-Life, Roe v. Wade, Sedgwick County, Sex Education, Teen Pregnancy

Daniel DiRito | February 5, 2008 | 2:14 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Could AG Mukasey Be The First Fair-Minded Bush Appointee? genre: Gaylingual & Polispeak & Tongue-In-Cheek

Ice Skating Terrorists?

OK, maybe I'm giving him too much credit...but the actions on the part of Attorney General Michael Mukasey to insure fair treatment for the LGBT employees at the Department of Justice is certainly a welcome sign.

Going back to the early days of the infamous John Ashcroft tenure, and continuing through the Gonzales era, LGBT employees at the Department have been relegated to second class status. Under the prior two AG's, a gay advocacy group has been prohibited from using the email system, bulletin boards, and meeting rooms to exchange information, publicize events, and gather with its members. Fortunately, Mukasey has decided to reverse that practice.

Mukasey informed leaders of DOJ Pride last week that the department would give it the same rights as all other DOJ employee organizations, said the group's president, Chris Hook. In a statement, Mukasey said the department will "foster an environment in which diversity is valued, understood and sought" and maintain "an environment that's free of discrimination."

DOJ Pride and its 110 members had been barred from holding an annual Gay and Lesbian Pride Month celebration since 2003, when then-Attorney General John D. Ashcroft told the group that the Bush administration observed an unwritten policy of not sponsoring events without a presidential proclamation, Hook said. The group also was told it could not post notices of general meetings and events on department bulletin boards, he said.

"I do not know of any other employee-recognized groups that were denied access under these same conditions," Hook said. As a result of "what some would term a hostile environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees, the membership rolls have suffered."

"As you can imagine," he added, "it is difficult to let employees know of the group's existence when they are not informed of it in official department literature, or only through word of mouth." Hook said the group had more than 200 members when the ban was handed down in 2003.

Recently, when the group organized "DOJ Pride on Ice," a skating event, it was barred from placing a notice on the bulletin board in the department's headquarters building, Hook said. Other events such as meetings, forums and brown-bag discussions also could not be posted, he said.

Heaven knows that LGBT attendance at a skating event could undermine the Departments credibility...what with militant homosexuals wearing those "sharp" edged shoes and prancing around an ice rink. Maybe the groups organizers should have been waterboarded in order to give up their favorite potluck recipes?!

I have no idea if one can conclude that Mukasey will be an honorable Attorney General in light of his recent parsing on the issue of torture. He apparently has, at the very least, the decency to realize that a handful of homosexuals aren't a threat to the Department and national security.

Maybe the powers that be can now focus their attention on pursuing the real threats to America. Too bad Osama bin Laden isn't gay; perhaps he might have already been apprehended?

Tagged as: Alberto Gonzales, Department of Justice, Discrimination, DOJ, Gay, Homophobia, Humor, Ice Skating, John Ashcroft, LGBT, Michael Mukasey, Osama bin Laden, Torture, Waterboarding

Daniel DiRito | February 5, 2008 | 11:26 AM | link | Comments (0)
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