Monday, 06 August 2007

BACKLASH?

Ken Berwitz

The American people are not stupid.  A political party, and its pals in the media, can manipulate a good many of us some of the time, and others most or all of the time.  But sooner or later we start catching on.

With this in mind, let me show you data from the latest poll on Iraq.  While I am, to say the least, skeptical of political poll numbers, the DIRECTION of the polls has validity to me.  And here is where this one is headed:.

Latest poll shows growing support for Iraq war policy

 USA TODAY's Susan Page reports that President Bush is making some headway in arguing that the increase in U.S. troops in Iraq is showing military progress.

In the latest USA TODAY/Gallup Poll, taken Friday through Sunday, the proportion of those who said the additional troops are "making the situation better" rose to 31% from 22% a month ago. Those who said it was "not making much difference" dropped to 41% from 51%.

About the same number said it was making things worse: 24% now, 25% a month ago.

The number of those who favor removing virtually all U.S. troops from Iraq by next April 1 has dropped a bit, though two-thirds of those surveyed still support the idea.

In the July survey, a record high of 62% had called the invasion of Iraq "a mistake." That view is now held by 57%, roughly where it's been for more than a year.

The telephone poll of 1,012 adults has a margin of error of +/- 3 percentage points.  .

The Democratic party has laid down its bet, and its bet is failure.  Reid, Pelosi and Co. have put themselves in a position where the more successful our soldiers are in Iraq, the worse it is for the Democratic party.  Conversely, the more failure we have, the more combat fatalities we suffer and the more al qaeda success stories there are, the better it is for Democrats.

That is one stinking, lousy place to be politically.  But that is where the Democratic party is right now.  Let me remind you of what their majority whip, Jim Clyburn said, just last week:  .

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.".

That's right.  You read it accurately.  The majority whip of the house - the Democrats' #3 person in that body - is worried that we might be doing well, because if we are it will  "...split Democrats in the House and impede his party's efforts to press for a timetable to end the war"   .

In other words, if we are successful it might mean that Democrats won't be able to get us to cut and run!.  Our success gets in the way!!  Like Marissa Tomei said in My Cousin Vinny, "Omigod, what a effin' NIGHTMARE"

Well, speaking for myself, if given a choice of cutting and running or being successful in Iraq, I prefer door #2.  And I strongly suspect a lot of other people do too;  people who might have been very skeptical about and very negative towards the war when it was going poorly, but are delighted to support it if they see success.

This is not the first political poll that shows an uptick for President Bush and our actions in Iraq.  I wonder where it will go from here -- and I wonder how far Democrats will go to try to downplay or even sabotage our success so that they can win a short term political game.

Stay tuned.


PERSISTENT VEGETATIVE STATE? NOT SO FAST

Ken Berwitz

I don't want to reprise the Terri Schiavo incident, in which a woman who some (not all) interested parties felt to be in a persistent vegetative state had "the plug pulled" and was legally starved to death.

Ms. Schiavo's name brings back too much emotion and too many hard feelings.  It is almost impossible for people on either side to rethink what was done to her in a dispassionate manner.

However, on a more generalized basis, this article might cause some folks to give the supposed irreversibility of a persistent vegetative state another thought.  Anyway, I hope it does:.

Persistent Vegetative State Diagnoses Too Often A Rush To Judgement
By The Stiletto (bio)

 

A study by the Coma Science Group of the University of Lige, Belgium, finds that up to half of patients in an acute vegetative state regain some level of consciousness.

In the study, which analyzed data collected over a five-year period, researchers assessed and classified comatose patients according to the Coma Recovery Scale. The researchers determined that some 40 percent had been incorrectly diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state, when they were in fact in a minimally conscious state. And 10 percent of those diagnosed as being minimally conscious were communicating functionally.

A patient who is minimally conscious shows periodic signs of awareness of himself and his surroundings but usually cannot communicate with others, whereas a patient who is in a persistent vegetative state is awake but lacks such awareness.

The Coma Science Groups Dr. Steven Laureys presented the study findings at the European Neurological Society congress in June:

Our data show that acute vegetative state is certainly not rare among patients admitted to intensive care What is important to note is that it may be transient and that the prognosis for patients with impaired consciousness depends to a great extent on the nature of the brain damage. The study underlines the importance of extreme caution in any decision to limit the life chances of patients during the acute phase of a vegetative state.

Take the case of Jesse Ramirez, who suffered major brain injuries after his car flipped over and he was thrown from the vehicle on May 30th. Doctors predicted that the 36-year old Arizonan could remain in a permanent vegetative state. Less than two weeks after the accident, his wife, Rebecca, 33, asked doctors to remove his food and water tubes. But Jesses family challenged her decision in court, and a Maricopa County Superior Court judge ordered the tubes reconnected.

And then, Ramirez regained consciousness. The Arizona Republic reports:

[H]e can hug and kiss, nod his head, answer yes and no questions, give a thumbs-up sign and sit in a chair.

Jesse is now ready to move from a hospice to a rehabilitation facility.

We have had a lot of miracles, said Betty Valenzuela, Ramirezs aunt. He would have been gone.

All of the family is absolutely thrilled that he has now become conscious and is able to go through rehab, Judge Paul Katz said.

The Arizona Republic notes that this same Judge Katz had previously scolded the family for not acting in Jesses best interest.

Meanwhile, groundbreaking new research published in the journal Nature suggests that patients who are in a minimally conscious state are treatable, and can recover some cognitive ability, speech and movement.

With the aid of computer-generated maps and image-guided navigation equipment, researchers implanted a deep brain stimulator to deliver electrical pulses to the brain of a 38-year old man who had been in a coma-like state for six years after being the victim of a brutal mugging, during which he had been repeatedly kicked in the head. The man had been able to respond to commands on occasion, sometimes moving his thumb in response to yes-or-no questions.

Within hours of receiving the implant, the man opened his eyes and tracked the movement of people in his hospital room, reports The New York Times. He has continued to progress for more than a year and can drink from a cup, comb his hair, speak in short sentences and recently he recited the first 16 words of the Pledge of Allegiance, according to researchers at the JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute in Edison, NJ.

There are 100,000 to 300,000 minimally conscious patients in the US, and the researchers do not believe that the treatment would benefit all of them. For instance, the implant did not help Terri Schiavo, the FL woman whose husband won a court battle in 2005 to remove her feeding tube after she had been in a persistent vegetative state for 15 years.

The mans mother, who had signed a do not resuscitate order for her son told journalists at a press conference that he can cry and laugh and say Mommy and Pop. I cry every time I see my son, but now its tears of joy.

 .

Let me say again that this is not meant to as a specific response to the Terri Schiavo case.   I don't know what her individual situation was and, being neither a doctor nor someone who ever saw her, I have no opinion on whether she was  irreversibly damaged.

I am posting it to demonstrate that, whether or not Ms. Schiavo is one of them, some people judged to be in a persistent vegetative state either are in that state only temporarily or not at all.  And this must be taken into account before someone - well meaning or otherwise - "pulls the plug" on anyone. 

In a civilized culture the benefit of the doubt goes to life, not death.

steve schneider you're comparing apples to oranges. they are specific in calling it an "acute", state. their findings are not unexpected. no one should be allowed to pull the plug for a comatose state in it's early phase. terry schiavo was totally different. her state was chronic. although the pain of starving her to death was used for political purposes, the fact is that she had no perception of the pain as documented by all of the physicians that actually evaluated her. the differing opinions were from doctors who never saw her. bill frist, who prior to this was one of my heros, was one of those doctors. he was appropriately admonished by the medical community. tom delay was the most hypocritial of all as he pulled the plug on his father after a traumatic brain injury. for him it was a personal family situation, but for the schiavos apparently it was not. steve (08/06/07)

Ken Berwitz Steve - Thanks for explaining that!! (and I don't mind admitting I'm relieved that I made a point of not tying this to the Schiavo case. I hate looking like an idiot and it happens enough in the normal course of things without it happening here too). (08/06/07)


NANCY PELOSI-RICARDO ON EARMARKS

Ken Berwitz

Once again, Nancy Pelosi-Ricardo's got a lot of 'splainin' to do.

This is the same Pelosi who told us that, with Democrats in charge, earmarks (i.e. spending that is tossed into bills that have nothing to do with what the money is being spent for) would greatly diminish.  Ms. Pelosi allowed as that it would be unrealistic to end them entirely, but they would be severely lessened. 

That so?

Read these excerpts, courtesy of www.bloomberg.com and see if you think she told you the truth.  As usual, the bold print is mine:.

Aug. 6 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said last year that she would be happy to ``do away with'' the practice of funding members' pet projects, though she knew it wasn't ``realistic.'' This year proves how right she was.

Thousands of so-called earmarks still adorn spending bills, including 15 from Pelosi in a defense measure. Their continued popularity shows how difficult it is to change a system that allows members to bring federal money home for their constituents. Polls show Democrats aren't getting credit for what they say is a major overhaul of the earmark system.

Democrats, who never promised to abolish the practice altogether, say they have cut the number of earmarks and for the first time the names of the sponsors and the companies that stand to gain are all being made public. Ethics watchdog groups, pointing to spotty disclosure rules, say more needs to be done.

New Laws

The House and Senate passed measures last week requiring lawmakers to certify they have no financial interest in the request, as well as attaching their name to it and identifying the recipient. Until this year, Congress didn't require disclosure of earmark sponsors.

The changes were spurred by the conviction of former Representative Randy ``Duke'' Cunningham, a California Republican who pleaded guilty in 2005 to taking $2.4 million in cash and gifts in return for earmarking millions of dollars for two defense contractors. In this Congress, Senator Ted Stevens, an Alaska Republican, is under investigation by the FBI over whether a $1.6 million appropriation he endorsed helped his son's business partner, the Washington Post reported last week.

The new rules aren't uniform, and some congressional panels make it difficult to track down specifics about an earmark.

Different Rules

For example, the House Appropriations Committee provides the information in reports available online, although they aren't searchable by keyword. What's more, details about the projects are scattered throughout the documents. While the names of the earmarks and their sponsors are typically listed in the back of the reports, the amount of money provided for them is listed elsewhere, forcing inquiring minds to go on a laborious scavenger hunt.

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee makes its earmark-request letters available only by appointment. Researchers must take notes, because the committee doesn't allow the public to make photocopies of the letters.

The new rules haven't stopped lawmakers from funneling earmarks to specific companies, some of them political donors, as well as to public projects such as roads, schools and parks.

`Biowarfare Agent'

Some companies stand to gain from Pelosi's earmarks. The California Democrat has won funding for six companies in a 2008 defense funding measure. One is a $4 million request to develop a ``novel viral biowarfare agent'' for Prosetta Corp., based in her San Francisco district. Tom Higgins, the company's chief executive officer, says he talked to the Speaker's staff directly rather than hiring a lobbyist and hasn't given money to her campaign. ``We're just a little company,'' he says.

Another of Pelosi's earmarks was $2.5 million to Bioquiddity, Inc., a San Francisco biotech company with nine employees, to continue developing drug-infusion pumps. Bioquiddity President Josh Kriesel, who ran unsuccessfully as a Republican for the state legislature in 2002, has donated $6,000 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee since last September. The company received a total of $3.9 million in earmarks in the last two years. Kriesel declined to comment directly on the earmarks.

Pelosi has said some earmarks are ``worthy.'' And she said there is a distinction between those for public projects, which she sometimes touts with press releases, and special interest earmarks.

Pelosi's Response

Asked about her company-specific earmarks, she says ``there are some things that the federal government wants that some of these companies can uniquely do.''

Some members of both parties are critical of the practice of designating federal dollars for the benefit of particular companies because it, in effect, sidesteps competitive-bidding rules.

``It baffles me how people can complain bitterly about Halliburton and no-bid contracts and then lard up a bill with literally thousands of earmarks to companies when that's all they are -- no-bid contracts,'' says Representative Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican, referring to criticism of the Bush administration's sole-source contract with the Houston-based company during the Iraq war. Flake is noted for not requesting earmarks and publicizing those of his colleagues.

`Circular Fund Raising'

``So many of these companies turn around and give campaign contributions right back to the sponsor of the earmark,'' Flake says. ``This kind of circular fund raising is unbelievable.'' .

Isn't that the damnedest thing?  The companies that Pelosi feels are ok to be beneficiaries of these earmarks are in HER DISTRICT in congress.

Halliburton, which does things no other US company can do in some of the most complex and violent areas of the world, is condemned for its no-bid contracts;  Exactly the same kinds of contracts given to Halliburton by the Clinton administration too, and for exactly the same reason - that they can get things done which other companies cannot. 

But Prosetta Corp.?  Bioquiddity, Inc.?  What exactly do they do that is unique - other than exist in Pelosi's congressional district?  They are political beneficiaries -- just like Star-Kist, another company in Ms. Pelosi's district, whose American Samoa workers were screwed by Pelosi on that company's behalf earlier this year.

This, folks, is why I call her Nancy Pelosi-Ricardo.  Just like Lucy, she does and says the most bizarre things imaginable.  The only difference is that, with Pelosi-Ricardo, it isn't funny.  Not at all.

Da da daaaaa dada DA da-daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

 


BACKLASH?

Ken Berwitz

The American people are not stupid.  A political party, and its pals in the media, can manipulate a good many of us some of the time, and others most or all of the time.  But sooner or later we start catching on.

With this in mind, let me show you data from the latest poll on Iraq.  While I am, to say the least, skeptical of political poll numbers, the DIRECTION of the polls has validity to me.  And here is where this one is headed:.

Latest poll shows growing support for Iraq war policy

 USA TODAY's Susan Page reports that President Bush is making some headway in arguing that the increase in U.S. troops in Iraq is showing military progress.

In the latest USA TODAY/Gallup Poll, taken Friday through Sunday, the proportion of those who said the additional troops are "making the situation better" rose to 31% from 22% a month ago. Those who said it was "not making much difference" dropped to 41% from 51%.

About the same number said it was making things worse: 24% now, 25% a month ago.

The number of those who favor removing virtually all U.S. troops from Iraq by next April 1 has dropped a bit, though two-thirds of those surveyed still support the idea.

In the July survey, a record high of 62% had called the invasion of Iraq "a mistake." That view is now held by 57%, roughly where it's been for more than a year.

The telephone poll of 1,012 adults has a margin of error of +/- 3 percentage points.  .

The Democratic party has laid down its bet, and its bet is failure.  Reid, Pelosi and Co. have put themselves in a position where the more successful our soldiers are in Iraq, the worse it is for the Democratic party.  Conversely, the more failure we have, the more combat fatalities we suffer and the more al qaeda success stories there are, the better it is for Democrats.

That is one stinking, lousy place to be politically.  But that is where the Democratic party is right now.  Let me remind you of what their majority whip, Jim Clyburn said, just last week:  .

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.".

That's right.  You read it accurately.  The majority whip of the house - the Democrats' #3 person in that body - is worried that we might be doing well, because if we are it will  "...split Democrats in the House and impede his party's efforts to press for a timetable to end the war"   .

In other words, if we are successful it might mean that Democrats won't be able to get us to cut and run!.  Our success gets in the way!!  Like Marissa Tomei said in My Cousin Vinny, "Omigod, what a effin' NIGHTMARE"

Well, speaking for myself, if given a choice of cutting and running or being successful in Iraq, I prefer door #2.  And I strongly suspect a lot of other people do too;  people who might have been very skeptical about and very negative towards the war when it was going poorly, but are delighted to support it if they see success.

This is not the first political poll that shows an uptick for President Bush and our actions in Iraq.  I wonder where it will go from here -- and I wonder how far Democrats will go to try to downplay or even sabotage our success so that they can win a short term political game.

Stay tuned.


FREE REPUBLIC & DAILY KOS: IS THERE ANY COMPARISON?

Ken Berwitz

I've been meaning to write about this for a few days.  Now's the time.

If you look to the other side of your screen (you might have to scroll up or down a bit) you will see a list of 20 websites:  10 are liberal/left and 10 are conservative/right.  I put them up so that readers could find plenty of "red meat" on both sides of the political spectrum.

Interestingly, two of the sites I picked (months ago, it should be noted) are www.dailykos.com  and www.freerepublic.com. Who would have thought these two wholly different political venues would become embroiled in a controversy over their alleged similarity?  But that is exactly what has happened.

For the past week or so (and just before it hosted the major Democratic political candidates - no coincidence I'm sure), Bill O'Reilly has been attacking the daily kos on the grounds that it is a hate site.  His evidence is some especially vile material (both written and pictorial) which defames, among others, President Bush and Senator Lieberman, along with the seemingly endless number of hate-filled comments posted by the site's readers.

I've blogged about this before and noted that, while I think Mr. O'Reilly exaggerates to compare the daily kos with the KKK or nazis, his general direction is accurate.  There is a tidal wave of hatred and intolerance there.  And it is far from the only such leftward site.  Illustratively, in the past I have put up comments from www.crooksandliars.com that would curl your hair.

However, last week Mr. O'Reilly also compared the daily kos to free republic on the grounds that both allow visitors to post hate comments on their sites. In that regard, I consider him to be 100% wrong.

First off, let's understand that it is easy to post comments on both of these sites.  If, for example, I wanted to make the daily kos look like what O'Reilly says it is, I could plant a whacked-out left wing diatribe there.  Similarly I could do the same, from a right wing perspective, on free republic.  Short of disallowing all comments, neither site can prevent this from happening

But that is where the similarity ends. 

Having read both sites for a long time, I know that anything of a hateful nature on free republic is quickly removed.  By contrast, the most unspeakably hateful filth from the left finds a happy, unchallenged home at daily kos.   

I don't know why Mr. O'Reilly equates the two. It certainly is not hard to monitor these sites.  One possibility is that he and/or his people just don't check as carefully or as often as they should.  Another is that he thinks lumping both sites together will get him points for evenhandedness - i.e. "how can you say he's a rightwinger, he attacks the right just like he attacks the left". 

If so, it is a calculated move rather than a sincere one, which I certainly can live without.  Besides, other than for a small percentage of gullible fence-sitters, it is virtually certain to fail..  Why?  Because the hard left will not buy this kind of transparent suck-up attempt any more than the hard right would buy an occasional sop to the right from michael moore or frank rich. 

The bottom line is that O'Reilly is wrong.  Dead wrong.  And if he really checked for accuracy he would know so and admit it.  

But I doubt that he will ever make such an admission.  Certainly not if he is deluding himself into thinking the hard left might take this to mean he is evenhanded - which is about as likely as Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton are to enter a nunnery and start a new chapter of the WCTU.


PERSISTENT VEGETATIVE STATE? NOT SO FAST

Ken Berwitz

I don't want to reprise the Terri Schiavo incident, in which a woman who some (not all) interested parties felt to be in a persistent vegetative state had "the plug pulled" and was legally starved to death.

Ms. Schiavo's name brings back too much emotion and too many hard feelings.  It is almost impossible for people on either side to rethink what was done to her in a dispassionate manner.

However, on a more generalized basis, this article might cause some folks to give the supposed irreversibility of a persistent vegetative state another thought.  Anyway, I hope it does:.

Persistent Vegetative State Diagnoses Too Often A Rush To Judgement
By The Stiletto (bio)

 

A study by the Coma Science Group of the University of Lige, Belgium, finds that up to half of patients in an acute vegetative state regain some level of consciousness.

In the study, which analyzed data collected over a five-year period, researchers assessed and classified comatose patients according to the Coma Recovery Scale. The researchers determined that some 40 percent had been incorrectly diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state, when they were in fact in a minimally conscious state. And 10 percent of those diagnosed as being minimally conscious were communicating functionally.

A patient who is minimally conscious shows periodic signs of awareness of himself and his surroundings but usually cannot communicate with others, whereas a patient who is in a persistent vegetative state is awake but lacks such awareness.

The Coma Science Groups Dr. Steven Laureys presented the study findings at the European Neurological Society congress in June:

Our data show that acute vegetative state is certainly not rare among patients admitted to intensive care What is important to note is that it may be transient and that the prognosis for patients with impaired consciousness depends to a great extent on the nature of the brain damage. The study underlines the importance of extreme caution in any decision to limit the life chances of patients during the acute phase of a vegetative state.

Take the case of Jesse Ramirez, who suffered major brain injuries after his car flipped over and he was thrown from the vehicle on May 30th. Doctors predicted that the 36-year old Arizonan could remain in a permanent vegetative state. Less than two weeks after the accident, his wife, Rebecca, 33, asked doctors to remove his food and water tubes. But Jesses family challenged her decision in court, and a Maricopa County Superior Court judge ordered the tubes reconnected.

And then, Ramirez regained consciousness. The Arizona Republic reports:

[H]e can hug and kiss, nod his head, answer yes and no questions, give a thumbs-up sign and sit in a chair.

Jesse is now ready to move from a hospice to a rehabilitation facility.

We have had a lot of miracles, said Betty Valenzuela, Ramirezs aunt. He would have been gone.

All of the family is absolutely thrilled that he has now become conscious and is able to go through rehab, Judge Paul Katz said.

The Arizona Republic notes that this same Judge Katz had previously scolded the family for not acting in Jesses best interest.

Meanwhile, groundbreaking new research published in the journal Nature suggests that patients who are in a minimally conscious state are treatable, and can recover some cognitive ability, speech and movement.

With the aid of computer-generated maps and image-guided navigation equipment, researchers implanted a deep brain stimulator to deliver electrical pulses to the brain of a 38-year old man who had been in a coma-like state for six years after being the victim of a brutal mugging, during which he had been repeatedly kicked in the head. The man had been able to respond to commands on occasion, sometimes moving his thumb in response to yes-or-no questions.

Within hours of receiving the implant, the man opened his eyes and tracked the movement of people in his hospital room, reports The New York Times. He has continued to progress for more than a year and can drink from a cup, comb his hair, speak in short sentences and recently he recited the first 16 words of the Pledge of Allegiance, according to researchers at the JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute in Edison, NJ.

There are 100,000 to 300,000 minimally conscious patients in the US, and the researchers do not believe that the treatment would benefit all of them. For instance, the implant did not help Terri Schiavo, the FL woman whose husband won a court battle in 2005 to remove her feeding tube after she had been in a persistent vegetative state for 15 years.

The mans mother, who had signed a do not resuscitate order for her son told journalists at a press conference that he can cry and laugh and say Mommy and Pop. I cry every time I see my son, but now its tears of joy.

 .

Let me say again that this is not meant to as a specific response to the Terri Schiavo case.   I don't know what her individual situation was and, being neither a doctor nor someone who ever saw her, I have no opinion on whether she was  irreversibly damaged.

I am posting it to demonstrate that, whether or not Ms. Schiavo is one of them, some people judged to be in a persistent vegetative state either are in that state only temporarily or not at all.  And this must be taken into account before someone - well meaning or otherwise - "pulls the plug" on anyone. 

In a civilized culture the benefit of the doubt goes to life, not death.

steve schneider you're comparing apples to oranges. they are specific in calling it an "acute", state. their findings are not unexpected. no one should be allowed to pull the plug for a comatose state in it's early phase. terry schiavo was totally different. her state was chronic. although the pain of starving her to death was used for political purposes, the fact is that she had no perception of the pain as documented by all of the physicians that actually evaluated her. the differing opinions were from doctors who never saw her. bill frist, who prior to this was one of my heros, was one of those doctors. he was appropriately admonished by the medical community. tom delay was the most hypocritial of all as he pulled the plug on his father after a traumatic brain injury. for him it was a personal family situation, but for the schiavos apparently it was not. steve (08/06/07)

Ken Berwitz Steve - Thanks for explaining that!! (and I don't mind admitting I'm relieved that I made a point of not tying this to the Schiavo case. I hate looking like an idiot and it happens enough in the normal course of things without it happening here too). (08/06/07)


FREE REPUBLIC & DAILY KOS: IS THERE ANY COMPARISON?

Ken Berwitz

I've been meaning to write about this for a few days.  Now's the time.

If you look to the other side of your screen (you might have to scroll up or down a bit) you will see a list of 20 websites:  10 are liberal/left and 10 are conservative/right.  I put them up so that readers could find plenty of "red meat" on both sides of the political spectrum.

Interestingly, two of the sites I picked (months ago, it should be noted) are www.dailykos.com  and www.freerepublic.com. Who would have thought these two wholly different political venues would become embroiled in a controversy over their alleged similarity?  But that is exactly what has happened.

For the past week or so (and just before it hosted the major Democratic political candidates - no coincidence I'm sure), Bill O'Reilly has been attacking the daily kos on the grounds that it is a hate site.  His evidence is some especially vile material (both written and pictorial) which defames, among others, President Bush and Senator Lieberman, along with the seemingly endless number of hate-filled comments posted by the site's readers.

I've blogged about this before and noted that, while I think Mr. O'Reilly exaggerates to compare the daily kos with the KKK or nazis, his general direction is accurate.  There is a tidal wave of hatred and intolerance there.  And it is far from the only such leftward site.  Illustratively, in the past I have put up comments from www.crooksandliars.com that would curl your hair.

However, last week Mr. O'Reilly also compared the daily kos to free republic on the grounds that both allow visitors to post hate comments on their sites. In that regard, I consider him to be 100% wrong.

First off, let's understand that it is easy to post comments on both of these sites.  If, for example, I wanted to make the daily kos look like what O'Reilly says it is, I could plant a whacked-out left wing diatribe there.  Similarly I could do the same, from a right wing perspective, on free republic.  Short of disallowing all comments, neither site can prevent this from happening

But that is where the similarity ends. 

Having read both sites for a long time, I know that anything of a hateful nature on free republic is quickly removed.  By contrast, the most unspeakably hateful filth from the left finds a happy, unchallenged home at daily kos.   

I don't know why Mr. O'Reilly equates the two. It certainly is not hard to monitor these sites.  One possibility is that he and/or his people just don't check as carefully or as often as they should.  Another is that he thinks lumping both sites together will get him points for evenhandedness - i.e. "how can you say he's a rightwinger, he attacks the right just like he attacks the left". 

If so, it is a calculated move rather than a sincere one, which I certainly can live without.  Besides, other than for a small percentage of gullible fence-sitters, it is virtually certain to fail..  Why?  Because the hard left will not buy this kind of transparent suck-up attempt any more than the hard right would buy an occasional sop to the right from michael moore or frank rich. 

The bottom line is that O'Reilly is wrong.  Dead wrong.  And if he really checked for accuracy he would know so and admit it.  

But I doubt that he will ever make such an admission.  Certainly not if he is deluding himself into thinking the hard left might take this to mean he is evenhanded - which is about as likely as Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton are to enter a nunnery and start a new chapter of the WCTU.


SWEDEN'S CASH FLOW

Ken Berwitz

As you will see, the following article has nothing to do with politics.  But I thought you might be interested in reading it - if, for no other reason, to give your pun-making abilities some exercise.  The author of the article sure did:.

Sweden profits from public urination

Published: 6th August 2007 11:31 CET

Public urination is fast becoming something of a cash cow for Sweden, garnishing the state coffers with 1.8 million kronor ($264,000) so far this year.

Though fines for peeing in public were increased from 500 kronor to 800 kronor last October, this does not appear to have had any dampening effect on the practice, Metro reports.

This year's crop of outdoors types are well on the way to smashing last year's record of 3,328. Figures for the first seven months of 2007 show that 2,252 people have already been find for public peeing this year.

This can be compared to 2002, when police dished out a mere 900 fines for the same crime.

Members of the general public were most likely to be caught short in Vstra Gtaland, Stockholm and stergtland. A large police presence, rather than peer presure, is thought to be behind the higher number of fines in these regions.

TT/The Local (news . .

I admit that my urge to display tasteless humor is not an appropriate reason to post this blog.  Frankly, it is a piss-poor excuse and, if I were you, I'd whiz right through it. 

Ok, between the blog title and that last paragraph, I've done my part.  Now you're on your own


SWEDEN'S CASH FLOW

Ken Berwitz

As you will see, the following article has nothing to do with politics.  But I thought you might be interested in reading it - if, for no other reason, to give your pun-making abilities some exercise.  The author of the article sure did:.

Sweden profits from public urination

Published: 6th August 2007 11:31 CET

Public urination is fast becoming something of a cash cow for Sweden, garnishing the state coffers with 1.8 million kronor ($264,000) so far this year.

Though fines for peeing in public were increased from 500 kronor to 800 kronor last October, this does not appear to have had any dampening effect on the practice, Metro reports.

This year's crop of outdoors types are well on the way to smashing last year's record of 3,328. Figures for the first seven months of 2007 show that 2,252 people have already been find for public peeing this year.

This can be compared to 2002, when police dished out a mere 900 fines for the same crime.

Members of the general public were most likely to be caught short in Vstra Gtaland, Stockholm and stergtland. A large police presence, rather than peer presure, is thought to be behind the higher number of fines in these regions.

TT/The Local (news . .

I admit that my urge to display tasteless humor is not an appropriate reason to post this blog.  Frankly, it is a piss-poor excuse and, if I were you, I'd whiz right through it. 

Ok, between the blog title and that last paragraph, I've done my part.  Now you're on your own


GOOD NEWS FROM IRAQ --- AGAIN

Ken Berwitz

Can you stand some more good news from Iraq? 

I hope so, because here it comes, courtesy of Gannett news service and the Associated Press:.

25,000 abandon insurgency: U.S.
IRAQ | American military estimate highlights tribal strategy

August 6, 2007

The U.S. strategy to build alliances with mostly Sunni tribal and local leaders has prompted 25,000 of their followers to turn away from the insurgency and at least nominally align with Iraq's Shiite-led government in the fight against al-Qaida.

The number, from the U.S. command in Iraq, represents the first stab at measuring the effectiveness of the tribal strategy. The trend is likely to be a critical part of a report due in September to Congress and the White House by the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus.

''I think it is the most significant thing that's happened in the past couple years,'' said Marine Maj. Gen. Mastin Robeson, deputy chief of staff for strategy and plans for Multi-National Force-Iraq. ''They actually have come to us saying, 'We want to join you, we want to fight al-Qaida.' ''

Iraq's Shiite-dominated central government has taken almost no legislative action to resolve differences with minority Sunnis and broaden support for the government. The U.S. military's tribal strategy is an effort to build links with groups, many of them armed, at the local level and tap into their hostility toward al-Qaida.

The strategy was initially aimed at Sunnis, which have made up the bulk of the insurgency against U.S. troops and the Iraqi government. Its goal was to separate former members of Saddam Hussein's ruling Baath party and other ''nationalist'' insurgents from more extremist al-Qaida militants who want to impose a strict form of Islamic law and form a government stretching across all the Muslim world.

More recently, the U.S. strategy has broadened to include local Shiite leaders opposing extremist militias. Petraeus and other top commanders have cited alliances with tribal and other local leaders as an important sign of progress. ''What we're starting to realize more and more is that reconciliation at the bottom may be the more important element in the short term,'' Petraeus said recently.

Andrew Krepinevich, a counterinsurgency expert at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, said the tribal and local alliances are a good idea -- but one with risks.

Tribal loyalty could be fleeting. Many tribes don't share democratic values or have much sympathy for Iraq's central government. ''This is an alliance of convenience,'' Krepinevich said. ''It's not necessarily an alliance of convictions.''

Tribes are groups of people who are loosely linked through blood ties. In parts of Iraq, particularly rural Sunni areas, tribal leaders are powerful figures. Some Iraqis place tribal ties above national identity.

Meanwhile, U.S. troops killed the mastermind of the bombing that destroyed the golden dome of a famed Shiite shrine last year and set in motion sectarian bloodletting.  .

Will you see the senate malaise leader Harry Reid, or the disparager of the house Nancy Pelosi, calling a press conference to crow about this?  How about senators Clinton or Obama?  Mr. Edwards? 

The answer will be no.  Because, as I pointed out in the previous blog, these people are invested in failure.  The better we do in Iraq, the worse it is for them politically.

Also in the previous blog, I called the Democratic position a stinking lousy place to be -- because our win in Iraq is their political loss, and our loss in Iraq is their political win.

If you doubt this, keep waiting for that press conference.  But be sure to bring plenty of food and water, many changes of clothing and a sturdy cot.  You'll need it.


GOOD NEWS FROM IRAQ --- AGAIN

Ken Berwitz

Can you stand some more good news from Iraq? 

I hope so, because here it comes, courtesy of Gannett news service and the Associated Press:.

25,000 abandon insurgency: U.S.
IRAQ | American military estimate highlights tribal strategy

August 6, 2007

The U.S. strategy to build alliances with mostly Sunni tribal and local leaders has prompted 25,000 of their followers to turn away from the insurgency and at least nominally align with Iraq's Shiite-led government in the fight against al-Qaida.

The number, from the U.S. command in Iraq, represents the first stab at measuring the effectiveness of the tribal strategy. The trend is likely to be a critical part of a report due in September to Congress and the White House by the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus.

''I think it is the most significant thing that's happened in the past couple years,'' said Marine Maj. Gen. Mastin Robeson, deputy chief of staff for strategy and plans for Multi-National Force-Iraq. ''They actually have come to us saying, 'We want to join you, we want to fight al-Qaida.' ''

Iraq's Shiite-dominated central government has taken almost no legislative action to resolve differences with minority Sunnis and broaden support for the government. The U.S. military's tribal strategy is an effort to build links with groups, many of them armed, at the local level and tap into their hostility toward al-Qaida.

The strategy was initially aimed at Sunnis, which have made up the bulk of the insurgency against U.S. troops and the Iraqi government. Its goal was to separate former members of Saddam Hussein's ruling Baath party and other ''nationalist'' insurgents from more extremist al-Qaida militants who want to impose a strict form of Islamic law and form a government stretching across all the Muslim world.

More recently, the U.S. strategy has broadened to include local Shiite leaders opposing extremist militias. Petraeus and other top commanders have cited alliances with tribal and other local leaders as an important sign of progress. ''What we're starting to realize more and more is that reconciliation at the bottom may be the more important element in the short term,'' Petraeus said recently.

Andrew Krepinevich, a counterinsurgency expert at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, said the tribal and local alliances are a good idea -- but one with risks.

Tribal loyalty could be fleeting. Many tribes don't share democratic values or have much sympathy for Iraq's central government. ''This is an alliance of convenience,'' Krepinevich said. ''It's not necessarily an alliance of convictions.''

Tribes are groups of people who are loosely linked through blood ties. In parts of Iraq, particularly rural Sunni areas, tribal leaders are powerful figures. Some Iraqis place tribal ties above national identity.

Meanwhile, U.S. troops killed the mastermind of the bombing that destroyed the golden dome of a famed Shiite shrine last year and set in motion sectarian bloodletting.  .

Will you see the senate malaise leader Harry Reid, or the disparager of the house Nancy Pelosi, calling a press conference to crow about this?  How about senators Clinton or Obama?  Mr. Edwards? 

The answer will be no.  Because, as I pointed out in the previous blog, these people are invested in failure.  The better we do in Iraq, the worse it is for them politically.

Also in the previous blog, I called the Democratic position a stinking lousy place to be -- because our win in Iraq is their political loss, and our loss in Iraq is their political win.

If you doubt this, keep waiting for that press conference.  But be sure to bring plenty of food and water, many changes of clothing and a sturdy cot.  You'll need it.


NANCY PELOSI-RICARDO ON EARMARKS

Ken Berwitz

Once again, Nancy Pelosi-Ricardo's got a lot of 'splainin' to do.

This is the same Pelosi who told us that, with Democrats in charge, earmarks (i.e. spending that is tossed into bills that have nothing to do with what the money is being spent for) would greatly diminish.  Ms. Pelosi allowed as that it would be unrealistic to end them entirely, but they would be severely lessened. 

That so?

Read these excerpts, courtesy of www.bloomberg.com and see if you think she told you the truth.  As usual, the bold print is mine:.

Aug. 6 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said last year that she would be happy to ``do away with'' the practice of funding members' pet projects, though she knew it wasn't ``realistic.'' This year proves how right she was.

Thousands of so-called earmarks still adorn spending bills, including 15 from Pelosi in a defense measure. Their continued popularity shows how difficult it is to change a system that allows members to bring federal money home for their constituents. Polls show Democrats aren't getting credit for what they say is a major overhaul of the earmark system.

Democrats, who never promised to abolish the practice altogether, say they have cut the number of earmarks and for the first time the names of the sponsors and the companies that stand to gain are all being made public. Ethics watchdog groups, pointing to spotty disclosure rules, say more needs to be done.

New Laws

The House and Senate passed measures last week requiring lawmakers to certify they have no financial interest in the request, as well as attaching their name to it and identifying the recipient. Until this year, Congress didn't require disclosure of earmark sponsors.

The changes were spurred by the conviction of former Representative Randy ``Duke'' Cunningham, a California Republican who pleaded guilty in 2005 to taking $2.4 million in cash and gifts in return for earmarking millions of dollars for two defense contractors. In this Congress, Senator Ted Stevens, an Alaska Republican, is under investigation by the FBI over whether a $1.6 million appropriation he endorsed helped his son's business partner, the Washington Post reported last week.

The new rules aren't uniform, and some congressional panels make it difficult to track down specifics about an earmark.

Different Rules

For example, the House Appropriations Committee provides the information in reports available online, although they aren't searchable by keyword. What's more, details about the projects are scattered throughout the documents. While the names of the earmarks and their sponsors are typically listed in the back of the reports, the amount of money provided for them is listed elsewhere, forcing inquiring minds to go on a laborious scavenger hunt.

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee makes its earmark-request letters available only by appointment. Researchers must take notes, because the committee doesn't allow the public to make photocopies of the letters.

The new rules haven't stopped lawmakers from funneling earmarks to specific companies, some of them political donors, as well as to public projects such as roads, schools and parks.

`Biowarfare Agent'

Some companies stand to gain from Pelosi's earmarks. The California Democrat has won funding for six companies in a 2008 defense funding measure. One is a $4 million request to develop a ``novel viral biowarfare agent'' for Prosetta Corp., based in her San Francisco district. Tom Higgins, the company's chief executive officer, says he talked to the Speaker's staff directly rather than hiring a lobbyist and hasn't given money to her campaign. ``We're just a little company,'' he says.

Another of Pelosi's earmarks was $2.5 million to Bioquiddity, Inc., a San Francisco biotech company with nine employees, to continue developing drug-infusion pumps. Bioquiddity President Josh Kriesel, who ran unsuccessfully as a Republican for the state legislature in 2002, has donated $6,000 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee since last September. The company received a total of $3.9 million in earmarks in the last two years. Kriesel declined to comment directly on the earmarks.

Pelosi has said some earmarks are ``worthy.'' And she said there is a distinction between those for public projects, which she sometimes touts with press releases, and special interest earmarks.

Pelosi's Response

Asked about her company-specific earmarks, she says ``there are some things that the federal government wants that some of these companies can uniquely do.''

Some members of both parties are critical of the practice of designating federal dollars for the benefit of particular companies because it, in effect, sidesteps competitive-bidding rules.

``It baffles me how people can complain bitterly about Halliburton and no-bid contracts and then lard up a bill with literally thousands of earmarks to companies when that's all they are -- no-bid contracts,'' says Representative Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican, referring to criticism of the Bush administration's sole-source contract with the Houston-based company during the Iraq war. Flake is noted for not requesting earmarks and publicizing those of his colleagues.

`Circular Fund Raising'

``So many of these companies turn around and give campaign contributions right back to the sponsor of the earmark,'' Flake says. ``This kind of circular fund raising is unbelievable.'' .

Isn't that the damnedest thing?  The companies that Pelosi feels are ok to be beneficiaries of these earmarks are in HER DISTRICT in congress.

Halliburton, which does things no other US company can do in some of the most complex and violent areas of the world, is condemned for its no-bid contracts;  Exactly the same kinds of contracts given to Halliburton by the Clinton administration too, and for exactly the same reason - that they can get things done which other companies cannot. 

But Prosetta Corp.?  Bioquiddity, Inc.?  What exactly do they do that is unique - other than exist in Pelosi's congressional district?  They are political beneficiaries -- just like Star-Kist, another company in Ms. Pelosi's district, whose American Samoa workers were screwed by Pelosi on that company's behalf earlier this year.

This, folks, is why I call her Nancy Pelosi-Ricardo.  Just like Lucy, she does and says the most bizarre things imaginable.  The only difference is that, with Pelosi-Ricardo, it isn't funny.  Not at all.

Da da daaaaa dada DA da-daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

 


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