Snapshot Thoughts: April 2007: Archives

April 26, 2007

The Premiere of LOST IN DC genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Snapshot Thoughts

Now that David Broder has explained to me how Alberto Gonzales and Harry Reid are both "springtime exhibitions of ineptitude" I have suddenly found myself with a better understanding of the Bush administration. Had I only realized sooner that a war cannot be lost if it never ends, I could have felt the relief that comes with unmitigated denial. Thank you, Mr. Broder, for providing this tasty morsel of enlightenment.

If only I had known earlier that I could cease listening to the Democrats suggest that we are losing the war in Iraq, I would have been able to come to grips with the length of the war, the cost of the war, the deaths that have resulted from the war...all the while knowing full well that we will eventually win this war. I owe my newfound clarity to Mr. Broder and for that I am eternally grateful...especially given the fact that this war may well take an eternity to win. Such symmetry is rarely found. Unfortunately, I must lack the wherewithal to see the obvious.

Here's a Washington political riddle where you fill in the blanks: As Alberto Gonzales is to the Republicans, Blank Blank is to the Democrats -- a continuing embarrassment thanks to his amateurish performance.

If you answered "Harry Reid," give yourself an A. And join the long list of senators of both parties who are ready for these two springtime exhibitions of ineptitude to end.

President Bush's highly developed tolerance for egregious incompetence in his administration may have met its supreme test in Attorney General Gonzales, who at various times has taken complete responsibility for the firing of eight U.S. attorneys and professed complete ignorance of the reasons for their dismissal. This demonstration of serial obfuscation so impressed the president that he rushed out to declare that Gonzales had "increased my confidence in his ability to do the job."

As if that were not mind-boggling enough, consider the mental gyrations performed by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) as he rationalized the recent comment from his majority leader, Harry Reid, the leading light of Searchlight, Nev., that the war in Iraq "is lost."

[...] Reid's verbal wanderings on the war in Iraq are consequential -- not just for his party and the Senate but for the more important question of what happens to U.S. policy in that violent country and to the men and women whose lives are at stake.

Given the way the Constitution divides warmaking power between the president, as commander in chief, and Congress, as sole source of funds to support the armed services, it is essential that at some point Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi be able to negotiate with the White House to determine the course America will follow until a new president takes office.

To say that Reid has sent conflicting signals about his readiness for such discussions is an understatement. It has been impossible for his own members, let alone the White House, to sort out for more than 24 hours at a time what ground Reid is prepared to defend.

Instead of reinforcing the important proposition -- defined by the Iraq Study Group-- that a military strategy for Iraq is necessary but not sufficient to solve the myriad political problems of that country, Reid has mistakenly argued that the military effort is lost but a diplomatic-political strategy can still succeed.

The Democrats deserve better, and the country needs more, than Harry Reid has offered as Senate majority leader.

I wish I had Broder's critical thinking skills. When Harry Reid said that the war in Iraq is lost, I mistakenly thought he was arguing that the manner and methods employed in Iraq to this point are a failure and that more of the same would only serve to support a losing proposition. Knowing that most Democrats and numerous other opponents of the Bush administration's prosecution of the war have long argued that we must find a political solution to the conflict led me to believe that Reid was simply stating the obvious...but Mr. Broder, with his vast breadth of objective reasoning saw through Mr. Reid's remarks.

Broder suggests that Reid's incoherent posturing will make it impossible to negotiate with the President...a man Broder apparently knows to be reasonable, rational, and amenable to considering alternative approaches to the war in Iraq. Senator Reid, in his shortsightedness, has seemingly precluded the possibility of a meaningful dialogue focused upon crafting a revised strategy that will be mutually satisfactory.

Again, my shallow observations had led me to conclude that the President's recently announced and enacted military surge was in fact a preemptive signal that he intended to continue seeking a military solution...and that he wasn't amenable to an open dialogue focused on a far different approach.

Fortunately, after reading Mr. Broder, I realized that it is in fact the Democrats and those opposed to the Bush administration's prosecution of this war who are pursuing strategies that are inflexible and arbitrary. I stand corrected.

If this country is to ever exit the island of illusions that has become the hallmark of the Bush administration, the last thing we'll need is to enlist more men like David Broder...men who forego intellectual honesty in favor of far fetched fabrication.

In the meantime, I think Mr. Broder would be an ideal candidate to make a cameo appearance in the recently launched television series...LOST IN DC. The following graphic is a preview of what the viewer can expect.

LOST IN DC

Lost In DC

Daniel DiRito | April 26, 2007 | 1:48 PM | link | Comments (0)
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April 23, 2007

Alberto Gonzales: When Will The Canary Sing? genre: Polispeak & Snapshot Thoughts & Tongue-In-Cheek

Singing Canary
Despite the widely held belief that last weeks testimony by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales before the Senate Judiciary Committee was an embarrassing disaster, the President continues to be his most loyal supporter. In fact, the President stated that the Attorney General "answered every question he could possibly answer, honestly answer". The New York Times has an update on the President's position with regard to his embattled Attorney General.

WASHINGTON, April 23 — President Bush said Monday that the Congressional testimony of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales last week, roundly panned by members of both parties, in a way had “increased my confidence in his ability to do the job."

Mr. Bush has repeatedly asserted his confidence in Mr. Gonzales, a longtime adviser, as criticism has mounted over the dismissals of eight United States attorneys.

But his statement on Monday was his first direct comment about Mr. Gonzales since the attorney general appeared before the committee, and it was at considerable odds with an overwhelmingly critical assessment of his testimony by members of both parties. It indicated that Mr. Bush, at least for now, has concluded his attorney general can weather the challenge to his leadership at the Justice Department, barring any evidence of wrongdoing.

That challenge had seemed all the more daunting as of Sunday, when Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the ranking Republican on the committee whom both sides view as a barometer of support for Mr. Gonzales, appeared on “Fox News Sunday" and said, “The attorney general’s testimony was very, very damaging to his own credibility," and that his continued tenure was “bad for the Department of Justice."

One senior Republican Congressional aide at work in Washington on Monday, who requested anonymity to speak candidly, called Mr. Bush’s statement that his confidence in Mr. Gonzales had grown after his testimony “curious"; another senior Republican aide asked, “Was he watching the same hearing as everyone else?"

“I will stay as long as I can be effective, and I can be effective," Mr. Gonzales said in response to questions about his plans.

Mr. Gonzales said he needed to spend time on his priorities, like combating terrorism, drug abuse and the danger to children from the Internet.

So I guess we can conclude that the Attorney General and the President will continue to ride the same horse they've ridden since 9/11 and at virtually each and every bump in the road. If the 2006 midterm elections were a barometer on the voting public's acceptance of this familiar rhetoric, one would think they might craft a new message.

“If the attorney general’s hearing performance increased the president’s confidence in his ability to lead the Justice Department, then he’s setting the bar fairly low," said Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, in a statement on Monday.

"The attorney general broke no law, did no wrongdoing," Mr. Bush said. "And some senators didn’t like his explanation, but he answered as honestly as he could. This is an honest, honorable man, in whom I have confidence."

And, if Mr. Gonzales were to step down, officials argued, it would wrongly lead the public to conclude that he had done something wrong.

They sure wouldn't want the public to think that anyone in the Bush administration would do anything wrong...and more importantly they wouldn't want to admit as much. Actually, my own preference is that Gonzales remains Attorney General. I think from a strategic perspective, he does the Democrats more good remaining in office and there is little reason to believe that his replacement would be any better. I've come to expect the status quo for the duration of the President's time in office. That being the case, every misstep should be a welcome benefit for the opposition.

Since I doubt little will change between now and January of 2009, I thought I might as well have a little fun at the Attorney General's expense. It was evident from the hearings that Gonzales wasn't going to sing...so I've taken the liberty to suggest some more fitting tunes for his next performance.

Attorney General Walking

Alberto Gonzales Walking?

Daniel DiRito | April 23, 2007 | 8:30 PM | link | Comments (0)
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April 22, 2007

Happy Earth Day genre: Snapshot Thoughts

Earth Day - Building in Paris

Daniel DiRito | April 22, 2007 | 10:05 AM | link | Comments (0)
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April 18, 2007

In A Pinch genre: Front and Center & Snapshot Thoughts

Store signage in Rome - 2004
You Find Out Who Your Friends Are When You're In A Pinch

Daniel DiRito | April 18, 2007 | 7:39 PM | link | Comments (2)
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April 14, 2007

The White House Announces Project Purge genre: Polispeak & Snapshot Thoughts & Tongue-In-Cheek

One of the most interesting things about this President is the fact that he frequently asserts that he is the unequivocal decider. When I hear someone use that terminology, my first assumption is that they must run an awfully tight ship...keeping underlings on short leases while dictating countless guidelines and directives. The other thing I assume is that this type of person would no doubt have a track record of success to bolster such a bold leadership style. Then I realize I'm talking about George W. Bush, and I say nah, not the case.

In keeping with the long string of contradictory examples, we learned this week that a number of key administration employees may have lost, erased, deleted, or otherwise expunged an estimated 5,000,000 emails...emails that conveniently may have shed light upon who was involved in making the decision to fire eight U.S. Attorneys and whether or not the dismissals were nothing more than partisan politics. Today, the Los Angeles Times provides some further insight.

From the LA Times:

WASHINGTON — Karl Rove and other White House employees were cautioned in employee manuals, memos and briefings to carefully save any e-mails that might discuss official matters even if those messages came from private e-mail accounts, the White House disclosed Friday.

Despite these cautions, e-mails from Rove and others discussing official business may have been deleted and are now missing.

White House officials spent much of Friday reiterating that the missing e-mails were the result of an innocent mistake. About 50 aides in the executive office of the Bush administration have used e-mail accounts provided by the Republican National Committee to keep campaign-related communication separate from their official White House business.

However, some of those RNC accounts were used to discuss official matters, including the firing of eight federal prosecutors, which has triggered investigations on Capitol Hill. Democrats contend that politics was improperly inserted into Justice Department decision-making about which attorneys should leave.

White House employee manuals distributed in early 2001 made it clear that any e-mails containing discussion of official matters should be preserved.

The instructions dwell on the importance of separating political from official acts. But they also explain that all e-mail sent "to your official account is automatically archived as if it were a presidential record." The manual adds: "If you happen to receive an e-mail on a personal account which otherwise qualifies as a presidential record, it is your duty to insure that it is saved as such by printing it out and saving it or by forwarding it to your White House e-mail account," the manual said.

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OK, so at some point we're left with a limited number of conclusions when evaluating this President and his administration. On the one hand, they repeatedly ask the American public to trust their judgment and support the actions they have taken...including the war in Iraq and countless other issues. Notwithstanding, at the very same time we are asked again and again to excuse the mistakes and misdeeds of those who serve under this President. Perhaps I'm mistaken, but the odds that competence and carelessness (I'll reserve the right to amend the latter to corruption at some future point) can exist under the same roof and consistently serve the best interests of the nation are minute.

I grow increasingly frustrated with the demands to trust this administration when the actions they undertake are so often followed up with the proverbial woops; we seem to have made a mistake. Look, I realize none of us are perfect and we all fall short from time to time...but when those that lead virtually demand blind trust without accountability, something is gravely wrong.

With that in mind, I offer the following visual to summarize my impressions of this current situation and my ever increasing skepticism that this administration is competent to lead...let alone to demand carte blanche authority. I don't think I can drink any more of that kool-aid.

Don't Drink The Kool-Aid

Daniel DiRito | April 14, 2007 | 3:06 PM | link | Comments (8)
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April 10, 2007

Anna Nicole's Sugar Baby Has A Daddy genre: Snapshot Thoughts & Tongue-In-Cheek & Uncivil Unions

In the never ending chapters in the life and death of Anna Nicole Smith, a court in the Bahamas ruled today that her former lover, Larry Birkhead, is in fact the father of her daughter...Dannielynn. Why Smith sought to avoid exposing the true identity of the father may never be known...but the one person who might know...Howard Stern, the former father will no doubt seek to capitalize on his time with the troubled celebrity. After all, it seems to me that this child is the modern day version of Gloria Vanderbilt...and will always be viewed as a much sought after trophy baby.

From CNN:

"Everybody, I hate to be the one to tell you this -- but I told you so," Birkhead said outside the court as he smiled and threw his hands into the air.

When asked what's next, he said, "I'm going to the toy store."

A DNA test confirmed him as the father with 99.99 percent certainty, said Dr. Michael Baird, who performed the test and revealed the results to a closed session of a Bahamian court Tuesday.

The court had ordered DNA testing to determine the father of the child, who has been at the center of a paternity dispute since she was born in a Bahamian hospital in September.

Smith had publicly identified Howard K. Stern, her lawyer and live-in companion, as the baby's father and listed him as the father on the child's birth certificate.

Dannielynn stands to inherit millions of dollars from the estate of Smith's late husband, oil tycoon Howard Marshall II. Until her death, Smith was involved in a legal battle over the inheritance.

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Perhaps I'm a hopeless cynic, but I can't help but wonder the fate of this child had her mother died a penniless drug addict in any of the many large American inner cities. This thing we call love is a funny and complex concept...and I think in this particular situation it would be naive if one didn't question just what it is that all of these suitors actually love. My own suspicion is that little Dannielynn isn't their primary focus. I hope I'm wrong.

Regardless, I took the opportunity to put my thoughts and opinions about this tabloid tragedy into the following graphic.

Anna Nicole's Trophy Baby

Daniel DiRito | April 10, 2007 | 4:38 PM | link | Comments (1)
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Minus Imus: Two Week Suspension From MSNBC genre: Snapshot Thoughts & Tongue-In-Cheek

Don Imus has found himself suspended and scrambling to explain and apologize for his racially derisive remarks. MSNBC announced that the surly talk show host would be suspended for two weeks and speculation suggested that should the incident continue to garner attention, it may well jeopardize his relationship with the broadcaster.

From MSNBC:

NEW YORK - After a career of cranky insults, radio star Don Imus was fighting for his job Monday following one joke that by his own admission went "way too far."

CBS Radio and MSNBC both said they were suspending Imus' morning talk show for two weeks following his reference last week to members of the Rutgers women’s basketball team as "nappy-headed hos."

"Our future relationship with Imus is contingent on his ability to live up to his word," the network said. MSNBC simulcasts his radio program weekday mornings.

Imus continued to apologize Monday, both on his show and on a syndicated radio program hosted by the Rev. Al Sharpton, who is among several black leaders demanding his ouster.

Imus could be in real danger if the outcry causes advertisers to shy away from him, said Tom Taylor, editor of the trade publication Inside Radio.

The Rutgers comment has struck a chord, in part, because it was aimed at a group of young women at the pinnacle of athletic success. It also came in a different public atmosphere following the Michael Richards and Mel Gibson incidents, said Eric Deggans, columnist for the St. Petersburg Times and chairman of the media monitoring committee of the National Association of Black Journalists, which also wants Imus canned.

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It is hard to imagine how anyone...let alone someone in the limelight like Imus...would think that such a comment would not place his career at risk and lead to his being associated with the recent high profile racial ranting of Mel Gibson and Michael Richards.

I couldn't resist the opportunity to have some fun with the situation...hence I created the following satirical graphic using imagery and a memorable line from the movie Brokeback Mountain.

Imus And Richards - Brokeback Mountain

Daniel DiRito | April 10, 2007 | 12:24 AM | link | Comments (1)
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April 5, 2007

Catholicism Must Evolve genre: Hip-Gnosis & Six Degrees of Speculation & Snapshot Thoughts

Science tells us that humans evolved over millions of years and will continue to evolve. History and the positions of the new Pope, Benedict XVI, tells us that the Catholic Church is still struggling to evolve...often holding fast to institutional traditions despite being confronted by new challenges. The position of the Church is that Catholic teachings are not secondary to cultural influences...or said more clearly...what they believe to be right and wrong rarely changes.

Notwithstanding, a review of history demonstrates that the Church has held wrong views and taken inappropriate and misguided positions on a number of issues. Sadly, it still relies on the infallibility of the Pope in establishing doctrine, regardless of numerous examples disproving the notion. In doing so, it often lags the rest of society in accepting and acknowledging new information. One can argue that this makes it easier to view the Church as a follower rather than a leader since they are frequently espousing dogma until they can no longer do so in good conscience. In addition, their need to remain viable has on occasion facilitated a voluntary recantation.

In my opinion, the Catholic Church views unchallenged authority as one of its most cherished possessions...and it has no doubt proven a valuable tool in maintaining control over the beliefs and values of its followers. After a brief period of conciliatory gestures by the new Pope, he has begun to assert the authority many anticipated might become the hallmark of his papacy. The following excerpts are from an Associated Press article found at 365gay.com:

(Vatican City) After sliding smoothly into his job as pastor of his flock, reaching out to dissidents, other faiths and countries long hostile to the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Benedict has started drawing the line.

With his 80th birthday and the second anniversary of his election as Pope approaching this month, he has rebuffed calls - including by bishops in his native Germany - to let divorced Catholics who remarry participate fully in the Church.

He has warned Catholic politicians who must decide on such issues as abortion, euthanasia and marriage that Catholic values are "not negotiable.'' And he has closed the door on any relaxation of the celibacy requirement for priests.

Benedict's persistent defense of the "traditional family'' based on marriage between a man and a woman has emboldened Italy's bishops, who are waging a fierce battle against the government's proposal to extend some rights to non-married couples, including same-sex unions.

One of the Pope's prime targets for a rekindling of the faith is Europe, which he recently described as "going down a road which could lead it to take its leave from history.''

Having already lost a battle in predominantly Catholic Spain, which went as far as approving gay marriage, Benedict has now turned his sights on his own backyard.

Enrique Miret Magdalena, a respected moderate Spanish theologian who is himself 93, said Benedict is "an old man, and the papacy weighs heavily upon him. He's afraid of change.''

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I agree with Magdalena's assessment; but the legacy of John Paul II set in motion a clear shift to the right. Benedict was widely seen as his theological enforcer and John Paul's appointment of numerous conservative Cardinals assured that his doctrinal precepts would be sustained well into the future. Benedict's election further entrenches this move to the right. What remains to be seen is whether the Church can turn the tide of religious complacency and secular momentum that is found throughout Europe. If the Church continues to see authority as the means to reestablish the relevance it seeks, I would anticipate their continued decline.

I believe that the widespread access to education and its appropriate reliance on the scientific method will require the Church to revise its arguments and conduct a reasoned dialogue with its followers. Fear and force must accede to an open exchange that recognizes facts over faith when the evidence is compelling.

The following graphic is not intended to suggest that the Catholic Church is responsible for all that ails the world nor all the conflicts that have transpired during its existence. Nonetheless, it is intended to point out that if the Church is, as it argues, an agent for good, then it must stand up for the oppressed, the weak, and the abused…when it happens; not years later when it decides an apology is warranted.

Leaders act…and if the Church wants to have a voice in leading the world, then it must reverse its propensity to sit on its collective hands when so many in the world are in desperate need of a hand. Far too many people have suffered or lost their lives at the hand of those who take liberties under the guise of self- righteous symbols. If the Catholic Church wants its symbols to be respected, then its symbols must stand for more than arbitrary authoritarianism. Evolution is necessary.

The Evolution Of Catholicism

Daniel DiRito | April 5, 2007 | 6:00 PM | link | Comments (4)
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Passion, Spirit, Culture genre: Front and Center & Snapshot Thoughts

Store signage in London - 2004
Does Passion Feed The Spirit And Nourish The Culture? I Doubt It Because The Food Tastes Bad.

Daniel DiRito | April 5, 2007 | 5:46 PM | link | Comments (2)
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April 4, 2007

Ground Control To Captain George genre: Polispeak & Snapshot Thoughts & Tongue-In-Cheek

President Bush, in typical fashion, made a number of recess appointments of individuals previously rejected by the Senate. Granted, he has the authority to make such appointments but its further evidence of the President's propensity to ignore the opinions of others as he grows even more isolated and insolent. Today's actions mirror his intransigence with regard to the war in Iraq and his refusal to reconsider the merits of repetitive strategies that have proven unsuccessful during over four years of seemingly unwavering conflict. The New York Times reports the following:

WASHINGTON, April 4 — President Bush used Congress’s Easter break today to defy Democratic lawmakers and appoint three officials who have already drawn heavy criticism on Capitol Hill.

The president used recess appointments to install Sam Fox, a major Republican donor from Missouri, to be ambassador to Belgium; Andrew G. Biggs of New York to be deputy commissioner of Social Security, and Susan E. Dudley of Virginia to be administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs at the office of Management and Budget.

Naming the three while Congress is in recess allows Mr. Bush to avoid the Senate confirmation process. The recess appointments allow the three to remain in their posts until the end of 2008, virtually the end of Mr. Bush’s second term.

Mr. Bush’s use of the recess appointment device, which is authorized in the Constitution, was an unmistakable gesture of defiance against the newly empowered Democrats. He has previously used the tactic to install judicial appointees unpopular with Democrats and to seat John R. Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations.

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While the recess appointments drew criticism, few were surprised by the President's ongoing efforts to maximize his authority, bolster the independence of the executive branch, and minimize the oversight of congress. One thing is for certain, this President will not likely alter his confrontational style and his belief that he alone is the "decider".

Notwithstanding, I took the opportunity to create the following visual to point out the degree to which George Bush has removed himself from the counsel and advice of others.

Commander In Chief George W

Daniel DiRito | April 4, 2007 | 11:13 PM | link | Comments (0)
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April 2, 2007

For Sale: United States Of America genre: Polispeak & Snapshot Thoughts

At the close of the first quarter of 2007, the money being raised for the 2008 presidential race is shattering previous records and some suggest that following the selection of the two candidates, we may be heading for the first billion dollar presidential campaign race. While I understand the need to fund campaigns, at some point the pursuit of cash will eclipse the importance of ideas and abilities...if it hasn't already done so. In this "land of opportunity", I wonder if we've reached the point at which each opportunity is subject to the amount of money one can amass in order to purchase it. The following is from The Associated Press:

BOSTON - Republican Mitt Romney reported Monday he had raised $23 million for his presidential campaign during the first three months of the year, shaking up the GOP field. Sen. John McCain of Arizona lagged with $12.5 million raised.

Meanwhile, the current leader in Republican presidential surveys, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, said his donations totaled $15 million — including more than $10 million raised during March alone.

On their own, the Romney, Giuliani and McCain totals blew away past party presidential fundraising standards, but Romney's figure put the former Massachusetts governor in competition with Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Democratic front-runner. The New York senator on Sunday reported raising $26 million between Jan. 1 and March 31.

In the Democratic race, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama (news, bio, voting record) has yet to release his total, touching off speculation of an announcement equivalent to the figure reported by Clinton.

Among the other Democratic candidates, aides to former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards said his $14 million in new contributions included $1 million for the general election.

The prior records for first-quarter fundraising were held by Republican Phil Gramm of Texas and Democrat Al Gore of Tennessee. Gramm raised $8.7 million in 1995, while Gore raised $8.9 million in 1999. Gramm dropped out race before New Hampshire's 1996 primary, while Gore went on to win the 2000 Democratic nomination.

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I can't help but find this information disheartening as it continues the trend that winning elected office in the US is simply a function of how much one is willing to pay. Unfortunately, that equation eliminates countless good candidates from ever being considered and also insures that politics will continue to be less and less about public service and more and more about ego and power. Further, it ought to leave the voting public worried about the ever shrinking list of potential candidates from which to choose. The actual difference between the two parties continues to narrow.

In light of my growing pessimism with the entrenchment of cash as king, it seemed appropriate to offer the following visual commentary on the state of politics in the United States.

USA For Sale

Daniel DiRito | April 2, 2007 | 2:33 PM | link | Comments (0)
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