Wednesday, 30 January 2008

TAKING THE TERRORIST THREAT SERIOUSLY

Ken Berwitz

Do you think we take the terrorist threat seriously?  The answer for a lot of us is no, not even in New York City where the major attack occurred.

Read this Associated Press report and see for yourself:

Plea for New Sentence in NY Terror Case

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

(01-30) 08:10 PST NEW YORK, (AP) --

A prosecutor urged an appeals court to order resentencing of a civil rights lawyer convicted of helping an imprisoned terrorist sheik communicate with his disciples because she received a "slap on the wrist."

Lynne Stewart was sentenced to two years and four months in prison, escaping a maximum punishment of 30 years behind bars. Prosecutors have said Stewart and co-defendants helped spread blind sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman's call to kill those who did not subscribe to his extremist interpretation of Islamic law.

The sheik, who was sentenced to life in prison for plotting to blow up five New York landmarks and assassinate Egypt's president, was one of Stewart's clients.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony Barkow told a three-judge panel of the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday that the case should be returned to Judge John G. Koeltl for resentencing, arguing that the trial judge made a mistake in being lenient because no violent acts could be traced to the messages.

Stewart was arrested six months after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The indictment was brought by former Attorney General John Ashcroft in 2002. She was convicted of conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to provide and conceal material support to terrorist activity and providing and concealing material support to terrorist activity in 2005.

She also was convicted of two counts of making false statements.

Barkow told a three-judge panel of the appeals court that the trial judge was wrong not to apply a terrorism enhancement to the 68-year-old lawyer's conviction on charges that she smuggled messages between Abdel-Rahman and senior members of an Egyptian-based terrorist organization.

"She received a sentence that amounted to a slap on the wrist," Barkow said.

Appeals Judge John Walker seemed to agree during oral arguments Tuesday, questioning the message Koeltl sent with the sentencing.

"There's a serious aspect to this case the role of lawyers sworn to uphold codes of conduct and ethics and to behave in a particular way," he said.

Walker said Koeltl failed to adequately consider the factors he was supposed to address as he explained the sentence.

"We don't want totally freewheeling judges just to make decisions that they choose," he said.

But another appeals judge, Guido Calabresi, said Koeltl appeared to have given the case considerable thought and reached a sentence he thought was fair.

"I find the work Judge Koeltl did admirable to a degree that is amazing," Calabresi said. "There's no case quite like this one."

The appeals panel did not immediately rule. The third judge and likely swing vote on the panel, Robert Sack, did not join the discussion..

This is so insane it's hard to even type the words. 

-A radical islamist is convicted of trying to blow up landmarks around the USA. 

-His lawyer, a radical USA-hating lunatic names lynne stewart, is convicted of illegally being a courier between the radical islamist and his terrorist associates. 

-Then, after years and years of the radical USA-hating lunatic lawyer being free to walk the streets, she is given a sentence some people get for stealing cars

-And when it is demanded that the sentence be changed to reflect the seriousness of her crime, useful idiots pop out of the woodwork to praise the judge for his orignal one.

Asking again:  Are we taking the terrorist threat seriously?  You tell me.


FLORIDA RESULTS VERSUS POLLS

Ken Berwitz

First the results of Florida's presidential primaries:

Republicans:  McCain 36%, Romney 31%, Giuliani 15%, Huckabee 14%, paul 3%, All Others 1%.

Democrats:  Clinton 50%, Obama 33%, Edwards 14%, All Others, 3%

Now, how did the political polls make out this time?  For Republicans they were pretty good compared to the abysmal showing in previous primaries, but not particularly accurate.  For Democrats (and this is a first if you've followed the results along with me) they were very accurate.

On the Republican side, two - Survey USA and Mason-Dixon - had Romney winning.  Whoops.  Only one, Suffolk surveys (whoever they are, I never heard of them until now) came within 5% of the actual margin of victory.

On the Democratic side, every poll showed Hillary Clinton winning with margins ranging from 13% - 22%, with an average of 19%.   She won by 17%.  This is the first and only time most polling companies got both the winning percentage and the winning margin about right.  Congratulations to them.

Next up is Super Tuesday and 22 individual states.  So my series of putting up every poll in each state is now at an end.  If this troubles you I suggest reading War and Peace or Great Expectations, both of which would be about as lengthy as the blog I would need to do it.

Ok, tell you what:  Maybe I'll put up the averages for Republicans and Democrats, as compiled by www.realclearpolitics.com.  That's still a relatively long blog but a very condensed amount of information.  Then on Wednesday I can cherry pick the most and least accurate information.

Yeah, that's the ticket.  I'll do it.


TERRY MORAN LOVES...ER, INTERVIEWS BARACK OBAMA

Ken Berwitz

Here, from www.newsbusters.org, is Scott Whitlock's look at how ABC News' Terry Moran conducts a hard-hitting, take-no-prisoners interview with Barack Obama (yes, that is sarcasm):

ABC's Moran: Obama Makes 'Connections' and Overcome Divisions

By Scott Whitlock | January 30, 2008 - 15:32 ET

"Nightline" co-host Terry Moran spent the day with Barack Obama on Tuesday and continued his habit of spouting talking points for Democratic candidates. This included telling viewers that Obama's campaign revolved around "connections" and then elaborating, "That's what is at the heart of Obama's politics, the notion that divisions are artificial and can be overcome by an act of will and of imagination."

It should be pointed out that fellow "Nightline" anchor Martin Bashir promised viewers at the top of the show that Moran, who interviewed Obama in a restaurant in Kansas, would obtain "tough chili and tough questions." One might think that would include asking about the senator's connection with indicted campaign operative and former supporter Tony Rezko. It didn't. Instead, Moran repeated campaign bio about how Obama's grandfather was born in Kansas and offered queries such as "So, you're home?" He told Obama, in what can't really be described as an actual question, "It always seems that the biggest applause lines are those where you tell people, let's come together."

Oddly, the ABC reporter seemed to understand that Obama will, eventually, have to talk about the tough issues. Moran explained, "To get the nomination, Obama needs to do more than inspire voters. He needs to convince them that he has pragmatic solutions to the country's problems." The "Nightline" anchor then added, "And so he's making promises, big promises, on taxes, education and healthcare." Moran, however, never found time to ask about these "big promises" or any of those subjects. Instead, he recited banal lines that could be drawn from the Illinois politician's speeches. He closed the segment by informing viewers that Americans have "a hunger for a politics that could dissolve the old categories, start a new story."

In fact, despite talking about transcending categories, such as race, Moran spent a large chunk of the interview focusing on racial issues. While enjoying a meal with Obama in a restaurant, he asked, "Do you think that back when your grandfather was growing up in this town, the '20s and '30s, you could have sat at this lunch counter?" One of the (very few) questions that could be considered even mildly tough came when the "Nightline" co-host wondered about possible GOP challenger John McCain: "Would that be a harder race for you, for somebody as junior as you are, to run against John McCain?"

Moran has become well known for gushing over Democrats. In November of 2006, he said this of Obama: "You can see it in the crowds. The thrill, the hope. How they surge toward him. You're looking at an American political phenomenon." Providing "balance," on January 24, 2008, he told viewers that a "brilliant" Bill Clinton "implores you to believe." .

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, FDR said "the only thing we have to fear (from Japan and Germany) is fear itself". 

After reading this story, I say "the only thing Barack Obama has to fear (from Terry Moran) is an on-air marriage proposal".

But listen to the Terry Morans of the media squeal like stuck pigs if you call them biased.


THE SANTANA FIASCO

Ken Berwitz

A quick departure from politics.  Let's talk Johan Santana.

Mr. Santana is arguably the best starting pitcher in baseball.  He is certainly among the top 3 or 4.  And he's only 28 years old (he'll be 29 on opening day) so he will probably be in his prime for years to come.

Mr. Santana pitches for the Minnesota Twins, a relatively small market with a budget far lower than, say, the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox or New York Mets.  And he is in the last year of his current contract, after which he can opt to become a free agent.

Given that Santana is probably worth $20 million a year or more in today's market, it would be very difficult for Minnesota to retain his services.  And they certainly don't want him to just leave after the 2008 season as a free agent, because that means they would get virtually  nothing for him.  So they have been trying to trade Santana for months.

So far this makes sense.

The Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees were involved in extensive trade talks for Mr. Santan.  But both decided that Minnesota was asking too for too much in return. 

The Yankees, in particular, were reported to have offered Melky Cabrera (their young, extremely talented starting centerfielder), Phil Hughes (who may be their single best pitching prospect and who fought through injuries to go 5 - 3 for them last year), and another lesser prospect. It was turned down. 

The Twins demanded so much more than the Yankees (and Boston) were willing to give up that they both passed on him. 

Based on the above, you'd figure the demands for Mr. Santana would be pretty high for other teams as well.

We're still within the confines of logic, aren't we?  Well, keep reading.

Yesterday it was announced that the Minnesota Twins traded Johan Santana to the New York Mets, (contingent on the Mets and Santana working out a long term contract deal).  And who did the Mets give up to get Mr. Santana?  Four prospects, only one of whom has ever played in the major leagues (he played in parts of 58 games and hit .234 with 2 home runs and 12 runs batted in).  That's it.  The end.

So much for logic.  The train left logicville at about 400 MPH.

I just checked the Minneapolis Star-Tribune's sports section and they are asking fans to vote on whether the Twins got enough for Santana.  So far the vote is 21% yes and 79% no.  To me this proves that one out of five Minnesota Twins fans are living in a dream world.

Look, I may be wrong here.  The four Met prospects might all work out, Santana might lose his skills faster than anticipated, and the Twin brain trust will be seen as geniuses. 

But to tell you the truth, I'm thinking more that they will look like the Russian government after Seward bought Alaska.


EDWARDS AND GIULIANI DROPPING OUT?

Ken Berwitz

There are reports that both John Edwards and Rudy Giuliani will drop out of the presidential race today.

Based on their showings - especially for Edwards - dropping out is something of an afterthought.

If the reports are true, we go to Super Tuesday with two-person contests in each party.  You can't say it won't be interesting.


THE MEDIA WAR AGAINST ISRAEL

Ken Berwitz

I would like to apologize to the media described in the article below, which Bob Owens has cited in the blog he wrote for  www.pajamasmedia.com.  Specifically, I apologize for the introduction of facts which refute their stories...because facts are pretty clearly not what they had in mind.

Please read Mr. Owen's piece below and you'll understand:

A Media Blackout on the Truth in Gaza

The recent blackout in Gaza was reported dutifully around the globe with Israels responsibility for the lights-out nearly always leading the story. The fact that it was Hamas that cut off electricity to Gaza City and then staged the candlelight protests against it was no secret yet the U.S. media stuck to the Hamas-driven narrative, writes Bob Owens.

By Bob Owens

The international media hasnt been reporting it prominently, so you may or may not know that rockets have been raining down on southern Israel regularly over the past few months as many as fifty a day. The Israeli militarys attempts to respond with pinpoint counter-strikes against Hamas buildings and rocket launching sites were largely ineffective.

Fed up with daily barrages of rocket attacks launched from Gaza and the physical and mental toll they were taking on their population, Israel began a blockade of the Gaza Strip on Thursday, January 17. They stopped the flow of commercial goods, reduced the flow of fuel, and began letting though only humanitarian aid, such as food and medicines.

By Sunday evening, Gaza City was in a complete blackout. And of course, it was Israels fault. Or was it?

Hamas spokesmen blamed Israel for the power shortage, claiming that they were forced to shut down power because of a fuel shortage brought about by the blockade. That same night, Al Jazeera began live broadcasts of a spontaneous candlelight protest in a darkened Gaza. The heart-wrenching images were broadcast throughout the Arab world and picked up by wire services and cable news outlets internationally.

It was great theater, but it was far from accurate news reporting. Gaza was not without electrical power during that time, and both the darkness and the candlelight protests were the results of a calculated ploy by Hamas.

The Gaza Strip receives 70 percent of its electricity from the Israeli Electric Company (IEC) (perhaps the only power company in the world regularly attacked by their customers.) Egyptian power companies chip in another five percent. The energy flowing into Gaza from Israel and Egypt, and making up three-quarters of Gazas power supply never ceased and never slowed during the blackout.

At that time, only power that went down was cut off when Hamas closed the single power plant that provided most of the power to Gaza City.

As the plant closed amid great ceremony by Hamas in front of eager media cameras, Aryeh Mekel, the Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, cried foul. We only stopped providing fuel today, and obviously there cant be a shortage within a few hours. They have plenty of fuel. The blackout in Gaza is simply another propaganda ploy by Hamas to pretend that they have a shortage, on the backs of their citizens.

And yet, the near-instantaneous blackouts and candlelight protests Sunday were reported dutifully around the globe the next day. Israels culpability for the blackout nearly always led the story, while the fact that Israel power kept flowing was mentioned much further down in the article, if at all.

Meanwhile, the Hamas narrative and showmanship was never questioned. And it worked. By Tuesday, Israel lifted the blockade, and began shipping in over 2 million liters of fuel.

Hamas had won the media war.

It was however, a dishonest campaign.

Writing in Contentions, a blog of Commentary magazine, Noah Pollak was among the first observer to decry the duplicity involved in the Hamas media campaign, and the complicity of western news media in that effort. Pollak noted that what was occurring during the blockade was something very typical, alas: a collaboration between journalists and Palestinians in manufacturing anti-Israel propaganda.

He cited an article in the Jerusalem Post by Khaled Abu Toameh, in which Palestinian journalists reported that on at least two occasions, Hamas staged scenes of darkness as part of its campaign to end the political and economic sanctions against the Gaza Strip.

Pollak wrote:

The terrorists of Hamas may be brutal, but they understand how to wage war in the media far better than the Israelis do. They knew the fact that Israel had never cut the electricity to Gaza or even reduced it was entirely beside the point, and would probably not be investigated by reportersand they understand that images of people sitting in darkness with their faces illuminated by candlelight are visually compelling and can do more to convince the world of Palestinian victimization than a hundred press releases could ever accomplish.

Yet the fact remains that the speciousness of this story is readily available to anyone with an Internet connection and a basic sense of skepticism and curiosity. But that hasnt stopped the rigorously fact-checked exemplars of the MSM from repeating it.

He went on to cite examples of this lack of skepticism throughout the most respected organs of the U.S. press, from editorials in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Time Magazine.

One of the most blatantly - and clumsily - orchestrated Hamas photo opportunities involved photographers from Reuters.

Roger L. Simon and Michael Weiss of Pajamas Media picked up upon the Time Magazine example cited by Pollak as a particularly vile example of media complicity, noting that in one photograph run by Time Magazine of Hamas officials meeting by candlelight, daylight could be seen streaming in through the curtains. Palestinian journalists later confirmed that the meeting had occurred in daylight.

The photograph was staged. The media was complicit. Pollak seemed hardly surprised, as he made clear speaking to Pajamas Media from Jerusalem:

The pulse here in Israel for these kinds of things is generally one of indifference. I havent seen it talked about all that much; the basic understanding here I cant really say that its wrong is that large segments of the international press more or less has it in for this country, and will gladly publish whatever makes Israel look bad, irrespective of its fairness or accuracy.

Writing in the Jerusalem Post, Amir Mizroch criticized Israels media response to Hamas domination of the blackout: narrative, including the choreographed candlelight ceremonies, noting the failure of the Israeli government to put forth a unified communications strategy to deal with the propaganda efforts of Hamas. Mizroch noted that while the Israeli government is competent at set-piece public relations, they often founder when confronted with rapidly changing events on the ground. When contacted by Pajamas Media for comment, Mizroch said:

I understand why decision makers dont always want to have PR people in the room with them when setting policy - there are many justifiable reasons for this. But I think communications is one of many tools for war and diplomacy, and the sooner our leaders start using that tool effectively the better.

If past behavior is any guide, Hamas rockets will doubtless continue to fall on southern Israel, and a complicit media will once again cast them as the victims when Israel is forced to respond. A call for comment placed for Pajamas Media to the IDF spokespersons office Saturday afternoon has not been returned, which, in light of Mizrochs critique, was sadly expected..

Amazing, isn't it?  Israel supplies over 2/3 of the electricity to a population that proactively elected a parliamentary majority from hamas.  Hamas, a terrorist group committed to Israel's destruction, then took over the entire Gazan government by force.  And the bombs that hit Israel from Gaza EVERY DAY are sent with the full support of the hamas government.

Suppose Israel actually did to turn off the juice  -- for real, not just a figment of media imagination?  Would Israel have been attacked for it by those same media?

Tell you what:  I consider myself a compassionate and humane person.  But if my enemy is trying to vaporize my country and kill me and all of my coreligionists in the process, they can find some other source for their effing energy.  It is astounding that Israel provides them this utility and even more astounding that media treats it as some kind of responsibility for them.

When the hamas terrorists build the bombs to kill Israelis, is it Israel providing the electricity to see what they're doing and to operate the bomb-building equipment?

Maybe someday media will get around to talking about that.  It will be quite a change from the lying and fraud. 

Don't expect it soon.


PRESIDENT BUSH'S "RESIGNATION" SPEECH

Ken Berwitz

I got this in my e-mail today.  It is from "Russ" (I still don't know if he would want me to put his full name up here), who I met though my collaboration with Barry Sinrod.  Russ is a friend of Barry's, despite being well to the right of center politically.  Or, put another way, if opposites attract these two should be picking out furniture together.

Anyway, though this satirical piece is angry, sarcastic, bitter and I don't agree with everything it says, I also find enough of it funny, enough of it (lamentably) on target and enough of it what Mr. Bush would probably LIKE to say, to show it to you.

Here, folks, with minor revisions, is the President Bush "Resignation" speech:

---------------------------------------------------------------------

The following "speech" was written recently by an ordinary Maineiac [a resident of the People's Republic of Maine ].  While satirical in nature, all satire must have a basis in fact to be effective. 

This is the speech George W. Bush SHOULD give:

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Normally, I start these things out by saying "My Fellow Americans."   But I'm not doing it this time.  If the polls are any indication, I don't know who more than half of you are anymore.  I do know something terrible has happened, and that you're really not fellow Americans any longer.

  

I'll cut right to the chase here:  I quit.  Now before anyone gets all in a lather about me quitting to avoid impeachment, or to avoid prosecution or something, let me assure you:  There's been no breaking of laws or impeachable offenses in this office.

 

The reason I'm quitting is simple.  I'm fed up with you people.  I'm fed up because you have no understanding of what's really going on in the world or of what's going on in this once-great nation of ours.  And the majority of you are too damned lazy to do your homework and figure it out.

  

Let's start local.  You've been sold a bill of goods by politicians and the news media.  Polls show that the majority of you think the economy is in the tank.  And that's despite record numbers of homeowners, including record numbers of MINORITY homeowners. 

 

And while we're mentioning minorities, I'll point out that minority business ownership is at an all-time high.  Our unemployment rate is as low as it ever was during the  Clinton   administration.  I've mentioned all those things before, but it doesn't seem to have sunk in.

  

Despite the shock to our economy of 9/11, the stock market recently rebounded to record levels and more Americans than ever are participating in these markets.  Meanwhile, all you can do is whine about gas prices. 

 

Most of you are too damn stupid to realize that gas prices are high because there's increased demand in other parts of the world, and because a small handful of noisy idiots are more worried about polar bears and beachfront property than your economic security.

  

We face real threats in the world.  Don't give me this "blood for oil" thing.  If I were trading blood for oil I would've already seized Iraq 's oil fields and let the rest of the country go to hell. 

 

And don't give me this 'Bush Lied; People Died' crap either.  If I were the liar you morons take me for, I could've easily had chemical weapons planted in Iraq so they could be 'discovered.'  Instead, I owned up to the fact that the intelligence was faulty. 

 

Let me remind you that the rest of the world thought Saddam had the goods, same as me.  Let me also remind you that regime change in Iraq was official US policy before I came into office.  Some guy named ' Clinton ' established that policy.  Bet you didn't know that, did you?

 

You idiots need to understand that we face a unique enemy.  Back during the cold war, there were two major competing political and economic models squaring off.  We won that war, but we did so because fundamentally, the Communists wanted to survive, just as we do.  We were simply able to out spend and out-tech them.

 

That's not the case this time.  The soldiers of our new enemy don't care if they survive.  In fact, they want to die.  That'd be fine, as long as they weren't also committed to taking as many of you with them as they can.  But they are.  They want to kill you, and the bastards are all over the globe.

 

You should be grateful that they haven't gotten any more of us here in the United States since September 11.  But you're not.  That's because you've got no idea how hard a small number of intelligence, military, law enforcement, and homeland security people have worked to make sure of that. 

 

When this whole mess started, I warned you that this would be a long and difficult fight.  I'm disappointed how many of you people think a long and difficult fight amounts to a single season of 'Survivor.'

 

Instead, you've grown impatient.  You're incapable of seeing things through the long lens of history, the way our enemies do.  You think that wars should last a few months, a few years, tops.

  

Making matters worse, you actively support those who help the enemy.  Every time you buy the New York Times, every time you send a donation to a cut-and-run Democrat's political campaign, well, dang it, you might just as well FedEx a grenade launcher to a Jihadist.  It amounts to the same thing.

  

In this day and age, it's easy enough to find the truth.  It's all over the Internet.  It just isn't on the pages of the New York Times or on NBC News.  But even if it were, I doubt you'd be any smarter.  Most of you would rather watch American Idol.

  

I could say more about your expectations that the government will always be there to bail you out, even if you're too stupid to leave a city that's below sea level and has a hurricane approaching.

  

I could say more about your insane belief that government, not your own wallet, is where the money comes from.  But I've come to the conclusion that were I to do so, it would sail right over your heads.

  

So I quit.  I'm going back to Crawford.  I've got an energy-efficient house down there (one that Al Gore could only dream about) and the capability to be fully self-sufficient.  No one ever heard of Crawford before I got elected, and as soon as I'm done here pretty much no one will ever hear of it again.  Maybe I'll be lucky enough to die of old age before the last pillars of America fall.

  

Oh, and by the way, Cheney's quitting too.  That means Pelosi is your new President.  You asked for it.  Watch what she does carefully, because I still have a glimmer of hope that there are just enough of you remaining who are smart enough to turn this thing around in 2008.

 

So that's it.  God bless what's left of  America .  Some of you know what I mean.  The rest of you, kiss off.

free Excellent (01/30/08)


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