Polispeak: June 2008: Archives

June 28, 2008

Focus On The Family Attacks Tim Gill's Activism genre: Gaylingual & Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak

Did you know that Tim Gill is a homosexual activist who operates under the radar as a stealth politico intent on changing the political landscape and adding the scalps of God fearing Christians to his belt? This latest video offering from Focus on the Family's Turn Signal has to be one of their most transparent attempts to pander to their followers by portraying gay activism as a sinister effort to undermine conservative family values.

As I watched this video, I couldn't help but think back to my days in commercial real estate. OK, I'm sure you're wondering how in the hell is this related to the FOF video? Stay with me. After spending fourteen years in the business, I honed my skills at spotting tenants who were manipulative and on the precipice of having financial problems. One of the tell-tale signals was a sudden surge in complaints about their space...the AC wasn't working right, the janitorial staff was doing a lousy job, the tenant next door was too loud, and on and on.

Generally speaking, the strategy was to go on the offensive and portray oneself as a victim in anticipation of lacking the wherewithal to pay the rent or fulfill the remaining term of one's lease. When I first started in the business, these tenants had me standing on my head trying to please them, but over time I realized that more often than not, their complaints had nothing to do with me or the service our company was providing. It was simply the strategy of a cash strapped tenant to create mitigating circumstances for the moment when they were unable to pay rent...and their ultimate goal usually included being let out of their lease.

That brings me back to Focus on the Family and this video segment. First, Focus on the Family is far from bankrupt; having total receipts in excess of 140 million dollars each of the last three years. However, when one looks more closely, the arm of the organization that funds political activities, Focus Action, has seen a steady decline in revenues over the last three years.

In 2005, total receipts were just over 25 million with 6.84 million coming from direct public support...in 2006, total receipts were 15.16 million with 6.75 million coming from direct public support...and in 2007 total receipts were 9.8 million with 5.16 coming from direct public support.

Again, this is still a healthy amount of money and I'm not inferring that Focus Action is financially unsound. The point I'm making is that this video reminds me of the strategic smokescreens I witnessed in commercial real estate. In other words, the message to the followers (benefactors) is that the big bad gay bogeyman, who has a boat load of cash, is surreptitiously bankrolling the defeat of countless Christian conservatives, and unless the folks at FOF ante up, it's only going to get worse.

The powers that be at Focus know that the best way to milk the cash cow is to yank the collective chain of the misinformed minions...and nothing works better than questioning the veracity of the enemy while portraying oneself as the righteous victim. Look at the language they utilize in describing Gill and his efforts...flying under the radar...stacking the deck...he targeted 70 conservative candidates...here's how it works...his wealthy homosexual activist friends...control his image...what this man is up to. Clearly the goal is to make the viewer aware of Gill wealth...but even more importantly to make the viewer believe that he is deceptive and manipulative.

The truth of the matter is that Gill is a well-known figure on the political front and as an activist for the LGBT community. His activities are routinely reported in Colorado and in the national media and his organization is visible and accessible. Unlike James Dobson, Gill doesn't seek the spotlight. The truth of the matter is that reflects more on Dobson's motivations and modus operandi than upon Gill's. I suspect that's an irritation to Dobson's ego and all the more reason to vilify Gill.

The point I'm making is that men like Dobson are always aware of their waning influence and wherewithal...and that leads them to strike out like a cat backed into a corner. I could be wrong, but given Dobson's recent attacks on Barack Obama, his certain awareness that many in the religious community may vote Democratic in November, and the growing shift in the causes of interest to many up and coming religious leaders (causes of little interest to establishment evangelicals like poverty and climate change), I suspect he feels his kingdom is being threatened.

Then again, I would think a man of Dobson's faith would be focused on the blessings of the afterlife he so frequently espouses. In the end, it isn't that difficult to identify and understand the relevant contrasts and distinctive differences between Tim Gill and James Dobson. It's sure funny how actions speak louder than words, isn't is?

Tagged as: Activism, Climate Change, Focus Action, Focus on the Family, Gill Action, Gill Foundation, James Dobson, LGBT, Religion, Same-Sex Marriage, Tim Gill

Daniel DiRito | June 28, 2008 | 10:14 AM | link | Comments (0)
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June 26, 2008

More On That Plan For A Theocracy...How About Anarchy? genre: Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Anarchy.jpg

Take a look at the following video and tell me you can't imagine that extreme religious groups in America could ever trigger the same sectarian strife that currently plagues the Middle East. I don't think the thought is that far fetched...and I'm convinced that the evidence supports the contention that ideological intransigence has led some religious leaders in the United States to the precipice of promoting acts of anarchy.

The gist of this video and many of the sermons that are being delivered in churches around the country is that the Bible is the only valid law. Further, the inference is that it is acceptable to ignore the laws of the nation when they conflict with God's law. What remains to be seen is the level of resistance that these religious zealots are willing to promote.

To understand how this movement evolved, one need look no further than the last seven years of the Bush presidency. By example, George Bush has given license to those who would elect to undermine or ignore established law in favor of divine guidance. Not only did Bush argue that his actions in office were the result of consultation with a higher being, he has frequently entertained and endorsed the notion that the court system is flawed and continues to engage in inappropriate "judicial activism."

Yes, he has grudgingly accepted the rulings of the courts...but not without willingly pressing the limits and challenging the conventional wisdom. These actions have established a growing sense of righteous infallibility amongst the faithful and their inclination for divinely driven defiance is palpable. My concern is how far the people his actions have enabled are willing to go should upcoming elections and rulings meet with their disapproval.

I realize what I'm positing may seem far fetched, but if one listens to the rumblings that are percolating in the evangelical community...inclusive of this video and James Dobson's current assault on Barack Obama...one begins to see a pattern of rejecting the authority of the government...especially if it continues to move in directions that do not uphold doctrine.

The reality of the matter is that evangelicals are still a formidable constituency that has shown a propensity to act in unison. Should that monolithic mentality be applied to the initiation of acts of anarchy, we could well witness the type of unrest that typified the Vietnam War era.

The fact that the last seven years have provided evangelicals a taste of the kind of kingdom they've long envisioned only exacerbates the potential for civil disobedience...and far worse. Toss in their beliefs about the end of days and the rapture and a worst case scenario isn't that much of a stretch. In fact, I suspect there are those who would view acts of anarchy as part and parcel of a preordained plan spelled out in the Bible.

While most Americans are preoccupied with the events taking place in the Middle East and the broader concept of the "war on terror", there is a growing body of evidence that suggests we need look no further than the confines of our own country to understand the dangers of ideological intransigence.

Let me be clear, I'm not predicting that anarchy is inevitable. On the other hand, I am signaling a warning that we're approaching a tumultuous transitional period. Unless we're mindful of the dangers of this smoldering mind set, we're at risk of being burned by the flames of fanaticism.

Tagged as: Anarchy, Bible, End Of Days, Evangelical, Extremism, Fundamentalism, George Bush, Judicial Activism, Judicial Authority, LGBT, Literalism, Rapture, Religion, Same-Sex Marriage, Taliban, Theocracy

Daniel DiRito | June 26, 2008 | 6:40 PM | link | Comments (4)
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Creationism & Cross Burning: The Painful Path To Theocracy? genre: Gaylingual & Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak

An Ohio science teacher seems to think that his Christian beliefs grant him the authority to support creationism while undermining the theory of evolution, to disregard the scientific evidence of the age of the earth and the universe, and to brand his students with the image of a cross (see video below). After years of complaints about the teacher's inappropriate insertion of his religious ideology, the cross burning incident has finally led the school board to terminate him.

From The Columbus Dispatch:

MOUNT VERNON, Ohio -- Supporters of John Freshwater stood in a parking lot yesterday asking God to inspire the school board to make the right decision.

Three hours later, the board announced that it intends to fire Freshwater, an eighth-grade science teacher.

Freshwater preached his Christian beliefs about how the world began, discredited evolution and didn't teach the required science curriculum, the board says. He was told to stop teaching creationism and intelligent design, but he continued to do so, an investigation found.

Complaints about Freshwater's teachings were made by teachers and people in the community for at least 11 years, a school administrator told consultants. Freshwater has taught eighth-grade science in the district for 21 years.

In April, the school board hired HR On Call Inc. to investigate Freshwater, four months after the parents of a child in his class said he had burned a cross into the child's arm, causing swelling and blistering.

From The Columbus Dispatch:

Freshwater told investigators the marks were X's, not crosses. But all of the students interviewed in the investigation reported being branded with crosses. The investigation report includes a photo of one student's arm with a long vertical line and a short horizontal line running through it.

A teacher who worked in Freshwater's classroom last year also reported to investigators that Freshwater told his class that homosexuality is a sin.

Freshwater's friend Dave Daubenmire defended him.

"With the exception of the cross-burning episode. ... I believe John Freshwater is teaching the values of the parents in the Mount Vernon school district," he said.

"Do you think there are other teachers in the public classroom that are trying to drive their opinions in the classroom?" Daubenmire asked. "I don't care who you are. You cannot separate your value system from your teaching."

Look, Mr. Freshwater is entitled to his own beliefs. Unfortunately, like so many other Christians, he feels compelled to impose those beliefs on others. Even worse, he appears determined to allow his Biblical beliefs to overshadow his role as a teacher of established and credible science. If Freshwater wants to teach theology, then he shouldn't be doing so in a science class.

I took note of the remarks of his friend, Dave Daubenmire, in defending Freshwater's actions as consistent with the values of parents in the school district. Unfortunately, a science education has nothing to do with teaching religious doctrine...regardless of how many parents share Freshwater's beliefs. Frankly, the actions of Freshwater and his supporters demonstrates the confrontational strategy being embraced by more and more Christians. Sadly, their beliefs are so rigid and intransigent that nothing short of teaching directly from the Bible is satisfactory.

Take a look at how the Christian media reports the story.

From WorldNetDaily:

But a spokesman for Freshwater, Dave Daubenmire, downplayed the parents' accusations and called the investigation one-sided, with "old trumped-up charges brought back to the table."

Daubenmire insisted to WND that the "cross branding" was nothing of the sort. He characterized it as a science experiment Freshwater had been doing for 21 years in which he made X marks, not crosses, on the students' skin with a Tesa Coil to demonstrate electrical current.

Daubenmire pointed out experts have affirmed the experiment causes no injury to students.

Daubenmire argued that the accusations about teaching intelligent design or creationism date back to 2003, when Freshwater was challenging students to "clinically analyze evolution."

Just after the accusing family hired an attorney, school officials told Freshwater he had to remove all religious items from his classroom, including a personal Bible he had on his desk.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court, says, "Mr. Freshwater advised his students that although he is forced to teach from the textbooks, the teachings are wrong or not proven according to the Bible."

As WND reported, Freshwater took down the Christian items but refused to remove his Bible, which he has kept on his desk for 18 years.

Daubenmire, of Pass The Salt Ministries and Minutemen United, explained to WND at the time that Freshwater had not used the Bible in his interaction with students. But he said the teacher also believed he should not forfeit his constitutional rights just because of his occupation.

So were supposed to view Mr. Daubenmire as an impartial witness...regardless of his religious affiliations? Additionally, aren't we being asked to see Mr. Freshwater as a victim...a man who has had his constitutional rights abridged? Never mind that the separation of church and state prohibits the activities he insists on incorporating in his role as an educator.

The truth of the matter is that a number of Christians are convinced they are engaged in a war which means they are required to challenge and confront any and all aspects of culture and society that are in conflict with their beliefs. I'm convinced that this faction is constantly looking for opportunities to overturn existing laws and impose legislation that is consistent with their interpretations of the Bible.

Take a look at Mr. Daubenmire's profile.

From NewsWithViews:

Radically born-again in 1987, I was honored that the Lord had called me to the fight. Although a pew-sitting, selfish Christian, I learned quickly that if we were to turn back the hand of the oppressor, sitting in the pew and praying for God's grace would not be enough. As I had shared with our teams over the years, it was time to take what we had learned to the field. No battle, no victory.

After twenty-five years in the system, the Lord had other plans for me. I walked away from coaching football, my teaching career and cozy retirement benefits and gave my life to "coaching the church". Lord knows the church needs it. We started Pass the Salt Ministries and will travel wherever we find a listening ear and a open pulpit.

Using a local radio show I began to cry-out for Christian men who were willing to stand and fight. Out of this cry came Minutemen United a band of like-minded Christian brothers and sisters who are not afraid to take our faith to the streets. Over the past five years we have:

Successfully battled entry level pornography in Meijers Department stores.

Fought for the 10 Commandment displays in Ohio.

Journeyed to Alabama and defended Judge Roy Moore and the Rock.

Helped get Ohio's Marriage amendment on the ballot.

Spent a week in Fla. Defending Terri Schiavo.

Kept a steady presence at our local abortion clinic.

Passed out "Living Water" bottles at Columbus' Gay Pride parade.

From Pass The Salt:

PASS THE SALT was formed to encourage the Body of Christ to step into the cultural war. "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood..." PASS THE SALT is convinced that God has given the Body a window of opportunity to take our culture back.

PASS THE SALT is committed to bringing together the body of Christ across denominational, racial, and economical borders to demonstrate to America the power of Biblical unity. Our vision is to unite, organize, and mobilize the Army of God to be SALT and Light as stated in MATTHEW 5:12.

Now really, are we to conclude that the relationship between Daubenmire and Freshwater has nothing to do with their desire to push a particular agenda? I suspect that this situation is a calculated assault designed to garner the attention of other religious minded individuals that are sympathetic to the notion that Christians are being victimized.

I'm of the opinion that this effort is far more organized than one might expect. I'll offer two examples to support that possibility. First, there is a concerted effort underway to have churches violate the requirements of their tax exempt status this coming election by making specific candidate endorsements. The purpose of this effort is to establish the grounds under which they can assert that their first amendment rights are being violated. The goal is to remove the prohibitions contained in the notion of separation of church and state.

Second, I've taken note of the rhetoric being offered by James Dobson and his minions at Focus on the Family in response to a speech given by Barack Obama in 2006. Specifically, Tom Minnery makes a concerted effort to argue that America is a "Christian nation"...a phrase that is being aggressively pushed by many of those associated with the religious right. Minnery goes on to argue that religious doctrine is an effective tool with which to direct society and that it is the inherent principle underlying the establishment of this country. The goal of this argument is to further blur the lines between church and state until we reach the point where religion is accepted as the a priori foundation for our system of governance.

Here's some quotations from the discussion between Dobson and Minnery on the radio broadcast that suggest as much.

From Lavender Newswire:

Minnery: "I mean, read what George Washington said about that: "Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports." That's our first president."

Minnery: "Our second president, John Adams, said: "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."

From NPR:

For 18 minutes, Dobson excoriated Obama for his political stands -- especially Obama's belief that a politician must take into account a variety of views on moral issues.

"Now that is a fruitcake interpretation of the Constitution," Dobson said. "This is why we have elections. To support what we believe to be wise and moral. We don't have to go to the lowest common denominator of morality, which is what he is suggesting."

Again, I contend that the goal is to reach the point at which the accepted constitutional interpretation is that religious ideology can and should be directly applied to all aspects of government. In the end, the goal is to suggest that any limitation on religious expression as it relates to government is a violation of freedom of speech and expression. The calculation assumes that since a large majority of Americans are Christians, they would be amenable to enacting religiously inspired legislation by majority rule.

The only remaining obstacle would be the court system...and one would have to live in a bubble to have missed the deliberate effort to portray the judiciary in a bad light. If these ideologues can convince the public that the judiciary must be bound by majority rule...and that any ruling inconsistent with that construct can and should be invalidated as an act of judicial activism...they will have succeeded in establishing a virtual theocracy. In such an environment, minority rights (Dobson cleverly describes them as the lowest common denominator) would be disregarded whenever they failed to meet the acceptable religious standards of the majority.

In the end, they seek to effect the rejection of a secular society that affords the same rights to all people regardless of religious beliefs...or the lack thereof. While they currently avoid calling for the government to apply Biblically defined punitive actions against those who violate their brand of religious ideology (homosexuality is wrong but they allow it so long as it is never viewed as acceptable moral behavior or granted any legislative legitimization), there is little reason to believe that they wouldn't seek to roll back the rights already granted as well as impose prohibitions (reinstating sodomy laws).

I personally believe that if these zealots were to ever attain the power they seek, they would soon begin to impose punitive measures...arguing that a Christian nation cannot succeed if it fails to uphold and enforce the accepted ideology. Further, they would feel justified in carrying out such actions and dissent would be stifled as little more than a blatant display of blasphemy.

In the end, those who look at the Taliban and Sharia Law as the embodiment of theocratic tyranny would be well served to consider the similarities found in all those who promote an intransigent ideology. Truth be told, there is a fine line between the concept of "live and let live" and its incorrigible opposite, "live this way or die".

Tagged as: Barack Obama, Bible, Carbon Dating, Christian, Church & State, Courts, Creationism, Dave Daubenmire, Evangelical, Evolution, Focus On The Family, Intelligent Design, James Dobson, John Freshwater, Judiciary, LGBT, Morality, Mount Vernon Middle School, Pass The Salt, Religion, Same-Sex Marriage, Theocracy, Tom Minnery, U.S. Constitution, Values

Daniel DiRito | June 26, 2008 | 10:47 AM | link | Comments (2)
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June 25, 2008

"King Karl" Holds Court...Calls Obama Arrogant genre: Polispeak

There's something amusing about Karl Rove appearing on Fox News with Bill O'Reilly to tell viewers that Barack Obama is arrogant. Perhaps I'm wrong, but this seems like a classic example of projection on the part of one of the most arrogant politicos in the business. As I listened to the examples Rove offered, it became even more apparent that this was little more than vintage bloviating on the part of Karl Rove.

When I hear Karl Rove accusing Barack Obama of arrogance (video below), I can't help but think back to the 2006 election and his famous eleventh hour prediction...the one where he informed the press that he had "THE math" and all they had was access to the silly polls that the public gets to see.

From NPR:

[Mr. Rove's first response below is responding to a question about public polls and analysis predicting a Republican loss in November.]

KARL ROVE: I see several things; first, unlike the general public, I'm allowed to see the polls on the individual races and after all this does come down to individual contests between individual candidates. Second of all, I see the individual spending reports and contribution reports. For example at the end of August in 30 of the most competitive races in the country, the house races, the Republicans had 33 million cash on hand and Democrats had just over 14 million.

SIEGEL: We are in the home stretch though and many would consider you on the optimistic end of realism about...

ROVE: Not that you would exhibit a bias, you just making a comment.

SIEGEL: I'm looking at all the same polls that you are looking at.

ROVE: No, you are not. I'm looking at 68 polls a week for candidates for the US House and US Senate, and Governor and you may be looking at 4-5 public polls a week that talk attitudes nationally.

SIEGEL: I don't want to have you to call races...

ROVE: I'm looking at all of these Robert and adding them up. I add up to a Republican Senate and Republican House. You may end up with a different math but you are entitled to your math and I'm entitled to THE math.

SIEGEL: I don't know if we're entitled to a different math but your...

ROVE: I said THE math.

Sorry to break the bad news to ya, Karl...but the GOP lost the Senate and the House in 2006, you lost your job as Bush's brain, and it turned out that your brand of scorched earth politics may have set in motion the collapse of the GOP coalition. That seems like a rather drastic fall from your perch as "the architect". As a matter of fact, it may be fair to suggest that your house of cards simply couldn't withstand the pressure being created by your endless blow-hard bravado.

UPDATE:

Maureen Dowd has more on Karl Rove's remarks here:

More Phony Myths

Tagged as: 2006 Election, 2008 Election, Barack Obama, Bill O'Reilly, George Bush, GOP, Karl Rove

Daniel DiRito | June 25, 2008 | 2:12 PM | link | Comments (0)
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The John McCain LGBT Pride Message...Missing In Action genre: Gaylingual & Polispeak

There are those in the LGBT community that have questioned Barack Obama's commitment to the enactment of full equality...including the right to marry. Generally speaking, Obama supports the bulk of legislation favored by the LGBT community though the Illinois Senator has voiced his preference for civil unions rather than marriage. That particular position has understandably garnered Obama a fair amount of criticism.

While it's reasonable to push Senator Obama to support same-sex marriage, LGBT voters would be unwise to conclude that John McCain is a reasonable alternative. The following video provides an overview of the Arizona Senator's position on the issues most important to the LGBT community. McCain is clearly opposed to those measures that would do the most to insure LGBT equality and that puts him in line with George Bush. He's simply not an acceptable choice.

Tagged as: 2008 Election, Adoption, Barack Obama, ENDA, Gay, John McCain, LGBT, Same-Sex Marriage

Daniel DiRito | June 25, 2008 | 12:13 PM | link | Comments (0)
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June 24, 2008

Focus On The Family Attacks Obama's 2006 Renewal Speech genre: Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak

Anyone seeking to understand the essential fundamentals underlying the 2008 election would be well served to review the following videos. The first five comprise a speech given by Senator Barack Obama in 2006 to the liberal Christian group, Call To Renewal.

The final video is the first of three videos being released by Focus On The Family in response to the Obama speech. Today, in addition to the videos, James Dobson, the head of FOF, used his radio address to accuse Obama of distorting the Bible. I will update this posting to include the final two videos once they have been posted on the FOF site.

Generally speaking, Obama offers a reasoned explanation of the problems we face when religious ideology becomes the source of intransigent sectarian strife. Obama's speech is simply a thoughtful recognition of the shortcomings that can accompany the promotion of any one particular religious ideology...especially when done at the detriment of the beliefs held by other segments of society...be they religious or not.

Senator Obama's remarks accurately demonstrate an awareness of the pitfalls that resulted from George Bush's inclination to broadly impose his narrow evangelical beliefs...and his effort to rally like minded members of the electorate to assist him in that endeavor. At the same time, Senator Obama's remarks are clearly not an attempt to alter the beliefs of any particular party.

His observations simply explain the impracticality of imposing a narrowly defined religious agenda...as well as illustrate our government's constitutional imperative to abstain from siding with any particular religious ideology. Hence Obama concludes that the role of government is to also refrain from rejecting any particular religious beliefs and therefore inadvertently or intentionally preventing some individuals from practicing their chosen beliefs.

Perhaps this push back from Focus on the Family and other religious organizations is a realization that voters may be ready to restore a level of separation of church and state that hasn't been observed since the GOP leadership sought a political alliance premised upon a promise to enact a narrow set of religious principles. What voters may be concluding is exactly what Senator Obama, in 2006, warned might happen should sectarian strife dictate, dominate, or destroy the basic construct of representative government.

Simply put, I believe that Dobson and his ilk don't like the fact that voters may view Senator Obama as a champion for that basic concept...a concept that is again mindful of the need for the preservation of religious freedom but also the promise of freedom from religious persecution.

In other words, government grants members of the electorate the leeway to live according to their chosen beliefs while voters accept that the role of our elected officials must also include championing minority beliefs in accordance with their constitutional directives. That level of impartiality is simply not consistent with the goals of groups like Focus on the Family and politicians who fail to embrace their specific agenda become the object of this type of ill-conceived ire.

In the end, I believe that a majority of voters are anxious to restore the equitable government neutrality that made this country so appealing and so inviting. Doing so is the only way to insure that all of us will continue to have the freedom to hold the beliefs we cherish.

Barack Obama - 2006 Call To Renewal Speech (Part One)

Barack Obama - 2006 Call To Renewal Speech (Part Two)

Barack Obama - 2006 Call To Renewal Speech (Part Three)

Barack Obama - 2006 Call To Renewal Speech (Part Four)

Barack Obama - 2006 Call To Renewal Speech (Part Five)

Focus On The Family's Criticism Of The Speech (Part One)

UPDATE: Focus On The Family Criticism Of The Speech (Part Two)

UPDATE II: Focus On The Family Criticism Of The Speech (Part Three)

Tagged as: 2008 Election, Barack Obama, Equality, Focus On The Family, Freedom, Government, James Dobson, Religion

Daniel DiRito | June 24, 2008 | 8:35 PM | link | Comments (1)
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June 19, 2008

Has Mo Rocca Found The Michelle Obama "Whitey" Tape? genre: Polispeak & Tongue-In-Cheek & Video-Philes

What can I say? Just when I thought Mo Rocca had lost his comic mojo, he posts this "Do Not Drink Coffee While Watching" video. This is one of Mo Rocca's best offerings on the underbelly of the 2008 election.

If you're not familiar with brouhaha over the alleged Michelle Obama "Whitey" tape, the short story is that there's been a concerted effort on the internet suggesting that there is a video of Michelle Obama repeatedly using the derisive term. Of course, the primary source of this accusation has admitted that he's never actually seen the tape.

I don't know if a real tape will ever surface but this tongue-in-cheek version is priceless...and it also serves to question the veracity of those who continue to feed the rumor despite a complete lack of evidence.

Tagged as: 2008 Election, Barack Obama, Humor, Michelle Obama, Mo Rocca, Whitey

Daniel DiRito | June 19, 2008 | 10:49 AM | link | Comments (0)
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June 18, 2008

Pastor Hagee Misrepresents "Thoroughly Modern Women" genre: Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak & Uncivil Unions

If you listen to Pastor John Hagee, modern women are little more than sinful secular caricatures of all he would deem wrong with the fictional women portrayed on Sex & The City. In fact, he sets out to portray independent women (feminists) as little more than hedonistic sluts who engage in the excesses of self-satisfaction. Yes, according to Hagee, nothing about modernity...as it applies to women...is sufficient or redeeming in the eyes of the obtuse pastor.

Now I'm going to go out on a limb and attempt to identify the hypocrisy that emanates from men like Hagee...especially when they set out to proclaim one political candidate superior to another...while never comparing and contrasting the reality of the lives of the candidates with the rhetoric they espouse.

First, an important caveat. I don't actually think the personal lives of candidates and their families are all that relevant to their ability to execute the duties of the positions they seek. However, when one side of the political spectrum decides to make morality and values the prevailing determinant for their followers, the other side must respond to the pointed attacks launched to impeach the character of their candidates...or their family members.

Here's the point. Many within the GOP want to portray Michelle Obama as a "modern woman". They did the same with Hillary Clinton for years. While these current assailants refrain from defining Michelle Obama by the specific attributes mentioned by Hagee in the video below, they associate her with the notion of modernity...and therefore they endeavor to infer that her values are aligned with the specious caricature described by Hagee. Hence, the sympathetic voter is never asked to take the time to complete a thoughtful examination of Michelle Obama's values and her redeeming attributes. In fact, those voters who are predisposed to accepting Hagee's world view are asked to do little more than connect Michelle Obama with modernity...and therefore the derisive definition provided.

At the same time, they hold up their own candidates and their families as examples of all that is decent and moral...predicated upon the one-dimensional assumption that their candidate will cast votes that support the agenda of the religious right and men like Hagee. Here's the problem...they do so while ignoring any of the questionable values that their candidate, and/or the family of their candidate, may have demonstrated over the course of their lives.

In other words, the morality of their candidate is only measured on the basis of the votes that candidate will promise to cast. This means that men like Hagee (and the followers they lead) are fully content to disregard the personal history and morality of their chosen candidate (while highlighting that of the opposition) if the result is political gain.

I find this strategy to be an abrogation of reality that is not only unacceptable...it is also an act of incorrigible deception. Even worse, it is an insult to the morality that is worn like a badge by men of John Hagee's ilk. You may be thinking that this is the point at which I plan to pivot to assail the values and morality of John and Cindy McCain. It isn't and I won't. It isn't necessary since anyone who wants to pursue such comparisons, without prejudice, can find the relevant documentation in the public record.

You see, choosing our next president shouldn't be limited to a measurement of the values of Barack Obama or John McCain...or their wives. Unfortunately, there are those, like Hagee, who would seek to misconstrue the values of others for political gain and power...under the guise of religious righteousness. Truth be told, Michelle Obama's modernity should not be an indictment of her values any more than Cindy McCain's unfortunate battle with drug addiction should overwhelm the good deeds she's performed.

Those who hide behind the rhetoric of religion to pursue power are a threat to the values we hold because their manipulations are designed to misconstrue morality. In doing so, good people frequently become unsuspecting casualties. As we approach the November election, the task of all Americans is to sift through the smoke.

When men like John Hagee tell us that modernity offends motherhood, our obligation, as people who espouse a commitment to the family, is to look to those mothers who have embraced modernity (women like Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton) and conduct an honest examination...absent the hyperbole of those who seek to promote patriarchy at the expense of progress.

In the end, humanity will only achieve it's potential when it refuses to stifle the vast potential that resides in all of us...regardless of gender or any other label that is attached as a means of limitation. If Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama represent modernity, then John Hagee and those who entertain his ideology of oppression are the unacceptable antithesis. I'm hopeful that 2008 will be the year that voters choose to turn this cathartic corner.

Tagged as: Cindy McCain, Feminism, God, Hillary Clinton, John Hagee, Michelle Obama, Misogyny, Modernity, Religion, Secularism, Sexism, Values, Women, Women's Rights

Daniel DiRito | June 18, 2008 | 12:57 PM | link | Comments (0)
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June 17, 2008

Focus On The Family Launches Second Attack On Obama genre: Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak

It looks like the folks at Focus On The Family have decided to be an active participant in the GOP effort to cast Barack Obama as an unacceptable presidential candidate. The following video is the second salvo of their participation in partisan political campaigning. The first assault can be found here.

The focus of this episode of Turn Signal is on the Defense of Marriage Act, which is the federal proviso that protects the states and the federal government from having to recognize same-sex marriages. This dovetails into the issue of same-sex marriage and the religious right's opposition to any codified recognition of gay rights.

All too often the rhetoric of the religious right is centered on marriage and the protection of the family, but experience shows us that they oppose any legislation that grants recognition or rights to gays...even though they like to assert that they have no ill-will towards gays.

An example may be helpful. When they oppose employment non-discrimination legislation (ENDA), they contend that business owners shouldn't be forced to hire individuals who live lives that are in conflict with their religious beliefs. In other words, they think they should be allowed to discriminate.

Take a look at some of the other propaganda I found on the same site.

As same-sex couples line up to get "married" in California today, religious groups across the nation are preparing for more of their rights to be trampled.

"What most trusting Americans fail to grasp is the correlation between the advancement of the homosexual agenda and the gradual erosion of our religious liberty," said Bruce Hausknecht, judicial analyst for Focus on the Family Action.

"California's judicially imposed social experiment in marriage has hastened the demise of religious freedom across the U.S."

Bottom line...they want to assert that their rights are being violated when they aren't allowed to violate the rights of others. I'm sure you'll understand it when I tell you that I won't be shedding any tears for those who claim it's unjust to put an end to the injustice they seek to impose.

Tagged as: Barack Obama, California, DOMA, ENDA, Focus On The Family, GOP, James Dobson, LGBT, Religion, Same-Sex Marriage, Tax Exempt, Turn Signal

Daniel DiRito | June 17, 2008 | 2:11 PM | link | Comments (0)
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June 16, 2008

Poll: Bush Near Bottom - Tough Guy Image Hurt U.S. Reputation genre: Polispeak

If one reads and reviews enough polls, one can begin to piece together an understanding of the factors that determine the public's perceptions of the politicians who are the focus of these surveys. A new poll designed to measure the confidence in a number of world leaders and the impact of the policies they promote suggests the proletariat has a rather dismal view of the powerful players who currently occupy the global stage.

When looking specifically at the George Bush presidency and his management of the measurable surge in sympathy for America post 9/11, the extent of the subsequent free fall is not only startling; it is a scathing commentary on the presidents propensity to squander good will by employing a mind set one might associate with the lack of diplomacy that characterized America's Wild West.

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From Newsweek:

As President George W. Bush limps through his lame-duck year, it won't surprise you to read that he's hugely unpopular. Now a new poll taken in 20 countries by WorldPublicOpinion.org and released exclusively to NEWSWEEK confirms the world's low opinion of the president--but adds a twist. No other major world leader enjoys significantly greater trust abroad. In a sense, they're all Bushes now.

Just as striking are the leaders who do best, albeit by a slim margin: Vladimir Putin, Gordon Brown and Hu Jintao. That's one democrat and two dictators. In other words, the bosses of what are often cast as the biggest, baddest authoritarian states--China and Russia--are among the planet's most trusted officials. That should seriously alarm the leaders of the West, and particularly President Bush and Condoleezza Rice, his secretary of State, who have made the export of democracy a centerpiece of U.S. foreign policy.

While it might be exaggerating to call this the year of the autocrats, the fact is that the poll found most of the world now seems to have more confidence in undemocratic than democratic leaders. The war of ideas may not be over, and a close reading of the poll suggests there's still room to turn things around. But at this point, the West clearly isn't winning the battle for influence--and freedom, to borrow Bush's phrase, is not reigning.

On average, only 23 percent of foreign respondents express "a lot of " or "some" confidence in Bush, and only Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad does worse (at 22).

What explains this universal vote of no confidence? The short answer is a serious bout of global pessimism: most people polled seem very unhappy about the state of the world.

What's harder to grasp is why Hu and Putin did relatively well--better than any democrat but Brown--in other countries. Kull, the director of WorldPublicOpinion.org, argues that the poll shouldn't be read as reflecting a global endorsement of the authoritarians; though they did score slightly better than Bush and Sarkozy, they did so by narrow margins (less than 10 percentage points).

Larry Diamond of Stanford's Hoover Institution, a foremost democracy expert, suggests another, more worrisome reason for Putin's popularity. Writing recently in Foreign Affairs, he argued that the wave of liberation that followed the end of the cold war has stalled, leading to a "democratic recession".

Add in the damage that the Iraq War has done to U.S.-style democracy promotion, and the result is a global slide in the public's faith in democracy as a system--and in democratic leaders as individuals. More and more voters are embracing tough officials (like Putin or Venezuela's Hugo Chávez) at home and abroad. And while majorities worldwide still think democracy is the best form of government, that support is also dropping.

Even if one felt justified to argue that George Bush is misunderstood around the world (which I wouldn't argue), one cannot deny the damage caused by the mishandling of the war in Iraq, the revelations of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, the attempts to nuance the definition of torture, and the decision to skirt the directives of the Geneva Convention. Truth be told, each of these decisions served to undermine the world's perceptions of the principles that underlie democracy. The fact that the Bush administration carried out these directives with a cavalier cockiness only exacerbated the suspicions and the skepticism.

While I suspect that many of the respondents have no great love for the likes of Putin and Chavez, they may well feel that the devil they know is less threatening than the leader who masquerades as the divinely inspired decider they've come to mistrust. In fact, George Bush's preoccupation with the politics of polarization likely forced a number of respondents to make judgments about him and his countrymen that would have previously been afforded the benefit of the doubt. Take a look at the analysis of a prior poll as well as that of the newly released data.

From Newsweek:

A survey released last week by the Pew Global Attitudes Project found that in 21 countries, including traditional U.S. allies, most populations now have overwhelmingly negative views of America. Meanwhile, as Charles Kupchan of the Council on Foreign Relations puts it, Russia's prime minister has turned himself into an appealing icon for all those who object to the perceived arrogance of Washington and its allies.

No one generates confidence from the world. If an American steps in and says, 'I'm going to play by the old rules; here's an agenda for how we can work together,' that will be attractive everywhere." Nothing's guaranteed, of course, and digging the United States out its hole won't be easy. But the right person with the right message--say, a certain young senator who preaches a gospel of hope, or his colleague from Arizona, who's promised to take on "restore the world's faith" in the United States and its principles by working closely with U.S. allies--may find a surprisingly attentive audience.

Truth be told, the poll simply reinforces the view of an overwhelming majority of Americans (eighty two percent) that George Bush's America has is on a decidedly wrong track. The data also signals a need for change should the United States hope to maintain its role as a trusted world leader.

The choice is simple. We will once again lead the world when we recommit ourselves to living our democratic principles and refusing to accept the misguided belief that their suspension can serve to preserve and protect them. In the end, the exportation of democracy cannot be achieved by efforts to impose it. Democracy is imported when those who lack it can look to the example of those nations that best represent it.

George Bush's tough guy image may have bolstered his own ego, but it has damaged the standing of America. The fact that John McCain plans to continue with more of the same is a risk America can ill-afford. While the horrible loss of life on 9/11 cannot be replaced, voters have the ability to restore the confidence the world has willingly bestowed upon this great nation for decades. A John McCain victory in November would be another in a long string of self-defeating decisions. We mustn't go there.

Tagged as: Autocracy, Cowboy Diplomacy, Democracy, George W. Bush, Hugo Chavez, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Vladimir Putin, World Politics

Daniel DiRito | June 16, 2008 | 5:56 PM | link | Comments (0)
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John McCain Revealed: The Unborn, Gay Marriage, & Health Care genre: Gaylingual & Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak & Uncivil Unions

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John McCain would like independents, moderates, Reagan Democrats, and Hillary Clinton supporters to think of him as a maverick who doesn't march in lockstep with George Bush and his right wing ideology. The problem is that John McCain is traveling the country espousing the very principles that define the evangelical agenda George Bush touted throughout his presidency.

McCain's recent comments to a gathering of Catholics offers insight into what voters could expect from a McCain presidency.

From Catholic Exchange:

The first issue addressed by McCain was abortion. He said that the "noblest words ever written" were "the inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." McCain believes that those words "apply to the unborn." He reminded the Philadelphia Catholics of his pro-life voting record, adding that he would "maintain that commitment" if elected president.

McCain also brought up the subject of defending marriage, saying that some in the room may differ with his view that this decision should be taken up first in the states. "But," he added, "if some federal judge rules that all the states must recognize the [gay] marriages in Massachusetts, I would be in favor of pursuing a Constitutional amendment."

When asked about the possibility of universal healthcare, McCain rejected the idea completely. "The government can't run the healthcare systems it already has; take a look at the Bureau of Indian Affairs." He argued that government-run health systems around the world have been "colossal failures," and inevitably become two-tiered systems, "one for the rich and one for the poor."

It's well known that McCain is aligned with George Bush in supporting the war in Iraq and continuing the presence of large numbers of American troops. However, voter perceptions about his positions on social issues could benefit from a review of the above statements.

Lest voters fool themselves, it's clear that a McCain presidency would likely embrace the overturning of Roe v. Wade and seek to eliminate a woman's right to choose. Depending upon the real meaning of McCain's comment, one could easily see his administration working to define the moment of conception as the point at which an individual is granted legal standing...leaving women to simply serve as involuntary and unwitting vessels for unintended pregnancies.

As to same-sex marriage, one would be reckless to assume that John McCain would refrain from invoking the need for an amendment to the Constitution to define marriage as nothing more than the union of one man and one woman. Despite his statement that states should be allowed to decide the issue, he cleverly pivots to suggest that he's opposed to the courts enforcing existing laws with regard to any current requirements to recognize marriages enacted in other states.

In other words, the only reason he hasn't yet called for a constitutional amendment is because he can assert that same-sex marriage in Massachusetts has a residency requirement. Notwithstanding, with the recent ruling of the California Supreme Court, there is little doubt that out of state couples will soon marry in one state and then return to their home state wherein they could argue in favor of availing themselves of established recognitions such as the "full faith and credit" clause of the U.S. Constitution. At that point, I would bet on McCain leading the charge for a federal amendment.

To assume that a McCain administration would resist the temptation to appease an important segment of the Republican base is foolhardy. Like George Bush before him, I would expect a McCain presidency to raise the issue each time it needs to rally the faithful.

On the issue of health care, it's clear that a McCain presidency will simply seek measures that do nothing to disrupt the flow of more money to existing and established insurance providers. Unless and until health care costs are no longer allowed to operate unchecked, the tax credits promised by John McCain will, in short order, leave the public scrambling to afford ever increasing health care costs and the rising insurance premiums that will accompany them. It should be clear by now that the free market system has simply facilitated the expanding number of uninsured Americans.

John McCain can pretend he's not an establishment politician and he can attempt to portray himself as an agent of change...but his positions, since his defeat by George Bush in 2000, simply suggest that John McCain has become a loyal soldier who gladly tows the party line.

The fact that he thinks he can sell repackaged Bush administration kool-aid to an already skeptical citizenry suggests he not only mortgaged his straight talking soul to become George Bush's successor...he's become a run-of-the-mill snake oil salesman. I don't plan to be buying anything he's selling come November.

Tagged as: Abortion, California, Catholics, George Bush, Health Care, Insurance Premiums, John McCain, LGBT, Massachusetts, Pro-Life, Right To Choose, Roe v. Wade, Same-Sex Marriage, Supreme Court, U.S. Constitution, Women's Rights

Daniel DiRito | June 16, 2008 | 2:24 PM | link | Comments (0)
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GOP Superstar Bobby Jindal: Exorcist And Creationist Buffoon? genre: Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak

Many within the GOP are touting Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal as a possible running mate for John McCain...calling him a rising superstar in the party. Unfortunately, this rising star is also in favor of teaching creationism (intelligent design) alongside of evolution.

In the following video, Jindal attempts to offer a nuanced argument in favor of including intelligent design as part of a science curriculum. Jindal suggests, "I don't want any facts or theories or explanations withheld". Apparently Jindal doesn't comprehend the significant differences between facts, theories, and explanations. Intelligent design is largely an attempt to explain the origin of our world and its inhabitants by simply assailing the gaps that exist in the huge body of evidence supporting the theory of evolution.

Perhaps we should also require schools to teach children that Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny are reasonable explanations for the gifts they receive on Christmas and Easter...and that mom and dad could actually be lying when they admit that they played those roles.

The prevailing problem with those who promote intelligent design is their desire to include it in a science course. While many can accept that it is an alternate belief as to the origin of our existence, they also realize that it should be taught in a religious studies or sociology course; not on a par with evolution in a science class. There's simply a lack of evidence to support it as a tested or testable scientific hypothesis.

Look, I'm happy to see the GOP promoting the superstar status of Republicans like Jindal. I think John McCain should include more of them in his candidacy. In fact, why not announce some of the other superstar individuals McCain plans to appoint to his cabinet...individuals who want to include other areas of interest in the science we elect to teach our children. Why stop at creationism?

I think McCain's cabinet ought to include those with expertise in exorcism, tarot card reading, and Ouija Board interpretations, or any number of other "reputable" fields of study. On second thought, I forgot that Jindal already has the exorcism bonafides covered...but not to worry...maybe John McCain can still promise to appoint a witch doctor as his Surgeon General.

Tagged as: Bobby Jindal, Creationism, Evolution, Exorcism, GOP, Intelligent Design, John McCain, Louisiana, Religion, Science, Scientific Method

Daniel DiRito | June 16, 2008 | 8:41 AM | link | Comments (0)
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June 11, 2008

Fox News: Leading The Obama Smear Campaign? genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation & Video-Philes

Fox News likes to pretend that their reporting is fair and balanced. Unfortunately, the more they fear that the Democrats might defeat their beloved GOP, the more they exhibit their bias and serve as a shill for the party.

The degree to which their bias is evident took an exponential leap since Barack Obama became the presumptive Democratic candidate. In fact, it didn't take E.D. Hill long to infer that the "pound" (fist bump) Barack and Michelle exchanged could be interpreted as a "terrorist fist jab" (see the video clip below). Now I don't know about anyone else, but I knew what Barack and Michelle were doing the instant I saw it...and I am still trying to figure out exactly what a "terrorist fist jab" looks like.

Granted, had Barack and Michelle simultaneously raised and shook semi-automatic rifles in the air, I would have connected that with terrorists...but the gesture I witnessed couldn't be remotely associated with "extremist" body language.

As if that weren't enough hyperbole, Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly invited Michelle Malkin, a pillar of partisanship, to join her in a discussion on the efforts of a number of conservatives to make Michelle Obama an issue in the upcoming election. The Fox News modus operandi is to amplify any item they can find to raise doubt about those they oppose.

In this segment, Kelly opens the piece with a pointed and misleading segue when she states, "Well Michelle Obama is back in the news". In my opinion, the statement is an effort to infer that this report is a follow up to, or an extension of, the prior negative publicity on the Senator's wife. The truth of the matter is that Michelle Obama had neither said or done anything to draw the attention of the media.

In fact, Kelly proceeds to reference an anti-Obama documentary (that I doubt most voters have ever heard of) that is being compiled by a conservative group...that will "reportedly include" the clip of Michelle Obama commenting that she is, for the first time in her adult life, proud of America. So what we have is a piece designed to allow Fox News to reexamine any and all of the negative publicity that Michelle Obama has garnered.

Ah, but it gets even better. Throughout the segment, Fox News inserts taglines into its blue banner that are nothing short of inflammatory and one is, in my estimation, flat out racist. This use of taglines is a Fox strategy that happens all the time...and when challenged, it is defended as nothing more than the network repeating the statements made by others that are, of course, relevant to the discussion (according to Fox). Yes, they maintain plausible deniability...but I doubt an objective media/journalism critic would view the tactic as little more than purposeful and pungent propaganda catapulting.

With that said, I took the time to compile four still shots from the video to highlight the Fox New strategy (see the graphic below). The first derogatory tagline states, "Outraged Liberals: Stop Picking On Obama's Baby Mama!" Again, pardon my cynicism, but there's nothing accidental or uncertain about the insinuation delivered by this tag. The following four entries are the definitions one will find at Urban Dictionary for the term "baby mama"...and none of them are remotely complementary.

In fact, the racial overtones are palpable and it's clear they are intended to remind the viewer that the Obama's are African Americans...and thus connectable with all of the negative cultural stereotypes that might lead a voter to question the prudence of placing them in the White House.

1. baby mama

The mother of your child(ren), whom you did not marry and with whom you are not currently involved.

Oh her? She ain't nothing to me now, girl, she just my baby mama. So, can I get your number?

2. baby mama

A term used to define an unmarried young woman (but can be a woman of any age) who has had a child. As mentioned before in another definition, most of the time it is used for when it was simply a sexual relationship, compared to ex-wife or girlfriend. Usually this has a negative connotation, a lot of baby mamas are seen as desperate, gold digging, emotionally starved, shady women who had a baby out of spite or to keep a man. Sometimes they may act like this because of missed child support payments, unfulfilled promises by the father, or convenient sex by the father. Either or both may exist in any situation.

Joe didn't have any relationship with that chick, she was the "other woman" who ended up being his baby mama.

3. baby mama

single mother of a child

4. baby mama

Basically a woman you had a child or children with who you didnt marry and or no longer involved with. Usually associated with hoodrats and trailer park bitches.

The second tagline states, "Malkin Calls Michelle Obama's Bitter Half", which I suspect is again a reference to the Michelle Obama comment noted above. I believe it is also intended to invoke the rumored video that has been discussed on the internet for the better part of the last two weeks...a video that has curiously never been released for public viewing. As the story goes, according to a friend of a friend who saw the video, Michelle Obama is on tape railing against the the handling of a number of issues in America...all delivered with a notably racial bent. During the exchange, Kelly and Malkin discuss the possibility of other "unsubstantiated" internet rumors.

The other two stills I've included in the graphic were photos of Michelle Obama that were overlaid during the dialogue. While relatively innocuous, they represent images of Obama that I've never seen and that depict her differently than what one would expect to see if one had been watching the primaries. Whether there is any purpose in Fox News using two pictures in which she has a distinctly different hairstyle is open to debate.

Not long ago, "I wrote a similar piece called "The River Rafting Of Barack Obama", a title intended to invoke the swiftboating of John Kerry":http://www.thoughttheater.com/2008/03/the_river_rafting_of_barack_obama.php. At the time, the issue was Reverend Wright and a video that had appeared on YouTube designed to connect Senator Obama with the imagery of "the militant black agenda". In that posting, I speculated that backroom operatives in the GOP would do their best to capitalize on any such incidents. I was right as to intention...but little did I know that the messenger would be none other than Fox News. What a shameful development.

Still Shots From The Fox News Video

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Fox News Video: Malkin On Michelle Obama

Fox News' E.D. Hill On The Obama "Terrorist Fist Jab"

Tagged as: 2008 Election, Baby Mama, Barack Obama, E.D. Hill, Fox News, GOP, Megyn Kelly, Michelle Malkin, Michelle Obama, Pound, Racism, Reverend Wright, Swiftboating

Daniel DiRito | June 11, 2008 | 9:23 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Innocence Lost: The Path From Purity To Pragmatism genre: Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak & Uncivil Unions

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Many Americans like to look at Europe as an example of the moral decay we can expect if we continue to alter our values and ignore our long standing Christian principles. Implicit in this belief, amongst many on the religious right, is the presumption that one's morality is directly correlated with one's sexuality...and that goes beyond any consideration of one's orientation. It also includes a belief that sexual activity is only acceptable under the umbrella of a marriage. That means that sex before marriage is unacceptable and it also infers that both parties are expected to be virgins.

Along with these sexual mores and our disdain for Europe is a growing belief that Islam is an unacceptable religion...or at the very least a religion that will not lead to salvation and therefore it cannot lead to one's admittance into heaven. Fortunately, life often provides the contrasts and comparisons necessary to illuminate the absurdity and/or hypocrisy of our beliefs...and our predisposition to judge others while ignoring the need for self-examination.

An article in The New York Times provides the backdrop for some measure of reflection...and an illumination of the slippery slope that moral certainty often becomes. The prevalence of Islamic immigrants in Europe has served to pit a strict religious ideology against a far more secular society...and that has led to some rather convoluted interpretations of propriety.

It seems that a number of the Islamic women (note that we don't focus on the Islamic men) who have partaken in the sexual freedoms afforded by European culture now find themselves in the unenviable position of being unacceptable marriage partners. Islamic teaching require that a bride be a virgin, and should that not be the case, she can be rejected and the marriage can be nullified. In extreme cases, family members (on both sides) feel justified in committing an honor killing.

To combat the stigmatization that results from losing their virginity...and to restore their moral standing...a number of Islamic women are now seeking out the services of the medical profession to "reconstruct" their lost virginity and allow them to comply with the prescribed marital expectation.

From The New York Times:

Gynecologists say that in the past few years, more Muslim women are seeking certificates of virginity to provide proof to others. That in turn has created a demand among cosmetic surgeons for hymen replacements, which, if done properly, they say, will not be detected and will produce tell-tale vaginal bleeding on the wedding night. The service is widely advertised on the Internet; medical tourism packages are available to countries like Tunisia where it is less expensive.

"If you're a Muslim woman growing up in more open societies in Europe, you can easily end up having sex before marriage," said Dr. Hicham Mouallem, who is based in London and performs the operation. "So if you're looking to marry a Muslim and don't want to have problems, you'll try to recapture your virginity."

The issue has been particularly charged in France, where a renewed and fierce debate has occurred about a prejudice that was supposed to have been buried with the country's sexual revolution 40 years ago: the importance of a woman's virginity.

The furor followed the revelation two weeks ago that a court in Lille, in northern France, had annulled the 2006 marriage of two French Muslims because the groom found his bride was not the virgin she had claimed to be.

The domestic drama has gripped France. The groom, an unidentified engineer in his 30s, left the nuptial bed and announced to the still partying wedding guests that his bride had lied. She was delivered that night to her parents' doorstep.

The next day, he approached a lawyer about annulling the marriage. The bride, then a nursing student in her 20s, confessed and agreed to an annulment.

The court ruling did not mention religion. Rather, it cited breach of contract, concluding that the engineer had married her after "she was presented to him as single and chaste." In secular, republican France, the case touches on several delicate subjects: the intrusion of religion into daily life; the grounds for dissolution of a marriage; and the equality of the sexes.

Some feminists, lawyers and doctors warned that the court's acceptance of the centrality of virginity in marriage would encourage more Frenchwomen from Arab and African Muslim backgrounds to have their hymens restored. But there is much debate about whether the procedure is an act of liberation or repression.

Those who perform the procedure say they are empowering patients by giving them a viable future and preventing them from being abused -- or even killed -- by their fathers or brothers.

Now I realize that many on the religious right will simply condemn the loss of virginity as well as its restoration...and I believe I understand how they would come to that conclusion. Regardless, I don't believe any of us can ignore the lessons we can learn from looking at this clash of religious ideology with secular society.

The willingness to characterize Islam as an extremist belief system seems to disregard the many similarities it shares with evangelical Christianity. If one were to strip away the arguments over the source of each groups beliefs (Jesus v. Muhammad; the Bible v. the Koran) and looked exclusively at the values both groups espouse as well as their desires to impose them upon their fellow citizens, one begins to see that evangelical Christianity and Islamism aren't all that different.

The irony is revealed in the animosities that exist. Evangelicals view secularism and Islam as a threat to their beliefs...while Islamists view secularism and the tenets of Judeo-Christianity as the enemy. On the other hand, the secularists look at Islam and Christianity and struggle to ascertain the relevant distinctions while hoping that all can exist under the umbrella of a governance that remains separate from religion and religious beliefs.

Reason and rationality tell us that secularism is relatively accommodating...happy to allow citizens to embrace the belief systems they choose while insisting that they refrain from imploring the government to impose one belief at the detriment of another. Hence secularism embraces freedom while allowing those who are religiously inclined to live the ideological inclinations they elect.

Unfortunately, with the growing influx of immigrants, secular societies are constantly barraged by the demands of the ideologues who now reside within them...couched in the certainty of their faith absent any real respect for the faith of others or those who have no faith at all...all premised upon the writings of mortals who allegedly intuited the one true deity's directives.

That brings us back to an understanding of morality. Yes, evangelicals like to assail the French and the Islamists like to attack the infidels...but aside from dogma...just what is the basis of their morality? Can it be reduced to the existence of a woman's hymen? Can it be surgically restored? And where's the imperative to know about the places a man's penis may have traveled prior to marriage? Is morality nothing more than a misogynistic construct such that the purity of a woman is the only relevant consideration? We know that numerous women die in the interest of morality, but I want to know how many men are put to death for disregarding the same moral imperatives?

In many ways, hasn't morality become a contrivance or a club used to make discriminations...one that serves to elevate the standing of some members of society and denigrating that of others (gender and other considerations)...all the while endeavoring to impose the beliefs of one group upon all others? How is it that religiously derived morality is the least accepting of other iterations of morality despite its inability to rationally justify its assumed superiority?

In the larger picture, why is it that the one group that affords tolerance...the secularists...are the object of scorn and ridicule from people of all faiths? In truth, it is the secularists who are willing to admit the reality of this existence...that people will always adopt conflicting beliefs...and government's role should be accommodating. In the end, the secularist assumes that the only achievable role government can play is to allow for difference while rejecting and preventing the imposition of any singular or narrow belief system.

We Americans have a tendency to forget that our history is in its infancy when juxtaposed with that of Europe. No doubt the secular forms of governance that exist in Europe result from a recognition that the ideological differences (especially those derived from absolute religious doctrine) will never be resolved to the satisfaction of the purists. The evidence supporting this is found in the centuries of conflict, crusades, and death in the name of a deity that dominated the history of Europe.

Rather than ridicule Europe for achieving some measure of peaceful and cohesive stasis, perhaps evangelicals and Islamists could find the wherewithal to realize that the best they can hope for is the right to believe as they choose absent the constant fear that those very beliefs may facilitate their extermination. It has the added benefit of recognizing the inherent flaws of the human condition. That seems like a rather evolved morality to me. If the cost is nothing more than the loss of purity, sign me up.

Tagged as: Bible, Europe, Evangelical, France, God, History, Honor Killing, Innocence, Islam, Judeo-Christian, Koran, Misogyny, Morality, Muslim, Purity, Religion, Secularism, Sexuality, Tolerance, Values, Virginity

Daniel DiRito | June 11, 2008 | 11:11 AM | link | Comments (0)
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June 10, 2008

Reasons To Vote Republican? Yea, Right! genre: Polispeak & Video-Philes

If you have any doubts about voting Democratic this November, you might want to watch this video. Instead of telling you why to vote for the Democrats, this video lists a number of reasons why a person might want to vote for the Republicans. The purpose, of course, is to highlight the unacceptable positions held by many in the Republican Party.

It also serves to remind us what we could expect from the GOP if we chose to cast a protest vote for John McCain rather than support the Democratic nominee.

Tagged as: 2008 Election, GOP, Republican, Sarcasm, Satire

Daniel DiRito | June 10, 2008 | 11:08 PM | link | Comments (0)
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June 10, 2008

The Real John McCain: A Visit To The McCain Women's Clinic genre: Little Red Ribbon-Hood & Polispeak

If you think John McCain is a moderate and a pragmatist, you may not realize the degree to which his voting record tells us just the opposite. When it's time to vote, John McCain has voted with George Bush...

Tagged as: Abortion, Abstinence, Brave New Films, Choice, Contraception, George Bush, John McCain, Judicial Appointments, Religion, RIght Wing, Roe v. Wade, Sex, Sex Education, Supreme Court, Women's Issues

Daniel DiRito | June 10, 2008 | 9:40 PM | link | Comments (1)
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June 9, 2008

700 Club: Blacks Who Vote Democratic Will Be Punished By God? genre: Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak

In the following video clip, former 700 Club co-host Ben Kinchlow tells Pat Robertson that African Americans who vote for a party that supports "evil deeds" are partaking in those deeds and God will judge them accordingly. Robertson concludes...

Tagged as: 700 Club, Abortion, Affirmative Action, Ben Kinchlow, Black Yellowdogs, Climate Change, Democratic Party, Evangelicals, Global Warming, God, GOP, Pat Robertson, Religion, Republican Party, Same-Sex Marriage, Taxation, Universal Health Care

Daniel DiRito | June 9, 2008 | 8:48 PM | link | Comments (0)
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June 6, 2008

The Bush Legacy: A Bad Case Of "ED" Or A Royal Screwing? genre: Econ-Recon & Just Jihad & Polispeak

Today, President Bush, in the following video clip, tells us that we face "turbulence in the housing market and slow growth for our overall economy". At the same time, the number of U.S. homeowners in foreclosure or delinquent on...

Tagged as: Deficit, Dick Cheney, Dow Jones, Economy, Energy Policy, Foreclosures, George W. Bush, Iraq, Oil Dependency, Outsourcing, Recession, Sub-Prime Mortgage Crisis, Tax Cuts, Unemployment

Daniel DiRito | June 6, 2008 | 1:31 PM | link | Comments (1)
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June 5, 2008

Tickets To Eternity On Sale For Three Easy Payments Of $19.99? genre: Polispeak

If you're not familiar with Newsmax, suffice it to say that it is a right leaning internet site...one that routinely spouts Republican talking points. I signed up for their email alerts a couple years ago and while I rarely...

Tagged as: Barack Obama, God Guns & Gays, GOP, Heaven, Newsmax, Rapture, Religion, Republican, WorldNetDaily

Daniel DiRito | June 5, 2008 | 3:43 PM | link | Comments (1)
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Signorile To Hillary Supporters: Don't Be Stupid genre: Gaylingual & Polispeak

I'm baffled. I want to know what Barack Obama did to so many of the Hillary supporters such that they would choose to vote for John McCain in November rather than vote for the candidate that obviously has their...

Tagged as: 2008 Election, Barack Obama, Discrimination, Equality, Gay Rights, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, LGBT, Michelangelo Signorile, Misogyny, Race, Women's Rights

Daniel DiRito | June 5, 2008 | 12:08 PM | link | Comments (2)
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June 4, 2008

Faith Vs. Science: Is The Devil In The Details? genre: Hip-Gnosis & Little Red Ribbon-Hood & Polispeak

Have you ever asked yourself what America and the world would look like if the abstinence-only advocating...intelligent design demanding...religious right had the power to enact the legislation they preferred? I don't know about you, but the thought of this...

Tagged as: Abstinence-Only, Bible, CDC, Cervical Cancer, Condoms, Contraception, Creationism, Darwin, Discovery Institute, Education, Evolution, Faith, Fossil Record, God, HPV, Intelligent Design, Religion, Science, Scientific Method, Sex, Sex Education, Sexuality, STD's, Teen Pregnancy

Daniel DiRito | June 4, 2008 | 3:21 PM | link | Comments (1)
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June 3, 2008

Democratic Party Politics: An Exercise In Speculation genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

I'd like to take a moment to offer some emerging speculation on my part. First, let me state that I've intentionally chosen to limit my participation in the animosity that has typified the Democratic primary between Clinton and Obama...

Tagged as: 2008 Election, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton, Terry McAuliffe, Vice President

Daniel DiRito | June 3, 2008 | 6:08 PM | link | Comments (3)
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June 2, 2008

Voters To McCain: Lose The Bush Cowboy Diplomacy genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak

John McCain likes to ridicule Barack Obama's belief that we should meet with the leaders of nations we consider to be our adversaries. A new Gallup poll might have John McCain rethinking this rhetoric. If the polling is accurate, it...

Tagged as: Barack Obama, Cowboy Diplomacy, Gallup Poll, George Bush, Iran, Iraq, Islam, John McCain, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Daniel DiRito | June 2, 2008 | 6:00 PM | link | Comments (0)
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