Monday, 16 July 2007

SENATORS WEBB AND GRAHAM ON IRAQ

Ken Berwitz

Did you see the angry debate on Meet The Press, between Senators Jim Webb (D-VA) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) about Iraq?  If you didn't, you really ought to.



jimmyq Graham went from being a goat on immigration to a hero on Iraq. He nailed Webb, especially when Webb made it look like Graham didn't know about Iraq and Graham told him he was there 7 times and Webb turned out to be the guy who was never there. (07/16/07)

kip152 I sure did. Webb creamed Graham. (07/16/07)


LIVE EARTH, DEAD RATINGS

Ken Berwitz

It is now a week after the Live Earth Concerts, Al Gore's worldwide wakeup call to get people to think the way he does.  Live Earth was truly a star-studded event, as the article below points out. 

And because of its compelling message and plethora of stars, ratings went through the roof, which is why media can't stop talking about it since the event took place.

Well.............no.

Despite the hype and the fanfare and something like 75 hours of programming courtesy of NBC (as if they needed another reason to fawn over Gore), Live Earth was a flop bordering on a catastrophe.

Which probably explains why media have pretty much stopped talking about it altogether (as opposed to reporting what a disappointment it was).

Here are the particulars, from www.hollywoodreporter.com:.

Live Earth ratings on cool side

By Paul J. Gough and Alex Woodson
July 10, 2007

NEW YORK -- NBC's three-hour Live Earth primetime special, which included highlights from Saturday's global concerts, failed to generate much enthusiasm in the ratings.

The estimated 2.7 million viewers were slightly less than the 3 million NBC would average on a normal Saturday night in the summer with repeats on what already is the least-popular night of television.

It was less successful than what MSN experienced online for Live Earth. MSN said Monday that more than 8 million users streamed 15.4 million videos of Live Earth on MSN live. That's ahead of the 5 million people who watched 2005's Live 8 concert via AOL.

Ratings for individual cable networks weren't available until today, but Nielsen Media Research said Monday that 19 million people tuned in to at least six minutes of the telecasts on NBC, Bravo, Sundance or the other NBC Universal channels that were involved in Sunday's telecast.

NBC's telecast performed below the Live 8 concert two years ago, according to preliminary estimates by Nielsen Media Research.

What happened?  How could this be?  The whole world is at one with Mr. Gore and his cause, isn't it?

Well, anyway, that's what we keep being told by a breathless media. 

Personally, I think a more realistic assessment is that people are going to pay lip service to the Gore mantra because it's "the right thing to say".  But in reality they have no particular fervor for what he is selling and, at home, when there isn't a research interviewer there to impress, they just tune out and switch channels.

If you have a better explanation I'd like to see it.  I can be persuaded.  But right now, that's what it looks like to me.


ABOUT THAT PRIUS.....

Ken Berwitz

Why do people buy the Toyota Prius? 

Is it to "save the planet"?  And, if so, do they have any idea at all about whether a Prius is actually beneficial to doing so?

Or is it for bragging rights and to feel superior to friends and neighbors?

Well, Brian Maloney, at www.radioequalizer.blogspot.com may have supplied some of the answers.  Take a look:.

ANTI-SMUGSTER BACKLASH

Over Arrogant Attitude, 'Prius Progressives' Ridiculed

Beyond the outrageous cost of living and general overcrowding, what has made the Left Coast's bluest territory so unbearable is the increasingly- smug attitude of the Bay Area's supposedly "progressive" inhabitants.

Almost always white, they secretly prefer their own neighborhoods as minority- free as possible and through restrictive land- use policies that sent home prices to the moon, they've done a great job in recent years cleansing San Francisco of African- Americans.

As far left politically as one could imagine, they form the primary support base for Nancy Pelosi and Barbara Boxer.

Always quick to scold those who are seen as "impure" or "unenlightened", they've recently gone overboard on another issue: touting their automotive superiority to the point where an anti-Prius backlash has begun, according to the
San Francisco Chronicle:

Virtue may be its own reward -- but as any self-respecting Prius Progressive can attest, the payoffs of hybrid ownership don't stop there. Beyond the gas pump savings, the tax breaks, the entree to carpool lanes, the freedom to park without feeding meters and the aura of cool kinship with Hollywood hybriders such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Cameron Diaz, comes something more visceral.

"Absolutely, they're buying the car for the statement it makes more than anything," Art Spinella, president of CNW Marketing, told reporters last week.

The firm's research concluded that more customers pick the Prius over alternatives like the hybrid version of the Honda Civic precisely because the Prius is exclusively -- and identifiably -- a hybrid. While just 36 percent cited fuel economy as a prime motivator for buying a Prius, 57 percent said their main reason was that "it makes a statement about me."

What's more, in focus groups, many Prius buyers admit expecting acclaim from friends and co-workers for making such a socially responsible, planet-saving purchase.

But the satisfaction of some eco-drivers risks swelling to self-righteousness -- like the Prius driver coasting down Highway 101 in Marin County last week with the bumper sticker: "How many lives to the gallon do you get?"

When Arianna Huffington wrote a testimonial to the Prius' ability to reduce foreign oil dependence and called owning one "an act of patriotism," her Huffingtonpost.com site also created a virtual photo album for hybrid owners. Actor/writer Larry David, whose wife is reported to delight in flipping off Hummer drivers from the comfort of her Prius, quipped "I needed something to make me feel smugly superior."

Add to the mix the bitterness some other drivers feel because parking and carpool lane rules don't apply to most hybrid owners, and the hypocrisy of Prius-preening celebrities who prefer to travel on private jets, and even the recent arrest of Al Gore's son, an associate editor of a magazine called Good, who allegedly was speeding at more than 100 mph in a Prius.

The predictable result? Backlash.

An episode of the raunchy and politically incorrect cartoon "South Park" took merciless aim. One character purchases a "Toyunda Pious" and tries to harangue the rest of the town into converting, before giving up and fleeing to be among fellow hybrid lovers in San Francisco.

Soon the folks in South Park see the light and switch to hybrids as well, only to discover that although smog rates are plummeting, hybrid drivers are rampantly spewing a toxic gas called "smug" -- leaving South Park with a smug pollution level second only to San Francisco. Then, oppressive smug clouds above both collide with a third smug cloud emitted by George Clooney's Oscar speech, creating a "perfect storm."

Ultimately people vow to eschew hybrids regardless of their virtue: the prospect of driving them sans smugness is "simply too much to ask."

Right-wing politicos exude a similar caustic cynicism toward Prius owners, whom they seem to regard as stand-in punching bags for their old nemesis Gore.

Complaining about liberal greenies motivated by "glamour reasons" to buy Priuses, Rush Limbaugh declared "I wouldn't be caught dead in one of those things. They look ugly to boot. I mean, part of the intrigue of these things is they've tried to design these things as a car that the Jetsons would drive. These liberals think they're ahead of the game on these things, and they're just suckers."


South Park has it right: a city built on smug is going to need more than a few downpours to clean its filthy air. In the meantime, Bay Area "progressive" elitists sure are good at alienating the rest of the nation.


Here, Rush Limbaugh explains why they may not be saving the environment after all:
(March 13 2007) We have a fascinating editorial here from a college campus -- and as we all know, college campi are frequented in the majority status, by liberals. So this is interesting. Chris Demorro is writing in the Editorial and Commentary section of the Central Connecticut State University Recorder Online.

Here's the headline: "Prius Outdoes Hummer in Environmental Damage -- The Toyota Prius has become the flagship car for those in our society so environmentally conscious that they are willing to spend a premium to show the world how much they care. Unfortunately for them, their ultimate 'green car' is the source of some of the worst pollution in North America; it takes more combined energy per Prius to produce than a Hummer. Before we delve into the seedy underworld of hybrids, you must first understand how a hybrid works. For this, we will use the most popular hybrid on the market, the Toyota Prius.

The Prius is powered by not one, but two engines: a standard 76 horsepower, 1.5-liter gas engine found in most cars today and a battery- powered engine that deals out 67 horsepower and a whooping 295ft/lbs of torque, below 2000 revolutions per minute. Essentially, the Toyota Synergy Drive system, as it is so called, propels the car from a dead stop to up to 30mph. This is where the largest percent of gas is consumed."

Anyway, it goes on to say, if you are really an environmentalist - ditch the Prius. Instead, buy one of the most economical cars available - a Toyota Scion xB. The Scion only costs a paltry $0.48 per mile to put on the road. If you are still obsessed over gas mileage - buy a Chevy Aveo and fix that lead foot. It takes five years to offset the premium price of a Prius. Meaning, you have to wait 60 months to save any money over a non-hybrid car because of lower gas expenses. This is from a college newspaper, ladies and gentlemen, where you would think that the Prius would be among the most prized possessions among the "environmentally conscious." That's just the tip of the iceberg of what's coming.

So where does the smug attitude originate, particularly in San Francisco? It comes from the unique way in which the so- called "progressive" movement has isolated itself from individuals and ideas that differ from its own. Also common in Portland and Seattle, it takes different forms there.

Once separated from the rest of society, these extremists easily fall for kooky conspiracy theories (Bush was behind 9-11, etc) and elect fringe politicians.

Luckily, the best way to fight back is to expose who they are and what they do to the rest of the world. Under the slightest bit of scrutiny, the "progressive" movement is revealed as silly and foolish.
.

Ok, let's summarize:

-While some people buy the Prius in a sincere attempt to reduce emissions, a great many do so to feel superior to their friends, relatives and neighbors.

-It costs more energy to build a Prius than a Hummer;

-Given average use, it takes five years to get out from under and break even.  You have to keep the Prius longer than 5 years to realize any savings.

-And here's one that isn't in the article:  A Prius has two engines which have to be maintained, thus it is inherently a more complex vehicle than conventional gas-powered cars.  That means you probably are not going to break even in five years anyway, because you will have spent a good deal more in maintenance costs....and that disparity will continue for as long as you have the car.  You'll probably wind up losing money.

My wife and I have two gas powered cars.  Both of them get over 20 MPG in town and over 30MPG on the highway.  And - this is a biggie that transcends what car you own - we are CAREFUL about how we drive.  We don't do jackrabbit starts and other gas-guzzling maneuvers.  That is why the mileage we get from both cars exceeds their EPA estimates.

We wish everyone chose and drove their cars more carefully.   Then mileage would go up across the board, regardless of what vehicle was being driven.

However, it is also true that each of our cars has one half the number of engines in a Prius.  This probably disqualifies us from being able to give the finger to people who drive Hummers, like Laurie David does.  

On the other hand, we never drive either car to a private plane which takes us somewhere at an energy cost that blows away anything we would have saved in a Prius.  And Laurie David does that regularly. 

Hmmmm.  Maybe we should be giving Laurie David the finger.


HASSAN BUTT SPEAKS OUT AGAIN

Ken Berwitz

In my blog of July 2, I posted a commentary from "Hassan Butt", a former jihadist and spokesperson for jihadist causes, who appears to have crossed over, renounced that part of his life and is now committed to fighting global terrorism. 

I know that name sounds a little suspicious, but evidently he is real and - at least from the July 2 commentary and the new one I have posted below - so is his David Horowitz-like change of beliefs.

In any event, Mr. Butt wrote an excellent and highly illuminating commentary in Saturday's Times of London.  It provides an insider's look at the thinking process of many Muslims, which is of superseding importance for all of us to understand. 

Please read this - if for no other reason out of respect for how dangerous its publication is for Mr. Butt and, therefore, how courageous he must be to have written it:.

July 14, 2007

Muslim heads stuck firmly in the sand

Hassan Butt, a former jihadist, demands some fresh thinking

In the aftermath of the 7/7 bombings I remember having a passionate discussion with some friends about who was responsible for the attacks. Its the work of the security services; I can put my life on it! one said. In fact, I think theyve killed off these guys, planted their stuff on the trains and then just blamed it on the Muslims again. Then came a timid voice of opposition. Shaf, I dont think theyd kill their own people, I mean Tony Blair isnt that evil. I think Mossad had a hand in it.

The theories in the Muslim community were wide and varied: some believed the bombings were orchestrated by the Government in order to justify ever more draconian laws. Others believed it was near-impossible for four British-born Muslims to be behind such indiscriminate violence, so the first suicide attacks on British soil must have been the work of other terrorist organisations. Two years on I still hear the same conspiracy theories being clung to by a Muslim community that is living in a comforting state of denial.

Denial by definition is a psychological defence system by which people protect themselves from things that threaten them or make them feel uncomfortable. People do this by refusing to acknowledge the awkward person, thing or event, or by attacking any allegation of the existence of such difficulties.

I spent many years in the British Jihadi Network. While I was a member of that extremist group, I was told to encourage the spread of such theories because they created a useful, murky state of confusion. Propagating the idea that the Government was victimising Muslims by painting them as the bogeymen of the 21st century recruited young men to the radical camp.

For instance, there was a guy in my year at college who was a known drug dealer. He wasnt at all subtle in displaying the wealth he had obtained from selling drugs and it was widely known that his family knew what he was up to but had decided it was easier to pretend it wasnt happening, rather then confront the problems within their household. The same happens in our communities if someones sister or daughter is seen at a club or in the company of males, the first response will always be: No, my daughter isnt that type of girl! How dare you accuse my daughter and stain her untainted reputation.

This tendency towards denial is now writ large with the problem of terrorism and Muslims. Lets remember that the older generation of Muslims emigrated to Britain aspiring to work hard and to better their standard of living. They had always been law-abiding citizens whose loyalties lay with Britain in the main. Muslim involvement in terrorism here in Britain carries as much or even more shame for them as a drug-dealing son or a promiscuous daughter. Muslims do not deal with shame very well or anything that tarnishes their honour or reputation.

Just alcoholics or drug addicts must acknowledge that they have an addiction problem, we Muslims need to accept that there is a problem within our communities. Only when Muslims admit that 9/11 and 7/7 were the work of Muslim terrorists can we move forward to the next juncture: which is recognising the hard truth that Islam does permit the use of violence. Muslims who deny this, preferring instead to mouth easy platitudes about how Islam is nothing but a religion of peace, make the job easier for the radicals who can point to passages in the Koran, set down in black and white, that instruct on the killing of unbelievers.

I disagree with those who say the pressing problem is simply how do we deal with an aberrant, extreme minority who have unleashed a reign of terror on Britain - rather, I believe the heart of the matter is Islam itself and how its teachings are interpreted. If we isolate the problem to that of the extreme fringe, then we are merely skimming the surface.

What we Muslims need to do is go back to our books: we need to debate the teachings that are used to radicalise young men and legitimise the killing of innocent people. We need to discuss and refashion the set of rules that govern how Muslims - whose homes and souls are firmly planted in the West - live alongside nonMuslims. Only when we do this can we successfully dissect the radicals interpretation of Islam and fight back against terrorism.

We can no longer turn a blind eye to the driving force behind terror attacks both at home and abroad. It should not matter how painful or embarrassing this admission may be, and nor should it matter how taboo this subject is. .

Tremendous.  Insightful.  Logical.  Frightening.  And imperative for us to pay attention to and learn from.


SHORTER AMERICANS AND DEAF FLIES

Ken Berwitz

Some time ago I blogged an old story from when I was growing up, about the professor who pulled the wings off of a fly and then screamed  "FLY!" at it.  When the fly stayed put, the professor concluded that when you pull off a fly's wings it becomes deaf.

The joke, of course, was that the professor missed the most obvious answer.  As kids this was very, very funny to us.

Well, now I'm an adult.  And it never fails to amaze me that I can come across variations of this joke almost every day in the real world -- but not asa joke.

Want a great example?  Read this excerpt from an Associated Press article I found in today's Chicago Tribune:.

Americans not measuring up

As the world grows taller, why is the U.S. falling short? Health care, diet may hold key

By Matt Crenson
Associated Press
Published July 16, 2007

NEW YORK -- America used to be the tallest country in the world.

But the nations predominance has faded. Americans reached a height plateau after World War II, gradually falling behind much of the industrialized world.

By the time the Baby Boomers reached adulthood in the 1960s, most Northern and Western European countries had surpassed the United States. Young adults in Japan and other prosperous Asian countries now stand nearly as tall as Americans do.

In the 1850s, all the nations of Western Europe stood 2 1/2 inches shorter than their American brethren.

Obviously America is not doing badly, said historian John Komlos. But its also not doing as well as it could.  .

Do these guys ever read their own articles?  How many words have emanated from the Associated Press about immigration, legal or illegal, from Mexico?  How many native Mexicans are currently in the USA?

The answer to my first question is about 43 billion, give or take.  The answer to the second (maybe a tad less exaggerated), is about 12 million.

Have you noticed something about native Mexicans?  On average, they are shorter than non-Mexicans in the USA.  So tell me;  what effect does the addition of 12 million native Mexicans have on overall average height in the USA? 

I won't answer, because to think you need an answer is a gross insult to your intelligence.

Similarly, this enormous influx of Mexicans - and Haitians and Cubans among others - has a profound affect on many other indicators as well, including average wages, how many people have no health care insurance, etc.  

But the AP (as well as most other mainstream media) don't seem to have the capacity to connect these dots.  The fly is deaf.

Are they just stupid?  Or do they not know because they don't want to know. 

You tell me.


APPROVAL RATING UPDATE

Ken Berwitz

Periodically, I compare the approval ratings for President Bush to those of the Democratic congress. 

Given that I have very, very little regard for political polls, why do I blog about these ratings?  I blog about them because the media have made an obsession out of telling us how badly President Bush is doing, while somehow either downplaying the congressional approval ratings or ignoring them entirely.  And since media treat political polls as if they came straight from Olympus, it is important that you understand just how completely they mislead you by showing only President Bush's ratings.

For your delectation, here, courtesy of www.pollingreport.com ,  are the combined approval ratings from the last 6 political polls for President Bush and the Democratic congress:

President Bush:  An average of 29.2%.  That's awful.

The Democratic congress:  An average of 24.3%.  If Bush's approval ratings are awful, what would you call this?

Well, if you're mainstream media you probably don't have to think about what to call it, because you're probably not reporting it.

And that, folks, is another example of the media bias I talk about.


PROFESSOR SHINYA YAMANAKA. REMEMBER THAT NAME

Ken Berwitz

Ok, I admit it isn't as memorable as Harry Potter or Cameron Diaz (two people who, albeit for very different reasons, live in fantasy worlds).  But I am hopeful you will have a huge reason to remember Professor Yamanaka in the near future. 

This is because he may be on the verge of making the embryonic stem cell debate nonexistent.

Shinya Yamanaka is a Japanese geneticist who may have uncovered a technology that takes skin cells and reverts them back to stem cells.  Let me show you from the following excerpts in today's Times of London:.

Japans leading genetics researcher could be a matter of months from reaching the Holy Grail of biotechnology producing an ethical human stem cell without using a human embryo, he has said.


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