Saturday, 20 October 2007

BLOGGING SCHEDULE

Ken Berwitz

Just a quick note to tell readers that I will be blogging only sporadically for the next week or so. 

I'll try to put up material when I can but other activities will be taking precedence.

A week from now?  For better or worse I'll be back 100%.

Best,

Ken

Hasan Too funny!! Everyone makes fun of how organized I am (my CDs are ebphalatized, my books are shelved by author and genre, my closet looks like a rainbo) .BUT, I can NOT keep my dishes kept up. It's just me, so how many dishes do you think I could dirty? OH, and did I mention I have a dishwasher??? But, it's always full of clean dishes, so what I use pile up in the sink, until I'm eating dinner with cocktail forks off of paper plates Good luck with your Tina, I look forward to reading about your progress. (03/20/12)


A POLL MOST MEDIA WILL IGNORE

Ken Berwitz

The well respected Harris Poll is out.  Its results are very encouraging if you are rooting for a positive result in Iraq...and very discouraging if you are rooting for bad news, maybe even our defeat.

With that in mind, please read the following article from the Washington Times.  Then wonder why you didn't catch it on the network news last night.  As usual, the bold print is mine:

America's hope for Iraq war up, poll says

October 19, 2007
By Jennifer Harper

Americans have the distinct impression that brighter days could be ahead in Iraq. Positive sentiments about the war are on a slow but steady upswing, according to a Harris Poll released yesterday.

The number of those who say things are getting better for U.S. troops has increased from 13 percent in March and 20 percent in August to 25 percent now.

Negativity has lessened: Those who say things are getting worse for troops fell from 55 percent in January and 51 percent in March to 32 percent now.

"Whether because of the news from Iraq, or the messages from the White House, Americans are less pessimistic than they were about the future prospects in Iraq," the survey said, deeming the findings "moderately good news for the White House."

Although it is not blockbuster in nature, good news indeed ekes out. Extremist attacks on U.S. troops have dropped from 256 in August to 153 in September and 36 so far this month, according to the Defense Department.

Even war-torn Fallujah has improved.

"Municipal governments are starting to stand up. Fallujah now has a city council, has a mayor, has a city council chairman who are all very responsive to the needs of their constituency," Stephen Falkan, the team leader of the provincial reconstruction team in the Anbar province, said at a press conference in Fallujah this week.

Are we buying such claims? A modest number of us give grudging acknowledgment to improvements in Iraq since President Bush sent an additional 20,000 troops in January.

"In May, only 9 percent believed the surge of new troops was working; that has now almost doubled to a [still very modest] 17 percent," the survey said.

About 40 percent of the respondents said the increase has had little effect on the conflict, about the same as it was in May.

The nation still wrestles with ethics. A similar Harris survey two years ago found that 34 percent of us said military action was the "right thing" to do in Iraq, 53 percent said it was wrong and 13 percent were not sure. Now, 37 percent said it was the right thing, compared with 46 percent who said the war is wrong and 18 percent who are undecided.

Mr. Bush gets a tiny bounce. In January, 26 percent said he was doing a good job in Iraq. Now the number stands at 29 percent.

It's a toss-up between Mr. Bush and Congress as far as public trust goes. Overall, an even quarter of the respondents trust the White House to manage the war, compared with 27 percent who preferred Congress and 34 percent who said "neither." Another 14 percent were undecided.

Republicans still stand by their man: 58 percent said they trust the White House while 7 percent trusted Congress. Another 24 percent said they trust neither and 11 percent were not sure.

Among Democrats, half trusted Congress, 5 percent trusted the White House and 30 percent trusted neither. Another 16 percent were undecided.

The survey of 2,565 adults was conducted online Oct. 9 to 15.
.

Those data are a testament to the resiliency of our people.  They are faced with a daily barrage from mainstream media assuring them that their president is a an inept fool and the war in Iraq is either lost or should be. 

Good news, such as the dramatic lessening of attacks on our troops which is cited in the article, are either noted in passing or buried altogether.

Can you imagine what people would be saying if media reported good news as strongly and conspicuously as bad news?  Can you imagine what those numbers would be if people were actually given BOTH sides of what is happening?

Well, imagining is all you're going to be able to do.  Because most media are not doing any such thing.  The national disgrace of an agenda-driven media manipulating its readers/viewers continues. 

We can only hope more and more people break free of the assumption that media give them both sides, and see things as they really are.  If this poll is any indication, some may already be doing just that.


LIMBAUGH SPIN: ADD THE TODAY SHOW TO THE TIMES AND ABC NEWS......

Ken Berwitz

So far today I've shown you that the New York Times and ABC News have blatantly and fraudulently spun the facts about harry reid and the DCC's smear letter to Rush Limbaugh.

I apologize. I left out the Today show, which was every bit as blatantly fraudulent as the other two.  Thank you www.newsbusters.org for calling it to our attention:

.

Reid Letter: 'Today' Omits Mention of Rush's $2.1 Million Donation

By Mark Finkelstein | October 20, 2007 - 13:58 ET

Given his show's modest ratings, it's unlikely that Keith Olbermann would be in a position to make a multi-million dollar donation to charity anytime soon. But let's imagine he did. Do you think that, in a segment on a related subject, NBC might find a moment to mention Olbermann's generosity?

So do I.

But "Today" managed to get through its report this morning about Rush Limbaugh's auctioning off of the Harry Reid letter . . . without mentioning that Rush has publicly pledged to match the $2.1 million winning bid.

View video here.

 
Alison Stewart, who has on occasion subbed for Olbermann on "Countdown," did the newsreading honors. Here's the entirety of what she had to say:

ALISON STEWART: It is the priciest item ever sold on eBay. A letter, signed by 41 Democratic senators, criticizing talk show host Rush Limbaugh. It sold on eBay for over $2 million. It was sent to Clear Channel, the owner of Limbaugh's show, about his "phony soldier" comment. Limbaugh said he was taken out of context and put it up for auction. A charitable foundation bought it, and the money raised will go to children of the Marines.

I waited for Stewart's mention of Rush's matching donation, but it never came. As Rush stated on his show yesterday:

The Marine Corps-Law Enforcement Foundation, it's now official, is going to get in excess of $4.2 million because I am matching Betty Casey's bid [of $2.1 million] on eBay.

Could NBC possibly have been unaware of Limbaugh's contribution? Or do you suppose the network simply didn't want viewers to know of Rush's generosity?

Note: NBC's stingy coverage of Rush's generosity isn't the only MSM mishandling of the issue today. As Power Line points out, the New York Times story on the matter begins by misrepresenting Rush's original remark, regurgitating the Dem spin that "phony soldiers" was an allusion to all anti-war veterans. First sentence of Times story:

After Rush Limbaugh referred to Iraq war veterans critical of the war as phony soldiers, he received a letter of complaint signed by 41 Democratic senators..

Do you realize what they are telling you?  They are telling you that you are an idiot. An ignoramus.  That they can report this any way they want to, facts notwithstanding, and you are so dumb and gullible and easily fooled that you'll swallow it hook line and sinker

They are insulting your intelligence.  They are laughing at you.

For god sake, prove them wrong.  Don't let them do it.  Let facts take you where you should be, not someone else's agenda.

Russ Most expensive item ever sold on eBay! Wow! (10/21/07)


GUEST COMMENTARY: WILLIAM KRISTOL ON THE 110TH CONGRESS

Ken Berwitz

I'm not always William Kristol's biggest fan, but he hits a home run with this analysis of the 110th congress --- the remarkably inept, do-nothing, try-to-lose-the-war congress we have just suffered through.

Mr. Kristol provides the superb commentary.  I supply the bold print (there's a lot of it because so many points are worth emphasizing):.

Epitaph for a Congress
In memory of the 110th Congress and the party that led it.
by William Kristol
10/29/2007, Volume 013, Issue 07


Perhaps the Democratic sweep in last November's elections was providential. Consider what might have happened if Republicans had suffered setbacks on November 7, 2006, but had narrowly maintained control of Congress.

The political situation facing the Bush administration would have seemed less dire. Those pushing for a new strategy in Iraq and a surge of troops might well have failed to convince the administration to embrace such a radical change. Shaky Republicans in Congress, terrified by the close call, would have been adamant that we begin to draw down in Iraq. The report of the Iraq Study Group would have fallen on the desperately receptive ears of congressional Republicans ("we barely held on and we'd better do something") and on equally receptive disappointed-but-emboldened-Democratic ones. The 110th Congress would then have insisted, with a bipartisan flourish, on an establishment-sanctioned middle way that was, in fact, a disguised path to defeat. Bush would have had a difficult time resisting pressure from a Republican or partly Republican Congress. And we would now be facing an utter debacle in the heart of the Middle East.

Instead, the GOP lost both houses. Having little left to lose, Bush defied conventional wisdom, changed commanders and strategy, and went for the surge. He was able to hold Republicans together and beat back a series of partisan assaults from the Democratic Congress, starting in January and continuing into September. He was able to buy time until the new strategy backed by more troops began to work.

The most comical evidence of the surge's success was the story on the antiwar McClatchy Newspapers wire last Tuesday, "As violence falls in Iraq, cemetery workers feel the pinch." As the astute observers at the Powerline blog put it, "This is one of those headlines you couldn't make up."

Jay Price of the Raleigh News & Observer and Qasim Zein of McClatchy Newspapers (along with McClatchy special correspondents Janab Hussein, Hussein Kadhim, and Sahar Issa--it was a major story!) reported the sad news:

At what's believed to be the world's largest cemetery, where Shiite Muslims aspire to be buried and millions already have been, business isn't good. A drop in violence around Iraq has cut burials in the huge Wadi al Salam cemetery here by at least one-third in the past six months, and that's cut the pay of thousands of workers who make their living digging graves, washing corpses or selling burial shrouds.

A loss of income for cemetery workers due to a decline in violence! Clearly an injustice for the Democratic Congress to address. But first, on Thursday, they had to try to override President Bush's veto of their cherished middle-class children's insurance bill. Bush's veto was about to be sustained when senior Democratic congressman Pete Stark, from the San Francisco Bay area, took to the floor of the House:

You don't have money to fund the war or children. But you're going to spend it to blow up innocent people, if we can get enough kids to grow old enough for you to send to Iraq to get their heads blown off for the president's amusement.

So U.S. troops in Iraq are just "blow[ing] up innocent people," and the president is sending those troops there "to get their heads blown off" for his "amusement"? Whenever you think congressional Democrats can sink no lower, they prove you wrong. Twenty-four hours later, Democratic leaders had yet to chastise their 18-term colleague. Stark refused to apologize, but he did say he respected the troops.

So does Hillary Clinton. But last month, over on the Senate side, she couldn't resist impugning the integrity of General David Petraeus as he testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee. Clinton said Petraeus's testimony required a "willing suspension of disbelief." That is, contrary to all evidence, Clinton accused the commanding general of U.S. troops in Iraq of misleading the American people.

All of this followed by several months the defining statement of the 110th Congress: Harry Reid's assertion, this past April 19, "This war is lost." History may well record that statement as the epitaph for the 110th Congress, and the party that led it. The Democrats engaged in endless efforts to make sure the war really was lost. They failed. Now it looks as if the war, despite the Democratic Congress's best efforts, may well be won. It's the congressional Democrats who are the losers. And so could be the 2008 Democratic presidential nominee. Are the American people likely to elect the candidate of a party that has tried its best to lose a winnable war?

.

Over the months I have referred to harry reid as the senate malaise leader and nancy pelosi as the disparager of the house.  Those descriptions are not just sarcastic puns, they are reality based. 

The ineptitude and counter-productivity of this congress, overseen by reid and pelosi, is breathtaking.

Will voters understand how badly congress has performed and react to it?  Well, the polls show the current, Democrat-controlled congress with the lowest approval ratings in history.  That is according to Gallup, which has been measuring congressional approval for 34 years, and Zogby, which is anything but friendly to Republicans.

I'm no prophet and have no idea what the political landscape will look like after the 2008 election.  But one thing I do know:  there is no lock at all on Democrats retaining control of either house, certainly not if voter sentiment remains where it is now. 

They don't like Bush?  Well he's not running.  They don't like congress?  Well they are. 

And if the Democratic controlled congress performs in 2008 anything like they did in 2007, they should be ousted and then some.


ANOTHER INSTANT REVISION OF HISTORY: FROM ABC NEWS / POLITICAL RADAR

Ken Berwitz

My previous blog showed how the New York Times completely distorted and misrepresented events regarding the DCC smear letter to Rush Limbaugh and the amount of money it generated for a worthy cause - an educational fund for families of fallen marines and law enforcement officers.

Now, hot on its heels, I have come across another even more egregious revision of history.  This one, from the ABC News blog "political radar" was uncovered by the invaluable site www.newsbusters.org (which is one of the new links on this page).  Please read it and see for yourself:.

ABC Tries To Credit Democrats for Rush's $2 Million Ebay Letter!

By Warner Todd Huston | October 19, 2007 - 20:34 ET

**WITH UPDATE**
If this doesn't take the cake, I don't know what does? On an ABC News Blog called the
Political Radar, ABC reports on Rush Limbaugh's $2 million condemnation letter and throughout the piece continually links "Democrats" to the charity donation that Limbaugh and the ebay bidder for the letter are giving the money to. After reading this ABC blog report, one gets the sneaking suspicion that ABC thinks that Harry Reid and the Democrats are the ones that should be hailed as the good guys responsible for raising this monumental sum for charity. It is clear that ABC did their level best to play down Limbaugh's part in the story and play up the supposed positive contribution of Democrats.

The report by Z. Byron Wolf starts off trying to massage the outrage of the original faux controversy into a mere episode of political fingerpointing instead of the outright calumny it actually is. "Who says the political fingerpointing in Washington is all for naught?," the post begins lightheartedly.

And even though there is a lot of "explanation" in this report, the Political Radar report does not take any time at all to fully explain what the letter even is nor the controversy that surrounds it, a move that further softens the outrage surrounding the letter, making it all seem just an amusement.

Here is how the post begins:

Back in September, when Democrats and Republicans were sniping at each other over the Iraq war, Republicans passed a nonbinding resolution in the Senate condemning Moveon.org for calling David Petraeus, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, "General Betrayus" in a newspaper ad.

For their part, Democrats sent a letter calling for Rush Limbaugh to be reprimanded for calling soldiers who opposed the war "phony soldiers."

The furor seemed to have died down as the Senate moved away from voting on a string of Iraq resolutions to voting on domestic spending bills.

So, they describe the "Betray us" ad in detail even though that episode doesn't really track the Reid letter story exactly, but all they have to say of the letter situation is that "Democrats sent a letter" to Rush? Then to further soften the outrage over the whole letter incident, ABC blithely tosses it off as something that quickly faded from view because it wasn't as important as "voting on a string of Iraq resolutions to voting on domestic spending bills."

The Next paragraph again links "Democrats" to the letter...

But today comes word that a Wasghinton, D.C. area philanthropist, Betty Casey (or bettyc588, as she is known on Ebay) is going to pay over $2 million for a letter Senate Democrats wrote to Mark Mays, President of Clear Channel, asking him to condemn Rush Limbaugh for the "phony soldiers" comment.

ABC also takes great pains to show that the woman who won the letter, Betty Casey an east coast philanthropist and long time political donor, gave money to Barack Obama and other "disparate political interests" like trying to donate $50 to build a mayoral residence for the mayor of Washington D.C.

Then ABC is back to linking the letter to Democrats.

Back on October 1st, Harry Reid brought the letter to the Senate floor and asked Republicans to join him condemning Limbaugh for saying that soldiers who oppose the Iraq war are "phony soldiers.

They give Reid's side of the story and mention that Rush supposedly said "phony soldiers" several times in this piece and not one time do they fully flesh out the fact that Rush did NOT say all soldiers who oppose the war are phony. Nor do they even give Rush's side of the story using the "Limbaugh claims" rhetorical device. They simply state he said "phony soldiers" as if there was no question of the fact or any other context to inform the readers about.

And the ending of the piece is an exercise in the absurd as ABC reports with a straight face the efforts of Harry Reid to take credit for the great good the $2 million charity donation will do.

Today, Reid was more conciliatory to Limbaugh and whoever is paying for the letter. Though he said on the Senate floor that as he had watched the bidding throughout the week, he never thought it would get to $2 million.

"Now, everyone knows that Rush Limbaugh and I don't agree on everything in life and maybe that is kind of an understatement," Reid said.

"But without qualification Mark May, the owner of the network that has Rush Limbaugh, and Rush Limbaugh should know that this letter that they're auctioning is going to be something that raises money for a worthwhile cause. I don't know what we could do more important than helping to ensure that children of our fallen soldiers and police officers who have fallen in the line of duty have the opportunity for their children to have a good education," he said.

You have got to be kidding me? Harry Reid LIES on the floor of the Senate. Harry Reid FAILS to get support from his own party for the effort. The Democrats create a FAKE controversy to help deflect from their supporters outrageous attack on one of our most decorated soldiers. And ABC lets Harry Reid take CREDIT for this charitable donation like HE was the one responsible for it.

You can't say that the Democrats and their ABC supporters lack gall, that's for sure.

And catch this last line in the ABC report:

The bidding ends at 1:00p.m. No mater what, Democrats are going to make a ton of money for a charity off their political vitriol.

Seriously. You have to be kidding me? Democrats are going to make a ton of money for charity?

Democrats are responsible for this wonderful thing?

They dont lack gall, for sure, and neither does ABC for their outrageous efforts to give the Democrats cover for their calumny.

UPDATE: New York Times' Faulty Coverage

Well, not surprisingly, the NYT's coverage of the sale of the letter is even worse than ABC's.

The Times' account starts with an outright lie:

After Rush Limbaugh referred to Iraq war veterans critical of the war as phony soldiers, he received a letter of complaint signed by 41 Democratic senators. He decided to auction the letter, which he described as this glittering jewel of colossal ignorance, for charity, and he pledged to match the price, dollar for dollar.

Of course, only the nutroots and MoevOn.org still thinks that Rush said any such thing as "Iraq war veterans critical of the war" are phonies. he did no such thing.

It takes the entire story before they even give Rush space to deny the "phony soldier" quote. But, at least the Times does that. The ABC post doesn't even bother to reveal the truth of the matter at all. .

How many times do you have to see such jaw-dropping dishonesty to understand that much of the mainstream media in this country are in the tank for Democrats?  I hope for your sake you don't need me to tell you anymore.  But if you do, this is another classic example.

The sorosians are no doubt pleased as punch about revisions of history like this one.  But the rest of us?  What a disgrace.

Bilby Political Radar also played a role in the recent dust-up concerning the alleged smearing/sliming/swiftboating of Graeme Frost. But in that case they got in trouble with the nutroots for not being on the message that was being put out by Families USA via Think Progress. I'd post some links to the relevant info if I could. I suggest looking on Google Blogs for "Swift-Boating Tumulty". (10/22/07)


THE NEW YORK TIMES' FRAUDULENT ARTICLE ABOUT LIMBAUGH AND THE LETTER

Ken Berwitz

Remember those puzzles you used to see when you were a kid?  The ones where you were supposed to find 5 frogs, two telephones, four ice cream cones, 3 cars, etc. hidden in the detail of a picture?

Well, for your reading pleasure (outrage is more like it), I am going to show you the literary equivalent of one of those puzzles.  It is the New York Times' coverage of Rush Limbaugh's E-bay auction, in which he sold idiotic, dishonest "condemnation" letter, signed by instigator harry reid and the other 40 members of the DCC (Democratic Clown College).

Here it is.  I won't use bold print.  You're supposed to spot the BS without my help, so no clues:.

Critical Letter to Limbaugh Fetches $2 Million

A letter from 41 senators, shown on a screengrab from eBay, became a windfall for charity.

Published: October 20, 2007

After Rush Limbaugh referred to Iraq war veterans critical of the war as phony soldiers, he received a letter of complaint signed by 41 Democratic senators. He decided to auction the letter, which he described as this glittering jewel of colossal ignorance, for charity, and he pledged to match the price, dollar for dollar.

On Thursday night, Mr. Limbaugh, the conservative radio talk show host, said he thought the letter would bring in as much as $1 million. He was wrong.

When the eBay auction closed yesterday afternoon, the winning bid was $2.1 million. It is the largest amount ever paid for an item sold on eBay to benefit a charity.

The money will go to the Marine Corps-Law Enforcement Foundation Inc., a nonprofit organization in New Jersey that provides scholarships and other assistance to families of marines and federal law enforcement officials who die or are wounded in the line of duty. Mr. Limbaugh is a director of the organization, which had total revenues of $5.2 million last year.

Its unbelievable, said James K. Kallstrom, the retired head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation office in New York, who is chairman of the foundation.

Mr. Kallstrom said the charity would meet Monday to decide how to spend the money. We might increase the size of the bonds we give these children, he said, and well probably do a lot more for the wounded veterans. Its almost unlimited what you can do for them.

The letter was bought by the Eugene B. Casey Foundation, a $294 million foundation in Gaithersburg, Md., that has given money to a wide variety of organizations, including the Washington Opera and the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund. In a statement, the foundation said its purchase of the letter was intended to demonstrate its belief in freedom of speech and to support Rush Limbaugh, his views and his continuing education of us.

Mr. Limbaugh, who declined a request for an interview, had advertised the sale on his show and elsewhere. He said fans had written him with concerns that wealthy liberals like George Soros would drive the price of the letter to $20 million or more in hopes of bankrupting him.

Its just amazing, Mr. Limbaugh told Sean Hannity and Alan Colmes of Fox News Hannity & Colmes on Thursday night, when the bidding stood at $851,000. This is more fun than Ive ever had in my life.

He predicted that the sales success would anger one signer of the letter, the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, whom Mr. Limbaugh calls Dingy Harry.

But in a statement on the floor of the Senate on Friday, Mr. Reid, a Nevada Democrat, praised the auction. I strongly believe that when we can put our differences aside, even Harry Reid and Rush Limbaugh, we should do that and try to accomplish good things for the American people, he said.

Dated Oct. 7, the letter read: Although Americans of good will debate the merits of this war, we can all agree that those who serve with such great courage deserve our deepest respect and gratitude. That is why Rush Limbaughs recent characterization of troops who oppose the war as phony soldiers is such an outrage.

Mr. Limbaugh has said that he was referring only to one soldier, who was critical of the war and had served only 44 days in the Army, never seeing combat.

Marcus S. Owens, a lawyer who headed the Internal Revenue Service division that oversees charities and foundations, said the Casey foundation might incur taxes on its purchase because it would have difficulty demonstrating that buying the letter furthered a charitable purpose. Theyd have to establish the link between the transfer of money for that letter and promoting free speech, Mr. Owens said, and thats going to be tough. .

Ok, times up.  So how'd you do?  How many did you come up with?

Here are a few from my list....and I'm sure that I'm missing a couple too:.

-After Rush Limbaugh referred to Iraq war veterans critical of the war as phony soldiers,   Not true.  Limbaugh was specifying people who PRETEND to be soldiers and lie about atrocities, not all soldiers who are criticial of the war.  As proof, both the day before he said "phony soldiers" and just minutes afterwards, he talked specifically about jesse macbeth, a perfect example of "phony soldiers".

-...he received a letter of complaint signed by 41 Democratic senators.   Wrong.  It was a CONDEMNATION letter, and it was sent to his syndicator for the purpose of trying to get an apology ... or, more exactly, to shut Limbaugh up. Did it work?  You're kidding, right?

-He predicted that the sales success would anger one signer of the letter, the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, whom Mr. Limbaugh calls Dingy Harry. But in a statement on the floor of the Senate on Friday, Mr. Reid, a Nevada Democrat, praised the auction.  Yeah, right.  Reid wasn't upset at all with this...which is why he didn't say a word for the week it was up for bids and then had to come up with his crow-eating after it raised over 4 milllion dollars.

Speaking of that sale, please note that while the writer made quick passing mention of Limbaugh's promise to match the high bid, she never acknowledged that he is making good on the pledge and that the actual amount being donated is therefore not going to be 2.1 million, but 4.2 million.  She also didn't mention that Limbaugh challenged the DCC to also match the bid (a 41-way split) and none has pledged even one thin dime so far. 

How many instances of BS did that add up to?  I lost count.

- Mr. Reid, a Nevada Democrat, praised the auction. I strongly believe that when we can put our differences aside, even Harry Reid and Rush Limbaugh, we should do that and try to accomplish good things for the American people, he said.    Yep, the guy who put out the condemnation letter and got the DCC to sign it is just thrilled. 

And it is isn't Rush Limbaugh taking the DCC's idiotic letter and turning it into a windfall for a deserving charity, it is some kind of joint effort between reid and Limbaugh -  they partnered all the way.  Ok, sure.  Anyone for a helping of green cheese?   Here, I just imported it from the moon..

Do these people have any shame at all? 

Well, maybe I'm being too harsh. Maybe they're just into puzzling.

 


THE SEXUAL ABUSE EPIDEMIC IN OUR PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Ken Berwitz

This is a terrible story to blog about, but it is an important one too, so here it is.

The Associated Press, to its great credit, has put out a frightening investigative report on sexual abuse in our public schools.  It runs a good deal longer than what I typically post, but its importance is such that I decline to excerpt it -- you should see every word. 

Also, I usually put key paragraphs in bold print - especially in a piece this long.  But not this time:  Every word deserves careful attention.

Let me show you what the the AP uncovered, and then let's talk about it..

AP: Sexual Misconduct Plagues US Schools
Oct 20 12:19 PM US/Eastern
By MARTHA IRVINE and ROBERT TANNER
AP National Writers
AP Video The young teacher hung his head, avoiding eye contact. Yes, he had touched a fifth-grader's breast during recess. "I guess it was just lust of the flesh," he told his boss.

That got Gary C. Lindsey fired from his first teaching job in Oelwein, Iowa. But it didn't end his career. He taught for decades in Illinois and Iowa, fending off at least a half-dozen more abuse accusations.

When he finally surrendered his teaching license in 200440 years after that first little girl came forwardit wasn't a principal or a state agency that ended his career. It was one persistent victim and her parents.

Lindsey's case is just a small example of a widespread problem in American schools: sexual misconduct by the very teachers who are supposed to be nurturing the nation's children.

Students in America's schools are groped. They're raped. They're pursued, seduced and think they're in love.

An Associated Press investigation found more than 2,500 cases over five years in which educators were punished for actions from bizarre to sadistic.

There are 3 million public school teachers nationwide, most devoted to their work. Yet the number of abusive educatorsnearly three for every school dayspeaks to a much larger problem in a system that is stacked against victims.

Most of the abuse never gets reported. Those cases reported often end with no action. Cases investigated sometimes can't be proven, and many abusers have several victims.

And no onenot the schools, not the courts, not the state or federal governmentshas found a surefire way to keep molesting teachers out of classrooms.

Those are the findings of an AP investigation in which reporters sought disciplinary records in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The result is an unprecedented national look at the scope of sex offenses by educatorsthe very definition of breach of trust.

The seven-month investigation found 2,570 educators whose teaching credentials were revoked, denied, surrendered or sanctioned from 2001 through 2005 following allegations of sexual misconduct.

Young people were the victims in at least 1,801 of the cases, and more than 80 percent of those were students. At least half the educators who were punished by their states also were convicted of crimes related to their misconduct.

The findings draw obvious comparisons to sex abuse scandals in other institutions, among them the Roman Catholic Church. A review by America's Catholic bishops found that about 4,400 of 110,000 priests were accused of molesting minors from 1950 through 2002.

Clergy abuse is part of the national consciousness after a string of highly publicized cases. But until now, there's been little sense of the extent of educator abuse.

Beyond the horror of individual crimes, the larger shame is that the institutions that govern education have only sporadically addressed a problem that's been apparent for years.

"From my own experiencethis could get me in troubleI think every single school district in the nation has at least one perpetrator. At least one," says Mary Jo McGrath, a California lawyer who has spent 30 years investigating abuse and misconduct in schools. "It doesn't matter if it's urban or rural or suburban."

One report mandated by Congress estimated that as many as 4.5 million students, out of roughly 50 million in American schools, are subject to sexual misconduct by an employee of a school sometime between kindergarten and 12th grade. That figure includes verbal harassment that's sexual in nature.

Jennah Bramow, one of Lindsey's accusers in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, wonders why there isn't more outrage.

"You're supposed to be able to send your kids to school knowing that they're going to be safe," says Bramow, now 20. While other victims accepted settlement deals and signed confidentiality agreements, she sued her city's schools for failing to protect her and others from Lindseyand won. Only then was Lindsey's teaching license finally revoked.

As an 8-year-old elementary-school student, Bramow told how Lindsey forced her hand on what she called his "pee-pee."

"How did you know it was his pee-pee?" an interviewer at St. Luke's Child Protection Center in Cedar Rapids asked Jennah in a videotape, taken in 1995.

"'Cause I felt something?" said Jennah, then a fidgety girl with long, dark hair.

"How did it feel?" the investigator asked.

"Bumpy," Jennah replied. She drew a picture that showed how Lindsey made her touch him on the zipper area of his pants.

Lindsey, now 68, refused multiple requests for an interview. "It never occurs to you people that some people don't want their past opened back up," he said when an AP reporter approached him at his home outside Cedar Rapids and asked questions.

That past, according to evidence presented in the Bramow's civil case, included accusations from students and parents along with reprimands from principals that were filed away, explained away and ultimately ignored until 1995, when accusations from Bramow and two other girls forced his early retirement. Even then, he kept his teaching license until the Bramows took the case public and filed a complaint with the state.

Like Lindsey, the perpetrators that the AP found are everyday educatorsteachers, school psychologists, principals and superintendents among them. They're often popular and recognized for excellence and, in nearly nine out of 10 cases, they're male. While some abused students in school, others were cited for sexual misconduct after hours that didn't necessarily involve a kid from their classes, such as viewing or distributing child pornography.

They include:

Joseph E. Hayes, a former principal in East St. Louis, Ill. DNA evidence in a civil case determined that he impregnated a 14-year-old student. Never charged criminally, his license was suspended in 2003. He has ignored an order to surrender it permanently.

Donald M. Landrum, a high school teacher in Polk County, N.C. His bosses warned him not to meet with female students behind closed doors. They put a glass window in his office door, but Landrum papered over it. Police later found pornography and condoms in his office and alleged that he was about to have sex with a female student. His license was revoked in 2005.

Rebecca A. Boicelli, a former teacher in Redwood City, Calif. She conceived a child with a 16-year-old former student then went on maternity leave in 2004 while police investigated. She was hired to teach in a nearby school district; board members said police hadn't told them about the investigation.

The overwhelming majority of cases the AP examined involved teachers in public schools. Private school teachers rarely turn up because many are not required to have a teaching license and, even when they have one, disciplinary actions are typically handled within the school.

Two of the nation's major teachers unions, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, each denounced sex abuse while emphasizing that educators' rights also must be taken into account.

"Students must be protected from sexual predators and abuse, and teachers must be protected from false accusations," said NEA President Reg Weaver, who refused to be interviewed and instead released a two- paragraph statement.

Kathy Buzad of the AFT said that "if there's one incident of sexual misconduct between a teacher and a student that's one too many."

The United States has grown more sympathetic to victims of sex abuse over recent decades, particularly when it comes to young people. Laws that protect children from abusers bear the names of young victims. Police have made pursuing Internet predators a priority. People convicted of abuse typically face tough sentences and registry as sex offenders.

Even so, sexually abusive teachers continue to take advantage, and there are several reasons why.

For one, many Americans deny the problem, and even treat the abuse with misplaced fascination. Popular media reports trumpet relationships between attractive female teachers and male students.

"It's dealt with in a salacious manner with late-night comedians saying 'What 14-year-old boy wouldn't want to have sex with his teacher?' It trivializes the whole issue," says Robert Shoop, a professor of educational administration at Kansas State University who has written a book aimed at helping school districts identify and deal with sexual misconduct.

"In other cases, it's reported as if this is some deviant who crawled into the school district'and now that they're gone, everything's OK.' But it's much more prevalent than people would think."

The AP investigation found efforts to stop individual offenders but, overall, a deeply entrenched resistance toward recognizing and fighting abuse. It starts in school hallways, where fellow teachers look away or feel powerless to help. School administrators make behind-the-scenes deals to avoid lawsuits and other trouble. And in state capitals and Congress, lawmakers shy from tough state punishments or any cohesive national policy for fear of disparaging a vital profession.

That only enables rogue teachers, and puts kids who aren't likely to be believed in a tough spot.

In case after case the AP examined, accusations of inappropriate behavior were dismissed. One girl in Mansfield, Ohio, complained about a sexual assault by teacher Donald Coots and got expelled. It was only when a second girl, years later, brought a similar complaint against the same teacher that he was punished.

And that second girl also was ostracized by the school community and ultimately left town.

Unless there's a videotape of a teacher involved with a child, everyone wants to believe the authority figure, says Wayne Promisel, a retired Virginia detective who has investigated many sex abuse cases.

He and others who track the problem reiterated one point repeatedly during the AP investigation: Very few abusers get caught.

They point to several academic studies estimating that only about one in 10 victimized children report sexual abuse of any kind to someone who can do something about it.

Teachers, administrators and even parents frequently don't, or won't, recognize the signs that a crime is taking place.

"They can't see what's in front of their face. Not unlike a kid in an alcoholic family, who'll say 'My family is great,'" says McGrath, the California lawyer and investigator who now trains entire school systems how to recognize what she calls the unmistakable "red flags" of misconduct.

In Hamburg, Pa., in 2002, those "red flags" should have been clear. A student skipped classes every day to spend time with one teacher. He gave her gifts and rides in his car. She sat on his lap. The bond ran so deep that the student got chastised repeatedlyeven suspended once for being late and absent so often. But there were no questions for the teacher.

Heather Kline was 12, a girl with a broad smile and blond hair pulled back tight. Teacher Troy Mansfield had cultivated her since she was in his third-grade class.

"Kids, like, idolized me because they thought I was, like, cool because he paid more attention to me," says Kline, now 18, sitting at her mother's kitchen table, sorting through a file of old poems and cards from Mansfield. "I was just like really comfortable. I could tell him anything."

He never pushed her, just raised the stakes, bit by bita comment about how good she looked, a gift, a hug.

She was sure she was in love.

By winter of seventh grade, he was sneaking her off in his car for an hour of sex, dropping in on her weekly baby-sitting duties, e-mailing about what clothes she should wear, about his sexual fantasies, about marriage and children.

Mansfield finally got caught by the girl's mother, and his own words convicted him. At his criminal trial in 2004, Heather read his e-mails and instant messages aloud, from declarations of true love to explicit references to past sex. He's serving up to 31 years in state prison.

The growing use of e-mails and text messages is leaving a trail that investigators and prosecutors can use to prove an intimate relationship when other evidence is hard to find.

Even then, many in the community find it difficult to accept that a predator is in their midst. When these cases break, defendants often portray the students as seducers or false accusers. However, every investigator questioned said that is largely a misconception.

"I've been involved in several hundred investigations," says Martin Bates, an assistant superintendent in a Salt Lake City school district. "I think I've seen that just a couple of times ... where a teacher is being pursued by a student."

Too often, problem teachers are allowed to leave quietly. That can mean future abuse for another student and another school district.

"They might deal with it internally, suspending the person or having the person move on. So their license is never investigated," says Charol Shakeshaft, a leading expert in teacher sex abuse who heads the educational leadership department at Virginia Commonwealth University.

It's a dynamic so common it has its own nicknames"passing the trash" or the "mobile molester."

Laws in several states require that even an allegation of sexual misconduct be reported to the state departments that oversee teacher licenses. But there's no consistent enforcement, so such laws are easy to ignore.

School officials fear public embarrassment as much as the perpetrators do, Shakeshaft says. They want to avoid the fallout from going up against a popular teacher. They also don't want to get sued by teachers or victims, and they don't want to face a challenge from a strong union.

In the Iowa case, Lindsey agreed to leave without fighting when his bosses kept the reason for his departure confidential. The decades' worth of allegations against him would have stayed secret, if not for Bramow.

Across the country, such deals and lack of information-sharing allow abusive teachers to jump state lines, even when one school does put a stop to the abuse.

While some schools and states have been aggressive about investigating problem teachers and publicizing it when they're found, others were hesitant to share details of cases with the APAlabama and Mississippi among the more resistant. Maine, the only state that gave the AP no disciplinary information, has a law that keeps offending teachers' cases secret.

Meanwhile, the reasons given for punishing hundreds of educators, including many in California, were so vague there was no way to tell why they'd been punished, until further investigation by AP reporters revealed it was sexual misconduct.

And in Hawaii, no educators were disciplined by the state in the five years the AP examined, even though some teachers there were serving sentences for various sex crimes during that time. They technically remained teachers, even behind bars.

Elsewhere, there have been fitful steps toward catching errant teachers that may be having some effect. The AP found the number of state actions against sexually abusive teachers rose steadily, to a high of 649 in 2005.

More states now require background checks on teachers, fingerprinting and mandatory reporting of abuse, though there are still loopholes and a lack of coordination among districts and states.

U.S. Supreme Court rulings in the last 20 years on civil rights and sex discrimination have opened schools up to potentially huge financial punishments for abuses, which has driven some schools to act.

And the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification keeps a list of educators who've been punished for any reason, but only shares the names among state agencies.

The uncoordinated system that's developed means some teachers still fall through the cracks. Aaron M. Brevik is a case in point.

Brevik was a teacher at an elementary school in Warren, Mich., until he was accused of using a camera hidden in a gym bag to secretly film boys in locker rooms and showers. He also faced charges that he recorded himself molesting a boy while the child slept.

Found guilty of criminal sexual conduct, Brevik is now serving a five- to 20-year prison sentence and lost his Michigan license in 2005.

What Michigan officials apparently didn't know when they hired him was that Brevik's teaching license in Minnesota had been permanently suspended in 2001 after he allegedly invited two male minors to stay with him in a hotel room. He was principal of an elementary school in southeastern Minnesota at the time.

"I tell you what, they never go away. They just blend a little better," says Steve Janosko, a prosecutor in Ocean County, N.J., who handled the case of a former high school teacher and football coach, Nicholas J. Arminio.

Arminio surrendered his New Jersey teaching license in 1994 after two female students separately accused him of inappropriate touching. The state of Maryland didn't know that when he applied for teaching credentials and took a job at a high school in Baltimore County. He eventually resigned and lost that license, too.

Even so, until this month, he was coaching football at another Baltimore County high school in a job that does not require a teaching license. After the AP started asking questions, he was fired.

Victims also face consequences when teachers are punished.

In Pennsylvania, after news of teacher Troy Mansfield's arrest hit, girls called Kline, his 12-year-old victim, a "slut" to her face. A teacher called her a "vixen." Friends stopped talking to her. Kids no longer sat with her at lunch.

Her abuser, meanwhile, had been a popular teacher and football coach.

So, between rumors that she was pregnant or doing drugs and her own panic attacks and depression, Kline bounced between schools. At 16, she ran away to Nashville.

"I didn't have my childhood," says Kline, who's back home now, working at a grocery cash register and hoping to get her GED so she can go to nursing school. "He had me so matured at so young.

"I remember going from little baby dolls to just being an adult."

The courts dealt her a final insult. A federal judge dismissed her civil suit against the school, saying administrators had no obligation to protect her from a predatory teacher since officials were unaware of the abuse, despite what the court called widespread "unsubstantiated rumors" in the school. The family is appealing.

In Iowa, the state Supreme Court made the opposite ruling in the Bramow case, deciding she and her parents could sue the Cedar Rapids schools for failing to stop Lindsey.

Bramow, now a young mother who waits tables for a living, won a $20,000 judgment. But Lindsey was never criminally charged due to what the former county prosecutor deemed insufficient evidence.

Arthur Sensor, the former superintendent in Oelwein, Iowa, who vividly recalls pressuring Lindsey to quit on Feb. 18, 1964, regrets that he didn't do more to stop him back then.

Now, he says, he'd call the police.

"He promised me he wouldn't do it againthat he had learned. And he was a young man, a beginning teacher, had a young wife, a young child," Sensor, now 86 years old, said during testimony at the Bramows' civil trial.

"I wanted to believe him, and I did." 

.

The first point to be made is just how pervasive public school sexual abuse is.  The AP makes it very clear that they probably have uncovered only a small percentage of the actual number of incidents.

Another key finding is that there is a system - an insidious, mutual cover-your-ass system - in place that protects sexual offenders in the public schools.  Am I surprised?  No.  Is it horrific?  Yes.

The AP also makes quick reference to the comparison between Catholic priests accused of sexual misconduct and public school teachers.  Fair enough.  What they don't talk about, however, is that the depredations of Catholic priests have been front page news for years and years, but public school sexual misconduct has always been treated as one or another individual cases, not as the pervasive epidemic it clearly is.

Will media pick up this expos and start talking about what is going on in our public schools?  I would like to think so, but I doubt it.  In our media, it is open season on Catholics in general and Catholic priests in particular.  Public school teachers, however, are perceived in far more exalted terms.  We'll see.........

Let me end by making an extremely important point about presumed innocence.  Not every schoolteacher is a sexual predator and not every accused schoolteacher is guilty.  As a matter of simple decency and fairness, each incident must be determined individually on its own facts. 

Whether we are talking about a priest or a schoolteacher, the last thing we want is someone's life ruined over a false charge.


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