Six Degrees of Speculation: September 2006: Archives

September 29, 2006

Crossroads: America's Moral Dilemma genre: Hip-Gnosis & Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Patriotism

The concept of morality is a complex topic that elicits passion and consternation as people of differing beliefs attempt to validate their own particular versions. I've always found it a little odd that God would only provide us with Ten Commandments when it should have been obvious that we would need an abundance of guidance and far more detail if we were to ever be able to reach some mutual consensus. Perhaps that is a factor in my skepticism regarding the Bible as the actual word of God.

I've long wondered what would motivate a God to speak definitively to a select number of people at only one defined period in history...and never have returned to do it again. Further, if someone were to assert that God had spoken directly to them in this day and age, they would likely be determined mentally incompetent...yet we cling to beliefs that cannot be verified and that were reinterpreted time and again over centuries of time. Unfortunately, we cannot definitely resolve any of these conundrums so we struggle to define our morality each day through the decisions and the actions we exhibit.

When I attempt to discern morality, I usually look for consistency...an issue I've previously discussed here at Thought Theater. The premise of my argument is that the application of morality should remain consistent across all elements of an individual’s life in order for it to be considered more than the rhetoric of what I might characterize as politics...the means by which we negotiate to impose the "truths" we hold upon others within society. All too often I find the morality ("truths") of many whom I encounter to be inconsistent and that leads me to doubt the sincerity of their beliefs. While none of us holds a monopoly on “truth", we can nonetheless consistently live the “truths" we embrace. Perhaps that is the best we humans can achieve?

Michael Kinsley has an interesting article in the Washington Post that touches on this means of evaluating morality in the context of our President and his politics. Let me begin with an important caveat...we all have inconsistencies in our beliefs ("truths") and that doesn't necessarily invalidate them or our sincerity. Nonetheless, it does raise questions about the degree to which we have vetted those beliefs as well as the propensity we may have to ignore our own contradictions. Kinsley's article opens the discussion of inconsistencies found within the President's "truths" that merits further analysis and expansion.

It was, I believe, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) who first made the excellent, bitter and terribly unfair joke about conservatives who believe in a right to life that begins at conception and ends at birth.

This joke has been adapted for use against various Republican politicians ever since. In the case of President Bush, though, it appears to be literally true.

Bush, as we know, believes deeply and earnestly that human life begins at conception. Even tiny embryos composed of a half-dozen microscopic cells, he thinks, have the same right to life as you and I do. That is why he cannot bring himself to allow federal funding for research on new lines of embryonic stem cells or even for other projects in labs where stem cell research is going on. Even though these embryos are obtained from fertility clinics, where they would otherwise be destroyed anyway, and even though he appears to have no objection to the fertility clinics themselves, where these same embryos are manufactured and destroyed by the thousands -- nevertheless, the much smaller number of embryos needed and destroyed in the process of developing cures for diseases such as Parkinson's are, in effect, tiny little children whose use in this way constitutes killing a human being and therefore is intolerable.

But President Bush does not believe that the deaths of all little children as a result of U.S. policy are, in effect, murder. He thinks that some, while very unfortunate, are also inevitable and essential.

You know who I mean. Close to 50,000 Iraqi civilians have died so far as a direct result of our invasion and occupation of their country, in order to liberate them. The numbers are increasing as the country slides into chaos: more than 6,500 in July and August alone.

Bush is right, of course, that the inevitable loss of innocent life in wartime cannot be a reason not to go to war or a reason not to fight that war in a way intended to win. Eggs, omelets and all that. "Collateral damage" should be a consideration weighed in the balance. But there is no formula to determine when you have the balance right. It does seem to me that both our wars in Iraq were started and conducted with insufficient consideration for the cost in innocent blood. Callousness, naivete and isolation -- isolation of the decision makers from democratic accountability and isolation of citizens from the consequences, or even the awareness, of what is being done in their name -- all have played a role. I don't see anything coming out of this war that is worth 50,000 innocent lives, although a case can be made, I guess.

But it is hard -- indeed, I would say it is impossible -- to reconcile Bush's absolutism over allegedly human life when it is a clump of unknowing, unfeeling cells with his sophisticated, if not cavalier, attitude toward the loss of innocent human life when it is children and adults in Iraq.

Kinsley’s point is well taken (and one that I am inclined to agree with) and while I could elaborate at length on his particular focus, I want to use the premise he raises to pivot to another important issue. In light of the passage of legislation related to the treatment of detainees, both in terms of their physical and psychological well being and in terms of the legal rights they will be afforded, I can't help but expand upon Kinsley's argument. More importantly, the argument must be moved beyond the President and those who voted to enact this new legislation...we must look at the consistency and the morality of the society that elected those who hold these positions of power.

This is a difficult topic...one that kindles intense passion. Recently, the dialogue has deteriorated into an evaluation of the patriotism of those opposed to the new legislation; specifically aimed at the Democratic Party. Frankly, anyone that doubts the patriotism of a fellow American is actually engaging in the dismantling of the social contract that makes us Americans. Are there individuals who reside in the U.S. who are unpatriotic? Of course they exist. Can they be identified by the political party with which they affiliate? Absolutely not. Is the issue of Iraq and fighting the war on terrorism simply a matter of patriotism? That may well depend upon one's interpretation of what it is that we are actually defending as patriots.

Here's the problem. The United States was attacked on 9/11 and since that time there is no doubt that a number of individuals and organizations and even countries would like to inflict more harm on America. The President stridently asserts that these combatants seek to destroy our way of life and that they view freedom and liberty as obstacles to their goal of imposing their own extremist religious and political views. Generally speaking, I agree that they view our way of life as a threat to their beliefs. I also agree that their election to randomly kill the innocent is inexcusable.

The dilemma we face today is how to best confront the threat these people present. It is my impression that the overwhelming majority of Americans believe we have the right to pursue those who have harmed us as well as those who may desire to harm us. I also believe that most Americans viewed the invasion of Afghanistan, at the time it occurred, as justified and that they continue to do so today. I conclude that position remains constant because it is also consistent with the morals ("truths") we possess.
Regarding Iraq, it is my assumption that a majority of American's favored the invasion...but that they did so upon the information that was provided to them at the time...that being that Sadaam Hussein had WMD's and, given his dislike of the United States, he may well be open to providing weaponry to those who sought to harm us. Again, while perhaps not as clear in terms of our values, most American's felt our decision to invade Iraq met a necessary threshold. If we stop the analysis here, there is little doubt as to the basis of our morality and how most Americans believe it should be reasonably and consistently applied. However, the events subsequent to this juncture require a far different analysis...and a much less favorable conclusion.

Let me begin with an observation and follow with some relevant explanation. The consistent opposition to the war in Iraq, coupled with the belief that it is being mishandled, is a function of the prevailing moral integrity of the average American. Additionally, most Americans feel we have some obligation to achieve an outcome that serves the interests of the U.S. and the people of Iraq...even if we have angered the Iraqi population by our actions. That too is demonstrative of our moral compass.

Where Americans begin to diverge is in determining what actions we should employ to both protect us from harm and in how to treat those who may be guilty of intending or inflicting harm. I'll offer the observation of my uncle, who served on the front lines in WWII, to introduce the dilemma we face. He spoke about the decisions made by desperate people in desperate situations and he argued that only a select few will honor their values when confronted with the decision to be a saint or a sinner. He went on to say that the problem with humanity is that we have failed to acknowledge that we are unable or unwilling to make the moral decision when confronted with the fear of danger or death...and therefore we should avoid the circumstances that lead us to that dangerous precipice. His theory was simply the result of observing the inconsistency of humanity at its worst in times of war.

As I attempt to bring his theory forward to our current situation, it is necessary to draw an important distinction between our actions then and our actions and intentions now. Out of the carnage and devastation of WWII arose the Geneva Conventions...a reaction to the very construct my uncle elucidated...that we humans are prone to inhumanity and that it was essential to define the humanity we would honor even during the times we were unable to find common resolve. It was a call for some application of civility even in our darkest moments of conflict.

In our acceptance of the Geneva Conventions, we not only demonstrated our commitment to humanity, we honored the principles and values upon which our nation was founded...and in so doing we led the world towards civility by example...at a time when we could have sought retribution and retaliation. In so doing, we led the world out of darkness and we became a beacon for freedom and for justice and provided us with more might than all of the weapons we possessed. By applying our morality with consistency, we provided hope to the oppressed as well as the oppressors that freedom and justice served by all is freedom and justice received by all.

We stand again at a crossroads. We can succumb to fear and choose a path that not only violates our moral construct but serves to destroy the very foundations upon which this nation was built. If we make the wrong decisions, we will also no longer be defending the values that we purport to honor…we will no longer be patriots because a patriot only exists if the nation he supports still exists. If we give up our values in order to preserve our way of life, we have chosen self-defeat. One can never suspend one’s values in order to defend them. To do so is to have no values.

Lastly, should we continue our inclinations to erode our moral fabric, we can no longer act with morality…and should that happen, we will not only have met our enemies…we have joined them in fostering our demise. In choosing to honor the efforts of my uncle and the many others who have sacrificed so that we could continue this way of life, I am staking a claim to patriotism and I unequivocally reject the actions of those who are blinded by fear such that they would exchange our values for a false sense of security…thereby enabling the very defeat our adversaries seek to inflict.

Today America is being called upon to lead by example. Should we fail to do so with the courage of our convictions and the commitment to honor those convictions in the face of adversity; we will have ceded our country and our right to lead…at which time the choice to be a patriot will have been precluded. Democracy grows when democracy’s practiced. Dying for democracy can only happen if democracy lives. To deny democracy in order to preserve it is to dishonor those brave enough to defend it.

Mr. President, will you be a patriot and lead this country or will you abrogate the efforts of the countless patriots that served her well? The fate of America hangs in the balance.

Daniel DiRito | September 29, 2006 | 10:59 AM | link | Comments (4)
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September 28, 2006

Now Playing: Police Academy - Baghdad genre: Just Jihad & Six Degrees of Speculation & Snapshot Thoughts & Tongue-In-Cheek

Police Academy - Baghdad

Daniel DiRito | September 28, 2006 | 2:46 PM | link | Comments (0)
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News From Iraq: New Police Academy A Disaster genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Domino effect

The Washington Post reports that the 75 million dollar police academy in Baghdad is so badly flawed that it may be necessary to demolish and rebuild some portions of the facility. When reading such stories, I find myself questioning assessments that suggest that we have trained nearly 300,000 Iraqi troops.

Here's the problem. If we began our occupation of Iraq with less than 200,000 American soldiers and no Iraqi security forces and we now have nearly 300,000 Iraqi troops along with over 140,000 U.S. soldiers, why can't we seem to bring order to the country and why does the death toll continue to alarm? Perhaps this story about the police academy, coupled with other failures, provides the answer to my question.

BAGHDAD, Sept. 27 -- A $75 million project to build the largest police academy in Iraq has been so grossly mismanaged that the campus now poses health risks to recruits and might need to be partially demolished, U.S. investigators have found.

The Baghdad Police College, hailed as crucial to U.S. efforts to prepare Iraqis to take control of the country's security, was so poorly constructed that feces and urine rained from the ceilings in student barracks. Floors heaved inches off the ground and cracked apart. Water dripped so profusely in one room that it was dubbed "the rain forest."

"This is the most essential civil security project in the country -- and it's a failure," said Stuart W. Bowen Jr., the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, an independent office created by Congress. "The Baghdad police academy is a disaster."

Even in a $21 billion reconstruction effort that has been marred by cases of corruption and fraud, failures in training and housing Iraq's security forces are particularly significant because of their effect on what the U.S. military has called its primary mission here: to prepare Iraqi police and soldiers so that Americans can depart.

There is a theory in management whereby the cumulative effects of numerous mistakes and misjudgments are sufficient to bring down the entire company. Frequently, the management of such companies discounts each individual issue as minor compared to the overall functionality of the organization until such time as the collective failures destroy employee morale, alienate customers, and fully undermine the ability of those in positions of authority to halt the decline. Worse yet, middle managers often attempt to bring the severity of the issues to the attention of senior management only to be rebuffed as naysayer’s who refuse to embrace their rose colored assessments.

Apologists for the Iraq war often complain that the media fails to report the small successes that are being achieved. While there are no doubt a number of small accomplishments, one cannot overlook the numerous blunders that shape the mindset of the Iraqi population and lead to the negative numbers being reflected in U.S. polling.

An example might help make the point. Here in the United States, voter sentiment has been shown to be closely tied to the cost of gasoline...enough so that it has the ability to determine the prevailing voter sentiment regarding the overall economy. Clearly, gas prices are only a minor segment of the economy and yet the impact they actually have on the polling conducted about the state of the economy is likely greater than warranted.

Similarly, the failure to restore services to the Iraqi people has a larger impact than they might actually warrant. Add to that a predisposition to mistrust the motivations of the United States coupled with the cultural and religious differences and it isn't difficult to understand why a large majority of Iraqis prefer the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops.

As top U.S. military commanders declared 2006 "the year of the police," in an acknowledgment of their critical role in allowing for any withdrawal of American troops, officials highlighted the Baghdad Police College as one of their success stories.

"This facility has definitely been a top priority," Lt. Col. Joel Holtrop of the Corps of Engineers' Gulf Region Division Project and Contracting Office said in a July news release. "It's a very exciting time as the cadets move into the new structures."

Complaints about the new facilities, however, began pouring in two weeks after the recruits arrived at the end of May, a Corps of Engineers official said.

Phillip A. Galeoto, director of the Baghdad Police College, wrote an Aug. 16 memo that catalogued at least 20 problems: shower and bathroom fixtures that leaked from the first day of occupancy, concrete and tile floors that heaved more than two inches off the ground, water rushing down hallways and stairwells because of improper slopes or drains in bathrooms, classroom buildings with foundation problems that caused structures to sink.

Galeoto noted that one entire building and five floors in others had to be shuttered for repairs, limiting the capacity of the college by up to 800 recruits. His memo, too, pointed out that the urine and feces flowed throughout the building and, sometimes, onto occupants of the barracks.

The U.S. military initially agreed to take a Washington Post reporter on a tour of the facility Wednesday to examine the construction issues, but the trip was postponed Tuesday night. Federal investigators who visited the academy last week, though, expressed concerns about the structural integrity of the buildings and worries that fecal residue could cause a typhoid outbreak or other health crisis.

"They may have to demolish everything they built," said Robert DeShurley, a senior engineer with the inspector general's office. "The buildings are falling down as they sit."

Herman said that he doubted that was the case but that he plans to hire an architecture and engineering firm to examine the facility. He also plans to investigate concerns raised by the inspector general's office that the Army Corps of Engineers did not properly respond to construction problems highlighted in quality-control reports.

Note the disconnect between those middle management types who are attempting to function in the flawed facility and those higher ups (senior management types) who are touting the academy as a sign of success. The disparity demonstrates the failed management style discussed above and further serves to support the contention that the Bush administration, under the guidance of Donald Rumsfeld, continues to ignore the realities being voiced by numerous former military officers and countless other war critics. It takes minimal analysis to posit that the lack of sufficient forces in the region also translates into a lack of supervision and oversight which then leads to these colossal failures.

Look, the reality is obvious...we have an administration that has miscalculated and mismanaged the Iraq war from the outset. There were no WMD's, we were not greeted as liberators, we didn't have a plan for securing the country once Hussein was toppled, we didn't have enough troops to achieve our objectives, we are in the midst of a civil war, and we are fomenting more extremism. Sadly, the only constant remains the unequivocal denial exhibited by our President and his assemblage of neocon associates.

Daniel DiRito | September 28, 2006 | 10:32 AM | link | Comments (0)
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New Zogby Poll: Bush Up, Dems Still Lead genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Public opinion

Pundits continue to debate whether the recent increase in the President’s approval ratings is a bump or a trend and the latest Zogby poll will likely continue the discussion. The poll shows that the President's approval rating has risen to 42 percent, up only three points from the August numbers but significantly higher than his low of 31 percent in June. Democrats continue to hold a lead over Republicans on the question of whether voters intend to support the Democratic or Republican candidate in their own district.

The good news for Democrats is that, at the moment, the improved GOP numbers are not translating into gains for Republican candidates in polling of individual races. You can read the details at Zogby or from Reuters.

From Zogby:

Bush has rebounded from a low of 31% job approval in early June. Just two weeks ago, 39% gave him positive marks for his job performance. The Reuters/Zogby survey shows that members of the President’s political base are giving him better marks than they did a few months ago, as 44% of men, 44% of Catholics, 46% of married respondents, and 52% of regular WalMart shoppers rated his work well.

Just one in four – 24% – gave Congress a positive job performance rating, while 75% gave negative marks.

Democrats remain in the lead in the “generic" congressional election contest, where respondents are asked whether they intend to vote for the Republican or the Democrat in their local congressional election on Nov. 7. Their 42% to 33% edge has held steady despite Bush’s improvement in job approval. Remarkably, 20% said they are yet unsure which candidate they will support when they cast their vote – a disconcerting factor for incumbents, more than 95% of whom won re–election two years ago. Democrats appear to be more energized to support their own party’s candidate – 82% said they would vote Democratic, compared to 75% of Republicans who said they plan to vote for the GOP congressional candidate this fall. Democrats need to win 15 seats in the U.S. House in order to wrest control from Republicans for the first time since the 1994 election, and need to pick up six Senate seats to take over in the upper chamber.

The large number of undecided voters suggests that there is still plenty of room for change in the final numbers...a fact that makes the final few weeks of campaigning all the more important as well as all the more vulnerable to unforeseen events that could shift voter sentiment. Personally, I find this information troubling for Democrats since they have recently done a poor job of closing the deal with voters. Additionally, the GOP has a significant cash advantage, a superior get out the vote system, and they will likely roll out numerous negative ads intent on employing wedge issues to energize conservatives and evangelicals. Lastly, I remain concerned that the Democrats continue to lack a consistent and comprehensive message as they continue to shift positions on the war in Iraq.

Just yesterday, the headlines indicated that John Murtha stood with 10 military veterans running as Democrats in November when they called for a full withdrawal from Iraq by 2008...a far different time frame than the redeployment in six months called for by Murtha earlier this year.

From Reuters:

"The president and the Republicans are still on the ropes, but they certainly seem to have hit bottom and bounced back," Zogby said. "This is still very competitive."

The war in Iraq topped the concerns of likely voters, with 33 percent picking it as their most important issue. Security and the fight against terrorism were close behind with 30 percent, while 23 percent chose the economy and jobs as the top issue.

But 53 percent said the Iraq war was not worth the loss of lives, a slight improvement for Bush from an early September poll where 58 percent said it was not.

The poll found a majority of voters, 55 percent, believed the country was on the wrong track, usually a reliable indicator of public mood and a bad sign for incumbents.

The most notable number in the above excerpt is the fact that terrorism is now seen by 30 percent of voters as the most important issue in the midterm election. That indicates that the President and the GOP have been effective in raising fears and concerns about national security and the need to combat terrorist threats...a strategy that was successful for Republicans in 2002 and 2004. The recent media attention on terror issues is not likely to help Democrats as they benefit more from a focus on the war in Iraq. While it has been stated time and again, the Party that can frame the debate between now and November will likely be seen as the winner on November 8th.

Daniel DiRito | September 28, 2006 | 8:32 AM | link | Comments (0)
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September 27, 2006

Intelligence Analysts Question NIE Report Release genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Neocon mindset

Following the release of portions of a classified National Intelligence Estimate, a number of intelligence experts are questioning the judgment behind the declassification. Many have felt that the leaked information forced the President to release more of the report in an effort to minimize the political damage. Nonetheless, a number of former insiders believe the decision may have been a mistake. MSNBC has the details here.

To almost any reader, the assessment of trends in global terror for the next five years looks grim. It warns that most jihadist groups “will use improvised explosive devices and suicide attacks" on “soft targets." It cautions that extremists still seek chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons. And it contemplates whether other types of leftist or separatist groups, such as anti-globalism factions, could adopt terrorist methods.

One former insider sees even more. Robert Hutchings, who headed the National Intelligence Council when the estimate was launched in 2004, called the document “a very severe indictment of, not just the administration, but where we as a country have found ourselves five years after 9/11."

“It says the jihad is spreading, expanding and intensifying," said Hutchings, who left the council in early 2005 and is now at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School.

The key, Hutchings said, is that the United States needs to address more vigorously the conflicts that jihadists have successfully exploited.

“The administration will say that is what they are doing, but that is not true," said Hutchings, who has not seen the classified 30-page document, but has read the three pages released publicly on Tuesday.

“We are back to paying no attention to Palestine because we don’t like Hamas," he said. On Lebanon, “by encouraging Israel to extend its attacks, we have helped destabilize that country."

“We think we can isolate Iran and are surprised when no one joins us," he said.

Hutchings echoes the argument made by many experts on the Middle East whereby stability within the region must take into consideration events taking place throughout the region. Clearly, it appears that a strategy that attempts to isolate one issue from all others isn't succeeding. Hutchings specific reference to the Palestinian situation is consistent with arguments previously made at Thought Theater here and here as well as in recent comments by former President Clinton.

The President, on the contrary has implemented a strategy to separate each of the numerous conflicts that are fomenting further animosity towards the U.S. and that are each serving to expand the radicalization of the region. This approach originated with the administration's handling of the Palestinian issue...whereby he made clear that he would not meet with Yasser Arafat and it has continued with a refusal to engage Iran in any direct discussions regarding its nuclear ambitions. His approach to Syria has been similar though not as absolute. Nonetheless, the strategy offers little ability to use one country to leverage another...leaving us at odds across the board and perhaps pushing these adversaries into alignments that might not otherwise unfold.

At a White House news briefing Wednesday, Snow found himself on the defensive as reporters pressed him for evidence that the United States is, in fact, safer.

Speaking broadly, he said, the intelligence estimate makes the point that the Bush administration has been making for years: Iraq is key to the war on terror.

Democrats cited the document as evidence the government needs changes in political leadership with the Nov. 7 elections. They continued their push Wednesday for release of the rest of the report.

The problem, as I see it, is that the Bush administration seems to believe that all situations should and will be met with a hard-line position and with the very vocal insinuation of military intervention. While I fully accept that the U.S. should not preclude the need for military action, expressing and utilizing that threat in all instances seems counterproductive and lacking in the sophistication that should attempt to understand the nuances of a more comprehensive big picture approach. The neocon mentality is clearly comfortable with the wielding of a large stick but they may well not understand the best application of that capacity.

It reminds me of my school days where everyone could identify those who saw themselves as tough guys...and those same individuals almost always misjudged their ability to prevail...which typically led others to conspire to topple them from their perceived position if invincibility. The United States simply needs to be smarter than to rely almost solely on military might. If we fail to realize as much, we may well find ourselves in a brawl we can't win.

Daniel DiRito | September 27, 2006 | 7:53 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Could Marriage Gap Sway Midterms? genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation & Uncivil Unions

Marriage gap

During each election cycle, pollsters and analysts look for more and more data to assist in projecting or predicting which candidate or which Party is likely to win. In an article in USA TODAY, the latest statistic garnering attention is the percentage of married people living within the contested Congressional districts. If the data is accurate, the indications would suggest that Democrats might well be successful in assuming control of the House come November.

House districts held by Republicans are full of married people. Democratic districts are stacked with people who have never married. This “marriage gap" could play a role in the Nov. 7 congressional elections. Democrats need a net gain of 15 seats to take control of the House of Representatives.

Twenty-seven of the 38 Republican-held districts with seats considered vulnerable by independent political analysts have fewer married people than found in the average GOP district. The USA TODAY analysis also shows that:

•Republicans control 49 of the 50 districts with the highest rates of married people.

•Democrats represent all 50 districts that have the highest rates of adults who have never married.

The “never married" group covers a variety of groups who form the Democratic base: young people, those who marry late in life, single parents, gays, and heterosexuals who live together.

The findings seem to offer further support for the urban/rural divide as well as for the red state/blue state construct. I'm not sure how to attribute the findings from a psychological perspective although my first instinct is to assume that those who marry are more apt to have conservative leanings and therefore follow a more conventional life path...one that could be viewed as more in line with what we frequently hear are established values and mores. I would therefore these married voters to be more apt to support Republican candidates. Clearly, my observations are generalizations and it would require further research to make any definitive conclusions. Nonetheless, the USA TODAY data seems to support some of my assumptions.

Most serious Democratic challenges this fall are in Republican-controlled House districts that have lower marriage rates.

For example, the two seats most likely to switch from Republican to Democratic are Arizona's 8th District and Colorado's 7th District, according to the non-partisan National Journal. The districts — in which Republican incumbents are not seeking re-election — rank 251st and 307th respectively in marriage rates among the 435 districts.

Of the five Republicans who have the lowest rates of married people in their districts, four are in tough battles with Democrats. On the other side, Rep. Melissa Bean, D-Ill., whose district has a high marriage rate, faces a strong GOP challenge.

Rep. John Linder, R-Ga., whose district has the highest marriage rate (66.1%), says the gap exists because “people get more conservative when they settle down." Democratic pollster Mark Mellman says the gap is magnified because a greater percentage of married people vote than unmarried people.

It will be interesting to see how these races unfold and whether the results comport with the statistical data once the votes are counted. Regardless, it seems to point to one additional factor in the polarization that seems to be growing within the United States. It also provides a group of voters that both Parties need to better address in their campaign strategies given the evidence that we have a very closely divided electorate.

Daniel DiRito | September 27, 2006 | 9:31 AM | link | Comments (1)
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September 26, 2006

Portions Of NIE Report Declassified & Released genre: Hip-Gnosis & Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Classified report

In what many consider an effort at damage control, the Bush administration has quickly assembled and released declassified excerpts of the National Intelligence Estimate that has garnered the lion's share of media attention this week. While the released portions offer a broader perspective on the already leaked information, they fail to refute the general conclusion that the war in Iraq has in fact created more terrorists and accelerated extremist affiliations. The New York Times reports on the newly released data as well as provides a link to the full document that is less than four pages in length.

From The New York Times:

WASHINGTON, Sept. 26 — The war in Iraq has become a “cause célèbre" for Islamic militants, “breeding a deep resentment" of the United States in the Muslim world, according to declassified excerpts from a major intelligence report that were released late this afternoon.

“The Iraqi jihad is shaping a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives; perceived jihadist success there would inspire more fighters to continue the struggle elsewhere," the excerpts said.

The excerpts from the intelligence report pointed to a spread of terrorist activity globally for at least the next five years and said terrorists were adapting to the tactics used against them. “If this trend continues, threats to U.S. interests at home and abroad will become more diverse, leading to increasing attacks worldwide," they said.

The report cites four factors fueling the spread of Islamic militancy: entrenched grievances and a sense of powerlessness; the Iraq “jihad"; the slow pace of reform in Muslim nations; and “pervasive anti-U.S. sentiment among most Muslims."

I think it is critical to point out that despite the fact that the war in Iraq has led to an expansion of extremist affiliations, the problem will not be alleviated by simply withdrawing from Iraq. One can make the argument that a withdrawal, whereby the Iraqi's are given the opportunity to construct the government they prefer, might quell some of the animosity amongst those inclined to moderate and more secular views. However, the damage done, coupled with those predisposed to resenting Western Civilization, will leave the world with more extremists which will require the Western world to remain in a state of heightened security.

As we approach the midterm election, it is safe to conclude that little focus will be given to these realities and their eventual resolution...other than the GOP arguing that we cannot cut and run and the Democrats contending that the existing course of action is an unmitigated failure. I understand the partisan nature of politics but I can't help but look for reasonable alternatives that might succeed. Before delving into that discussion, I think there are some excerpts from the released document that are needed to frame the available solutions.

From The NIE Report:

The jihadists' greatest vulnerability is that their ultimate political solution - an ultra-conservative interpretation of Shari’a-based governance spanning the Muslim world - is unpopular with the vast majority of Muslims. Exposing the religious and political straitjacket that is implied by the jihadists' propaganda would help to divide them from the audiences they seek to persuade.

Recent condemnations of violence and extremist religious interpretations by a few notable Muslim clerics signal a trend that could facilitate the growth of a constructive alternative to jihadist ideology: peaceful political activism. This also could lead to the consistent and dynamic participation of broader Muslim communities in rejecting violence, reducing the ability of radicals to capitalize on passive community support. In this way, the Muslim mainstream emerges as the most powerful weapon in the war on terror.

Countering the spread of the jihadist movement will require coordinated multilateral efforts that go well beyond operations to capture or kill terrorist leaders.

What is evident from the above analysis is that there are methods available to counter the growing extremism. Further, there is little evidence to suggest that the current approach can succeed. Instead of creating a wedge between extremist leaders and their predominantly moderate populations, our efforts are pushing the populations into the extremist camp. The general skepticism towards U.S. motivations coupled with the rhetoric of religious leaders battling for influence and power creates a nearly impossible obstacle. So the question is how we create the necessary wedge.

I recently posted a video clip of portions of an interview in which Bill Clinton suggested that the best advice he could give our current President would be to move forward with the creation of a Palestinian state. That advice follows on my own contention that the key to solving the radical extremism, as well as the prevailing mistrust and anti-American sentiment, is to build a Palestinian state and reestablish the U.S. as a legitimate broker for peace within the region.

In this equation, the U.S. is able to create the wedge that will be necessary to embolden the populations within the Middle East to join the effort to extinguish extremism and terrorism. At the moment, they have no reason to believe that the U.S. and Israel are ever going to establish a Palestinian state...a belief that overwhelms what might otherwise be moderate leanings and leaves many within the region vulnerable to assertions by extremists that they are in fact engaged in a clash of civilizations whereby the U.S. is intent upon exporting Western values and culture at the expense of traditional Islamic doctrine.

I contend that the Iraqi conflict, as well as the prevailing Middle East tensions, will be lessened in equal proportion to the success we achieve in providing for a Palestinian state. Given that the NIE assessment posits that, "If democratic reform efforts in Muslim majority nations progress over the next five years, political participation probably would drive a wedge between intransigent extremists and groups willing to use the political process to achieve their local objectives", then it would be reasonable to conclude that any progress with the Palestinian issue will greatly enhance the speculative potentiality of the NIE report. Absent the Palestinian effort, I'm of the opinion that the NIE timeframe is overly optimistic and dependent upon a relatively static progression without the prevalence of unforeseen events and escalations...which seems unlikely at best.

Frankly, I doubt that the existing Republican approach or the alternative of withdrawal supported by a number Democrats will serve to alleviate the existing conditions and bring relative stability to the troubled region. Neither approach has the wherewithal to alter the prevailing sentiment. Conversely, a voluntary effort that would demonstrate our ability to discern the profound importance of a successful Palestinian state would, in my opinion, yield exponential goodwill. Given the current conditions, such an effort has little risk.

Daniel DiRito | September 26, 2006 | 6:05 PM | link | Comments (1)
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Bill Maher's Guests Discuss Religious Extremism genre: Hip-Gnosis & Just Jihad & Six Degrees of Speculation & Video-Philes

The following video clip contains a good debate on religious extremism amongst Bill Maher, Reza Aslan, Bradley Whitford, and Sandy Rios. At about two minutes into the clip, Maher and Rios engage in an exchange regarding the two Fox News journalists who were recently kidnapped and then subsequently released by their captors. In that exchange, Rios, a Fox News contributor as well as the president of Culture Campaign, makes the point that Christians are called upon to lay down their lives for their faith. Her remarks infer that the kidnapped journalists were failing their faith when they agreed to say they were Muslims in order to spare their lives.

Rios goes on to argue that those Christians, who subsequently said they would do the same thing, were not allowed to do so because their Christian faith doesn't allow that freedom...they have to profess their loyalty to Christ no matter what...even if it means they would lose their lives.

I think that Rios, through her words and her beliefs, makes clear the problem we face in this growing atmosphere of religious extremism. Each side, Christians and Muslims, are convinced that they must defend their faith...even to the point of death. Granted, Rios didn't advocate suicide bombings, but she holds the same absolutist beliefs that make our battle with terrorism so difficult. Those Muslims that oppose Western Civilization believe they too are following the tenets of their faith. They see the presence of Christians in the Muslim world as a threat to their faith and to their way of life...just as we see the possibility of a terrorist attack as a threat to our way of life.

From an historical perspective, Osama bin Laden views the U.S. presence in Saudi Arabia as a breech of Islamic principles. As much as I don't condone any of bin Laden's actions, I understand the premise of his beliefs...and it isn’t difficult to understand why many Muslims conclude that the basis of their faith is no less worthy than our Christian beliefs. Let me be clear. I am not attempting to provide any justification whatsoever for al Qaeda's terrorist activities...they are abhorrent and they are an example of the dangers of religious extremism.

Regardless, the resulting dilemma is that the dogmatism of both sides makes it virtually impossible to find a point of compromise. Additionally, it isn't difficult to see how this same type of religious extremism is being played out in U.S. politics as many evangelicals believe they are obliged to proselytize such that they seek to rewrite our laws to reflect the "truths" they believe are contained in the Bible...even if that means that the constitution is damaged in the process. Many Muslims also seek to impose their Islamic beliefs on their cultures and they view Westernization as a threat to that effort. The emergence of the Taliban in Afghanistan was, to those who oppose Western Civilization, a return to the fundamental beliefs of their particular interpretation of Islam.

What we Westerners frequently misunderstand is that many within the Muslim world view capitalism as an adjunct to our Christian leanings. With that belief, they see our economic activities within the Muslim world as an interjection of our culture and they view it similar to the aggression we call terrorism. Again, even if they were correct in these types of conclusions, it would never justify the violent acts they have undertaken against innocent people around the world. Nonetheless, they believe we are using our wealth as a weapon to destroy their culture and their way of life. Until we can diffuse the polarization that is accelerating on both sides of the divide, there is little hope that a peaceful resolution can be achieved.

I've included the following transcription for the portion of the video clip that covers the above mentioned exchange because it is difficult to follow the entire conversation as it plays out in the actual dialogue. The video clip follows the transcript.

Transcript:

RIOS: I watched parts of this today. Yeah, I know that’ll shock you. But it’s just – the thing of it is, I have a son who is in graduate school, divinity school, in Canada. And he was raised in a Christian home, but – and certainly we are to teach our children. And implicit in the teaching of Christ is the fact that, yes, you have to be willing to lay down your life. You know, it’s this kind of an example that Jesus sets. But we don’t send them to camp to rally to do that. [Voices overlap]

MAHER: Right. You criticized the Fox News guys, right, who were kidnapped by Muslim extremists—

RIOS: [overlapping] No, I didn’t criticize them.

MAHER: [overlapping]—I read that you did.

RIOS: No, you misread it then.

MAHER: Okay.

ASLAN: Sandy, there is a huge difference—

RIOS: [overlapping] I was not criticizing them.

ASLAN: There’s a huge—

RIOS: [overlapping] My point was that Christians have to – I don’t know what their faith is, but I’m talking about Christians that responded to that story, said that they would have done the same thing. That was my concern.

MAHER: Okay.

RIOS: Was that Christ followers would say that they would—

MAHER: Well, if you don’t know the story, two journalists for Fox News—

WHITFORD: To save their lives.

RIOS: Yeah, yeah.

MAHER: [overlapping]—to save their lives, they said, “Okay, we’re Muslims."

RIOS: Right.

WHITFORD: Right.

MAHER: And you’re – what I read is that you said they shouldn’t have done that.

RIOS: No, I didn’t say that. No, Bill, that’s a misreading. I said that Christians who saw that and said, “I would have done the same thing," Christ followers can’t do that. We don’t have that freedom. We have to profess Christ no matter what. [Scattered applause]

ASLAN: Look, there is a difference – there is huge difference between—

MAHER: [overlapping] But then they would have killed you.

RIOS: [overlapping] That’s right.

ASLAN: [overlapping] Listen – between laying down – between laying down your life for Jesus, which is a perfectly fine thing to do, and becoming a soldier for Christ, which is what this is about. We have to understand that we’re fighting a war against people who think that they are engaged in a cosmic battle between the forces of good and evil. They believe that this is not an earthly battle. This is a war between the forces of Christianity and the forces of Islam. We cannot legitimize that viewpoint by saying the exact same thing. We’re not going to out-fanaticize these fanatics.

RIOS: I agree with you. I agree with you. [Applause]

ASLAN: I mean, there’s no – there’s no way.

RIOS: But, see, the thing of it is, Christianity is, by its very nature, radical. And by that, I mean, it is uncommon. It is not normal or natural to lay down your life, literally, for a friend. It’s not natural or normal to say, “I will not deny my faith, no matter if you do cut my head off. I will not do that." Even if you just say, “Just sign this. Just do this." And you say, “I can’t. Jesus is Lord." That’s not normal. That’s radical.

ASLAN: [overlapping] Sandy, you’re talking about martyrdom. These – these kids are not being martyrs. They’re being given, you know, toy swords and told to go into battle, you know, against—

RIOS: [overlapping] You mean, the kids in the camp?

ASLAN: [overlapping]—against the forces of – against the forces of evil.

Daniel DiRito | September 26, 2006 | 3:26 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Broken Military Reflects Failed Leadership genre: Just Jihad & Six Degrees of Speculation

Bush, Cheney, & Rumsfeld

In my Italian family, we often heard the expression, "when a fish goes bad, it starts with the head". Our interpretation of the saying was that bad leadership is the beginning of the demise of most entities...whether that is in a family, a company, or a country. Fred Kaplan has an article at Slate titled "How Bush Wrecked the Army" that caught my attention and led to my recollection of the above saying.

It also brought to mind a prior posting here at Thought Theater regarding the calls for the resignation or firing of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. In that posting I questioned that strategy and suggested that it may well detract from the real problem...the failed leadership of the President. As Senator McCain has said on numerous occasions, Rumsfeld serves at the Presidents behest...and in that regard it seems to me that the President bears the responsibility for the failings of those he appoints. Unless the judgment of the President were to improve, the firing of Rumsfeld may provide some momentary sense of satisfaction...but it likely wouldn't alter the strategies that have led to the intense criticism of Secretary Rumsfeld. That reality clearly points to the responsibility we have when selecting our leaders.

The generals' revolt has spread inside the Pentagon, and the point of the spear is one of Donald Rumsfeld's most favored officers, Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, the Army chief of staff.

The trumpet sounded last month, when Schoomaker refused to give Rumsfeld a detailed Army budget proposal for fiscal year 2008. The Air Force and Navy met the Aug. 15 deadline for submitting their program requests. But Schoomaker—in an unprecedented move—said he preferred not to.

[...] On Aug. 23, at a speech before the National Press Club, Schoomaker publicly threw down the gauntlet: "There is no sense in us submitting a budget that we cannot execute … a broken budget."

Units throughout the Army are so strained, generals say, that they're going to have to rely even more on the National Guard and Reserves, which are wildly overwhelmed themselves.

Meanwhile, to meet enlistment targets, the Army has raised the maximum age of recruits to 41, lowered their required aptitude scores, and—in another recent gulp—relaxed moral and disciplinary standards. The Army has always waived these standards to let in a small number of applicants. But since the Iraq war, this number has risen substantially. In 2001, just 10.07 percent of Army recruits were given moral waivers—i.e., were allowed into the Army, even though they had committed misdemeanors or had once-prohibited problems with drugs and alcohol, records of serious misconduct, or disqualifying medical conditions. By 2004, this number had risen to 11.98 percent. But in 2005, it soared to 15.02 percent. And as of April 2006, according to a fact sheet obtained from an Army officer, the number has leapt to 15.49 percent.

This is one reason so many Army officers, active and retired, have been so skeptical of the war all along—not so much because they oppose the war itself (though some do), but because they feared it would wreck the Army.

When I read these statistics, I couldn't help but recall the recent discharge of a gay linguistic specialist as well as the continued discharge of gays from the military. I find it outrageous that simply being gay is apparently far worse than allowing those with moral issues that could well harm the military to serve. To call this hypocrisy anything short of discrimination is absurd. This practice is nothing more than the arbitrary application of misguided prejudice and given the recently lowered standards it, in effect, relegates gays to a lesser standing than those convicted of crimes.

In broader terms, all of the above actions are a further indication of the failings of leadership. Looking at the budget issue, one is left to wonder if the needs expressed by our military leaders are being ignored because they point out what many have called an effort on the part of this administration to prosecute the current military efforts on the cheap...all the while disregarding the fact that such decisions may well endanger American soldiers.

While Republican leaders attempt to paint Democrats as weak on defense...going so far as to question their patriotism...their own Party leadership, apparently motivated by partisan political considerations, is willing to submit our military to lowered recruiting standards, expanded tours of duty, poor training, a lack of functional equipment, and the undoubtedly declining morale that comes with each. If that is how we measure patriotism, then we no longer understand its meaning.

This bureaucratic turbulence only reflects a broader dilemma that higher political authorities will soon have to address, whether they'd like to or not. Schoomaker's central complaint is that he doesn't have the money to maintain the Army's global missions. The president and the Congress can pony up the money (a lot more money) or scale back the missions. To do otherwise—to stay the course with inadequate resources—is to invite defeats and disasters.

Daniel DiRito | September 26, 2006 | 9:35 AM | link | Comments (3)
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Immigration Measures All About Midterm Election genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Border security

What a difference an election makes. Several months back the President made a prime time speech arguing for comprehensive immigration reform but it now appears that he will endorse what can only be characterized as a string of measures intended to garner votes for GOP candidates in November.

Absent from the legislation are much needed revisions to the employer enacted verification procedures which can be argued are the fundamental flaw that creates the bulk of the ever increasing motivation for more immigration. Unfortunately, such provisions would potentially anger many of the GOP's corporate and business backers so this will continue to be an area that is ignored. Instead, the President will likely sign a bill to build a 700 mile long fence at a cost in excess of two billion dollars. The New York Times has an excellent editorial on the partisan and ineffective measures likely to be approved.

Republican leaders want you to think they are hard at work overhauling the broken immigration system in the last days before going home. But don’t be fooled by the noise and dust. These are piecemeal rehashes of legislation the House passed last December. They include a 700-mile border fence that would cost more than $2 billion and would not work, and tough-sounding but profoundly undemocratic bills that would allow the indefinite detention of some illegal immigrants seeking asylum, make it easier to deport people without judicial review, and require voters to prove citizenship before participating in federal elections. The latter measure attacks an imaginary problem — voting fraud by illegal immigrants — and would disenfranchise countless Americans who are old and poor.

Among the most poisonous provisions is one that would give state and local police agencies authority to enforce federal immigration laws. Police departments big and small have bristled at the idea, saying they lack the expertise and the resources to enforce immigration law. They say it would cripple crime fighting by severing hard-won relationships with potential victims and witnesses: immigrants who will end up fearing and avoiding them.

But for every police chief who sees this as a foolish attack on law enforcement, there is a sheriff or local politician, like Steve Levy, the Suffolk County executive on Long Island, who is just itching to seize control of his or her own little corner of the immigration battlefield. It’s an every-mayor-for-himself approach that would only worsen the ad hoc incoherence of the national immigration system.

The reality is that the legislation expected to be passed is intended to appeal to those voters who have what I would characterize as a vigilante mentality. It seems to me that the goal is to enable every tough talking Republican candidate to embrace a "round them up and send them home" campaign without having to address the tough issue of the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants who are already in the country. As with negative campaigning, these measures offer the red meat to angry voters who prefer to respond with hostility and a lack of reasoned analysis when confronted with issues that they want addressed. Politicians supporting such piecemeal measures should be ashamed of their shortsighted approach to this issue...one that will not be resolved with these provisions...but then it appears that reelection is apparently more important than solving problems.

The House’s election hunt for border-security sound bites shows how susceptible to demagoguery the debate can be. Anti-immigrant fervor is a flame that spreads easily. But leadership can help people look beyond resentment and fear. Once upon a time, Mr. Bush was a sense-talking governor from a border state who understood this. Now he has joined the leaders of his party in calling on the nation to cower behind electric fences, searchlights and squad cars. It’s painful to see what he has turned into, and frustrating, in these days of immigration panic, to keep waiting for a real leader to emerge.

Daniel DiRito | September 26, 2006 | 8:20 AM | link | Comments (1)
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September 25, 2006

Military Stretched Thin On Troops & Equipment genre: Just Jihad & Six Degrees of Speculation

Soldiers in training

There are growing signs of military fatigue amongst troops scheduled for redeployment in shorter time frames than expected and many of these troops are new to their brigades and have not had the benefit of training on the equipment they may need to operate once they are sent overseas. The New York Times details a number of the issues facing a military stretched thin by over three years of conflict in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

The enormous strains on equipment and personnel, because of longer-than-expected deployments, have left active Army units with little combat power in reserve. The Second Brigade, for example, has only half of the roughly 3,500 soldiers it is supposed to have. The unit trains on computer simulators, meant to recreate the experience of firing a tank’s main gun or driving in a convoy under attack.

“It’s a good tool before you get the equipment you need," Colonel James said. But a few years ago, he said, having a combat brigade in a mechanized infantry division at such a low state of readiness would have been “unheard of."

Other than the 17 brigades in Iraq and Afghanistan, only two or three combat brigades in the entire Army — perhaps 7,000 to 10,000 troops — are fully trained and sufficiently equipped to respond quickly to crises, said a senior Army general.

After coming from Iraq in 2003, the Third Infantry Division was sent back in 2005. Then, within weeks of returning home last January, it was told by the Army that one of its four brigades had to be ready to go back again, this time in only 11 months. The three other brigades would have to be ready by mid-2007, Army planners said.

Yet almost all of the division’s equipment had been left in Iraq for their replacements, and thousands of its soldiers left the Army or were reassigned shortly after coming home, leaving the division largely hollow. Most senior officers were replaced in June.

It doesn't appear to be an ideal time to enlist or to sign on for additional years of service. Frankly, it seems to me that many parents would be hard pressed to encourage their children to enlist and for those who do have children in service, it must be fully disheartening to read stories of this nature. I can't imagine the anxiety that exists in families that are forced to deal with the uncertainty that surrounds the frequency of deployment as well as the prospects of the end of military operations in these troubled countries.

The brief time at home does not sit well with some soldiers. Specialist George Patterson, who re-enlisted after returning from Iraq in January, said last week that he was surprised to learn he could end up being home with his wife and daughter for only a year.

“I knew I would be going back," Specialist Patterson said. “Did I think I would leave and go back in the same year? No. It kind of stinks."

Instead of allowing more than a year to prepare to deploy, the First Brigade training schedule has been squeezed into only a few months, so the brigade can be ready to deploy as ordered by early December. Though the unit has not yet been formally designated for Iraq, most soldiers say there is little doubt they are headed there early next year.

The division has only a few dozen fully armored Humvees for training because most of the vehicles are in use in Iraq. Nor does it have all the tanks and trucks it is supposed to have when at full strength.

Standing at a training airfield with three of the aircraft nearby, Sgt. Mark Melbourne, the senior noncommissioned officer for the brigade’s unmanned aerial vehicles platoon, said only 6 of the brigade’s 15 operators had qualified so far in operating the aircraft from a ground station.

I can't help but wonder about the impact from the fact that neither the President nor the Vice President has a hands-on appreciation for actual military experience in a combat setting. Given the recent debate over the treatment of detainees and the reservations expressed about interrogation methods by numerous former prisoners of war, it seems that the myopic approach of the neocons in power has the potential to put soldiers in positions of peril...both from a lack of training and the risk of mistreatment should they be captured by the enemy.

One has to respect the discipline and restraint exhibited by those in service. Given the vocal protestations of numerous former soldiers and officers, it seems safe to conclude that moral within the military must be in decline. One can only hope that those in high positions within the military have the compassion and leadership to challenge those directives that put our soldiers at risk in these trying times. I fear that our political leaders are unaware or unwilling to acknowledge the stress that their absolutist rhetoric places upon our military leadership to meet the expectations of the administration...despite what is likely their better judgment.

Daniel DiRito | September 25, 2006 | 8:35 AM | link | Comments (0)
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September 24, 2006

David Broder: New Wave Of Political Independence genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Waves of change

I've long believed that the easiest position to take in life is one at the extremes. I would equate that election with the notion of "black and white" thinking. The rush to choose one side or the other reminds me of life on a grade school playground. It's a rare child that takes the time to discern the nuances and settle somewhere in the middle. We're not conditioned to moderation...the simple notion of winning and losing demonstrates the basic construct under which we predominantly function...nobody likes a tie. Ironically, our society is also enamored with team sports; albeit still driven by the desire to win, yet dependent upon the acts of collectivism and cooperation. All of this is frequently found in its least admirable form within our political system. David Broder, in a Washington Post article, offers a relative analysis of U.S. politics that touches upon the obstacles to succeeding with a centrist's perspective.

The independence being demonstrated all over the political spectrum these days -- by Democratic Sen. Joe Lieberman and Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee, both in tough reelection battles, and by Republican Sens. John McCain and John Warner -- has its roots in American history. When they ran for the presidential nomination, Ronald Reagan and John Kennedy defied the preferences of their parties' power brokers. And earlier, Teddy Roosevelt and Abe Lincoln did the same thing.

[...] if this year's election strengthens the hands of the independent members of both parties -- those who are prepared to defy the dictates of their interest groups and clamorous extremes -- the next presidential race may be very different from recent cycles.

But is this rosy scenario likely? Look at the powerful forces working against it. Congress is rigged to promote partisanship and extremism. Most congressional districts are drawn to favor one party or the other, and contests take place only in primaries, where low turnouts favor candidates who appeal to the motivated extremes. The flow of special-interest money into congressional races adds to this tilt, and now the bloggers are pummeling anyone who deviates from their definition of ideological purity.

The sequencing of presidential primaries, it is said, has the same effect on the race for the White House. Democratic aspirants have to satisfy the lefties to win Iowa, just as Republicans must placate the religious right to have a chance in South Carolina.

All that may be true. But still the forces of the independent center are gaining. The public disgust with the breakdown of Congress as a functioning institution has liberated more House and Senate candidates to challenge the status quo. They may be the same people, but they're not behaving the same way.

And the political environment is changing. More and more traditional conservatives are complaining that the Bush administration is wrecking their heritage, with its reckless military, foreign and fiscal policies and its disregard for the law. I hear this regularly and have reported it. David Brooks has been making that same point in his influential New York Times columns.

The tide is turning against dogmatism -- and toward political independence.

I agree with many of Broder's observations and I have some hope that we may eventually move away from dogmatism...but I'm leery that the extremist rhetoric of our current administration is moving many in our country and even more around the world in the opposite direction. I'm always looking for essence and I found myself unsatisfied with Broder's analysis...which led me to recall an email exchange with another blogger.

In our exchange, he asked me what led me to get into blogging and if I liked it. I read the question several times because I found myself struggling to offer what seemed to me should be a simple and straightforward answer. Regardless, I couldn't provide a response without delving into a much broader conversation covering a lifetime of thoughts and ruminations. As I attempted to understand my hesitation with Broder's remarks, and after the email exchange came to mind, I realized what seemed to be missing from the Broder piece.

We have adopted a language that removes us from the simplicity found in the pursuit of "truth". Ironically, as with my email exchange, while the pursuit of "truth" is a straightforward endeavor, the language of "truth" is complex when compared to the language of extremism. The dichotomy emerged and I realized what was troubling me. We no longer speak the language of "truth" and while Broder said as much...he did so in the language that has led us from it. Let me be clear. I am not saying that Broder wasn't speaking about "truth"...he was...but it was labored by the constructs that we have attached to expressing it and exposing it.

Within the independence that Broder embraces resides the "truth" upon which this country was founded and therefore his historical connection to that point in time is an attempt to return to the language of "truth". Sadly, we may no longer possess the means or the motivation to pursue it. In our pursuit of success...equated with our notion of winning as the ultimate prize, we have subrogated "truth" to the back seat in favor of the spoils that we believe can be achieved through the language of extremes. If we were to let the pursuit of "truth" dictate our existence such that finding "truth" was actually the essence of winning, the necessary language would emerge and the confrontational and convoluted communication we now cling to would be extinguished.

To that end, my answer to my fellow blogger speaks of the essence I long for and I offer it in hopes that it can be a step towards reconnecting with the worthiness of the pursuit of "truth" such that we can set aside the rhetoric of the extremes in order to achieve what should be our primary priority...embracing those "truths" that reside in honoring the sanctity of our humanity.

As to enjoying blogging, I would say that I do enjoy the fact that it allows me to put in writing thoughts that have been floating around in my head for years...that is fulfilling and perhaps cathartic at times. On the other hand, my curious mind is always attempting to see the big picture and unravel "truth"...and in that regard the blogosphere can provide some disappointment. In many instances, it has become the propaganda it once sought to usurp...and I find that disheartening.

As much as I repeat the fact that I am really only looking to find more "truth" and that I honestly don't have an agenda (opinions...yes, but they are all open to adjustment upon the discovery of more "truth"), most people don't understand or believe that anyone would actually be sincere in that construct. It is very difficult to bring people to an understanding that the pursuit of "truth" is not only a worthy endeavor; it is also, in my estimation, a selfish act. I present it this way because it provides a model that most people can understand (acting out of self-interest) and that therefore has the potential to help people understand my philosophy.

In saying such, I tend to confuse most people because "truth" doesn't have the attributes of those things we equate with "having, getting, taking, and winning". Sadly, few people are willing to acknowledge that at the end of our lives, all we really have is the "truth" we've been able to assemble...a process that I believe provides us with the ability to accept death. All the "things" we amass in this existence are meaningless as we lie dying...but the "truths" we have ascertained are priceless and sustaining. They provide us with the tools necessary to evaluate the living we did and to be able to accept and understand the ending to the story that we have created by our actions and our choices.

Additionally, the fact that I don't believe in God, religion, or an afterlife (something I had to train myself to accept because it, like most addictions, is a powerful enticement and an all encompassing rationalization) plays a fundamental role in my beliefs (my "truths"). In that regard, it is humanity that I make sacred...a concept that compels me to value other humans as opposed to measuring my potential for God's favor in comparison to my fellow world occupants...a practice that I believe results from the construction of religion.

Anyway, as you can see by my answer to your question, I see life as a complex puzzle...but as one that we are fully able to solve. Unfortunately, very few people are interested in that lifelong endeavor...they prefer the far simpler templates that require little effort and even less reality. Nonetheless, I am hopeful that my blogging will lead me to other like minded individuals and that makes it meaningful and enjoyable despite the fact that one must sort through numerous "straw beings" in order to find those with sincere human substance. Perhaps that makes me the proverbial elitist...but then as Horace Mann aptly stated..."We go by the major vote, and if the majority are insane, the same must go to the hospital."

Daniel DiRito | September 24, 2006 | 10:57 AM | link | Comments (0)
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Bill Clinton On Need For Palestinian State genre: Hip-Gnosis & Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation & Video-Philes

In a recent interview with Bill Clinton, Keith Olbermann asked the former president an interesting hypothetical. He asked Clinton what he would say if the current President, George Bush, if Bush were to call him and ask him for advice. The following clip is Clinton's answer to that question and his primary suggestion was that the President should figure out some means to restart talks aimed at establishing a Palestinian state. I recently wrote a post here at Thought Theater titled, Palestinian State: If We Build It, Answers Will Come.

In that posting, I suggested that establishing a Palestinian state should be our primary objective if we want to bring stability to the Middle East. In light of the new intelligence report discussed in this posting here at Thought Theater and reported in The New York Times and The Washington Post, I decided to repost my prior remarks here after the Clinton clip. I did so because I want to be clear that in addition to my criticism and opposition to the Bush administration's efforts in Iraq and the war on terror, I have offered my own suggestion to resolving the escalation of extremism in the region and diminishing the prevalence of terrorism.

Sadly, I hesitate to conclude that this President will take the advice of the former President...let alone mine. Nonetheless, I've also criticized the Democratic Party for failing to offer more than opposition to this administration's mismanagement of the Iraq war and the war on terror. I believe Democrats need to speak up and take the lead in proposing new solutions and alternate directions for resolving these issues. Americans are looking for answers and should they be given reasoned and rational solutions, I am convinced they would overwhelmingly support that candidate and that Party. It is time to set aside partisan goals and begin to act with the courage and conviction this country desperately needs in order to once again assume our role as a stabilizing and steady force in world diplomacy.



Palestinian State: If We Build It, Answers Will Come

The prevailing opinion is that the Middle East is a very complex and complicated region rife with centuries of sectarian, tribal, cultural, and religious differences. I agree with that characterization with regards to attempting to summarize the area historically. As to the current problems that have spiraled into a near full scale regional war, I’m convinced that the solution to the many issues rests solely upon one defining problem…from which all others emanate and from which all others can be resolved. In fact, in what some may call my fanciful Hollywood formulaic prescription, one particular movie quotation seems to capture the essence of my proposed story line…“If you build it, they will come". The “it" is none other than a Palestinian state.

Dissect the situation any way you choose but you will always come back to the need to provide for an autonomous Palestinian state. Should there be any doubt; one need merely follow the underlying sentiment that has led to the formation of the PLO, Hamas, Hezbollah, and numerous other anti-Israeli / pro-Palestinian organizations. Further, if one were to attempt to understand the dynamics at play in Iraq prior to the U.S. invasion as well as the failure of the Iraqi people to view the American troops as liberators (that glorious scenario envisioned by Dick Cheney and his band of neoconservatives who metaphorically run around shooting others in the face with reckless abandon), one must only realize that the United States is seen as an obstacle to freedom in the Middle Eastern mindset.

As with those who doubt Israel will ever allow for a Palestinian state, so too do the Iraqi’s doubt that the United States will ever fully implement an autonomous Iraq. They make that conclusion by extrapolation…one that says if the United States is fully supportive of Israel and Israel has yet to provide for a Palestinian state, then why would the U.S. ever provide for an Iraqi state since they, like the Israeli’s, will always be able to identify the potential for an independent Iraq to threaten the security of the region and ultimately the United States.

Believe it or not, the United States has played kingmaker in the region for decades…arranging for those seen as acceptable or malleable to U.S. interests to gain or retain power…and even to remove them from power at such time as the alliance is no longer strategically satisfying. I don’t offer that observation in order to summarily condemn U.S. actions…some were necessary and prudent…however, they are also open to interpretation by those within the region and others as acts of imperialist intervention solely motivated by the prevailing interests of the United States.

The point is that if “A" plus “B" leads to “C", and even if such calculation is necessary though harsh, one can’t expect those who may be observing to simply ignore the math…we must be realistic that our actions have consequences…even if we deemed our actions advisable.

The neoconservative mindset is such that they expect consequences but they intend to deal with them through power or force. They believe that if we remain the biggest kid on the block, we can dictate to the block. The rationale says that because they hold power, they can dictate reality…and when perceptions don’t match reality, they simply and methodically apply force to achieve the reality they desire. Missing from that analysis is the formula that always evolves once a group of individuals coalesce around the perception that they have a bully in their midst…they realize they cannot confront the bully one on one or directly since they acknowledge they cannot defeat the bully in that manner…so they adopt other tactics. The Middle East is a textbook example of this eventuality.

Also missing from the equation is the benevolence / malevolence consideration. I try to keep my assertions simple so let me offer an example that most people can relate to. In virtually every work environment there is some hierarchy whereby some individuals are established as authorities with the power to affect the lives of those they supervise or manage. It doesn’t take long for those who are subject to the authoritarian figure to determine if that individual is a benevolent supervisor or one they feel operates out of malevolence.

Frequently this supervisory dynamic is acted out without any real reasoned analysis since that person may be the owner of the company or may be so well connected to those within the ownership that malevolent actions can be carried out with little consequence to the person in authority. At the same time, those individuals who answer to the person in authority will likely be negatively impacted (perhaps overworked, mistreated or fired). Often absent from the analysis is the impact such situations have on the morale of the employees and ultimately the success of the company…which has to compete with other similar companies.

We’ve all seen trigger happy employers who believe termination is the preferred tool to resolve problems. However, with each termination, the remaining employees make a determination as to the legitimacy of the termination. Over time, a belief may be created amongst the employee base that those in authority are malevolent and so begins a process to undermine or sabotage the supervisor or the company. As the belief grows, the ability to root out the dissenters becomes more difficult…as one employee is terminated and another arrives, they are frequently greeted with negative information from coworkers about the propensity of those in authority to be malevolent and they are therefore likely won over before ever having the opportunity to make their own objective evaluations.

Over time, the impressions and beliefs held by present and past employees’ travels beyond the confines of the company. Other companies employees may become aware of the malevolence and refuse to apply for work with the negatively identified company or the entire industry may adopt the same beliefs and seek to isolate the company or facilitate its demise.

The bottom line is that the perceptions of people will have impact at some point regardless of one’s proximity to power. Typically, such entities eventually fail because they are unable to maintain the favor of enough individuals to perpetuate the power they hold…whether that be from losing the support of those within or from the actions of those who are operating in the surrounding environment.

Goodwill is not a commodity that can be turned off and on at one’s discretion like a spigot. It is ultimately driven by perceptions and once perceptions have deteriorated, the benevolence needed to reverse the perceptions unfortunately grows disproportionately. Despite notions to the contrary, the masses are for the most part adept at evaluating core sincerity and integrity. Additionally, they are far quicker to attribute actions negatively than they are to give the benefit of the doubt. Unfortunately, they are also reticent to reverse their conclusions once they have been adopted. That’s simply human nature.

I think the example does a reasonable job of describing the dilemma in the Middle East. It is further complicated by the amount of time that the situation has been allowed to fester and the fact that terminations in this theater are actually fatalities. Sadly that has made it vulnerable to succumbing to arguments that are predicated on debating the “chicken or the egg" or “who did what to whom and when"…none of which serve to move the situation towards resolution.

Nonetheless, it is time for tangible actions that can change perceptions. At the same time, this will require acknowledging some unpleasant realities as well as demonstrating untold patience and restraint. What I mean to say is that even if Israel moves forward with the establishment of a Palestinian state, there will be individuals on both sides that seek to undermine the effort and that will remain consumed with hatred and ill-intentions. Those individuals will carry out acts of violence regardless…but they can only be defeated by changing the hearts and minds of those who surround them. The power of perception must become the transforming fuel of persuasion thereby reversing the very process that created and now stokes the current conflict.

Over the course of the last few days, I have read and listened to numerous individuals that have argued that now is the time to proceed to extinguish all those who are identified as Islamic extremists or terrorists in addition to Al Qaeda (sometimes specifically defined as Hamas and Hezbollah…sometimes with Iran and Syria included). Much like the actions of the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan to destroy Al Qaeda, the Taliban and the insurgency, some are calling for similar efforts by Israel and the United States in the rest of the Middle East. Anyone who witnessed 9/11 surely has some appreciation for this sentiment and may well be inclined to support such suggestions.

As I’ve thought about this possibility, I keep coming back to the same prevailing questions…who are these people and how do we identify them if we in fact want to destroy them all? How do we kill them without impacting their friends and relatives who may not fully support them now but may well decide to take up the cause once those they care about have been eliminated? When will we be able to say the job is done and move forward with a plan to provide for a Palestinian state? How do we extinguish the perceptions that are fomenting these individuals and organizations such that they have no further appeal or ability to recruit others?

I also keep coming back to the same answers. We simply cannot succeed in killing all the individuals and organizations that oppose Israel or the United States. We have to eliminate the perceptions that exist and that are being fueled by our further actions. I recall George Bush stating that we would eventually win the war on terror but that it was going to be a long endeavor. Looking back, I’m not sure I understood what he may have been saying and I’m not convinced he did either.

Frankly, today I see the terminology as part of the problem…we simply cannot achieve the peace we seek by prosecuting the kind of war we have chosen. Perhaps we can lessen the chances of another 9/11 but the eventual reality of this type of “war" may well be an existence akin to that of the people of Israel…where the perpetual reality is such that so long as the impetus for the hatred exists we will live with the inevitability that every once in a while a suicide bomber will walk into a busy restaurant and detonate a bomb.

It is time to jump ahead to the core problem. Every effort should be employed to immediately establish an independent Palestinian state. If we were to invest a portion of the funds we anticipate spending in Iraq over the next few years on building a functional Palestinian state we could demonstrate to those who distrust or despise the United States that we understand the underlying regional dynamics that have led to perpetual instability and conflict in the Middle East. It may also provide the backdrop for the resolution of other festering problems within the region.

The risks of such an endeavor are far outweighed by the potential benefits. Further, as the most powerful nation in the world, we would still retain the ability to use force where required. However, we would be doing so after having done the right thing which would elevate our moral standing in the world and have the likelihood to change the perceptions of the people that inhabit the region. We could then act from a position of justifiable strength and integrity.

If we continue down the current path, we may well not be able to sustain the costs in currency and conflict. As the region and perhaps the world stands on the precipice of an escalating period of instability and expanding wars we have very little to lose. If we build a Palestinian state, answers will come.

Daniel DiRito | September 24, 2006 | 9:51 AM | link | Comments (0)
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September 23, 2006

Analysis Says Iraq War Accelerted Terrorist Threats genre: Hip-Gnosis & Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Ticking time bomb

There is growing evidence that George Bush and his fellow neocons may soon be alone in asserting that the war in Iraq has served to make America safer from the threat of terrorism. The New York Times reports that a new assessment produced by some 16 surveillance agencies within the government suggests that the invasion of Iraq has accelerated radicalism and resentment towards the United States.

In my opinion, the Bush administration, in order to enhance their political prospects, has simply added to anti-American sentiment through the partisan rhetoric they have employed to portray the mismanaged effort as the primary front in the war on terror. By characterizing the conflict in broad ideological terms like a battle against Islamo-fascism, a clash of civilizations, and a war of good versus evil in order to enhance their political prospects, they have pushed more moderate Muslims into extremism. Frankly, it would be difficult to project any alternate potentiality.

From The New York Times:

The classified National Intelligence Estimate attributes a more direct role to the Iraq war in fueling radicalism than that presented either in recent White House documents or in a report released Wednesday by the House Intelligence Committee, according to several officials in Washington involved in preparing the assessment or who have read the final document.

The intelligence estimate, completed in April, is the first formal appraisal of global terrorism by United States intelligence agencies since the Iraq war began, and represents a consensus view of the 16 disparate spy services inside government. Titled “Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States,’’ it asserts that Islamic radicalism, rather than being in retreat, has metastasized and spread across the globe.

An opening section of the report, “Indicators of the Spread of the Global Jihadist Movement," cites the Iraq war as a reason for the diffusion of jihad ideology.

The report “says that the Iraq war has made the overall terrorism problem worse," said one American intelligence official.

In a related analysis of note, former Senator Gary Hart offers further insight into the neocon mindset in a new posting at Huffington Post in which he expresses concern that the Bush administration may be preparing to launch an attack on Iran predicated upon fears that Iran is intent upon obtaining nuclear weapons capabilities.

The problem, as I view it, is that virtually all the actions of this President in the region are fomenting instability and hostility that may soon reach a point of no return. Even worse, the efforts of this administration are failing to create a wedge between extremist leaders and their populations. On the contrary, the language used by this administration, coupled with the perception that the U.S. is engaged in unwarranted and ideological aggression, has served to push otherwise moderate populations into alignment with radical governments and extremist organizations.

From The Huffington Post:

It should come as no surprise if the Bush Administration undertakes a preemptive war against Iran sometime before the November election.

Were these more normal times, this would be a stunning possibility, quickly dismissed by thoughtful people as dangerous, unprovoked, and out of keeping with our national character. But we do not live in normal times.

And we do not have a government much concerned with our national character. If anything, our current Administration is out to remake our national character into something it has never been.

The consequences? The sunny neoconservatives whose goal has been to become the neo-imperial Middle Eastern power all along will forecast few. But prudent leaders calculate all the risks, and they are historic.

These include: violent reaction throughout the Islamic world; a dramatic increase in jihadist attacks in European capitals and the U.S.; radicalization of Islamic youth behind a new generation of jihadist leaders; consolidation of support for Hamas, Hezbollah, al Qaeda, and a rapidly spreading malignant network; escalating expansion of anti-American sentiment throughout the world, including the democratic world; and the formation of WWIII battle lines between the U.S. and the Arab and Islamic worlds.

In more rational times, including at the height of the Cold War, bizarre actions such as unilateral, unprovoked, preventive war are dismissed by thoughtful, seasoned, experienced men and women as mad. But those qualities do not characterize our current leadership.

For a divinely guided president who imagines himself to be a latter day Winston Churchill (albeit lacking the ability to formulate intelligent sentences), and who professedly does not care about public opinion at home or abroad, anything is possible, and dwindling days in power may be seen as making the most apocalyptic actions necessary.

While it is impossible to know if the Bush administration will actually undertake a preemptive attack, each time they ratchet up the rhetoric, while at the same time refusing to engage in any form of direct dialogue with our Iranian adversary, we move closer to that eventuality in what one could characterize as a deadly game of chicken. From a strictly logical perspective, there is little evidence to suggest that this President and his neocon associates will moderate their ever escalating ideology and when that is coupled with the fact that the balance of power is at hand in less than two months, rational minds might well conclude an escalation is reasonably predictable.

From The New York Times:

The report mentions the possibility that Islamic militants who fought in Iraq could return to their home countries, “exacerbating domestic conflicts or fomenting radical ideologies."

“New jihadist networks and cells, sometimes united by little more than their anti-Western agendas, are increasingly likely to emerge," said Gen. Michael V. Hayden, during a speech in San Antonio in April, the month that the new estimate was completed. “If this trend continues threats to the U.S. at home and abroad will become more diverse and that could lead to increasing attacks worldwide," said the general, who was then Mr. Negroponte’s top deputy and is now director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

In light of the remarks made by Iran's Mahmud Ahmadinejad and Hugo Chavez at the United Nations this past week, it is difficult to imagine that a preemptive assault on Iran would do little more than fuel an exponential radicalization of those nations as well as numerous other anti-American and Muslim countries. As I attempt to grasp the magnitude of allowing this President unfettered authority between now and the end of his second term, I can't help but wonder what it would take to dissuade a man with his level of certainty and conviction from undertaking the actions that will facilitate the ideations he seems convinced have been presented to him through a mix of fate and faith.

History may well record this chapter as a period of unparalleled extremism. Worse yet, the United States may well be viewed as the primary force in facilitating that eventuality. George Bush, when asked about his legacy, seems content to respond that while he can't predict the future he believes his actions will prove to be pivotal. He may well be correct but, in this instance, I would suggest he recall the expression, "Be careful what you wish for".

Daniel DiRito | September 23, 2006 | 8:06 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Bill Maher: New Rules - 09/16/06 genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation & Tongue-In-Cheek & Video-Philes

Daniel DiRito | September 23, 2006 | 7:07 PM | link | Comments (0)
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September 23, 2006

WIll Conservatives Turn Out? Ask Karl Rove genre: Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Thought Theater has written extensively about Karl Rove and his efforts to craft and manage the mechanism to establish GOP political dominance. I've called his approach counterintuitive because it is frequently difficult to identify a Rove strategy until it...

Daniel DiRito | September 23, 2006 | 9:08 AM | link | Comments (0)
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September 22, 2006

The Grand Opening Of "Tortureland" genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation & Snapshot Thoughts & Tongue-In-Cheek

Daniel DiRito | September 22, 2006 | 1:36 PM | link | Comments (1)
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September 21, 2006

Defining Compromise: GOP Sticks It To The Dems genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

I've got to hand it to the Democrats. The strategy of allowing the Republicans to "thrash out" their differences on the treatment and prosecution of detainees has played out exactly as planned...for the Republicans. Don't let anyone convince you...

Daniel DiRito | September 21, 2006 | 6:56 PM | link | Comments (4)
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Housing Slump Continues To Grow genre: Econ-Recon & Six Degrees of Speculation

There are increasing signs that a housing slump may become the leading factor in pushing the United States economy into a recession. The impact of lower housing starts and the large inventory of unsold homes garner the bulk of...

Daniel DiRito | September 21, 2006 | 9:15 AM | link | Comments (0)
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September 20, 2006

Bernard Lewis On Democracy In The Middle East genre: Hip-Gnosis & Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

In our daily political banter, we hear plenty of opinions...and spin...on both the objective and the prospect of bringing democracy to the Middle East. The President argues that the solution to extremism, and therefore terrorism, is freedom...the essence of...

Daniel DiRito | September 20, 2006 | 12:00 PM | link | Comments (0)
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House Takes Up Voter ID's - Not Vote Paper Trail genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

In the past, Thought Theater hasn't commented on the issues surrounding the lack of a paper trail for votes cast on electronic voting machines, an issue that has received ample attention in the blogosphere. At the core of the...

Daniel DiRito | September 20, 2006 | 8:13 AM | link | Comments (0)
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September 19, 2006

Gen. Abizaid: No Iraq Troop Cuts Before Mid-2007 genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

The complications in the war in Iraq, which is now plagued by sectarian violence, continue to stymie U.S. efforts to schedule any troop cuts in the immediate future. In the most recent assessment from General Abizaid, the latest estimate...

Daniel DiRito | September 19, 2006 | 1:14 PM | link | Comments (1)
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Both Parties Miss Mark: Poll Shows Voter Savvy genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

The latest USA TODAY/Gallup Poll indicates that the recent string of speeches by the President have improved both his approval ratings and the prospects of the Republican Party to hold control of the House and the Senate. The data...

Daniel DiRito | September 19, 2006 | 8:32 AM | link | Comments (2)
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September 18, 2006

Keith Olbermann: Bush Owes America An Apology genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Daniel DiRito | September 18, 2006 | 10:37 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Bush Seems Apt To Compromise On Detainees genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

The Bush administration appears resigned to the need to compromise on new legislation related to the handling of detainees in order to address the recent Supreme Court ruling. It became apparent today that there were enough Republican dissenters to...

Daniel DiRito | September 18, 2006 | 8:42 PM | link | Comments (1)
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Dean 50 State Strategy Leaves Dems Cash Poor genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

There have been significant differences among Democrats as to the most effective campaign and cash management strategy for the Democratic National Committee as November approaches. The conflict between Howard Dean and Rahm Emanuel, who heads the DCCC, has demonstrated...

Daniel DiRito | September 18, 2006 | 6:55 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Sam Harris On Liberalism & Religious Extremism genre: Hip-Gnosis & Just Jihad & Six Degrees of Speculation

Sometimes in the heat of our American political system, we not only fail to rationally debate the issues, we often miss some of the substance that may actually underlie the topics that receive our partisan attention. The war on...

Daniel DiRito | September 18, 2006 | 8:16 AM | link | Comments (2)
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September 15, 2006

Political Strategy: Time To Play Offense genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

The following posting is the ninth entry in a continuing Thought Theater dialogue on political strategy. The first posting, Political Strategy: The Opening Dialogue, can be found here, the second posting, Political Strategy: Beyond Extremist Labels can be found here,...

Daniel DiRito | September 15, 2006 | 1:16 PM | link | Comments (2)
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September 14, 2006

Committee Approves Measure That Defies Bush genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

In a growing rift between the Bush administration and Republican Senators, the Armed Services Committee voted to approve an alternative measure for the handling of terrorism detainees...a measure the President says is unacceptable and one he will oppose. The...

Daniel DiRito | September 14, 2006 | 4:10 PM | link | Comments (1)
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New Pew Research Poll: Digesting The Data genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

In one of the more comprehensive surveys in recent weeks, The Pew Research Center has provide the latest glimpse of voter sentiment and it continues to provide results that are encouraging to Democrats. Nonetheless, there are some items to...

Daniel DiRito | September 14, 2006 | 1:58 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Bush Administration: We Decide What To Protect genre: Just Jihad & Six Degrees of Speculation

OK, this is beyond absurd...it is full-scale nonsense and it needs to be talked about by every Democrat in every interview between now and November. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, while commenting on legislation proposed by Democrats to protect...

Daniel DiRito | September 14, 2006 | 12:50 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Chris Matthews' Hardball: Bill Maher On Politics genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation & Tongue-In-Cheek & Video-Philes

Bill Maher: Part One Bill Maher: Part Two...

Daniel DiRito | September 14, 2006 | 12:30 PM | link | Comments (0)
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New Poll Exposes Both Parties' Vulnerabilities genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll provides some growing insight into how the strategies of the Republicans and the Democrats may be impacting voters. Nonetheless, the signals remain mixed and it would be premature to conclude that either...

Daniel DiRito | September 14, 2006 | 8:15 AM | link | Comments (0)
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September 12, 2006

Newsweek: "Patriotism Or Politics?" genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Amidst the arguments about whether the President's speech was partisan and political or simply an address to the nation to commemorate the fifth anniversary of 9/11, one cannot doubt that it was intended to advance the GOP position on...

Daniel DiRito | September 12, 2006 | 2:34 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Dems Flat-Footed While The Lion Roars genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

The tactics of this President and his astute political "architect" should be no surprise to voters and even less so to Democratic Party leaders. Nonetheless, it appears Democrats are approaching the response to the GOP strategy with the same...

Daniel DiRito | September 12, 2006 | 11:15 AM | link | Comments (1)
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Keith Olbermann: Five Years Later genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Daniel DiRito | September 12, 2006 | 11:02 AM | link | Comments (0)
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September 11, 2006

Jonathan Rauch On The Bush Legacy genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Presidents don't often talk at length about their legacy although one would be naive to believe that they don't spend ample time thinking about how they will be remembered and how history will judge their actions once they leave...

Daniel DiRito | September 11, 2006 | 12:11 PM | link | Comments (0)
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September 10, 2006

Bill Maher Lampoons George Bush genre: Six Degrees of Speculation & Tongue-In-Cheek & Video-Philes

Daniel DiRito | September 10, 2006 | 1:51 PM | link | Comments (0)
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ABC: Desecrating The Facts & The Flag genre: Six Degrees of Speculation & Snapshot Thoughts

Daniel DiRito | September 10, 2006 | 12:03 PM | link | Comments (0)
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September 8, 2006

Pope-A-Dope On Gay Marriage & Abortion Again genre: Gaylingual & Hip-Gnosis & Six Degrees of Speculation & Uncivil Unions

Wearing his flashy red hat and Prada slippers, the Pope has once again spoken out on his opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion. He continues to assert that politicians who do not oppose same-sex marriage and abortion in the...

Daniel DiRito | September 8, 2006 | 9:35 AM | link | Comments (0)
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September 7, 2006

A Guide To The ABC's For Dummies genre: Gaylingual & Little Red Ribbon-Hood & Six Degrees of Speculation & Snapshot Thoughts & Tongue-In-Cheek

Daniel DiRito | September 7, 2006 | 3:07 PM | link | Comments (5)
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September 6, 2006

New CBS News Poll: Voters Give Mixed Signals genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Recent polling on voter sentiment seems to be providing more conflicting data than clarification. How one interprets the data may well depend upon ones own particular bias. Nonetheless, we are drawn to these polls in the hopes that they...

Daniel DiRito | September 6, 2006 | 8:15 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Bush To Announce Detainees Will Get Trials genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

After years of debate and legal wrangling, the President, according to ABC News, will announce that high value detainees held in secret prisons will be turned over to the Department of Defense to be handled consistent with the procedures...

Daniel DiRito | September 6, 2006 | 10:50 AM | link | Comments (0)
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AEI: 9/11 Impact On Polling & Beyond genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

We tend to take polling for granted and little energy is expended to understand how much influence major events may have over polling in general...and specifically our humanity. If one thinks about it, it does make sense to presume...

Daniel DiRito | September 6, 2006 | 9:39 AM | link | Comments (0)
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September 5, 2006

Bush Selling Terrorism: Voters Must Say No Sale genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

We hear an abundance of speculation about just how much of the debate about Iraq and the war on terror is motivated by political objectives or by sincere beliefs. Many of those who support the President argue that he...

Daniel DiRito | September 5, 2006 | 11:39 AM | link | Comments (2)
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September 4, 2006

Voters Now Say Economy Most Important Issue genre: Econ-Recon & Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Two recent polls now show that Americans see the economy as the most important issue facing the country as they move towards deciding how to vote in November. The Economy has surpassed the war in Iraq and the war...

Daniel DiRito | September 4, 2006 | 9:42 PM | link | Comments (0)
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GOP Race Strategy: Terror Down The Homestretch genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

In the few days that remain during this legislative session, the GOP plans to focus almost exclusively on issues involving national security and terrorism...a move intended to raise doubt among voters about the willingness or ability of the Democrats...

Daniel DiRito | September 4, 2006 | 8:31 AM | link | Comments (0)
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September 2, 2006

Vulnerable GOP Seats Double genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

At the moment, Democrats seem to be well positioned for the November midterm election. It now appears that there are ample House seats at play to provide the Democrats with the 15 seats needed to take control of the...

Daniel DiRito | September 2, 2006 | 10:15 PM | link | Comments (2)
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Iraqi Violence & Casualties Soaring genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Define civil war however you choose...but numbers do tell a story. The sectarian violence continues to expand in Iraq as the number of attacks and the number of deaths remains alarming. I would suggest that Democrats begin repeating the...

Daniel DiRito | September 2, 2006 | 9:39 AM | link | Comments (0)
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Ohio Voter Registration Rules Tossed By Judge genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

A federal judge has ruled that Ohio voter registration rules are apt to restrict voter registrations and may well violate First Amendment rights. The ruling follows on the heels of a similar decision in Florida earlier this week. Read...

Daniel DiRito | September 2, 2006 | 8:53 AM | link | Comments (0)
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September 1, 2006

Dem Calls For Rumsfeld Firing A Good Strategy? genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

In an effort to refute the administrations Iraq effort and draw attention to the poorly managed conflict, numerous Democrats are calling for the resignation or the firing of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Clearly, Rumsfelds' recent remarks, intended to...

Daniel DiRito | September 1, 2006 | 2:45 PM | link | Comments (2)
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