Six Degrees of Speculation: April 2006: Archives
I’ve had an issue on my mind for the last couple days. It started with a comment thread on another site. The question is, “what should you do with people who have nothing more to share than negative thoughts, personal insults, and hateful rhetoric?" There are some quick and easy answers. One, you can ignore them altogether. Two, you could respond in kind. As I debated with myself, I tried several time to draft responding remarks. In the end, I decided to do nothing.
As I’ve pondered the issue, I’ve wondered why I even care. Nonetheless, I do. In attempting to boil it down to its most basic construct, I came to some conclusions. In some regards, the conclusions are more troubling than the events that precipitated the analysis.
My uncle used to talk about separating people into some loosely defined categories or types. He explained that it was far too complicated to attempt to fully understand everyone you encounter. He proposed you look for some basics traits to sort the people you meet and then fill in the unknowns with the best available template. All in all it’s pretty effective…if you can be content to leave it at that. I never could.
While pondering my experience with the comment thread, I recalled one of the types he used to talk about. He explained that there are people who approach meeting others with the two by four method…they immediately clobber you with the two by four and then follow that up by putting their arm around your shoulder and saying…so how have you been? The best analogy for this approach is in the hierarchy seen with some animals such that the dominant animal waits for the other animals to acknowledge their lesser position in the social structure. Territorial factors can be at play as well. It often begins with a growl or a minor skirmish until the pecking order is established and accepted. Primitive as it seems, it helped me make sense of my comment thread experience.
I’ll try to explain it further. With many blogs, there seems to be a loosely established commenting community. Often times, some “members" compete to be the first to comment when a new posting appears. In many ways, it serves the purpose of establishing a type of pecking order. Additionally, many sites inadvertently develop a policing system that identifies new visitors. Further, the members may decide to accept the new participant or as I’ve seen happen on occasion, they may decide to attach the “troll" label…the lowest position in the internet hierarchy.
Coming back to my own experience, I have spent a significant amount of time making comments and observations on other sites in order to introduce Thought Theater and expand the visits to the site. The blogs I visit are primarily sites I’m familiar with and where I have occasionally commented. However, since introducing Thought Theater, that frequency has increased dramatically and, in truth, I’ve sought to make my comments towards the beginning of the comment thread…where they are more apt to be read.
In studying this particular site more closely, the individuals who made the “territorial" remarks are in fact regulars that are frequently at the top of the comment thread. Other commenter’s routinely grant them a degree of deference…subtle mind you, but enough to be recognized if you happen to disrupt the normal ebb and flow. Once I made the connections to the above analogy, I felt an initial degree of relief. It didn’t last long.
I could have simply concluded that I had a better understanding of the situation that had troubled me for these last couple days and left it at that…but I couldn’t because it has a larger significance that is at the core of my own search for understanding and “truth". Not simply for my own edification, but because I genuinely care about the human condition and, naïve as it may sound, I am always hopeful that I can offer something constructive to improve it.
Despite many disappointments, I always feel fortunate to come away with a somewhat greater understanding of the nature of our existence and I endeavor to remain optimistic that it brings me more proximate to the “truth". Sometimes I find satisfaction in simply understanding the games of self-deceit that are played because it allows me to decide that I will participate as neither the villain nor the victim. At the same time, I find great sadness in the repetitively counterproductive behaviors I witness.
I can elaborate in order to tie it all together. In large part, blogs originated as a political grassroots endeavor to effect change. The Rudymentary goals of that change have been either to ouster the party in charge or retain the party in charge. Hence the struggle taking place is simply a larger scale of the issue that I experienced personally as an individual. Specifically, those in positions of power, whether perceived or real, whether obtained legitimately or by other means, seek to retain it despite the merit of doing so. In other words, many of the individuals in the chat room hierarchy, as well as the political party in power, want to stay there whether or not they have any inherent or particular right to do so. At the same time, many individuals, as well as the political party not in power, want to assume power whether or not they have earned the right to do so. The problem is obvious.
When individuals cannot find consensus based upon thoughtful dialogue and debate, the larger construct of the party and the even larger construct of society as a whole cannot advance beyond the primitive animal analogy whereby aggression and brutality are the measure with which we determine authority and leadership. When one Democrat in a comment thread personally attacks another Democrat with the goal of nothing more than obtaining or retaining power or authority, it is hard to imagine that the larger goals of any one party to effect change within the society can succeed. When this exists, the notion of cohesion amongst like minded individuals necessarily becomes a secondary objective. When this happens, each blog becomes nothing more than a microcosm of the political order which it dislikes and seeks to dislodge.
I’ve never liked or respected bullies. By that I don’t simply mean someone who can use physical force to obtain what they want. Bullying can take many forms. However, at the core of all bullying is a disregard for a fair and just system that is honored and observed by each individual because it is understood to be the evolved social order and social structure necessary to advance civilization. Until we agree upon a system of merit that has its origins in rational and reasoned thought and analysis, we will remain more similar to the animal occupants of this world. Until each individual honors a legitimate social contract, we will be nothing more than feigned shells of the civil creatures we pretend to be. When we dishonor humanity by dehumanizing each other, we betray our own humanity and we are all lessened. In the end, destiny is ours to choose.
Those individuals in the comment thread, who offered nothing more than a growl and the display of their teeth, purport to espouse a desire for large scale social change. Unfortunately, they are destined to be victimized by their very own capitulations to force over forethought, to brawn over brains, and to power over persuasion. If ones notion of change is nothing more than to assume authority or power in order to impose change, real progress is not a fundamental goal. Power is the goal. Perhaps that’s all the individuals that I encountered in the comment thread are seeking. If it is, they ought to cease presenting it otherwise. In the meantime, I may have to swim through their pretense, but I need not succumb to their miscalculations. For me, I’ve resolved that the pursuit of more “truth" is worth the annoyance.
Daniel DiRito | April 30, 2006 | 8:22 AM |
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Lester Crawford, the controversial former head of the Food & Drug Administration, is being investigated for possible false statements to congress and financial improprieties. Crawford, before his resignation last fall, had been accused of blocking the approval of the Plan B contraceptive drug. His nomination was put on hold at one point by Senator Hillary Clinton because of the delay by the Administration to issue a decision on the drug. During his tenure he was also accused of an improper relationship with a fellow employee. That investigation did not lead to Crawford's resignation. The New York Times reports:
Dr. Crawford resigned in September; fewer than three months after the Senate confirmed him. He said then that it was time for someone else to lead the agency.
The next month, financial disclosure forms released by the Department of Health and Human Services showed that in 2004 either Dr. Crawford or his wife, Catherine, had sold shares in companies regulated by the agency when he was its deputy commissioner and acting commissioner. He has since joined a Washington lobbying firm, Policy Directions Inc.
The criminal investigation was disclosed at a court hearing in a lawsuit over the FDA's actions on the emergency contraceptive Plan B, a subject of bitter contention during Dr. Crawford's tenure as acting commissioner and commissioner. After the pill's maker, Barr Laboratories, applied three years ago to sell the pill over the counter, the agency repeatedly delayed making a decision on the application.
According to the transcript, she said that Dr. Crawford was under criminal investigation and that the issue of his financial disclosures "is within the grand jury."
Crawford, during his time at the FDA was accused by many of making politically motivated decisions with regard to medical issues. Some felt his actions with regard to Plan B were consistent with the administrations favoring of abstinence programs and their fear that the approval of the drug would lead to promiscuous behaviors.
Obviously Crawford is innocent until proven otherwise. However, he seems to be one of many who take positions on morality with regards to sex but seemingly forget about morality when it relates to financial issues. It seems like an all too familiar pattern. I often wonder if the actual reality is that many of these people who become vocal advocates of sexual morality are simply using the issue as a vehicle to political power. Sadly, it seems to be an effective approach. As we approach the 2006 midterm elections, I expect to see the rollout of a number of moralistic wedge issues.
Daniel DiRito | April 29, 2006 | 8:15 AM |
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Ah, yes, when all else fails there is the “that would have been stupid defense". It appears that Karl Rove has chosen this to be a piece of his final efforts to avoid indictment. I’ve always found the very notion of this defense flawed. The premise of the defense is that smart people wouldn’t do stupid things or make decisions that could rationally be expected to lead to negative consequences. In Rove’s case, as I understand the issue, the argument is being used to explain an oversight to reveal all the details of his conversation with Matt Cooper (specifically the part about Valerie Plame)…in essence he simply forgot that portion of the conversation but to lie would have been stupid…and Rove knows people don’t think he is stupid.
The unspoken assertion by those who use this defense (Tom DeLay comes to mind) is that they may use their intelligence to walk right up to the line, but they are also smart enough to never cross that line…basically they know the rules so well they can navigate them like a skilled tightrope walker. On the surface it sounds reasonable and plausible.
Unfortunately, history often seems to contradict this defense and the premise upon which it is founded. That’s not to say these individuals are stupid…they are actually quite bright. However, what people may miss is an understanding that whatever these people possess in terms of smarts sometimes pales in comparison to the zeal with which they seek wealth, prestige, or power. In essence, smart people, not unlike others who lie and manipulate, are not above self-deceit in order to augment lofty goals, obtuse egos, and an unbridled hunger for power.
In the end, it’s a mistake to evaluate these situations on the basis of the individual’s intelligence…and historically juries often don’t. It’s not difficult to understand that a jury also evaluates where arrogance, greed and the desire for power sit in relation to intelligence. One’s desire for the former has a direct impact upon the amount of intelligence that is applied to any particular activity to achieve the latter.
The mathematical genius who abandons math for theater is not necessarily stupid. He is simply motivated by other interests and the application of his intellect may or may not be the dominating part of his life equation. Those who know this individual may know that he is smart but they may also know that a passion for theater, despite its failure to be a reasonable and rational calculation, is able to override the application of intelligence. He may well fail in theater while still being a very smart man.
Why would anyone assume the actions of politicians are any different? A better analysis of how these individuals and their scandals unfold is described by the “choose your poison principle"…what compels; controls. In looking at Karl Rove there is little doubt he is passionate and motivated. His history is littered with demonstrations of aggressively pursuing his objectives. To presume he would never cross the line, given his obvious intensity, would shift the use of the “that would be stupid defense" to Patrick Fitzgerald and a full Grand Jury. That would likely require a lot of smart people to look stupid. Is Karl Rove smart enough to pull that off? Perhaps.
Daniel DiRito | April 27, 2006 | 9:08 AM |
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Can we please have a President for all of America? I'm serious because I would really like to feel like this is "our" country being led by "our" President. I just don't get the need for one group to tell the other group how to live...is one side so bad that the other side must savage the others freedoms in order to be happy…or impose one set of beliefs that all must follow? Whatever happened to our willingness to live together...not despite our differences...but in celebration of our differences bathed in our unique ability to extend equality to all because it's not simply what we believe...but what we live?
Logically, where can this divide lead except to more conflict and ultimately to attempts by one side or the other to criminalize the lives of the other? Honestly, where does it end...what will be enough? I like to start with looking at the extremes. Should we intern gays? Some actually believe we should put them to death. Trust me on this...before that will ever happen...both sides will suffer the sorrow of removing their dead from the streets. No that's not meant to be a threat...it's a reality. If that isn't the reality, then the alternative is equally horrific...people are actually executed without resistance. If some are allowed to continue to pursue this escalation of extreme rhetoric, then rhetoric will become reality and this country will never again be the same.
Should we make the Constitution secondary to the Bible? Should we put the non-believers to death? Some actually believe we should. Trust me on his...before that will ever happen...both sides will suffer the sorrow of removing their dead from the streets. Again, that's not meant to be a threat...it's the logical consequence of fanatical ideology...look no further than Iraq...that country in which we are attempting to introduce Democracy so they can live together and cease the sectarian violence that has it's origin in religious doctrine...can you see the similarities?
Should we also consider the internment or execution of Arabs and illegal immigrants and women who have abortions and doctors who support the terminally ill in ending their lives and judges who rule in opposition to our beliefs and reporters who expose lies and deceit and those who speak out in opposition to the policies of their government and those who burn the flag? Where does it end? The more we define ourselves by our intolerance, the sooner we will move towards the need to eliminate large swaths of society. Those who are intent on bringing a new order are on the precipice of bringing chaos and disorder. Today's dogma will soon be tomorrow’s demise.
We used to be a country of yes and can do's...but we are fast becoming a country of no and don't do's. It can never succeed...it will never succeed...it will in fact destroy us and our way of life. So long as we only have politicians who “say" they believe in something in order to lead…instead of politicians who want to lead because they actually “believe" in something…we will flounder along with focus group figureheads. Unless a leader steps forward to heal all of America, the wounds on both sides will widen such that we run the risk of draining what precious lifeblood remains.
We aren’t going to make it if fifty percent of the population lives with the belief that, unless their Party regains power during the next election cycle, their way of life is doomed. The politics of division may win elections but the price is steep. There is great irony in hearing some say that “exporting Democracy is a good thing…freedom is on the march." I worry that in our zeal to export this thing we call Democracy, we may soon wake up to find that our own supply has vanished.
Daniel DiRito | April 25, 2006 | 2:46 PM |
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Everybody’s talking about immigration. The opinions are as varied as the surnames in a phonebook…surnames that represent countless former immigrant families. When discussing immigration, many draw comparisons to that portion of our history where passing the Statue of Liberty signaled the pending arrival at Ellis Island, the virtual gateway to opportunity. I contend relying on that segment of our history serves little purpose in understanding the current immigration crisis. I propose looking at a prior time in our history. That time involves the period of slavery in America. These people also arrived by boat…but only after being captured in far away countries.
By now you are likely saying to yourself, “where is he going with this?" Let me try to explain. We need to establish some basic facts before we can explore the less often discussed realities that are also at play with immigration. One, America is still viewed as a land of opportunity by many who are struggling to survive in other countries. Two, the individuals who enter America generally succeed in improving their living conditions. Three, in so doing, added pressure is placed on the lower income earning segment of Americans as they compete for fewer jobs that frequently pay less money.
So how does slavery come into play? Well, by definition, slavery has multiple meanings. Most familiar is the definition that says “the state of a person who is a chattel of another". This definition best describes America’s history with slavery. However, slavery has a second definition that says “submission to a dominating influence". Therein lays my theory. I like to start by looking at the oft heard mantra, - “immigrants are simply taking the jobs that Americans won’t do," and work backwards. To do that, we simply need to change the words to this – “companies and individuals are offering jobs with pay that American’s can’t afford to take." With this second statement, we begin to make the connection to the alternate definition of slavery.
Next, we need to talk about a market driven economy. It begins to get more complex but please stay with me. The notion of a market driven economy is the hallmark of capitalism…the sacred cow of the American society…and generally speaking a hell of a good construct. The problem begins to take shape when, by virtue of economies of scale across multiple countries, those in position to employ disrupt the internal economy of scale by hiring illegal immigrants. Simply stated, wages are driven down because of the immigrant dynamic. Basically, one mans pittance becomes another’s prosperity whereby a new market driven economy has been established.
We then need to look at the enabling factors. In the last twenty five to thirty years we have allowed our system of illegal employment monitoring and enforcement to completely collapse. The ability to subvert the documentation process has gone unattended such that neither the employer nor the employee fears the possibility of experiencing any meaningful deterring consequences. Frequently those employers who benefit from this void argue they cannot be expected to police the documents. It is a legitimate argument to a point. However, in the absence of any negative repercussions, (i.e. a number of employees being discovered to be illegal thereby disrupting production or company operations) they have no internally compelling interest to verify. They do have compelling economic motivations to disregard enforcement. It’s an absolute recipe for failure. The unspoken truth is that this loophole (more likely this crevasse) makes a number of Americans happy.
The question is what happened? The answer is simple. The underlying economic motivations have been institutionalized to ignore compliance. Don’t be fooled. Just as with our currency, the necessary documentation could be improved such that counterfeiting and fraudulent representations could be minimized. It would require a verification system (which exists in name with the INS) that is functional. If employers and employees knew that submitting false documents would eventually be detected, deterrence would begin to take hold.
Government, in tandem with business, has fostered and fueled the immigration problem. The system is designed to allow for these jobs in order to produce the desired economic benefit. When I hear the banter of many of those (in government) apparently opposed to illegal immigration, who I believe at the same time have knowingly allowed it to perpetuate for obvious benefit, I’m reminded of the expression “he doth protest too much". I don’t buy it for a minute. The problem exists more by choice than by chance.
Therefore, back to slavery. If the dominating influence is such that the American workforce and the illegal immigrant population must submit to this new economic dynamic, slavery has been reconstituted. Not by ownership of the individual but by ownership of the economic system such that the employee is forced to acquiesce to a structure that promotes poverty level wages in order to bolster corporate profit. It’s not picking cotton for free against one’s will but if we measure the standard of living, it’s not much better. The beneficiaries are apparent. Sneaking into America to do this is illegal. However, by description, these employees are in fact “submitting to a dominating influence". Ironically, that act can currently be defined as participating in slavery. Only this time, it’s the slaves who have apparently committed the crime. Now that's what I call a full scale reversal of fortune.
Daniel DiRito | April 22, 2006 | 2:58 PM |
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I tend to think most of life can be understood by looking at relationships. The exchanges that occur between people tell us a lot about the mechanics of power and persuasion. It is within those mechanics where one is most likely to find the forces that influence the bulk of what takes place in society. For me to understand and explain this best, I start by looking at the fundamental relationship…a marriage or other love relationship between two people. What an individual does in these relationships is often a good predictor of their actions in the larger society.
As I’ve watched these relationships over the years, one equation has piqued my attention. It’s what I would call the accommodator phenomenon. In this model, one can usually determine which partner does the majority of the accommodating in order to make the relationship functional. Granted, this is an oversimplification, but I think its one that holds up to the analysis. This accommodation can be subtle or it can be pronounced…but it is often the defining characteristic of the relationship.
It may take simple forms like spending the majority of the holidays with one partner’s family or sports events become the primary form of entertainment or maybe its merely whether to live in the city or the suburbs. In some instances it is even more pronounced. In these extreme cases, one partner may actually abandon the majority of their prior relationships or one partner may give up a lifelong hobby. Basically, in these extreme cases, those that know the individual making the accommodation will often find the change wholly surprising.
With this background, I am most fascinated with how this construct translates to the larger dynamic of society. Again, I will oversimplify in order to make my point…but I think it will withstand the scrutiny. In a basic sense, how societies interact in the fundamental relationship will often explain the larger social structures. I am particularly interested in looking at politics. To give an extreme example will help demonstrate my point. In Saudi Arabia, women are primarily accommodators. They don’t vote (although that is changing) and their function is primarily subservient or secondary to the male partner. Societal decisions are therefore made by men, meaning they control the politics.
American politics can also be explained with this model. Our two party system has a large role in how this unfolds. To fully understand my argument, some assumptions must be made. I tend to look at the far left and the far right as the partners in the relationship who want to be accommodated. In the larger middle are those who act as the accommodators in this relationship. The role of the politician, for better or worse, becomes determining how to court enough of these people to win a majority and get elected.
Given that the middle is the largest single segment, it would seem logical that politicians’ should first court this segment of the voting public. Save for a two party system, they might. The obstacles to this approach are the caucus and the primary systems where participation is typically skewed to the extremes. In essence, those individuals at opposite ends of the spectrum that are seeking to be accommodated make the most demands. By their nature, they actively pursue and participate in the struggle to obtain the promises or concessions they desire. This pushes the candidates of both party’s away from the center as they each battle to win their respective nominations.
I think this goes a long way towards explaining the typically low American voter turnout. The middle is seemingly neglected (or at best taken for granted) until the general election and by that time they likely feel neither candidate represents their moderate positions. In many ways, this is the predictable outcome. Independent and moderate voters are under represented in the process which means the candidates they might prefer probably won’t even make it to the ballot. Additionally, I find that accommodators become quickly disenchanted with the rampant rhetoric. Not unlike the personal relationships mentioned above, the accommodator is constantly barraged by signals and manipulations from those that are intent on obtaining the desired acquiescence.
I for one am fed up with the process and the outcome. The question is what to do? I think the answer is found back at the beginning in the fundamentals. Everything starts with basic relationships. Much like the marriage or love relationship where one partner routinely accommodates the other, the solution is relatively simple. Stop doing it and start saying no! There is one miscalculation that hinders taking these steps. The fear is that in doing as much, the accommodator will become the demander. Nothing could be further from the truth. Innate to the accommodator is a sense of reasonability. Demanding the same remains reasonable…but more importantly…forces the demander to move towards reasonability. You can demand reasonability and remain true to its construct.
I already hear the naysayer’s…they are saying nope, you have it wrong…my demander will just leave and find another accommodator. In saying as much, you have proven my point. Here’s why. If today, accommodators collectively said no more, demanders would be defeated. All that would be left for them would be those at the opposite end of the spectrum…equally demanding and intransigent individuals looking to be accommodated. Frankly, I’m happy to see both extremes forced to meet the other side face to face. You see, the middle has for far too long served as a convenient buffer…brokering a peace that serves both ends of the spectrum at the expense of the middle. I say bullshit! I’m reminded of the movie Network, which was released in 1976. I cannot think of any better words to say to all of us in the middle, all of us accommodators, than this poignant soliloquy from the movie:
We know things are bad - worse than bad. They're crazy. It's like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don't go out anymore. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we are living in is getting smaller, and all we say is, 'Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials and I won't say anything. Just leave us alone.' Well, I'm not gonna leave you alone. I want you to get mad! I don't want you to protest. I don't want you to riot - I don't want you to write to your congressman because I wouldn't know what to tell you to write. I don't know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street. All I know is that first you've got to get mad.
You've got to say, 'I'm a human being, Goddamnit! My life has value!' So I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell, 'I'M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!' I want you to get up right now, sit up, go to your windows, open them and stick your head out and yell…'I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!' Things have got to change. But first, you've gotta get mad…You've got to say, 'I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!' Then we'll figure out what to do about the depression and the inflation and the oil crisis. But first get up out of your chairs, open the window, stick your head out, and yell, and say it: I'M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!"
It is time for the middle to take its rightful position in politics. So long as we allow the extremes to dictate the dialogue, rhetoric will prevail. As with a pendulum, in order to find the center, conflict tends to first reach the extremes. History is the virtual seesaw of this process. Groups who see the resolution of conflict as simply a matter of power are destined to see their own power wane because they fail to persuade those over which they exert power. Over time, it is only persuasion that prevails. Until society rethinks its methods to resolve differences, tomorrow will merely look like today...the only difference will be whose in charge. I’m suggesting that its time for the middle to lead.
Daniel DiRito | April 22, 2006 | 9:59 AM |
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I thought this was an interesting article in light of the new South Dakota law virtually eliminating a woman's right to reproductive decisions along with the growing promotion of "Father-Daughter Purity Balls" whereby young girls pledge to their fathers to remain virgins until marriage. Strangely, boys aren't treated similarly...there are no ceremonies whereby boys pledge purity to their mothers. Digby has details here...(More Purity Ball) and PZ Meyers comments further here.
I've yet to understand these fathers preoccupation with their daughter's sexuality such that the father feels the need to elicit a virginity pledge. The whole thing gives me the creeps. I tend to think fathers ought to teach daughters to be thoughtful, independent, and self-confident...but then it may be possible that these fathers see marriage as a ceremony whereby they hand off ownership of their daughter's sexuality to another man. Sick and twisted!
The study seems to indicate that inequality may be detrimental to relationships. Read the article on the study below:
CHICAGO (AP): Japan can't get no satisfaction. But Austria's mojo is working. Sex is more satisfying in countries where women and men are considered equal, according to an international study of people aged between 40 and 80 by the University of Chicago.
Austria, where 71 per cent of those surveyed reported being satisfied with their sex lives, topped the list of 29 nations studied.
Spain, Canada, Belgium and the US also reported high rates of sexual satisfaction, ahead of Australia, in sixth.
The lowest satisfaction rate, 25.7 per cent, was in Japan.
Sociologist Edward Laumann, who led the study, believes the findings show relationships based on equality lead to more satisfaction for women, which leads to more satisfaction for men.
"Male-centred cultures where sexual behaviour is more oriented toward procreation tend to discount the importance of sexual pleasure for women," he said.
The study, which appears in this month's issue of the Archives of Sexual Behaviour, was funded by Pfizer, which makes the impotence drug Viagra.
Researchers surveyed 27,500 people by phone, in person or by mail, depending on local practices. The different ways of questioning people was one of the study's limitations, the researchers noted.
Daniel DiRito | April 20, 2006 | 12:33 PM |
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According to Sydney Blumenthal, Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has shown new attention to Karl Rove's activities in the Plame leak case. Blumenthal writes: (I have included bold type for emphasis)
Two weeks ago, Fitzgerald filed a motion before the federal court in the Libby case stating that his investigation had proved that the White House engaged in "concerted action" from "a plan to discredit, punish or seek revenge against" former ambassador Joseph Wilson, who revealed that the rationale of the Iraq war was based on false information that the White House knew was bogus. Fitzgerald declared further that he had gathered "evidence that multiple officials in the White House" had outed his wife's clandestine identity to reporters as an element of revenge.
It seems to indicate that Fitzgerald is not solely focused on the case against Scooter Libby. It also seems to insinuate that the leak had political motivations despite the administrations new position that the information was released in "response" to Joe Wilson's remarks. The distinctions are important. Blumenthal continues:
Last week, on April 12, Libby counter-filed to demand extensive documents in the possession of the prosecutor. His filing, written by his lawyers, reveals that he intends to put Karl Rove on the stand as a witness to question him about his leaking of Plame's name to reporters and presumably his role in the "concerted action" against Wilson. In his request for documents from Rove's files, Libby dropped mention of Rove's current legal status.
For months, Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, has assured the press that his client, who was believed to be vulnerable to indictment for perjury, is in the clear. But Libby insisted that he was entitled to "disclosure of such documents" in Rove's files "even if Mr. Rove remains a subject of a continuing grand jury investigation".
Blumenthal's premise is that through the Libby filings, it appears that Rove's legal status may be evolving from one of providing information to the Prosecutor to being the object of the ongoing investigation. Blumenthal states:
Karl Rove is a subject of Fitzgerald's investigation - this is the headline buried in Libby's filing.
In white-collar criminal investigations, individuals who fall under the gaze of a prosecutor fit into one of three categories: witness, subject or target. Rove's attorney has suggested that Rove is simply a witness. But that is untrue. He is a subject. A subject is someone the prosecutor believes may have committed a crime and is under investigation. If the prosecutor decides he has accumulated sufficient evidence to prove guilt, he will change the designation of that person from subject to target and then indict him or her.
It is reported that the Grand Jury began reviewing the latest Fitzgerald information today. Pursuing the speculation, one might wonder if today's removal of Rove as a policy advisor could possibly be in anticipation of his increasing legal vulnerabilities. Is this the first visible step in a necessary distancing? It may not be long before the reasons become abundantly apparent.
Daniel DiRito | April 19, 2006 | 5:10 PM |
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The MSM seems to be giving the impression that it's surprising to see Karl Rove has been removed from his policy advisor position. Nonetheless, there is little doubt as to the meaning of Rove’s role change. Frankly, given the shambles of a policy plan being run by this administration, together with the unlikelihood that any new legislation of significance can be passed in the run-up to the mid-term election, the calculation was that Rove could better serve the Republican Party in full campaign mode.
Truthfully, why use Rove as a policy advisor when his real talent is as a political strategist (hack). The White House is simply acknowledging this well-known fact. Additionally, Republicans realize that standing on ceremony and titles won't win the upcoming elections. The change is simply about expediency. While I enjoy thinking he’s getting a bit of a spanking, I don’t buy it.
Bush is trying to demonstrate to Republicans up for reelection that he has their backs and is moving to help get them reelected…and how better to demonstrate that than getting Karl Rove focused on a strategy for the Party. The architect hasn’t been cast aside as a lowly carpenter…he’s being asked to build something out of nothing…and he’s pretty darn good at that.
Daniel DiRito | April 19, 2006 | 12:04 PM |
They just don't get it! The calls, by numerous retired generals, for the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld along with criticism of this administration's ongoing execution of the war in Iraq are being met with a public relations strategy. Early reports indicate that the meeting between Rumsfeld and a group of retired military leaders today was more about devising a winning message than trying to devise a better war strategy.
If I correctly understand the call for Rumsfeld to resign, it comes after these generals have concluded that so long as Rumsfeld remains in his position, the war strategy cannot and will not be changed. Hence, if these generals have concluded that the strategy won’t work and must change, then calling for Rumsfeld to resign is simply acknowledging the only avenue available whereby the changes they support can be implemented.
This administration’s myopic view seems to simply meet criticism of policy with a revised political strategy. These efforts are demonstrated by the numerous talking heads that are attempting to undermine the remarks of former generals critical of the Secretary of Defense’s handling of the war. Rushing to announce a briefing with a group of military strategists is more of the same. The longstanding objections to Rumsfeld are primarily focused on his intransigence. Gathering a group of chosen military consultants is akin to hiring cheerleaders. They make for good photo-ops, they attract attention, but they can’t salvage a victory if the team doesn’t know how to execute a winning game plan.
This behavior merely adds an exclamation mark to the assertion that the need to vindicate the ideological leanings of this administration repeatedly takes priority over the troubling realities on the ground. The dangers of an administration of ideologues is that they are inclined to see all criticism as nothing more than an ideological push-back motivated by political considerations. There is an obvious irony to this situation. While the criticism is likely not about ideology, the consequences of interpreting it as so have implications far greater than political advantage. Perhaps it’s nothing more than the boy that cried wolf, when initiating this war, being unable to accept that others may be speaking words that are both sincere and factual. Regardless, reality trudges forward in this mire we call Iraq.
Daniel DiRito | April 18, 2006 | 2:33 PM |
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In light of the recent killing of a ten year old girl in Oklahoma and the dismay with the mindset of these type of criminals and with serial killers in general, I thought I would offer my own thoughts on explaining what may lead these people to commit such horrendous crimes. My thoughts are in no way meant to justify or defend these people but to attempt to figure out how a mind can become so seemingly dysfunctional.
I’m inclined to think that the process begins in early childhood and has its origins in the response the child gets to its own displays of anger. Often that anger is exhibited to no avail…the child is ignored and often shamed for their outbursts of anger such that the child begins to withhold anger in order to avoid these unsatisfactory and negative consequences.
At the same time, the child comes to discover situations and places where he or she can release this anger and do so in full control of the response and the outcome of that anger…unimpeded by shaming or blaming. In essence the child finds a position of total control and power where it is safe to disperse their anger. At virtually all other times, this anger is totally stifled and withheld so as to avoid the ridicule or shaming that might result from its exposure.
Over time, these individuals create scenarios where they know they can execute their anger with a certain and satisfying outcome…thus masking the feelings of shame or ridicule that they believe would otherwise be experienced if they were to allow this anger to escape in the wrong environment. The need to release this anger becomes part of elaborate planning that allows them to transfer anger with familiar individuals to animals or pets and then eventually to often unknown people they perceive as vulnerable or simply select as victims for the calculated release of their anger in a fully controllable scenario.
Supporting my theory is the behavior of these individuals upon capture. They are rarely intimidated and appear to be lacking in emotion when confronted with the shame of their actions. Investigators can attempt to elicit a response by yelling, shaming, and ridiculing…familiar experiences to these individuals…and although they possess anger at those inflicting these attacks, they will not allow the release of their emotions in these environments where they lack control. They have fully integrated a process that these emotions may only be expressed where they can be assured of a certain and satisfying outcome that they wholly control.
These individuals become well aware of survival of the fittest…the king of the jungle model. They quickly assess that direct battles are difficult to win and find other appropriate environments for achieving and experiencing success. They learn to do this while also learning to avoid the possibilities of experiencing additional shame or ridicule in situations considered normal by others...but that they perceive to be dangerous to their fragile self-image.
Sex often becomes tied to these moments of control because they rarely feel sufficient confidence to submit to the potential vulnerability of a normal exchange of emotions. Their longstanding aversion to ridicule is transferred to all aspects of life that possess the risk of experiencing these negative and debilitating feelings. Before long, sex is only acceptable when they can retain control…otherwise the possibility of shame and ridicule preoccupy their minds so fully that they have difficulty functioning in any normal environment. Sex soon becomes inextricable from these calculated and controlled scenarios that allow for the release of their anger. The satisfaction obtained from these moments of release becomes a virtual obsession and soon escalates into more elaborate and frequent situational opportunities. This behavior is, by its nature, reinforcing and grows in satisfaction and necessity such that it cannot be avoided or ceased.
Whether or not these individuals experience more shaming and ridicule than the average child or if they are simply less prepared to manage the feelings in any constructive way may be impossible to determine. What my theory implies is that the line between normal functional behavior and the reasonable management of emotions is very narrow. The fact that people, who have known these infamous individuals, frequently express shock upon hearing of the offense seems to support this notion. In my construct, it makes perfect sense since a fundamental element of this mindset is in fact learning to avoid situations that risk the exposure of these flawed mechanics used to manage emotions.
Sadly, it may be some time before any definitive causal effect data can be identified such that these individuals’ heinous behaviors can be prevented or predicted. What is certain is how little we actually understand the mind and its complexity. Until such time as we can, tragic crimes will continue to devastate and disturb.
Daniel DiRito | April 18, 2006 | 10:55 AM |
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Life is seemingly an exercise in moving forward. With this understanding, as we navigate the terrain we call life, much like with the act of walking, we often only focus on where to place our next footstep. However, sometimes in life it’s appropriate and necessary to stop and look back to view the footprints (the impact) we have left behind. This is especially true with what might be called trends…those surges of energy and enthusiasm that sweep us up and propel us forward with an ease seldom experienced. As a relatively new participant in this trend called blogging, it seems appropriate to stop and look back before getting lost in the prevailing winds to move forward.
As a person of endless curiosity, stepping back, as in attempting to snap a panoramic photo, allows the broadest purview. For some time now, I’ve found the prospect of blogging intriguing. In explaining my interest to others, in anticipation of completing the process of going live with my own site, I routinely remarked that I saw blogging as an opportunity to have a voice…an avenue that allowed mere individuals an opportunity to be heard. In my estimation, it offers the nearest approximation for an individual to have a newspaper or a magazine or a radio or television station without having to invest huge amounts of capital. That’s a pretty remarkable opportunity in this day and age.
With all opportunities, there is an associated, if not larger, degree of responsibility. When I speak of responsibility, I’m not simply referring to conventional measures that we’re all familiar with…not the typical laundry list of possible offenses such as libelous or slanderous statements or the misrepresentations of fact…but the responsibility to use what can only be described as the touchstone of the internet...blogging...to facilitate meaningful change and promote a greater good. If we allow blogging to succumb to that which it has long opposed…mainstream conventions and conclusions…then instead of being an agent for transformation, blogging will transform into that which it purports to revile.
At the risk of seemingly tossing water onto fire in the midst of happy campers singing Kumbaya, let me share some observations. Some may accuse me of being an alarmist…but my own review of history tells me today’s alarmists are on occasion tomorrows visionaries. Before concluding that remark is intended to be an attempt to muscle my way to the table of the prescient few, know that I offer my humble reflections with an unencumbered agenda…to shine the light of thought upon the highway down which this new communication construct is racing.
Blogging has much in common with the well known standard bearers of the news. At the same time, it is our differences that must be maintained. The fact that the cost of blogging doesn’t approximate the costs to run a television news channel or a talk radio station should guide bloggers to avoid the need to sell the daily dose of sensationalism that brings more voyeurs than visitors. Obviously bloggers need funds…but sacrificing substance and content for site visits in order to bolster advertising rates can soon deteriorate into the tail wagging the dog. When the race to break the story trumps the depth and analysis of that very story, the blogosphere becomes nothing more than the poor stepsister of the mainstream media. Bloggers must be mindful of the need to harness the instinct to pursue the next scoop at the expense of the blogospheres unique appeal.
Ideally, bloggers should dismantle, rather than break the news. The danger of moving towards the mainstream media model is in the potential to usurp the consensus view of the readership that the blogosphere offers something different and more importantly, something more. The backbone of the blogosphere is clearly supported by these serious and thoughtful readers who have been able to find the substance they crave in light of the vacuum that is the media establishment. If we simply become an extension of that establishment, not only will bloggers be devoured by huge news organizations, we will have forsaken our enablers.
There is an additional pitfall inherent in the decision to chase site hits. Computer communication, by its nature, has the potential to become the playground for the extreme fringes given the anonymity it affords. That is not to say bloggers must report from the middle. However, it isn’t difficult to envision a scenario where, given the make-up of any given commenting community, a blogger might succumb to competing motivations in determining the next posting or the next headline. The predisposition to retain these statistically significant allegiances at the expense of the blogospheres perceived integrity could easily spiral into nothing more than tabloid tirades. All too frequently comment threads are susceptible to becoming the rants of those emboldened by their ability to remain unidentified, yet relevant.
Ultimately, the blogosphere is an opportunity to participate in the exponential advancement of communications. Each day our world grows smaller as those connecting on the blogosphere grow closer. Keeping this new frontier chastened is a daunting task but the potential benefits make the effort essential. In the rush for a segment of the audience, we mustn’t pollute the soil from which this cabal of cable germinated…wherein…ever nourished by the pursuit of truth and its application to the events that impact each of us, we sit glaring into our computer screens…ever hopeful that those looking back are similarly motivated. Without question, the stakes are enormous.
Daniel DiRito | April 11, 2006 | 5:17 PM |
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Numerous protests are being conducted throughout the country today by opponents of immigration reform measures recently passed by the House of Representatives. While it is doubtful that the House version could ever gain approval in the Senate, the issue remains contentious, complicated, and controversial. More coverage at Reuters here, Crooks and Liars here, and Firedoglake here.
As with most complex political issues, little more than rhetoric is available for the average citizen to evaluate in order to fully understand the consequences of the numerous proposals being discussed. Immigration brings together a never before seen constellation that stands to change much of what Americans have come to understand about our economy, our political affiliations, corporate interests, globalization, trade agreements, the influence of unions, and many other ramifications yet to be identified or calculated.
Some choose to look to our past in hopes of finding a palatable position. As a country of immigrants, this approach seeks to simplify the issue with a more of the same mentality...we're all immigrants so we should increase the numbers for legal immigration in order to avoid the growing undocumented population. The unanswered questions are how to determine that number and does that number simply increase the number of documented immigrants while failing to stem the tide of undocumented entrants. Supply and demand are seemingly the crux of this model.
At the other end of the spectrum are those who prefer a zero tolerance approach. In this construct, those here illegally are returned to their country of origin and the borders are secured such that the influx of illegal’s can be halted. The dialogue of this group generally focuses on the legal considerations and they frame the issue as a question of fairness to those who play by the rules in seeking to immigrate to America. Simply stated, they want enforcement...such that we implement and apply the existing laws before changing them.
In the middle are numerous plans with varying details. Most include some provision to integrate the existing illegal entrants into a program that moves them progressively towards citizenship. The recent compromise bill that initially appeared headed towards approval in the Senate included a system that focused on the number of years each illegal immigrant has been in the country...with those here the longest receiving a more favorable treatment containing fewer benchmarks and obstacles between the immigrant and citizenship.
Characteristically, the issue is polarized by intense passion on both extremes. This passionate posturing makes it increasingly difficult to carve out a compromise. Many politicians have taken positions based on their perceived constituency sentiment that allows them little room for flexibility. Regional economic considerations coupled with the potential impact to certain corporate and business segments create an incoherent patchwork of conflicting considerations. Navigating this difficult terrain is likely to foster more political stalemate than innovative compromise.
While Washington plays politics, Americans cannot ignore the fact that there are currently an estimated 12,000,000 reasons to resolve this issue. It's time for politicians to set aside the rhetoric and complete the daunting task of a thorough evaluation that will provide the necessary, albeit frightening, calculations and considerations. Despite voices to the contrary, these 12,000,000 people are here to stay. Unless we get about the business of accepting this reality and moving forward with a coherent and tangible policy, we will soon find ourselves with an additional 12,000,000 reasons to solve this problem.
Daniel DiRito | April 10, 2006 | 3:39 PM |
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It appears that final results in the Italian election may not be available until such time as alleged voting discrepancies can be resolved. Current Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is seeking clarification on the reported annulment of some 500,000 votes and a possible recount given the margin of victory by opposition candidate Romano Prodi (a mere 25,000 votes in the lower house). The upper house is still undetermined as some 6 seats are filled by Italian voters living abroad. Prodi believes he will also win the majority of those seats thereby taking a slim majority in both houses. Given the coalition approach to government, regardless of the final outcome, the victor will likely face difficulties keeping a government in place.
Romano Prodi of the Center-left coalition is claiming victory in the Italian election to name the next Prime Minister of the country. BBC news has an update here. The claim is being contested by current Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of the Center-right coalition. Reuters is reporting that Prodi has apparently won control of the lower house of parliament according to provisional final data. Read the article here.
BBC News is reporting that Berlusconi appears to have a razor thin lead in his bid for reelection with 49.9 percent to 49.6 percent for challenger Romano Prodi. Read the full BBC article here. Reuters also has an update here.
Early reports indicate that incumbent Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi may have been narrowly defeated by Romano Prodi, the Center-left candidate. At the moment, results indicating a Prodi win are within the statistical margin of error. Reuters has a full article here. If the exit polls prove correct, Prodi has promised that Italy would immediately withdraw the remaining Italian forces from Iraq. The war has been largely unpopular with the Italian population despite Berlusconi’s close ties with the US.
My own impression, from traveling in Italy and speaking with a number of working class Italians, is a growing distrust of Berlusconi’s cozy relationship with the Bush administration. Many Europeans have seen the adoption of the standard currency (the Euro) as an effort to remove any economic leverage that individual countries may have had by virtue of independent currency systems. The standardization is viewed as an American effort to simplify trade and other economic considerations with Europe.
Many of those I spoke with in Italy indicated that, shortly after the conversion to the Euro, the cost of living nearly doubled while wages remained relatively the same. During my travels, I witnessed numerous protests and marches by labor coalitions and other left leaning organizations including the communist party; making today’s election results less than surprising.
Further adding to the difficult economic situation is the influx of immigrants from Eastern Europe’s former Soviet block countries. While expressing frustration at the influx, Italy, in contrast to other European countries dealing with immigration issues, has seen minimal racial animosity. My own interpretation of this relative calm is an understanding by many Italians that people in need seek opportunity wherever it may potentially be found. Whether this tenuous civility can be maintained will rest in part on the new government's ability to improve the debt-ridden and slow growth economy of Italy.
More Photos Below:
Graffiti images from Italy voicing opposition to the Iraq war:
Daniel DiRito | April 10, 2006 | 9:51 AM |
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Now that it is clear that the White House released (leaked?) information (classified?) to refute the claims of Ambassador Joe Wilson in the run up to the Iraq war, the President's usual apologists are rushing to provide the plausible explanation of the events. The Washington Post's Sunday editorial calls the Presidents actions "A Good Leak". The Post is not alone in attempting to parse words. Bill Kristol accuses Prosecutor Fitzgerald today of buying into the definition of "leak" that is preferred by the Presidents detractors. Think Progress has the video of Kristol here.
It's hard to imagine that the WaPo & Kristol actually think the public will accept these arguments. In his appearance, Kristol made the following remark:
“He (Fitzgerald) has bought the argument that there is something improper about the Bush administration responding to Joe Wilson’s charges."
Excuse me, but secretly leaking information cannot be equated with “responding". The explanation of the actions (leaking) after the fact cannot disguise the intentions of the actions (manipulation) at the moment that they occurred. Had the President wanted to respond in order to properly inform the American public about the classified information, then logically, why wouldn't he have simply done so directly? If the President feels the American public should hear important classified information, he can simply release the information in any number of straightforward ways through a press release from the White House or explained in a speech or through a news conference. Frankly, "a good leak" need not be a leak at all. Trying to explain why it was a leak is the task at hand.
Unfortunately, that can't be done logically because, at the time the leak occurred, the leaked information needed to be selective. Had they actually acknowledged the “declassification" openly at the time that they now assert it was declassified by the President, then the documents would have become immediately accessible to the press and the public. If that were to happen at the point in time when the issue was receiving scrutiny in the media, it may have minimized the intended smear of Wilson's assertions. The media would have reviewed the entire document and found information that would have conflicted with the administrations assessment and potentially given some added credibility to Wilson's assertions and accusations.
I would argue that the subsequent release of the document (I believe roughly ten days later) was also strategic. It gave the administration enough time to smear Wilson knowing full well that the flurry of media attention before the actual release of the document would provide the players a necessary window of opportunity to sufficiently cast doubt on Wilson's assertions. In retrospect, the plan to smear Wilson was quite effective given that no significant traction would be gained by those who, at the time, doubted much of the intelligence being provided and the necessity to invade Iraq.
Further, I might speculate that the repercussions of the release of Valerie Plames name may have been a poorly vetted or overlooked detail that resulted in an unintended consequence. Unfortunately for the administration, her exposure and the subsequent attempt to cover it up and reconstruct the events has led to an abundance of doubt as to the intended actions of the President and his operatives. The full degree of damage to this President, who has billed himself as a straight shooter, is yet to be determined.
Daniel DiRito | April 9, 2006 | 10:03 AM |
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Seymour Hersh reports in the latest issue of The New Yorker that the Bush administration is contemplating the use of nuclear weapons to dismantle Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program. You can find the full article here. More analysis at AMERICAblog,...
Daniel DiRito | April 8, 2006 | 12:54 PM |
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Scott McClellan, soon to be called "The Magician" given his propensity to make the President's indiscretions disappear, played political dodge ball again today as he was peppered with questions about the revelation that the President allegedly authorized the release of...
Daniel DiRito | April 7, 2006 | 1:46 PM |
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Democratic Representative Cynthia McKinney has just apologized on the floor of the house for her actions in the altercation with a Capitol police officer. Obviously, I wasn't present for the incident, but from my viewpoint, her actions since the event...
Daniel DiRito | April 6, 2006 | 10:10 AM |
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It was announced yesterday that a key find in the long sought evolutionary link may have been discovered. Scientists in the Canadian arctic discovered several intact specimens of large fishlike fossils that have what appear to be the precursor characteristics...
Daniel DiRito | April 6, 2006 | 8:29 AM |
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The emergence of the internet leads us to believe that we have seemingly rewritten the process of human connections. It provides dating and friend networks, blogging and chat rooms, and countless other places where distant people can presumably engage each...
Daniel DiRito | April 3, 2006 | 7:42 AM |
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Am I missing something? When did the remarks made by people kidnapped in Iraq become the measure of one's status as a victim? Unless I am mistaken, being taken against one's will and witnessing one's translator being murdered does constitute...
Daniel DiRito | April 1, 2006 | 10:03 AM |
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