Polispeak: April 2008: Archives

April 28, 2008

Cross-Race Recognition Deficit: Why Linking Obama To Wright Is Wrong genre: Hip-Gnosis & Nouveau Thoughts & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

I've got a different take on the focus that is being placed on the statement's of Jeremiah Wright and their relationship to the candidacy of Barack Obama. I agree that he isn't doing Senator Obama any favors by appearing at numerous events...especially since many Americans seemed willing to accept his explanations and observations on the issue of race following the first release of excerpts from Pastor Wright's sermons.

However, realizing the detrimental effect of Pastor Wright's continued presence in the spotlight ignores an essential and salient question...one that asks why Wright's ongoing remarks and the associated media attention continues to result in a strong and persistent linkage to Senator Obama...despite the Senator's lucid observations on the complexities of race in America.

As I've watched this situation unfold, I've had a nagging suspicion that something else was at play. Fortunately, as I saw today's endless coverage of the topic, I was able to connect these troubling events with a theory I previously discovered as a result of my endless curiosity with human psychology. The theory hasn't received all that much attention though I suspect it soon will.

The theory, and my related hypothesis, suggests that the incessant linkage of Obama with Jeremiah Wright is indicative of a phenomenon that has typified race relations in this country for many years. The psychological concept has it's origin in the study of "cross-race recognition deficit"...or what would be commonly known as a predisposition to conclude that "they all look the same" when attempting to distinguish individuals of a race that differs from our own. Hence we are prone to conclude that 'they' all look alike...and more importantly...that 'they' are in fact alike in ways that exceed or transcend their physical descriptions or characteristics.

The following provides a basic explanation of, and a primer on, the research that underlies the theory of "cross-race recognition deficit".

From The American Psychological Association:

WASHINGTON - Why do people of one racial group fail to recognize faces from another racial group? This so-called cross-race recognition deficit, a topic of debate within the social science community, is sometimes explained by suggesting that people have less experience seeing faces from other races. But, a new research finding by Kent State University psychologist Daniel T. Levin, Ph.D., suggests that the information people "see" when looking at the face of a person of another race is information that allows them to classify the person as White or Black but is not information which allows them to individualize the person, such as the color of their eyes or shape of their nose.

Dr. Levin's conclusions, as published in the December issue of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, published by the American Psychological Association, is based on experiments designed to determine the kind of information people retain when looking at cross-race faces.

In his first experiment, Levin compared how well people recognize faces of other races with how readily they locate these faces in a visual search task. He made two average faces, one derived from 16 Black faces morphed together and a second created when 16 White faces were morphed together. These Black and White faces were at either ends of a cross-race spectrum of faces.

Using these faces, Levin tested 25 participants (the participants were nearly all White, with a few Asians also included) on their ability to locate a Black face amid a series of White faces or visa versa. Next, the same participants were shown yearbook photos of 16 White and 16 Black male students. They were then shown another set of photos and asked to indicate whether any of the second set also appeared in the yearbook photos.

As expected, on the face memory test using yearbook photos, participants were better at recognizing White faces than they were at recognizing Black ones. But, paradoxically, participants who performed most poorly in recognizing Black faces in the yearbook photo test were most likely in the first part of the experiment - the visual search task -- to locate Black faces among the White faces more quickly than the White faces among Black faces.

This occurs, according to Levin, because the information people focus on when looking at a face of another racial group is information that is optimal for group classification (that's a Black man") rather than individual recognition ("that's a man with a mustache and a down-turned mouth").

"Participants who were poor at recognizing black faces appear to code blackness as a visual feature while they may not code whiteness at all," says Dr. Levin. "The problem is not that we can't code the details of cross-race faces; it's that we don't. Instead, we substitute group information, or information about the race, for information about the features that help us tell individual people apart."

I contend that Dr. Levin's work on the subject is on the leading edge of better understanding what we're witnessing with regards to the campaign of Senator Obama and thus pushing us towards our next foray into understanding the impact of race in America.

Specifically, the notion of substituting group information or information about a particular race for the discriminations needed to distinguish one individual from another are at play with regards to the remarks of Pastor Wright and the linkage being applied as a result of Senator Obama's membership in his church.

Let's look more closely at the details of Dr. Levin's research. In his follow up work, Dr. Levin provides evidence that suggests that the recognition deficit does exist but he takes it a step further when he exposes the possibility that the deficit doesn't result from an inability to identify subtle differences; rather it may well be that we simply don't or won't.

The fact that he quickly demonstrates that it can be done with a minimal amount of instruction suggests that we're prone to what I would characterize as 'lumping'. Essentially lumping means that once we distinguish race, we frequently go no further in order to identify or delineate for the characteristics of each individual. I would argue that this process of generalization is apt to transcend physical attributes. If so, it may well explain why the words of Pastor Wright are being indelibly attached to Senator Obama.

From Monitor On Psychology:

People are notoriously awful at recognizing faces from other races. It's a human foible often explained by the notion that we have more experience looking at members of our own race and thus acquire "perceptual expertise" for characteristics of our own kind.

One influential version of that hypothesis argues that the so-called cross-race recognition deficit can be modeled by assuming that faces of other races are more psychologically similar than are faces of one's own race. But Daniel Levin, PhD, a cognitive psychologist at Kent State University, has been unsatisfied with that argument.

"The perceptual expertise position is pretty intuitive, and it makes sense," he says. "But I'm arguing that it's not really the case. The problem is not that we can't code the details of cross-race faces--it's that we don't."

Instead, he says, people place inordinate emphasis on race categories--whether someone is white, black or Asian--ignoring information that would help them recognize people as individuals. In recent research, Levin has shown that people can, in fact, perceive fine differences among faces of people from other races--as long as they're using those differences to make race classifications.

Levin hypothesized that when people see cross-race faces, they code race-specifying information at the expense of individuating information--something they don't do when they see same-race faces.

To test the notion that people are able to perceive subtle differences among faces of people from other races, Levin next explored how readily people distinguish among cross-race faces versus own-race faces in making race classifications. Using the two average black and white faces from the earlier experiments, he created a continuum of faces that ran from black at one end to white at the other. Thirteen participants viewed pairs of faces that differed by 20 percent along the black-white continuum. For half the trials, participants judged which of the two faces was most similar to the face at the black end point face. For the other half, they judged which was most similar to the face at the white end.

He found that participants were more often accurate when discriminating between two faces at the black end of the continuum than they were for faces at the white end of the continuum. That finding demonstrates, Levin explains, that people possess the perceptual expertise to detect minute differences among cross-race faces.

A final experiment corroborated those results. As before, for faces on a black-white continuum, participants were better at discriminating between subtly different black faces than they were for subtly different white faces. But on a different continuum that had black faces at both end points, making it impossible for faces to be distinguished based on race, participants did not show such skill at discriminating between faces. That suggests that the extent to which the subtle variations convey race information, as opposed to individuating information, is an important part of the discrimination task, Levin argues.

The excerpt that follows includes remarks from other researchers on the validity of Levin's observations and conclusions. While a discussion of the data would clearly need to be more complex than the text provided below, the gist of the alternate argument contends that Levin fails to provide evidence of reversal...meaning Whites and Blacks should exhibit similar abilities to 'classify' the faces of other races.

A prior political event may help us understand why the reversal sought by others isn't necessary to confirm Levin's hypothesis. In fact, the example may actually direct us towards the additional research needed to conclusively support Dr. Levin's contention that one must look at the differences in majority and minority status to fully understand the causations and ramifications of this theory. That further body of work could also substantiate the extrapolations I'm making with regards to Reverend Wright and Senator Obama.

Back in 1960, John Kennedy's candidacy was endangered by his Catholicism despite his assertions he wouldn't be beholding to or guided by those in Rome. He, like Senator Obama, found it necessary to explain his membership and the fact that he would remain a participant in his church of choice. Skeptical voters sought assurances that he could separate the duties and objectives of his party and the office of the president from the doctrines and objectives perceived to be espoused by his clergy.

Many years later, in 2004, John Kerry met with the disfavor of a number of leaders of the Catholic Church. His support for a woman's right to choose (and other positions) was in opposition to the teachings of the Church yet his ongoing commitment to his religion of choice didn't elicit suspicions as to his allegiances or what he might do once elected. With the passage of decades, those who chose to support John Kerry were able and willing to accept that the Senator's beliefs differed from those within the hierarchy of his church. In fact, he was even able to separate his own personal beliefs on abortion from the constitutional obligations he felt came with winning the presidency.

Returning to reversal, Levin disagrees, as do I, that it is a requirement to validate his hypothesis. Instead, it likely means that further research and better understandings are necessary to explain why there may be an absence of reversal in the minority group. To that end, I suspect that minorities simply begin to internalize the categorizations that society imposes...regardless of whether they have been applied by the majority consciously or as a matter of unconscious, though ingrained discriminations.

In fact, I believe that those who feel such recognitions are applied as negative attributions would be resistant to adopt the use of similar discriminations. While doing so could be construed (by the minority) at some level to be a measure of retribution, it could also lend support to those seeking vindication for their actions and validation of their generalized, though often arbitrary, attributions. I suspect the absence of reversal in minorities is therefore accompanied by an increase in dissonance. Over time, the negative discriminations...and thus the dissonance...may well abate as assimilation is advanced.

From Monitor On Psychology:

Tim Valentine, PhD, of Goldsmiths College, University of London, also challenges Levin's interpretation. In order for Levin to support his claim that people more quickly classify other-race faces according to their race than they classify own-race faces, he says, "it is necessary to show that an effect for one race of participants reverses for the other race--for example, that black participants classify white faces faster than black faces. Levin has never shown this crossover that is critical for his hypothesis."

Levin disagrees, however, that showing such a reversal is critical. His argument, he emphasizes, depends only on having found that people who are poorest at recognizing cross-race faces are in fact best at discriminating between them on the basis of race.

And Levin concurs with Mullen that members of minority groups are likely to respond differently than are members of majority groups. Indeed, he points out, his report discusses previous research that suggests that minority group members tend to code not only people of other races at the category level, but also do so for people of their own race.

Ultimately, suggests Alice O'Toole, PhD, a psychologist at the University of Texas at Dallas who also studies face recognition, Levin's new findings may be compatible with perceptual expertise and similarity hypotheses.

"I see less division in the ideas than he does," O'Toole says. "One consequence of the perceptual problems that we may have with other-race faces could simply be that race is just a much more salient aspect of our encoding of faces of other races than it is of faces of our own race. I think the hypotheses are compatible, but Levin's idea is at more of a social level of analysis."

Levin acknowledges, "The problem with the [perceptual expertise] models is not really that they're wrong, per se. Rather, it's a problem of focus. They're focused on this sort of reductivist analysis of similarity, when they really ought to be focused on trying to figure out why people use the features they use."

In the final paragraph of the above excerpt lies the fundamental question of interest. Understanding the phenomenon of cross-race recognition deficit and all the behaviors that may be associated with it is only the first step. Being able to dissect the underlying beliefs that lead to this type of behavior is likely to help us understand and deconstruct the dynamics that drive racial tensions and the prejudices that fuel and promote them.

In the end, Senator Obama is an individual. While many impugn the validity of his stated beliefs and refuse to accept any of the distinctions he has made with regard to his beliefs and those of his pastor, the degree of doubt that remains is likely to be more reflective of the society in which we live than it is of our ability to make informed discriminations absent the influence of race.

Barack Obama may well continue to be harmed by his linkage to the words and images of Pastor Wright. Unfortunately, I contend that connection is a manifestation of the subtle and insidious racial divisions that continue to inhabit our perplexing psyches. Much of what Wright says may be wrong...but concluding Obama is wrong for America because of what Wright has said is also wrong.

Tagged as: 2008 Election, Barack Obama, Cross-Race Recognition Deficit, Daniel Levin PhD, Jeremiah Wright, John F. Kennedy, John Kerry, Kent State University, Psychology, Race Relations, Racism

Daniel DiRito | April 28, 2008 | 11:27 AM | link | Comments (2)
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April 23, 2008

Yes To Tax Cuts & Loopholes - No To Fair Pay Legislation genre: Econ-Recon & Polispeak

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Understanding the dynamics of the November election isn't all that complex if one simply takes the time to draw some necessary comparisons. In many ways, the policies of the Bush administration have provided the essential contrast. With that as the backdrop, we ought to be able to make prudent political decisions as an electorate. Further, it should guide the actions of our elected officials. Unfortunately, that may not always be the case.

Today, the defeat of legislation that would have enabled employees to pursue redress should it be determined that they have been unfairly discriminated against with regards to equitable pay highlights the division between those who foster favors for the wealthy (the GOP) and those who believe the fair treatment of the individual is an imperative (the Democrats).

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Senate Republicans on Wednesday blocked legislation to reverse a Supreme Court ruling that makes it tougher for workers to sue for pay discrimination.

Democratic presidential rivals Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton interrupted their campaigns to return to the Senate to vote for the bill. The measure would lift tight time restraints to file claims that could expire before workers realize they were treated unfairly.

On a 56-42 vote, mostly Democratic supporters of the bill fell short of the needed 60 in the 100-member Senate to clear a Republican procedural hurdle and move toward passage of the bill approved earlier by the House of Representatives.

The blocked Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, named for an Alabama woman who lost her case in the Supreme Court last year, is backed by women's and civil rights groups that argue it would give workers a fair chance for justice.

On average in the United States, women are paid about 23 percent less than men, while minorities receive even less -- despite laws that mandate equal pay for equal work.

The White House said it opposed discrimination in the workplace. But it threatened to veto the bill if Congress passed it, saying in a statement the measure would "impede justice and undermine the important goal of having allegations of discrimination expeditiously resolved."

Backers of the bill complained that the Supreme Court, in its 5-4 ruling last May, reversed decades of legal precedent by declaring discrimination claims must be filed within 180 days of the first alleged offense.

Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the Republican presidential candidate, did not return to Washington to vote on the bill.

I suspect the McCain absence was intentional and in keeping with his efforts to straddle the political divide. Unfortunately, his actions betray his even-handed, straight talking proclamations. John McCain supports cutting corporate taxes from 35 percent to 25 percent. He has also reversed his position with regard to the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. Once opposed to these cuts, he now argues they are an important element of his economic platform.

When push comes to shove, voters need look no further than examples of this nature to discern where the candidates...and the party's stand...and where their bread is buttered. Back in 1992, "It's the economy stupid" became the mantra attached to the presidential election. Following eight years of George W. Bush's ransacking of the economy while rewarding the wealthy with more wealth, may I suggest we simply remember the following, "It's the haves versus the have-nots, stupid".

Tagged as: 2008 Election, Democrats, Discrimination, Fair Pay, George W. Bush, GOP, John McCain, Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, Republicans, Supreme Court, Tax Cuts, U.S. Senate

Daniel DiRito | April 23, 2008 | 7:28 PM | link | Comments (0)
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The Democrats' Dilemma: Stupid Is As Stupid Does genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

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During the last two presidential elections Democrats marveled at the number of voters who cast ballots for George W. Bush, a move that was obviously contrary to their own economic self-interest. Time and again, Democratic operatives have marveled at the stupidity of such actions. As we approach the 2008 election, the number of Democrats who suggest they will do the same appears ready to exceed any prior measurement on the "stupid voter" continuum.

The most recent polling indicates that Democrats are prepared to either jump ship and support John McCain or simply sit out the coming election if their candidate should fail to be the nominee.

From CNN:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- New polls show many Democratic voters could swing their support to Sen. John McCain in the general election if their candidate isn't nominated.

The most recent CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll, taken March 14-16, shows the percentage of Sen. Barack Obama supporters who said they'd be dissatisfied or upset if Sen. Hillary Clinton wins the nomination has gone up -- from 26 percent in January, just after Clinton won the New Hampshire primary, to 41 percent now.

The poll suggests if Obama wins, a majority of Clinton supporters -- 51 percent -- would be dissatisfied or upset. The number was 35 percent in January.

According to a Gallup Poll taken March 7-22, about one in five Obama supporters -- or 19 percent -- said they will vote for McCain if Clinton is the Democratic nominee.

If Obama's the nominee, more than one in four Clinton supporters -- or 28 percent -- said they'd vote for McCain.

The ongoing slog towards choosing a Democratic nominee isn't apt to diminish the animosities that underlie the apparent willingness to vote Republican or stay at home. Exit polling in Pennsylvania supports these prior numbers and paints a dismal picture for the Democrats in November should they hold.

From CNN:

(CNN) -- John McCain said Tuesday he isn't sure if a prolonged Democratic race is benefiting his candidacy, but the exit polls appear to show it is.

The Arizona senator stands to win supporters of both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama if their candidate does not win.

Only 50 percent of Clinton voters in Pennsylvania said they would support Obama if he is the nominee. Twenty-six percent said they would back McCain over Obama, and 19 percent said they would not vote at all.

Among Obama's Pennsylvania voters, 67 percent said they would support Clinton if she is the party's nomine. Seventeen percent said they would back McCain instead, and 12 percent said they would stay home.

Add in the number of voters who indicate they wouldn't vote for a woman or a black and the depth of voter stupidity is fully illuminated. It also highlights the challenge facing the Democrats in November.

From The New York Times:

The results of the exit poll, conducted at 40 precincts across Pennsylvania by Edison/Mitofsky for the television networks and The Associated Press, also found stark evidence that Mr. Obama's race could be a problem in the general election. Sixteen percent of white voters said race mattered in deciding who they voted for, and just 54 percent of those voters said they would support Mr. Obama in a general election; 27 percent of them said they would vote for Mr. McCain if Mr. Obama was the Democratic nominee, and 16 percent said they would not vote at all.

From Yahoo News:

Obama would be the first black president, and the survey detected some evidence of racial discomfort in voters' minds. It found that about 8 percent of whites would be uncomfortable voting for a black for president. It produced an estimate of about 13 percent of Republicans who would feel that way, but suggested very few if any Democrats would now be uncomfortable. In November, about 5 percent of Democrats indicated discomfort at voting for a black person for president.

From The New York Times:

Thirty-nine percent of the women who responded to the Lifetime poll said that they would not vote for Senator Clinton, and another 7 percent said that they would not vote for any woman under any circumstance.

Unfortunately, according to NBC News polling, the number of Democrats who will ONLY be happy if their candidate becomes the nominee has continued to grow since the California primary. This irrational partisanship reached a high point in Pennsylvania. While I expect that the number of Democrats who will vote for John McCain or sit out the election will decrease once a nominee is selected, the final number is apt to be large enough to jeopardize the election of the Democratic nominee.

Come November, should the Democratic nominee lose the election as a result of this self-defeating intransigence, the Party will find itself in the unenviable position of having lost a third election due to a portion of the electorate voting against their own self-interest. However, they won't need to look any further than their fellow card carrying Democrats to place the blame.

The truth of the matter is that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are in virtual agreement on every issue of import to Democrats. Yes, there are subtle policy differences and marked stylistic distinctions...but both candidates would serve the self-interests of their Democratic constituents. John McCain, on the other hand, would be a virtual continuation of the Bush administration.

Should Democrats aid in the election of John McCain, we will have proven that our stupidity matches or exceeds that of those we assailed for placing George W. Bush in the White House for eight years. If that happens, Forrest Gump had it right when he stated, "Stupid is as stupid does". Even worse, we will have conceded what should have been a certain victory in what may have been the most important election in recent history.

Doing so would suggest that the Republican Party holds no monopoly on pettiness and that we Democrats are not only willing to engage in "lip service"...we're willing to kneel down and swallow defeat rather than buck up and stand together. That would really suck.

Tagged as: 2008 Election, Barack Obama, Democratic Nomination, Democratic Primary, Gender, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Race

Daniel DiRito | April 23, 2008 | 8:26 AM | link | Comments (1)
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April 19, 2008

GAO Calls Bush On His Game Of Chicken SCHIP genre: Econ-Recon & Little Red Ribbon-Hood & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

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Last year, President Bush shut down legislation designed to provide health insurance to more low income families and rewrote the rules to limit the coverage states could provide. At the time, his minions were busy eviscerating a family that spoke in favor of the measure. According to the Government Accountability Office, it turns out that the President didn't have the authority he thought and and actually violated the law. Nothing new there, eh?

From The New York Times:

WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration violated federal law last year when it restricted states' ability to provide health insurance to children of middle-income families, and its new policy is therefore unenforceable, lawyers from the Government Accountability Office said Friday.

The ruling strengthens the hand of at least 22 states, including New York and New Jersey, that already provide such coverage or want to do so. And it significantly reduces the chance that the new policy can be put into effect before President Bush leaves office in nine months.

At issue is the future of the State Children's Health Insurance Program, financed jointly by the federal government and the states. Congress last year twice passed bills to expand the popular program, and Mr. Bush vetoed both.

In a formal legal opinion Friday, the accountability office said the new policy "amounts to a marked departure" from a longstanding, settled interpretation of federal law. It is therefore a rule and, under a 1996 law, must be submitted to Congress for review before it can take effect, the opinion said.

But Jeff Nelligan, a spokesman for the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said, "G.A.O.'s opinion does not change our conclusion that the Aug. 17 letter is still in effect."

What happens next is not clear. New York, New Jersey and several other states have filed lawsuits challenging the Bush administration policy. In addition, Congress may consider legislation to suspend the directive.

Under the Aug. 17 directive, states cannot expand the Children's Health Insurance Program to cover youngsters with family incomes over 250 percent of the federal poverty level ($53,000 for a family of four) unless they can prove that they already cover 95 percent of eligible children below twice the poverty level ($42,400).

Moreover, in such states, children who lose or drop private coverage must be uninsured for 12 months before they can enroll in the Children's Health Insurance Program, and co-payments in the public program must be similar to those in private plans.

The administration told states they must comply with the directive by August of this year or else they face "corrective action." Compliance could mean cutting back programs.

It amazes me that a President who sold himself to the electorate as a compassionate conservative is willing to restrict health care to the needy while insisting on spending billions of dollars year after year on his failed war in Iraq. It makes one wonder just who the President is protecting with his war on terror. I suspect those who risk losing coverage under Bush's arbitrary guidelines feel terrorized by their own government.

Then again, we shouldn't be surprised that a man of privilege (who acted out like a rebellious teenager until reaching the age of forty) lacks any tangible empathy for those in need. No, he would rather wax endlessly about the need to make permanent his tax cuts for the wealthy and finish the job his daddy didn't have the wherewithal to pursue.

When it's all said and done, I can't help but conclude that America has been the playground for an insecure and ego-challenged charlatan with little regard for anything that didn't serve to stroke his obtuse persona. Yes, his legacy will be legendary...though I'd wager it won't be of the nature he had hoped. In the end, I doubt many Americans will shed any tears when this 'little big man' rides off into the sunset.

Tagged as: Compassionate Conservatism, George W. Bush, Health Care, Iraq, Little Big Man, Poverty, SCHIP, State Children's Health Insurance Program, Tax Cuts

Daniel DiRito | April 19, 2008 | 4:11 PM | link | Comments (1)
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When Rationality Fails, Does Faith-Based Fascism Prevail? genre: Gaylingual & Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak

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It's not difficult to argue that the alliance of Adolph Hitler and Benito Mussolini was akin to two rival gangs uniting to bully the folks in the neighborhood. The long-standing constructs of thuggery remain intact today and the ransacking of Rome's LGBT Center is proof positive that rational thought is often the victim of formative fascist ideations. The degree to which these perpetrators draw some of their justifications from faith-based dogma merits exploration.

From 365Gay.com:

(Rome) Rome police are searching for members of a mob of youths who burst into the city's LGBT center, ransacking the building.

The attack on Mario Mieli Homosexual Cultural Circle occurred Thursday night while members were in the building.

As they attempted to confront the gang the youths yelled anti-gay and anti-Semitic slogans. As they ran off the gang yelled praises for Benito Mussolini, Italy's wartime dictator.

"We fear that this situation is linked to the electoral climate," the association said in a statement.

Rome is in the midst of a mayoral runoff between rightist and leftist candidates.

Earlier this week Silvio Berlusconi became Prime Minister when his rightwing coalition swept national elections.

Fascist and Nazi youth have stepped up their visibility since the election.

In the north of Italy this week police broke up what is described as a neo-Nazi gang arresting 16 people on charges of inciting discrimination, hatred and violence based on race, ethnicity and nationality.

Police said the gang had ties to skinhead and Neo-Nazi groups in Austria, Switzerland and Germany.

All too often the Catholic Church has given tacit legitimacy to such acts through encyclicals that condemn homosexuality and exhort its followers (especially politicians) to defend the family. The recent effort on the part of the Church to influence the elections in Spain highlight the willingness of the Vatican to scapegoat gays in an effort to reassert its relevance.

From The Times Online:

Spanish bishops waded into the election campaign [...] when they effectively directed Spaniards to vote against the Government and in favour of the conservative Popular Party.

In a paper setting out the Church's "moral guidance" for voters, the Episcopal Conference attacked the Government's moves to legalise gay marriage, make divorce easier and remove religious education from the compulsory school curriculum.

Relations between the Church and the Left have been poisoned since the Civil War in the 1930s, when Communist and Anarchist irregulars burnt churches and killed thousands of priests. The Spanish Church strongly supported Franco's Fascist dictatorship and some bishops were even pictured in stiff-armed salutes.

To understand the reticence of the Church to acknowledge its duplicity in promoting discrimination and persecution, one need only recall that it wasn't until the year 2,000 that Pope John Paul II held his "Day of Pardon" mass. That historic mass, designed to atone for the misguided acts and omissions of the Church, followed its tardy and tepid apology in 1998 for remaining silent during the extermination of millions by the Nazis.

From The Guardian:

From the altar of St Peter's Basilica in Rome he led Catholicism into unchartered territory by seeking forgiveness for sins committed against Jews, heretics, women, Gypsies and native peoples.

Fighting through trembles and slurrings caused by Parkinson's disease, the Pope electrified ranks of cardinals and bishops by pleading for a future that would not repeat the mistakes. "Never again," he said.

Centuries of hate and rivalry could not recur in the third millennium. "We forgive and we ask forgiveness. We are asking pardon for the divisions among Christians, for the use of violence that some have committed in the service of truth, and for attitudes of mistrust and hostility assumed towards followers of other religions."

Defying warnings from some theologians that the unprecedented apology would undermine the church's authority, the 79-year-old pontiff asked God to forgive the persecution of the Jews. "We are deeply saddened by the behaviour of those who in the course of history have caused these children of yours to suffer, and asking your forgiveness we wish to commit ourselves to genuine brotherhood."

Wearing the purple vestments of lenten mourning, the Pope sought pardon for seven categories of sin: general sins; sins in the service of truth; sins against Christian unity; against the Jews; against respect for love, peace and cultures; against the dignity of women and minorities; and against human rights.

There was no reference to homosexuals, who had asked to be included for suffering theocratic violence.

Ironically, even those of the Jewish faith...who have been highly critical of the Catholic Church's behavior during the Holocaust...have participated in the vilification of gays. The controversy over World Pride Day being held in Jerusalem drew outrage and condemnation from within Israel as well as from the Vatican.

The fact that Pope Benedict XVI is just beginning to acknowledge and address the child molestation that has existed in the Church for decades simply places an exclamation mark on the hypocrisy that has typified its deference to silence in the face of adversity. Ever mindful of its need for power, the Catholic Church has all too often placated history's hoodlums and participating in vilifying those most in need of protection.

How the Church can justify years of stonewalling victims of pedophile priests while simultaneously assailing the acts of consenting and loving adults is beyond comprehension. While summarily destroying the lives of thousands of children and protecting their own from prosecution, they have the audacity to hold homosexuals accountable for the decay of the family.

Given the Church's stance, there is no doubt it will be a future Pope who will be forced to issue an apology for the victimization of gays. What remains to be seen is the degree to which the Church was a player in fomenting the fascist feelings that are beginning to emerge.

Perhaps I'm biased, but when I witness Pope Benedict XVI being idolized by throngs of followers at the new National's stadium and I envision the same soon happening at Yankee Stadium, I can't help but think about my visit to the Coliseum in Rome. Granted, there aren't any lions or tigers being released from cages to devour the deviants at these Papal masses...but the alarming number of attacks on the LGBT community coupled with the track record of pedophile priests diddling while Rome turned its head have all the makings of another "Day of Pardon".

As a matter of practicality, I struggle to see the merits of a monolithic ministry that makes the same mistakes over and over again. For all the assertions that the Pope is infallible, there are far more historical records indicating that he and his cohorts are run of the mill bullies who foster the fallacies of each new flavor of faith-based fascism.

Tagged as: Catholic Church, Day of Pardon, Faith-Based, Fascism, Francisco Franco, Gay, Gay Marriage, Holocaust, LGBT, Mario Mieli Homosexual Cultural Circle, Neo-Nazi, Pedophile Priests, Pope Benedict XVI, Pope John Paul II, Rome, Same-Sex Marriage, Spanish Elections, Yankee Stadium

Daniel DiRito | April 19, 2008 | 9:01 AM | link | Comments (0)
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Olbermann: Did Stephanopoulos Get Caught Steppin-In-It? genre: Polispeak

While ABC and George Stephanopoulos are busy defending the focus of their debate questions, Keith Olbermann took the time to find footage of Stephanopoulos (while working for the Clinton campaign) arguing that Americans care about the important issues and don't want to be inundated with petty distractions.

In the following video segment, Olbermann offers to help Stephanopoulos prepare for his upcoming interview with John McCain by delivering a list of obscure questions. In keeping with the ABC rationale, Olbermann argues that these questions will certainly be part of the Democratic campaign strategy and if George asks them on Sunday it will undoubtedly allow him to maintain the even handed though hard-hitting journalist persona he sought to display in the Democratic debate. After all, we'd hate to see George Stephanopoulos "steppin-in-it".

Tagged as: 2008 Election, ABC Debate, Barack Obama, George Stephanopoulos, Hillary Clinton, Humor, John McCain, Keith Olbermann

Daniel DiRito | April 19, 2008 | 8:25 AM | link | Comments (0)
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April 16, 2008

A Contemplation On Race, Politics, Obama, & The Future genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation & Video-Philes

It's clear that the pundits in the mainstream media prefer to stir the pot. Doing so generates the ratings they seek but it also serves to bolster the talking points of the political campaigns they cover. This symbiotic relationship does little to inform voters and likely accelerates the partisanship and division that has come to typify our political terrain.

I found the following interview with Dr. Cornel West a refreshing alternative from a number of perspectives. Regardless of his support for Senator Obama, he's able and willing to offer a critique that places knowledge and truth ahead of political pursuits. In fact, his statement (at 3:00 - 5:00 minutes into the first video) on the tendency of political objectives (the attainment of power) to clash with the dissemination of the truth is a refreshing assessment. His candor, absent the partisanship we've come to expect, ought to inform us.

When West explains the similarities between the recent words of Senator Obama's pastor, Jeremiah Wright, and those of Martin Luther King, he points out the degree to which candid critical pronouncements are often rejected at the time they are delivered. Such is the nature of a nation's (collectives of human beings) reluctance to come to terms with the mistakes it makes and the injustices it embraces.

My suspicion is that America is struggling with the possibility of entering another phase of introspective analysis similar to the one that existed during the timeframe occupied by the civil rights movement and the opposition to the Vietnam War. I would compare it to the process that unfolds in psychotherapy. The therapist is akin to the political visionary in that his or her role is to facilitate reflection that might otherwise be avoided or ignored.

At the same time, the therapist or the political visionary can easily lose the ear of the patient or the nation should he or she push too hard. When West points out that Dr. King exuded more unconditional love than Reverend Wright, he's simply talking about the effectiveness of the therapist to persuade the patient to look within.

In the jargon of psychoanalysis, since the election of Ronald Reagan, we (the American public) have been in a period of reticent resistance. In fact, if one looks at some of the words spoken by President Carter...words that often focused on sin and redemption...one begins to see that his presidency marked the point at which the nation reached saturation and opted to enter a new phase.

We should live our lives as though Christ were coming this afternoon.

Speech - March 1976

Martin Luther King, Jr., was the conscience of his generation.... He and I grew up in the same South, he the son of a clergyman, I the son of a farmer. We both knew from opposite sides, the invisible wall of racial segregation.

Speech In LA - 1976

I think those Southern writers [William Faulkner, Carson McCullers] have analyzed very carefully the buildup in the South of a special consciousness brought about by the self- condemnation resulting from slavery, the humiliation following the War Between the States and the hope, sometimes expressed timidly, for redemption.

New York Times Interview - 1977

I've looked on many women with lust. I've committed adultery in my heart many times.

Playboy Interview - 1976

A strong nation, like a strong person, can afford to be gentle, firm, thoughtful, and restrained. It can afford to extend a helping hand to others. It's a weak nation, like a weak person, that must behave with bluster and boasting and rashness and other signs of insecurity.

Speech In New York - October 1976

We live in a time of transition, an uneasy era which is likely to endure for the rest of this century. During the period we may be tempted to abandon some of the time-honored principles and commitments which have been proven during the difficult times of past generations. We must never yield to this temptation. Our American values are not luxuries, but necessities - not the salt in our bread, but the bread itself.

_Jimmy Carter, in his 1980 farewell address _

The final Carter quote seems amazingly prescient and profound. He sounds like a man who recognized the passing of an era and the perils that the nation would face as it attempted to embrace its future. Given the tone of the 1980 election, it would have been obvious to Carter that the nation was about to embark upon a different path.

A look at the words of Ronald Reagan, his successor, evidence a dramatic shift and the subtle rejection of the restive and sometimes radical reflections of the 60's and 70's. His election signaled the start of a new paradigm.

The glistening hope of that lamp is still ours. Every promise every opportunity is still golden in this land. And through that golden door our children can walk into tomorrow with the knowledge that no one can be denied the promise that is America.

Her heart is full; her torch is still golden, her future bright. She has arms big enough to comfort and strong enough to support, for the strength in her arms is the strength of her people. She will carry on in the Eighties unafraid, unashamed, and unsurpassed.

In this springtime of hope, some lights seem eternal; America's is.

RNC speech - August 1984

Clearly, Reagan ushered in a new period of pride...a forceful step beyond the contemplative critiques of his predecessor. His presidency signaled a tacit refusal to entertain doubt. Instead he fostered an unapologetic trumpeting of America and her values. Note the use of the words "unafraid, unashamed, and unsurpassed"...words that reflect a confident nation that had arrived and no longer needed to explore the inner depths of its identity. George W. Bush's presidency simply attached a religious stamp of approval on the "Reagan Revolution".

Strange as it may seem, President Carter's willingness to incorporate his faith into his presidency is not that dissimilar from George Bush. If one tracks the period from Ronald Reagan's election in 1980 to the present, what we actually see is the completion of a cycle. In effect, we have traveled from the Carter era...a period in which faith served as the mirror in which we looked to find the means to purify our souls...to the Bush presidency...a period in which our actions are extolled as a reflection of the degree to which our faith has purified our souls.

Returning to Dr. West's observations, perhaps we're on the precipice of another introspective period...one that reopens the wounds that subsided but never fully healed. If history unfolds repetitively...and I suspect it does...it would seem that turbulence may soon trump tranquility as we engage in the dialogue of discovery.

With that said, reaching a new plateau is apt to be a lengthy journey. It's doubtful we'll be able to predict the time of our arrival...and while we may eventually reach our destination - a better place...it's likely that the historians of the following generation will be the first to document the distance we traveled. Many believe that 2008 will be a change election. History tells us the easy part will be casting our ballots in November. Electing to change will be a far more daunting task.

Cornel West Interview - Part One

Cornel West Interview - Part Two

Tagged as: 2008 Election, Barack Obama, Cornel West, George W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, Media, Partisanship, Politics, Poverty, Punditry, Racism, Religion, Ronald Reagan

Daniel DiRito | April 16, 2008 | 10:32 AM | link | Comments (0)
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April 12, 2008

McLaughlin Group: Dancing In The Dark In Iraq? genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak

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

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

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

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

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

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

DocBrown.jpg

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

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

From The Associated Press:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UPDATE:

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

Iraq: Six Months At A Time

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

Daniel DiRito | April 10, 2008 | 10:37 AM | link | Comments (0)
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April 9, 2008

Lewis Black: The Lowdown On Celebrity Endorsements genre: Polispeak & Tongue-In-Cheek & Video-Philes

In these political times, every day brings a new endorsement. In the following video clip, Lewis Black gives us the skinny on the value of celebrity endorsements. Once Black finishes skewering the merit of endorsements from the likes of Kal Penn, Dick Van Patten, Heidi Montag, Rosie O'Donnell, Tom Cruise, and Donald Trump, he moves on to the creme de la creme...Oprah Winfrey. Black shows us a few Oprah clips to make his point that Oprah's exuberance for Obama may not be all that...well...exuberant.

I think the truth of the matter is that celebrity endorsements do very little to influence politics and more likely serve to influence the appeal of the celebrity making the endorsement. Then again, given the propensity of politicians to mouth the lines of their handlers, who better to judge actors than fellow actors, eh?

Tagged as: 2008 Election, Barack Obama, Celebrity, Dick Van Patten, Donald Trump, Heidi Montag, Humor, Kal Penn, Lewis Black, Oprah Winfrey, Political Endorsements, Rosie O'Donnell, Sean Penn, The Daily SHow

Daniel DiRito | April 9, 2008 | 8:57 AM | link | Comments (2)
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April 7, 2008

E.J. Dionne: The Shifting Relationship Of Religion & Politics genre: Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak

In a recent presentation, E.J. Dionne discussed the waning influence of the religious right and the general shift in the focus of religious organizations to include issues that have been relegated to the back burner for the last thirty years. Dionne's presentation is included in the video below.

Dionne offers insights into the politics of faith and how religious organizations are undergoing a sort of reformation that includes a dismantling or reworking of the political alliances that have made them a formidable voting block.

Dionne points out that much of the ideology embraced by evangelicals would not be compatible with the teachings of Jesus. Dionne posits that the agenda of these organizations includes a reconnection with some of the issues that might have garnered the attention of Jesus.

Dionne calls it a "whole bird" mentality...meaning that some religious organizations are moving away from the left-right view of politics and attempting to embrace all of the Jesus' values and not simply the issues that became their link to the GOP and served to blindly unite evangelicals behind Republican candidates.

Dionne closes with an argument that social justice may be reemerging as the defining value and is in many ways a return to the principals that made the movie, It's A Wonderful Life, such a success.

Tagged as: Abortion, E.J. Dionne, Evangelicals, Faith, Gay Marriage, God, Jesus, Politics, Religion, Religious Right, Rick Warren, Values

Daniel DiRito | April 7, 2008 | 11:22 AM | link | Comments (0)
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April 3, 2008

Senate Steamrolls Measure To Assist Homeowners genre: Econ-Recon & Polispeak

Steamroller.jpg

Most people understand the meaning of "the squeaky wheel gets the grease". The government's actions to bail out the big dogs in the subprime lending fiasco, in conjunction with the seeming disregard of the plight of the individual homeowner, are destined to rewrite the expression to read "the big wheel gets the grease".

In light of today's refusal by the Senate to modify bankruptcy laws to assist homeowners, it seems a further modification will be needed. I would suggest it be - "Once the big wheels get greased, the hosing of the homeowner can begin".

The Senate on Thursday rejected a Democratic proposal that would have rewritten bankruptcy law to help struggling mortgage borrowers, while moving ahead with debate on a housing market rescue bill that includes a $6 billion tax break for home builders.

In a 58-36 vote, the Senate defeated an amendment offered by Assistant Senate Democratic Sen. Richard Durbin to empower bankruptcy judges to ease mortgage payment terms for distressed borrowers under strictly limited circumstances.

The Durbin amendment -- which would have affected only mortgages already in place upon enactment -- was opposed by the influential banking industry and Republicans, who were joined by 11 Democrats in voting to kill it.

"Unfortunately, my amendment was strenuously opposed by the banking lobby and their powerful friends in the Bush Administration and in the Senate," he said.

Demands for action on behalf of average homeowners have grown since the Federal Reserve last month engineered a massive bailout of investment bank Bear Stearns.

The Senate bill, with lengthy debate still ahead of it, is estimated to cost $15 billion to $20 billion.

The bill's tax break for home builders and other businesses involves extending a rule that allows businesses to count net operating losses against tax returns from prior profitable years. The rule, in place for 2008 and 2009 only, would allow carry-backs of four years instead of the current two years.

"This is a taxpayer-funded give-away for corporations that caused the housing and mortgage crisis. It doesn't do enough to help struggling homeowners," said Jacob Hay, spokesman for the Laborers International Union of North America.

While the actions to kill this measure are appalling, the severity of the crisis may soon force politicians to reconsider. As foreclosures rise, and more Americans are impacted by the economic downturn, the public outrage with the ongoing efforts to bail out the lenders who willingly participated in promoting the suspect practices is bound to explode. That may preclude politicians from pouring cash into the coffers of their brazen benefactors.

I keep referencing the Savings and Loan scandal of the late 80's in order to explain the scope of the situation. While it provides a useful example, it fails to illustrate the fact that the current fiasco will not only cost the taxpayer in terms of the governments funds needed to underwrite the lending industry's losses; it will result in an across the board decline in consumer wealth as a result of declining home values. At the same time, consumers will be forced to overcome the other obstacles that accompany periods of economic malaise.

In the end, this crisis will be far more injurious to the individual and far more insidious in revealing the complicity of our elected officials. Those who have built their political careers upon opposing the expansion of the nanny state are about to undertake one of the most egregious examples of corporate welfare we've ever witnessed.

If this alliance is allowed to exist, voters can expect the big wheel to become a steamroller aimed at flattening all that stands in the way of further capitulation to the almighty corporation. As of this moment, there are at least 58 senators who are willing to allow the crushing of their constituents.

It's not only time to silence the squeaky wheels, it's time to deny them access to the grease. More importantly, it's time to send a much needed message to their hypocritical enablers. Unlike many Americans, I'm certain these pandering politicians will have homes to return to once they've been thrown out of the drivers seat.

Tagged as: Banking, Bankruptcy Laws, Corporate Bail Out, Corporate Welfare, Dick Durbin, Economy, Foreclosures, Homeownership, Housing Crisis, Interest Rates, Lobbyists, Savings & Loan Scandal, Subprime Lending

Daniel DiRito | April 3, 2008 | 6:50 PM | link | Comments (1)
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You Decide: Are Americans Stupid? genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Tongue-In-Cheek & Video-Philes

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

From The Washington Post:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daniel DiRito | April 3, 2008 | 12:51 PM | link | Comments (0)
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April 2, 2008

South Dakota: Save The Fetus - Flog The Mommy? genre: Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak

BabyBaby.jpg

Abortion opponents are an interesting lot. For years, they have argued that all abortion is wrong as it involves the taking of a life. An inability to sway the public to embrace laws that would ban all abortions seems to be leading pro-lifers to adopt an incremental approach. South Dakota appears to be the battleground of choice.

In 2006, the residents of South Dakota rejected a ballot initiative that would have banned virtually all abortions except for those necessary to save the life of the mother. The measure was soundly rejected by 56 percent of South Dakota voters.

A new initiative appears to be headed for inclusion on the 2008 ballot in November. However, this new measure provides exceptions for rape, incest, and to protect the health of a woman.

When the 2006 initiative was drafted, many felt anti-abortion advocates were attempting to craft a law that would eventually reach the newly constituted...and presumably more conservative...U.S. Supreme Court.

Abortion opponents in South Dakota filed petitions this week that are likely to put an initiative on November's ballot calling for a near-ban on abortion, renewing a contentious fight over a similar proposal in 2006.

The new language was drafted by South Dakota Attorney General Larry Long, state Rep. Roger W. Hunt ® and 20 other lawyers. As with the 2006 initiative, passage would probably trigger a lawsuit that could end up before the U.S. Supreme Court and provide an opportunity to reconsider its 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling.

"My job is to protect the women of South Dakota," said Leslee Unruh, VoteYesForLife.com executive director. If abortion rights advocates "follow what they've done in the past, suing, they'll probably sue on this one, as well. We're prepared for that; we've done due diligence in the preparation for this law."

The sponsors said their polls show that a majority of South Dakotans support the initiative with the exceptions.

A woman would have to report rape or incest to police before seeking an abortion to qualify for that exception. "A woman who is the victim of incest and is 13, being raped by her father, is highly unlikely to report that," said Sarah Stoesz, president and chief executive of Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota.

Opponents also said the definition of a health risk to the woman is too narrow because the language implies a doctor would have to be certain the woman's health was threatened and excludes mental and emotional issues as health exceptions.

While I understand the arguments against abortion, I can't help but find fault with intentional efforts to promote vague and misleading ballot measures. In their zeal to protect the unborn, their actions often punish those who have been born. For example, previous studies indicate that many women never report being raped and the same is often true for cases of incest.

Requiring these women to file a police report in order to abort a fetus that results from such heinous acts seems insensitive, if not unconscionable. It could also place children at risk should they report an incestuous assault that didn't result in some form of protective custody or jail time for the perpetrator. Never mind that the incest victim might be in danger...by God we must protect that fetus.

What troubles me most is that these activists are frequently the same people who throw out terms like 'the nanny state' or rail against laws that would close loopholes that allow criminals to obtain handguns. Unfortunately, many of them believe the definition of freedom is relative or open to selective interpretation.

If I follow their tortured logic, a daughter who is raped by her father should find it easier to obtain a gun to shoot her dad than to consult in confidence with a physician about her options to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. Similarly, the strategy suggests that a rapist should find it easier to have a weapon to commit his crime than for his victim to abort the resulting pregnancy.

Why not just require victims of unwanted pregnancies to face two trials...one involving the prosecution of the perpetrator...and one to present their case for terminating the pregnancy. Let's take it a step further. Let's require that the second trial be conducted by the victims church complete with a jury of fellow parishioners and the pastor as the presiding judge. That way they can apply God's law and Biblical interpretation to the situation.

As to dealing with the health exception, that could be more complicated. Maybe we could revive some of the methods utilized to identify witches. Perhaps if the pregnant woman can swim across the nearest river (during the spring runoff, of course), she is healthy enough to have the baby. If she doesn't make it (and drowns), she would have been entitled to abort the child. Yes, that sounds reasonable.

Look, I'm all for protecting the innocent. I simply think it ought to include the ones who have already been birthed...and not just the ones who believe their second amendment rights are sacred. In the meantime, I'm still watching and waiting for that pro-life gun show protest...the one where they read from the Bible and hold up ghastly pictures of murdered people.

Tagged as: Abortion, Gun Control, Incest, Planned Parenthood, Pregnancy, Pro-Choice, Pro-Life, Rape, Religion, Roe V. Wade, Second Amendment, South Dakota, Supreme Court

Daniel DiRito | April 2, 2008 | 12:21 PM | link | Comments (0)
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