Tuesday, 31 July 2007

ONE-SIDED POLITICS AND UNINTENTIONAL COMEDY

Ken Berwitz

Not long ago I had a more or less friendly discussion with an acquaintance about Bill O'Reilly and Keith Olbermann. 

Our discussion wasn't heated.  It couldn't be since, while I have no respect for Olbermann and his joke of a "show", I'm not particularly taken with O'Reilly either.  He is arrogant, pompous and continually breaks in on his guests (something that, in fairness, happens on virtually all cable talk shows except for Olbermann's "Countdown".  More on this below).

In any event, at one point I was told that Olbermann was a better interviewer than O'Reilly because "he doesn't interrupt the guests, he lets them talk".  I answered with words to the effect that "Of COURSE he doesn't interrupt his guests, they all agree with him"  I then challenged my acquaintance to name one guest he had seen on Countdown in his memory that disagreed with Olbermann. 

The answer?  I'm still waiting for it. 

My acquaintance sputtered out something like "He has plenty of them".  The rest of the discussion, paraprhased (I can't remember every word verbatim of course), was me saying  "Then name a few".  My acquaintance saying "Just because I can't think of any right now doesn't mean they don't exist", me saying "The fact that you can't think of any doesn't mean they DO exist.  How come you can't name even one?  What's the most obvious reason?" and my acquaintance then changing the subject. 

I doubt that we will ever discuss the difference between Olbermann and O'Reilly again. 

This leads me to one of the funnier consequences of Olbermann's never having a dissenting voice on his "show".  Simply stated, when you never have anyone who disagrees with you, it opens the door for the looniest BS in the world to be stated with nothing more than a nod of agreement in response.  

I'm certain that Mr. Olbermann does not intentionally provide this kind of ongoing comedy and may not even be aware that he does.  But he does.  

Want a case in point?  Then please read following account of a segment between Olbermann and Richard Wolffe, Newsweek's senior political correspondent, who is a Countdown regular and an unfailingly reliable suck-up for Olbermann. 

It was written by the always-worth-reading Mark Finkelstein of Newsbusters, who provides both a verbatim transcript and video, which you can find by clicking on http://newsbusters.org/blogs/mark-finkelstein/2007/07/31/newsweeks-wolffe-obama-centrist

This is a classic example of the unintentional comedy that is created when idiocy is accepted as fact because both interviewer and interviewee are on the same political page:.

Newsweek's Wolffe: Obama a 'Centrist'

Created 2007-07-31 08:06

What would you call a candidate whose i [1]nterest group ratings [2] include:

  • 100% from Planned Parenthood
  • 100% from NARAL
  • 0% from the Illinois Association for Right to Life
  • 0% from Americans for Tax Reform
  • 100% from the NAACP
  • 8% from the American Conservative Union
  • 100% from the NEA [teachers union]
  • 100% from Children's Defense Fund [Hillary's old group]
  • 100% from NOW
  • 88% from the American Immigration Lawyers Association
  • 0% from the Federation for American Immigration Reform
  • 100% from the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees
  • 100% from Americans for Democratic Action [gold-standard of old lefty groups]

Again, what would you call such a candidate? Well, if he's Barack Obama, and you're Richard Wolffe, you'd call him a "centrist."

View video here. [2]

Wolffe is Newsweeks Senior White House Correspondent. The Keith Olbermann fave turned up on "Morning Joe" today to discuss his Newsweek story [3] on the Hillary-Obama dust-up. Wolffe argues that experience in presidential candidates is generally over-rated and that Hillary's in particular isnt all it's played up to be. He observes that whereas Hillary touts the number of countries she's visited, Laura Bush has also visited 68 countries and no on is mentioning her name as a potential Commander-in-Chief.

Wolffe certainly seems to have something for Obama. Not only did he downplay Hillary's experience, he also categorized the Illinois senator's politics this way:

He's basically a centrist politician. He's annoyed the teachers union. He went to Detroit and annoyed the car industry. But [his record of opposing] the war gives him a lot of cover to take very centrist positions.

It's true that Obama did express support [4] for merit pay, anathema to the teachers unions. But he has otherwise toed the teachers' line, as reflected in his 100% NEA rating. And when it comes to annoying the car industry, he did so from the left. An article [5]in Wolffe's own Newsweek noted that Obama:

castigat[ed] Motown's big wheels for driving our dependence on foreign oil. "For years, while foreign competitors were investing in more fuel-efficient technology for their vehicles, American automakers were spending their time investing in bigger, faster cars," Obama told an audience stunned into silence after greeting him with a standing ovation."Whenever an attempt was made to raise our fuel efficiency standards, the auto companies would lobby furiously against it, spending millions to prevent the very reform that could've saved their industry. Even as they've shed thousands of jobs and billions in profits over the last few years, they've continued to reward failure with lucrative bonuses for CEOs."

How does that make Obama a centrist?

But Wolffe's characterization fits the pattern. While the MSM regularly labels Republicans as "conservative," "hard-right," etc., there is virtually no Dem the MSM can't declare "centrist" or "moderate," from Al Gore, to John Kerry, and now to Obama. .

Wow.

Over the four years he has been on MSNBC, Olbermann has drawn an audience of, I would surmise, two groups:  1) hard leftists - the dailykos, crooksandliars and democraticunderground types who love his one-sidedness and farbissoner, take-no-prisoners demeanor;  2) people like me, who see Olbermann as a one dimensional obnoxious coward who can't stand being challenged, so they watch Coundown on occasion to marvel at how bizarre the resulting spectacle is.

And though I consider this type of "journalism" a disgrace, I do understand why MSNBC keeps him on.  It is because, although Olbermann is so far behind O'Reilly in viewership that I doubt he can even see the dust in the distance, he has more viewers than the other, even worse-rated, MSNBC shows.  That goes especially for Chris Mouthews, who is in Olbermann's league arrogance-wise, but has appreciably lower ratings than he does.

What I can't understand is why Newsweek, or any supposedly "neutral" media venue, would ever keep someone as warped by his political prejudices as Richard Wolffe.


LETTERS TO THE EDITOR UPDATE

Ken Berwitz

Yesterday I blogged about the New York Times doing its monthly op-ed that presents the other side of their editorial positions (The New York Times' Sacrificial Lamb).  At that time I promised a spate of letters being published that rip the authors of the piece to shreds, and described how the letters would most likely be written.  I said they would come either one or two days afterwards.

Today's Times has no letters at all about the op-ed.  So they'll be there tomorrow.  Stay tuned.


LETTERS TO THE EDITOR UPDATE

Ken Berwitz

Yesterday I blogged about the New York Times doing its monthly op-ed that presents the other side of their editorial positions (The New York Times' Sacrificial Lamb).  At that time I promised a spate of letters being published that rip the authors of the piece to shreds, and described how the letters would most likely be written.  I said they would come either one or two days afterwards.

Today's Times has no letters at all about the op-ed.  So they'll be there tomorrow.  Stay tuned.


GUEST COMMENTARY BY KHALED ABU TOAMEH

Ken Berwitz

Most of you probably have never heard of  Khaled Abu Toameh (I didn't either, until I read his commentary).  But Mr. this man has something very important to say about terrorists, fighting terrorists and the blatant hypocrisy, dishonesty and prejudice of the United Nations.

Here it is:.

Silence on Nahr al-Bared
Khaled Abu Toameh -

For the past three months, a Palestinian refugee camp in the Middle East has been under attack, resulting in the death of hundreds of people and the displacement of nearly half of the camps 40,000 residents. Yet the United Nations Security Council has not held an emergency session to condemn the attack. Nor have the governments of France and Britain issued statements condemning the atrocities against the Palestinian refugees in the Nahr al-Bared camp in northern Lebanon. For those who may wonder why there is no public outcry, the answer is simple. The army that is attacking the camp with heavy artillery and helicopter warships is not the IDF. Its an Arab armythe Lebanese Army.

Palestinian refugee camps in the Palestinian territories and Lebanon have long served as bases for various terror groups. In the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the IDF has been forced over the past few years to launch pinpoint operations against Hamas, Fatah, and Islamic Jihad terrorists who find shelter among civilians. Most of the Israeli military operations have drawn sharp criticism from the international community and the Arab world, even when the raids resulted only in the killing or capture of the terrorists.

I was one of the journalists covering the battle in the West Banks Jenin refugee camp in 2002. Then, the Israelis lost 23 soldiers because they were reluctant to use artillery and tanks out of fear that civilians would be hurt. I still remember how IDF officers briefed their soldiers before the operation, asking them to do their utmost to avoid civilian casualties. Although more than 80 percent of the victims of the ensuing battle were members of armed groups that had operated freely in the camp, many human rights organizations (and some governments) continue to refer to the events there as the Jenin massacre.

In the case of Nahr al-Bared, the story is completely different. No one seems to care about the fact that dozens of civilians have been killed in the fighting between Lebanese troops and terrorists belonging to the al Qaeda-linked Fatah al-Islam group. A Palestinian who fled the camp two weeks ago told me that over 200 houses have been completely destroyed in the fighting, and that bodies have been lying in the streets for weeks.

We brought this tragedy upon ourselves, he admitted. We allowed this group of terrorists to establish their bases inside the camp and now we are paying the price. The world doesnt care about us anymore because they say we had harbored the terrorists and provided them with food and medicine. Have Palestinian refugees in other camps in the Middle East drawn the same conclusion? The answer is a big no. Militiamen and armed gangs continue to operate in most of these camps, especially in the Palestinian territories and in Lebanon. The Lebanese army and the IDF still have a lot of difficult work ahead of them. Sadly, many civilians will continue to pay the priceunless they wake up one morning and decide to expel the terrorists from their streets.  .

If you are a regular reader of my blogs, you can't be surprised by the United Nations acting this way.  But since they do it over and over and over again, it is important to expose each major instance, so you know that the organization's hypocrisy, dishonesty and prejudice remain intact.  Just another day at the UN.  Business as usual. 

And the left wanted these people to administer IRAQ?  They demanded that we "let the UN do its work"?

Are they as hypocritical, dishonest and prejudiced as the UN?  Or just plain stupid?


JOHN CONYERS WANTS....ANOTHER INVESTIGATION!!

Ken Berwitz

Can these people even SPELL legislation?  They sure as hell don't seem interested in providing any, do they?

Here is the latest of an estimated 36,824 demands for investigations and hearings by the Democratic majority.  This is another of the ones that - like the hiring and firing of US attorneys - congress has no oversight responsibility for.  But since the Democratic motto since January has been "Don't legislate, investigate", what's the difference to them?

The article is from CNN, but I'm posting it from the www.sweetness-light.com site, because I think they have done a great job of explaining why Conyers' involvement would be an exercise in pure, unadulterated horse manure..

Committee demanding details of NSA data-mining

WASHINGTON (CNN) A House committee is requesting Justice Department documents on a data-mining project that identified the senders and recipients of calls and e-mails intercepted via the National Security Agencys eavesdropping program.

In a Monday letter, Rep. John Conyers, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, asked Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to hand over all opinions, memoranda and background materials, as well as any dissenting views, materials, and opinions about the data-mining program.

While the Bush administration has acknowledged OKing the controversial program in which the government wiretapped phone calls without obtaining a warrant, it has remained mum on whether it authorized the NSA to use computers to sift through databases to identify who participated in intercepted communications. (The computers reportedly do not identify the contents of the communications.)

Critics have said the surveillance program violates a 1978 act requiring a special courts approval before eavesdropping on communications in intelligence cases.

In his letter, Conyers wrote that his committee is considering changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and therefore must be fully apprised of these controversial, and possibly unlawful, programs.

The Michigan Democrat continued, It is difficult to craft appropriate legislative responses unless we have all of the relevant facts concerning these programs.

How many times are the Democrats and their lickspittle slaveys in the media going to go down this road?

It is simply ignorance on parade.

Data mining is not eavesdropping under any definition of the word. It is at best traffic analysis.

And, as such, is not restricted by any of the laws these ignoramuses like John Conyers (D-Al Qaeda) trot out.

And it certainly does not violate the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) mentioned in the article.

As we have noted often before, acts own definitions make clear that law speaks only to content:

TITLE 50 > CHAPTER 36 > SUBCHAPTER I >  1801

 1801. Definitions

As used in this subchapter:

(f) Electronic surveillance means

(1) the acquisition by an electronic, mechanical, or other surveillance device of the contents of any wire or radio communication sent by or intended to be received by a particular, known United States person who is in the United States, if the contents are acquired by intentionally targeting that United States person, under circumstances in which a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy and a warrant would be required for law enforcement purposes;

(2) the acquisition by an electronic, mechanical, or other surveillance device of the contents of any wire communication to or from a person in the United States, without the consent of any party thereto, if such acquisition occurs in the United States, but does not include the acquisition of those communications of computer trespassers that would be permissible under section 2511 (2)(i) of title 18;

(3) the intentional acquisition by an electronic, mechanical, or other surveillance device of the contents of any radio communication, under circumstances in which a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy and a warrant would be required for law enforcement purposes, and if both the sender and all intended recipients are located within the United States; or

(4) the installation or use of an electronic, mechanical, or other surveillance device in the United States for monitoring to acquire information, other than from a wire or radio communication, under circumstances in which a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy and a warrant would be required for law enforcement purposes.

But never mind that. It makes for great headlines for the great unwashed.

Though, come to think of it, maybe Mr. Conyers does have some reason to be concerned about anyone monitoring his phone calls..

I can only wonder how many people who voted Democratic in November are wondering why today.  If you believe political polls, the answer is a huge number of them, because, in two major polls (Zogby and Gallup), congress is at its historic all time low in job approval. 

Connect the dots.  They don't do a damn thing to legislate for the country, all they seem invested in is hearings, investigations and other "gotcha" activities, and their job approval ratings fell through a trap door. 

Hello?  Anyone home over on capital hill?


THE UN'S CLINTON STRATEGY

Ken Berwitz

Remember when the Serbs and Croats were fighting a war against each other? 

Remember all the ethnic cleansing?  Remember something like 250,000 dead and entire villages "cleansed of the hated other side?  Remember the countless Serbs being removed from their homes and their land? 

Now:  remember the UN doing anything about it?  Remember the USA doing anything about it? 

Are you kidding? This is the UN we're talking about.  This is the Clinton presidency we're talking about.

What you actually can remember is when Bill Clinton finally did send troops there.  AFTER the 250,000 died and the ethnic cleansing took place.

Well, that worked so well that the United Nations has decided to reprise the same formula for Darfur.  Read this:.

U.N. approves 26,000-strong peacekeeping force for Darfur

UNITED NATIONS (AP) The U.N. Security Council approved a 26,000-strong peacekeeping force for Darfur on Tuesday to try to help end four years of fighting that has killed more than 200,000 people in the conflict-wracked Sudanese region.

The force the first joint peacekeeping mission by the African Union and the United Nations will replace the beleaguered 7,000-strong AU force now on the ground in Darfur no later than Dec. 31. The council urged that the AU-U.N. "hybrid" force achieve "full operational capability and force strength as soon as possible thereafter."

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called it a "historic and unprecedented resolution" that will send "a clear and powerful signal" of the U.N.'s commitment to help to the people of Darfur and the surrounding region "and close this tragic chapter in Sudan's history."

Britain's U.N. Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry called it "an unprecedented undertaking in scale, complexity and importance."

The conflict in Darfur began in February 2003 when ethnic African tribes rebelled against what they consider decades of neglect and discrimination by the Arab-dominated government. Sudan's government is accused of retaliating by unleashing a militia of Arab nomads known as the janjaweed a charge it denies.

The poorly equipped and underfunded African Union force has been unable to stop the fighting, and neither has the Darfur Peace Agreement, signed a year ago by the government and one rebel group. Other rebel factions called the deal insufficient, and fighting has continued..

Does this look familiar?  Like from the same playbook?

No problem at all.  Just wait until they kill off hundreds of thousands and the issue is as close to being settled - through murder and mayhem - as possible.  THEN come marching in on your white horse to establish the peace.

The only thing worse than one instance of useless after-the-fact "action" is another one.  And there it is.

Just another example of "letting the UN do it's work"


ONE-SIDED POLITICS AND UNINTENTIONAL COMEDY

Ken Berwitz

Not long ago I had a more or less friendly discussion with an acquaintance about Bill O'Reilly and Keith Olbermann. 

Our discussion wasn't heated.  It couldn't be since, while I have no respect for Olbermann and his joke of a "show", I'm not particularly taken with O'Reilly either.  He is arrogant, pompous and continually breaks in on his guests (something that, in fairness, happens on virtually all cable talk shows except for Olbermann's "Countdown".  More on this below).

In any event, at one point I was told that Olbermann was a better interviewer than O'Reilly because "he doesn't interrupt the guests, he lets them talk".  I answered with words to the effect that "Of COURSE he doesn't interrupt his guests, they all agree with him"  I then challenged my acquaintance to name one guest he had seen on Countdown in his memory that disagreed with Olbermann. 

The answer?  I'm still waiting for it. 

My acquaintance sputtered out something like "He has plenty of them".  The rest of the discussion, paraprhased (I can't remember every word verbatim of course), was me saying  "Then name a few".  My acquaintance saying "Just because I can't think of any right now doesn't mean they don't exist", me saying "The fact that you can't think of any doesn't mean they DO exist.  How come you can't name even one?  What's the most obvious reason?" and my acquaintance then changing the subject. 

I doubt that we will ever discuss the difference between Olbermann and O'Reilly again. 

This leads me to one of the funnier consequences of Olbermann's never having a dissenting voice on his "show".  Simply stated, when you never have anyone who disagrees with you, it opens the door for the looniest BS in the world to be stated with nothing more than a nod of agreement in response.  

I'm certain that Mr. Olbermann does not intentionally provide this kind of ongoing comedy and may not even be aware that he does.  But he does.  

Want a case in point?  Then please read following account of a segment between Olbermann and Richard Wolffe, Newsweek's senior political correspondent, who is a Countdown regular and an unfailingly reliable suck-up for Olbermann. 

It was written by the always-worth-reading Mark Finkelstein of Newsbusters, who provides both a verbatim transcript and video, which you can find by clicking on http://newsbusters.org/blogs/mark-finkelstein/2007/07/31/newsweeks-wolffe-obama-centrist

This is a classic example of the unintentional comedy that is created when idiocy is accepted as fact because both interviewer and interviewee are on the same political page:.

Newsweek's Wolffe: Obama a 'Centrist'

Created 2007-07-31 08:06

What would you call a candidate whose i [1]nterest group ratings [2] include:

  • 100% from Planned Parenthood
  • 100% from NARAL
  • 0% from the Illinois Association for Right to Life
  • 0% from Americans for Tax Reform
  • 100% from the NAACP
  • 8% from the American Conservative Union
  • 100% from the NEA [teachers union]
  • 100% from Children's Defense Fund [Hillary's old group]
  • 100% from NOW
  • 88% from the American Immigration Lawyers Association
  • 0% from the Federation for American Immigration Reform
  • 100% from the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees
  • 100% from Americans for Democratic Action [gold-standard of old lefty groups]

Again, what would you call such a candidate? Well, if he's Barack Obama, and you're Richard Wolffe, you'd call him a "centrist."

View video here. [2]

Wolffe is Newsweeks Senior White House Correspondent. The Keith Olbermann fave turned up on "Morning Joe" today to discuss his Newsweek story [3] on the Hillary-Obama dust-up. Wolffe argues that experience in presidential candidates is generally over-rated and that Hillary's in particular isnt all it's played up to be. He observes that whereas Hillary touts the number of countries she's visited, Laura Bush has also visited 68 countries and no on is mentioning her name as a potential Commander-in-Chief.

Wolffe certainly seems to have something for Obama. Not only did he downplay Hillary's experience, he also categorized the Illinois senator's politics this way:

He's basically a centrist politician. He's annoyed the teachers union. He went to Detroit and annoyed the car industry. But [his record of opposing] the war gives him a lot of cover to take very centrist positions.

It's true that Obama did express support [4] for merit pay, anathema to the teachers unions. But he has otherwise toed the teachers' line, as reflected in his 100% NEA rating. And when it comes to annoying the car industry, he did so from the left. An article [5]in Wolffe's own Newsweek noted that Obama:

castigat[ed] Motown's big wheels for driving our dependence on foreign oil. "For years, while foreign competitors were investing in more fuel-efficient technology for their vehicles, American automakers were spending their time investing in bigger, faster cars," Obama told an audience stunned into silence after greeting him with a standing ovation."Whenever an attempt was made to raise our fuel efficiency standards, the auto companies would lobby furiously against it, spending millions to prevent the very reform that could've saved their industry. Even as they've shed thousands of jobs and billions in profits over the last few years, they've continued to reward failure with lucrative bonuses for CEOs."

How does that make Obama a centrist?

But Wolffe's characterization fits the pattern. While the MSM regularly labels Republicans as "conservative," "hard-right," etc., there is virtually no Dem the MSM can't declare "centrist" or "moderate," from Al Gore, to John Kerry, and now to Obama. .

Wow.

Over the four years he has been on MSNBC, Olbermann has drawn an audience of, I would surmise, two groups:  1) hard leftists - the dailykos, crooksandliars and democraticunderground types who love his one-sidedness and farbissoner, take-no-prisoners demeanor;  2) people like me, who see Olbermann as a one dimensional obnoxious coward who can't stand being challenged, so they watch Coundown on occasion to marvel at how bizarre the resulting spectacle is.

And though I consider this type of "journalism" a disgrace, I do understand why MSNBC keeps him on.  It is because, although Olbermann is so far behind O'Reilly in viewership that I doubt he can even see the dust in the distance, he has more viewers than the other, even worse-rated, MSNBC shows.  That goes especially for Chris Mouthews, who is in Olbermann's league arrogance-wise, but has appreciably lower ratings than he does.

What I can't understand is why Newsweek, or any supposedly "neutral" media venue, would ever keep someone as warped by his political prejudices as Richard Wolffe.


JOHN CONYERS WANTS....ANOTHER INVESTIGATION!!

Ken Berwitz

Can these people even SPELL legislation?  They sure as hell don't seem interested in providing any, do they?

Here is the latest of an estimated 36,824 demands for investigations and hearings by the Democratic majority.  This is another of the ones that - like the hiring and firing of US attorneys - congress has no oversight responsibility for.  But since the Democratic motto since January has been "Don't legislate, investigate", what's the difference to them?

The article is from CNN, but I'm posting it from the www.sweetness-light.com site, because I think they have done a great job of explaining why Conyers' involvement would be an exercise in pure, unadulterated horse manure..

Committee demanding details of NSA data-mining

WASHINGTON (CNN) A House committee is requesting Justice Department documents on a data-mining project that identified the senders and recipients of calls and e-mails intercepted via the National Security Agencys eavesdropping program.

In a Monday letter, Rep. John Conyers, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, asked Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to hand over all opinions, memoranda and background materials, as well as any dissenting views, materials, and opinions about the data-mining program.

While the Bush administration has acknowledged OKing the controversial program in which the government wiretapped phone calls without obtaining a warrant, it has remained mum on whether it authorized the NSA to use computers to sift through databases to identify who participated in intercepted communications. (The computers reportedly do not identify the contents of the communications.)

Critics have said the surveillance program violates a 1978 act requiring a special courts approval before eavesdropping on communications in intelligence cases.

In his letter, Conyers wrote that his committee is considering changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and therefore must be fully apprised of these controversial, and possibly unlawful, programs.

The Michigan Democrat continued, It is difficult to craft appropriate legislative responses unless we have all of the relevant facts concerning these programs.

How many times are the Democrats and their lickspittle slaveys in the media going to go down this road?

It is simply ignorance on parade.

Data mining is not eavesdropping under any definition of the word. It is at best traffic analysis.

And, as such, is not restricted by any of the laws these ignoramuses like John Conyers (D-Al Qaeda) trot out.

And it certainly does not violate the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) mentioned in the article.

As we have noted often before, acts own definitions make clear that law speaks only to content:

TITLE 50 > CHAPTER 36 > SUBCHAPTER I >  1801

 1801. Definitions

As used in this subchapter:

(f) Electronic surveillance means

(1) the acquisition by an electronic, mechanical, or other surveillance device of the contents of any wire or radio communication sent by or intended to be received by a particular, known United States person who is in the United States, if the contents are acquired by intentionally targeting that United States person, under circumstances in which a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy and a warrant would be required for law enforcement purposes;

(2) the acquisition by an electronic, mechanical, or other surveillance device of the contents of any wire communication to or from a person in the United States, without the consent of any party thereto, if such acquisition occurs in the United States, but does not include the acquisition of those communications of computer trespassers that would be permissible under section 2511 (2)(i) of title 18;

(3) the intentional acquisition by an electronic, mechanical, or other surveillance device of the contents of any radio communication, under circumstances in which a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy and a warrant would be required for law enforcement purposes, and if both the sender and all intended recipients are located within the United States; or

(4) the installation or use of an electronic, mechanical, or other surveillance device in the United States for monitoring to acquire information, other than from a wire or radio communication, under circumstances in which a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy and a warrant would be required for law enforcement purposes.

But never mind that. It makes for great headlines for the great unwashed.

Though, come to think of it, maybe Mr. Conyers does have some reason to be concerned about anyone monitoring his phone calls..

I can only wonder how many people who voted Democratic in November are wondering why today.  If you believe political polls, the answer is a huge number of them, because, in two major polls (Zogby and Gallup), congress is at its historic all time low in job approval. 

Connect the dots.  They don't do a damn thing to legislate for the country, all they seem invested in is hearings, investigations and other "gotcha" activities, and their job approval ratings fell through a trap door. 

Hello?  Anyone home over on capital hill?


GUEST COMMENTARY BY KHALED ABU TOAMEH

Ken Berwitz

Most of you probably have never heard of  Khaled Abu Toameh (I didn't either, until I read his commentary).  But Mr. this man has something very important to say about terrorists, fighting terrorists and the blatant hypocrisy, dishonesty and prejudice of the United Nations.

Here it is:.

Silence on Nahr al-Bared
Khaled Abu Toameh -

For the past three months, a Palestinian refugee camp in the Middle East has been under attack, resulting in the death of hundreds of people and the displacement of nearly half of the camps 40,000 residents. Yet the United Nations Security Council has not held an emergency session to condemn the attack. Nor have the governments of France and Britain issued statements condemning the atrocities against the Palestinian refugees in the Nahr al-Bared camp in northern Lebanon. For those who may wonder why there is no public outcry, the answer is simple. The army that is attacking the camp with heavy artillery and helicopter warships is not the IDF. Its an Arab armythe Lebanese Army.

Palestinian refugee camps in the Palestinian territories and Lebanon have long served as bases for various terror groups. In the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the IDF has been forced over the past few years to launch pinpoint operations against Hamas, Fatah, and Islamic Jihad terrorists who find shelter among civilians. Most of the Israeli military operations have drawn sharp criticism from the international community and the Arab world, even when the raids resulted only in the killing or capture of the terrorists.

I was one of the journalists covering the battle in the West Banks Jenin refugee camp in 2002. Then, the Israelis lost 23 soldiers because they were reluctant to use artillery and tanks out of fear that civilians would be hurt. I still remember how IDF officers briefed their soldiers before the operation, asking them to do their utmost to avoid civilian casualties. Although more than 80 percent of the victims of the ensuing battle were members of armed groups that had operated freely in the camp, many human rights organizations (and some governments) continue to refer to the events there as the Jenin massacre.

In the case of Nahr al-Bared, the story is completely different. No one seems to care about the fact that dozens of civilians have been killed in the fighting between Lebanese troops and terrorists belonging to the al Qaeda-linked Fatah al-Islam group. A Palestinian who fled the camp two weeks ago told me that over 200 houses have been completely destroyed in the fighting, and that bodies have been lying in the streets for weeks.

We brought this tragedy upon ourselves, he admitted. We allowed this group of terrorists to establish their bases inside the camp and now we are paying the price. The world doesnt care about us anymore because they say we had harbored the terrorists and provided them with food and medicine. Have Palestinian refugees in other camps in the Middle East drawn the same conclusion? The answer is a big no. Militiamen and armed gangs continue to operate in most of these camps, especially in the Palestinian territories and in Lebanon. The Lebanese army and the IDF still have a lot of difficult work ahead of them. Sadly, many civilians will continue to pay the priceunless they wake up one morning and decide to expel the terrorists from their streets.  .

If you are a regular reader of my blogs, you can't be surprised by the United Nations acting this way.  But since they do it over and over and over again, it is important to expose each major instance, so you know that the organization's hypocrisy, dishonesty and prejudice remain intact.  Just another day at the UN.  Business as usual. 

And the left wanted these people to administer IRAQ?  They demanded that we "let the UN do its work"?

Are they as hypocritical, dishonest and prejudiced as the UN?  Or just plain stupid?


THE UN'S CLINTON STRATEGY

Ken Berwitz

Remember when the Serbs and Croats were fighting a war against each other? 

Remember all the ethnic cleansing?  Remember something like 250,000 dead and entire villages "cleansed of the hated other side?  Remember the countless Serbs being removed from their homes and their land? 

Now:  remember the UN doing anything about it?  Remember the USA doing anything about it? 

Are you kidding? This is the UN we're talking about.  This is the Clinton presidency we're talking about.

What you actually can remember is when Bill Clinton finally did send troops there.  AFTER the 250,000 died and the ethnic cleansing took place.

Well, that worked so well that the United Nations has decided to reprise the same formula for Darfur.  Read this:.

U.N. approves 26,000-strong peacekeeping force for Darfur

UNITED NATIONS (AP) The U.N. Security Council approved a 26,000-strong peacekeeping force for Darfur on Tuesday to try to help end four years of fighting that has killed more than 200,000 people in the conflict-wracked Sudanese region.

The force the first joint peacekeeping mission by the African Union and the United Nations will replace the beleaguered 7,000-strong AU force now on the ground in Darfur no later than Dec. 31. The council urged that the AU-U.N. "hybrid" force achieve "full operational capability and force strength as soon as possible thereafter."

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called it a "historic and unprecedented resolution" that will send "a clear and powerful signal" of the U.N.'s commitment to help to the people of Darfur and the surrounding region "and close this tragic chapter in Sudan's history."

Britain's U.N. Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry called it "an unprecedented undertaking in scale, complexity and importance."

The conflict in Darfur began in February 2003 when ethnic African tribes rebelled against what they consider decades of neglect and discrimination by the Arab-dominated government. Sudan's government is accused of retaliating by unleashing a militia of Arab nomads known as the janjaweed a charge it denies.

The poorly equipped and underfunded African Union force has been unable to stop the fighting, and neither has the Darfur Peace Agreement, signed a year ago by the government and one rebel group. Other rebel factions called the deal insufficient, and fighting has continued..

Does this look familiar?  Like from the same playbook?

No problem at all.  Just wait until they kill off hundreds of thousands and the issue is as close to being settled - through murder and mayhem - as possible.  THEN come marching in on your white horse to establish the peace.

The only thing worse than one instance of useless after-the-fact "action" is another one.  And there it is.

Just another example of "letting the UN do it's work"


CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS ON FLUSHING KORANS

Ken Berwitz

I don't always agree with Christopher Hitchens.  But his latest column for www.slate.com is superb.

It concerns a) the Pace University student charged with flushing a koran down a toilet and b) the more general issue of freedom to respect, and disrespect, religion.

Hitchens is a great writer and this is a terrific think piece that you should read.  So please do. 

God-Fearing People

Why are we so scared of offending Muslims?

By Christopher Hitchens


During the greater part of last week, Slate's sister site On Faith (it is jointly produced by Newsweek and washingtonpost.com, both owned by the Washington Post Co., which also owns Slate) gave itself over to a discussion about the religion of Islam. As usual in such cases, the search for "moderate" versions of this faith was under way before the true argument had even begun. If I were a Muslim myself, I think that this search would be the most "offensive" part of the business. Why must I prove that my deepest belief is compatible with moderation?

Unless I am wrong, a sincere Muslim need only affirm that there is one god, and only one, and that the Prophet Mohammed was his messenger, bringing thereby the final words of God to humanity. Certain practices are supposed to follow this affirmation, including a commitment to pray five times a day, a promise to pay a visit to Mecca if such a trip should be possible, fasting during Ramadan, and a pious vow to give alms to the needy. The existence of djinns, or devils, is hard to disavow because it was affirmed by the prophet. An obligation of jihad is sometimes mentioned, and some quite intelligent people argue about whether "holy war" is meant to mean a personal struggle or a political one. No real Islamic authority exists to decide this question, and those for whom the personal is highly political have recently become rather notorious.

Thus, Islamic belief, however simply or modestly it may be stated, is an extreme position to begin with. No human being can possibly claim to know that there is a God at all, or that there are, or were, any other gods to be repudiated. And when these ontological claims have collided, as they must, with their logical limits, it is even further beyond the cognitive capacity of any person to claim without embarrassment that the lord of creation spoke his ultimate words to an unlettered merchant in seventh-century Arabia. Those who utter such fantastic braggings, however many times a day they do so, can by definition have no idea what they are talking about. (I hasten to add that those who boast of knowing about Moses parting the Red Sea, or about a virgin with a huge tummy, are in exactly the same position.) Finally, it turns out to be impossible to determine whether jihad means more alms-giving or yet more zealous massacre of, say, Shiite Muslims.

Why, then, should we be commanded to "respect" those who insist that they alone know something that is both unknowable and unfalsifiable? Something, furthermore, that can turn in an instant into a license for murder and rape? As one who has occasionally challenged Islamic propaganda in public and been told that I have thereby "insulted 1.5 billion Muslims," I can say what I suspectwhich is that there is an unmistakable note of menace behind that claim. No, I do not think for a moment that Mohammed took a "night journey" to Jerusalem on a winged horse. And I do not care if 10 billion people intone the contrary. Nor should I have to. But the plain fact is that the believable threat of violence undergirds the Muslim demand for "respect."

Before me is a recent report that a student at Pace University in New York City has been arrested for a hate crime in consequence of an alleged dumping of the Quran. Nothing repels me more than the burning or desecration of books, and if, for example, this was a volume from a public or university library, I would hope that its mistreatment would constitute a misdemeanor at the very least. But if I choose to spit on a copy of the writings of Ayn Rand or Karl Marx or James Joyce, that is entirely my business. When I check into a hotel room and send my free and unsolicited copy of the Gideon Bible or the Book of Mormon spinning out of the window, I infringe no law, except perhaps the one concerning litter. Why do we not make this distinction in the case of the Quran? We do so simply out of fear, and because the fanatical believers in that particular holy book have proved time and again that they mean business when it comes to intimidation. Surely that should be to their discredit rather than their credit. Should not the "moderate" imams of On Faith have been asked in direct terms whether they are, or are not, negotiating with a gun on the table?

The Pace University incident becomes even more ludicrous and sinister when it is recalled that Islamists are the current leaders in the global book-burning competition. After the rumor of a Quran down the toilet in Guantanamo was irresponsibly spread, a mob in Afghanistan burned down an ancient library that (as President Hamid Karzai pointed out dryly) contained several ancient copies of the same book. Not content with igniting copies of The Satanic Verses, Islamist lynch parties demanded the burning of its author as well. Many distinguished authors, Muslim and non-Muslim, are dead or in hiding because of the words they have put on pages concerning the unbelievable claims of Islam. And it is to appease such a spirit of persecution and intolerance that a student in New York City has been arrested for an expression, however vulgar, of an opinion.

This has to stop, and it has to stop right now. There can be no concession to sharia in the United States. When will we see someone detained, or even cautioned, for advocating the burning of books in the name of God? If the police are honestly interested in this sort of "hate crime," I can help them identify those who spent much of last year uttering physical threats against the republication in this country of some Danish cartoons. In default of impartial prosecution, we have to insist that Muslims take their chance of being upset, just as we who do not subscribe to their arrogant certainties are revolted every day by the hideous behavior of the parties of God.

It is often said that resistance to jihadism only increases the recruitment to it. For all I know, this commonplace observation could be true. But, if so, it must cut both ways. How about reminding the Islamists that, by their mad policy in Kashmir and elsewhere, they have made deadly enemies of a billion Indian Hindus? Is there no danger that the massacre of Iraqi and Lebanese Christians, or the threatened murder of all Jews, will cause an equal and opposite response? Most important of all, what will be said and done by those of us who take no side in filthy religious wars? The enemies of intolerance cannot be tolerant, or neutral, without inviting their own suicide. And the advocates and apologists of bigotry and censorship and suicide-assassination cannot be permitted to take shelter any longer under the umbrella of a pluralism that they openly seek to destroy.


SOMETIMES YOU DON'T BELIEVE YOU READ IT

Ken Berwitz

I admit it.  I did a double-take when I read this.  I couldn't believe the words were actually being said.  Here it is, see if you have the same reaction:.

Clyburn: Positive Report by Petraeus Could Split House Democrats on War

By Dan Balz and Chris Cillizza
Washington Post Staff Writer and Washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Monday, July 30, 2007; 6:26 PM

House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) said Monday that a strongly positive report on progress on Iraq by Army Gen. David Petraeus likely would split Democrats in the House and impede his party's efforts to press for a timetable to end the war.

Clyburn, in an interview with the washingtonpost.com video program PostTalk, said Democrats might be wise to wait for the Petraeus report, scheduled to be delivered in September, before charting next steps in their year-long struggle with President Bush over the direction of U.S. strategy.

Clyburn noted that Petraeus carries significant weight among the 47 members of the Blue Dog caucus in the House, a group of moderate to conservative Democrats. Without their support, he said, Democratic leaders would find it virtually impossible to pass legislation setting a timetable for withdrawal.

"I think there would be enough support in that group to want to stay the course and if the Republicans were to stay united as they have been, then it would be a problem for us," Clyburn said. "We, by and large, would be wise to wait on the report.".

I swear, if I didn't see it I wouldn't believe it. 

Here is the majority whip of the house of representatives, rooting against a strongly positive result in Iraq, because if we were doing well it would hinder his party's effort at cutting and running.

A strongly positive report would IMPEDE his party's efforts to press for a timetable?  How about it would IMPEDE the terrorist subhumans who randomly kill civilians in markets, restaurants and mosques?

This idiot is telling you, in so many words, that winning this war is a frigging hindrance to his party. 

There is nothing else I can say about this.  If you don't see the problem here you are beyond my ability to explain it.


CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS ON FLUSHING KORANS

Ken Berwitz

I don't always agree with Christopher Hitchens.  But his latest column for www.slate.com is superb.

It concerns a) the Pace University student charged with flushing a koran down a toilet and b) the more general issue of freedom to respect, and disrespect, religion.

Hitchens is a great writer and this is a terrific think piece that you should read.  So please do. 

God-Fearing People

Why are we so scared of offending Muslims?

By Christopher Hitchens


During the greater part of last week, Slate's sister site On Faith (it is jointly produced by Newsweek and washingtonpost.com, both owned by the Washington Post Co., which also owns Slate) gave itself over to a discussion about the religion of Islam. As usual in such cases, the search for "moderate" versions of this faith was under way before the true argument had even begun. If I were a Muslim myself, I think that this search would be the most "offensive" part of the business. Why must I prove that my deepest belief is compatible with moderation?

Unless I am wrong, a sincere Muslim need only affirm that there is one god, and only one, and that the Prophet Mohammed was his messenger, bringing thereby the final words of God to humanity. Certain practices are supposed to follow this affirmation, including a commitment to pray five times a day, a promise to pay a visit to Mecca if such a trip should be possible, fasting during Ramadan, and a pious vow to give alms to the needy. The existence of djinns, or devils, is hard to disavow because it was affirmed by the prophet. An obligation of jihad is sometimes mentioned, and some quite intelligent people argue about whether "holy war" is meant to mean a personal struggle or a political one. No real Islamic authority exists to decide this question, and those for whom the personal is highly political have recently become rather notorious.

Thus, Islamic belief, however simply or modestly it may be stated, is an extreme position to begin with. No human being can possibly claim to know that there is a God at all, or that there are, or were, any other gods to be repudiated. And when these ontological claims have collided, as they must, with their logical limits, it is even further beyond the cognitive capacity of any person to claim without embarrassment that the lord of creation spoke his ultimate words to an unlettered merchant in seventh-century Arabia. Those who utter such fantastic braggings, however many times a day they do so, can by definition have no idea what they are talking about. (I hasten to add that those who boast of knowing about Moses parting the Red Sea, or about a virgin with a huge tummy, are in exactly the same position.) Finally, it turns out to be impossible to determine whether jihad means more alms-giving or yet more zealous massacre of, say, Shiite Muslims.

Why, then, should we be commanded to "respect" those who insist that they alone know something that is both unknowable and unfalsifiable? Something, furthermore, that can turn in an instant into a license for murder and rape? As one who has occasionally challenged Islamic propaganda in public and been told that I have thereby "insulted 1.5 billion Muslims," I can say what I suspectwhich is that there is an unmistakable note of menace behind that claim. No, I do not think for a moment that Mohammed took a "night journey" to Jerusalem on a winged horse. And I do not care if 10 billion people intone the contrary. Nor should I have to. But the plain fact is that the believable threat of violence undergirds the Muslim demand for "respect."

Before me is a recent report that a student at Pace University in New York City has been arrested for a hate crime in consequence of an alleged dumping of the Quran. Nothing repels me more than the burning or desecration of books, and if, for example, this was a volume from a public or university library, I would hope that its mistreatment would constitute a misdemeanor at the very least. But if I choose to spit on a copy of the writings of Ayn Rand or Karl Marx or James Joyce, that is entirely my business. When I check into a hotel room and send my free and unsolicited copy of the Gideon Bible or the Book of Mormon spinning out of the window, I infringe no law, except perhaps the one concerning litter. Why do we not make this distinction in the case of the Quran? We do so simply out of fear, and because the fanatical believers in that particular holy book have proved time and again that they mean business when it comes to intimidation. Surely that should be to their discredit rather than their credit. Should not the "moderate" imams of On Faith have been asked in direct terms whether they are, or are not, negotiating with a gun on the table?

The Pace University incident becomes even more ludicrous and sinister when it is recalled that Islamists are the current leaders in the global book-burning competition. After the rumor of a Quran down the toilet in Guantanamo was irresponsibly spread, a mob in Afghanistan burned down an ancient library that (as President Hamid Karzai pointed out dryly) contained several ancient copies of the same book. Not content with igniting copies of The Satanic Verses, Islamist lynch parties demanded the burning of its author as well. Many distinguished authors, Muslim and non-Muslim, are dead or in hiding because of the words they have put on pages concerning the unbelievable claims of Islam. And it is to appease such a spirit of persecution and intolerance that a student in New York City has been arrested for an expression, however vulgar, of an opinion.

This has to stop, and it has to stop right now. There can be no concession to sharia in the United States. When will we see someone detained, or even cautioned, for advocating the burning of books in the name of God? If the police are honestly interested in this sort of "hate crime," I can help them identify those who spent much of last year uttering physical threats against the republication in this country of some Danish cartoons. In default of impartial prosecution, we have to insist that Muslims take their chance of being upset, just as we who do not subscribe to their arrogant certainties are revolted every day by the hideous behavior of the parties of God.

It is often said that resistance to jihadism only increases the recruitment to it. For all I know, this commonplace observation could be true. But, if so, it must cut both ways. How about reminding the Islamists that, by their mad policy in Kashmir and elsewhere, they have made deadly enemies of a billion Indian Hindus? Is there no danger that the massacre of Iraqi and Lebanese Christians, or the threatened murder of all Jews, will cause an equal and opposite response? Most important of all, what will be said and done by those of us who take no side in filthy religious wars? The enemies of intolerance cannot be tolerant, or neutral, without inviting their own suicide. And the advocates and apologists of bigotry and censorship and suicide-assassination cannot be permitted to take shelter any longer under the umbrella of a pluralism that they openly seek to destroy.


SOMETIMES YOU DON'T BELIEVE YOU READ IT

Ken Berwitz

I admit it.  I did a double-take when I read this.  I couldn't believe the words were actually being said.  Here it is, see if you have the same reaction:.

Clyburn: Positive Report by Petraeus Could Split House Democrats on War

By Dan Balz and Chris Cillizza
Washington Post Staff Writer and Washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Monday, July 30, 2007; 6:26 PM

House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) said Monday that a strongly positive report on progress on Iraq by Army Gen. David Petraeus likely would split Democrats in the House and impede his party's efforts to press for a timetable to end the war.

Clyburn, in an interview with the washingtonpost.com video program PostTalk, said Democrats might be wise to wait for the Petraeus report, scheduled to be delivered in September, before charting next steps in their year-long struggle with President Bush over the direction of U.S. strategy.

Clyburn noted that Petraeus carries significant weight among the 47 members of the Blue Dog caucus in the House, a group of moderate to conservative Democrats. Without their support, he said, Democratic leaders would find it virtually impossible to pass legislation setting a timetable for withdrawal.

"I think there would be enough support in that group to want to stay the course and if the Republicans were to stay united as they have been, then it would be a problem for us," Clyburn said. "We, by and large, would be wise to wait on the report.".

I swear, if I didn't see it I wouldn't believe it. 

Here is the majority whip of the house of representatives, rooting against a strongly positive result in Iraq, because if we were doing well it would hinder his party's effort at cutting and running.

A strongly positive report would IMPEDE his party's efforts to press for a timetable?  How about it would IMPEDE the terrorist subhumans who randomly kill civilians in markets, restaurants and mosques?

This idiot is telling you, in so many words, that winning this war is a frigging hindrance to his party. 

There is nothing else I can say about this.  If you don't see the problem here you are beyond my ability to explain it.


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