Six Degrees of Speculation: June 2006: Archives

June 30, 2006

Clift: Blame Congress For Republican Media Bashing genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

The recent efforts of Republicans to attack the New York Times and other media outlets for disclosing that the government has been reviewing banking and other financial information in its efforts to thwart terrorist activity are viewed by many as political spin. Eleanor Clift has an interesting article in Newsweek in which she makes the point that the fault should actually rests with congress and its inability or unwillingness to perform its oversight of the executive branch. Read the full article here.

June 30, 2006 - You have to go back to the Alien and Sedition Acts of the 1790s to find Congress so outrageously trying to stifle dissent. Signed by President John Adams to quash newspapers aligned with rival Thomas Jefferson, some 25 people were arrested and 10 editors and publishers convicted under these laws. This time around, at least, the resolution passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday condemning news organizations for publishing classified information has no force of law. It’s pure political theater.

Most of the administration's ire has been focused on The New York Times, the paper they view as exhibit A of the liberal media elite. The Times did break the story, but others were close behind, including The Wall Street Journal, an administration favorite. [...] Still, 17 Democrats joined the GOP to inoculate themselves against a 30-second television spot labeling them soft on terrorism. “They might as well vote for it," says Marshall Wittmann, a senior fellow with the centrist Democratic Leadership Conference. “It’s meaningless anyway and will soon be forgotten." Fair-minded people can disagree on whether the Times made the right call on the need to publish. These editorial decisions are not made lightly, but whichever side you take in the debate, this is not treason. The administration doth protest too much.

The larger point is that journalists have taken up the task of holding this administration accountable. Congress has done nothing. A new book, “The Broken Branch," by congressional scholars Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann, makes the point that the Republicans who vaulted into the majority in 1994 are either crusaders, for whom the institution is incidental, or opportunists, getting rich at the expense of the institution.

Ornstein and Mann offer some practical solutions in “The Broken Branch," among them that no vote should last longer than 20 minutes. The Republicans held open the vote on the Medicare prescription-drug bill for three hours, from 3 a.m. until 6 a.m., until they won passage by a single vote. When the Democrats were in control, they once stretched the vote for 15 minutes on an important budget resolution. The Republicans, led by then House Whip Dick Cheney, went ballistic. Cheney called Democratic Speaker Jim Wright “a heavy-handed S.O.B." That was in 1988. In the years since, Cheney’s language has remained consistent, and he and his fellow Republicans have developed their own heavy hands. It took the Democrats 40 years in power to develop their sense of entitlement. “The Republicans have a much shorter learning curve," says Ornstein.

The failure of Congress to exercise its authority has amplified the efforts of the Bush administration to expand the power of the executive branch. The fact that the Republicans hold a majority in both the House and the Senate has made it difficult for Democrats to enable hearings or investigations to expose abuses or keep the executive branch in check. Thought Theater has previously reported on the implications of this problem here.

Daniel DiRito | June 30, 2006 | 12:45 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Can Howard Dean's Plan Win In November? genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

With just over four months until the November midterm elections, many are asking whether the Democratic National Committee has positioned the Party to get out the vote and win elections or if the 50 state plan being created by Howard Dean is a much longer term objective that will miss, in 2006, its best opportunity in years. Dean's recent disagreements with Rahm Emmanuel, chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) and the less than stellar Democratic turnout in the CA-50 congressional special election have raised doubts about the 50 state plans ability to impact the 2006 election. Art Berman has a good article exploring the topic here at The Nation.

The district was Republican, but Democrats saw the contest between Democrat Francine Busby and Republican Brian Bilbray as an opportunity to pick up a seat--and gain a boost en route to the November Congressional elections. As voters were heading to the polls in Cunningham's district, I asked Democratic Party chair Howard Dean about his party's plan to mobilize voters in the coming mid-term elections. "We're using it in Busby's district," Dean said.

If that was the case, Democrats have reason to worry. And some are--which has led to a bruising fight in Democratic strategy circles between Dean's Democratic National Committee (DNC) and other key party operatives. Busby lost to Bilbray by four percentage points, and worse, a massive Democratic mobilization never materialized.

Dean's immediate focus in Busby's district, as he explained to me, was to target people who voted in 2004 but not in 2002. Yet Republicans out-hustled and out-mobilized Democrats on the ground in Bilbray's victory, spending twice as much money, making six times as many phone calls to voters and airlifting in 100 staffers from Capitol Hill. "There was dramatically lower turnout than we expected," said one Democratic operative in the district. Busby got half as many votes as Kerry, and only improved upon Kerry's 44 percent take by less than 1 percent.

In mid-June only 3 percent of voters showed up for the Democratic primary to choose a Senate challenger to George Allen in Virginia, five times lower than the last contested Democratic primary. "Democrats have not yet felt the fire and energy that they felt in 2004," EMILY's List president Ellen Malcolm ominously wrote to donors recently.

As I read this information, I was drawn to a couple of significant items. Specifically, the reported lack of turnout and the absence of Democratic voter enthusiasm don’t match what one finds on the web at many netroots sites. The contradictions are worth exploring. Despite the large number of visitors these vocal and visible sites garner, the question is whether those numbers represent a Democratic voter groundswell or simply the concentration of an undoubtedly large number of like minded individuals.

As I attempt to analyze the situation, it seems worthwhile to look at some of the actual numbers. According to a 2005 report by The New Politics Institute, the top 1000 political blogs (both conservative and progressive) generate approximately three million unique visitors each day...up from 500,000 over the prior two years. The increase is both significant and impressive but when these numbers are dispersed over the entire voting public, they offer some explanation for the observation that perceived Democratic voter enthusiasm hasn't translated into increased voter turnout.

A comparison might be helpful. In 2004, union membership in the United States was approximately 15.5 million. Of that number, one would be safe to conclude that a majority are Democrats. At the same time, they are typically more politically active than the average voter. Nonetheless, most political observers feel that unions have had a diminishing influence on elections. Given the relative numbers (union members vs. progressive blog readers), while the progressive blogosphere has garnered attention from the media, it remains to be seen what impact they can actually have on elections. What isn't available and might be helpful to the analysis is the percentage of visitors to progressive blogs that are also union members. Without knowing the actual make-up of blog readers it is difficult to conclude whether they are newly engaged voters or simply existing Democratic voters who have aligned with similar thinking Democrats to make up the bulk of the progressive blogosphere.

Actual election results have failed to demonstrate that the progressive blogosphere has actually been able to change the outcome or the turnout. The fact that they bring like minded individuals together and have been able to focus attention on specific elections across the country as well as raise funds for candidates identified as progressives has been notable yet perhaps insignificant. The voter data has simply not supported the notion that there is a palpable impact. For example, the Busby race attracted significant online attention and national support for her candidacy but while those who participated in the race from afar were engaged, it apparently didn't translate to the voters within the district. The same has been seen in other high profile races that have caught the attention of the progressive blogosphere.

The Connecticut Democratic senate primary race between Lieberman and Lamont is the latest focus of the progressive blogosphere. Lamont, the progressive challenger, has done quite well in his efforts to unseat Joe Lieberman and has significantly narrowed the gap as the August primary approaches. The problem that I see is similar to the situation in Virginia whereby only three percent of voters turned out for the primary election. Given a similarly low voter turnout, Lamont may well be able to win the Democratic nomination but may be unable to win the November election. Polling shows that Lieberman would win the seat if he ran as an independent against Lamont and the Republican challenger.

With this in mind, I return to the midterm election strategy. In the midst of conflicting strategies, one wonders if any of the various approaches can muster ample voters to defeat the Republicans. Howard Dean frequently cites the favorable comments from those he has placed in positions within the various state Party structures as evidence that the fifty state plan is working. Whether that can be translated into larger voter turnout is yet to be seen.

It sounded simple, but the "50 State Strategy" was a radical idea for a party accustomed to organizing only around election time, in toss-up states. Dean delivered immediately, giving each state a minimum of two to three field organizers. In places like Mississippi, that was more staff than the party had previously employed altogether. "I'm basically trying to rebuild the infrastructure of a party that doesn't have any," Dean says. With a few exceptions, state DNC chairs rave about him. "I couldn't be more impressed by the DNC," says Chris Redfern, chair of the Ohio Democratic Party. "We're way ahead of the curve," says Dan Parker, Indiana's Democratic chair.

Dean's approach is similar to the one he employed when running for the Democratic presidential nomination. I closely followed his campaign and it certainly appeared that he had a network of supporters throughout the country. Many see the current progressive blogosphere as an extension of Dean's efforts. Regardless, the 2004 Iowa caucus results, which most political observers believe is all about having people on the ground within the state, seemed to indicate that the Dean model had failed. As I've attempted to understand the particulars, my suspicion is that the structure in Iowa, and possibly the fifty state structures, simply doesn’t have the depth that is needed to win voters. The fact that Dean was a leader in the use of the internet in the 2004 presidential campaign allowed him to amass like minded individuals and gain a significant funding advantage...but it never translated into a groundswell of voters needed to carry state primaries. Dean frequently cites his fundraising efforts, and while they have been successful, many are concerned that his use of the funds may be questionable.

But the DNC and the state parties lag behind their GOP rivals. Dean did keep pace with DNC fundraising in '04, but he has been on a spending spree, pouring millions into updating voter technology and boosting state party organizations. As a result the RNC, as of May, has four times as much cash to spend on November as the DNC--$43 million to $10.3 million. This has caused Democrats to fear that Republicans can fund last-minute ad campaigns and turnout efforts that Democrats will be unable to counter. And Republican state parties boast a financial advantage in thirty-two states. "Voters start paying attention late in the game," says the Democratic operative. "That's when you need resources. And there's a worry those resources won't be there." Button, who is coordinating the campaigns in Tennessee, agrees. "I asked Dean point blank a month ago: How much money can I count on you for? He said they've done all they're gonna do."

Officials at the DNC talk about stealing the Republican playbook. But in reality Dean is performing a difficult juggling act, devolving power to the states while trying to win respect for his long-term vision inside the Beltway. "The number-one sport in Washington is to take shots at the DNC chair," the Democratic operative jokes.

Dean's 50 State Strategy could be the blueprint for his party's revival. But winning elections--particularly this November--would help, too.

I've previously written that Karl Rove understands the American voter and in so doing realizes that voters are busy and that they ultimately devote minimal time to elections. The notion that Howard Dean's efforts are an attempt to emulate the Republican strategy may be a misnomer. To assume that Rove believes in a grassroots strategy is naive and speaks to a superficial analysis. While it often appears that the Republicans have grassroots constituencies, I would argue that they actually have "issue" constituencies that Rove has been able to manipulate. By identifying specific issues, he is quickly able to determine the numbers needed to win an election. Once the groups are identified, the strategy is to target messages to those groups in order to win their support. The coalition isn't the result of a groundswell of voters who guide the Party; rather the coalition is the result of shepherding large voting blocks into the Party with narrow messages delivered by co-opted leaders within those specific groups who receive access to power and influence in exchange for delivering the voters. The distinction is subtle but significant.

An example might be helpful. Dean and some other Democrats have talked about courting religious voters in an attempt to expand the voter base. The problem with the strategy is the absence of an enticing message. Stating that one would welcome such voters to the Party is far different than offering them a tangible message that meets their objectives. Aside from extending an invitation, what is it the Democrats are offering these voters that is more tangible than that offered by the Republican Party? Sadly, these voters aren't looking for acceptance...they are looking for change. The Democrats simply aren't offering these voters what they want and by courting such voters the Party may be neglecting middle of the road voters that could actually be enticed by a meaningful message...if one were created and delivered.

In the end, the Democrats will fail if they continue to determine their strategy as a reaction to the Republican strategy. Attempts to replicate the Republican efforts cannot succeed without the necessary messages. Attempting to deliver messages to some Republican voting blocks is a waste of time, effort, and money. Democrats need to look at the make-up of the voting public, decide which blocks of voters they can win over with the appropriate messages and determine if it is an actual voter majority. If not, they need to determine where the messages can be altered to garner other voters. Recent forays to court all voters are simply viewed as an indecisive and convoluted message that fails to inspire or influence enough voters. There is mounting evidence that the Democrats aren't developing or don't have the messages necessary to win.

Daniel DiRito | June 30, 2006 | 8:43 AM | link | Comments (0)
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June 29, 2006

Supreme Court: Military Tribunals Not Acceptable genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

In a 5-3 decision, the Supreme Court has ruled that the Bush administration may not use military tribunals to try detainees held at Guantanamo Bay. Chief Justice John Roberts recused himself from the case as he previously ruled in favor of the administration in a lower court decision. Read the full article here.

The 5-3 ruling means officials will have to come up with a new policy to prosecute at least 10 so-called "enemy combatants" awaiting trial -- it does not dispute the government's right to detain suspects.

The enemy combatant designation, according to the Bush administration, means the suspect can be held without charges in a military prison without the protections of the U.S. criminal justice system, such as the right to counsel --a status the court rejected.

The case was a major test of President Bush's authority as commander in chief in during war. Bush has aggressively asserted the power of the government to capture, detain, and prosecute suspected terrorists in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

"The military commission at issue is not expressly authorized by any congressional act," said Justice John Paul Stevens, writing for the majority. The tribunals, he said, "must be understood to incorporate at least the barest of those trial protections that have been recognized by customary international law."

Clearly, the Court felt the President had exceeded his authority in determining how to treat enemy combatants as a part of the administration's "war on terror". The 5-3 ruling points out the importance of any future Supreme Court appointments. There is little doubt that President Bush would like to make an additional appointment that would likely create a 5-4 conservative majority that could jeopardize a number of prior rulings including Roe v. Wade. Since the Bush administration will be in a position to make appointments for the next two years, the outcome of the November midterm elections may well decide if the President will have the necessary votes to get another conservative appointment approved.

Daniel DiRito | June 29, 2006 | 8:40 AM | link | Comments (0)
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June 28, 2006

Pentagon: Gay Not A Disorder But Don't Join Military genre: Gaylingual & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

The Pentagon issued a statement on Wednesday in which it retracted the statement from a Pentagon document that homosexuality is a mental disorder. At the same time, the Pentagon sought to make clear that the clarification in no way altered the position that openly gay individuals are not permitted in the military. Read the full article here.

After a 1996 Pentagon document placing homosexuality among a list of "certain mental disorders" came to light this month, the American Psychiatric Association and a handful of lawmakers asked the Defense Department to change its view.

The Pentagon said in a statement: "Homosexuality should not have been characterized as a mental disorder in an appendix of a procedural instruction. A clarification will be issued over the next few days."

"Notwithstanding its inclusion, we find no practical impact since that appendix simply listed factors that do not constitute a physical disability, and homosexuality of course does not," the Pentagon added.

The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network said the rate of troops discharged under the "don't ask, don't tell" policy had fallen by about 40 percent since the beginning of U.S. military operations following the September 11 attacks on the United States.

"There is no good reason for keeping the ban in place and there's every good reason for repealing it," Ralls said. "It's discriminatory and robbing the military of talented men and women who want to serve. It's unnecessary. We've seen bans lifted among our closest allies. In Iraq and Afghanistan, Americans are serving alongside openly gay British troops."

Daniel DiRito | June 28, 2006 | 4:25 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Supreme Court Rules On Redistricting genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

The long awaited decision of the Supreme Court with regards to the Texas redistricting efforts led by Tom DeLay may help Democrats in one district, although that remains uncertain until the new district mapping is completed. On the whole, the ruling seems to open the possibility that other state legisaltures may attempt to redraw districts outside of the previous guidelines that coordinated with the ten year time frame for the U.S. Census. The decision may make redistricting efforts an increasingly partisan undertaking and it may happen far more frequently. Read the full article here.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld most of the pro-Republican Texas congressional map engineered by former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and freed all states to draw new political boundaries as often as they want.

The ruling did not make clear whether or not lower courts or the state would have to change congressional district boundaries before the November elections.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for a 5-4 majority, said Hispanics do not have a chance to elect a candidate of their choosing in south and west Texas under the state's plan.

The court ruled 7-2 that state legislators may draw new congressional maps anytime — not just once a decade as Texas Democrats had claimed and has been traditional nationwide. That means any state's lawmakers can push through new maps anytime there is a power shift in the Legislature.

Kennedy's decision did not specify how quickly the lines of District 23 must be redrawn, but he said that more than one district would be affected.

"The districts in south and west Texas will have to be redrawn to remedy the violation in District 23, and we have no cause to pass on the legitimacy of a district that must be changed," he wrote.

Daniel DiRito | June 28, 2006 | 12:07 PM | link | Comments (0)
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June 27, 2006

Limbaugh: Taking Hypocrisy To Another Level genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation & Tongue-In-Cheek

Blue dress - blue pill

So how much longer can Rush Limbaugh remain the poster boy for Republican values? First he is found to be obtaining prescription pain medication from multiple doctors and admits he has an addiction to painkillers...reportedly the result of prolonged pain. Now the self-righteous Limbaugh is reported to have been stopped at Palm Beach International Airport with a bottle of prescription Viagra in the name of a physician. Read the full article here.

Customs officials found a prescription bottle labeled as Viagra in his luggage that didn't have Limbaugh's name on it, but that of two doctors, said Paul Miller, spokesman for the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office.

A doctor had prescribed the drug, but it was "labeled as being issued to the physician rather than Mr. Limbaugh for privacy purposes," Roy Black, Limbaugh's attorney, said in a statement.

The matter was referred to the sheriff's office, whose investigators interviewed Limbaugh. According to Miller, Limbaugh said that the Viagra was for his use, and that he obtained it from his doctors.

Investigators confiscated the drugs, which treats erectile dysfunction, and Limbaugh was released without being charged.

The sheriff's office plans to file a report with the state attorney's office. Miller said it could be a second-degree misdemeanor violation.

Limbaugh reached a deal last month with prosecutors who had accused the conservative talk-show host of illegally deceiving multiple doctors to receive overlapping painkiller prescriptions. Under the deal, the charge, commonly referred to as "doctor shopping," would be dismissed after 18 months if he continues to submit to random drug tests and treatment for his acknowledged addiction to painkillers.

Daniel DiRito | June 27, 2006 | 7:13 AM | link
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June 24, 2006

Irony Illuminates: E. Pierce Marshall Dead At 67 genre: Happy Remembrances & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation & Uncivil Unions

While this isn't the most newsworthy story, I think it speaks to a number of issues that seem to plague society and the human condition and provides a platform for discussion. Most readers may not recognize the name in the headline because this story is best known as the Anna Nicole Smith inheritance case. E. Pierce Marshall was the son of J. Howard Marshall II, the man who married Smith when he was 89 and she was a mere 26. E. Pierce Marshall has been battling Smith in court for over ten years with regards to his father's fortune. The Associated Press reports that Marshall died suddenly this past Tuesday at the age of 67 from the rapid onset of an aggressive infection.

From Wikipedia:

Within weeks after J. Howard's death on August 4, 1995, Smith squared off against his son, E. Pierce Marshall, for half of her late husband's $1.6 billion estate. Smith joined forces with J. Howard's other son, James Howard Marshall III, whom the elder Howard had disowned. Howard III claimed J. Howard verbally promised him a portion of his estate; like Smith, Howard III was also left out of J. Howard's will, which he updated weeks after their marriage. [1] The case has gone on for more than a decade, producing a highly publicized court battle in Texas and several judicial decisions that have gone both for and against Smith in that time.

Smith claimed J. Howard verbally promised her half of his estate if she married him. In September, 2000, a Los Angeles bankruptcy judge awarded Smith $449,754,134. Pierce appealed, and in July 2001, Houston judge Mike Wood vacated that award and ordered Anna Nicole to pay over $1 million in fees and expenses to Pierce's legal team. In March 2002, she was awarded $88 million. In December 2004, a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the March 2002 decision, saying that Smith is not one of J. Howard Marshall's heirs. [2] The U.S. Supreme Court decided in September of 2005 to hear the appeal of that decision. The Bush Administration subsequently directed the Solicitor General to intercede on Smith's behalf out of an interest to protect federal court jurisdiction in state probate disputes.

After months of waiting, Anna Nicole and her step-son Pierce learned of the Supreme Court's decision on May 1, 2006. The justices unanimously decided in favor of Smith. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote the majority opinion, stating that Smith should get a chance to pursue her claims in federal court.

This decision does not give Smith a portion of her husband's estate, it merely reaffirms that she has the right to fight for it in federal court. It is expected that the long-running legal drama will not end any time soon, because another trial to determine the legitimacy of her claims will need to begin, possibly followed by more appeals and delays.

I've watched the case for years with curiosity...but more with dismay at the intransigence exhibited by E. Pierce Marshall. Before you conclude that I am simply taking the side of Anna Nicole Smith, let me say that I have no doubt that she is an opportunist. Nonetheless, during the many years of costly legal wrangling, the estate of his father and her husband has remained in trust and has been inaccessible to either. At any point along the way the issue could have been reasonably resolved. Understanding why it wasn't is what I find so fascinating, so ironic, and so sad.

E. Pierce Marshall's family released the following statement with the announcement of his death:

“Mr. Marshall leaves behind a legacy of being, first and foremost, a remarkable husband, father and grandfather, a successful business visionary and a man of unrivaled perseverance and principle," the Margulies statement said.

Before I continue, let me acknowledge that I don't know any of the participants personally and I haven't read all of the related filings and documents. Regardless, I sometimes think we humans have a tendency to ignore the obvious because it allows us to avoid examining our own actions. I think this situation contains a number of elements that warrant exploration. In so doing, I also believe one can find significant irony as well as meaningful guidance.

Getting back to the family's statement, two things immediately caught my attention. One, there is no mention of Mr. Marshall being a "remarkable son"...an omission that, in my mind, says more than the remainder of the statement. Secondly, I interpret the portion that reads, "a man of unrivaled perseverance and principle" to be an attempt to justify the years of fighting for his father's fortune.

As I look at the broader picture, which includes the Wikipedia information that Smith was joined in her efforts to receive a portion of the elder Marshall's estate by Marshall's other son, James Howard Marshall III, who was previously disowned by his father, one thing stands out above all else...it seems clear that money holds more value than love for all of these people.

First we have a father who has amassed a huge fortune and finds himself alone at 89, estranged from one son by choice, wielding his wealth to buy "love" from a woman that he barely knows. We have a 26 year old woman who is willing to offer "love" to a man she can have very little in common with in exchange for receiving the security she believes his wealth can bring. Their only connection they possess is having the same mentality with regard to the mechanics of love and relationships...they are bargains made from positions of power...whether that power exudes from a check book or a pair of large breasts squeezing from a tight dress it is one and the same.

As I deconstruct the situation it only gets worse. We have two sons vying for dads "love"...one previously disowned (cut off from the checkbook) and one subsequently betrayed when his father opens his checkbook to obtain the "love" he perceives can be found within the confines of a short skirt. Is it any wonder that E. Pierce Marshall spent over a decade battling the two individuals who he perceived were "love" interlopers?

Here we have the chosen son...a man who could likely cite the numerous "sacrifices" he made to remain "loved", feeling that these two people...a bad brother and a questionable wife...who did not endure the years of surrender that were required to demonstrate "love" and receive it in return...having positioned themselves to receive half of the senior Marshall's "legacy of love". Sadly, amongst the entire lot, I would venture that one couldn't find a scintilla of actual love...and yet if it is the only love you have ever known it breaks the heart nonetheless.

It has been my experience that these types of legacies are apt to be perpetuated from generation to generation as the construct of love remains the same. It is unfortunately the only love they know. In the end, the only thing that exceeds the irony of this situation is the reality that so many people can live so far removed from love and yet still be so assuredly heartbroken.

It also speaks to so much of what we see in society with regards to conflict and compromise. When society’s notion of love is a convolution of negotiations and bargains, love is not a feeling but an equation. When it becomes a calculation, it is subject to constant measure as we substitute quantification for commitment.

This is manifested over and over…in the amount of money and effort put into weddings, in the house a newlywed couple purchases, in the vacations they take, in the jobs they hold and the income they make, in the successes of the children they have in comparison to other couples children. A good wife has a good education, a good job, a prominent family. A good husband has an important title, influential friends, and a promising future.

The resulting impact of this dynamic is best viewed through the issue of gay marriage. Those opposed to gay marriage want love to be hierarchical…they want the love of a man for a woman to be granted status because they are unable to measure love otherwise. If the love between two men or two women is given equal standing, they feel their love is diminished…a tortured rationale of relativism that pervades the concepts of marriage and love and that likely explains the increasing failure rate of marriages.

Religion is treated much the same. It becomes a matter of negotiation and bargaining. People capitulate to a set of morals or values in exchange for the promise of an afterlife in an effort to overcome the terror of mortality. That is just the beginning. Once one chooses to participate in religion, the next objective is to assess the “rightness" of ones particular religion which of course culminates in more relative conclusions…such that one religion is better than another…which leads us to which religion has the “documents" to prove their superior status. At this point, the battle to determine how society should function becomes the preoccupation and there is a mad rush to assert “rightness".

So what do we have? We have individuals who are raised with a flawed vision of love that begin to focus on quantifiable relativism. They then take that construct of “lovability", which has been irreversibly tied to their sense of worth and identity, with them into future relationships and interactions with society…ever intent on obtaining the necessary markers to support ones “lovability" such that it is virtually impossible to redirect or extinguish the need for more accelerated and tangibly measurable reinforcement.

In direct conflict with the concept of actual love, whereby a portion of ones sense of self (narcissism if you will) is directed towards another human being, many people see marriage and all future interactions as opportunities to enhance ones “lovability" status by obtaining those things that are quantifiably synonymous with the definition of love. In other words the ego and the identity still need to be fed and will likely be that way forever…as opposed to being already evolved such that it is at maturation or satiation whereby it can offer “love" to another person or to society as a selfless and altruistic act.

From here, we see the motivations and the mechanisms that form the basis of the society’s “body politic"…which is ultimately the source from which an individual or a group of like-minded individuals can secure the means (power) to not only obtain additional identity reinforcement, but to direct and determine it consistent with ones particular set of hierarchical mores or measurements.

Again, in direct conflict with the concept of public service, whereby a portion of ones sense of self (narcissism) is directed towards the advancement and betterment of society, many people see public service (politics) as the next progressive opportunity to enhance status (lovability). With politics, as distinct from marriage, the individual is seeking to institutionalize ones status by legislating (proving) that those quantifiable things the individual has sought are in fact not only synonymous with their definitional constructs, but also with “rightness"…which therefore serves to reward and reinforce the validity of all previous and future efforts and actions.

The problems this creates in society and particularly with the prosecution of politics is an inability to compromise because doing so is equated with undermining the identity and the “rightness" of the beliefs that support any particular individual or group identity. As such, politics (public service) becomes a vehicle that is used for reinforcing individuals in concert with like minded individuals and is no longer premised upon providing for the greater good of the society as a whole because the greater good may not match the beliefs held by an individual politician and his supporting constituent voters.

Sadly, the Anna Nicole Smith case seems to be representative of the problems we see within the society as a whole. All too often the same misguided motivations, the same intransigence, and the same dissociation of real values from the behaviors that have become mere symbols of values are being witnessed in the individual, the society, and the body politic. E. Pierce Marshall will never receive the wealth of his father that he seemingly, though incorrectly, equated with love. He no longer has the opportunity to examine or alter his life. The rest of us humans still have the time necessary to determine that compromise need not mean that we are no longer worthwhile or whole. I simply hope we can find the strength to absorb that important realization.

Daniel DiRito | June 24, 2006 | 8:46 AM | link | Comments (3)
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June 23, 2006

Catholic Parishes To Seek Anti-Gay Petition Signings genre: Gaylingual & Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

While Episcopalians’ and Protestants appear to be moving closer to embracing gays, the Catholic Church in Colorado has decided it will circulate and gather petition signatures at Sunday mass in support of a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. The churches will also solicit signatures on a measure to ban "late term" abortions. Read the letter from Archbishop Charles Chaput of the Archdiocese of Denver here.

Over the next few weeks the Colorado Catholic Conference will begin a major effort on two key ballot measures for Colorado voters this fall: the protection of marriage and the prohibition of late-term abortions.

bq. This year’s state marriage amendment — Initiative 83 — will go a long way to protecting marriage as the cornerstone of our culture. A state amendment, because it becomes part of Colorado’s constitution, has much more gravity and durability than a state law, which depends on the current views of every future state legislative session. The passage of a state marriage amendment will help ensure the future by defending the integrity of marriage and the family.

I ask you and all our fellow Catholics to sign petitions as they become available over the next few weeks at our parishes. The Colorado Catholic Conference will be assisting each parish in Colorado to conduct signature drives on both the state marriage amendment and the state late-term abortion ban. We need to collect, as a state-wide community, at least 68,000 valid signatures for each petition in order to put these two important issues on the ballot this fall, and thus give Coloradans the chance to protect marriage and new, unborn life with their votes.

One of the lessons Colorado Catholics have learned over the past several years is that only when we actively engage public issues with an energy and conscience informed by our faith and our moral convictions, do we truly live as “faithful citizens." We serve the common good best by being true to what we claim to believe — both in the public square and in our private lives.

Note the Archbishop's final statement which attempts to coyly state that voting for any politician that might oppose the Church's position on these two issues would be a breach of ones obligation to live as a "faithful citizen". It seems to me that the Church is walking a fine line with its tax exempt status. How these efforts cannot be construed as political contributions is beyond me. Those who are promoting these amendments would otherwise have to hire companies or individuals to collect petition signatures...this certainly looks like an in-kind contribution to me.

Daniel DiRito | June 23, 2006 | 11:22 AM | link | Comments (1)
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June 22, 2006

Has GOP Miscalculated On Immigration? genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

New polling indicates Republican voters may not be content to see the Party delay any immigration reform past the end of 2006 and it appears that these same voters may not agree with the Republican controlled House on how to handle those illegal’s who are already in the United States. You can find the entire Reuters article here.

The poll, commissioned by the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, found that 82 per cent of likely Republican voters supported tightening the borders and imposing tougher penalties on illegal immigrants and employers who hire them.

It said about 80 percent of Republicans support an earned legalization program to give immigrants legal status. The majority, 68 percent, also oppose deportation for illegal immigrants, the poll said.

Thought Theater previously commented on the possible calculations being made by the GOP with regards to immigration here. There has been speculation that the victory in the CA-50 race to replace jailed Congressman Duke Cunningham may have been the result of Republican candidate Brian Bilbray's tough position on immigration. It appears to me that some regional races may have their own particular immigration dynamics but the overall sentiment of GOP voters may present a problem for the Party in other races. It is easy to see why the GOP has seemingly elected to shy away from this difficult issue.

About 72 per cent of the Republicans surveyed said it was important to solve the problem of illegal immigration this year, according to the poll.

But the House and Senate, both under Republican control, have passed competing versions that must be reconciled to become law. The House version calls for tough border control and workplace enforcement but does not include a citizenship plan as in the Senate's version.

Republican congressional leaders say it will be hard to complete a bill before November's midterm elections. Some Republicans called for new hearings that could postpone an agreement even more.

Perhaps the most significant data in the poll are the following numbers that show national security and immigration as the top two issues for GOP voters. My impression is that the Republicans will attempt to make security a feature of their midterm campaign while attempting to portray Democrats as weak on terror. However, if the Republicans actually ignore the immigration issue, I believe it provides the Democrats an opportunity to counter the GOP's "strong on security" midterm strategy. Without passage of tougher border security, Democrats should be able to argue that the country is not, in fact, any safer.

National security is still the top concern for the Republican voters at 20 percent, but immigration came second in the poll at 15 percent.

Daniel DiRito | June 22, 2006 | 5:16 PM | link | Comments (0)
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The Makings Of An October Surprise? genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Today's remarks by General Casey, that seem to indicate some troop reduction in Iraq by years end, coupled with yesterdays Associated Press article outlining a significant reduction in military equipment in the troubled country may be the makings of an October surprise. What I find particularly curious is that while we are seeing signs of a pending military reduction, we see the Republican Party spinning calls by Democrats to begin the process of transitioning security and military oversight to the Iraqi's as a "cut and run" strategy.

As I view the facts, it appears to me that the realities on the ground may in fact come close to matching the objective outlined in one of the Democratic proposals...and yet if we listen to the rhetoric on the floor of the Senate, one would be apt to conclude that the difference between the Republican and Democratic strategies is significant and tangible. My cynical and suspicious mind tells me the administration may be splitting hairs in order to garner political advantage.

BALAD, Iraq -- The U.S. military has begun sending thousands of battered Humvees and other war-torn equipment home as more Iraqi units join the fight against insurgents and American units scheduled for Iraq duty have their orders canceled.

In the last four months, the Army has tagged 7,000 Humvees and 17,000 other pieces of equipment to be shipped to the United States to be rebuilt. They then will be distributed among active and reserve units at home, or possibly returned to equip Iraqi security forces.

"This is all a byproduct of Iraqi forces accepting battle space and U.S. forces being displaced, which has allowed our government to decide not to send more forces," said Col. Jack O'Connor, commander of the U.S. Army Materiel Command's sustainment brigade in Iraq.

While I'm certainly not a military strategist, logic tells me that one doesn't remove equipment from the battlefield unless troops are going to follow. What troubles me is that the Bush administration has long argued that establishing any time line for troop withdrawal would be tipping off insurgents...a move that might allow those who are intent on defeating the efforts to establish a democratic society in Iraq a strategic advantage. While removing equipment isn't the same as establishing a hard and fast withdrawal date, it certainly provides some clear insight into the U.S. intentions. In addition to giving the insurgents some sense of timing, it also begins to give the Iraqi's notice that they must begin the process of assuming responsibility for their own security...something many Democrats have been suggesting needed to happen for some time now.

"It is much harder to move equipment than it is to move people," said Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute. "So if the Army is increasing its movement of equipment out of the country, that may signal that it expects fewer soldiers in Iraq six or 12 months from now."

In most cases, a unit returning home from Iraq has left its equipment behind for the unit sent to replace them. But as more units rotate home between June and September, fewer U.S. units will be sent in behind them, O'Connor said.

The brigade from Materiel Command oversees and anticipates equipment needs of incoming and outgoing military units, O'Connor said. As more units stay home and Iraqis take control of larger areas, O'Connor said there will be a push in the months ahead to "clean up the battlefield" by removing equipment that is no longer needed.

Under a plan announced by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Iraqi security forces will take responsibility for security in all of the country's 18 provinces within 18 months.

Getting equipment home after more than three years in Iraq is among the military's most cumbersome tasks ahead, O'Connor said.

Following the Gulf War in 1991, for example, it took two years for the military to recover its equipment -- after a six-month deployment and a ground campaign lasting roughly 100 hours.

As I piece this information together with the current activity in the Senate, it becomes increasingly obvious to me that the Republicans have a clear strategy that may be leading Democrats into a trap of their own making. There have been some clues that haven't received much attention. Prior to the current debate on Iraq, many speculated that once the Democratic proposals were defeated, the Republicans would offer their own administration affirming measure. It now appears that they will do no such thing. The question is why not?

I have a theory. Democrats are addressing voter sentiment as it exists today...particularly the vocal anti-war netroot Democrats who are insisting the Party demand a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. While it may seem appropriate to address those concerns today, it may prove to be a strategic mistake come fall. Despite the polling that indicates most Americans believe the Iraq invasion was a mistake and a that they would like to see a plan that includes a timeframe for troop withdrawal, one must always remember that a poll is only a snapshot of current circumstances and sentiment and is not necessarily a predictor of the future.

Let me change the subject to demonstrate what I mean before coming back to the Iraq situation. I've previously written about the risks of supporting Ned Lamont against Joe Lieberman and I've cited some polling to make my point (Lieberman had a significant lead over Lamont in April and polling showed Lieberman would defeat Lamont even if he ran as an independent). Some who have responded to my thoughts argued that despite the polling, the "prevailing sentiment" was a better indication of what was going to happen in the August primary and the subsequent November election. I appreciate the perspective of those individuals as there is some likely truth in their observations. In fact, more recent polling has shown Lamont to be gaining ground.

Coming back to the Iraq situation, one can draw some important parallels. The Iraq war isn't popular today and the news has offered little to encourage or to change people’s minds. However, if the voting public sees a troop reduction by October, there is a reasonable likelihood that many voters who are unhappy with the war, but are also hesitant to see the U.S. quit (or be perceived to lose), will decide that the administration's plan is working and that the Democrats haven't the conviction to make the hard military and security choices that are often necessary. Despite the fact that such a shift would be frustrating and would justify an assertion that voters are fickle, it may also spell defeat for Democrats come November.

There is an important difference between my Lamont example and the Iraq situation. The Republican administration is in a position to determine what happens in October and that has the likelihood of impacting voter sentiment ahead of the November election...whereas Lamont must rely upon more intangible factors.

In my theory, Republicans have determined that they are best to allow the Democrats to stake a claim to the position that seeks an "arbitrary" withdrawal approach. At the same time, if the Republicans were to offer up a bill and a vote to support the administration's more or less open-ended position, they would make campaigning between now and October more difficult and give Democrats something concrete to point to when arguing that Republicans are out of touch with voter sentiment. I believe this also indicates that the Republicans have determined that the debate and the issues in October will have changed and that they are laying the groundwork for that portion of their campaign. The use of the oft heard "cut and run" accusation being made by Republicans is the opening salvo in an elaborate strategy.

Let me jump forward to explain my argument. If one believes that a meaningful number of troops will be withdrawn before the November election, then one can adopt a strategy that plans for that eventuality and also begin to focus on the realities it will create when it occurs. In my opinion, that is the Republican plan. If there is any doubt, look no further than the recent remarks by Karl Rove in which he has invoked the issues of terror and security and laid the groundwork for asking voters in November to decide if they can hand the reigns of America's safety over to the Democrats. Given what Republicans will have cultivated as the propensity of Democrats to quit before the job is finished, that answer may well be no.

Simultaneously, Democrats have become enamored with the success that opposing the Iraq war has provided. The problem I see is that they haven't thought far enough ahead to a situation where troops may be coming home in the fall and where voter sentiment begins to conclude that the Iraq mission was one that was misguided, one that was mismanaged...but also one that is going to succeed because the Republicans "stayed the course". While voters, at this moment, see staying in Iraq as the more tenuous plan, at the point in the future that I am defining; they may well see an arbitrary withdrawal plan as the more tenuous approach.

If anyone doubts the willingness of the American voter to change their thinking and give politicians the benefit of the doubt as soon as they can see daylight (a tenable outcome), they should take a look at the Clinton presidency. As soon as Clinton admitted his errors, the public was ready to move on while the Republicans were still waging a war based upon the prior voter doubt and sentiment that they had been able to use to their advantage.

While some may see my theory as speculation, I point back to the facts contained in the article I am citing. Is it possible that we are removing equipment from Iraq without any firm intention of removing troops? Sure it is possible but it would be a very costly move should it have to be reversed. Could one argue that it might simply be another administration miscalculation? Sure, but it wouldn't explain some of the counterintuitive moves now being made by Republicans. I've previously argued that Karl Rove's strategies are often counterintuitive. This may well be another example.

Daniel DiRito | June 22, 2006 | 9:28 AM | link
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Middle Class Neighborhoods On The Decline genre: Indie-Script & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

In a study released on Tuesday by the Brookings Institution, it appears that there is more evidence of the income divide within the United States. The study looked at the decline of middle class neighborhoods in a number of American cities and found that these neighborhoods were actually declining faster than middle income families. Brookings indicated that more research would be needed to fully understand this disparity of information. Read the full article here.

INDIANAPOLIS -- Middle-class neighborhoods, long regarded as incubators for the American dream, are losing ground in cities across the country, shrinking at more than twice the rate of the middle class itself.

In their place, poor and rich neighborhoods are both on the rise, as cities and suburbs have become increasingly segregated by income, according to a Brookings Institution study released Thursday. It found that as a share of all urban and suburban neighborhoods, middle-income neighborhoods in the nation's 100 largest metro areas have declined from 58 percent in 1970 to 41 percent in 2000.

"It means that if you are not living in one of the well-off areas, you are not going to have access to the same amenities -- good schools and safe environment -- that you could find 30 years ago," he said.

Several urban scholars who had no role in the Brookings study said that its findings are consistent with what they have seen in cities from Los Angeles to Cleveland, as the middle class hollows out and as an economic chasm widens between rich and poor neighborhoods.

This type of data makes the tax cuts promoted by the Bush administration all the more troubling. The contention that such tax cuts create jobs has some merit but when the overall trending shows that the middle class is in decline, one must conclude that small business growth is being jeopardized...and it has long been known that small business growth is the engine that creates the lions share of employment opportunities. If we lose this benefit that results from a strong middle class, there will be an increasing concentration of employment in the hands of larger and larger corporations...a trend that has been seen to support lower wage positions that have led to increasing illegal immigration to fill those jobs.

"We are increasingly being bifurcated on an economic basis," said Paul Ong, a professor of public affairs at the University of California at Los Angeles. "It has taken a big chunk out of the middle."

The Brookings study says that increased residential segregation by income can remove a fundamental rung from the nation's ladder for social mobility: moderate-income neighborhoods with decent schools, nearby jobs, low crime and reliable services.

I would argue that the decline in middle class neighborhoods will ultimately drive up the costs for cities and communities as they struggle to collect the funds needed to provide services for declining neighborhoods. As wealth is relocated to outlying suburbs and counties, sales and property tax revenues are also shifted away from communities that will likely be dealing with increasing crime rates, the need for more social services, schools that are struggling to find teachers, and increasing levels of indigent health care.

The housing industry in the Midwest and the Northeast routinely floods local markets with new, ever-larger houses.

Such overbuilding is rampant across the Midwest and Northeast, where the number of new houses -- almost always at the edge of metro areas -- swamped the number of new households by more than 30 percent between 1980 and 2000, according to a study co-written by Thomas Bier, executive in residence at the Center for Housing Research and Policy at Cleveland State University.

"As upper-income Americans are drawn to the new houses, neighborhoods become more homogenous," he said. Echoing the Brookings study, he said: "The zoning is such that it prevents anything other than a certain income range from living there. It is our latest method of discrimination."

In a pattern that is the mirror opposite of what is happening in the Midwest and Northeast, there is a chronic undersupply of housing in many cities on the West Coast. But it, too, has contributed to a decline of middle-income neighborhoods, said Berube, the Brookings demographer.

That has pushed up the price of housing in mixed-income neighborhoods. Gentrification often pushes the poor away to less-desirable suburbs.

In the end, if the neighborhood divide becomes a mirror image of the income divide, the consequences will be amplified. The middle class has long been a key to societal cohesion as it offers the promise of mobility to the poor along with the revenues to fund many of the programs that keep cities and societies functional. Unless we begin to see a shift in these two trends, we will soon be confronted with problems that far exceed the economic considerations.

Daniel DiRito | June 22, 2006 | 7:53 AM | link | Comments (0)
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June 21, 2006

Presbyterians & Episcopals Vote To Support Gays genre: Gaylingual & Hip-Gnosis & Six Degrees of Speculation

While the Pope and the Catholic Church continue to issue negative statements about homosexuality and gay marriage, the Presbyterians and Episcopals in the United States have both voted on measures that offer increasing acceptance and support to gays. The Advocate has the full article here.

Both the Episcopal Church and the Presbyterian Church voted on Tuesday in favor of a role for gays and lesbians in their faith communities. At its triennial general convention in Columbus, Ohio, the Episcopal House of Deputies decided not to follow the wish of worldwide Anglican leaders and enact a moratorium on electing openly gay bishops, while the Presbyterian national assembly voted in Birmingham, Alabama, to allow individual congregations and regional presbyteries to make their own decisions regarding gay bishops and others, the Associated Press reports.

With the Episcopal vote, the turmoil will only continue, said conservatives. "Unhappily, this decision seems to show that the Episcopal Church has chosen to walk apart from the rest of the Anglican Communion," Canon Martyn Minns said to the AP, alluding to concerns over a possible permanent split in the church over the inclusion of gays and lesbians. Many dioceses around the world have threatened to secede if the issue were not resolved in favor of those who would exclude gay people.

Meanwhile, the Presbyterian Church, another major American Protestant denomination, moved further to the side of gays and lesbians when its national assembly, by a 298-221 vote, approved legislation that will let churches and regional presbyteries appoint gay clergy, lay elders, and deacons, the AP reports. Although the legislation also affirmed Presbyterian law stipulating that individuals in such positions must restrict sexual relations to opposite-sex marriage, the measure will at least allow LGBT members of the church to serve in such capacities.

Daniel DiRito | June 21, 2006 | 4:32 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Immigration Politics genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

The immigration debate has been the focus of extensive media attention as there are numerous political considerations here. It now appears that there will not be an immigration bill before the midterm elections as the differences between the House and Senate versions are dramatic and the political fall-out may be a risk most politicians are unwilling to take so close to November.

From MSNBC:

Now that House Republicans have decided to conduct nationwide hearings this summer on immigration reform -- thus seeming to kill any chance for immigration bill to pass Congress this year -- Democrats have begun lashing out at their GOP counterparts. Their argument? That by failing to pass comprehensive immigration reform, Republicans are jeopardizing national security.

From the Washington Times:

House leaders cast doubt yesterday on the possibility of passing immigration reform legislation this year and said, in an unusual move, that they will hold hearings across the country to gauge voter concern.

"I'm not putting any timeline ... but I think we need to get this thing done right," House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican, told reporters yesterday after meeting with the chairmen of all the committees that oversee immigration-related legislation.

While the issue of immigration divides Republicans, the position that Democrats are fairly unified behind -- granting citizenship rights to illegal aliens -- is highly unpopular among voters, polls show.

It appears that Republicans have determined that the issue is too divisive for the Party as a result of the differences between the House and Senate versions, particularly since some 17 Republicans voted in favor of the Senate bill that provides illegal's a path to citizenship...a provision the Republicans intend to call amnesty as they attempt to connect with voter sentiment that favors the harsher House version. Avoiding a messy effort to craft a bill both houses could agree upon will prevent the focusing of attention on the differences within the Republican Party.

House Republicans went to great efforts yesterday to suggest their differences are not with the Senate, but with Democrats.

Once the Senate "amnesty" bill is securely yoked to Democrats, House Republicans will take the issue on the road in the months leading up to the election.

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

Bush appears to be close to irrelevant on the issue, despite his televised address last month urging Americans to embrace the nation's immigrant heritage and provide a path to citizenship for most of the 12 million illegal immigrants now living in the country. Weeks of White House barnstorming seem to be making no headway against what Republican senators and House members heard in their districts after the Senate passed its sweeping immigration overhaul.

Some senators who backed the measure, denounced as amnesty by opponents, returned from a Memorial Day recess telling their colleagues they had made a political blunder. The special election victory June 6 in San Diego County by Republican Brian Bilbray, who opposed expanded immigration and pledged to build a fence from the Pacific to the Gulf of Mexico, helped convince lingering Republican doubters as to the soundness of the anti-illegal immigrant strategy.

Although there isn't a consensus on the impact immigration played in the CA-50 race, there is enough concern to make the issue a potentially dangerous subject that could complicate races throughout areas that are most impacted by illegal populations.

Warnings by the White House that Republicans risk alienating Latinos, the country's fastest-growing voting bloc and the linchpin to the GOP's hold on the West, have proved unpersuasive. Anti-immigration advertisements are becoming a staple of vulnerable GOP incumbents' campaigns.

My own impression of this seemingly counterintuitive approach hinges on the belief that the issue may benefit Republicans who are running in areas heavily impacted by immigrant populations due to the native population base being strongly opposed to granting a path to citizenship. Many areas with a concentration of illegals see them as a drag on local services...whether such assumptions can be supported or not. If 2006 were a national election, it might result in an overall reduction in total Hispanic voter support for the Republican Party...but 2006 involves only local and statewide races. Given the larger concern that Republicans could lose control of the House, the focus is being placed on winning local races. While the Republicans may lose some Hispanic support in statewide elections, they believe they are less likely to lose control of the Senate.

The hearings will be conducted by several House committees with a hand in immigration, but chiefly the Judiciary Committee, led by Rep. James Sensenbrenner, the Wisconsin Republican who wrote the House bill.

The timetable may doom the measure. Negotiations would have been difficult enough had talks begun last month; the delay probably postpones formal negotiations until after the August recess, the period right before the midterm elections when both parties are engaged fully in the campaign.

There are risks for Republicans if they fail to pass any immigration measures before the elections. While voter sentiment is opposed to amnesty, they remain strongly in favor of better border security as well as in favor of stronger employer enforcement measures. Democrats appear to be planning to tout the issue as one with significant security ramifications while painting the Republicans as dragging their feet because they can't reach a consensus and because they don't want to alienate the strong corporate support that continues to benefit from illegal immigrant labor.

Daniel DiRito | June 21, 2006 | 2:53 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Democratic Divisions On Iraq On Display In Senate genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Today's Senate debate on Iraq will provide a clear story line for Republicans to highlight the inability of Democrats to reach a consensus position. While Democrats are attempting to construe the competing proposals as more a matter of timing than temerity, Republicans have already crafted negative slogans to depict both Democratic proposals. Read the full article here.

Setting a deadline to redeploy U.S. troops from Iraq is necessary for success in Iraq," Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., said in remarks planned for his introduction of a proposal that would require U.S. combat forces to begin leaving the war zone immediately and be out of Iraq completely by July 1, 2007.

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid and most of his rank-and-file colleagues don't exactly agree.

They back a separate nonbinding resolution that would not set such a hard-and-fast deadline. It would simply call for - not require - the administration to begin a phased redeployment of U.S. forces this year.

While neither Democratic proposal is expected to win enough votes to be attached as an amendment to an annual military measure pending in the Senate, both are drawing ridicule from Republicans.

They lumped Democrats into two groups - what they called the "cut and run" crowd backing the Kerry position and the "cut and jog" folks supporting the other proposal.

As Democrats see it, the only issues they don't agree on is exactly when to start withdrawing troops - immediately or not - and whether there should be a "date certain" when all troops must be out of Iraq.

Republicans relish the forthcoming debate on Iraq and are seeking political advantage as they try to hang onto control of the House and Senate in the November elections.

"Leaving Iraq to the terrorists is simply not an option. Surrendering is not a solution," Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said Tuesday. "We cannot retreat. We cannot surrender. We cannot go wobbly. The price is far too high."

Countering, Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., assailed the GOP's support of Bush's "stay the course" strategy amid soaring war costs and death tolls.

"I guess their position is we're there forever," Reed said.

As I've looked at the competing proposals, two things stand out. First, they aren't that different which tells me that there are political motivations behind the Kerry-Feingold position as both men have their sights set on a run for President in 2008. Calling for an immediate commencement of withdrawal is strongly supported by many vocal and active netroots Democrats who could be influential in future elections. Second, it points out the conflicting passions within rank and file Democrats and the potential to split the Party before the November midterms as well as determine who will emerge as the favorite for 2008. You can read prior Thought Theater postings on the issues here and here.

Daniel DiRito | June 21, 2006 | 1:58 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Senate Fails To Pass Minimum Wage Hike genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

The minimum wage increase sought by Democrats was defeated in the Senate today. The defeat means that the minimum wage will remain at $5.15 per hour. The last increase was nearly ten years ago. The Washington Post has the full article here.

The vote was 52-46, eight short of the 60 needed.

"I don't think the Republicans get it," said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., who backed a proposal for a three-step increase in the current wage floor to $7.25 an hour. The federal minimum wage has been fixed at $5.15 an hour since 1997.

Republican critics said the minimum wage was a job killer, not the boon to low-wage workers portrayed by Democrats.

The Republican view that a hike in the minimum wage is a job killer seems to actually be a different way to say that the increase might impact corporations who have benefited from the low wage for years. I find it somewhat ironic that while many in the Republican Party want to crack down on illegal immigration and even force those who are already in the U.S. to return home, they are unwilling to increase wages on jobs that many Americans cannot afford to take. If they are serious about solving the immigration issue, they might want to consider making theses low paying jobs pay a wage that is feasible and reasonable.

With the recent Republican decision to postpone any legislation on immigration, it appears that they merely wanted to be heard talking tough in order to appease their base which is clearly opposed to measures to provide existing illegal's a path to citizenship. In the meantime, with this vote, they have apparently chosen to signal the corporate world that they actually intend to continue ignoring the factors that have exacerbated the illegal immigration issue. The following paragraph explains an alternate proposal offered by Republicans that seems to reinforce my contention.

In a follow-up vote, the Senate rejected a Republican alternative that would have raised the minimum wage by $1.10, and would have included a provision allowing flextime for workers as well as several elements providing tax and regulatory relief for small businesses. It drew 45 votes, 15 short of the 60 needed. There were 53 votes in opposition.

Daniel DiRito | June 21, 2006 | 1:23 PM | link | Comments (0)
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June 20, 2006

Political Strategy: Beyond Extremist Labels genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

The following posting is the second entry in a continuing Thought Theater dialogue on political strategy. The first posting, Political Strategy: The Opening Dialogue, can be found here. Recent comments by Ann Coulter have led many to try to determine...

Daniel DiRito | June 20, 2006 | 3:11 PM | link | Comments (2)
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June 16, 2006

Democrats Continue To Appear Divided genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Despite Nancy Pelosi's efforts to offer an all encompassing Democratic message on Iraq, pressures within the various Party factions threaten to unravel the attempts to portray the Party as unified. The Hill has the full story here. A series of...

Daniel DiRito | June 16, 2006 | 9:48 AM | link | Comments (0)
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June 15, 2006

Mine Safety: Canada vs. U.S. (Update) genre: Indie-Script & Little Red Ribbon-Hood & Six Degrees of Speculation

Update: President Bush signed into law a new bill that improves U.S. mine safety standards, however the law remains far short of the measures in place in Canada that have saved the lives of numerous miners that would have likely...

Daniel DiRito | June 15, 2006 | 2:51 PM | link | Comments (7)
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The Democratic Party: Netroot Calculations genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Wednesday's remarks by Senator Chuck Schumer, hinting that the Democratic Party would support Joe Lieberman even if he were to lose the Party nomination to Ned Lamont and run as an Independent, have angered many on the left...especially those identified...

Daniel DiRito | June 15, 2006 | 11:31 AM | link | Comments (0)
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June 14, 2006

The Democratic Party's Iraq Dilemma genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Polling shows that the war in Iraq is the single most important issue to voters as we move towards the November midterm elections. The latest NBC/WSJ poll clearly points out the importance Iraq holds as Democrats attempt to craft a...

Daniel DiRito | June 14, 2006 | 7:11 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Bush Bounce: One Whole Point genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

It appears that recent news from Iraq has helped improve the publics perception of the handling of the war in Iraq. However, President Bush's overall approval rating increased only one percentage point in the latest NBC/WSJ poll. See the...

Daniel DiRito | June 14, 2006 | 6:26 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Dick Cheney To Raise Funds For Anti-Gay Candidate genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Vice President Cheney will attend a fundraiser in Minnesota for congressional candidate Michele Bachmann, a vocal opponent of gay marriage. Read the full article here and view Bachmann's campaign website here. See prior Thought Theater postings on the subject here...

Daniel DiRito | June 14, 2006 | 4:42 PM | link | Comments (0)
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June 13, 2006

Is Kansas On The Mend? genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Two years ago Thomas Frank used the title of his book to ask the question, "What's The Matter With Kansas?" Today, the Los Angeles Times suggests that Kansas may be the first indication that the Republican Party that once seemed...

Daniel DiRito | June 13, 2006 | 8:47 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Mary Cheney A Victim...I Don't Think So? genre: Gaylingual & Six Degrees of Speculation

Sales of Mary Cheney's book, Now It's My Turn have been poor at best according to an article in The Advocate. The book has sold fewer than 6,000 copies. See a prior Thought Theater tongue-in-cheek visual that is intended to...

Daniel DiRito | June 13, 2006 | 5:01 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Fitzmas Cancelled: Rove Won't Be Charged (Update) genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Update: Now that Karl Rove appears to be in the clear, the attempts to add the meaningful footnotes to the entire situation have begun. Many on the right have expressed the concern that the reputation of Karl Rove has been...

Daniel DiRito | June 13, 2006 | 4:20 PM | link | Comments (1)
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Plan B: Midterm Election Calculations genre: Hip-Gnosis & Little Red Ribbon-Hood & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Former Food and Drug Administration Chief, Lester Crawford, testified that the delay in approving the Plan B contraceptive was primarily to allow more time to determine the guidelines for its distribution. He indicated the administration was trying to determine how...

Daniel DiRito | June 13, 2006 | 1:49 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Heavens to Murtha-troid...What's Up? (Update) genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Update: Nancy Pelosi had announced that Congressman John Murtha has suspended his bid to become the majority leader in the event that the Democrats win control of the House. The announcement leaves open the possibility that Murtha will seek the...

Daniel DiRito | June 13, 2006 | 1:18 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Gay Marriage: The Democrat's Hot Potato genre: Gaylingual & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

With the recent debate in the Senate on a constitutional amendment to define marriage as being only between a man and a woman and Howard Dean's misstep on the Party position on the issue, gay rights groups have become more...

Daniel DiRito | June 13, 2006 | 11:04 AM | link | Comments (0)
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Pelosi: Define Dems Agenda Or Republicans Will genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Recent remarks by Nancy Pelosi indicate she understands the dangers of allowing Republicans to define the Democratic agenda. In a statement of clarity and candor, Pelosi stated, "“What we have to do is define ourselves so that Republicans do not...

Daniel DiRito | June 13, 2006 | 9:19 AM | link | Comments (0)
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June 12, 2006

Justice Department Tries To Shut Down NSA Case genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

In a continuing attempt to prevent the public from grasping the details of the NSA surveillance program, the Justice Department has asked a judge to dismiss a lawsuit brought by the American Cilvil Liberties Union. Read the full New York...

Daniel DiRito | June 12, 2006 | 2:00 PM | link | Comments (0)
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June 9, 2006

Could Court Ruling Boost Marriage Amendment? genre: Gaylingual & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

The Associated Press has a good article on the thinking of those opposed to gay marriage and in favor of an amendment to define marriage as only between a man and a woman now that the Senate failed to pass...

Daniel DiRito | June 9, 2006 | 5:21 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Christianity & Social Justice genre: Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

United Press International has an interesting piece on the debate about social justice within religion. The article reviews many of the same issues previously discussed here at Thought Theater as well as at Pharyngula, a science blog. In those particular...

Daniel DiRito | June 9, 2006 | 9:14 AM | link | Comments (1)
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June 8, 2006

Keith Olberman On Ann Coulter genre: Six Degrees of Speculation & Tongue-In-Cheek & Video-Philes

Daniel DiRito | June 8, 2006 | 4:11 PM | link | Comments (2)
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FDA Approves HPV Vaccine genre: Hip-Gnosis & Little Red Ribbon-Hood & Six Degrees of Speculation

The Food and Drug Administration has approved Merck's cervical cancer vaccine, Gardasil. The vaccine has garnered significant attention from the religious right as many feel the vaccine might encourage children to engage in sexual activity. See prior Thought Theater postings...

Daniel DiRito | June 8, 2006 | 2:54 PM | link | Comments (0)
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June 6, 2006

If George Will Won't, I Will genre: Gaylingual & Little Red Ribbon-Hood & Six Degrees of Speculation

The Washington Post ran an op-ed piece by George Will on Tuesday in which he reflected on the "lessons" of the AIDS epidemic some twenty-five years after it first began. You can read the entire piece here. Quite frankly, Will's...

Daniel DiRito | June 6, 2006 | 9:03 PM | link | Comments (6)
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Polling Shows Immigrants Seen More Favorably genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Recent polling by AP-Ipsos indicates that immigrants are viewed more favorably than in 2004 in the United States and a number of European countries. Read the full article here. See prior Thought Theater postings on the issue here, here, and...

Daniel DiRito | June 6, 2006 | 9:23 AM | link | Comments (0)
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Somalia: Warlords Fall To Islamist Rebels genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

In another sign of increasing Islamist influence in Africa, U.S. backed warlords were reported to have fled the capital city of Mogadishu as Islamist rebels claimed to have taken control of the city. The New York Times has the full...

Daniel DiRito | June 6, 2006 | 8:15 AM | link | Comments (1)
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June 5, 2006

Framing The Marriage Amendment Debate genre: Gaylingual & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

I ran across an interesting piece on how to combat the rhetoric behind the push to pass a constitutional amendment to prohibit gay marriage here. The author, Jeffrey Feldman, makes some strong arguments that focus on three recommendations. The overriding...

Daniel DiRito | June 5, 2006 | 2:19 PM | link | Comments (0)
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June 4, 2006

Political Strategy: The Opening Dialogue genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

This posting is a follow up to my prior postings here and here and is offered in response to the questions and observations that were exchanged in the comments thread. I initially intended to reply in the comments thread but...

Daniel DiRito | June 4, 2006 | 9:41 AM | link | Comments (0)
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June 3, 2006

Clift: Haditha Could Hurt GOP In November genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Eleanor Clift reflects on the possibility that the alleged murder of innocent Iraqis in Haditha may have an impact on the Republican Party in the upcoming midterm elections. Read the full Newsweek article here. The administration has a stake in...

Daniel DiRito | June 3, 2006 | 7:51 AM | link | Comments (0)
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June 2, 2006

The Marriage Amendment Strategy genre: Gaylingual & Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

There has been ample discussion in the media and on the internet that seems to view the pending vote on a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage as another coming failure for the Bush administration. I disagree. Isn't this move...

Daniel DiRito | June 2, 2006 | 10:22 AM | link | Comments (6)
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New al-Zarqawi Tape Promotes Civil War genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

In a tape recording released Friday, that claims to be the voice of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, he calls on Sunnis to battle Shiites in what appears to be a strategy to foment civil war in a country already struggling with...

Daniel DiRito | June 2, 2006 | 8:11 AM | link | Comments (0)
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New Job Numbers Disappointing genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

The latest jobs report indicates the addition of far fewer jobs than economists had expected. The increase of 70,000 jobs was far below the anticipated increase of 170,000 as reported by the Associated Press here. The count of new jobs...

Daniel DiRito | June 2, 2006 | 7:51 AM | link | Comments (0)
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June 1, 2006

Rolling Stone: 2004 Election Irregularities genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. writes in the current edition of Rolling Stone Magazine that "Republicans prevented more than 350,000 voters in Ohio from casting ballots or having their votes counted -- enough to have put John Kerry in the White...

Daniel DiRito | June 1, 2006 | 4:17 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Ned Lamont: A Wise Netroots Gamble? genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

At the risk of having my left-leaning credentials pulled, I decided I would venture into a topic that has been ruminating in my head for some time. My goal is to understand and evaluate the objective of those who comprise...

Daniel DiRito | June 1, 2006 | 7:09 AM | link | Comments (8)
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