Polispeak: July 2008: Archives
If you spend most of your time under a rock, you may have missed Chris Crocker's tearful YouTube video defending Britney Spears from her detractors. If you've seen the video, you might have a grin on your face just thinking about it.
With the McCain campaigns recent release of an ad attempting to connect Senator Obama with the likes of Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, Slate had the clever idea to dub over the Crocker video and offer its own impassioned defense of Barack Obama. Kudos to Slate...this is good stuff.
You can view the original Chris Crocker video at the above link. The Slate video and the McCain ad appear below.
Tagged as: 2008 Election, Barack Obama, Chris Crocker, Humor, John McCain, Slate
Daniel DiRito | July 31, 2008 | 2:48 PM |
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What is it with these holier than thou theocrats and breaking the rules...and the law? Does an education at Pat Robertson's Regent University include a course called "Crime and the Christian - The Ten Commandments of Theocracy Building"?
Not only did the Bush administration fast track the barely thirty year old Monica Goodling to one of the most powerful positions in the Justice Department, it gave a total of 150 appointments to graduates from the same Regent University. Then again, if one seeks to remake government into a God and GOP lovin' theocracy, the more the merrier, eh?
From The Washington Post:
Former Justice Department counselor Monica M. Goodling and former chief of staff D. Kyle Sampson routinely broke the law by conducting political litmus tests on candidates for jobs as immigration judges and line prosecutors, according to an inspector general's report released today.
Goodling passed over hundreds of qualified applicants and squashed the promotions of others after deeming candidates insufficiently loyal to the Republican party, said investigators, who interviewed 85 people and received information from 300 other job seekers at Justice. Sampson developed a system to screen immigration judge candidates based on improper political considerations and routinely took recommendations from the White House Office of Political Affairs and Presidential Personnel, the report said.
Goodling regularly asked candidates for career jobs: "What is it about George W. Bush that makes you want to serve him?" the report said. One former Justice Department official told investigators she had complained that Goodling was asking interviewees for their views on abortion, according to the report.
Taking political or personal factors into account in employment decisions for career positions violates civil service laws and can run afoul of ethics rules. Investigators said today that both Goodling and Sampson had engaged in "misconduct."
The Justice Department IG's report, released this morning, cites several other workers who may have engaged in misconduct by using political or sexual orientation to screen candidates for immigration judgeships.
OK, it's time to rant. Frankly, this is exactly the kind of behavior I would expect from those who are awash in religious ideology and absolutist dogma. Cloaked in their inviolable righteousness, there is little these individuals see as off-limits in the pursuit of their messianic mission.
These zealots are the product of incessant indoctrination who have been encouraged to operate mindlessly, absent a modicum of restraint or reservation. They are taught to be soldiers of God in the likes of Jesus Camps...convinced that they should stop at nothing less than a full-scale institutional transformation to the tenets of Christian teachings.
In my opinion, those groups that are promoting this blind allegiance are the virtual equivalent of cults. They have been able to avoid that characterization because of the prevalence of so many like-minded individuals...but that does nothing to abate the countless similarities. It is extremism no matter the permutations employed to describe or defend it.
Like Pat Robertson, some of these individuals have no hesitation to apply Biblically inspired judgments to the random events of daily life...indicting those they disagree with and glorifying those who share in their shamanic superstitions. This fanciful obsession with their own self-centered ideations has become the prototype for a political pathology that must be excised and extinguished if we are to maintain any semblance of separation of church and state.
If these people want a Christian kingdom, they will need to construct it outside the gates of government. Further, if they continue to usurp established law in order to achieve their divine domain here on earth, I suspect that they will eventually find that the gates of heaven they gleefully glorify have been locked...with a sign attached that states..."Christianists need not apply, admission is reserved for those who lived a Christian life; not those who appointed themselves as Christ's earthly executioners."
Tagged as: Bible, Christianity, D. Kyle Sampson, Discrimination, George W. Bush, GOP, Justice Department, Monica Goodling, Pat Robertson, Regent University, Religion, Theocracy
Daniel DiRito | July 28, 2008 | 12:33 PM |
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John McCain, a former critic of Christian extremists, has suddenly become a seemingly born-again evangelical in conjunction with his 2008 presidential bid. Sadly, his run to the right is hardly evidence of a man who has made a career of portraying himself as a straight-talking maverick.
Those who contend that a McCain presidency won't be a third term of the policies of George Bush need look no further than the fence upon which slick John is perilously perched. If it isn't embracing the Bush administration's simplistic cowboy diplomacy, it will undoubtedly be the sleight of hand that comes with a carefully crafted claim of compassionate conservatism...couched, of course, as a commitment to the constitutional construct of states rights.
Truth be told, with regard to gay adoption, John McCain continues to sound like a man who has yet to realize that the fence he's riding has a limited number of sides. Perhaps the Senator believes he can finesse the fence...but from my vantage point, it looks more like he's a trick rider whose too clever by half. In fact, I don't think McCain has the political dexterity to simultaneously succeed at being both a pole jumper and a pole sitter. In the end, he's apt to find himself painfully impaled by the inconsistency his campaign continues to impart.
The Arizona Senator's latest attempt took place during today's appearance on This Week with George Stephanopoulos.
From ABC News:
STEPHANOPOULOS: What is your position on gay adoption? You told the "New York Times" you were against it, even in cases where the children couldn't find another home. But then your staff backtracked a bit.
What is your position?
MCCAIN: My position is, it's not the reason why I'm running for president of the United States. And I think that two parent families are best for America.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, what do you mean by that, it's not the reason you're running for president of the United States?
MCCAIN: Because I think -- well, I think that it's -- it is important for us to emphasize family values. But I think it's very important that we understand that we have other challenges, too.
I'm running for president of the United States, because I want to help with family values. And I think that family values are important, when we have two parent -- families that are of parents that are the traditional family.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But there are several hundred thousand children in the country who don't have a home. And if a gay couple wants to adopt them, what's wrong with that?
MCCAIN: I am for the values that two parent families, the traditional family represents.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So, you're against gay adoption.
MCCAIN: I am for the values and principles that two parent families represent. And I also do point out that many of these decisions are made by the states, as we all know.
And I will do everything I can to encourage adoption, to encourage all of the things that keeps families together, including educational opportunities, including a better economy, job creation.
And I'm running for president, because I want to help families in America. And one of my positions is that I believe that family values and family traditions are preserved.
UPDATE: The following is the video of the above transcript:
Huh!? So he's for the values that traditional two parent families represent? Well, I'm for the commitment to excellence the Oakland Raiders espouse...but I've also seen how the Raiders play football these days. In other words, just where does McCain think these orphans come from...the anti-family values stork?
Shouldn't our political leaders be focused upon finding stable and loving homes for these children regardless of the sexuality of the adoptive parents? Just what does the Senator know about the experiences of children reared in families consisting of two same-sex parents? Has he bothered to explore the number of children that are orphaned from same-sex couples? I suspect he'd have to reconsider his definition of family values if he took the time to step beyond his efforts to insure the votes of his biased and bigoted base.
So McCain's position on gay adoption is "to encourage all of the things that keep families together, including educational opportunities, including a better economy, job growth. Yep, that will undoubtedly encourage family values and convince straight couples to stay married, to stop cheating, to stop getting divorced, and to stop viewing children as possessions and parenthood as little more than a rite of passage.
Then again, the goal of many on the religious right has little to do with insuring happy children. They view anything that prevents the substantiation of homosexuality to be worthwhile...even if that means a few hundred thousand children have to remain the wards of the state. Shifting orphaned children from one foster home to another like chattel is beneficial if it supports the anti-gay agenda. How compassionate and how Christian is that?
The only claim John McCain can make to straight talk is that he's learned the talk needed to win the votes of those who favor a world that is exclusively straight. John McCain may see himself as a maverick...but I suspect his maverick status is more like the role James Garner played in the television series with the same name...an unintentional hero presented with fanciful aplomb that is little more than the guise for a man who, when push came to shove, elected to avoid any of the risks associated with actually being a straight talking maverick and a political hero.
In the meantime, I hope the good senator is enjoying his ascendency to the pinnacle of political expediency. Come to think of it, he's simply mastered the metaphorical equivalent of riding a horse side-saddle...he knows that if you're going to ride the fence, you need to be a skilled side-stepper. Senator McBush, you're ability to parse words is an inspiration to orphans everywhere.
Tagged as: Divorce, Evangelical, Foster Care, Gay, Gay Adoption, George Stephanopoulos, John McCain, LGBT, Marriage, Orphan, Parenting, Religion, Religious Right, This Week
Daniel DiRito | July 27, 2008 | 1:30 PM |
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There is a perception that Barack Obama exudes a degree of hubris that may be viewed negatively by a number of voters. The unasked question is whether this impression has its origin in the fact that Barack Obama is actually an over confident candidate or simply a candidate who exceeds the standing or status many voters feel comfortable attaching to a black man. In other words, isn't it possible that a number of white voters have a problem with accepting an intelligent and competent black man as their equal...let alone as their next president?
Part of the problem with America's struggle with race centers on the fact that the issue may have become an unspoken prejudice long before it ceased to exist. Specifically, I think it's plausible to argue that the success of the civil rights era may have inadvertently been to stifle overt displays of racism rather than extinguish the underlying prejudices that motivate acts of intolerance and discrimination.
Take a look at what is happening with the polling on the 2008 election.
From The Chicago Daily Observer:
Obama continues to run substantially worse than the hypothetical generic Democrat, meaning the public has not yet fully made up its mind about him.
Which is to say that if the candidate were, say, John Edwards or any such substantial white guy it would, for all practical purposes, be over right now.
I warned earlier that all polling to date must be taken with large doses of salt, but one pattern has been fairly consistent: Obama's lead has ranged from roughly 4 to 8 points while the generic Democratic vote this time around ranges from 10 to 12.
There are other readily explainable reasons why Obama runs behind the generic Democrat: His exotic background--African father, Indonesian schooling, oddball middle-name and so forth also come into play.
Which gets us down to the real, still largely unspoken question of race.
There are still loads and loads of Democrats and independents who are unlikely to vote for him because of what still remains what Gunnar Myrdal called the American dilemma.
That is the real referendum on Obama.
More importantly, it's a referendum on us.
As such, I'm suggesting that the nature of racism has merely evolved and the 2008 election is our first foray into unearthing the essence of its transformation. I would equate it with the construct of passive aggressive behavior. It's akin to the teenager who is jealous of the academic success of a rival student. Rather than address the issue (animosity) head on, one student attacks the physical appearance of the rival student or promotes the perception that the other student's success comes from being a brown nosing goody two shoes. I suspect many Americans are predisposed to expressing their racial animosities accordingly.
Let me offer another example to make my point. As a gay man, I'm keenly aware of those individuals who describe the visibility of gays as an "in your face" effort to force society to acknowledge or accept homosexuality. Simply stated, the message imparted by this rhetoric is meant to remind gays of their status and their position as lesser members of society who should be grateful that they are allowed to exist...so long as they continue to refrain from outward displays of pride (hubris).
In fact, the evolution of gay rights and the assimilation of homosexuals into society mirrors the process whereby outward demonstrations of racism became unacceptable and the laws that institutionalized it were removed. Regardless, the deep seated sources of racism have yet to be extinguished...just as will be the case with homophobia as gays achieve equal status. In the end, while legislative equality may prohibit certain acts of racism or homophobia, it can rarely remove the ingrained bias that can still be expressed without recourse.
In the following videos, The Daily Show uses humor to uncover and expose elements of this very phenomenon. Though the state often acts appropriately to correct institutional injustice, elections remind us that the state is woefully unable to halt the long standing bias that is frequently exhibited in the ballot box. While our judicial structure makes it increasingly difficult to legislate bias once it's been identified and purged, democracy, by its nature, can do little to extinguish it in the individual.
The 2008 election will have a winner and a loser based upon the votes of the people...and history will undoubtedly record it as a valid democratic election. As is often the case, history will also note the validity found in the commentary and cultural observations of the time...which will include satirical programs like The Daily Show that sought to highlight the bias that democracy is unable to expunge from the individual.
In the end, the objective of an enlightened society ought be to endeavor to mitigate the lingering bias of the individual at the same time that it prohibits its legislative imposition by the state. Only then will our elections actually be about the issues and not about the skin color, the sexual orientation, or the gender of the candidate.
Tagged as: 2008 Election, Barack Obama, Democracy, Florida, Hillary Clinton, Homophobia, Jewish Vote, Jon Stewart, Larry Wilmore, LGBT, Race, Racism, The Daily Show, Wyatt Cenac
Daniel DiRito | July 27, 2008 | 10:14 AM |
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Heaven help us! PBS is going to air a documentary, The Bible's Buried Secrets, which explores the factuality of the Bible...and Donald "Wingnut" Wildmon's American Family Association has already launched an action alert. The AFA is asking its supporters to sign a petition urging congress to halt all government funding of PBS. You can view the alert here.
From The Orlando Sentinel:
The Bible's Buried Secrets, a new PBS documentary, is likely to cause a furor.
"It challenges the Bible's stories if you want to read them literally, and that will disturb many people," says archaeologist William Dever, who specializes in Israel's history. "But it explains how and why these stories ever came to be told in the first place, and how and why they were written down."
The Nova program will premiere Nov. 18. PBS presented a clip and a panel discussion at the summer tour of the Television Critics Association.
The program says the Bible was written in the sixth century BC and that hundreds of authors contributed.
"At least the first five books of the Bible come together during the Babylonian exile," says producer Gary Glassman.
The program challenges long-held beliefs. Abraham, Sarah and their offspring probably didn't exist, says Carol Meyers, a religion professor at Duke University.
"These stories are unlikely to represent real historical events, but rather there's some kernel of ancient experience in there which has survived and which helps give identity to the people at the time the Bible finally took shape centuries and centuries later," Meyers says.
OK, so I understand that some believers won't like what the PBS program has to say and I can even understand that they would rather not be presented with any evidence that might shake their faith. However, I've always understood that true faith should be able to withstand challenge. Hence, is the effort to shut down funding to PBS a demonstration of faith or evidence of its precarious hold upon those who embrace it?
Frankly, the effort to punish PBS is another in a long string of attempts to purge rational and reasoned dialogue while granting deference to ideological intransigence. These are the same people who insist that creationism be taught in science classes because the theory of evolution lacks the certainty they demand. In other words, they believe intelligent design warrants a place in science, but any single attempt to put the Bible into historical and sociological context elicits an instantaneous effort to end to all government sponsorship of PBS.
Mind you, in the case of the former, we operate under the edict of separation of church and state...while in the case of the latter, there are no such restrictions. On the one hand, the religious right wants the government to accommodate untestable speculation (in a science course, no less), and on the other, they want the government to cease funding any researched examination of Biblical history...the very basis of their demand for the former.
Of course, the spin that will come from the right is that the government is funding the ongoing assault upon people of faith (they are being victimized). It's a clever strategy for a group that routinely seeks to vilify those it opposes. Then again, it fits perfectly with the self-righteous certainty that they've adopted. SImply stated, if one believes one can never be wrong, one is therefore never wrong. Consequently, only when all others adopt one's beliefs, adhere to them accordingly, and are prohibited from dissenting, will the world be acceptable and will one's mission have been accomplished. Science, history, and facts be damned.
Such is the nature of fanaticism and religious intransigence. There will be no good order until the only order that is good is the one they dictate. When democracy furthers their agenda, democracy is idyllic; when democracy conflicts with their agenda, it is an insidious interloper between man and the laws set forth by God.
Take a look at how Wildmon actually views the culture war.
From Religion Dispatches:
The "culture wars" will be irrevocably lost, said Wildmon, if Proposition 8 (the "California Marriage Protection Act" which states that "Only a marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California") loses on November 4.
"If we lose California, if they defeat the marriage amendment, I'm afraid that the culture war is over and Christians have lost," said Wildmon, "I've never said that publicly until now--but that's just the reality of the fact."
Wildmon pointed out that If the "homosexuals" were "able to defeat the marriage amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman, then the culture war is over and we've lost--and gradually, secularism will replace Christianity as the foundation of our society."
There's a perception that American patriotism, democracy, and religiosity are innately linked. I suspect that if the American electorate comes down on the side of cultural secularism (e.g. gay marriage), the patriotism of many religious ideologues will be shown to have been conditional.
If one were to project the trajectory of men like AFA's Donald Wildmon and the dogma they espouse, it will likely be he and his followers who abandon their paradoxical patriotism, in favor of their inviolable ideology, should democracy fail to install and impose it. In the end, I believe it will be those they sought to subjugate who will continue to fight to uphold the constitutional integrity upon which this nation was built. When push comes to shove, the true patriots have always been those citizens who cherished the ideals of this nation...even when the will of the people precluded them from partaking in them.
Should there be any doubt as to the tenuous loyalty to country I'm suggesting may exist, one need look no further than the recent assault upon the judiciary. I contend that those who have embraced the meme of "judicial activism" are the same individuals who benefited from the past inaction of the judiciary and simultaneously used it as the righteous means to restrict and restrain others. American history is littered with persecution and injustice...but very little of it has ever been directed at men of Donald Wildmon's ilk.
What we're beginning to witness is the unraveling of the status quo and the fruits of a revolution born of a commitment to rational and reasoned thought...a movement that maintained its respect for the system while quietly working to transform it. I don't expect my Christian counterparts will be willing to demonstrate the same discipline that my gay brethren have exhibited in the face of having their expressions of love characterized as criminal and their identities classified as mental illness. To call Christians victims is to denigrate the ongoing commitment to a civil society of those who would have been arguably justified to rebel against it.
I wouldn't count on the Donald Wildmon's of the world acting accordingly. As a matter of fact, I fear that history has shown us, time and again, that an allegiance to an almighty is, ironically, the very antithesis of both rationality and reason. As such, it can easily become the quintessential mechanism for mayhem. Heaven help us!
Tagged as: AFA, American Family Association, Bible, Donald Wildmon, Evangelicals, History, LGBT, Literalism, PBS, Religion, Religious Right, Science
Daniel DiRito | July 22, 2008 | 1:36 PM |
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Having to jump up and down for attention must be pure torture for James Dobson. Faced with the prospect of being irrelevant in the 2008 election has led the leader of Focus on the Family to announce that he may rescind his prior refusal to vote for John McCain.
In the following video, a few of the faithful explain the dilemma confronting their dear leader. They want us to know that their leader is a man of principle...and that supporting John McCain would only happen out of his concern for the unborn and the protection of the family. [Shed tears now]
What the folks at FOF don't want us to conclude is that Dobson's ginormous ego has emerged and that his need to be the center of attention has led him to reconsider. In other words, when no one followed him over the political cliff, he climbed back up, dusted himself off, and crafted a new message...one that says he'd have to do whatever it takes to save the children and defeat the homos.
I guess the man that felt it was important to teach the GOP a lesson (translated as I demand to be more important and I'm happy to throw the election to do so) for failing to follow through on the issues that are important to evangelicals has decided his stint on the sidelines could spell the end of the Dobson dynasty. Hence, he's rolled up his sleeves and he's ready to lead. [Send checks now]
Alas, the curtain is removed! What Dobson really fears is that his irrelevance could also mean an end to the cash FOF has been able to generate by portraying itself as one of the most influential organizations on the religious right. That brings us back to principles...and there's no doubt that Dobson knows it takes a lot of "principal" (cash) to garner significant "interest" (income). Welcome back James Dobson...we missed you!
Tagged as: 2008 Election, Abortion, Barack Obama, Family Values, Focus on the Family, James Dobson, John McCain, LGBT, Religion, Same-Sex Marriage
Daniel DiRito | July 22, 2008 | 11:07 AM |
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Hold onto your hats...I sense a boycott's a brewin'! Yes, the American Family Association better step up and call upon outraged Americans to stand up support family values. Why, you ask? Well, because an appeals court has just overturned the $550,000 fine levied against CBS for forcing America's unsuspecting families to witness a traumatizing frame or two of Janet Jackson's almost fully exposed breast.
In a decision that clears CBS of any wrongdoing for airing the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show that featured Janet Jackson's infamous "wardrobe malfunction," a federal appeals court overturned the $550,000 fine that the Federal Communications Commission levied against the station, calling the fine arbitrary and capricious.
The decision was handed down Monday by a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, which found that the fine was unfair because the commission, in imposing it, deliberately strayed from its practice of exempting fleeting indecency in broadcast programming from punishment.
The controversy surrounding the incident yielded a record-breaking 540,000 complaints to the commission in the weeks following the show.
I don't know about anyone else, but I find myself longing for the good old days...the one's when evangelicals could shout jump and George Bush would get on a plane and rush to Washington to save a woman, in a vegetative state, from the evildoers. I miss the days when a half million family values voters could cause a knee-jerk reaction by a "Christian friendly" government agency.
Sadly, ever since our dear leader sat idle for four days while New Orleans became a toxic public swimming pool, we seem to have lost our zeal for all things pompous and pious...and that really troubles me. Why should a little old flood (not "The Flood", mind you) be allowed to spell the end of a conservative Christian crusade against all things secular?
What's the world coming to? It won't be long and scientists are going to succeed in shutting creationism out of our children's public school curriculum. No doubt Ford will soon announce the production of a rainbow colored car. How long will it be before McDonald's starts putting Tinky Winky dolls in their Happy Meals? When will Heinz start selling Kweer Ketchup? Who will battle the likes of Marriott - insuring that they don't sell pornographic movies to ministers having affairs with hookers and doing lines of coke in their hotel rooms?
Yes, the times they are a changin'! Where will it end? We've gone from leveling a huge fine against CBS for "allowing" a black woman to expose her breast, all the way to having a black man being celebrated for leading his pasty white patriot opponent in the race for the presidency. I fear it's just a matter of time before white folk are pickin' cotton. Oh, the humanity!
Tagged as: AFA, American Family Association, Boycott, CBS, Evangelical, Family Values, FCC, Ford, George W. Bush, Janet Jackson, Katrina, Marriott, McDonald's, New Orleans, Pornography, Race, Religion, Super Bowl, Terri Schiavo, Tinky Winky
Daniel DiRito | July 21, 2008 | 5:32 PM |
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As if it isn't bad enough that we've had to endure nearly eight years of George W. Bush, he has chosen his final months to enact one of his most intrusive policy initiatives. It seems that the president has decided to redefine abortion to include contraception. The plan would be enacted by the Department of Health and Human Services and cloaked as an attempt to prevent discrimination in government funded endeavors.
The explanation being offered by the president's operatives suggests that the goal is to insure that those individuals who have religious objections to abortion or the distribution of contraceptive products cannot be terminated from employment. Unfortunately, the administration wants to ignore the fact that such practices are already prohibited under current federal law.
From ABC News:
The draft proposal from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which began circulating around Capitol Hill earlier this week, would withhold government funds from health-care providers and organizations that don't hire people who refuse to perform abortions or provide certain types of birth control.
Current federal law prohibits health-care providers and organizations from discriminating against people who won't provide abortions or birth control.
The Bush administration's new draft proposal would require these agencies to certify in writing their compliance with the law before getting funding from HHS.
Critics say the proposal would limit women's access to birth control, arguing that it includes "an overly-broad definition of abortion" and that in order to receive government funding agencies might have to hire employees who won't perform every-day job responsibilities due to their personal religious beliefs.
The Health department released a brief statement arguing that it's looking into various options in an effort to enforce anti-discrimination laws.
"Over the past three decades, Congress has passed several anti-discrimination laws to protect institutional and individual health care providers participating in federal programs. HHS has an obligation to enforce these laws, and is exploring a number of options," the statement reads.
The White House declined to comment.
This is the same administration that has long argued that hate crimes legislation, intended to specifically deter violence against the LGBT community, is unnecessary. So when it comes to measures to bolster the safety of gays, existing laws are sufficient because they already provide penalties and punishment for these crimes. However, when a handful of Christians want to refuse to provide contraception to a rape victim, the Bush administration thinks special rules are warranted.
I guess I've finally figured out what the president meant when he stated he was a compassionate conservative. He meant he had compassion for conservatives...and to hell with everyone else. Pardon my disgust, but the self-proclaimed uniter is a garden-variety divider.
Fortunately, a number of Democrats have spoken out against this potential rule change.
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A Bush administration plan to define several widely used contraception methods as abortion is a "gratuitous, unnecessary insult" to women and faces tough opposition, Sen. Hillary Clinton said on Friday.
The former Democratic presidential candidate joined family planning groups to condemn the proposal that defines abortion to include contraception such as birth control pills and intrauterine devices.
It would cut off federal funds to hospitals and states where medical providers are obligated to offer legal abortion and contraception to women.
"We will not put up with this radical, ideological agenda to turn the clock back on women's rights," the New York senator told a joint news conference with New York Rep. Nita Lowey, also a Democrat, at Bellevue Hospital.
"Women would watch their contraceptive coverage disappear overnight," said Clinton.
A copy of a memo that appears to be an Department of Health and Human Services draft provided to Reuters this week carries a broad definition of abortion as any procedures, including prescription drugs, "that result in the termination of the life of a human being in utero between conception and natural birth, whether before or after implantation."
Conception occurs when egg and sperm unite in the Fallopian tubes. It takes three to four days before the fertilized egg implants in the uterus. Several birth control methods interfere with this, including the birth control pill and IUDs.
"If enacted, these rules will make birth control out of reach for some women. That's a sure way to guarantee more unintended pregnancies and more abortions," said Anne Davis of Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health.
Without doubt, this is another back door effort to impose the religious beliefs of George Bush and his minions...and to begin the process of putting an end to funding for Planned Parenthood and any other organization remotely construed to provide abortion services. When George Bush suggested that he opposed Roe v. Wade, but didn't think the country was ready to take that step, he was actually telegraphing his intentions to undercut abortion through other means. Only then, when access is virtually impossible (unless one is rich and has a daughter in trouble), would he seek to overturn the long standing Supreme Court ruling.
Frankly, as awful as this may sound, I've come to see many evangelicals as arrogant and pompous manipulators. Always scheming to find the means to instill their values as the law of the land, they have little regard for the beliefs of others...and how could they since their ideology is utterly intransigent. At the same time, they often excuse their indiscretions or dismiss them as part of their own period of darkness. What they rarely recognize is that the demons they fear reside within. Railing against pornography, sex on television, comprehensive sex education (inclusive of contraception), homosexuality, infidelity, and adultery is simply the demonstration of an external response to their own internal urges and inclinations.
At the same time, they assume that everyone else in the society suffers the same affliction...which leads them to believe that legislation is needed to prevent us from doing what we're apt to do absent laws and punishment.
The following video is an example of this mentality. Joe Sweeney is a candidate for congress in Arizona's 7th. district. Note that his view of sex is that it's a function of "genital drives" that needs to be bridled through the marriage contract and in deference to a higher authority. The construct he describes is consistent with the actions of the Bush administration. In other words, at the core of this ideology, it's acceptable to prohibit the government from participating in any action that can be deemed to promote sex for any reason other than procreation.
Tagged as: Abortion, Contraception, Department of Health and Human Services, Discrimination, Evangelicals, George W. Bush, Hate Crimes Legislation, Hillary Clinton, Joe Sweeney, Planned Parenthood, Procreation, Religion, Same-Sex Marriage, Sexuality
Daniel DiRito | July 19, 2008 | 8:45 AM |
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No doubt about it, this is an election year...and that means that the folks at JibJab have released their latest offering of political parody. With an all star cast of those leaving the White House, those seeking it, those who once occupied it, and those who still think they should be the nominee to run for it, it's safe to say that everybody whose anybody in the politics of 2008 has a role in this episode.
The title of the new JibJab video is Time For Some Campaignin'. I could be wrong, but the last time I checked we entered full campaign mode well over a year ago. Perhaps that means it's time for a laugh or two.
Tagged as: 2008 Election, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Comedy, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Hillary Clinton, Humor, JibJab, John McCain
Daniel DiRito | July 16, 2008 | 7:34 AM |
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As we approach the November election, the effort to utilize the wedge issue of same-sex marriage to sway voters is in full bloom. It's also an opportunity for fundy groups to implore their followers to cut loose some of their cash to support the cause. One thing is for sure, these folks intend to ride the same-sex is sinful gravy train until it falls off the rails.
On of the items garnering the attention of the religious right is a report that the state of Massachusetts may consider repealing a 1913 law that prevents the marriage of gay couples from out of state.
From The Boston Globe:
State lawmakers are expected to vote next week on repealing a 1913 law that prevents out-of-state gay and lesbian couples from getting married in Massachusetts, reigniting a divisive debate on an issue that has stirred passions and put the state in the national spotlight.
The Senate is expected to take up the legislation Tuesday, and the House will follow shortly afterward, according to several lawmakers. House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi and Senate President Therese Murray favor the repeal, but their support on such a hot-button social issue does not guarantee that rank-and-file lawmakers will follow.
Advocates of same-sex marriage rights said they are hopeful the repeal will pass, given the support from the legislative leadership and from Governor Deval Patrick, whose position is much more sympathetic than that of Governor Mitt Romney, a Republican who was a staunch opponent of gay marriage.
"This is extraordinarily significant," said Arline Isaacson, cochairwoman of the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus. "If we get the 1913 law repealed, it brings us one very important step closer to full equality."
The 1913 statute prevents Massachusetts from sanctioning marriages that are not legal in the state where the couple lives. The law was enacted in part to prevent interracial couples from evading their own state's ban by traveling to Massachusetts to marry. It was a little-used and rarely enforced law until opponents used it to prevent out-of-state gay couples from getting married in Massachusetts after the state legalized same-sex marriage in 2004.
The following video, from Focus on the Family, is their attempt to highlight the potential repeal in Massachusetts, and to make their followers aware of the importance of battling the proponents of same-sex equality in the upcoming election. In other words, the repeal of an antiquated law, designed to address interracial marriage, is being portrayed as part and parcel of the homosexual agenda.
Another tactic employed by these rabidly anti-gay groups includes the commissioning of polling designed to build momentum amongst those who are inclined to oppose measures granting marriage equality to gays. Yes, polling involves a level of statistical rigor, but the manner in which questions are asked can be geared to elicit a preferred response.
This week, the Family Research Council released data from their latest survey. Let me be clear. While I realize that a majority of Americans are likely opposed to same-sex marriage, I don't believe it is a litmus test issue for a majority of voters. The FRC survey asked the following question.
As you may know, several states have measures on the November ballot that would amend their state constitutions to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Would you be more or less likely to vote for a presidential candidate who supports those amendments?
As with most wedge issues, I suspect there is a segment of the population that would make this, as well as other issues, a determining factor in the ballot box. However, I suspect that the number of voters who see same-sex marriage as non-negotiable is far short of a majority. Clearly, there will always be single issue voters. However, I suspect that 2008 will find most voters concerned about a number of issues.
In order to determine which issues will hold the most swing, one would need to look at which issues are of greatest import to voters in any given election cycle. A poll by Franklin & Marshall College provides some relevant insight into the 2008 election...and the survey points out that social issues, while important to a significant number of voters, are not the primary factors influencing voter sentiment.
From Yahoo News:
McCain is cleaning up more than 3 to 1 among voters who think the country is headed in the right direction, he's ahead 20 points among voters whose personal finances are better off compared to last year, he's clobbering Obama 4 to 1 among voters who think family values are the top issue of the campaign, he's hammering him by 25 points among voters who say foreign policy is the biggest issue, he's beating him 5 to 1 among voters who list illegal immigration as the top issue, and he's winning by more than 20 points among voters who rank taxes as the most important issue.
Good news for McCain? Maybe not! Winning only matters if what you're winning matters too. And in McCain's case, it largely doesn't. In fact as the Franklin & Marshall College Poll also reveals, despite losing on a wide range of usually salient issues, Barack Obama leads John McCain nationally by six percentage points.
McCain is winning the issue battles but losing the electoral war, because the issues he is winning are not the issues most voters care about. Family values, immigration, foreign policy, country on the right track, and better off finances--count McCain a winner. But on the issues voters say are most important to their vote choice this year--the economy, Iraq, and health care--McCain is a big loser.
n sharp contrast, the issues McCain is losing, he is losing big: the economy (20 points), Iraq (24 points), and health care (45 points). Worse for him, these three are the critical issues of the campaign--two of every three voters list one of them as the most important issue this year. And McCain is losing all three of them to Obama.
In the political algebra of 2008 presidential politics, McCain is winning where it matters least while losing where it matters most.
While we're still months from the election, there are many reasons to believe that these kitchen table issues will continue to be the dominant concerns for a significant majority of voters concerns. In fact, there are indications that the economy may become an even larger determinant as we approach November. Gas prices aren't apt to decline any time soon, unemployment is likely to rise, the stock market continues to struggle, and the government may soon find itself in the mortgage business to the tune of 5 trillion dollars if Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac fail.
As I see it, there just aren't that many Americans who have the luxury to weight same-sex marriage above their own economic self-interest. Besides, the last time I checked, groups like FOF and FRC were asking for money from the flock; not offering to fill their tanks with gas or put food on their table.
I suspect we're approaching the point at which many of these holy heterosexual families will have to face the reality that the economic well-being of their family has very little to do with the same-sex couple down the block. Perhaps they'll finally be forced to focus on their own families for a change.
Not to be outdone, American Family Association's Don Wildmon is chiming in on the evils of same-sex marriage.
Dr. Donald Wildmon is founder of the American Family Association and an organizer of the Arlington Group. He says passage of the California marriage amendment is critical.
"If we lose California, if they defeat the marriage amendment, I'm afraid that the culture war is over and Christians have lost," says Wildmon, a 30-year veteran of the culture war. "I've never said that publicly until now -- but that's just the reality of the fact.
"If the homosexuals are able to defeat the marriage amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman, then the culture war is over and we've lost -- and gradually, secularism will replace Christianity as the foundation of our society," he adds.
The vote in California, Wildmon explains, will affect the entire nation. "California is a big dam, holding back the flood -- and if you take down the dam in California, it's going to flood 49 other states," he illustrates. "It will destroy marriage as it has been known for thousands of years, and with that the cultural decline that normally would follow."
Well there you have it...if California allows gay marriage to proceed, we can all put on our best duds, pack our bags, and prepare for the rapture party. Does anyone know if there will be an after hours party? I'm thinking that's the place to be. After all, by then all the wingnuts should be standing at the pearly gates waiting to see if their admission pass gets validated.
Tagged as: 2008 Election, Barack Obama, Economy, Family Research Council, Fannie Mae, Focus On The Family, FOF, FRC, Freddie Mac, John McCain, LGBT, Marriage Amendments, Massachusetts, Religion, Same-Sex Marriage, Unemployment, Values Voters
Daniel DiRito | July 11, 2008 | 9:58 AM |
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When in the course of human events is truth self-evident? Or is truth a declaration independent of our capacity to recognize it? Is there a point at which the collective truth of yesterday is no longer sufficient to hold together that which seemed to be a more perfect union? Are such questions, cut from the fabric of our foundation, the tools needed to retrieve Major Tom from his solitary perch in space...or are the answers to such questions the reason he's convinced he can never return? Are we on the precipice of reentry or have we begun the final countdown?
How is it that the intersection of the Declaration of Independence and Major Tom, a Peter Schilling song from the 80's can capture my impressions regarding the state of affairs in American politics? Well, it's rather simple. The former has always represented the ideals which grounded this nation and functioned to form the fundamental bonds which made us citizens in a society steeped in shared purpose. The latter describes the isolation and alienation we've allowed to jettison us, one from the other, into independent orbits, absent the willingness to reconnect...floating weightless, drifting, falling.
Understanding the journey may be the only means of finding our way home. Strange as it may sound, the path we're currently traveling begins with death, a virtual reversal of the expected cycles. Such as it is, perhaps this is what makes our actions to preserve life as we once knew it so stifling and contrary to the spirit from which it took flight. Hence the unencumbered life we once lived seems to have died and fallen to ground on 9/11...and the death we now fear has become the constrictive cornerstone of the lives we now live...with our withered wings clipped and tethered to ground.
The weight of 9/11 may well be that which will forever separate us from the freedoms we once knew. Many believe that the passage of the FISA bill will undoubtedly serve that purpose...and they view it as a virtual death knell to the intentions enumerated in the Declaration of Independence and the remainder of our founding documents.
Like Major Tom, many find themselves disconnected and adrift...mindful of the inspiration that spawned a great nation...mournful that FISA, in its attempt to preserve life, may actually kill the inspiration that made this way of life worth living. Therefore, the anxiety exhibited is clearly a response to the intangible shadow FISA will cast...obscuring the vision of this and future generations...modifying the meaning and the measurement of our unbridled freedoms...substituting the avoidance of death for the long standing construct of preserving our freedoms...even when doing so may have come at the expense of lives lost.
Truth be told, only a few of us will ever find ourselves visible victims of FISA's probes and pursuits. For some, the mere knowledge of its existence is enough to consider the prospect of bidding farewell...metaphorically...to the essence of our collective identity. For others, the cost is negligible and they view the assurances of safety and security that accompany FISA to be a reasonable means to preserve life...physically.
Both points of view contain truths that are self-evident. Both are premised upon the recognition of value. Unfortunately, at this juncture in our journey, the measurements of value have become the points of departure...and our shared truths have become seemingly insufficient to hold us together. Those in favor of FISA believe their truth is essential to the preservation of a more perfect union. Those opposed to FISA view anything that tramples foundational principles to have precluded the possibility of a perfect union.
In the end, it becomes a question of the degree to which one sees life as an ethereal endeavor (FISA opponents) or whether one sees its essence as nothing more than the acts necessary to extend its duration (FISA proponents). In this comparison, irony emerges.
The former, idealists though they may be, are apt to be those who deny the existence of an afterlife. The latter, pragmatists in many ways, are more likely to envision an afterlife as an important adjunct to their identity. The former, quick to discount the notion of the rapture or the end of days, view FISA as the initiation of the journey towards the destruction of their homeland. The latter, Biblically instructed to be ever mindful of the signs of the coming end, view FISA as the means to preserve the homeland while they wait to gain entry into the ultimate kingdom.
So who is Major Tom? It's hard to say. Where is he going? I believe he's going home. Where is that home? It's rather difficult to determine. What is the nature and substance of home? Such is the quintessential dilemma we face.
Will we remain grounded in the principles of the Declaration of Independence or will we secede the controls to the likes of Orwell's Ministry of Truth? Is the countdown on...or is what counts gone? There's no reply.
Tagged as: 9/11, Death, Declaration of Independence, Dying, End of Days, FISA, Freedom, Major Tom, Peter Schilling, Politics, Rapture, Religion
Daniel DiRito | July 10, 2008 | 1:43 PM |
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Have you ever wondered what a modern day slave would look like and how he or she might behave? Ever consider who might be the owners of plantations, staffed by these slaves, if they were "permitted" to exist today? Has it ever crossed your mind that the only thing that's changed since the emancipation proclamation is that it simply became unacceptable to speak of slavery...but by no means prohibitive to seek the virtual enslavement of those who can be so manipulated?
Whether you have or haven't pondered these questions, I'm of the opinion that the following video provides some insight into who might aspire to implement and maintain such a world.
Here's the thing. The actions of those who are intent upon portraying Michelle Obama as the epitome of black rage...a condition predicated upon the notion that the unfortunate mistreatment that was permitted to persist for many years has left "them" permanently hostile to the country that enabled their enslavement...may well be an attempt to invoke the oppression necessary to enact more of the same. We rarely discuss the real motivations of those who put forth these "angry black woman" hypotheses...and who it is they seek to enlist in promoting their unspoken objective to regain and/or retain their role as the noblesse oblige...discretionary as it would undoubtedly be.
Spoken in simple terms, those who seek to undermine the likes of the Obama's do so by pitting those of an economic stature commensurate with that of the slaves or yore (poor uneducated, and economically immobile whites) against those who might be on the precipice of catapulting themselves (educated and economically mobile blacks or their sympathizers) to a status that would afford them the wherewithal to make economic emancipation more than a proclamation.
Wealth and the means to accumulate it remain the core point of contention between those who believe that opportunity is already an equally distributed resource and those who believe that existing wealth is an advantage that makes for a playing field that isn't level. The former cite the occasional "nuevo riche" individual, who has overcome the institutional obstacles, as evidence to cling to the status quo...while the latter ascribe to the belief that the generational perpetuation of wealth is ample evidence that government must be the benevolent agent in light of the false notion that a social conscience is a naturally occurring condition.
One quotation stands out above all others in validating my contention. It comes from the late Jerry Falwell and it cuts through all of the faith-based noise that has been wrapped around the message proffered by the mouthpieces at Fox News and other conservative critics of the Obama candidacy...or should I say character...since that is what they seek to assassinate.
"The whole (global warming) thing is created to destroy America's free enterprise system and our economic stability."
Yes, those who espouse the sanctity of God's creations...and the certainty that his existence offers us an unparalleled opportunity to join him in eternal bliss...are apparently more concerned with preserving our "free enterprise" system and all the opportunities they personally derive from its propagation. You see, in stating as much, Falwell, a frequent purveyor of prejudicial proclamations designed to serve two purposes, reveals the core concerns that are at the heart of the efforts to eviscerate the Obama candidacy.
Those two purposes comprise the essence of modern day slavery. The first is the establishment of an enslavement to religious ideology as defined by those in positions of power...those who craft the constituent wedge issues ( guns, god, & gays to name a few) which are designed to insure the second purpose. That second purpose, the perpetuation of power, and therefore the ongoing retention and accumulation of wealth, is facilitated by the votes of the enslaved faithful...votes they've been convinced will serve in their attainment of the promised riches that accompany an afterlife with the divine master...votes that serve to insure the certainty of power and wealth in this life for their surrogate mortal masters.
In the end, the goal is to sell the elusive and the ethereal to the masses while insuring the tangible and the touchable for the few. We voters can succumb to the bait and switch sophistry that has sustained the insufficient status quo for far too long or we can crush the surreptitious shells that have been used to divide us, one from the other...and emerge from the confines of the conch that continues to whisper sweet nothings in our eternally ensnared ears.
Like children stranded on a deserted island in Lord of the Flies...lost in the erosion of an order which has always been created for us...intrigued by...and on the verge of...a new order...perhaps it's time for us to realize..."Maybe there is a beast....maybe it's only us".
Tagged as: 2008 Election, Economic Opportunity, Economics, Fox News, Heaven, Jerry Falwell, Lord of the Flies, Michelle Malkin, Michelle Obama, Poverty, Race, Religion, Slavery, Wealth
Daniel DiRito | July 9, 2008 | 2:35 PM |
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When we hear the terms Fatwa or Jihad, we often think about radical Middle Eastern extremists whose intention is to impose their religious beliefs upon those they define as infidels. As Americans, we find the declarations of those leaders (Mullahs, Imams, etc.) who support such actions to be offensive and predicated upon intransigent ideological beliefs. We also look with disfavor upon those who carry out these Fatwas or Jihads in the name of their spiritual leaders and, by inference, their supreme being.
At the same time, we have witnessed a Bush administration that has sought to characterize our involvement in the region as a mission inspired by the president's consultations with his father...the holy one...not George H. W. Bush. Early on, he made the strategic mistake of referencing the Crusades when speaking of our efforts in the war on terror. While there was some admission that the statement was insensitive and unwarranted, it speaks to the mind set of our President and the pervasive influence his religious beliefs have played in coloring his views and guiding his actions.
In what I would call the ever creeping influence of evangelism, the president also appointed some 150 graduates of Jerry Falwell's Liberty University's School of Law to positions in his administration. I would suggest that these and may other examples are evidence of the pervasive influence religion has been allowed to play during the nearly eight years of George Bush's presidency.
That brings me to the lawsuit of Army Spc. Jeremy Hall, in which he accuses the U.S. Department of Defense of violating his rights to religious freedom. Hall, in his claim, suggests that "the United States military has become a Christian organization"...which he contends led to his mistreatment...predicated upon his status as an atheist.
KANSAS CITY, Kansas (CNN) -- Army Spc. Jeremy Hall was raised Baptist.
He served two tours of duty in Iraq and has a near perfect record. But somewhere between the tours, something changed. Hall, now 23, said he no longer believes in God, fate, luck or anything supernatural.
His sudden lack of faith, he said, cost him his military career and put his life at risk. Hall said his life was threatened by other troops and the military assigned a full-time bodyguard to protect him out of fear for his safety.
Hall said there is a pattern of discrimination against non-Christians in the military.
Hall isn't seeking compensation in his lawsuit -- just the guarantee of religious freedom in the military. Eventually, Hall was sent home early from Iraq and later returned to Fort Riley in Junction City, Kansas, to complete his tour of duty.
He also said he missed out on promotions because he is an atheist.
"I was told because I can't put my personal beliefs aside and pray with troops I wouldn't make a good leader," Hall said.
Michael Weinstein, a retired senior Air Force officer and founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, is suing along with Hall. Weinstein said he's been contacted by more than 8,000 members of the military, almost all of them complaining of pressure to embrace evangelical Christianity.
The Pentagon refused to discuss specifics of Hall's case -- citing the litigation. But Deputy Undersecretary Bill Carr said complaints of evangelizing are "relatively rare." He also said the Pentagon is not pushing one faith among troops.
Weinstein said he doesn't buy it and points to a promotional video by a group called Christian Embassy. The video, which shows U.S. generals in uniform, was shot inside the Pentagon. The generals were subsequently reprimanded.
Another group, the Officers' Christian Fellowship, has representatives on nearly all military bases worldwide. Its vision, which is spelled out on the organization's Web site, reads, "A spiritually transformed military, with ambassadors for Christ in uniform empowered by the Holy Spirit."
Weinstein has a different interpretation.
"Their purpose is to have Christian officers exercise Biblical leadership to raise up a godly army," he says.
I don't know if Hall will prevail in his lawsuit, but his dilemma clearly illustrates the dangers of having a Commander In Chief whose words and actions are steeped in the rhetoric of religious certainty. To believe that the president hasn't utilized promotions and appointments to stack the military leadership with those who share his evangelical leanings is to ignore the clear bias demonstrated by the inordinate number of Liberty University appointees.
Add in the regimentation and chain of command mentality that permeates the military and it isn't difficult to conclude that an atmosphere of rewarding those who share the beliefs of their superiors has allowed some palpable level of proselytizing to take hold...which would undoubtedly be accompanied by a propensity to demonstrate disfavor with those who fail to march in lockstep.
The fact that fellow soldiers demeaned Hall's disbelief suggests they felt emboldened to do so...likely knowing their aspersions were consistent with the thinking of their superiors. To believe otherwise is contrary to everything we know about the military's methods of maintaining order amongst men who are often immature and malleable.
It appears that the Bush administration, in its zeal to promote its own religious agenda, fell victim to the very same extremist absolutism that it believes it is combating in the Middle East. Let me be clear...I am not suggesting that the U.S. military engages in intentional acts of violence against innocent civilians nor am I condoning the actions of terrorists by means of comparison.
However, when it's all said and done, I'm left to wonder why the conduct of military operations are ever allowed to be premised upon establishing the legitimacy of one army's god from that of another. Further, to what extent are the combatants willing to go in order to establish the superiority of their beliefs in relation to all others when each side is convinced theirs is the only legitimate religion?
In the end, if religious beliefs are allowed to be the basis upon which the mistreatment of some U.S. soldiers is justified, have we not knowingly redefined the mission of our military? If its purpose isn't to defend and preserve the freedoms of each individual...freedoms that include the right to hold one's chosen religious beliefs or to have none whatsoever, without retribution, have we not succumbed to the very tyranny that we seek to dislodge in other nations?
If our military is to be an extension of the religious ideology of those in command, then our forces can't be seen any more favorably than the Crusaders of which George Bush spoke. Even worse, such a construct is a recipe for endless death and destruction...all conducted with deference to our deity of choice.
The following video on Spc. Hall's case is from CNN's Anderson Cooper 360:
Tagged as: Army Spc. Jeremy Hall, Atheism, Commander In Chief, Crusades, George W. Bush, God, Iraq, Jerry Falwell, Liberty University, Middle East, Pentagon, Religious Intolerance, Terrorism, U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Military, War on Terror
Daniel DiRito | July 9, 2008 | 8:47 AM |
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When it's all said and done, very little in life changes...and the changes that are made are often painfully slow. All too often we get lost in our efforts to change (direct) others when what we really need to do is change (redirect) ourselves. This years election, more so than any in recent history, seems to be about change.
Unfortunately, prior to each election cycle, optimistic pundits suggest that the voting public has lost it's hunger for the typically tried and true red meat issues. These serendipitous proclamations suggest a new civility and a changing construct may be dawning. Unfortunately, as each election draws nearer, the painful reality of recidivism seems to rear its ugly head.
I've come to expect the worst and I rarely find myself pleasantly surprised by a better outcome. Returning to elections, in many ways, we've grown conditioned to the typical framing of the issues. We've also come to accept that voters will invariably fall into their logical constituent blocks by the time they reach the ballot box. The question is why?
This morning, as I read about the intention of the Christian Defense Coalition to launch their first salvo against Barack Obama...determined to characterize him as "The Abortion President" (see image to the right), I recalled the thoughts that crossed my mind last evening as I watched the acclaimed German movie, The Lives Of Others, wishing more of us had the wherewithal to make the heroic choices that are frequently facilitated by adversity...choices for change that are almost always daring displays of individual courage. Following a brief synopsis of the movie, I'll attempt to connect the dots.
Read a statement below from Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney, Director of the Christian Defense Coalition:
"Senator Obama talks about bringing hope, faith and change to American politics. We now see this is all just political 'doublespeak.' One of his top priorities as President would be protecting abortion rights and even expanding them. If elected, Senator Obama would become 'The Abortion President,' with the most extremist policies on abortion of any President in history.
"Senator Obama's views on abortion are so radical that he even wants American citizens to pay for them. This would include Catholics, Evangelicals and all people of faith. He would also expand abortion rights through his passionate support of The Freedom of Choice Act.
Obama campaign spokesman Hari Sevugan sent out the following statement:
"Barack Obama understands that the best way to reduce the need for abortions is to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies. He is committed to commonsense solutions to achieve that objective and to changing the tone of the discourse which for too long has devolved into false and negative attacks such as this that do nothing to accomplish that goal"
The story takes place in East Germany several years prior to the fall of the Berlin wall. In the movie, an agent of the Stasi, a government run intelligence service determined to preserve the existing order and prevent all dissension, is assigned to monitor the activities of a writer and his lover, an esteemed actress. As Wiesler, the regimented Stasi agent, continues to listen to the conversations of the couple and their associates, he finds himself increasingly sympathetic.
He comes to realize that a plot is underway to smuggle an expose to Der Spiegel, a magazine in the West. The article's purpose is to detail the effects of the stifling oppression that exists...oppression that has resulted in the ruin of numerous artists...and countless civilians...by the government. To demonstrate the point, the article cites the virtually unreported, and unparalleled, suicide rates that existed at the time in East Germany.
Suffice it to say that Wiesler aids and abets the process to smuggle the article to the West. Once published, the powers that be intensify their efforts to discover who wrote the article and who served as their enablers. By this point, Wiesler has become an unknown ally of the conspirators, carrying out acts of omission that place him at great risk. As the Stasi closes in on the perpetrator, Wiesler chooses to dispose of the evidence hidden in the couple's residence.
The magic and the essence of the movie is found in understanding the correlation between the desire to enable, create, and/or perform art (primarily music and plays) and the relentlessly oppressive nature of the state. Ironically, the juxtaposition of expression and oppression provides evidence that a marriage of inspiration and intimidation is capable of bearing fruit...or leaving one fully barren. As such, the potential outcomes in such a society can either be a testament to the irrepressible will of the individual (high art)...or an epitaph to the carnage of insufferable surrender and submission (silence and/or suicide).
Wiesler, a seeming shell of a man, who is in a unique position to choose sides by virtue of his position as a spy, abandons his state sponsored, and virtually non-existent identity, in order to enable the expression he lacks (the smuggling of the article), but longingly admires from afar. In doing so, he foreshadows the inevitability that the human spirit will eventually prevail...regardless of the structures that have been built to constrain it.
Returning to the 2008 election...I think voters find themselves in a position similar to Wiesler's with regards to the choices available. Convention tells them that Barack Obama operates outside the prescribed confines...as an enviable actor in an unfamiliar place...but one that is intriguing to many. The instinctual response...or metaphorically speaking...the state sanctioned response would be to surveil and scrutinize his actions with an innately ingrained level of suspicion. The audience, though enamored with his artful presentation, struggles to accept that his script can be applied to enable a transformation of the status quo...and therefore a better state.
At the same time, those who are invested in the existing system recognize him as a threat like none other in recent memory and react in predictable and prescribed ways to subvert the implementation of his system altering sonata...one which they interpret as little more than harsh dissonance. Having been in positions of authority for years, the powers that be seek to retain the fearful ear of those who have long followed them in deference to their established ideological intransigence...as well as for the lack of viable alternatives.
Hence, Barack Obama's message, a threat to the status quo, must be misrepresented. As such, those who are beholding to the establishment are enlisted to carry out the character assassination and reaffirm, in the electorate, the belief that deviation is an unfailing recipe for rejection. Therefore, the sought after fall of Barack Obama must be visible, it must be inviolable, and it must be administered in full view in order to douse the dreams of a different dialogue...a dialogue intent upon illuminating an alternate approach to addressing that which ails our nation.
If one looks specifically at the effort to portray Obama as "The Abortion President", the objective is to offer the voters a narrow either/or choice...and nothing else. Groups like the Christian Defense Coalition seek to ignore the fact that Senator Obama argues in favor of bolstering measures designed to prevent unwanted pregnancies...a focus that seeks to circumvent the volatility that has for so long served the political purposes of those in positions of power. The goal is to offer voters (followers) a very defined choice...one of which, when made, can be viewed as wrong (sinful). If chosen, it is designed to reflect negatively upon the character of the individual and thus impugn what little independent identity they may still retain.
In other words, Senator Obama must be seen in a light similar to the artistic community in East Germany...romanticized by many, but relegated to the domain of dreamers who are disconnected from the realities that exist in the lives of others. This helps to insure that the metaphoric Wiesler's will never find themselves in the position to choose the kind of change that would allow them to explore their own identities...as well as the extensions that would emanate from such an expansion of the individual. A better way of life must never be more than an imagined and idealized theatrical moment. Men like Obama must be fictional lest they foment the freedom of thought that stands to subrogate the status quo.
America stands on the precipice of change...and the agents of the status quo have commenced their efforts to insure more of the same. The choice we have is between bolstering the walls that divide us...one from the other...individuals from their identities...or acting to undermine the contrivances that seek to construe the agents of change as nothing more than scripted surrogates of a superficial self.
When we find the courage to act as Wiesler did, choosing to elevate the imagined over the immutable, granting ourselves one of the rarest of all gifts...the gift of change...we too will be able to state, "No, it's for me."
Tagged as: 2008 Election, Abortion, Barack Obama, Berlin Wall, Change, Christian Defense Coalition, Germany, Religion, The Lives Of Others
Daniel DiRito | July 7, 2008 | 12:01 PM |
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The following video is destined to be an Onion classic. While it is offered as satire to make us laugh, it will certainly hit home for millions of Americans. I suspect that the Bush presidency will be scrutinized for many years to come...and I doubt that the conclusions will be all that different from the ones offered in this tongue-in-cheek segment.
Tagged as: Bush Administration, Bush Presidency, George W. Bush, Humor, Satire, The Onion
Daniel DiRito | July 6, 2008 | 9:31 AM |
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"Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because if there be one he must approve of the homage of reason more than that of blindfolded fear." -Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Peter Carr, August 10, 1787 "I concur...
Daniel DiRito | July 4, 2008 | 12:05 AM |
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There is a surge of speculation in Denver that Barack Obama is considering the possibility of accepting the Democratic Party's nomination at Invesco Field at Mile High, the 76,000 seat home of the Denver Broncos rather than at the...
Tagged as: Acceptance Speech, Barack Obama, Convention, Democratic Party, Denver, DNCC, Invesco Field, Mile High
Daniel DiRito | July 3, 2008 | 10:12 PM |
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Oh that Johnny Mac! First he showcased his singing talents with Bomb Iran (video below), an updated rendition of the Beach Boys hit, Barbara Ann. As if that weren't enough, he recently took the big leap from the 60's to...
Tagged as: 2008 Election, Beach Boys, Beastie Boys, Bobby Darin, David Gray, Elton John, GOP, Humor, Iran, John McCain, Kiki Dee, Madonna, Ronald Reagan, Satire, Shiite, Somalia, Sudan, Sunni
Daniel DiRito | July 1, 2008 | 1:52 PM |
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If one can believe the latest Gallup poll, the ideological distance between John McCain and George W. Bush is way too small for a large number of voters. In fact, nearly fifty percent of voters are very concerned that John...
Tagged as: 2008 Election, Barack Obama, Change, Democrat, Gallup Poll, George W. Bush, GOP, Independent, John McCain, Polling
Daniel DiRito | July 1, 2008 | 11:13 AM |
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