Polispeak: May 2008: Archives
It looks like it won't take a swiftboating to highlight John McCain's propensity to parse his words for political expediency. As a matter of fact, I suspect that the catch phrase for the 2008 presidential election may turn out to be YouTubing...and there's little doubt the following video may be the first salvo in a concerted effort to redefine John McCain as a man who is unable to choose which fork in the road best suits his presidential aspirations.
McCain's short temper and his dogged determination to claim ownership of all that can be construed as honorable and high-minded doesn't always endear him to the impartial observer. Unfortunately for the Arizona Senator, it can easily be interpreted as arrogance and insolence...especially when the video footage frequently confirms the inconsistencies he's been forced to adopt in hopes of creating a broader appeal in November.
At its worst, the McCain indignation only enhances the perception that his "grumpy old man" persona is a natural accompaniment to his advancing age. If that impression takes hold, McCain may lose any experience advantage he would have otherwise been able to espouse. If his coming exchanges with the Democratic nominee result in more YouTube moments...moments that appear to show a cranky man with a waning grasp of his prior utterances...he'll quickly pigeonhole himself as the silver-haired senior with a surly certainty that cannot be sustained.
Should his opponent astutely position himself as someone willing to give respectful deference to age while refusing to relent on those matters of import to the voter, McCain will quickly appear to be a relic worthy of respect who has also eclipsed his capacity to command the issues that concern the citizenry. If this scenario begins to unfold, I would speculate that McCain's testy temperament will work to his detriment...while also allowing a younger Barack Obama to position himself as the symbol of a changing political climate.
Tagged as: 2008 Election, Barack Obama, Economics, Flip Flop, General Petraeus, Iraq, John McCain, Straight Talk Express, Taxes
Daniel DiRito | May 31, 2008 | 1:29 PM |
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It looks like San Francisco has become the new France (freedom fries anyone?)...at least for some members of the GOP. Representative Sam Graves (R-MO) has taken to featuring those awful "San Francisco values" to attack his Democratic opponent, Kay Barnes.
He's apparently doing this because he wants Missourians to believe that Barnes' singular goal is to take solid midwestern values and transform them into a San Francisco style Sodom & Gomorrah. Unfortunately, the music and images are a miserable melange comparable to what one might expect to find on a late night TV commercial promoting a singles hook-up phone line.
I could be wrong, but it looks to me like Rep. Graves has spent too many restless nights on the couch in front of his television. A more sinister interpretation of the image might suggest that Graves wants his constituents to ponder the slippery slope mentality one would expect to hear from Rick Santorum...you know, the one that thinks gay marriage is just the tip of the iceberg in the progression towards allowing 'man with his favorite pet marriages'.
All that's missing from this multi-racial, pansexual, menage a trois Solid Gold meets Queer as Folk dance club image to complete this ludicrous mindset is a dirty dancing German Shepherd and a pair of "in sync" silver-haired sister spinsters.
Tagged as: 2008 election, Humor, Kay Barnes, Missouri, Rep. Sam Graves, Rick Santorum, Same-Sex Marriage, San Francisco
Daniel DiRito | May 31, 2008 | 8:42 AM |
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Ever since 9/11, the GOP has made a habit of flaunting their support for our troops...while also accusing their adversaries of not doing so. Each time a Democrat criticized the Bush administration's handling of the war in Iraq, questioned the merits of continuing the war, or voiced concerns with the huge costs to fund the war, their patriotism was questioned.
Times have apparently changed. The moment Democratic Senator Jim Webb submitted legislation to insure that support for the troops would include a much needed expansion of the educational benefits provided under the existing GI Bill, George Bush and John McCain are suddenly leading the opposition.
You see, the bottom line is political expediency. When supporting the troops can be exploited for partisan advantage, the GOP couldn't talk long enough and loud enough about their commitment to our troops. Now that support for our troops has been transformed into a tangible benefit, the president and his clone are both leading the charge to defeat the measure.
Truth be told, these current actions only reinforce the assertions of Scott McClellan, the president's former Press Secretary. McClellan, in his newly released book, tells us that this president frequently placed his focus on the partisan benefits of his actions. The fact that the troops were a pawn in his political arsenal seems to be clear at this juncture.
It's also increasingly evident that John McCain, the former straight-talking maverick, has opted to follow in the footsteps of his predecessor. Our troops and the American public cannot afford four more years of supporting the political ambitions of men like George Bush...and his well-trained lap dog...John McCain.
Tagged as: Barack Obama, George Bush, GI Bill, Jim Webb, John McCain, Jon Stewart, The Daily Show
Daniel DiRito | May 30, 2008 | 11:24 AM |
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Earlier this year I submitted an application to the DNCC in the hopes of receiving credentials to cover the Democratic National Convention. Much to my surprise, yesterday I was notified that Thought Theater had been selected.
I've watched every convention since Hubert Humphrey was chosen to represent the party in 1968 following the assassination of Robert Kennedy. I must say I'm look forward to attending this one in person.
From The Notification Email:
Congratulations. The Democratic Convention staff has completed its review of blog credential applications and I'm writing to let you know that your blog will be credentialed at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver.
We're excited to welcome so many blogs to the Convention (about 3 times as many as 2004). And we know you're eager to make travel plans for August. We'll contact you next week with logistical information regarding housing, credential distribution, and other key details. You probably have several questions. Please be patient - as our goal is to distribute this information to all credentialed blogs at the same time.
Thank you for applying and I look forward to working with you in Denver. I'm excited to see how your blog covers the Convention and introduces the Democratic nominee to your audience.
From The DNCC Press Release:
DENVER - As part of its continuing commitment to engage a broad spectrum of audiences in new and creative ways, the Democratic National Convention Committee (DNCC) today announced that a record number of blogs have been credentialed as members of the media for the 2008 Democratic National Convention at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colo. These blogs will help ensure that communities across the country are connected to the Convention through the eyes and ears of a growing, diverse group of online voices.
Organizers also announced that blogs credentialed by the DNCC will have access to a dedicated "Blogger Lounge" inside the Pepsi Center, equipped with televisions, technology resources and workspace to facilitate their reporting. All bloggers will have access to the Convention floor, press briefing areas, caucus meetings, filing centers and other auxiliary events open to members of the media.
The credentialed blogs represent a large and diverse collection of voices and perspectives. The pool includes blogs covering national, state and local politics and those representing a variety of groups including the African American, Latino, Asian American, Native American and LGBT communities. Blogs focusing on youth issues, women's issues, labor issues, disability issues as well as those focusing on the environment and communities of faith will also be credentialed among many others.
The complete list of blogs credentialed to date can be found at www.DemConvention.com/credentialed-blogs.
At the moment, I don't have a specific plan for the coverage Thought Theater will provide from the convention. I encourage readers to offer any suggestions in that regard. I'll keep you posted.
Many thanks to those who read Thought Theater. None of this would be possible or purposeful without you.
Tagged as: 2008 Election, Democratic National Convention, Democrats, DNCC
Daniel DiRito | May 30, 2008 | 8:38 AM |
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The passage of Senator Jim Webb's expansion of the GI Bill to provide expanded educational benefits highlights a topic most don't want to discuss. Since abolishing the draft and making service in the military voluntary, critics have argued that an inordinate number of the ranks are filled by those who lack other opportunities...including the ability to afford a college education. In other words, they contend that the election to join the military can often be a de facto economic decision.
When critics, like New York Representative Charlie Rangel, raise concerns that an inordinate number of new enlistments come from lower income families, those opposed to reinstating the draft accuse them of insulting our service people. Essentially, they contend the criticism impugns the patriotism of those who have volunteered to serve their country. If that deflection fails, they have also argued that the criticism insults the intelligence of military personnel by suggesting that those who serve in the military are uneducated.
That brings us back to the Senate's passage of the Webb bill. One of the redeeming benefits of the passage of time is that is frequently shines a bright light on hyperbole and hypocrisy. In what can only be seen as a reversal of logic, some of those who rejected the assertions of men like Charlie Rangel are now opposed to expanding the benefits provided by the GI Bill. Yes, they are now arguing that those expanded benefits might entice some service members to exit the military in order to take advantage of the educational benefits. In other words, given other and better opportunities, some members of the military might not want to continue serving.
Let me be clear. The patriotism of those who enlist has never been the issue and it wasn't for those who criticized the all volunteer army. Those who contended that it attracted individuals who lacked other opportunities always believed in the patriotism of those who enlisted...just as they will continue to believe in it should some service members elect to leave the military in order to utilize their expanded educational benefits.
Those who aligned with George Bush and John McCain in opposing this bill have simply exposed their inclination to make military service a matter of necessity. Voting to deny service members the same level of educational benefits that existed when the GI Bill was first passed is evidence that they recognize the differences between conscripted service and volunteer service. Why else would they not support a bill that would give volunteer service members the same benefits that were afforded to conscripted ones?
Truth be told, those opposed to this bill don't want to provide a plausible alternative to military service because they know that the decision to enlist is, in fact, often a decision of economic necessity because there is a lack of other opportunities for those whose families lack the means to send them to college.
Look, I don't object to the government using carrots to entice enlistment. The military can be the means to advance one's education that might not otherwise be possible. Regardless, choosing to deny former service members access to benefits that will reward their patriotism and service is a far more egregious act than to question the inequity of an all volunteer military.
So what is the message given by those who would deny these benefits? Well it clearly states that they favor a system that facilitates the enlistment of the economically disadvantaged and they certainly don't want to do anything that might take away the leverage that it provides. In other words, it tells our enlisted persons that we're happy to have them defend their country's commitment to freedom but we're opposed to providing them the opportunities that would grant them the opportunity to exercise that freedom.
While I'm not in favor of a draft, I am in favor of an honest discussion on the shortcomings of the existing all volunteer system. It seems entirely hypocritical for those who have attempted to ignore the contention that economic motivations may lead to the population of our military to now be speaking out against providing the very opportunities and alternatives that their adversaries have long suggested were lacking.
When Charlie Rangel suggests that a draft would make members of Congress think twice about sending American soldiers into harms way if they knew their own sons and daughters might have to serve, he's simply pointing out the same hypocrisy. In the end, if our volunteer military results from the fact that some individual's lack or are denied reasonable alternatives, then it is, in essence, a form of conscription.
If I didn't know better, I might conclude that those opposed to the expansion of the GI Bill are not only in favor of stealth conscription; they may actually be endorsing de facto enslavement...with pay...of course.
Tagged as: Barack Obama, Charlie Rangel, Conscription, Economics, Education, George Bush, GI Bill, Iraq, James Webb, John McCain, Military Draft, Patriotism, Socioeconomic, Underprivileged, Veto, Volunteer Military, War
Daniel DiRito | May 23, 2008 | 10:35 AM |
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Now that the Democrats are approaching the point at which they have a nominee, they can begin to focus their attentions on John McCain and his kinship with none other than George W. Bush. In one of the best opening salvos, MoveOn.org has launched The Bush-McCain Challenge...a grassroots effort to help voters understand that a McCain presidency will, in fact, be a third term of the failed Bush presidency.
The following video is a primer on the campaign. Those interested in taking the challenge can find it here. On May 28th, MoveOn.org plans to take the challenge to the streets and they are looking for volunteers. If you would like to sign up to help out at a table near you, you can find that information here.
Tagged as: 2008 Election, Bush-McCain Challenge, George W. Bush, John McCain, MoveOn.org
Daniel DiRito | May 16, 2008 | 11:15 AM |
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I realize I should be excited about the California Supreme Court's decision to remove the ban on same-sex marriage ...but the pragmatist in me simply won't allow it. I'll explain my thinking after the following excerpt on today's ruling.
SAN FRANCISCO -- -- The California Supreme Court ruled today that same-sex couples should be permitted to marry, rejecting state marriage laws as discriminatory.
The state high court's 4-3 ruling was unlikely to end the debate over gay matrimony in California. A group has circulated petitions for a November ballot initiative that would amend the state Constitution to block same-sex marriage, while the Legislature has twice passed bills to authorize gay marriage. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed both.
Schwarzenegger, who has vetoed two measures that would have authorized same-sex marriage, today said he would abide by the court's ruling.
"I respect the court's decision and as governor, I will uphold its ruling," he said in a statement. "Also, as I have said in the past, I will not support an amendment to the constitution that would overturn this state Supreme Court ruling."
But as early as November, voters could be asked to render their opinion on an amendment that would again attempt to ban same-sex marriage.
A coalition of religious and conservative activists has submitted 1.1 million signatures to qualify the amendment, which would say that "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."
Andrew Pugno, an attorney for the initiative's sponsors, said the Supreme Court decision is a boost for the measure because opponents have been saying there is no real threat that same sex marriages will happen.
"This decision draws a line in the sand and makes it clear that this is the last chance for voters to have a say," Pugno said. "This is proof positive for voters that the courts are out of control and the voters have to step up."
First, the timing of this ruling isn't advantageous. As we approach a critical election in which the Democrats are poised to take the presidency as well as additional seats in the house and the senate, giving the rabid right wing an issue to rally around is apt to boost the GOP's fundraising, motivate evangelicals to get out and vote, allow John McCain to exploit the differences between the GOP and the Democratic Party with regards to same-sex issues (including forcing the Democratic nominee to clarify his or her position on the ruling and same-sex marriage), and give supporters of an amendment to add a ban on same-sex marriage to the California constitution ample ammunition to fund and promote their ballot measure (every right wing organization is going to pour money into this ballot initiative).
Secondly, I believe that the mood of voters had changed since the 2004 election. That change included less of an emphasis on values driven politics and more of a focus on issues that endear voters to the Democratic Party. Today's ruling may return us to the days of God, guns, and gays...with a particular emphasis on gays. Should that happen, it would allow the detractors of the Democratic party to reemphasize the fact that they are generally in favor of extending more rights to gays, accepting of court rulings that expand rights even if the voters wouldn't vote to approve them, and in favor of appointing more judges with similar views.
Let's look at the chronology to better understand the shift that took place since 2004 and the likelihood that this ruling could facilitate a step backwards in terms of renewed voter resistance. Following on the heels of Massachusetts allowing gay marriage as a result of a 2003 court ruling, in February of 2004, San Francisco and other municipalities began issuing marriage licenses to gays. While all of these actions felt empowering and led to numerous celebratory moments, it was short lived (except in Massachusetts) and likely assisted in the passage of amendments to ban same-sex marriage in eleven states.
Following the 2004 election, Iraq, the economy, and other issues pushed the values agenda to the back burner as voters focused on other concerns. The outcome of the 2006 election supports that contention. As we've approached the 2008 election, the general perception has been that God, guns, and gays had fallen into disfavor with voters (or at least been overtaken by other priorities) and would not play a significant part in this election cycle.
If one believes that history repeats itself...and that the U.S. has a history of vacillating between left and right (in a manner reminiscent of a pendulum) when it comes to issue of morality...this ruling could create the momentum needed to effect a shift to the right...or at the very least a halt to the current swing leftward. While these back and forth swings seem inevitable, the timing of this ruling may be the accelerant that sets in motion the unfavorable shifts noted above...sooner than they would have otherwise occurred. That would be a classic example of an unintended consequence...but an unwelcome and unfortunate one no less.
Look, I also believe that the affording of rights can't always be scheduled for maximum advantage...nor should they be delayed accordingly. History will undoubtedly view this ruling as one of the important steps in the chronology of granting gays equal status. Nonetheless, the journey between now and then may well include events that (similar to this ruling), at the time they occur, seem to be a step forward but that ultimately precipitate a temporary step backwards. As such, the soldiers need to be prepared for the times when retreat and retrenchment are the order of the day.
Today is a time for celebrating...but tomorrow may be another story. It is imperative that we remain vigilantly mindful of the impact our actions will have on the ever shifting political terrain. This means that it is essential for us to be aware of the positions each of the combatants holds on the battlefield. In the end, regardless of the victories and defeats, the march towards equality must never cease. Today we've won a battle...tomorrow the war proceeds.
Tagged as: California, DOMA, Equality, Gay, LGBT, Marriage, Religion, Same-Sex Marriage, Supreme Court
Daniel DiRito | May 15, 2008 | 11:53 AM |
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On the one hand, I can't wait for George Bush to be out of office...and on the other, I'll miss watching Keith Olbermann literally eviscerate the president on a regular basis with eagerly anticipated Special Comments. Lest there be any doubt, this iteration may well be one of Olbermann's best. Never let it be said that Olbermann pulled any of his punches in tonight's tongue lashing.
Olbermann's inspiration for tonight's tirade was an interview the president gave yesterday. In that interview, the president waded into the ill-conceived war in Iraq and all the justifications we've come to expect, his never ending effort to portray the Democrats as weak on terror and therefore likely to invite another terrorist attack should they win in November. As if that weren't enough, the president had the temerity to suggest that he has given up playing golf in deference to the families who have lost sons and daughters in his never ending wars.
This evening's Special Comment video is divided into two parts Consider this first part a warm up...because Keith certainly saves the best for last.
Tagged as: Civil Liberties, George W. Bush, Golf, Iraq, Keith Olbermann, Special Comment, Terrorism, WMD's
Daniel DiRito | May 14, 2008 | 7:27 PM |
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No doubt there is a fine line between fact and fantasy. What we know for sure today is that the GOP is in trouble following losses in three congressional districts that by any measure should have been safe Republican seats. That brings us to fantasy...and there may be no better person to explain the degree to which the GOP is living in a fantasy world than the inimitable Alan Keyes.
Keyes has been an outspoken member of the GOP for a number of years. Keyes is also the man the GOP chose to run in the 2004 Senate race against Barack Obama. He is rabidly anti-gay and, as you will see from the video, he is also obsessed with his role in putting an end to all abortions. Let me be clear, I think we should do what we can to reduce the number of abortions...so long as those efforts empower women; not take away their right to choose.
As you watch Keyes explain that his political career is metaphorically similar to an abortion, I will remind you that this is the same man who has disowned his own daughter because she happens to be gay. In his own words, even though he "procreated" her in a "joyful and ecstatic moment" during which he "invited" her into the world, he has exterminated her from his life. Isn't that also the equivalent of aborting his child?
You see, in the end, I believe that voters have been able to see that much of the rhetoric proffered by the GOP is simply a mishmash of inconsistencies and incoherent arguments that lack reasonability and rationality. So the next time someone asks you what you think is wrong with the GOP, suggest that they have become, as Alan Keyes believes, the political equivalency of an abortion...they invite people into their world and then they stab them in the back...metaphorically, of course.
Tagged as: Abortion, Alan Keyes, Choice, Democrats, Gay, God, GOP, LGBT, Religion, Right To Life
Daniel DiRito | May 14, 2008 | 9:02 AM |
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I don't believe in crystal balls or tarot cards...but the fact that the Democrats have now won three congressional special elections in stronghold Republican districts doesn't bode well for the GOP in November. The most recent loss took place tonight in the solidly red 1st. district in the state of Mississippi.
Democrat Travis Childers won Tuesday's Mississippi special election runoff for Sen. Roger Wicker's ® former House seat, handing Democrats the biggest of their three special election takeovers this cycle and sending a listless GOP further into a state of disarray.
Childers led GOP candidate Greg Davis 53-47 with more than 90 percent of precincts reporting. Turnout increased substantially over the 67,000 voters who cast ballots in the April 22 open special election, with more than 100,000 voting in the runoff.
Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), issued a somber and self-reflective statement following the loss, saying Republicans were "disappointed" and that they need to prepare to run against Democrats campaigning as conservatives.
Cole added that "the political environment is such that voters remain pessimistic about the direction of the country and the Republican Party in general. Therefore, Republicans must undertake bold efforts to define a forward-looking agenda that offers the kind of positive change voters are looking for. This is something we can do in cooperation with our presidential nominee, but time is short."
Now I understand that Rep. Cole has to respond to the defeat and I'm sure it's difficult to craft a palatable rationale. Regardless, it's hard to imagine the words "forward-looking agenda" and GOP in the same sentence.
After all, they have John McCain, a supposedly kinder, gentler version of George W. Bush, running as their presidential nominee...and he bills himself as the man who intends to keep his predecessor's endless war racing full steam ahead. If that's their notion of a forward-looking agenda, they might as well pull out the "mission accomplished" banners and see if they're more effective the second time around.
The GOP also faces a campaign cash disadvantage that leaves them in a position they haven't experienced in modern times. This, coupled with a disenchanted electorate, provides the Democrats with an arsenal of weapons that is both formidable and foreboding.
Both national party House committees plugged more than $1 million into the race, and spending by the candidates and outside groups like GOP-backing Freedom's Watch pushed the race over $5 million total.
The NRCC's investment was particularly painful given its stark cash disadvantage with less than six months to go until the November election.
The NRCC had just $7.2 million in the bank as of March 31. It spent $1.3 million in Mississippi.
Notwithstanding, it's too early for the Democrats to let down their guard or uncork the champaign. While there is reason to be hopeful that the party will take back the White House and increase their majorities in the House and the Senate, a lot can still happen between now and November.
Needless to say, I suspect the GOP may be contacting Nancy Reagan's astrologist in hopes of having something to look forward too. Hey, perhaps astrology could be the cornerstone of their forward-looking agenda? Nah, come to think of it, the first Bush already tried selling "A thousand points of light".
Tagged as: 1st. District, 2008 Election, DCCC, Democrats, DNC, GOP, Greg Davis, Mississippi Special Election, NRCC, RNC, Travis Childers
Daniel DiRito | May 13, 2008 | 10:30 PM |
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It was bound to happen. Despite the president's numerous statements that he doesn't want to wade into the 2008 election, his remarks today not only signal that he's reneged; they reflect his intention to employ the same tactic that he and the GOP used so successfully in the run up to the 2004 election. If you haven't already guessed, let's just say that it's time to scare the bejeebers out of the voters by raising the prospect of a terrorist attack should the Democrats prevail in November.
WASHINGTON - President Bush said Tuesday he was disappointed in "flawed intelligence" before the Iraq war and was concerned that if a Democrat wins the presidency in November and withdrew troops prematurely it could "eventually lead to another attack on the United States."
He acknowledged concerns about leaving the unfinished Iraq war to a Democratic successor. Both Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton have said they will bring troops home if elected.
Bush said his "doomsday scenario of course is that extremists throughout the Middle East would be emboldened, which would eventually lead to another attack on the United States."
This ominous message of potential doom comes from the same man who stood on an aircraft carrier nearly five years ago and declared "Mission Accomplished". I don't know about anyone else, but I'm still trying to figure out which George Bush we're supposed to believe...the one who thought the war in Iraq was a cake walk or the one who thinks the bogeyman is lurking around every corner.
Since I love metaphors, it's worth noting that the president's daughter was married at the family ranch in Texas over the weekend. While I wish her well in her marriage, unfortunately I can't say that America's eight year relationship with George W. Bush was all that successful. As is often stated when speaking about a troubled marriage, the honeymoon has been over for quite some time. I for one can't wait to part ways.
Tagged as: 2004 Election, 2008 Election, Barack Obama, Fear Mongering, George W. Bush, Hillary Clinton, Iraq, John McCain, Mission Accomplished, Terrorism
Daniel DiRito | May 13, 2008 | 6:37 PM |
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I don't generally watch Glenn Beck nor do I usually find his observations to be palatable. The following video is a notable exception. In this clip, Beck discusses the impact of $200 a barrel oil with Byron King, an oil industry analyst. Should oil reach this price...and there are some who believe it will happen by the end of this year...we can expect major changes that we can't even fathom at this moment.
It amazes me that our president continues to tell us the economy is just experiencing a rough patch while the escalating oil prices suggest the clouds of calamity may be on the horizon. In a worst case scenario, the word recession would likely be inadequate to describe the financial crisis we would experience should we fail to address this looming energy nightmare.
What scares me the most about this situation is my recollections of the handling of other emergencies by this administration. I keep thinking about Katrina and the clear indications that the storm would likely devastate New Orleans...and yet the president was nowhere to be found for four days and we were totally unprepared for the storm's aftermath.
Now that Bush is nearing the end of his presidency, just how interested is he in averting an energy meltdown? I'm afraid our best hope is that this energy crisis abates on its own. Having to rely on the critical thinking skills of George W. Bush hasn't proven to be in our best interest.
Tagged as: Byron King, Economy, Food Prices, Fuel Efficiency, Gas Prices, George Bush, Glenn Beck, Katrina, New Orleans, Oil Prices, Recession
Daniel DiRito | May 8, 2008 | 9:43 PM |
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With the passage of the Patriot Act, the potential for the government to abuse its newfound authority to snoop on its citizens was expanded. Unfortunately, along with that expansion came the ability to prevent those who contest such inquiries...and succeed...from discussing the details of the case in question.
Hence, the FBI and other agencies have no deterrent to pushing the limits of their authority. In fact, recent successes in preventing such inquiries have all been met with the same strategy...a sudden withdrawal of the request accompanied by a gag order on the party served.
The Internet Archive, a project to create a digital library of the web for posterity, successfully fought a secret government Patriot Act order for records about one of its patrons and won the right to make the order public, civil liberties groups announced Wednesday morning.
On November 26, 2007, the FBI served a controversial National Security Letter on the Internet Archive's founder Brewster Kahle, asking for records about one of the library's registered users, asking for the user's name, address and activity on the site.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Internet Archive's lawyers, fought the NSL, challenging its constitutionality in a December 14 complaint to a federal court in San Francisco. The FBI agreed on April 21 to withdraw the letter and unseal the court case, making some of the documents available to the public.
The Patriot Act greatly expanded the reach of NSLs, which are subpoenas for documents such as billing records and telephone records that the FBI can issue in terrorism investigations without a judge's approval. Nearly all NSLs come with gag orders forbidding the recipient from ever speaking of the subpoena, except to a lawyer.
Brewster Kahle called the gag order "horrendous," saying he couldn't talk about the case with his board members, wife or staff, but said that his stand was part of a time-honored tradition of librarians protecting the rights of their patrons.
Though FBI guidelines on using NSLs warned of overusing them, two Congressionally ordered audits revealed that the FBI had issued hundreds of illegal requests for student health records, telephone records and credit reports. The reports also found that the FBI had issued hundreds of thousands of NSLs since 2001, but failed to track their use. In a letter to Congress last week, the FBI admitted it can only estimate how many NSLs it has issued.
The Internet Archive's case is only the third known court challenge to an NSL, all of which ended with the FBI rescinding the NSL, according to the ACLU's Melissa Goodman.
"That makes you wonder about the the hundreds of thousands of NSLs that haven't been challenged," Goodman said, suggesting that the FBI had collected sensitive information on innocent Americans.
The settlement with the government puts an end to that challenge and still keeps Kahle and his lawers from discussing -- even in the most general terms -- what the FBI was after and what public information the Internet Archive turned over to the FBI. For instance, the lawyers declined to say what kind of information the target was looking at or uploading -- such as animal rights information or Muslim literature.
[...] The Internet Archive case is only the second time the courts allowed the recipient of a Patriot Act National Security Letter to reveal his or her identity.
The history of such efforts to surveil Americans was altered in the aftermath of the Nixon presidency and the events surrounding Watergate. At the time, the ability of the government to conduct such operations was curtailed and virtually eliminated. With 9/11 and the passage of the Patriot Act, the floodgates of federal snooping were reopened...and the evidence suggests that some of the same abuses that facilitated the ban in the past have reemerged under the new guidelines.
Unfortunately, the latest foray allows the government to silence those who may have been compelled to participate in committing the abuse. Under the auspices of national security, questionable activity isn't allowed to reach the public's view - thereby preventing any of the accountability that would naturally be driven by public outrage with any revealed improprieties.
A program of this nature, when coupled with an administration that is prone to misguiding voters and utilizing the mechanisms of government for political advantage, has the potential to trigger abuses that far exceed those committed under the Nixon administration.
With George Bush's disapproval numbers surpassing those of all the presidencies previously measured, one can't help but wonder if the unknown abuses also exceed those of his predecessors...especially those of Richard Nixon...who found himself in the unenviable position of being forced to make an early exit from the White House.
9/11 was a defining moment in American history. Sadly, we may never know the degree to which the current administration used it to restrict and/or remove our civil liberties. That possibility makes it difficult to endorse the efforts George Bush tells us are designed to protect our way of life from the terrorists. Preserving freedom and liberty at the expense of both should never be optional.
Tagged as: 9/11, Brewster Kahle, Civil Liberties, Electronic Frontier Foundation, FBI, George Bush, Internet Archive, National Security Letters, NSA, Patriot Act, Richard Nixon
Daniel DiRito | May 7, 2008 | 2:42 PM |
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Don't be fooled by the religious right's assertion that they simply want to protect marriage and the family. Implicit in their efforts to pass legislation and constitutional amendments to ban same-sex marriage is an intention to slam the door on any measure that would grant rights or recognition to gays.
Should there be any doubt, take a look at today's Michigan Supreme Court ruling. In a case designed to determine the scope of an amendment passed in the state in 2004, the court upheld an appeals court ruling that prohibits Michigan's universities, colleges, and municipalities from providing health coverage to the partners of same-sex couples.
From The Associated Press:
LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- Local governments and state universities in Michigan can't offer health insurance to the partners of gay workers, the state Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.
The court ruled 5-2 that Michigan's 2004 ban against gay marriage also blocks domestic-partner policies affecting gay employees at the University of Michigan and other public-sector employers.
The decision affirms a February 2007 appeals court ruling.
Up to 20 public universities, community colleges, school districts and local governments in Michigan have benefit policies covering at least 375 gay couples. After the appeals court ruled, universities and local governments rewrote their policies to try to comply with the gay marriage ban -- so the effect of Wednesday's decision is unclear.
The voter-approved law, which passed 59 percent to 41 percent, says the union between a man and woman is the only agreement recognized as a marriage "or similar union for any purpose."
The language utilized by proponents of amendments to limit marriage to one man and one woman has been left intentionally vague in order to allow the restrictions to be expanded following passage. Ironically, the same people who accuse Democrats and liberals of favoring "activist judges" seek to use the courts to further their agenda to remove any recognition of rights for gays subsequent to the passage of these amendments.
The lack of clarity leaves the door open to arguing that these amendments actually intend to limit more than just recognition of same-sex marriages. In fact, the goal of those sponsoring such amendments is to nullify all prior state or municipal legislation that remotely seeks to recognize or codify the rights of gays. Specifically, these amendments are often targeted to overrule recognitions passed by large urban municipalities that have typically had a greater concentration of liberals or Democrats.
Time and again, the proponents of these amendments attempt to first pass the broadest possible language, and should that be struck down, they grudgingly expand the language...but only enough to pass judicial muster. The first such amendment to garner nationwide attention was passed in Colorado in 1992. Amendment 2 would have voided laws passed in cities like Denver and Boulder that were intended to grant protections to gays in housing and employment. Fortunately, the Colorado Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the lower courts ruling that found the amendment to violate the equal protections discussed in Colorado's constitution.
Amendment 2 was a miscalculation on the part of its proponents. They predicated their efforts upon an assumption that the courts were by and large unsympathetic to measures passed by city councils and their removal was simply a matter of forcing those items to be reviewed by the higher courts. The strategy failed miserably. Since the Colorado amendment drew so much attention, sponsors of subsequent amendments have used that case as a guide in crafting the language of future amendments. No longer could they count on the inherent bias against the passage of rights for gays that had previously dominated the court system.
The new strategy focuses on protecting the institution of marriage in order to win the approval of more voters. Knowing that a majority of Americans likely object to gays being able to enter into traditional marriages, these measures are designed to capitalize on that sentiment while secretly being crafted to allow them to go much further.
The Michigan case is a classic example of this bait and switch strategy. Most observers do not believe that the state's voters intended to revoke the provision of health care coverage for same-sex couples...or to restrict or rollback any other measures intended to protect gays from inequitable discrimination. Unfortunately, the supporters of the amendment wrote the measure with such objectives in mind and they regularly consult with legal scholars to determine the eventual outcomes that can be achieved with the chosen language.
Look, I realize that politics is a contact sport. Nonetheless, I am troubled when these individuals, who seek to be portrayed as bastions of Christian values, become the primary purveyors of disingenuous measures designed to promote their discriminatory ideologies. And yes, I realize they believe they are simply seeking to enforce the precepts of their faith...as they choose to interpret it from the Bible. Regardless, I don't recall that the good book endorses deception and deceit as an acceptable means to expand dogma.
Tagged as: Amendment 2, Bible, Bigotry, Christian, Colorado, Discrimination, Evangelical, Gay, God, LGBT, Marriage Amendment, Michigan, Morals, Religious Right, Same-Sex Marriage, Supreme Court, Values
Daniel DiRito | May 7, 2008 | 11:19 AM |
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