Saturday, 17 January 2009


Ken Berwitz

John Hinderaker, at, has a terrific analysis of Barack Obama's position(s) regarding "harsh interrogation techniques".  I've posted it below, with several of the most salient passages in bold print:

What A Joke!

January 16, 2009 Posted by John at 7:25 PM

Barack Obama preens, and garners this sort of headline: "Sources: Obama ready to ban harsh interrogations":

President-elect Barack Obama is preparing to prohibit the use of waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques by ordering the CIA to follow military rules for questioning prisoners, according to two U.S. officials familiar with drafts of the plans.

Of course, there is one very big catch:

However, Obama's changes may not be absolute. His advisers are considering adding a classified loophole to the rules that could allow the CIA to use some interrogation methods not specifically authorized by the Pentagon, the officials said. ...

For Obama, who repeatedly insisted during the 2008 presidential campaign and the transition period that "America doesn't torture," a classified loophole would allow him to follow through on his promise to end harsh interrogations while retaining a full range of presidential options in conducting the war against terrorism.

The proposed loophole, which could come in the form of a classified annex to the manual, is designed to satisfy intelligence experts who fear that an outright ban of so-called enhanced interrogation techniques would limit the government in obtaining threat information that could save American lives. It would also preserve Obama's flexibility to authorize any interrogation tactics he might deem necessary for national security.

Now, that's "change you can believe in!" Obama's hypocrisy on this issue is identical to John McCain's. McCain denounced the Bush administration for "torturing" detainees. I disagree. I don't think waterboarding is torture; on the contrary, I think it is the ideal way to interrogate terrorists because it is quick and effective and because it does not actually harm them. I see it as a humane alternative to much worse techniques. But that's not the point, at the moment.

When McCain was asked what he would do in the "ticking time bomb" situation, where we have in our custody a terrorist with knowledge of plots in progress that may kill Americans, his response was that in that case, he would expect the President to do whatever was necessary. That is exactly the position Obama is now taking: we won't torture detainees. Unless, of course, we need to!

All of this might make some kind of sense if you assume that the Bush administration had a nasty habit of hauling terrorists (or Democrats, maybe) off the street for no particular reason, and waterboarding them. In fact, though, a total of three top-ranking al Qaeda terrorists were waterboarded, in the period shortly after September 11 when there was good reason to believe that they had knowledge of plots that were still active. This was exactly the "ticking time bomb" scenario where McCain has explicitly admitted, and Obama now implicitly agrees, "torture," or harsh interrogation tactics anyway, may be necessary.

In short, Obama's posturing is meaningless and politically motivated. His policy will not be any different from President Bush's; he is just trying to score cheap political points. Obama is no dummy, and is acutely aware of the Bush administration's extraordinary record of keeping us safe from terrorist attacks over the last seven years. He knows that his approval rating will sink like a stone if he exposes Americans to mass murder because of a foolish consideration for the comfort of terrorists. If and when the time comes, he will act exactly as George Bush did.

Ironically, this again demonstrates why the fact that Barack Obama lied repeatedly during the presidential campaign is something of a positive to me.  If he is serious about extracting vital information from terrorist scumbags in order to save lives, I couldn't care less that he told his hard-left base the opposite to sucker them in.

But my eyes remain wide open:  on other issues, we may not be so lucky.

Simply stated, we have a demonstrated liar coming into the white house, with no significant accomplishments to measure him by.  At a critical point in our history we have bought into a complete wild card. 

Keep your fingers crossed.  And toes, and anything else you can find.  We're going to need all the luck we can get.


Ken Berwitz

With all that is happening in Gaza, it occurred to me that some folks might not be thinking very much about Iran.  So I thought I would provide an update - courtesy of the Wall Street Journal, via

New Evidence Of Irans Nuclear Program

From the Wall Street Journal:

Fresh Clues of Iranian Nuclear Intrigue


January 16, 2009

WASHINGTON U.S. security and law-enforcement officials say they have fresh evidence of recent efforts by Iran to evade sanctions and acquire metals from China used in high-tech weaponry, including long-range nuclear missiles.

Irans efforts are detailed in a series of recent emails and letters between Iranian companies and foreign suppliers seen by The Wall Street Journal. Business records show one Iranian company, ABAN Commercial & Industrial Ltd., has contracted through an intermediary for more than 30,000 kilograms (about 66,000 pounds) of tungsten copper which can be used in missile guidance systems from Advanced Technology & Materials Co. Ltd. of Beijing. One March 2008 email between the firms mentions shipping 215 ingots, with more planned.

The United Arab Emirates has informed the U.S. that in September it intercepted a Chinese shipment headed to Iran of specialized aluminum sheets that can be used to make ballistic missiles. A month earlier, UAE officials also intercepted an Iran-bound shipment of titanium sheets that can be used in long-range missiles, according to a recent letter to the U.S. Commerce Department from the UAEs Washington ambassador.

Evidence of Irans efforts to acquire sensitive materials also is emerging from investigations by state and federal prosecutors in New York into whether a number of major Western banks illegally handled funds for Iran and deliberately hid Iranian transactions routed through the U.S. One focus of the inquiries is the role of Italy, including the Rome branch of Irans Bank Sepah and Italys Banca Intesa Sanpaolo Spa. Banca Intesa said it is cooperating in the inquiries

Last year the United Nations Security Council, which includes China, formally imposed sanctions on Irans military and most of its banks for nuclear proliferation activities

Documents detailing Irans metals acquisition efforts are being reviewed by U.S. law-enforcement and intelligence officials, people involved in the matter said. Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau said he is conducting a broad inquiry into illegal transactions by Iran. Last week, Lloyds TSB of London agreed to pay $350 million to settle U.S. sanctions-busting charges with Mr. Morgenthaus office and the Justice Department. The bank admitted it violated U.S. law but said the practice has ceased

Sheesh. Even Lloyds of London are helping the Iranians.

But we really have nothing to fear. After all, the United Nations has imposed these sanctions. And surely they will not allow them to be flaunted.

Moreover, in just a few days Irans nuclear ambitions will no longer be a problem.

President Obama will finally get a chance to sit down and reason with Mr. Ahmadinejad and sort this all out, once and for all.

As you may recall, Iran is the country whose leader is on record as intending to "wipe Israel off the face off the map".  It is also the force behind hamas (among other terrorist entities). 

As ban ki-moron and his merry men at the UN agonize over the "collateral damage" that has occurred in fewer than 1,000 Gazan war casualties, maybe they would like to reflect on how much collateral damage a nuclear weapon in Israel would create. 

I realize that Israel is comprised mostly of Jews, so that won't matter at all.  But do they think nuclear bombs have a mechanism which prevents damage beyond the Israeli border? 

And that, of course, is before we get to the possibility of a nuclear attack on Israel touching off an all-out international nuclear war. 

But not to worry.  I'm sure that, even as I type this, they're working on an especially strongly written resolution.  That should take care of things.


Ken  Berwitz

With a new administration coming in, isn't it reassuring to know that the Democrats who will be in charge of overseeing our economy are veritable paragons of excellence?  Isn't is a pleasure to know that they are honest, principled men whose past performance virtually guarantees things will get better fast?

(This ends the fairy-tale portion of the program.  Now to reality.)

Here is a terrific article by C. Edmund Wright of which provides a genuinely sobering appraisal of who will be in charge.  Read it and be scared.  Very scared:

Why Geithner and Rangel Matter

By C. Edmund Wright

The Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and the U.S. Treasury Secretary  are literally the two highest ranking political figures with regard to the Internal Revenue Service.  If any two people on the planet should set an example in their tax behavior, it is the two people who hold those positions and anyone who aspires to them. 

Inspired by their recent behavior, I left a question on my corporate accountant's voice mail today. "Jim, I just want to know if I can simply pay taxes just the way the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee OR the incoming Secretary of the Treausurer pay them?"

He laughed, and replied "of course... as long as you don't mind doing some time."  Well, this explains why we go to great pains to make sure our company is in compliance while preserving as much of our business capital as possible each and every year

Charles Rangel and Timothy Geithner are apparently somewhat more casual about tax compliance, taking hypocrisy and irony to new levels in the process.

As the Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, Rangel is literally the most influential member of Congress related to taxing and spending. As we found out in September, Rangel decided that he was above paying taxes on rental income on some houses he owned in the Dominican Republic

And as we found out days ago, the man appointed by Barack Obama to run the Treasury Department -- of which the IRS is a major part -- has also considered himself above the tax laws that haunt the rest of us.

Please understand these two people will have tremendous influence on how our tax laws are written and that they will expect every damned one of us to follow that 66 thousand page tax code to the letter. Or as Joe Biden would say, they expect us to "be patriotic" and to do so accurately.

Which makes the excuses rendered by Rangel jaw dropping. These are exuses I would not recommend you try at home.  Look at some of the explanation from Rangel and his attorney Lanny Davis (along with some comments.)

"Mr. Davis said the congressman did not realize he had to declare the money as income, and was unaware of the semiannual payments from the resort because his wife, Alma, handled the family finances and conferred with their accountant, John Viardi, on tax matters." (New York Times, September 5).

Yeah, right. Let  you or me try to claim the ignorant wife and accountant as a defense to the IRS.

"While I now know is [sic] although I had not personally received proceeds in cash, the fact that [sic] any reduction of the mortgage actually counted as income and should have been reported as such." (Rangel news conference, September 10)

Well yes, it should. It is called "taxable income," an understanding that should not escape the man who wants to dictate tax policy for the rest of us.

"I personally feel that I have done nothing morally wrong."

I am sure that will go a long way with IRS agents. By the way, just how low is your bar for "morally wrong."

Geithner, meanwhile, has few public comments on his issue to date, perhaps because one of his two problems is inexcusable and any comment will simply make the PR problem worse.  While working for the International Monetary Fund, Geithner failed to pay taxes even though the IMF "grossed up" his pay to actually give him the money with which to pay his taxes. They also attached a stub that showed exactly what his pay was including how much had been grossed up (let me help you Obama voters or potential cabinet members: this means it showed exactly what taxes he owed on that particular income.) I mean, this was not complicated.

Not only that, but Geithner himself prepared his own tax returns for several of the years where this underpayment was made. Bottom line: He either is not capable of handling a rather pedestrian income statement for tax purposes or he flat out cheated. Frankly, I am not sure that either explanation gives me the utmost confidence in the "only man smart enough to understand the TARP" program.  Based on his tax return,  how can we be sure he even understands the business impact of  "depreciation recapture" let alone "credit default swap."

Then again, he was appointed by the man who lost an impromptu debate on basic tax policy to a plumber from Ohio, clearly demonstrating an ignorance of what a capital gains tax is in the process.

Charlie Rangel. Tim Geithner. Barney "Fannie Mae" Frank. Chris "Countrywide" Dodds. Rahm Emanuel. And Barack Obama.  And so on.

We have been told that these are the people who are going to lead our economy out of the Bush imposed wilderness and to the Promised Land. These are the people who will end the Republican's "culture of corruption" and "era of special interests" in Washington and clean things up. These people represent hope and change.

I think we can look at this and easily understand why the stock market is tanking. We can figure out how, for the second month in a row, the jobless report "stunned the experts." Investors and business owners do not live in the make believe world of Washington and its political gamesmanship.  These people have skin in the game. These people suffer when they make bad decisions, and they are en masse deciding that to "take their ball and go home" as the only prudent decision. That's why people are dumping stocks and laying off employees.

When the people who make the rules are either too ignorant to understand their own rules or feel entitled to break them, the allure of playing is simply gone for the rest of us. Apparently, more than half the voters have no understanding of this concept.  And no amount of bail-outs will change that.

Isn't it nice to know that, in these perilous times, our economy will be in such capable, honest hands?

And how wonderful of our "neutral" media to be on top of this, so the public is fully aware of these people's backgrounds.  Why, it has been front page and lead story news for weeks. 

Uh.....hasn't it?



Ken Berwitz

This lovely little story comes to us from the Times of India:


Two minor girls married off to frogs
17 Jan 2009, 2301 hrs IST, TNN


PUDUCHERRY: In a bizarre ritual, two minor girls, both seven, from the remote Pallipudupet village in Tamil Nadu's Villupuram district were married
off to frogs on Friday night. The ceremony, an annual feature during the Pongal (harvest) festival, is conducted "to prevent the outbreak of mysterious diseases in the village''.

The girls, Vigneswari and Masiakanni, dressed up in traditional bridal finery -- gilded sarees and gold jewellery -- married the frog 'princes' in separate, elaborate ceremonies at two different temples in the presence of hundreds of villagers.

Amidst chanting of vedic hymns, the temple priests garlanded the
brides and tied the magalsutras on behalf of the frogs pronouncing the two as wives of the amphibians before the sacred fire at the auspicious hour.

The villagers threw themselves into the ceremonies with gusto. While residents living in the western part of the village acted as relatives of the brides and those from the eastern part play-acted as relatives of the grooms. The ceremonies had all the usual elements of a traditional marriage including a sumptuous feast.

However, unlike the fairy tale `Frog Prince', where the ugly toad turns into a handsome prince when the princess
kisses it, the Villupuram village belles bid their amphibian grooms goodbye and lead a normal life thereafter. As for the terrified frogs, they are thrown back into the temple ponds after the ceremony.

Earlier the 'relatives' of the brides came in a procession to the grooms' houses in the eastern part of the village to fix the
marriage and later went to the temple pond to catch the frogs. The frog princes were tied to long sticks decorated with garlands for the marriage ceremonies.

An elderly woman of the village said the ritual was practised traditionally for several generations to ward off evil spirits and diseases from the village.

Villupuram district collector R Palaniswamy told TOI that he had deputed a team led by the district social welfare officer to visit the village and submit a detailed report. "The district administration proposes to evolve comprehensive schemes to motivate and enlighten the villagers against such evil and ignorant practises," he said. But all these years the strange practice has been going on unchecked.
I hate to say this, but the phenomenon is not exclusive to India.  Women in the US marry frogs every day.  It often happens in Las Vegas, and the frog usually is in financial services of some kind.



Ken Berwitz

gen⋅o⋅cide [jen-uh-sahyd] 

the deliberate and systematic extermination of a national, racial, political, or cultural group.

As genocides go, you'd have to admit this is a pretty strange one.  But here is the Reuters' report on how Israel's "genocide" is playing out:

Israel plans ceasefire, Hamas vows to fight on

By Nidal al-Mughrabi.

GAZA (Reuters) - Israel plans to halt its Gaza offensive without any deal with Hamas, an Israeli official said on Saturday, in an apparent effort to deny the Islamist group any gains from the three-week-old conflict.

Hamas leaders in exile have vowed to fight on, but many of the 1.5 million Palestinians enduring incessant bombardment and privation in Gaza seemed desperate for their ordeal to end.

"The goal is to announce, subject to cabinet approval, a suspension of military activities because we believe our goals have been attained," said the official, asking not to be named.

The security cabinet met shortly before 8 p.m. (1800 GMT). Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was to address the nation afterwards.

Reporting on the start of the meeting, Israel's Channel 10 television said the military commander had recommended concluding the campaign.

Israel launched air strikes on the Gaza Strip on December 27 and ground troops pushed into the coastal enclave a week later.

Without an accord with Hamas, diplomats said they feared Israel would let only a trickle of goods into Gaza, hampering reconstruction and creating more hardship for its people.

"There is no agreement with Hamas," the Israeli official said, adding that Israel would reserve the right to act if Hamas continued firing or launched rockets across the border.

A Hamas official in Beirut said earlier the militants would keep fighting until Israel met their demands, mainly for an end to a crippling economic blockade.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak urged Israel to end its Gaza operation immediately and said he planned to host a reconstruction conference, but did not say when.

Egyptian state news agency MENA said Olmert had called Mubarak to give "Israel's positive response" to ceasefire calls.

Mubarak also invited Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and French President Nicolas Sarkozy to discuss Gaza in Sharm el-Sheikh on Sunday. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he might attend. Western diplomats said the British, German, Spanish and Turkish leaders could all also join the talks. .

Got that? Israel's idea of "genocide" is that when it has hamas completely on the ropes with the Gazan population virtually helpless, it stops fighting - without hamas agreeing to a cease fire.  Israel just stops.

Does that in any way suggest that Israel's intention is to commit genocide?  Of course not.

Doesn't it instead prove that a) Israel is not at all intending to commit any genocide, but b) hamas couldn't give a flying f%#* about the civilians it claims Israel is intentionally killing?  These "fearless warriors" go into hiding and bravely dare Israel to keep bombing while they're safely cowering in a tunnel or hospital basement.

It would be nice if the world noticed the remarkable difference between these two sides.  And the world would, too.  If it wanted to.

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