Tuesday, 22 January 2008


Ken Berwitz

I don't know what happened to Fred Thompson.  I thought he could have been a major candidate, but his campaign never got off the ground.

Truthfully, I didn't get the sense that Thompson really wanted it.  He never seemed engaged, did he?  Other than a few (too few) moments in the debates he seemed understated, even listless.

Yet as a Vice Presidential nominee, I believe Fred Thompson would enhance any one of the major candidates.  He is a credible conservative, which would shore up the party's base.  He is a southerner, which would help to hold the region since none of the three - Giuliani, Romney or McCain - are from that area.  And as a two-time senator, Thompson brings a dimension to Giuliani or Romney that neither has.

Initial reports indicate Mr. Thompson is not interested in the Vice Presidency.  But I suspect this is a fluid position.  Maybe we'll get the chance to find out.

Ken Maybe so, but waiters and waitresses (yes I still use those terms) loved Al Gore's wife the best of them all. That's because she was such a big Tipper. (01/23/08)

Russ Fred has the hottest wife of any presidential candidate in history. (01/22/08)


Ken Berwitz

Ok, now, some observations about yesterday's rancorous (to say the least) Democratic debate. 

-Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama don't like each other.  I don't mean that they are at each other as competitors for their party's Presidential nomination; I mean they don't like each other.  And it shows.  Based on how they are behaving, I don't blame either of them a bit.

-Obama came across as someone trying to fight back and not succeeding.  Clinton called him a liar and other than one time saying "that's not true" or words to that effect, he kept finding sanitized ways of calling her a liar back.  It made her look triumphant and him look weak.

-John Edwards, for most (not all, but most) of the debate, tag-teamed with Clinton against Obama.  It was unseemly and obnoxious.  More importantly, though, I am dead certain that it was not lost on countless Black voters.  Don't think they'll forget it in November.

-The fact that Hillary Clinton would attack Barack Obama's 130 "present" votes in the Illinois state senate (i.e. neither yea or nay) was a sure bet.  How could he not have been prepared with a strong counterattack?  Yet he wasn't.  That, to me, is less Obama's inexperience than it is that his campaign staff is weak.  You cannot go into battle against the Clintons without heavy artillery.

-Obama's whiney complaint that it's hard to tell which Clinton he's running against made him look weak and defensive.  Again, I lay this primarily at the doorstep of his campaign staff.  OF COURSE both Clintons are attacking him.  That is what they do.  That is what they have done for over a month.  If Barack Obama did not have a show-stopping line of some kind to turn this around on the Clintons, they did not do their job.

-John Edwards had a right to be on the stage...but by the skin of his teeth.  He is no longer a viable candidate.  In fact it is likely that he will finish third in South Carolina - which is his home state!  I listened to the "panel" discussion on CNN after the debate, as they discussed how Edwards' performance might help him nationally and thought that, collectively, they needed their heads examined.

-Edwards vomited out a gratuitous, viciously personal sarcasm at President Bush during the debate.  It was unnecessary, uncalled for and showed how small a human being The Human Oil Slick really is.  What arrogance, coming from a man who won one senate term, couldn't win a second, couldn't even carry his home state in 2004 and sends his wife out to fight his battles for him.  He is pathetic.

-Obama made a racial reference at the end of the debate that, had a White candidate said it, would have been lead story material all over the media this morning.  In commenting on Toni Morrison's idiotic characterization of Bill Clinton as the "first Black President", Obama said:

"I would have to investigate more, Bill's dancing abilities and some of this other stuff before I accurately judged whether he was, in fact, a brother" .

Is that supposed to be funny?  Well, it isn't.  It is racist.  And stupid.  And it exploits skin color.  Why?  Because any White candidate from either party who would say anything like this would be DOA this morning, but Barack Obama gets credit for a clever one-liner, that's why.


Ken Berwitz

For the second time in a week a young, successful movie star has been found dead.

This time it is Heath Ledger, who is gone at the age of 28.  Initial reports (which often are inaccurate) indicate there were pills of some kind found near his body, which might suggest either an accidental overdose or a suicide.

Among Ledger's film credits were "The Patriot", "Monster's Ball" and, more recently, the controversial Ang Lee film "Brokeback Mountain".

Just days ago Brad Renfroe, a young man with a terrible history of drug abuse, was found dead in his Los Angeles home.

How sad to see this happen. 


Ken Berwitz

I apologize for not getting to this one sooner.  It is over a week old.  But I find that my anger at the New York Times is as intense now as it was when I read this hateful, dishonest vomit.

Simply stated, the Times decided that its 5 year attempt to subvert and sabotage the war in Iraq wasn't going well enough.  After all, the troop surge is WORKING and President Bush's hope for that surge is rapidly being realized.  Baghdad neighborhoods are becoming safer, Iraqi troops are replacing US troops all over the country, refugees are streaming back, the government is finally moving forward and casualties are down dramatically.

Omigod.  What a nightmare.

This worst-case scenario has apparently spurred the Times to try and find new ways to attack our troops.  What to do, what to do....? 

What the Times did was to write a 9 page (that's not a typo - NINE PAGE) "expos" of how many soldiers have committed or been accused of homicides since they came back from Iraq.  This was headlined as:  Across America, Deadly Echoes of Foreign Battles.  Is that accusatory enough for you? 

And what did the Times come up with, when compiling their dossier of ruthlessly murderous Iraq war veterans?  The total number was 121 -- which they then projected into a nine page propaganda piece for our enemies.

Does 121 sound like a lot to you?  Then, tell you what;  here is John Hinderaker of www.powerlineblog.com to show you just how incredibly dishonest this formerly credible newspaper has become:

Crazed Veterans Spark Nationwide Crime Wave

That's the theme of a front page article in today's New York Times: "Across America, Deadly Echoes of Foreign Battles." The article reports on what must have been a major effort by the Times to comb through news reports from across the country, identifying and tabulating instances where servicemen who returned from Iraq or Afghanistan were charged with some form of homicide. The Times summarizes the results of its research:

Town by town across the country, headlines have been telling similar stories. Lakewood, Wash.: Family Blames Iraq After Son Kills Wife. Pierre, S.D.: Soldier Charged With Murder Testifies About Postwar Stress. Colorado Springs: Iraq War Vets Suspected in Two Slayings, Crime Ring.

Individually, these are stories of local crimes, gut-wrenching postscripts to the war for the military men, their victims and their communities. Taken together, they paint the patchwork picture of a quiet phenomenon, tracing a cross-country trail of death and heartbreak.

The New York Times found 121 cases in which veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan committed a killing in this country, or were charged with one, after their return from war.

The Times article goes on just about forever--it is nine pages long on the web--but it consists almost entirely of anecdotes about a handful of the 121 alleged crimes. The stories are indeed sad, and some of the soldiers and veterans involved no doubt did suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Still, the Times' approach is astonishingly unsystematic, especially since the paper takes seriously the idea that the U.S. military may be responsible for the supposed crime wave:

At various times, the question of whether the military shares some blame for these killings gets posed.

When it is not recounting stories of crimes committed by servicemen, always from a point of view sympathetic to the idea that service in a theater of war was a contributing factor--"plagued by nightmares about an Iraqi civilian killed by his unit, [Mr. Sepi] often needed alcohol to fall asleep"--the paper waxes pretentious:

Decades of studies on the problems of Vietnam veterans have established links between combat trauma and higher rates of unemployment, homelessness, gun ownership, child abuse, domestic violence, substance abuse and criminality. On a less scientific level, such links have long been known.

The connection between war and crime is unfortunately very ancient, said Dr. Shay, the V.A. psychiatrist and author. The first thing that Odysseus did after he left Troy was to launch a pirate raid on Ismarus. Ending up in trouble with the law has always been a final common pathway for some portion of psychologically injured veterans.

Now put yourself in the place of a newspaper editor. Suppose you are asked to evaluate whether your paper should run a long article on a nationwide epidemic of murders committed by veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan--a crime wave that, your reporter suggests, constitutes a "cross-country trail of death and heartbreak." Suppose that the reporter who proposes to write the article says it will be a searing indictment of the U.S. military's inadequate attention to post-traumatic stress disorder. Suppose further that you are not a complete idiot.

Given that last assumption, I'm pretty sure your first question will be: "How does the murder rate among veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan compare to the murder rate for young American men generally?" Remarkably, this is a question the New York Times did not think to ask. Or, if the Times asked the question and figured out the answer, the paper preferred not to report it.

As of 2005, the homicide rate for Americans aged 18-24, the cohort into which most soldiers fall, was around 27 per 100,000. (The rate for men in that age range would be much higher, of course, since men commit around 88% of homicides. But since most soldiers are also men, I gave civilians the benefit of the doubt and considered gender a wash.)

Next we need to know how many servicemen have returned from Iraq or Afghanistan. A definitive number is no doubt available, but the only hard figure I've seen is that as of last October, more than 500,000 U.S. Army personnel had served in either Iraq or Afghanistan. Other sources peg the total number of personnel from all branches of the military who have served in the two theaters much higher, e.g. 750,000, 650,000 as of February 2007, or 1,280,000. For the sake of argument, let's say that 700,000 soldiers, Marines, airmen and sailors have returned to the U.S. from service in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Do the math: the 121 alleged instances of homicide identified by the Times, out of a population of 700,000, works out to a rate of 17 per 100,000--quite a bit lower than the overall national rate of around 27.

But wait! The national rate of 27 homicides per 100,000 is an annual rate, whereas the Times' 121 alleged crimes were committed over a period of six years. Which means that, as far as the Times' research shows, the rate of homicides committed by military personnel who have returned from Iraq or Afghanistan is only a fraction of the homicide rate for other Americans aged 18 to 24. Somehow, the Times managed to publish nine pages of anecdotes about the violence wreaked by returning servicemen without ever mentioning this salient fact.

I've got a suggestion for the editors of the Times: next time, why don't they undertake a research project to identify all murders and other forms of homicide committed (or allegedly committed--no finding of guilt necessary!) by people who are, or recently have been, employed by newspaper companies? They could write a long article in which selected crimes allegedly committed by reporters, editors and typesetters are recounted in detail, accompanied by speculation about whether newspaper employment was a contributing factor in each case. No need to wonder whether reporters, editors and typesetters commit homicide at a rate any different from the rest of the population--a single murder is too many!

Here's another idea: the Times' story on veterans' crimes repeatedly focused on the role of alcoholism, which the paper associated with the stresses of military service. How about a survey that compares alcoholism rates among reporters and soldiers? Just on a hunch, I'll wager a dollar that the alcoholism rate for reporters is higher.

It's bad enough that the New York Times smears our military personnel when they are serving overseas. Can't they at least leave them alone once they return home?.

Pathetic.  Disgusting.  Anti-USA. You can fill in a few more adjectives, lots of them fit just as well.

Since the Times likes to measure one variable versus another, maybe it would like to measure he difference between what its credibility and honesty levels were at one time versus what they are now. 

THEN we'd have a difference worth talking about.


Ken Berwitz

It is now three months since a female Black professor at Columbia claimed to have found a noose on her office door. 

As you may remember, on the night that noose materialized, there were 56 hours of security camera video tape covering the door and it's immediate vicinity from various angles.  Therefore, a visual record of when and how the noose got there must have existed  --  and would take no time at all to uncover.

As you may also remember, however, Columbia University first refused to give police the video tapes.  The school finally complied days after the request was made.   Now why would Columbia do that?

Could it be because it gave the school time to alter or edit the tapes?  Frankly, it is hard not to conclude as much, given that this story was deep-sixed right after the tapes were delivered to the police.   Why else would a story that was front page news for a week become nonexistent in this manner?  Why else would video tapes that had to show what happened not be reported on?

Between this fiasco, the insanity of giving mahmoud ahmadinejad of Iran a forum to spew out his hatred and lies earlier this year and the ongoing raw anti-semitism that is a day-to-day occurrence at Columbia, you have to wonder what the hell is going on there.

Well, here is another story that will make you wonder even more.  It comes to us from today's New York Daily News: 

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Bomb-making factory found in Brooklyn apartment of Columbia professor

Monday, January 21st 2008, 4:00 AM

Cops evacuated the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood around the Remsen St. home of Michael Clatts, a medical anthropologist, after finding seven pipe bombs fitted with fuses in his flat, police sources said.

The frightening cache was discovered almost by accident - Ivaylo Ivanov, the man living with Clatts, accidentally shot off the tip of his left index finger and sought police help in the street about 1:15 a.m.

When investigators went to  the 37-year-old Ivanov's apartment, they found the bombs, already capped on both ends and filled with powder. One of the pipe bombs was inserted into a Nerf football, cops said.

A 9-mm. handgun, two ammunition magazines, a 12-gauge shotgun, silencers, a bulletproof vest, a crossbow and bomb-making equipment, including a drill and threading machine that could be used to make pipe bombs, were also recovered, cops said.

Investigators with the NYPD-FBI were questioning Ivanov, a native of Bulgaria, to determine whether he had any terrorism or Russian Mafia connections, a source told the Daily News.

"Russian Mafia aren't fazed by getting a fingertip shot off - and they certainly don't go to the cops for help," the source said.

Neither man so far has popped up on any foreign criminal watch list or is a known member of an organized crime ring, sources said.

Sunday night, police were seeking additional search warrants, possibly for computers, other electronic devices and papers and books.

Ivanov was charged with criminal possession of a weapon, unlawful wearing of a body vest and reporting a false incident, cops said. He was expected to be arraigned this morning.

Police were also looking to question Clatts, 50, the Columbia University instructor living with Ivanov, a source told The News.

Alan Brasunas, a co-op board member at the 58 Remsen St. brownstone, confirmed Clatts owned the apartment and lived there with Ivanov.

"One has to assume Michael must have seen something at one point," Brasunas said. "It's not a huge apartment."

He said he interviewed Clatts before he was allowed to buy the fourth-floor unit.

"We obviously have concerns about both people," said Brasunas, who called the professor a "quiet, reserved person."

Clatts is a medical anthropologist with a specialty in epidemiol.ogy - the spread of disease among large populations.

He is an associate professor in Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health and holds a Ph.D. from the Ivy League school.

The senior director of communication for the school, Randee Levine, said she cannot comment on a police investigation.

Clatts' exact relationship with Ivanov is unknown. Building residents said Clatts once described himself and Ivanov as roommates, nothing more.

Cops became suspicious of Ivanov because he first claimed he had been shot by a stranger but then admitted  shooting himself. Fearing another person had been injured at the address, police went to the apartment and opened the door to the bomb factory. They immediately sealed the apartment while they got a search warrant, cops said.

Cops called the bomb squad, which evacuated the building and three others nearby and removed the materials. Residents were not allowed back inside for nearly 12 hours.

Police said last night they were uncertain whether all of the bombs were operative.

 Ivanov has prior arrests for possession of drug paraphernalia, including hypodermic needles, a police source said. A man with the same name was deported from the U.S. a couple of years ago for drug dealing, but cops are unsure whether this is the same person, a police source said.

"They came to our door at 3:30 in the morning and told us we have to get out of the building," said Helen Silverstein, who lives in a building next-door. "The .police were very good about it - they didn't panic us, they helped us get our cats out."

Residents familiar with Ivanov described him as tall, thin, unkempt and a loner. A police source said he had five arrests on charges of petty larceny.

Cops said other witnesses who had gone in and out of the apartment didn't see the weapons.

Police were trying to determine where the materials came from, how Ivanov obtained them and what he intended to do with the suspected pipe bombs.

Brasunas said Ivanov did not appear to have a regular job and was seen around the building frequently talking about the weather or walking his dog.

"That's what makes it that much more unnerving," Brasunas said. "A neighbor you didn't have any qualms about - and this situation happens. It's something you don't expect to happen here.".

All this and a campus in a high crime rate area too.

Columbia, not so long ago, was a great institution of learning.  How could this have happened to it so fast?

How much do they pay for tuition at Columbia these days?  Now THERE'S money that's well spent............


Ken Berwitz

Ok, I admit it. That title is a steal from the New York Post.  What you will see in the video below is either funny or outrageous, depending on your point of view.  Martin Luther King's .

Worse still, Bill Clinton's snoozeroo took place at Harlem's Convent Avenue Baptist Church in Harlem, during a service to honor Dr. Martin Luther King. 

So what do we have here?  Hillary is attacking Barack Obama with fists and fangs, while Hubby Bill shows the Democratic Party's single most loyal and monolithic voting bloc what he thinks of its single greatest icon. 

Will this hurt Hillary Clinton among Black voters?  What do YOU think?


Ken Berwitz

First let me put up the Associated Press report on last night's nasty, personal, acrimonious Democratic presidential debate. 

I have to say the AP did an excellent job here, so I want you to be able to see it as a free-standing chronicle of events. 

The next blog will have some of my own thoughts about what happened (which the three adjectives I used to to describe the debate probably have given you a hint of):

Clinton, Obama clash in S.C. debate

Front-runners trade barbs over records, resums; Edwards seeks boost
The Associated Press
updated 1:21 a.m. ET, Tues., Jan. 22, 2008

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. - A simmering feud between Democrats Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama erupted into charges of distortion and exaggeration in a gloves-off presidential debate Monday, with Clinton accusing him of representing a Chicago slumlord and Obama countering that she was a corporate lawyer for anti-union Wal-Mart.

Even in the superheated atmosphere of their fight for the party's nomination, the statements and exchanges between Clinton and Obama were unusually acrimonious and personal. The debate came as the two campaigns continued to complain about dirty politics and disenfranchisement of voters in last Saturday's Nevada caucuses.

As Obama tried to defend his recent comments about Republican ideas and Ronald Reagan, Clinton interrupted and said she has never criticized his remarks on Reagan.

"Your husband did," said Obama, who has accused the former president of misrepresenting his record.

"I'm here. He's not," she snapped.

"Well, I can't tell who I'm running against sometimes," Obama said.

He persisted, suggesting the Clintons were both practicing the kind of political tactics that had alienated voters.

"There was a set of assertions made by Senator Clinton as well as her husband that are not factually accurate," Obama said. "I think that part of what people are looking for right now is someone who is going to solve problems and not resort to the same typical politics that we've seen in Washington."

Clinton countered: "I believe your record and what you say should matter."

Edwards fighting for his life
John Edwards, who badly trails his two rivals, tried to stay above the fray while pleading for equal time.

"Are there three people in this debate, not two?" he asked.

"We have got to understand, this is not about us personally. It's about what we are trying to do for this country," Edwards said to applause from the audience.

The bitter exchange underscored the closeness of the race for the party nod. Obama captured the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 3, Clinton bounced back with a win in New Hampshire and the two shared the spoils in Nevada. The first-in-the-South primary on Saturday in South Carolina is expected to produce a strong turnout from black voters, who could make up more than 50 percent of the Democratic electorate.

In two weeks, some two dozen states, including California, New York and Illinois, will vote on the nominee.

Rivals take swing at others resum
One of the rancorous exchanges came over whether Obama had praised Republican ideals and Reagan. Obama argued that he had not complimented GOP ideas and his comments had been misconstrued.

"What I said was is that Ronald Reagan was a transformative political figure because he was able to get Democrats to vote against their economic interests to form a majority to push through their agenda, an agenda that I objected to. Because while I was working on those streets watching those folks see their jobs shift overseas, you were a corporate lawyer sitting on the board at Wal-Mart," he told Clinton.

She countered that Obama's comments indicated the GOP ideas were worthy. Clinton said she had been challenging them "when you were practicing law and representing your contributor, Rezko, in his slum landlord business in inner city Chicago."

Hillary Clinton, who was close with the Walton family, served on the Wal-Mart board from 1986 to 1992. In 2006, her Senate campaign returned $5,000 to the company's political action committee while citing differences with company policies.

A blind trust held by Clinton and her husband, the former president, included stock holdings in Wal-Mart. They liquidated the contents of the blind trust in 2007 because of investments that could pose conflicts of interest or prove embarrassing as she ran for president.

Chicago real estate developer and fast food magnate Antoin "Tony" Rezko was a longtime fundraiser for Obama. Prosecutors have charged him with fraud, attempted extortion and money laundering in what they allege was a scheme to get campaign money and payoffs from firms seeking to do business before two state boards.

Obama challenged over present votes
Obama's campaign said Saturday it was giving to charities more than $40,000 from donors linked to Rezko. In 2006, when charges against Rezko were made public, Obama gave $11,500 in Rezko contributions to charities.

Often speaking over each other, Obama and Clinton bitterly complained about each other's legislative records. Obama questioned why the New York senator had voted for a bankruptcy bill that she later said she was glad hadn't passed, and Clinton criticized Obama for voting "present" on dozens of occasions while a member of the Illinois legislature.

"Senator Obama, it's hard to have a straight up debate with you because you never take responsibility for any vote," Clinton said to loud boos. "On issue after issue, you voted present ... Whenever someone raises that, there's always some sort of explanation."

Obama accused Clinton of playing loose with the facts and saying anything to get elected, while Edwards joined Clinton in criticizing Obama for the "present" votes.

"Why would you over 100 times vote present?" Edwards pointedly challenged Obama. He said he didn't simply refuse to vote on controversial bills in Congress. "It would have been safe for me politically ... but I have a responsibility to take a position even if it costs me politically."

Racial issues a backdrop
Obama said most of his present votes didn't have political consequences but were because of technical or legal concerns.

"Don't question, John, that on issue after issue that is important to the American people, I haven't followed. I have led," Obama said.

With the holiday honoring the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., as a backdrop, the candidates also addressed questions of racial equality.

Clinton and Edwards compared their records on helping to alleviate poverty, while Obama was asked if he agreed with the famed black novelist Toni Morrison who dubbed Bill Clinton "the first black president."

Obama praised the former president's "affinity" with black people but also drew laughs.

"I would have to investigate more, Bill's dancing abilities and some of this other stuff before I accurately judged whether he was, in fact, a brother," Obama said.

"I'm sure that can be arranged," Clinton joked.

The two-hour debate was sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus Institute and CNN.


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