Friday, 02 January 2009


Ken Berwitz

I was 17 years old when Governor george wallace tried to prevent two Black students, James Hood and Vivian Malone, from entering the University of Alabama.

wallace physically stood in front of the door and blocked Mr. Hood and Ms. Malone.  He made a smallminded little speech invoking states' rights.  And then, realizing that the federal government was serious about protecting their civil rights, he exhibited what little good sense he had and stepped aside to let Mr. Hood and Ms. Malone through.

Like just about every southern segregationist politician in those days, wallace was a Democrat. 

Who would have ever thought that, 46 years later, Democrats would still be blocking doors to keep Blacks out.

This time, however, it is not a pair of Black students looking for an education.  It is Roland Burris, who was just appointed by Illinois Governor rod blagojevich to replace Barack Obama in the US Senate.

Here is the story, courtesy of CNN:

Posted: 08:00 PM ET

Senate Democrats will not allow Burris on the Senate Floor if he shows up next week.
Senate Democrats will not allow Burris on the Senate Floor if he shows up next week.

(CNN) Senate Democratic leaders think Roland Burris, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich's pick to fill President-elect Barack Obama's vacant Senate seat, will likely show up on Capitol Hill Tuesday for the opening day of Congress, according to a Democratic aide familiar with Senate Democratic leaders' plans.

They have prepared a contingency plan in case he does, the aide added.

Burris will not be allowed on the Senate floor, according to this aide and a Senate Democratic leadership aide.

Watch: What if Burris shows up?

The aide familiar with Senate Democratic leaders' plans said if Burris tries to enter the Senate chamber, the Senate doorkeeper will stop Burris. If Burris were to persist, either trying to force his way onto the Senate floor or refusing to leave and causing a scene, U.S. Capitol Police would stop him, said the aide.

"They (police) probably won't arrest him" but they would call the sergeant-at-arms," the aide said.

When asked about what would happen if he shows up and tries to be seated, Burris told the Chicago Tribune that he's, "not going to create a scene in Washington." He added, "We hope it's negotiated out prior to my going to Washington."

Burris told CNN that, "We're certainly going to make contacts with the leadership to let them know that the governor of Illinois has made a legal appointment. And that I am currently the junior senator for the State of Illinois. And we're hoping and praying that, you know, they will see the reason in appointing me as a very qualified, capable, able and ready-to-serve individual."

Coincidentally, the senate sergeant-at-arms, Terrance Gainer, served in the Illinois government at the same time as Burris. Gainer was the director of the Illinois State Police from 1991-95. Burris was the Illinois attorney general from 1991-95.

Senate Democratic leaders, who consider Governor Rod Blagojevich a loose cannon, also have discussed what might happen if Blagojevich shows up on Capitol Hill Tuesday, said the aide familiar with their plans. But the leaders see that move by Blagojevich as unlikely at this time.

This would be a "radioactive" situation, according to the aide, because Senate Democratic leaders could not deny Blagojevich entry, as sitting governors have floor privileges in the Senate. Governors are allowed to walk around the Senate chamber or talk with senators while on the floor, though they cannot vote or formally address the Senate.

Blagojevich is aware he is allowed access to the Senate floor, his spokesman Lucio Guerrero said, but "the idea of going on Tuesday was first raised by a reporter," not Blagojevich.

The governor is not planning on going to Capitol Hill at this time, Guerrero said.

I wonder if these ninnies understand the symbolism of blocking Mr. Burris, whose personal credentials appear to be excellent, from entering the senate chamber.  Whether they (or I) like it or not, rod blagojevich is the legal governor of Illinois.  He has not yet been convicted of a thing.  Accordingly, Governor blagojevich has every right to select Roland Burris and Mr. Burris has every right to be seated.

Maybe this bunch just has too much time on their hands.  Or maybe they are so drunk with power after winning the 2008 election that they think the rules don't apply anymore.

Is it asking too much for senate Democrats to display the level of good sense that we got from george wallace, and have the authorities step aside?

We may well find out on Tuesday.


Ken Berwitz

David Paterson, is Governor of New York only because Eliot Spitzer was forced to resign in disgrace. 

Paterson, who admitted to using (or, more exactly, embezzling) thousands of dollars in campaign funds for his personal use, was not also forced to resign in disgrace only because media would rather have an incompetent and corrupt Democratic Governor than a competent and corrupt Republican one (Joseph Bruno was next in succession).

That said, Mr. Paterson has now told us that he would not pick a "caretaker" replacement for Hillary Clinton's senate seat.  The reason is actually hilarious (or, should I say, hillaryous).

Here is is, via an excerpt from today's article in the New York Daily News:

Paterson: No 'caretaker' for Hillary Clinton's Senate seat

Updated Friday, January 2nd 2009, 1:25 AM

Paterson said tapping a big name to hold Clinton's seat until a special election in 2010 would cost the state nearly two years of seniority in the Senate.

"In the United States Senate, the most effective senators are the ones that have seniority," Paterson told reporters during a new year's open house at the Executive Mansion.

His words end speculation that the governor would ask an old-guard political pro - such as former President Bill Clinton or ex-Gov. Mario Cuomo - to keep the seat warm.

Paterson dodged questions about possibly picking Caroline Kennedy, whose star quality has dimmed a bit amid a lackluster public debut.

But he seemed irritated at the furious public lobbying both for and against Kennedy.

He pronounced himself amazed by the "willingness of my colleagues" to share their opinions about Clinton's replacement.

He underscored his point with a story about an umpire famous for delaying his ball and strike calls.

"He said, 'It ain't nothing till I calls it,'" Paterson said. "And that's how I'm telling you. Pass that along to any of these excited people who think they're going to influence me."

Note to the distinguished Governor of New York State:  As of today, whomever you pick will have less seniority than anyone else in the senate.  Even less than the new senators who won elections in November. 

Why?  Because they all took office on January 1.  Yesterday.  And your selection will come afterwards.

Other than death or resignation, the only hope you have for any seniority at all would be if Roland Burris' appointment in Illinois is held up and/or al franken successfully steals the senate seat currently held by Norm Coleman in Minnesota.  Even then, New York's senator will be #98 or 99 out of 100. 


On the other hand, what if you had asked Hillary Clinton to resign her senate seat when Barack Obama selected her to be Secretary of State, and you replaced her before the end of the year?  Then whomever you picked would start with more seniority than any other incoming senator.  That would have meant something. 

But you didn't, did you. 

Why not, Mr. Paterson?  Favor us with your brilliant reasoning for squandering any possibility of gaining the seniority you yourself consider so important.

Personally I can't wait for the answer.  I love comedy routines.

Shortly after David Paterson became Governor, Joseph Bruno abruptly resigned from the NY State Senate -- probably because investigators were coming too close for his comfort. 

The thought of Bruno as Governor was genuinely ugly to me.  But a few more actions like this from Mr. Paterson and I might reconsider.


Ken Berwitz

My sister just sent me a link to Mark Steyn's column of December 13, which I somehow missed at that time.

Thanks to my sister for sending it and apologies to readers of this blog for not putting it up at that time.

What a blunt, powerful eminently honest appraisal Mr. Steyn has written!

Here it is, complete, with no further commentary from me:

Steyn on the World
Saturday, 13 December 2008

Shortly after the London Tube bombings in 2005, a reader of Tim Blair, the Sydney Daily Telegraphs columnar wag, sent him a note-perfect parody of a typical newspaper headline: British Muslims Fear Repercussions Over Tomorrows Train Bombing.

Indeed. And so it goes. This time round Bombay it was the Associated Press that filed a story about how Muslims found themselves on the defensive once again about bloodshed linked to their religion.

Oh, I dont know about that. In fact, youd be hard pressed from most news reports to figure out the bloodshed was linked to any religion, least of all one beginning with I- and ending in -slam. In the three years since those British bombings, the media have more or less entirely abandoned the offending formulations Islamic terrorists, Muslim extremists and by the time of the assault on Bombay found it easier just to call the alleged perpetrators militants or gunmen or teenage gunmen, as in the opening line of this report in the Australian: An Adelaide woman in India for her wedding is lucky to be alive after teenage gunmen ran amok

Kids today, eh? Always running amok in an aimless fashion.

The veteran British TV anchor Jon Snow, on the other hand, opted for the more cryptic locution practitioners. Practitioners of what, exactly?

Hard to say. And getting harder. Tom Gross produced a jaw-dropping round-up of Bombay media coverage: The discovery that, for the first time in an Indian terrorist atrocity, Jews had been attacked, tortured, and killed produced from the New York Times a serene befuddlement: It is not known if the Jewish center was strategically chosen, or if it was an accidental hostage scene.

Hmm. Greater Bombay forms one of the worlds five biggest cities. It has a population of nearly 20 million. But only one Jewish center, located in a building that gives no external clue as to the bounty waiting therein. An accidental hostage scene that one of the practitioners just happened to stumble upon? I must be the luckiest jihadist in town. What are the odds?

Meanwhile, the New Age guru Deepak Chopra laid all the blame on American foreign policy for going after the wrong people and inflaming moderates, and that inflammation then gets organized and appears as this disaster in Bombay.

Really? The inflammation just appears? Like a bad pimple? The fairer we get to the, ah, inflamed militant practitioners, the unfairer we get to everyone else. At the Chabad House, the murdered Jews were described in almost all the Western media as ultra-Orthodox, ultra- in this instance being less a term of theological precision than a generalized code for strange, weird people, nothing against them personally, but they probably shouldnt have been over there in the first place. Are they stranger or weirder than their killers? Two inflamed moderates entered the Chabad House, shouted Allahu Akbar!, tortured the Jews and murdered them, including the young Rabbis pregnant wife. Their two-year-old child escaped because of a quick-witted (non-Jewish) nanny who hid in a closet and then, risking being mown down by machine-gun fire, ran with him to safety.

The Times was being silly in suggesting this was just an accidental hostage opportunity and not just because, when Muslim terrorists capture Jews, its not a hostage situation, its a mass murder-in-waiting. The sole surviving militant revealed that the Jewish center had been targeted a year in advance. The 28-year-old rabbi was Gavriel Holtzberg. His pregnant wife was Rivka Holtzberg. Their orphaned son is Moshe Holtzberg, and his brave nanny is Sandra Samuels. Remember their names, not because theyre any more important than the Indians, Britons, and Americans targeted in the attack on Bombay, but because they are an especially revealing glimpse into the pathologies of the perpetrators.

In a well-planned attack on iconic Bombay landmarks symbolizing great power and wealth, the militants nevertheless found time to divert 20 percent of their manpower to torturing and killing a handful of obscure Jews helping the citys poor in a nondescript building. If they were just teenage gunmen or militants in the cause of Kashmir, engaged in a more or less conventional territorial dispute with India, why kill the only rabbi in Bombay? Dennis Prager got to the absurdity of it when he invited his readers to imagine Basque separatists attacking Madrid: Would the terrorists take time out to murder all those in the Madrid Chabad House? The idea is ludicrous.

And yet we take it for granted that Pakistani militants in a long-running border dispute with India would take time out of their hectic schedule to kill Jews. In going to ever more baroque lengths to avoid saying Islamic or Muslim or terrorist, we have somehow managed to internalize the pathologies of these men.

We are enjoined to be understanding, and were doing our best. A Minnesotan suicide bomber (now theres a phrase) originally from Somalia returned to the old country and blew up himself and 29 other people last October. His family prevailed upon your government to have his parts (or as many of them as could be sifted from the debris) returned to the United States at taxpayer expense and buried in Burnsville Cemetery. Well, hey, in the current climate, whats the big deal about a federal bailout of jihad operational expenses? If thats not too big to fail, what is?

Last week, a Canadian critic reprimanded me for failing to understand that Muslims feel vulnerable. Au contraire, they project tremendous cultural confidence, as well they might: Theyre the worlds fastest-growing population. A prominent British Muslim announced the other day that, when the United Kingdom becomes a Muslim state, non-Muslims will be required to wear insignia identifying them as infidels. If hes feeling vulnerable, hes doing a terrific job of covering it up.

We are told that the vast majority of the 1.6-1.8 billion Muslims (in Deepak Chopras estimate) are moderate. Maybe so, but theyre also quiet. And, as the AIDs activists used to say, Silence=Acceptance. It equals acceptance of the things done in the name of their faith. Rabbi Holtzberg was not murdered because of a territorial dispute over Kashmir or because of Bushs foreign policy. He was murdered in the name of Islam Allahu Akbar.

I wrote in my book, America Alone, that reforming Islam is something only Muslims can do. But they show very little sign of being interested in doing it, and the rest of us are inclined to accept that. Spread a rumor that a Koran got flushed down the can at Gitmo, and therell be rioting throughout the Muslim world. Publish some dull cartoons in a minor Danish newspaper, and therell be protests around the planet. But slaughter the young pregnant wife of a rabbi in Bombay in the name of Allah, and thats just business as usual. And, if it is somehow understandable that for the first time in history its no longer safe for a Jew to live in India, then we are greasing the skids for a very slippery slope. Muslims, the AP headline informs us, worry about image. Not enough.



Ken Berwitz

Are song parodist Paul Shanklin and radio show host Rush Limbaugh racists?

Well, it is true that Mr. Shanklin wrote a song parody called "Barack The Magic Negro' and Rush Limbaugh has played that parody numerous times on his radio show.  So they must be racists, right?

Maybe.  And maybe not. 

Here is a very interesting and very thought-provoking column by Larry Elder on this subject.  See how you feel about it:

'Barack the Magic Negro'-gate

Posted: January 01, 2009
1:00 am Eastern


This is how the whole thing started.

David Ehrenstein, a writer who happens to be black and liberal, wrote an opinion piece in March 2007 in the Los Angeles Times called "Obama the 'Magic Negro.'"

He argued that whites, according to sociologists, stereotype blacks as "dangerous." But whites consider Obama accessible, likeable and "benign." This, according to Ehrenstein, explains Obama's "crossover" appeal.

The article insults a) Obama, by virtually ignoring his effectiveness as a candidate, b) whites, by accusing them of voting for Obama merely to assuage their own guilt and c) Sidney Poitier, the brilliant, groundbreaking actor, for ascribing his success to whites who find him safe and nonthreatening.

The article produced virtually no outcry.

Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh then aired a song parody set to the music of "Puff the Magic Dragon" called "Barack the Magic Negro." Referring to the Times article, an Al Sharpton-like "singer" called Obama inauthentically black. Why, complained the singer, should white folks vote for Obama rather than a true black man "from the hood" like me.

Chip Saltsman, a candidate for chairman of the Republican National Committee, sent the song on a CD with 40 other songs, in a Christmas mailer to committee members. Doesn't the mailer, asked several cable news programs, expose the Republicans yet again for their tone deafness on the issue of race? CNN host Anderson Cooper asked about the term "Negro." Isn't it pejorative?

Never mind the parody actually satirized Al Sharpton. The song implies that Sharpton hoped against an Obama victory, for it crushes Sharpton's argument about America's alleged institutional racism, a force so potent in a country so racist that Obama could not win. An Obama win threatens to reduce the significance of Sharpton-like black leaders. And never mind a black liberal who started the whole thing called Obama a "negro."

When will the GOP on the issue of race go on the offense?

After all, for 100 years, the Democratic Party showed its tone deafness to the rights of blacks. Democrats opposed the 13th Amendment (freeing the slaves), the 14th Amendment (making ex-slaves citizens) and the 15th Amendment (that, on paper at least, gave blacks the right to vote). Democrats founded the Ku Klux Klan some even call it the "terrorist wing of the Democratic Party." And a greater percentage of Republicans than Democrats voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Alabama Gov. George "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever" Wallace was a Democrat. Georgia Gov. Lester Maddox, who as a restaurateur, left pick handles hanging on the walls to provide customers recourse in the event an uppity black tried to enter his restaurant. He was a Democrat. Arkansas Gov. Orville Faubus attempted, in 1957, to prevent the integration of Little Rock High School. He was a Democrat. Bull Connor, the commissioner of public safety for Birmingham, Ala., turned water hoses and dogs on civil rights activists. He was a Democrat.

But what about the infamous Republican Southern strategy?

The co-author of the strategy, Pat Buchanan, wrote in 2002: "Richard Nixon kicked off his historic comeback in 1966 with a column on the South (by this writer) that declared we would build our Republican Party on a foundation of states rights, human rights, small government and a strong national defense, and leave it to the [Democratic] 'party of Maddox and Wallace to squeeze the last ounces of political juice out of the rotting fruit of racial injustice.'"

Today it's Democrats who blatantly use the race card to malign Republicans as a collection of bigots. Yet it's Republicans who support school choice and private Social Security savings accounts both of which disproportionately help blacks.

Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Democrat Charlie Rangel, said of Republicans, "It's not 'sp-c' or 'ni--er' anymore. They say 'let's cut taxes.'" Rangel, in an attack on Bush, called him "our Bull Connor." Donna Brazile, then Al Gore's campaign manager, called Republicans "white boys," and said, "A white-boy attitude is 'I must exclude, denigrate and leave behind.'"

Hillary Clinton, before a group of blacks, condemned the then-Republican-controlled Congress: "When you look at the way the House of Representatives has been run, it has been run like a plantation, and you know what I'm talking about." Then-candidate and now Democratic Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill said of George Bush's response to Hurricane Katrina, "George Bush let people die on rooftops in New Orleans because they were poor and because they were black." In a Katrina hearing, Democrat Barney Frank accused Bush of intentionally responding sluggishly. Why? Katrina would induce blacks to leave Louisiana, making it a more solidly Republican red state a Bush scheme that Frank called "ethnic cleansing by inaction."

Democratic Party chairman Howard Dean recently referred to the Republican Party as the "white party." The 35 percent of Asians and 31 percent of Hispanics who voted Republican apparently don't count.

So who should apologize to whom?

My first reaction to this article was to check Larry Elder's premise that David Ehrenstein is Black.  Ehrenstein is a very Jewish sounding name and, although I have met more than a few non-Jewish Black people with seemingly Jewish names (e.g. one of the Black customers in my father's Brooklyn dry cleaning store was named Nathan Mintz) I have never met a Black Ehrenstein.  

It turns out that Ehrenstein's father is White and Jewish,  and his mother is mixed Black and Irish.  What it makes Mr. Ehrenstein is unclear (and unimportant) to me.

That notwithstanding, however, Larry Elder's point that the Democratic Party has a long, rich history of racism and - albeit in somewhat different form - continues the tradition today, is very well taken.

It is also true that Ehrenstein's usage of the "magic Negro" term to describe Barack Obama was the door-opener to Shanklin's song parody and Limbaugh's playing of that parody on his show.

So I'll ask what Mr. Elder asked at the end of his column:  who should apologize to whom?

Good question, wouldn't you say?

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