Innocence Lost: The Path From Purity To Pragmatism

The attainment of morality is an elusive construct. Attempting to define the morality of a society is even more complex. Often, the combatants seeking to instill morality believe, with certainty, that the end justifies the means. In truth, cohesion often requires the concession of purity.


Commentary By: Daniel DiRito

AshesOfInnocence.jpg

Many Americans like to look at Europe as an example of the moral decay we can expect if we continue to alter our values and ignore our long standing Christian principles. Implicit in this belief, amongst many on the religious right, is the presumption that one’s morality is directly correlated with one’s sexuality…and that goes beyond any consideration of one’s orientation. It also includes a belief that sexual activity is only acceptable under the umbrella of a marriage. That means that sex before marriage is unacceptable and it also infers that both parties are expected to be virgins.

Along with these sexual mores and our disdain for Europe is a growing belief that Islam is an unacceptable religion…or at the very least a religion that will not lead to salvation and therefore it cannot lead to one’s admittance into heaven. Fortunately, life often provides the contrasts and comparisons necessary to illuminate the absurdity and/or hypocrisy of our beliefs…and our predisposition to judge others while ignoring the need for self-examination.

An article in The New York Times provides the backdrop for some measure of reflection…and an illumination of the slippery slope that moral certainty often becomes. The prevalence of Islamic immigrants in Europe has served to pit a strict religious ideology against a far more secular society…and that has led to some rather convoluted interpretations of propriety.

It seems that a number of the Islamic women (note that we don’t focus on the Islamic men) who have partaken in the sexual freedoms afforded by European culture now find themselves in the unenviable position of being unacceptable marriage partners. Islamic teaching require that a bride be a virgin, and should that not be the case, she can be rejected and the marriage can be nullified

Friday, August 5th, 2011 by Daniel DiRito |

Brought to You By the Number 28301 – 016

Scooter Libby got his number yesterday, 28301 – 016. It’™ll look good on one of those orange jumpsuits, eh? No word as yet on whether he will be successful in delaying his sentencing, and no word yet on whether George Bush will then go for the pardon. From the New York Times:

For [...]

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

Scooter Libby got his number yesterday, 28301 – 016. It’™ll look good on one of those orange jumpsuits, eh? No word as yet on whether he will be successful in delaying his sentencing, and no word yet on whether George Bush will then go for the pardon. From the New York Times:

For years he was known as chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney and assistant to President Bush. On Wednesday, I. Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby became federal inmate No. 28301-016.

Libby, who was convicted in March of lying and obstructing an investigation int

Friday, August 5th, 2011 by Richard Blair |
Category: Iraq

Opening The Files: 10/13/07

Things are heating up for both sides in the Get Gore campaign.


Commentary By: The Xsociate

An Assault on Nobel Reason

Depending on ones political slant, yesterday you were either suffering from Goremania or Gore-aphobia with the news that Al Gore had won the Nobel Peace Prize. Righties immediately sought to downplay the significance of the award. They were joined by the always obliging Fox News who, though a little slow on the uptake, were soon smearing in style.

With this cap to a year of awards, naturally the topic soon turned to the heated speculation (pun intended) of whether Al would seek out the most coveted prize of all: the Presidency. It’s not all that surprising that in the wake of this award, the thirst for a Gore candidacy would only become more parched. After all, it is but another example of how were it not for the decision of nine Supreme Court justices seven years ago to award Bush the presidency, we may not find ourselves in such dire straits regarding a multitude of problems facing humanity.

In light of that, it’s not surprising there are those pondering what might have been.

Noam Scheiber wonders what effect all the gaga over Gore is having on Bush. Al probably shouldn’t wait up for that congratulatory call.

Gotta love Fox News’ suggestion about who should have been awarded a “peace” prize. Then again, “peace” has been a pretty relative term with them for a while. Hunter, meanwhile, has some other suggestions.

Bob Franken ponders what a head to head with fellow Tennessean Fred Thompson would look like should Al run. For Fred’s stake, lets hope it doesn’t come down to giving short, concise answers.

And some wonder what Gore’s advocacy of confronting climate change has to go with a world peace. My bloghost at ASZ Richard Blair connects the dots for us.

(X-posted at The Xsociate Files)

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011 by The Xsociate |

Musharref Resignation: Bush’s GWOT Just Got More Interesting

The world that the next president of the United States inherits is going to look very different than the current model. Global geopolitics are changing fast – Russia / Georgia, and now Pakistan’s Pervez Musharref resigns. Instability within the membership of the global nuclear club isn’t a good thing.

Commentary By: Richard Blair

I’m going to go out on a limb and make a prediction:

Before the next president takes office on 1/20/2009, the world is going to be a much different place. It’s almost starting to seem like the Bush regime is going out of their way to scorch them some earth, and leave a huge pile of crap for the next administration to sort through.

First, we have Russia and Georgia, a situation which isn’t going away anytime soon. The instability in the region will remain, and all parties will be nervously fingering a cocked trigger. But at least Condi Rice finally decided to leave the Feragamo store, quit vacation early, and head for the region. Bush himself delayed his two week vacay a day or two to “monitor developments”, but he’s now busy with brush clearing in Crawford.

Today comes word that BushCo / Cheney LLC’s lapdog, Pervez Musharref, has ended months of speculation and is resigning as president of Pakistan. There’s not much that I can add to this piece of news, other than what this means is even more instability in an already unstable member of the global nuclear club.

Georgia has nukes and ground forces. Russia has nukes and ground forces. The U.S. has nukes and essentially no uncommitted ground forces. Pakistan has nukes and ground forces, and a military which is not (apparently) answerable to the country’s civilian leadership.

The world that the next POTUS inherits just five short months from now will be very different than that which the Bush regime has operated with relative impunity. I’m not smart enough to know what that world might look like, but unfortunately, I am tuned into what’s happening just enough to be ve

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011 by Richard Blair |

A Conservative Leaves the Nest — Not Far Enough, Though

Michael Smerconish is Philly’™s big conservative radio talk show host, and yesterday’™s column by him in the Philadelphia Inquirer asks some tough questions, even condemns the Bush Administration, though he is careful not to even use the words ‘œBush’ or ‘œCheney’ in his piece. I suppose he’™s a big wimp and using Rumsfeld as [...]

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

Michael Smerconish is Philly’™s big conservative radio talk show host, and yesterday’™s column by him in the Philadelphia Inquirer asks some tough questions, even condemns the Bush Administration, though he is careful not to even use the words ‘œBush’ or ‘œCheney’ in his piece. I suppose he’™s a big wimp and using Rumsfeld as a scapegoat.

Instead, I suspect we are completely reliant on Musharraf, who is willing to do only as much as guarantees him the continued support of America, but not enough to undermine his tenuous hold over his nation’™s tribal leaders. During my trip, I questioned senior military leaders about my suspicion.

One was quick to use the word sovereignty in his reply before describing the search as ‘œdifficult and nuanced.’ Another told me the hunt was the equivalent of finding one man in the Rockies. Several asked me what would happen if they did find him, insinuating that support for the war in Iraq would further dissipate if that were to occur.

I’™m not blaming our military. But if I am correct

Sunday, July 31st, 2011 by Richard Blair |

Clueless Army Researchers Urge Giving Brain Damaged Troops the Shaft

Knowledge about traumatic brain injuries is in its infancy, but two Army researchers think that it’s a mistake to screen and treat this condition. Don’t leave the troops to fend for themselves with this issue. Believe me, their problems aren’t going to go away with a scrip for an antidepressant and xanax.


Commentary By: somegirl

This is terrible news. As someone who has suffered from a “mild” TBI for over 10 years, unable to work and severely limited in my interaction with the outside world, I have been hoping that some new treatments might be developed, finally, due to this condition in the troops.

What many people don’t understand is that mild TBI’s often don’t have any “verifiable” symptoms – MRIs may be normal and many other tests too. Symptoms may seem more severe than the objective data can find, and the medical establishment will do their best to make you feel like a hopeless failure because of that. Testing is often not sensitive enough to detect abnormalities, and so it is deemed a mental health issue. Depression is the garbage diagnosis given when the docs don’t know what to do.

Mental health issues do pile on pretty quickly when your quality of life is severely eroded and no one believes you when you tell them your symptoms.

And don’t think because I can express myself well I can have a normal life. I have terrible light sensitivity and visual processing problems, and I can’t be around fluorescent lights because of the flickering. Extreme exhaustion sets in after a few hours of any activity – my brain just quits. My main “treatment” is staying home 90% of the time as it’s the only way I can control sensory input. The smallest bonk on the head results in a full blown concussion, intensifying all the symptoms. And don’t even get me started on the behavioral problems that can result, and the hopelessness that can set in when you’re suddenly acting like a 7 year old. And because you look ok, no one understands.

Ten years ago, hardly anyone, including myself, had heard of TBIs. It took me 4 months to find out there was a name for what was happening to me, and it wasn’t from a doctor. These researchers don’t even know the definition of TBI apparently, since they reason that most concussions clear up in a couple days, there’s no reason to screen for TBI. They are right about the concussion part, but a TBI isn’t a concussion. Don’t leave the troops to fend for themselves with this issue. Believe me, their problems aren’t going to go away with a scrip for an antidepressant and xanax.

Thursday, April 16th, 2009 by somegirl |

Bush Celebrated in Tikrit, Saddam’s Hometown, with Statue

Perhaps it is not politically correct to cheer for others as they body slam our former President Dubya. But the residents of Tikrit in Iraq went a long way to honor the Bush legacy with a sculpture that is, how shall we say, soleful.

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

OK, now I am convinced the Iraq War was the right thing to do. Even in Saddam Hussein’™s hometown the citizens are honoring him with a statue. There it is on the left. Isn’™t it beautiful? From ABCNews:

When an Iraqi journalist hurled his shoes at George W. Bush last month at a Baghdad press conference, the attack spawned a flood of Web quips, political satire and street rallies across the Arab world.

Now it’™s inspired a work of art.

A sofa-sized sculpture ‘” a single copper-coated shoe on a stand carved to resemble flowing cloth ‘” was formally unveiled to the public Thursday in the hometown of the late Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein.

Officials and visitors walked around the outdoor sculpture during the brief ceremony, pondering on its eccentricities ‘” such as a tree poking up from the shoe’™s interior.

Its sculptor called it a fitting tribute to the shoe hurler, Iraqi journalist Muntadhar al-Zeidi, and his folk hero reputation in parts of the Muslim world and beyond.

The Baghdad-based artist, Laith al-Amari, said the work honors al-Zeidi and ‘œis a source of pride for all Iraqis.’ He added: ‘œIt’™s not a political work.’

Not since the Old Woman Who Lived in the Shoe has a person meant so much to cobblers and shoe sellers everywhere. Heck, if I were Nike I would think of signing Dubya up for a personal services contract.

Thursday, January 29th, 2009 by Richard Blair |

Laura Bush Dances a Little Sidestep

One expects Rove or Rice or Cheney to play fast and loose with the facts when it comes to defending the Bush Administration and its record. To see Laura Bush do so, well, is also not shocking. Not when she gets those softball questions from FauxNews. Big mentions of Afghanistan from Laura, none of why we went there, to get Osama.


Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

Laura Bush was dancing a little Sidestep yesterday on FoxNews, defending her husband’s wreck of a Presidency. . .

Fellow Texans, I am proudly standing here to humbly see.
I assure you, and I mean it- Now, who says I don’t speak out as plain as day?
And, fellow Texans, I’m for progress and the flag- long may it fly.
I’m a poor boy, come to greatness. So, it follows that I cannot tell a lie.

Ooh I love to dance a little sidestep, now they see me now they don’t-
I’ve come and gone and, ooh I love to sweep around the wide step,
cut a little swathe and lead the people on.

Now my good friends, it behooves me to be solemn and declare,
I’m for goodness and for profit and for living clean and saying daily prayer.
And now, my good friends, you can sleep nights, I’ll continue to stand tall.
You can trust me, for I promise, I shall keep a watchful eye upon ya’ll…

Ooh I love to dance a little sidestep, now they see me now they don’t-
I’ve come and gone and, ooh I love to sweep around the wide step,
cut a little swathe and lead the people on.

Now, Miss Mona, I don’t know her, though I’ve heard the name, oh yes.
But, of course I’ve no close contact, so what she is doing I can only guess.
And now, Miss Mona, she’s a blemish on the face of that good town.
I am taking certain steps here, someone somewhere’s gonna have to close her down.

Ooh I love to dance a little sidestep, now they see me now they don’t-
I’ve come and gone and, ooh I love to sweep around the wide step,
cut a little swathe and lead the people on.

I just couldn’t resist a little whorehouse reference when talking about the Bush White House. Pardon that moment of weakness.

We’ve got less than a month to go before President Bush, the worst President in US history, leaves office, and to that end the time for people defending him is dwindling. Oh sure, Rush Limbaugh will still try to defend Bush, blaming either Clinton or Obama for everything from the Hurricane Katrina response to the real estate mortgage crisis to the failure to apprehend Osama bin Laden. The media whack jobs like Rush will continue to distort the blame game in trying to burnish the image of George Bush. Still, time is running out for the ones who were on the Bush payroll. Who is going to listen to anyone connected to the Bush Administration after January 20th, after all? Well, Laura Bush got in her licks yesterday, and the result was quite ludicrous. She appeared on Fox News Sunday, and talks about George Bush’s noble work in Afghanistan:

WALLACE: I want to pick up on Afghanistan, because I know it’s one of your most heartfelt causes. It’s not just women – a lot of men feel very keenly about this as well.

There’s been substantial progress over the last seven years. Women can now participate in the parliament. Little girls can go to school. But with the Taliban on the march again, do you ever worry that we could go back to the days of the burqa and to that terrible oppression of women in that country?

L. BUSH: Sure, and the days of the burqa aren’t over. Many women in Afghanistan still cover because they want to, partly, because it’s part of their tradition and their culture, and also because they’d be afraid not to.

But that is a worry, and I met with a group of parliamentarians, women parliamentarians, from Afghanistan last January or so, and they said they were afraid, that their – that this is their only chance, and if they can’t make it now, then they just don’t know if they ever would be able to.

And I think that’s all the more reason the international community needs to stay involved in Afghanistan and do what we can.

Afghanistan and Iraq both have the opportunity, if they can seize the moment, to build real democracies where the rights of every person in those countries is respected, and a lot of that is because of the United States, because of our policies of liberating them from the Taliban in one instance and the tyranny of Saddam Hussein in the other.

And it’s very, very important for the people of these countries to stand up and to take this opportunity to build their countries.

But let me say about Afghanistan, they don’t have a lot of capacity. They’ve been in the conflict for 30 years, and most of their population is younger than 30. They don’t have the human capital.

It’s very important for the international community to stay involved, to try to make education as fast and as broad-reaching as possible so they can build the kind of human capital they need to build the infrastructure of laws and of civil society that they’ll need to build a democracy.

Laura’s sidestep, of course, is to burnish Bush’s record in Afghanistan without mentioning the distraction that is Iraq, a distraction that siphoned off hundreds of billions of dollars and tens of thousands of troops which could have been devoted to the cause in Afghanistan, whether that cause was the plight of women, of democracy, or of getting the guy who was actually responsible for 9/11, Osama bin Laden. I swear, in their youth Republicans must train or something to answer questions while simply bypassing the biggest issue in the room, like who was actually responsible for 9/11. There’s the big news of this interview, that Laura Bush spent oodles of time lamenting 9/11 and then the status of women in Afghanistan, the vital need for us to support their democracy, etc., etc. No, she never mentioned Osama bin Laden once.

But Laura Bush isn’t the only one guilty of this manuever. Check out Condi Rice in her defense of the Bush Administration, especially on the subject of the Middle East. And then there was Dick Cheney’s defending his decisions about torture. Yes, this is the season for defending George Bush, no matter the tenuous connection to reality those defenses take.

Monday, December 29th, 2008 by Steven Reynolds |

Christmas in Baghdad, Shamelessness on Fox News Sunday

Iraq is celebrating Christmas and CNN is making it out like there never was such freedom before the US invaded, forgetting, perhaps, that Saddam did not persecute Christians. This is not an excuse for the US invasion, as it will be played, nor is it an excuse for the excesses defended by Dick Cheney on Fox News Sunday.


Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

My first reaction to the story on CNN about the first public Christmas to be celebrated in Baghdad was quite wary. A hot air balloon supporting a huge poster of Jesus is not going to go over very well among the Muslims there, is it, no matter whether they are Sunni or Shiite. And I am not often impressed by the kumbaya nature of the depiction of the celebration, with one woman, a Muslim, explaining why she attended.

On a large stage, children dressed in costumes representing Iraq’s many ethnic and religious groups – Kurds, Turkmen, Yazidis, Christians, Arab Muslims not defined as Sunni or Shiite – hold their hands aloft and sing “We are building Iraq!” Two young boys, a mini-policeman and a mini-soldier sporting painted-on mustaches, march stiffly and salute.

Even before I can ask Interior Ministry spokesman Major-General Abdul Karim Khalaf a question, he greets me with a big smile. “All Iraqis are Christian today!” he says.

Khalaf says sectarian and ethnic violence killed thousands of Iraqis. “Now that we have crossed that hurdle and destroyed the incubators of terrorism,” he says, “and the security situation is good, we have to go back and strengthen community ties.”

In spite of his claim, the spokesman is surrounded by heavy security. Yet this celebration shows that the security situation in Baghdad is improving.

Many of the people attending the Christmas celebration appear to be Muslims, with women wearing head scarves. Suad Mahmoud, holding her 16-month-old daughter, Sara, tells me she is indeed Muslim, but she’s very happy to be here. “My mother’s birthday also is this month, so we celebrate all occasions,” she says, “especially in this lovely month of Christmas and New Year.”

I suppose this celebration of Christmas in a country wracked by violence ever since the US invasion seven years ago is going to be touted as a good thing. Heck, Dick Cheney may use this as evidence as to why it was OK to torture, spy on Americans, get hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians killed, etc., etc. That wouldn’t surprise me at all. But Cheney is trumped by the celebrants themselves. On display at the celebration are some dioramas made by school children, and in them you can see the kind of terror and pain Bush/Cheney’s invasion of Iraq brought (from CNN):

In the middle of the park there’s an art exhibit, the creation of 11- and 12-year-olds: six displays, each about three feet wide, constructed of cardboard and Styrofoam, filled with tiny dolls dressed like ordinary people, along with model soldiers and police. They look like model movie sets depicting everyday life in Baghdad.

Afnan, 12 years old, shows me her model called “Arresting the Terrorists.”

“These are the terrorists,” she tells me. “They were trying to blow up the school.” In the middle of the street a dead “terrorist” sprawls on the asphalt, his bloody arm torn from his body by an explosion. Afnan tells me she used red nail polish to paint the blood. A little plastic dog stands nearby. “What is he doing?” I ask. “He looks for terrorists and searches for weapons and explosives,” Afnan says.

Afnan was likely six years old or so when Dick Cheney and George Bush invaded Iraq on the series of false pretexts Cheney is still defending. As I understand it, Christianity was not persecuted in the days before the US invasion, so Cheney and Bush cannot lay claim to having brought freedom of religion. Afnan’s diorama of ethnic and religious violence was brought to her directly from Bush and Cheney. Indeed, in a remarkable performance for its baldfaced defense of wrongdoing, Dick Cheney appeared on Fox News Sunday and laid out a case for Bush Administration successes, a performance stunning in its tenuous grip on reality, at least the reality young Afnan sees. From the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Cheney, speaking less than a month before he and President Bush leave the White House, was blunt and unapologetic about his central role in some of the most controversial issues of the last eight years, including the invasion of Iraq, warrantless surveillance of U.S. citizens, and harsh interrogation tactics. Cheney also said he disagreed with Bush’s decision to remove embattled Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld in 2006, saying that “the president doesn’t always take my advice.”

“I was a Rumsfeld man,” Cheney said. “I’d helped recruit him, and I thought he did a good job for us.”

The interview was the second in less than a week for the normally reclusive vice president, and it comes as part of a broad effort by Bush and his aides to focus attention on issues that they consider major accomplishments of their two terms in office. In an interview with ABC News last week, Cheney suggested the administration would have gone to war with Iraq even without erroneous intelligence showing that Saddam Hussein had developed weapons of mass destruction. Cheney also said in that interview that he approved of the administration’s use of coercive interrogation tactics, including a type of simulated drowning known as waterboarding, against Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, and others.

Dick Cheney seals his reputation for all time as the puppetmaster behind the throne who supported policies of spying on US citiznes, invading Iraq, supporting Rumsfeld’s failed strategies, torture, etc. Perhaps because the performance was on Fox News Cheney’s immediate viewing audience did not sit in shock at the man responsible for the disasters of the last seven years. Perhaps those viewers even cheered. The rest of us know that Cheney’s policies have mangled our constitution, have destroyed our reputation in the world, have killed hundreds of thousands of innocents, and have led to the terror in young Afnan’s art project.

Again, a Republican such as Dick Cheney proves he has no sense of shame.

Monday, December 22nd, 2008 by Steven Reynolds |

One Leg Raised on the Bush–Cheney Legacy: Deconstructing the Spin and Propaganda

The Republican Party, in the person of its lame duck Chair, Mike Duncan, has already begun its campaign to vilify the supposed leftist Obama government, but the same extremist Republicans ignore their history of trampling on the constitution, of incompetence, of fearmongering, etc. The Party of Honest Abe has lost touch with honesty, opting for distortion as usual.


Commentary By: Walter Brasch

by Walter Brasch

The chairman of the Republican National Committee may have begun an irreversible descent into a future as a fear-bound paranoid victim of functional amnesia, possibly caused by a hysterical post-traumatic event such as the overwhelming victory of Democrats in the 2008 election and the nation’s repudiation of Republican policies.

In a two-page vitriol-loaded letter dated “Friday morning”–he apparently was unable to remember the exact date–Robert M. (Mike) Duncan, RNC chairman, told Americans that the Democrats plan to “impose their radical leftist agenda on America,” and that Republicans “must work vigilantly to guard our country’s freedoms from the inevitable assault [by Democrats] they will face.” He didn’t mention that not one of Barack Obama’s proposed cabinet members nor any of the members of the current Congress is a “radical leftist.”

It’s really sad that Mike forgot that fear-mongering, obstruction of justice, reduction of public information, distrust and resentment of the worker, and curtailment of civil liberties–with the complicity of millions of Americans and much of the Democratic leadership who willingly crumpled under unremitting Neocon assaults–have been the base of the Bush–Cheney Administration and a Republican-dominated Congress for most of the past eight years. Perhaps I can shock what little memory Mike may have left in the hope that some of his brain cells may once again function.

It was the Republicans, not the Democrats, who systematically violated the Constitution, while screaming “The terrorists are coming! The terrorists ar

Sunday, December 21st, 2008 by Walter Brasch |
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