Friday, 14 December 2007


Ken Berwitz

Let's play a game of suppose.

Suppose you are an al qaeda "leader", maybe bin laden or zawahiri.  What kinds of things would be on your wish list for the USA?

How about these:

-Making it significantly harder for authorities to monitor the telephone conversations of your terrorist operatives;

-Disallowing interrogation techniques like waterboarding, even with the hardest cases who have the most information to provide (waterboarding has only been used three times that we are aware of and is not - repeat, not - legally defined as torture);

-Ignoring the nuclear threat of nations friendly to your kind of terrorism, like Iran, by acting on a statement within the latest NIE report which said Iran had halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003, but disregarding detailed information in the same report that Iran's "peaceful" nuclear program was comprised of virtually the same steps necessary to create nuclear weapons?

Could anything make bin laden and zawahiri any happier?  Short of the USA renouncing democracy and pledging loyalty to shari'a law, I doubt it.

With this in mind, here is the New York Times' lead editorial today.  See how you think bin laden and zawahiri feel about it:

Notes From the Global War on Terror

During the presidential campaign, candidates from both parties will warn of the risk of another terrorist attack on this country. Americans should insist that they also explain how they will repair the damage President Bush has done to Americas intelligence-gathering capabilities in the name of fighting terrorism.

Congress certainly has not done the job. For six years, it stood by mutely or actively approved as President Bushs team cooked the books to justify war, drew the nations electronic spies into illegal wiretapping and turned intelligence agents and uniformed soldiers into torturers at outlaw prisons.

Now, with the opposition party in control on Capitol Hill, lawmakers have a chance to start setting right some wrongs in these areas. But there are disturbing signs that they will once again fail to do what is needed.

EAVESDROPPING After the disclosure that Mr. Bush had authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans international phone calls and e-mail messages without a court warrant, Congress has been struggling to write a law that does three important things: force the president to obey the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA; preserve the power of judges to approve and monitor surveillance of Americans; and update FISA to keep pace with technology. Last summer, Congress gave Mr. Bush a bill that had the needed updates but made it easier to spy on Americans.

That law expires in February, and the House has passed a bill that updates FISA while doing a great deal to ensure real judicial and Congressional oversight of any eavesdropping. The Senate Judiciary Committee also wrote a bill that does those things with a sensible two-year expiration date.

Mr. Bush, of course, wants fewer, not more, restrictions and wants those powers to be made permanent. He also wants amnesty for telecommunications companies that gave Americans private data to the government for at least five years without a warrant.

Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, seems intent on doing the presidents bidding. He has indicated that instead of the Judiciary Committees bill, he may put on the floor a deeply flawed measure from the Senate Intelligence Committee that dangerously expands the governments powers and gives undeserved amnesty to the telecommunications companies. The White House says amnesty is intended to ensure future cooperation but seems truly aimed at making sure the public never learns the extent of the companies involvement in illegal wiretapping.

That will leave Democratic senators like Christopher Dodd and Russ Feingold in the absurd position of having to stage filibusters against their own partys leadership to try to forestall more harm to civil liberties.

INTERROGATIONS AND TORTURE The recent disclosure that the Central Intelligence Agency destroyed videotapes of the interrogation of two Al Qaeda prisoners was a stark reminder of the catastrophic blunder that Congress made by enacting the Military Commissions Act of 2006. In addition to creating kangaroo courts to try the Guantnamo detainees, the bill permitted Mr. Bush to abrogate the Geneva Conventions by creating secret, extra-legal rules for interrogations by intelligence agents.

It was obvious that the tapes were destroyed to protect interrogators or their bosses from being held responsible for illegal acts like waterboarding. Congress must investigate the destruction of the tapes, using subpoenas, if necessary, to officials like John Rizzo, the C.I.A.s senior lawyer, and Jose Rodriguez, the former chief of clandestine services, who ordered the tapes destruction in 2005.

USE AND MISUSE OF INTELLIGENCE Americans were stunned when the White House released a new intelligence assessment that said that Iran had halted its covert nuclear weapons program in 2003. Beyond those startling facts were questions about whether Mr. Bush knew of this assessment when he was warning about World War III if Iran were allowed to get a nuclear weapon.

And that was a reminder of another time when Mr. Bush misled the nation about Iraqi weapons programs that had long disappeared. The Senate Intelligence Committee was supposed to have an investigation years ago into what Mr. Bush and other officials knew about the intelligence on Iraqs weapons when they used it to stampede the country into war.

For more than two years, the Republican chairman of the committee, Senator Pat Roberts, made sure that a report would never be finished. It has now been in the hands of his replacement, Democrat Jay Rockefeller, for nearly a year, and there is still no report. That means Americans still dont know whether Mr. Bush deliberately hyped and distorted the intelligence on Iraq or was also misinformed.

Americans need to know what Mr. Bush knew on both Iraq and Iran, and when he knew it. Anything less is unacceptable. .

I've asked this before but, having read the Times editorial,  I have to ask again:

Which side are they rooting for?


Ken Berwitz

In previous blogs, I've talked about the rhetorical device known as "paralepsis".  Paralepsis is when you communicate something by pretending not to communicate it (e.g. "my opponent's frequent visits to strip clubs has no place in this campaign").

I am mentioning it again because now, as Hillary Clinton's presidential nomination is becoming less and less certain, her campaign has taken to using it.

This week we had a nearly perfect example of how it's done from Ms. Clinton's campaign co-chair (I think there may be 10,000 co-chairs for this campaign, everybody seems to be one), "Bill" Shaheen.

Mr. Shaheen is hardly a newbie in politics.  His wife, Jean, was the governor of New Hampshire and is currently a candidate for the senate.  So it is reasonable to assume that Shaheen knew what he was doing when he attacked Barack Obama on the grounds that Obama's (self-admitted) drug and alcohol usage during his teen years would become an issue in the general election.

Mr. Shaheen's exact words were

"It'll be, 'When was the last time? Did you ever give drugs to anyone? Did you sell them to anyone?'" Shaheen said. "There are so many openings for Republican dirty tricks. It's hard to overcome."

That is political poetry in motion.  Not only does Mr. Shaheen get out the attack line on Senator Obama, but he blames Republicans for doing it and attacks them!  I didn't say it, y'see, I'm just channeling what those dastardly Republicans were going to say.

If this had been done maybe a month or two ago, media - which at that time were still jumping through hoops for Hillary - would have let it go and it might have sunk the then-fledgling Obama candidacy.

But Mr. Shaheen's attack took place now, as media are clearly starting to become horrified that Queen Hillary is not so inevitable as they thought and maybe there has to be a different Democratic candidate.  So it was reported in context, seen for the hit job it was, and backfired into a major fiasco.

(Parenthetically, I would be remiss not to say that I consider the hypothetical questions Shaheen raised to be perfectly legitimate and, if I were the Republican candidate running against him, I would ask them.  I call this a "hit job" because Shaheen pretended the questions were not legitimate while simultaneously making sure everyone heard them).

Now, in full damage-control mode, Mr. Shaheen has apologized (he had to for her sake) and "resigned" from the Clinton campaign. 

I put resigned in quotation marks because I believe this resignation about as much as I believe that when a manager is tossed out of a baseball game he doesn't stand next to the dugout door and tell his team what to do anyway.

But it is undeniable that, in this instance, paralepsis turned a campaign operative into a paraleper.  The question is how badly it hurts Ms. Clinton - the one who more than likely put him up to it in the first place.

We'll see......


Ken Berwitz

Here, courtesy of , is the latest update from those sweet, fun-loving folks in Gaza;   the ones Israel is told it should make peace with.

The insanity is Gaza's, the bold print is mine:

Friday, December 14, 2007
Four killed, 30 injured in Palestinian grenade attack on Palestinian funeral in Gaza
Four killed, 30 injured in grenade attack on funeral in Gaza
Date: 14 / 12 / 2007 Time: 13:16

Gaza - Ma'an - Palestinian medical sources announced on Friday that four
Palestinians were killed and more than 30 injured during the funeral
procession of Khalil Masar'a, who was killed yesterday in Israeli shelling
in the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood of Gaza City.

Mu'awiya Hassanain, the director of ambulance and emergency services in the Palestinian health ministry said that four people were killed and more than 30 were injured during the funeral as a result of a grenade being hurled. He described five of the injured as being in a serious condition.

He named the dead as twenty-year-old Mu'taz Masar'a and
twenty-three-year-old Yousif Abu Ryala and eighteen-year-old Zuhair Awad, in addition to Ashraf Al-Ashqar, who fell from the top of a building while the funeral procession marched past.

The spokesperson of the Fatah-affiliated Sami Al-Ghool Brigades, a division of the Al-Aqsa Brigades, also confirmed that a grenade was hurled at the crowd of mourners attending the funeral.

High-ranking Fatah official Ibrahim Abu An-Naja condemned the attack on the funeral. He told Ma'an that such practices only serve the Israeli

The spokesperson of the Hamas-affiliated police in the Gaza Strip Islam
Shahwan said that the grenade targeted one of the mourners and that
investigations are ongoing.


Let me be the first to wonder out loud how Israel could possibly have a problem making peace with these kindly, gentle people.

A grenade is launched into a funeral procession.  Why?  Because Hamas, which runs most of the government and took over all of Gaza through violence, wanted to kill one of the attendees. 

What about civilian casualties among the people NOT being targeted?  No problem at all.

And let's not forget that condemnation.  Why was it made?  Not because this is a depraved, mindlessly violent act that killed many innocents.  But because the attack might somehow help Israel.  

The fact that there are many Gazans who are dead and injured?  Who gives a damn.

Yeah, there's a peace partner all right.


Ken Berwitz

Alan Keyes holds no political office.  He has no presence in the polls, no organization and virtually no support.  Mr. Keyes' nonstop rants, often completely off topic, embarrass Republican frontrunners.  He has been in no Presidential debates until two days ago. 

Dennis Kucinich is an elected congressperson running for President.  Although he does not appear to have a realistic chance of winning the nomination, he does have pockets of significant support.  Mr. Kucinich takes strong, leftist stands on major issues which often draw strongly positive reaction from Democratic audiences.  His political stands and the positive audience reaction to them embarrass Democratic frontrunners.  He has been in almost every Presidential debate until two days ago.

The Des Moines Register ran a Republican debate two days ago and included Alan Keyes.  The Des Moines Register ran a Democratic debate yesterday and excluded Dennis Kucinich.

Now why would that be?

It was reported that the Register would put an explanation of why Alan Keyes, an absolute nonentity without any credibility as a Presidential candidate, would have been there to upstage and embarrass Republicans.  I went to the paper's website and searched every logical combination I could think of, including "Alan Keyes", Alan Keyes debate", Alan Keyes Republican Debate" and "Alan Keyes Debate Criteria".  Nothing came up to explain his presence there.

But I did find a feature article about why Dennis Kucinich was excluded.  Here is the relevant excerpt from that article:.

Kucinich fans wanted him in debate


Fans of Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich ripped into organizers of Thursdays Democratic debate for excluding their candidate.

They did not buy the explanation from Des Moines Register leaders, who said Kucinich failed to meet their criteria because he didnt have Iowa office space.

I just thought the excuse was absurd, said Christiane Brown, a Kucinich supporter who hosts a political talk show on radio in Reno, Nev.

Kucinich backers anger was fanned by the fact that two trailing GOP candidates, Alan Keyes and Duncan Hunter, were invited to the Registers Republican debate Wednesday. Debate organizers said those candidates met all five entrance criteria, but Kucinich did not.

Campaign officials say Kucinichs Iowa office is in donated space at the home of a Dubuque organizer.

Register Vice President of Marketing Susan Patterson Plank said the campaigns explanation did not suffice. The decision by the Des Moines Register was that they needed to have an office, not in someones home, she said.

Publisher Laura Hollingsworth released a statement saying the criteria were designed to ensure a serious debate, not to exclude specific candidates. Iowans look for and expect a commitment from candidates during this process, including having an office, having staffers, polling at 1 percent and higher.

Brown said she and others suspected the Democratic Party establishment was behind the exclusion because of fears that Kucinich would raise uncomfortable issues. Patterson Plank denied it. Of course not. That is not true, she said.

There you have it, folks.  The reason given by the Des Moines Register to explain why Congressperson Kucinich was not allowed on that stage is that they didn't like where his office was.  I kid you not.  Read it again and see.  Those words aren't going to change.,

So Alan Keyes, who embarrasses Republican frontrunners, is included  for no stated reason.  And Dennis Kucinich, who damages and embarrasses every frontrunner (which is exactly what the frontrunners try to do to each other!) is excluded based on the quality of his campaign office. 

Bottome line?  The Des Moines Register has intentionally manipulated both debates.  The result of its manipulation is damaging to the Republican frontrunners and helpful to the Democratic frontrunners.

This is a textbook case in media bias and a textbool lesson in how it is done.  I hope we all learn well from it.


Ken Berwitz

Fiorello LaGuardia, the former mayor of New York City, was a very colorful man.  One of his most quoted lines was "when I make a mistake, it's a beaut"

I think if The Little Flower were alive today he would give license to WNBC-TV-New York to use that quote.  Loudly.  Here's why:.

WNBC's Bogus Steroids Scoop

Pujols, Nomar, Varitek on phony Mitchell list published by station

 DECEMBER 14--Shortly after ESPN broke the news yesterday that Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte would be nailed in the Mitchell Report, WNBC-TV, the NBC affiliate in New York, blew the story wide open. "Newschannel 4's Jonathan Dienst has obtained the expected list of current and former major league players linked to steroids, according to George Mitchell's investigation," reported the station's web site at 11:23 AM. The WNBC story then unspooled a list of 75 purported juicers, including Albert Pujols, Johnny Damon, Jason Varitek, Nomar Garciaparra, Ivan Rodriguez, Jeff Bagwell, Milton Bradley, Kerry Wood, Mark Prior, Trot Nixon, Mike Cameron, Brady Anderson, Albert Belle, and Kyle Farnsworth. The WNBC exclusive, which is reprinted below, was posted seven minutes after an identical list of names was published by the sports blog Deadspin, which reported that it had been forwarded the names by "about 25 different people" during the preceding hour. The list, which was whipping around via e-mail, "could very likely be one of those Web urban legends that somehow got around," Deadspin cautioned. WNBC, though, showed no such reserve. The station reported that it had received the list from "two separate sources" (which was still 23 "sources" fewer than Deadspin). But after WNBC posted the list, baseball officials began refuting the story, with the station reporting that Major League Baseball brass said there were "several discrepancies between the list posted and Mitchell's list." As it turned out, it was several dozen "discrepancies," with nearly half the names in WNBC's story not appearing in Mitchell's report. In fact, every name above--from Pujols to Farnsworth--can not be found in the Mitchell Report. The list was eventually yanked from the WNBC web site out of "an abundance of caution," the station reported in an updated story. The station has yet to retract (or apologize for) its original reporting. (1 page)  .

That last line says it all.  "The station has yet to retract (or apologize for) its original reporting"

This is what being a member of the media elite is all about.  You can attack everyone else and jump all over their mistakes.  But yours are to be immediately forgotten.  No retraction or apology necessary.

Hey, just because when you make a mistake it's a beaut, doesn't mean you have to ADMIT to the beaut, does it?

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