Does Karen Hughes Resignation Signal A Strike On Iran?

This resignation raises a red flag which cannot be ignored. I hope I’™m wrong but I’™ve learned not to bet against the Bush administration when it comes to cowboy diplomacy. The fact that Hughes is walking away from her hospitality assignment leads me to believe George Bush is once again running around the White House sporting a half-cocked handgun in his spanking new holster’¦you know’¦the one Dick Cheney told him to strap on.

Commentary By: Daniel DiRito

Tea leaf reading is clearly not an exacting science’¦but if I were asked to interpret the announced resignation of longtime Bush crony Karen Hughes, I would conclude that it signals the likelihood that stealth president Dick Cheney has succeeded in convincing his presidential placeholder, George W. Bush, to launch a strike on Iran prior to packing up the U-Hauls in January of 2009. I’™ll explain my rationale following some excerpts from the Associated Press article.

WASHINGTON – Karen Hughes, who led efforts to improve the U.S. image abroad and was one of President Bush’™s last remaining advisers from the close circle of Texas aides, will leave the government at the end of the year.

Hughes told The Associated Press that she plans to quit her job as undersecretary of state and return to Texas, although improving the world’™s view of the United States is a ‘œlong-term challenge’ that will outlast her.

‘œThis will take a number of years,’ Hughes said in an interview Tuesday.

Bush and Rice had picked Hughes two years ago to retool the way the United States sells its policies, ideals and views overseas. A former television reporter and media adviser, Hughes’™ focus has been to change the way the United States engages and responds to criticism or misinformation in the Muslim world.

‘œNegative events never help,’ Hughes said when asked how events like last month’™s shooting of Iraqi civilians by private U.S. security guards in Iraq affects the way the world sees the United States.

Polls show no improvement in the world’™s view of the U.S. since Hughes took over. A Pew Research Center survey earlier said the unpopular Iraq war is a persistent drag on the U.S. image and has helped push favorable opinion of the United States in Muslim Indonesia, for instance, from 75 percent in 2000 to 30 percent last year.

Hughes said the Iraq war was usually the second issue that Muslims and Arabs raised with her, after the long-standing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Hughes said she advised Bush and Rice two years ago that U.S. help in ending the six-decade old fight over Israel would probably do more than anything else to improve the U.S. standing worldwide.

Hughes is serving her second stint in the Bush administration’¦this time assigned a task that she concedes will not be achieved in short order and that will undoubtedly remain a challenge for the President’™s successor.

More telling is Hughes assessment of the prevailing obstacle to improving the U.S. image’¦especially in the Middle East region and the Muslim world. As noted in the above excerpt, Hughes has told the administration that the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict serves as the primary impediment to reversing the slipping view of America.

I took note of the fact that Hughes made this remark to the President and his current Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, two years ago. I interpret the statement to suggest there was a meeting of the minds at the time she offered this assessment and agreed to take the job.

Today, I believe her resignation may well indicate a shift in the thinking of the President’¦one that would make Hughes’™ task virtually impossible and therefore lead her to conclude it better to leave now rather than later. I suspect the event which would lead Hughes to an abrupt departure is knowledge of the administration’™s plan to strike Iran.

Let me explain my reasoning. Given the anti-Israeli rhetoric of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a strike upon Iran would be seen as a defense of Israel and a affirmation of the assertions that Israel and the United States have no real intentions of establishing an independent Palestinian state. Such a strike would further fuel the anger at Israel and the United States and make it virtually impossible for Hughes to maintain the credibility necessary to pursue the mending of the American image.

As such, rather than wait for the terse and inevitable repudiations, Hughes has chosen to jump ship prior to a strike which would almost certainly unravel any progress she has been able to achieve. I also don’™t believe Hughes would have returned to the Bush administration with any intention of leaving prior to the end of the President’™s second term.

Adding support to my speculation is the fact that Josh Bolton advised White House senior aides that if they were to stay past Labor Day they would be obliged to serve till the end of the President’™s second term. The fact that Hughes is leaving regardless of that directive must indicate changing circumstances have created an untenable situation. Lastly, the fact that Hughes has long been regarded as one the George Bush’™s most loyal supporters makes the resignation all the more suspect.

Obviously my hypothesis is little more than anecdotal. Notwithstanding, this resignation raises a red flag which cannot be ignored. I hope I’™m wrong but I’™ve learned not to bet against the Bush administration when it comes to cowboy diplomacy. The fact that Hughes is walking away from her hospitality assignment leads me to believe George Bush is once again running around the White House sporting a half-cocked handgun in his spanking new holster’¦you know’¦the one Dick Cheney told him to strap on.

Cross-posted at Thought Theater

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007 by Richard Blair |

Michelle Malkin Fears the Yoga!

Another idiotic column by Michelle Malkin. That shouldn’™t surpise us at all. She’™s such a dizzy woman that it is surprising even stupid Republicans listen to her. What is surprising is they do!

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

We all know she fears the gay. That’™s not news. But here Michaell Malkin has decided to write negatively about a high school in the Boston Suburbs that is employing yoga to help calm students. WTF? Why in the hell should this woman be complaining, unless, as we all know, that this woman is truly deranged. From the NRO:

According to the piece, ‘œLess Homework, More Yoga, From a Principal Who Hates Stress,’ the head of Needham High School in the Boston suburbs is pushing ‘œstress reduction’ through better stretching and breathing. Principal Paul Richards, who last earned nationwide mockery when he ditched publishing the honor roll, is part-Oprah, part-Deepak Chopra, part-Richard Simmons, and all edu-babble.

‘œIt’™s not that I’™m trying to turn the culture upside down,’ he’™s quoted telling the Times. ‘œIt’™s very important to protect the part of the culture that leads to all the achievement,’ he said. ‘œIt’™s more about bringing the culture to a healthier place.’

And here I thought high-school principals should make schooling, not ‘œbringing the culture to a healthier place,’ their top priority. Silly me. Welcome to your new nanny-state nightmare.

Yoga classes are now a requirement for Needham high -school seniors. To further ease the supposed burden on overworked students, Richards has ‘œasked teachers to schedule homework-free weekends and holidays.’ Just what we need to turn around those one in ten schools that are now considered ‘œdropout factories,’ huh? Can’™t cut it in the classroom? Bend like a bridge, take five deep, slow breaths, and all will be dandy.

I’™m thinking Michaelle Malkin needs to stick to things she knows something about. Gosh, that would mean stifling her on every subject, wouldn’™t it? Heck, that’™s OK by me.

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007 by Richard Blair |

Scary Halloween Masks Available

Coulter! Limbaugh! O’™Reilly! Dobson! Robertson! Oh, my. Are you desperately searching for a last minute Halloween costume? Please, don’™t go scaring little children with these’¦

/wp/

Earlier, our own Steven Reynolds wrote about the Halloween costume of choice for the elite Washington trick-or-treating that will be happening tonight inside the I-495 beltway. However, if you don’™t have a paper bag handy, and you need a last minute costume, try one of the kits offered by People for the American Way:

scary masks

Simply download, print, cut out, and go scare some people at your favorite liberal watering hole! (Please, use responsibly, and don’™t go frightening the little children. You could traumatize an unsuspecting young’™un for life.) Note: downloads and accessorizing suggestions are available at the PFAW website.

Boo!

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007 by Richard Blair |

Tight Ends and Wide Receivers

Some may find this a landmark study about human sexuality and the ways in which teen boys experiment. Others will blast this study for its methodology, I’™m sure. I’™m intrigued.

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

No, this isn’™t about Terrell Owens and how he will impact this weekend’™s football game where the hated Dallas Cowboys come to Philadelphia to take on my beloved Philadelphia Eagles. Sure, that topic is on my mind, but the title here is so that I can put out the punch lines to the bad jokes before any of the rest of you do. It’™s sort of a Karnak punch line. Maybe you can think of the first part of the joke as it relates to this story from Pink News (sorry, Pnknews, but I’™m going to quote a lot of your story):

A new study to be published in the Journal of Sex Roles suggests that one third of former American high school football players have had sexual relations with other men.

Sociologist Dr. Eric Anderson, who is credited with being the first openly gay high school coach during his tenure at Huntington Breach High in the early nineties, conducted research questionnaires with a small sample of ex-high school football players who said that they have had some sexual contact with other men.

The men interviewed were aged 18-23 and all had retired from football before college.

Anderson’™s study suggests that ‘œsociety’™s increasing open-mindedness about homosexuality and decreasing stigma concerning sexual activity with other men had allowed sportsmen to speak more openly about these sexual activities.’

The article ‘œHeterosexual athletes contesting masculinity and the one-time rule of homosexuality’ will appear in the January issue of the journal.

It found showed that over one third of the men interviewed admitted to having contact with other men whether with women present or alone.

The study also stated that most did not identify themselves as homosexual, but also did not feel shame or resentment for their relations with other males.

Anderson told Science Daily he believes that the ‘œpositive portrayal of homosexuality on television, the ease with which homosexuals could gradually ‘come out’™ by using the internet, and the decline of religious fundamentalism has made homosexuality and homosexual acts considerably less controversial for university-aged men.’

I think it is important to note that we don’™t have a definition of what is deemed as ‘œhomosexual contact’ here. Are we talking full-on sex? Are we talking something as benign as towell snapping in the locker toom? I suspect they’™ve drawn the line somewhere in the middle of those extremes. I suppose that could include such acts as mutual wanking or bodily contact while sharing a threesome. Still, those are murky waters that will be delved by those critiquing this studfy, due out in March. The article here states what the real meat (sorry, couldn’™t help it) of the subject is, that homosexual contact carries not near the stigma that it once did, so much so that the most macho members of our society are able to admit to themselves that they have partaken of it.

Wow! One third of those men admit to such contact back when they were high school football players? Heck, I’™m betting this isn’™t just a ‘œI’™ll show you mine if you show me yours’ sort of thing. I imagine that involves younger boys than those studied here. I suppose we’™d all be able to admit to ‘œshow me’ games. What’™s important here is that we’™re talking about bodily contact, I assume, and that former football players are admitting to it.

We’™ve come a long way in our attitudes, huh? I sometimes look to what goes on in schools and worry that the fear of such contact is so prevalent that it has changed the school experience. In my day, starting from 7th grade, boys and girls coming from gym class had to shower afterwards. Oh, yeah, we were all embnarrassed at the time, but we got over it. Heck, I was most embarrassed, being the youngest in my class and also a late entrant into puberty. (TMI?) The point here is that we were forced, in my day, the late sixties and early seventies, to divorce sexuality from nudity. By the time we reached 9th grade even the most shy of us (except Randy Whistler, the biggest geek in my school) thought nothing of stripping, showering, changing, chatting amiably the whole time. Kids today? They hear me talk about this sort of behavior in school and it’™s totally foreign. Their jaws drop. They can’™t imagine communal showers, and even when they are required to shower after swimming they do so with their suits on.

Hmm. Maybe the fact that kids aren’™t forced, as I was, to divorce, at least somewhat, the notion of nudity and sexuality through those sometimes traumatic communal showers. Yeah, there was towell snapping, and Mr. Phipps the gym teacher watched to make sure we got wet, if not clean. Nowadays the kids end up smelling all day, and they don’™t get that experience that strips them of everything, thus exposing them to the multiplicity of what all the other guys look like. Could it be that guys nowadays, who haven’™t gone through that experience from a young age, have developed a curiosity that leads to these homosexual situations? I’™m not saying that’™s bad. After all, whether one is 12 or 17, one is curious. Hmm.

Still, I am stunned. Football players admitting to homosexual contact? I’™d love to see that broken down by position. Safeties? Tight ends? Hmm.

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007 by Richard Blair |
Category: General

A Scary Halloween: Bigotry in America During the Holidays

The latest hate email making the rounds asks the 24%’™ers to boycott any postage stamps depicting Muslim holidays. Those of the Islamic faith are broad-brushed as violent, scary people. On Halloween, perhaps we should be thinking about things that are *really* scary.

Commentary By: Walter Brasch

Bush lanternThere are a lot of scary things in the world.

There’™s the ‘œfun-scary’’”kids who dress up as clowns, monsters, or fairy princesses once a year to get a month’™s supply of candy, which they’™ll finish off by morning.

There’™s scary movies, from ‘œJaws’ to ‘œFriday the 13th’œ to’”well’”’œScary Movie.’

The murder mystery genre’”in books, TV, and film’”can scare even the least gullible. What’™s even scarier is that there were about 1.4 million violent crimes last year; about 17,000 of them were murders, about 89 percent from firearms, according to the FBI.

Poverty, the deterioration of the environment, and Dick Cheney are all scary. But the scariest of all is ignorance, hatred, and bigotry, wrapped within the cloak of fear.

This past week, along with a mini-mail list of about 60, I received an e-mail from a friend. She’™s a nice lady, relatively bright, and active in community affairs. The e-mail has been around for several years, but is refreshed every year between Halloween and Christmas. As is custom, thousands who receive it forward it to thousands of others who are asked to boycott stamps that honor Muslim holidays. The first lines of the e-mail are bold. ‘œHow ironic is this??!!’ it screams at us. ‘œThey don’™t even believe in Christ and they’™re getting their own Christmas stamp . . .’ The graphics-laden e-mail displays a 37-cent postage stamp. The rest of the e-mail, all in bold type and colors, tells us that we are supposed to remember the ‘œMUSLIM bombing of Pan Am Flight 103,’ the ‘œMUSLIM bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993,’ and the ‘œMUSLIM’ bombings of the military barracks in Saudi Arabia and American embassies in Africa, the U.S.S. Cole, and 9/11.

We are told not only to ‘œremember to adamantly and vocally boycott this stamp,’ but that buying this stamp ‘œwould be a slap in the face to all those AMERICANS who died at the hands of those whom this stamp honors.’ We are urged to forward the e-mail to ‘œevery patriotic American you know.’

The stamp, according to the U.S. Postal Service, was issued to commemorate Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, considered by Muslims as the two most important festivals in their calendar year. The calligraphy in the center of the stamp translates literally as ‘œblessed festival,’ or more loosely as, ‘œMay your religious holiday be blessed.’ The stamp was first issued on Sept. 1, 2001, and then reissued in 2002, 2006, and in September this year to reflect postage increases.

Although the Post Office each year issues a stamp to honor Christmas, it also issues a non-denominational holiday stamp. It also issues stamps to honor Chanukah and Kwanzaa.

Those who write and forward the e-mails of intolerance don’™t understand, and probably never will, that while some Muslim extremists were at the heart of some terrorist plots, they don’™t represent Islam or any other religion. If we believe that the few Muslim terrorists represent the entire religion, we must then go to the absurdity of believing that we should boycott all Christmas stamps because some Christian extremists destroyed the federal building in Oklahoma City and murdered 178 and wounded more than 800. We would have to boycott the Christmas stamp because God-fearing Christians lynched as many as 10,000 Americans’”most of them Black but many of whom were Jews, Italians, and Irish’”in the century after the Civil War. We would condemn Christianity because of the Inquisitions of the 15th and 16th centuries. We would blame the Protestants and the Catholics for a religious civil war in Northern Ireland that led to the deaths of more than 3,700 in a four decade period. We would never speak favorably of any German or millions of other Europeans because the Nazis and their collaborators, good Christians all, launched the holocaust that led to the murders of 12 million and a war that claimed more than 50 million lives, most of them civilian.

On Halloween, we see pre-teen girls cutely dressed as witches, happily going door to door for candy, and we readily help them get the sugar-kick they expect every Oct. 31. We don’™t condemn these pretend-witches, unlike Christians of the 17th century America who burned and drowned women because they were ‘œwitches.’

Every religion has its militant extremists who violate laws and commandments against murder, but every religion has people of peace who believe in love and tolerance. Indeed, by condemning all Muslims, we also condemn ourselves to ignorance, hatred, bigotry, and fear.

[Dr. Brasch is professor of journalism at Bloomsburg University, an occasional contributor to ASZ, a former newspaper reporter and editor, and author of 17 books. His latest book is Sinking the Ship of State: The Presidency of George W. Bush, available through Amazon. You may contact Brasch through www.walterbrasch.com.]

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007 by Richard Blair |

Opening The Files: 10/31/07

It was Hillary Pillory at the latest Dem debate.

Commentary By: The Xsociate

The Not So Thrilla in Phila.

The Democrats held a debate last night in Philadelphia, yet another in the seemingly endless pre-pre-season horse race. For some live blogging of the main event check in with native Philadelphian Will Bunch, with more observations at Josh’™s and Kevin’™s.

Pretty much all day yesterday, the inside the Beltway media was breathless with speculation about whether Barack Obama would begin to poke some sharpened elbows at his front runner rival Hillary Clinton. But aside from a few jabs at her wishy washy record and a dated Rocky reference, the Thrilla from Illa(nois) failed to land any knock out blows.

That is not to say that Clinton wasn’™t the proverbial punching bag in the debate. She took a bruising for her waffling on driver licenses for illegal immigrants. Was pelted for her votes on Iraq and Iran. But despite the barrage, I have a feeling that Hilla will come through this, especially considering that the GOPers seem to have already singled her out as the opponent to beat. And really, as harsh as some of the things said about Clinton were last night, they are nothing compared to what has been and no doubt will be said about her by the Repubs.

Some other notable moments: Joe Biden got the biggest applause for a dig at Rescue Rudy for his limited vocabulary. Dennis Kucinich once again made calls for impeachment but because he also claims to have seen a UFO, that means no one should take him seriously. At least MSNBC had the good sense to forgo any overly long cutaway shots of Mrs. Kucinich.

Hunter lists reasons to be freaking sick of pre-primary season.

Michael Roston says that some of the digs at Hillary seemed more befitting of a Three Stooges routine.

Booman tells us some of the new things he learned.

And Walter Shapiro says that some of the dueling Dems appear to have sharpened their rapiers and are looking to draw some primary colors out of Hillary.

(X-posted at The Xsociate Files)

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007 by Richard Blair |

Costumes, The Castro, & Culture: Is Gay Passe?

America was built upon numerous cultural influences. Instead of simply submitting to fear, many Americans found themselves enriched by exposure to the unfamiliar and it made us a better nation. The same can be true with regards to gay culture’¦so long as the gay community celebrates and maintains its cultural identity and isn’™t afraid or ashamed to stand up and speak out.

Commentary By: Daniel DiRito

I’™m opposed to outright gay assimilation as I view it to be a form of capitulation’¦an ill-advised effort to fit in if you will. In so stating, I am not suggesting that gays embrace cultural isolationism; rather I favor preserving our homosexual identity while engaging the heterosexual community in a dialogue that seeks to find common ground’¦ground that doesn’™t require us to adapt our lives to fit the heterosexual template’¦or visa versa.

A new article in The New York Times sheds some light on the results of gay assimilation. I believe the piece illuminates the emerging erosion of our cultural significance and how that can begin to limit our ability to not only share in society as fully equal partners, but to potentially diminish our opportunities to influence and shape its future.

SAN FRANCISCO, Oct. 24 ‘” This Halloween, the Glindas, gladiators and harem boys of the Castro ‘” along with untold numbers who plan to dress up as Senator Larry E. Craig, this year’™s camp celebrity ‘” will be celebrating behind closed doors. The city’™s most popular Halloween party, in America’™s largest gay neighborhood, is canceled.

or many in the Castro District, the cancellation is a blow that strikes at the heart of neighborhood identity, and it has brought soul-searching that goes beyond concerns about crime.

These are wrenching times for San Francisco’™s historic gay village, with population shifts, booming development, and a waning sense of belonging that is also being felt in gay enclaves across the nation, from Key West, Fla., to West Hollywood, as they struggle to maintain cultural relevance in the face of gentrification.

In the Castro, the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society held public meetings earlier this year to grapple with such questions as ‘œAre Gay Neighborhoods Worth Saving?’

While the Castro has been the center of a movement, it is also home to ‘œan important political constituency,’ said Elizabeth A. Armstrong, an associate sociology professor at Indiana University and the author of ‘œForging Gay Identities: Organizing Sexuality in San Francisco 1950-1994′

‘œWhen people were angry about Dan White they were able to assemble quickly, spilling out of the bars,’ Professor Armstrong said. ‘œPhysical location mattered.’

I contend that efforts to mimic heterosexuality lay the groundwork for our irrelevance and begin to marginalize our ability to favorably influence the political, social, and cultural climate’¦one which has been primarily defined by heterosexuals. Inherent in the gay rights movement is a tacit acceptance that all the rights granted to heterosexuals are appealing and therefore sought after. Unfortunately, I don’™t entirely accept that premise with regards to marriage and I fear that our message fosters a belief that our way of life is incomplete and can be punished by withholding the granting of those rights currently reserved for our heterosexual counterparts.

While I’™m not opposed to gay marriage, I fear that making it the focal point of our agenda serves to validate the assumed superiority of the heterosexual relationship model’¦one that I find to be lacking and one that is likely premised upon a number of false constructs. The fact that gays appear determined to replicate heterosexual marriage seems to suggest that we believe it to be a functional institution. On the contrary, marriage statistics suggest otherwise and that fact ought to be an integral part of our strategy.

In fact, the resiliency of gays to establish functional relationships absent the accoutrements of conventional marriage may actually warrant a rethinking of heterosexual marriage in its current iteration. Let me be clear’¦I wholeheartedly believe our relationships should be granted the same recognition, protections, and benefits afforded to heterosexual marriages. However, the push for gay marriage seems to send the message that gays have nothing to bring to the relationship table’¦a conclusion I reject and a point I think merits discussion. Additionally, those who oppose gay marriage view their ability to deny it to us as giving them an added authority and a distinguishing legitimacy. I believe they needn’™t be granted such dominion nor should such thoughts be allowed to persist.

Frankly, gays should not only be seeking the same rights offered to heterosexual marriages but they ought to be pointing to the many flaws that accompany the institution of marriage. In doing so, the debate can begin to expand beyond the ‘œwe have it and you’™re not going to get it’ tug of war. The prevailing argument offered by critics of gay marriage is that it will undermine heterosexual marriage and destroy the current family structure. So long as the debate remains framed this way, gays will struggle to gain traction in their push for inclusion.

The argument for gay marriage ought to be expanded beyond inclusion and into a dialogue that seeks to define what actually makes for a functional relationship and an environment that nurtures children. Clearly, the belief that one qualifies for marriage and child rearing by simply being a heterosexual is laughable and it ought to be aggressively questioned and challenged.

An ideal home environment isn’™t predicated upon the presence of a man and a woman; it’™s predicated upon an adult or two adults possessing enough maturity to understand the responsibility that comes with having children and the willingness to set aside one’™s own self-interests out of an unyielding love for the innocents in our midst.

Further, that love must include more than the ability to slip a child twenty dollars and send them out the door and out of our way. Far too many parents have replaced the hard work of real parenting with the ease of financial placation. Truth be told, the results of that deficient notion are coming home to roost in a never ending string of tragic events involving alienated and troubled children.

The following excerpt from The New York Times, while attempting to understand the shift in gay culture evidenced by a newly emerging generation of gays, actually hits upon the larger societal issue of isolation and lack of interpersonal involvement that results from the current heterosexual family paradigm.

An annual survey by the San Francisco Gay Men’™s Community Initiative indicated that in 2007 only 36 percent of men under 29 said there was a gay community in the city with which they could identify.

Doug Sebesta, the group’™s executive director and a medical sociologist at the San Francisco Department of Public Health, said, ‘œI’™ve had therapists who have told me they are asking their clients to go back to bars as a way of social interaction.’

The Internet is not a replacement for a neighborhood where people are involved in issues beyond themselves, said John Newsome, an African-American who co-founded the group And Castro For All after the Badlands incident. ‘œThere are a lot of really lonely gay people sitting in front of a computer,’ he said.

Which is why the cancellation of the Halloween party by the city has provoked such a sense of loss. Many residents say that their night has been taken away. ‘œIt’™s proof that whatever sense of safety we have is incredibly tenuous, ‘œ Mr. Newsome said.

I would argue that the phenomenon of isolation described above is not unique to just those gays who are under the age of 29. It is indicative of society’™s growing disregard for the personal contact which is actually the essence of loving parenting. Those children who are now entering the world as adults are doing so absent the fundamentals which must originate in the home as a result of meaningful parent-child relationships’¦relationships which aren’™t measured by the material wherewithal of a parent to equip their children with the properly labeled clothing or the latest gadgets. While parents have found it is possible to occupy a child’™s time with television and computer games; they do so at the peril of their child’™s future ability to form functional relationships.

In our rush to define and pursue success as a one-dimensional financial calculation, we have forgotten that a child’™s evaluation of a successful parent is rarely dependent upon the size of mom and dad’™s bank account or their titles at work. Having a woman and a man identified as a mom and a dad may fit some rigid religious definitions of proper parenting but if it fails to rear an adjusted and healthy child, it ought to be seen as it is’¦little more than an inane adherence to established dogma.

Allowing the anti-gay zealots to assail gays while fostering dysfunctional families must cease. Gays must approach the topic of marriage, gay adoption, and parenting as a matter of measuring outcome; not as an equation of entitlement. The ability to parent isn’™t negated by one’™s sexual orientation just as good parenting isn’™t guaranteed by the presence of a man and a woman. For meaningful change to occur, these antiquated assumptions must be deconstructed.

America was built upon numerous cultural influences’¦cultures that brought differing values and perspectives to marriage and parenting. Those views enriched our society, provided a platform for dialogue, and created a curiosity which allowed us to embrace change. Instead of simply submitting to fear, many Americans found themselves enriched by exposure to the unfamiliar and it made us a better nation. The same can be true with regards to gay culture’¦so long as the gay community celebrates and maintains its cultural identity and isn’™t afraid or ashamed to stand up and speak out.

Cross-posted at Thought Theater

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007 by Richard Blair |

Fair Game, Fair Plame

For some, Valerie Plame will always be fair game.


Commentary By: The Xsociate

Valerie Plame Wilson, whose covert status with the CIA was revealed in 2003 by members of the Bush administration, has a new memoir out today. In the heavily redacted tome, Plame reveals some details of her life with the agency, her efforts to cultivate sources in operations to thwart the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the threats put upon her and her family by her outing. Finally, she says, she is able to tell her side of the story.

But that is not to say that there are no longer those still willing to peddle the various claims made against her and her husband, Joe Wilson. Plame sat down with CBS’ Katie Couric in advance of the book’s release and we are once again treated to examples of why the Beltway media has become so worthy of derision. Here’s a brief exchange from the interview (video here).

COURIC: You never for a moment thought this could potentially jeopardize my career?

PLAME: It’s called –living your cover.’ This had nothing to do with what I was doing. He was part of the debate.

COURIC: But admit it, it comes awfully close to what you were doing, even covertly. I mean, you were trying to ascertain if Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. He’s writing an article saying –it’s really not valid, this one assertion.’ I mean, can’t you see how those two things might collide and in a very dangerous way?

Couric seems to be suggesting that Plame should have assumed her status with the CIA would be brought into the debate and because she did not heed this bit of conventional Beltway wisdom, is deserving of what she got. Of course in any place other than BushWorld, revealing Plame’s status still remains a crime, one which is considered so egregious that it is punishable by death.

But for the likes of Couric, being outed at the expense of political expediency is to be expected.

Katie, do us a favor. The next time you get that memo from Karl with the subject line “Please read on air”, how’s about you just toss it in the garbage, a place I’m sure you are all too familiar with.

See also Tristero and Christy.

(X-posted at The Xsociate Files)

Monday, October 22nd, 2007 by The Xsociate |

SCHIP, Graeme Frost, and Economic Racism

When we get past the smokescreens that the GOP leadership (and their online enablers) have been spewing about the SCHIP bill, and we look behind the attacks on Graeme Frost’s family, there’s an even slimier underbelly. Why would the GOP leadership be propagating false talking points about the Frosts and the SCHIP bill? The answer might (or might not) surprise you.

Commentary By: Richard Blair

As I perused some of the comments to my previous post on Graeme Frost and the SCHIP controversy, it occured to me that the real reason the nutosphere has its collective kickers in knot about Graeme Frost and the SCHIP bill has nothing to do with the fact that Graeme and his sister benefited from the Maryland version of the program. Nope. It’s partly because the Frost family isn’t perceived as poor and destitute.

There is an overriding perception, propagated by a lazy legacy media (and the GOP’s online enablers) that state-level CHIP programs are targeted toward the poorest of American families. As the table below shows (from the National Council of State Legislatures), this perception simply isn’t true:

Medicaid / SCHIP Comparison

Category Medicaid SCHIP
Covered Groups
  • Low-income children
  • Low-income parents and pregnant women
  • Low-income children and adults with disabilities
  • Low-income elderly
  • Targeted low-income children with incomes above Medicaid eligibility levels who do not have private health insurance
  • “Unborn children”
  • Some parents and other adults through waivers, although the option to cover childless adults was removed in the 2005 DRA
Number of Enrollees
  • 28 million children
  • 4.4 million children
    Funding
    • Open-ended entitlement
    • Enrollment caps prohibited
    • Entitlement to states, not individuals
    • The annual funding level is set by statute and is based on the number of low-income children and low-income uninsured children in the state; it includes a cost factor that represents the average health service industry wages in the state compared to the national average
    Match Rate
    • Federal match rates in Medicaid range from 50 percent to 76 percent
    • States receive an enhanced match for SCHIP. Rates range from 65 percent to 83.2 percent
    Scope of Coverage
    • Comprehensive range of federally defined benefits, including EPSTD, dental, mental health, prevention or EPSTD wrap-around coverage for states opting to provide benchmark coverage
    • States have flexibility in defining plans, although all benchmark plans must include basic benefits, as defined in statute
    • This flexibility applies to separate SCHIP programs, not to Medicaid expansion programs

    Leaving aside the fact that the perception of whom SCHIP does and doesn’t cover is largely misconstrued, the manufactured attacks against the Frost family, a product of Republican leadership talking points, are largely a smokescreen for economic racism.

    The talking points are aimed at a certain caste in this country that believes that the poor should be exterminated (after being born, of course). And ultimately, that’s what it comes down to.

    Who comprises this caste? The same people who will vote continuously for the Republican Party, totally contrary to their own personal and economic interests. I’m not talking about the uber rich, the fairly well off, or the worker bees who have their healthcare needs partly met by a union or other workplace policy. I’m talking about a certain sect of the lower-middle income class, who are motivated not by their own economic interests, but by the inherent racism and classism of God, guns, and gays.

    Many of these people don’t have two nickels to rub together at the end of the day. Yet they work their fingers to the bone at multiple low paying jobs to put bread on the table, and proudly proclaim, “I take care of my own.” They pay their taxes, but can’t afford to get their teeth cleaned. And because they believe that they can’t afford to get their teeth cleaned, or they don’t have the wherewithal to seek out programs that could help them, they believe that the programs don’t exist for them, but rather for the bum they see hanging out on the street corner. They believe the bums secretly drive Caddys, live in expensive condos on government assistance (and taxpayer expense), and get gold-plated healthcare. They believe that anyone who doesn’t “take care of their own” is a less-than-adequate parent.

    In other words, they hate the poor.

    Here’s my non-psychologist’s evaluation of why: the people who populate this particular social caste are, for the most part, one step away from destitution themselves. They don’t care to understand that programs like CHIP are meant to fill a very real gap between marginal healthcare for the poor (Medicaid), and the total unavailability of healthcare in a higher economic range (in which the Frost’s fit quite well). They’d rather walk around with dirty teeth and not make a doctor’s visit until the need is acute, and they end up in an emergency room. They’d rather give up everything they’ve worked their fingers to the bone for in order to prove a point to themselves. They’d rather lose their home or end up in bankruptcy court to discharge onerous medical bills, rather than admit that programs such as CHIP, designed to help a certain middle class segment of the population, have a social worth.

    So, this little skirmish in the ongoing culture war isn’t about much of anything other than the worst kind of economic racism and classism. If CHIP programs were completely defunded today, these same folks would start going after Medicaid – or more correctly, the Malkin’s and Limbaugh’s would go after the program. Their screaming zombie contingents would simply follow along with pitchforks and torches.

    They hate the poor, and would be just as happy if they died (again, as long as they’ve already been born, anyway).

    But what fuels the elected GOP and conservative leadership to demonize such programs and the people who those programs serve, and thereby pander to the particular caste to which the talking points are directed? Medicaid. The NCSL table (above) helped me begin to understand that this entire bruhaha has absolutely nothing to do with SCHIP.

    28 million poverty level children are covered by Medicaid. 4.4 million lower middle-income children are covered by SCHIP programs. Medicaid is in crisis, and the ultimate costs literally dwarf those of SCHIP programs. No, dear reader, again, the Frost family isn’t being held up by the fringe right wing howler monkeys as poster children for a program that covers gaps in healthcare coverage. The Frosts are being used as an example to soften up the discourse, and make it an easier social pill to swallow when Grover Norquist’s of the country go after Medicaid. I think that’s the hidden agenda.

    To conservatives, poor people are like Iraqis – they’re subhuman; societal leeches to be removed at whatever cost, and regardless of the toll of the economic cluster bombs that get dropped on them daily. The SCHIP debate allows the “leech narrative” to be moved up a few rungs on the economic ladder. And why is this being done by the GOP controllers?

    The bottom line is that the wingers are scared to death to ever be caught in the same socio-economic bind as the Frosts, and are exhibiting false bravado as they whistle past the healthcare graveyard.

    Update: A couple of quick points.

    • In describing the right wing’s virtual fragging of the Frost family, I intentionally labeled the social phenomena that we’re witnessing as “economic racism”. I don’t think that the high concept of racism is limited to a particular skin shade, although that’s where the term is generally applied. And the strawman that those on right are using is no different than their dogwhistles on color, ethnicity, religion, or national origin.
    • Ezra Klien takes a similar position – and perhaps with even more righteous indignation than I could muster – on what is driving the right to demonize a prototypical American family. Under normal circumstances, the right wingers would be holding up the Frosts as prime examples of hard work having achieved the American dream. Klein’s talented wordsmithing is well worth the read.
    • Lastly, make sure you click on the comment link to this post. ASZ’s good friend Charles boils down my entire analysis into a few succinct paragraphs.

    Update II: Great article today in the Baltimore Sun regarding the Frosts. ASZ’s Philly contingent will particularly appreciate the picture of Halsey and Bonnie Frost sitting on the doorstep of their rowhouse.

    Tuesday, October 9th, 2007 by Richard Blair |

    Political Strategy: Are History & The Future A Zero-Sum Equation?

    Paul Krugman argues that the GOP is the same as it ever was. His recap of the history of the GOP will not insure success for the Democrats nor will it preclude the GOP from rapidly revising its message and accessorizing it with seemingly edible accoutrements. Democrats may be justified in believing that history illuminates our heritage and therefore our destiny…but if they get caught flat-footed, they run the risk of being duped by the GOP’s documented dance of dexterity.


    Commentary By: Daniel DiRito

    Paul Krugman has an interesting opinion piece in today’s New York Times in which he argues that, despite assertions to the contrary, the GOP (conservatism), under the tutelage of George W. Bush, “is the same as it ever was”.

    Generally speaking, Krugman makes a number of convincing points. While one could argue that some of his citations may have represented the actions of fringe figures who did not, at the time, actually denote conservatism, they did, in retrospect, assist in shaping our understanding of how it is presently defined. As such, it may well be reasonable to suggest that the tail wagged the dog. Regardless of the process, it is what it is.

    There have been a number of articles recently that portray President Bush as someone who strayed from the path of true conservatism. Republicans, these articles say, need to return to their roots.

    Well, I don’t know what true conservatism is, but while doing research for my forthcoming book I spent a lot of time studying the history of the American political movement that calls itself conservatism – and Mr. Bush hasn’t strayed from the path at all. On the contrary, he’s the very model of a modern movement conservative.

    For example, people claim to be shocked that Mr. Bush cut taxes while waging an expensive war. But Ronald Reagan also cut taxes while embarking on a huge military buildup.

    People claim to be shocked by the Bush administration’s general incompetence. But disinterest in good government has long been a principle of modern conservatism. In “The Conscience of a Conservative,” published in 1960, Barry Goldwater wrote that “I have little interest in streamlining government or making it more efficient, for I mean to reduce its size.”

    People claim to be shocked at the Bush administration’s efforts to disenfranchise minority groups, under the pretense of combating voting fraud. But Reagan opposed the Voting Rights Act, and as late as 1980 he described it as “humiliating to the South.”

    People claim to be shocked at the Bush administration’s attempts to equate dissent with treason. But Goldwater – who, like Reagan, has been reinvented as an icon of conservative purity but was a much less attractive figure in real life – staunchly supported Joseph McCarthy, and was one of only 22 senators who voted against a motion censuring the demagogue.

    The above excerpts give the reader a taste of Krugman’s argument but I highly suggest you read it in its entirety to garner the full flavor. My goal today isn’t to focus upon the specifics of Krugman’s piece. Rather, I will attempt to put forth a theory as to why the GOP has been so successful in its efforts to portray conservatism favorably and to paint liberalism as an unseemly scourge.

    The short answer, which I intend to expand upon, is that the GOP has adopted the view that elections are best approached with little more than a strategy for success; relying upon current considerations to craft a palatable message which will garner the most votes. Part and parcel of this strategy is a willingness to maximize the visceral while not emphasizing the erudite. In so doing, they portray the opposition as pedantic elitists who revile the regular in favor of all that is highfalutin. In essence, they do not seek to elevate the electorate; they elect to engage it where it resides.

    As such, they have demonstrated that intellect, while a requisite tool, should not be presumed to be singularly sufficient to secure success. Instead, it is more likely the subtle segue. Those with intellect must therefore be mindful of the needs of those they seek to enlist and enroll. Hence, the GOP has determined that intellect must be utilized to first manufacture the message and then apply history as an effective embellishment.

    I contend that the Democrats suffer from a belief in the reverse; whereby they ascribe to the threadbare theory that the message is revealed through an understanding of history which will then also provide the reasoned rationale to embrace it. This might be effective if voters were content to discern their decisions accordingly. I’m not convinced they do.

    We generally think that intelligence is a measurable trait and we purport to have the tests to prove that assertion. Little did we know, the equation is far more complex because we frequently equate success with intelligence even though the two are arguably not one and the same.

    At the same time, the effort to divorce success from intelligence is far more difficult than the effort to marry the two. In acknowledging as much, perhaps the notion of a zero-sum equation is better suited to understanding intelligence than economics…or perhaps in all human interactions, they are both essential integers in an elaborate formula which will always lead us to a sum of zero.

    If one accepts that premise, and I contend the argument is compelling, then success and intelligence are clearly dependent upon each individual’s stated objectives. Alas, one must therefore conclude that the moment individual objectives (arguably read as the pursuit of power in politics) become the relevant considerations, everything suddenly becomes subjective…and the slippery slope of sagacity is exposed. Notwithstanding, it is arguably the mechanism by which the human experience unfolds. Success, power, and prosperity may all flow from intellect…but how each is defined may be different for each one of us. More importantly, how they are achieved is no doubt a function of countless formula’s.

    For example, a scorned spouse who elects murder over divorce may well equate intellect and success with ending the life of their partner. The fact that we have law enforcement suggests the formidability of the criminal mind…wrong as its objectives may be. Despite the fact that faith may tell many of us that death isn’t a zero-sum equation, some individuals operate as if it is; therefore believing that accelerating it’s occurrence meets with their notion of success.

    Conversely, one could also argue that premature death equates with a form of success…albeit one that shifts the individual to a new reality which many of us embrace in the abstract but rarely as a matter of choice. While this is an extreme example, it clearly illustrates that success and intellect are difficult to define…and we haven’t even touched on the millions of other definable constructs. With regard to politics, this exercise ought to tell us that there are numerous definitions of success.

    Coming back to the Krugman piece, yes, there is little doubt that the GOP is in trouble. At the same time, the argument herein points to the risks associated with all efforts to simplify our understandings of where they’ve been, where they’re at, and where they’re going. Without knowing how other’s define and pursue success, little can be unequivocally discerned. The fact that the players change over time serves to minimize our predictive capacities even though it creates our history.

    Krugman’s ability to trace the history of the GOP to this moment in time will not insure success for the Democrats nor will it preclude the GOP from rapidly revising its message and accessorizing it with seemingly edible accoutrements. Democrats may be justified in believing that history illuminates our heritage and therefore our destiny…but if they get caught flat-footed, they run the risk of being duped by the GOP’s documented dance of dexterity…a dance found in countless iterations throughout all of human history.

    That would seem to suggest that today’s “successes” are destined to be defined as some expression of intellect in the future…if for no other reason than they influenced it. Nevertheless, only one thing is certain – history remains uncertain so long as the future arrives. Isn’t it possible that should lead us to presume that the sum is zero because the equation remains infinitely incomplete?

    Cross-posted at Thought Theater

    Monday, October 8th, 2007 by Daniel DiRito |
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