Sunday, 02 March 2008


Ken Berwitz

"It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt." -- Mark Twain

I do not care about the oscars.  I swear I don't, you could even ask my wife.

But there was one award that did interest me this year:  Best Actress.  We both thought that Marion Cotillard's performance in La Vie En Rose (she, of course, played Edith Piaf) was so great that it would be terrific if she won. 

Well, she did win and was most gracious in her acceptance speech.  How I wish that were the end of it.  But it isn't. 

I just read an article in London's Daily Mail, in which cotillard imparts her wit and wisdom about 9/11 and the 1969 moon landing.  Based on that article, she has just won another award.  The Cameron Diaz/Rosie O'Donnell award for the single most idiotic set of views in the entertainment industry. 

What did she say?  Here is the relevant excerpt from the Daily Mail article which spells it out.  The idiocy is cotillard's.  The bold print is mine:

'9/11 attacks made up, ' says French best actress Oscar-winner


Last updated at 01:08am on 2nd March 2008

Actress Marion Cotillard sparked a political row yesterday after accusing America of fabricating the 9/11 attacks.

The 32-year-old French actress, who received an Oscar last month for her performance as singer Edith Piaf in La Vie En Rose, openly questioned the truth behind the terrorist atrocity in an interview broadcast on a French website.

"I think we're lied to about a number of things," Cotillard said, singling out the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center as an example of the US making up horror stories for political ends.

Referring to the two passenger jets being flown into the Twin Towers, Cotillard said:

"We see other towers of the same kind being hit by planes. Are they burned? They [sic] was a tower, I believe it was in Spain, which burnt for 24 hours. It never collapsed. None of these towers collapsed. And there [in New York], in a few minutes, the whole thing collapsed."

She added that the towers, planned in the early Sixties, were an outdated "money-sucker" that would have cost more to modernise than to rebuild altogether, which is why they were destroyed.

She said: "It was a money-sucker because they were finished, it seems to me, by 1973, and to re-cable all that, to bring up-to-date all the technology and everything, it was a lot more expensive, that work, than destroying them."

Cotillard's stardom and increased earning power looked assured following her Oscar win.

But after her outburst, in which she also queried the 1969 Moon landings, a successful future in Hollywood appears to be in jeopardy.

She said: "Did a man really walk on the Moon? I saw plenty of documentaries on it, and I really wondered. And in any case I don't believe all they tell me, that's for sure."

Cotillard, who was born and brought up in Paris, made the comments on Paris Premire - Paris Dernire, a programme broadcast a year ago.

At the time her remarks were largely ignored, but their appearance yesterday on the French magazine website Marianne2 comes at a time when Cotillard's profile is sky-high.

You could not invent a more imbecilic, mindless set of comments than these. 

I wonder who Ms. Cotillard thinks brought down the towers.  It certainly wasn't the government, because they weren't who put them up and weren't losing all this money she knows was at the core of their destruction. 

Does she think the private company that owned the towers did it?  If so, why would government protect them?  And how much did they pay for those planes to be hijacked?

But wait..... now here's a really tough one:  If the towers were taken down because they were losing money, how is it that the country lost untold billions, maybe untold trillions of dollars as the result of them coming down?   

Did Ms. cotillard notice the economic disaster that ensued?  Or was she too busy trying to figure out how we fabricated a moonwalk in 1969?

Forest Gump's mother said "stupid is as stupid does".  Well marion cotillard did. 

If she has an ounce of brains (a big if, to say the least) maybe she will use it to remind herself that she should shut up.  Just shut up.  So other people won't know what an idiot she is. 

But based on what she has said already, I seriously doubt her capability to do so.

Al When they are not so famous and are struggling,they say and do all the right things. Get the Oscar,become famous,and you can say any stupid thing you want. The liberal media will ignore this of course. (03/02/08)


Ken Berwitz

Yesterday, Israel attacked some of the locations in Gaza from which rockets and other artillery were being fired into Israeli towns, most notably the town of Sderot.  If the reports are accurate, about 60 - 75 or so Gazans were killed, a good many of them civilians (no one knows the exact total for sure). 

Not surprisingly, there is a huge outcry about the Israeli attack, with UN condemnations sure to follow.  Palestinian Arab President Mahmoud Abbas in particular is up in arms about how this has destroyed the so-called "peace process".

Before continuing, I would like to ask you a few questions.

-Suppose you lived next door to someone who threw rocks into your backyard every day.  Suppose sometimes the rocks hit people in your family.

-How many times (if any) would you ignore this before doing something about it? 

-You might go to the police.  But what if they had a history of ignoring the laws about throwing rocks into someone else's property?  Suppose the police operated by majority vote and the guy next door was part of the majority?  Suppose, no matter what he did, they blamed you?

-So, realizing that you are on your own, what would you do about the guy next door then?  Would you warn him once or twice (if that many times) before retaliating?

-Oh, one last thing;  suppose the guy always threw the rocks while standing among his own family, thus using them as his human shields, so if you did retaliate you would almost certainly be hitting one or more of them too?

Ok,  let's talk about Israel again.

Rockets and mortars are fired from Gaza into Israel every day.  Sometimes they hit nothing.  But the intent is always to wound and kill Israelis and sometimes they succeed.

What should Israel do?  How many warnings should the country give before doing something about it?

Should Israel go to the UN - an organization with about 60 Muslim countries, virtually all of which hate Israel, versus just one Jewish state?  Should they expect an organization which never tires of condemning Israel, while ignoring every attack against it no matter how depraved and murderous, to act fairly?

And what about the fact that these attacks almost invariably come from civilian areas - i.e. the attackers use their own people, whether willingly or unwillingly, as human shields?  Now what should the country do?

Israel is literally put in the position of either not retaliating, which protects Gazan civilians at the expense of Israelis, or retaliating, which protects Israeli citizens but guarantees civilian collateral damage in Gaza.

To date, Israel has almost always answered either with limited retaliation or none at all.  In other words, it has allowed its own citizens to be targets instead of jeopardizing the Gazan civilians who terrorists hide behind while they try to kill  Israelis. 

I challenge you to name any other country which would have suffered these kinds of attacks every day for years and years without levelling  levelling the places they were coming from and vanquishing their enemy. 

The reason you can't is because there isn't one. 

So, yes, Israel attacked Gaza yesterday.  And many people - some of them attackers and some of them human shields used by the attackers - are dead. 

Will it stop the attacks on Israel?  No.  If Gazan terrorists have proved one thing it is that they are indifferent to what retaliatory damage is inflicted on the land they live in and the people they live with.  And if palestinian Arab "leaders" have proved one thing it is that they will never lift a hand to stop the attacks. 

To me, the only solution that makes sense is that, after the next round of attacks (which is inevitable), Israel will give one or two days' warning so that civilians can leave the places those attacks came from.  Then Israel will reduce them to rubble.   

And then Israel will assure Gazans that if rockets are fired from any other place at Israeli targets, that place will be reduced to rubble as well.

The only other viable alternative would be for Israel to do what every other country would have done already;  to rain bombs throughout Gaza until there was a surrender or the entire territory was destroyed along with its people. 

If Israel ever does what I am suggesting (and if yesterday's attacks are any indication that time may be coming), I guarantee the UN would spring to action, and unleash a record number of condemnations.  Every one will be aimed at Israel.

Yawn.  What else is new?


Barack Obama What to do? What to do? Let's see, Gaza is too close to nuke.... I've got it. Carpet bomb! That's it, level Gaza. It would create a great beach resort for tourists. (Btw, I am not saying this tongue in cheek. Carpet bomb what is too close to nuke, then nuke the others. In time, the makeup of the membership at the UN will have to change.) (03/03/08)


Ken Berwitz

This may come under the heading "Too late for Hillary Clinton, but just in time for John McCain".

Here are the particulars, from today's Times of London.  As usual, the bold print is mine:

Corruption trial threatens frontrunner

IN THE summer of 2005, a 20-year-old Chicago student named John Aramanda arrived at the Washington office of Senator Barack Obama to begin a coveted summer internship. He was one of about 100 bright young Illinois students who passed through the senators office that year, gaining invaluable experience in the front line of a future presidential candidates national operations.

This week Aramandas name may return to haunt Obama. The students father, Joseph, has emerged as a central figure in the trial beginning on Tuesday of Antoin Tony Rezko, a prominent Chicago political broker accused of a long list of fraud and corruption offences.

As a former friend and neighbour of Rezko, Obama was also a political beneficiary of the Syrian-born millionaires extensive fundraising operations. Central to the prosecutions case against Rezko is a $375,000 (187,500) payoff - called a finders fee - that is alleged to have been skimmed illegally from investment fees paid by the Illinois state teachers pension fund.

At least $10,000 of that money turned up in Obamas campaign account through a donation by Joseph Aramanda, who according to prosecutors received $250,000 from the pension fund payoff and directed it to others at Rezkos behest.

The payment to Obama was made a year before Aramandas son was awarded his internship. Obamas aides have denied any connection between the donation and the internship, and Joseph Aramanda has not been accused of any crime. Rezko has pleaded not guilty to all the charges against him.

Yet even before the first state witnesses begin to explain the complex financial dealings that federal investigators claim were corrupt, it is clear the Rezko trial could scarcely have come at a worse moment for the Illinois senator who has built his presidential challenge on promises of hope, integrity and change.

Republican operatives are hovering gleefully at the margins of the Rezko trial, keen to gather ammunition against Obama for their White House campaign. While there is no suggestion that the senator has broken any law, the Republicans intend to call his political judgment into question.

They will also focus on evidence that he developed his political career in Chicago with the help of some controversial friends.

Illinois, the home of Al Capone, has never been a state for the politically fainthearted. One former governor, George Ryan, is currently serving a 6year jail sentence for steering state contracts to cronies and accepting payoffs in return. The current governor, Rod Blagojevich, is clinging to office amid claims by federal agents that he was the main beneficiary of Rezkos allegedly illegal schemes.

In the old days it started with newly arrived immigrants going to precinct political bosses for jobs, said Cynthia Canary, director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, an independent watchdog. It was about trading political favours, about you scratch my back and Ill scratch yours.

For years the inside trading of the states largely Democratic political machines was known as pay to play. It has since morphed into something more sinister: government jobs and contracts were effectively put up for sale in exchange for politicians campaign contributions.

It used to be relatively small-scale stuff, Canary said. It was, Put my cousin Vinnie on the payroll and heres a hundred bucks. But today the price of admission has escalated tremendously.

The roots of the Rezko investigation appear to lie in a remarkable outburst in 2005 by Blagojevichs father-in-law, a powerful Chicago alderman named Dick Mell. After a public falling-out with his daughters husband, Mell alleged that state government posts were being sold to the highest bidder, prompting prosecutors to launch a grand jury investigation.

As long ago as 2002, there were suggestions that officials in Springfield, the state capital, had been coerced by FBI agents into wearing wires to record evidence of payoffs and bribes to local politicians.

It was into this festering swamp that Obama launched his political career, first as a local official and from 2004 as an Illinois senator. I knew Obama when he worked in Springfield, and in my experience he led a pretty straight and narrow path, said Canary.

But no politician can survive in Illinois without access to the campaign funds controlled by the states principal power brokers, Canary added. There are very few other routes you can take to power. You just have to hold your nose and work your way through the system.

Obama fell in with Rezko, who owned a string of restaurant and property businesses. Rezko organised fundraisers for the states newest African-American star; and when Obama made national headlines after his spellbinding performance at the 2004 Democratic convention, Rezko helped him to acquire a piece of land next to a $1.65m mansion the Obamas were buying in a historic neighbourhood close to the University of Chicago.

That property deal, completed in June 2005, has caused Obama no end of grief, not least because on the day that the house was sold at a discount of $300,000, Rezkos wife Rita bought from the same vendor the vacant plot next door at the full asking price of $625,000. Part of the plot was then sold to Obama.

No evidence has surfaced that the deal was in any way improper, and last week the vendors emerged at the behest of the Obama campaign to confirm that the senators bid was the highest they received.

Yet the deal has tied Obama irrevocably to Rezko. The senator has since admitted that his dealings with Rezko were bone-headed. His campaign has donated to charity more than $85,000 of donations linked to Rezko.

Aramanda, a businessman who once took over several Rezko-owned pizza restaurants in Wisconsin, could not be contacted last week. He has previously told the Chicago Tribune that there was nothing untoward about his sons internship.

Last week the judge in charge of the Rezko trial ruled that prosecutors could introduce detailed evidence regarding the $375,000 payoff. Judge Amy St Eve declared that the tracing of the finders fee was integral to the indictment.

Antoin "Tony" Rezko is the 1,000 pound gorilla in the middle of Barack Obama's road.  He is the thoroughly corrupt slumlord who likes to give lots and lots of money to Mr. Obama and likes to get lots and lots of favors for that money. 

What people tend to forget (largely because media tend not to remind them) is that Barack Obama is straight out of the Chicago Democratic political machine.  No one, and I do mean no one, comes out of that background with clean hands.

Originally Mr. Obama told us that he regretted the $50,000 or so he got from Rezko.  But then it turned out that the amount was more like $160,000.  Would you doubt for a second that the true amount is higher?  Would you doubt for a second that there are other Rezkos in Mr. Obama's past - maybe even his present?

Well, now the Rezko trial is upon us.  And every day it continues will be a potential disaster for Mr. Obama. 

If Hillary Clinton loses Ohio and Texas, her candidacy for the Democratic nomination is all but over.  But if this happens and she stays in anyway, I will assume it is because Ms. Clinton is hoping that things will come out in the Rezko trial that will damage Obama enough to bring her back into play.

And she just might have a point.


Ken Berwitz

One of the most commonly used (and often effective) strategies in a debate is the creation of a "straw man".  This involves setting up a premise that sounds legitimate, but that you know you can blow to smithereens.....which you then do.

Here is a great example, which I have excerpted from today's New York Times.  It concerns global warming:

Skeptics on Human Climate Impact Seize on Cold Spell

The world has seen some extraordinary winter conditions in both hemispheres over the past year: snow in Johannesburg last June and in Baghdad in January, Arctic sea ice returning with a vengeance after a record retreat last summer, paralyzing blizzards in China, and a sharp drop in the globes average temperature.

It is no wonder that some scientists, opinion writers, political operatives and other people who challenge warnings about dangerous human-caused global warming have jumped on this as a teachable moment.

Earths Fever Breaks: Global COOLING Currently Under Way, read a blog post and news release on Wednesday from Marc Morano, the communications director for the Republican minority on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

So what is happening?

According to a host of climate experts, including some who question the extent and risks of global warming, it is mostly good old-fashioned weather, along with a cold kick from the tropical Pacific Ocean, which is in its La Nia phase for a few more months, a year after it was in the opposite warm El Nio pattern.

If anything else is afoot like some cooling related to sunspot cycles or slow shifts in ocean and atmospheric patterns that can influence temperatures an array of scientists who have staked out differing positions on the overall threat from global warming agree that there is no way to pinpoint whether such a new force is at work.

Many scientists also say that the cool spell in no way undermines the enormous body of evidence pointing to a warming world with disrupted weather patterns, less ice and rising seas should heat-trapping greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels and forests continue to accumulate in the air.

The current downturn is not very unusual, said Carl Mears, a scientist at Remote Sensing Systems, a private research group in Santa Rosa, Calif., that has been using satellite data to track global temperature and whose findings have been held out as reliable by a variety of climate experts. He pointed to similar drops in 1988, 1991-92, and 1998, but with a long-term warming trend clear nonetheless.

Temperatures are very likely to recover after the La Nia event is over, he said.

Wow.  Now you see it, now you don't. 

Yes, there is overwhelming, indisputable evidence that while some places on planet earth have seen unusually warm temperatures in the last few years, other places have seen unusually cold temperatures.

Now, to the untrained observer (i.e. someone without the benefit of the New York Times explaining things to them), this might mean that the situation is perfectly normal.  Some places colder, some warmer, it all averages out. 

But no no no.  You can't be allowed to conclude any such thing.  It's all just a momentary figment of our imagination.  Honest.  Global warming is here and the fact that some places are colder - which seems to happen a lot - has nothing to do with anything.  It's just temporary.  Rest assured that we will be able to resume our stark fear over being slow-baked by greenhouse gases again in a jiffy.

I guess the straw man doesn't need an overcoat.  Just the people in South Africa, the middle east, China and all the other places where it is cold enough to wonder what makes anyone think global warming is an immutable fact.

Me, I'm a bit skeptical.  Aren't you?

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