Thursday, 19 February 2009


Ken Berwitz

Chris Matthews is a liar.  And an obnoxious one at that.

There isn't any other word to use here. 

First off, let me post the following blog from Brent Baker of, so you can see the basis for my calling Matthews the liar that he is:

Matthews Suggests Water-Boarding Libby to Get Truth About Cheney's Misdeeds

In a Wednesday segment on worries President Obama, in not ruling out renditions and water-boarding, may be slipping back into the dirty old ways of torture supposedly employed by the Bush administration, Hardball host Chris Matthews blurted out: Do you think if we water-boarded Lewis 'Scooter' Libby he'd tell us the role that the Vice President played in the outing of Joseph Wilson's wife?

When guest Michael Smerconish's answer didn't satisfy Matthews, he turned to Salon's chief, Joan Walsh, and expounded on the scope of who he thought could be physically treated like a dangerous terrorist: Do you think water-boarding works in the case of recent political figures in this [Bush] administration who are felons, disbarred, et cetera?...Do you think we'd get the truth through water-boarding here at home?

On the February 18 show, Matthews fretted over Obama:

He's apparently, according to the testimony we've gotten from Leon Panetta and others, he is going to consider, as an option, rendition. He is going to consider, as an option, additional authority when it comes to squeezing prisoners, using harsher techniques of interrogation. Is he slipping back into the dirty old ways?

A couple of minutes later:

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Do you think if we water-boarded Lewis 'Scooter' Libby he'd tell us the role that the Vice President played in the outing of Joseph Wilson's wife? I'm asking you a simple question because you believe in this stuff. Do you believe he would give us an honest answer if we water-boarded Scooter Libby as to the role his boss played in what he did and got in trouble for?

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, PHILADELPHIA RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I believe that there must be some efficacy in water-boarding or we would not continue to have this debate. Does that answer your question?

MATTHEWS: It does in a very abstract way. I was hoping for something more applicable. Let me go to Joan Walsh. Do you think water-boarding works in the case of recent political figures in this administration who are felons, disbarred, et cetera, but will not get pardons because the President will not play ball with his Vice President? Do you think we'd get the truth through water-boarding here at home? Here at home? Do you think it works?

JOAN WALSH, SALON: Okay, this is easy for me, Chris. I don't believe in water-boarding, not even for Scooter. So I'm just -- I'm not even going to go there. So-

MATTHEWS: Okay. Good. Well let's go where we have to go tonight. In all seriousness, are you worried, as a supporter of Barack Obama in a general sense, you like his values. Do you believe he may be slipping away from them, backsliding into the old ways of torture?

WALSH: I am worried...

Why is Chris Matthews a liar?  Because he and everyone else in both politics and media know who "outed" Valerie Plame (as if people didn't know she worked for the CIA already).  It was Richard Armitage, a former deputy Secretary of State and no friend of the Bush administration.

How can I be certain Matthews knows this?  Because Armitage ADMITTED he outed her and APOLOGIZED for it. 

Want proof?  How about the Washington Post**, CBS News**, and  CNN?  And, if that doesn't convince you, how about Armitage in his own voice admitting it while being interviewed by Wolf Blitzer.  That enough proof for you?

Therefore, when Chris Matthews tries to blame Dick Cheney, he is either so completely ignorant and uninformed that he doesn't know this, or he is lying.  I think it is pretty apparent that he is lying.

Thus the question becomes: Why would Chris Matthews lie by suggesting that Dick Cheney had a role in "outing" Valerie Plame when he knows that Richard Armitage did it?

The answer, it seems to me, is pretty simple.  If he acknowledges the fact that it was Armitage, then the hated Mr. Cheney - and Mr. Libby, and Mr. Rove and Mr. Bush - are off the hook. 

And since Matthews hates every one of these people, he does not want them off the hook.  So in order to keep them there, he lies about the Plame "outing" in the hope that his audience is either ignorant enough not to know the truth or as hate-filled towards Cheney, Libby, etc. as he is, and therefore uninterested in it.

I would say that this is why Matthews' ratings are so anemic, even after all these years on MSNBC.  But that wouldn't explain olbermann and Maddow, so it must be something else.


**For some reason, the links to the Washington Post and CBS News stories may not be working.  So here are the actual URL's which you can click on instead: 

The Washington Post story is at

The CBS News story is at


Ken Berwitz

By now most people have heard about r. allen stanford, who appears to be the poor man's bernie madoff (relatively speaking, of course). 

madoff bilked his clientele out of a staggering $50 billion dollars.  But stanford was no slouch either, at $8 billion - and quite possibly a great deal more.

madoff is under "house arrest" at his multi-million dollar Park Avenue condo (people like you and me call that living in amazing luxury).  stanford is still at large and could be anywhere, but it's pretty likely he is living in luxurious circumstances too.  (Hey, maybe our wonderful Attorney General, Eric Holder, is willing to pardon him the way he was willing to pardon marc rich).

Here's another thing that bernard madoff and r. allen stanford (marc rich too) have in common:  They are all big-time Democrats who threw tons of money around for Democratic causes.

Funny thing, though;  most mainstream media keep leaving that part out of their coverage of stanford.  But one very welcome exception is ABC News, as seen from the following excerpt which was drawn from its feature article on him.  The bold print is mine:

Charges Against Stanford a Long Time Coming, Offshore Banking Experts Say

Accused Financier Under Federal Drug Investigation

Offshore banking experts say that the fraud charges this week against accused financial scammer R. Allen Stanford have been a long time coming.

Authorities claim billionaire investor R. Allen Stanford may rival Madoff.

"There's no surprise at all," said Washington lawyer and IRS consultant Jack Blum. "This man has been on law enforcement's radar screen for the better part of 10 years."

But the SEC didn't move forward until this week, after two former Stanford Financial whistleblowers filed an alleged lawsuit, which revealed how the bank lied about too-good-to-be-true certificates of deposit.

"The problem was the published returns that many advisors use to present to clients and prospects," said former Stanford Group employee Mark Tidwell, "that now we knew that information was incorrect."

"They would lie about it and that behavior just became more and more prevalent," said Charles Well, the other former Stanford Group employee.

But now the SEC's fraud charges may be the least of Stanford's worries. Federal authorities tell ABC News that the FBI and others have been investigating whether Stanford was involved in laundering drug money for Mexico's notorious Gulf Cartel.

Authorities tell ABC News that as part of the investigation, which has been ongoing since last year, Mexican authorities detained one of Stanford's private planes. According to officials, checks found inside the plane were believed to be connected to the Gulf cartel, reputed to be Mexico's most violent gang. Authorities say Stanford could potentially face criminal charges of money laundering and bribery of foreign officials.


Authorities say the SEC action against Stanford Tuesday may have complicated the federal drug investigation. The SEC had been prepared to move in earlier, but was asked to hold off because of the FBI's undercover investigation. But this week, when officials realized Stanford was moving huge amounts of cash out of his bank, they had no choice to move in, even if it jeopardized the drug money case.

The federal investigation, however, did not stop Stanford from using corporate money to become a big man at last year's Democratic convention in Denver.

A video posted on the firm's web-site shows Stanford, now sought by U.S. Marshals, being hugged by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and praised by former President Bill Clinton for helping to finance a convention-related forum and party put on by the National Democratic Institute.

"I would like to thank the Stanford Financial Group for helping to underwrite this," Clinton said to the crowd at the event.

Stanford Financial was listed as the "lead benefactor" for the gathering, and Stanford was permitted to address the audience of several hundred.

Stanford contributed $150,000 to underwrite the event, said NDI president Kenneth Wollack. More recently, Stanford gave $5,000 to help pay for a luncheon hosted by the group. At the time NDI had no idea of Stanford's trouble, and it is has not had any contact with him since the December event, said Wollack.

"We had no reason to believe that a very public company that was also engaged in philanthropic work might be suspect," said a spokesperson for the National Democratic Institute, Amy Dudley.

The SEC charged yesterday that Stanford was running a fraudulent investment scheme that may have bilked customers out of as much as $8 billion.

Stanford's whereabouts are unknown and U.S. Marshals say they are searching for him.

If this were a Republican fatcat who tossed tons of $$$$ at Republicans - say a Richard Mellon Scaife kind of guy - do you think most mainstream media would be suppressing it the way they are suppressing stanford's ties?

Me neither.  So Democrats can walk away relatively unscathed.  Again.



Ken Berwitz

This one is very definitely for the supporters of Israel who helped Barack Obama become President.  You know, the folks who looked the other way as he stacked his campaign with Israel-bashers, and figured out a way to rationalize that it didn't reflect his true intentions; it was only a political move that would be forgotten after the election.

Here's a glimmer of reality:

According to, part of the Washington Post/Newsweek interactive, Mr. Obama will name Charles W. Freeman, our former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, as chairman of the National Intelligence Council.  You can read the entire piece by clicking here.

So what, you say?  Just because Mr. Freeman was the ambassador to Saudi Arabia, it doesn't mean he can't be fair and logical regarding Israel, does it? 

If that's what you think, then read this excerpt from his speech to the Institute of Foreign Affairs, which was delivered on May 24, 2007.  The bold print is mine:

 I have been talking about how to reassert our leadership on the global level. But, in the end, we face the paradox that the world, though globalized to an unprecedented degree, is made up of a series of regions in which regional powers increasingly call the shots. And all diplomacy, like all politics, is local. We face perplexing choices in every region of the world. But the policies that have brought discredit upon us center on one region the Middle East. To restore our reputation we must correct these policies. And the problem of terrorism that now bedevils us has its origins in one region the Middle East. To end this terrorism we must address the issues in the region that give rise to it.

Principal among these is the brutal oppression of the Palestinians by an Israeli occupation that is about to mark its fortieth anniversary and shows no sign of ending.
Arab identification with Palestinian suffering, once variable in its intensity, is now total. American identification with Israeli policy has also become total. Those in the region and beyond it who detest Israeli behavior, which is to say almost everyone, now naturally extend their loathing to Americans. This has had the effect of universalizing anti-Americanism, legitimizing radical Islamism, and gaining Iran a foothold among Sunni as well as Shiite Arabs. For its part, Israel no longer even pretends to seek peace with the Palestinians; it strives instead to pacify them. Palestinian retaliation against this policy is as likely to be directed against Israel's American backers as against Israel itself. Under the circumstances, such retaliation whatever form it takes will have the support or at least the sympathy of most people in the region and many outside it. This makes the long-term escalation of terrorism against the United States a certainty, not a matter of conjecture.

The Palestine problem cannot be solved by the use of force; it requires much more than the diplomacy-free foreign policy we have practiced since 9/11. Israel is not only not managing this problem; it is severely aggravating it. Denial born of political correctness will not cure this fact. Israel has shown not surprisingly that, if we offer nothing but unquestioning support and political protection for whatever it does, it will feel no incentive to pay attention to either our interests or our advice. Hamas is showing that if we offer it nothing but unreasoning hostility and condemnation, it will only stiffen its position and seek allies among our enemies. In both cases, we forfeit our influence for no gain.

There will be no negotiation between Israelis and Palestinians, no peace, and no reconciliation between them and there will be no reduction in anti-American terrorism until we have the courage to act on our interests. These are not the same as those of any party in the region, including Israel, and we must talk with all parties, whatever we think of them or their means of struggle. Refusal to reason with those whose actions threaten injury to oneself, one's friends, and one's interests is foolish, feckless, and self-defeating. That is why we it is past time for an active and honest discussion with both Israel and the government Palestinians have elected, which in an irony that escapes few abroad is the only democratically elected government in the Arab world.

Got that? The problem isn't that Palestinian Arabs do not recognize any part of Israel as being legitimate and teach their children that Jews are the spawn of apes and pigs.  And the problem isn't hamas, which specifically commits - in writing - to vaporizing Israel and killing its Jews.  The problem is Israeli intransigence. 

The fact that this screed was delivered two years after Israel ended its occupation of Gaza?  Irrelevant'n'immaterial.  Freeman talks as if it was still under occupation.

And that hostility/condemnation toward hamas?  It is "unreasoning".  Why would you feel that way about a group that shoots artillery at you every day in an effort to obliterate your country and kill you?

THIS is the guy who will head our National Intelligence Council.

To the 78% of Jews, most of whom presumably support Israel:  I hope you're happy with this, because you helped make it happen.

As one of the other 22% I can assure you I'm not.


Ken Berwitz

So this guy walks into a pet store and says "I'd like to buy a talking bird for my mother.  She lives alone and could use the companionship".  The store owner says "I have an amazing bird.  It speaks 12 different languages.  But it costs $8,000.  The guy says "Nothing is too good for my mother"  He empties out his bank account, buys the bird and has it sent to her apartment.

The next night he goes to see her and asks "So, ma, how'd you like that bird?"  She says "It was delicious.  The plucking took a little time, I haven't worked with a live bird for many years, but it was so tasty.  Thank you sonny". 

He turns four shades of green and says "MA!  You ATE the bird??????" 

"Of course I did"

"But MA!  That bird cost $8,000!!.  It spoke 12 LANGUAGES!!!!"

"So why didn't it say something?"


You don't often find a true story that plays out like a joke you've heard.  But this one, from the Phillipines, is in the same ballpark.  It comes to us from

 "Extinct" Bird Seen, Eaten

February 18, 2009A rare quail from the Philippines was photographed for the first time before being sold as food at a poultry market, experts say.

Found only on the island of Luzon, Worcester's buttonquail was known solely through drawings based on dated museum specimens collected several decades ago.

Scientists had suspected the specieslisted as "data deficient" on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's 2008 Red Listwas extinct.

(See related bird photo: "Rare 'Smiling' Bird Photographed in Colombia.")

A TV crew documented the live bird in the market (above) before it was sold in January, according to the Agence France-Press news agency.

Michael Lu, president of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines, told AFP the bird's demise should inspire a "local consciousness" about the region's threatened wildlife.

"What if this was the last of its species?" Lu said.

However, the buttonquail is from a "notoriously cryptic and unobtrusive family of birds," according to the nonprofit Birdlife International, so the species may survive undetected in other regions.

That last paragraph liberates us, more or less, to laugh at the story.  But I would lie if I didn't admit I'd probably be laughing even without it.

Besides, if the bird was that rare, it probably was lonely anyway.  It should have said something.


Ken Berwitz


The war in Afghanistan is about to be won.  President Obama is going to implement a troop surge there which will eliminate the taliban....and bag osama bin laden in the bargain.  Piece of cake.


There is no such thing as winning in Afghanistan; not in any conventional sense.  It is a country with a few "cities" (not as we think of them) and harsh mountainous terrain that is impossible to govern or control in any way. 

President Bush understood this, which is why he kept troop levels where they were and didn't pretend he could do more than what was realistically achievable there. 

Then along came Barack Obama, who "knew" that the troop surge in Iraq was useless but it would have done great good in Afghanistan.  And enough people were mesmerized by this fairy tale so that they bought what he was selling and elected him.

The reality is that the troop surge in Iraq has been a spectacular success.  Iraq is now - with significant US help - a functioning democracy and a role model for the rest of the Arab and Muslim world. 

So how would a troop surge do in Afghanistan?  Read the excerpts from this Associated Press article and find out from the experts.  Please pay special attention to the quote I've put in bold print:

WASHINGTON - The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan offered a grim view Wednesday of military efforts in southern Afghanistan, warning that 17,000 new troops will take on emboldened Taliban insurgents who have "stalemated" U.S. and allied forces.

Army Gen. David McKiernan also predicted that the bolstered numbers of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan about 55,000 in all will remain near those levels for up to five years.

Still, McKiernan said, that is only about two-thirds of the number of troops he has requested to secure the war-torn nation.

McKiernan told reporters at the Pentagon on Wednesday that the extra Army and Marine forces will be in place by the summer, primed for counterinsurgency operations against the Taliban but also ready to conduct training with Afghan police forces.

McKiernan said what the surge "allows us to do is change the dynamics of the security situation, predominantly in southern Afghanistan, where we are, at best, stalemated.

"I'm not here to tell you that there's not an increased level of violence, because there is," he said.

More deployments
The 17,000 additional troops, which President Barack Obama approved Tuesday to begin deploying this spring, will join an estimated 38,000 already in Afghanistan.

Another 10,000 U.S. soldiers could be headed to Afghanistan in the future as the Obama administration decides how to balance its troop levels with those from other nations and the Afghan army. The White House has said it will not make further decisions about its next moves in Afghanistan until it has completed a strategic review of the war, in tandem with the Afghan government.

Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan, said Wednesday that the foreign ministers of those countries will travel to Washington next week to meet with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and other officials as the U.S. formulates a policy review.

Appearing on "The NewsHour" on PBS, Holbrooke was asked how the Obama administration sees victory in Afghanistan. "First of all, the victory, as defined in purely military terms, is not achievable, and I cannot stress that too highly," he said. "What we're looking for is the definition of our vital national security interests."

Holbrooke described his recent trip to the region and the delegations coming to Washington as "a manifestation of a new, intense, engaged diplomacy designed to put Afghanistan and Pakistan into a larger regional context and move forward to engage other countries in the effort to stabilize this incredibly volatile region."

Whatever the outcome of the review, McKiernan said, "we know we need additional means in Afghanistan, whether they are security or governance-related or socioeconomic-related."

The estimated level of 55,000 troops needs "to be sustained for some period of time," he said, adding that could be as long as three to five years.

Is that not exactly how President Bush saw it?  Isn't that why his efforts in Afghanistan were designed to support as much of a government as was realistic, while containing the taliban as best he could in the places where there could never be a government? 

Bush understood that there is no way to get rid of the taliban.  And if it only operated in the mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan, woe to the people it controlled, but we would not be sending troops there. 

The problem is that these people are intent on taking over country after country and ruling the world.  That is why they have to be stopped, even if they can't be eliminated.

I wonder how far President Obama will go towards the USSR model - the one that was so catastrophic for them - before he comes to grips with this reality.


Ken Berwitz

Here is a 27 second video of CNN reporter Zain Vergee talking about peanuts -what airlines are serving them and where they are grown.  But Ms. Vergee has trouble pronouncing the word peanuts.

I'm guessing that you already have an idea of what you're about to hear.  And you're right too:

I'm going to avoid the countless sign-off lines I can think of, because I have no doubt that you've come up with a few of your own that are as good as, or better than, mine.

Which, I suppose would make any further comments from me anti-climactic (ok, I couldn't resist just one).


Ken Berwitz

I often criticize the one-sidedness of Associated Press reports.  So when the AP gets it right I want to be fair and point it out as well.

Here is an article written by the AP's Larry Margasak, on the Democratic "culture of corruption", that qualifies very nicely:

Analysis: Democrats self-destructing over ethics

WASHINGTON (AP) The Obama administration and the new Congress are quickly handing over to Republicans the same "culture of corruption" issue that Democrats used so effectively against the GOP before coming to power.

Freshman Sen. Roland Burris, D-Ill., is only the latest embarrassment.

Senate Democrats accepted Burris because they believed what he told them: He was clean. Burris now admits he tried to raise money for Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who authorities say sought to sell President Barack Obama's former Senate seat.

"The story seems to be changing day by day," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Wednesday.

The political mess for the Democratic Party, however, isn't Burris' conduct alone; it's the pattern that has developed so quickly over the past few months.

_The chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., is the subject of a House ethics investigation. It's partly focused on his fundraising practices for a college center in his name, his ownership financing of a resort property in the Dominican Republic and his financial disclosure reports.

_Federal agents raided two Pennsylvania defense contractors that were provided millions of dollars in federal funding by Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., chairman of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee.

_Blagojevich was arrested Dec. 9 on federal charges, including allegations he schemed to sell the Senate seat to the highest bidder.

_Tom Daschle, the former Senate majority leader from South Dakota, abandoned his bid to become health and human services secretary and the administration's point man on reforming health care; and Nancy Killefer stepped down from a newly created position charged with eliminating inefficient government programs.

Both Daschle and Killefer had tax problems, and Daschle also faced potential conflicts of interest related to working with health care interests.

_Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner was confirmed after revealing he had tax troubles.

_Obama's initial choice for commerce secretary, Bill Richardson, stepped aside due to a grand jury investigation into a state contract awarded to his political donors.

_While the Senate voted overwhelmingly to confirm William Lynn as deputy defense secretary, Obama had to waive his ethics regulations to place the former defense lobbyist in charge of day-to-day operations at the Pentagon.

The No. 2 Senate Democrat, Richard Durbin of Illinois, expressed his anger about the Burris case Wednesday while he was on an official visit to Greece.

"I do believe that the public statements made by Mr. Burris to this point have raised questions ... as to the nature of his relationship with the former governor and the circumstances surrounding his appointment," Durbin said.

Reid said in Nevada, "Now there's some question as to whether or not he told the truth."

Where to go next? Reid had no answer.

"What I think we have to do is just wait and see," the Senate leader said.

Senate Democrats now may be trapped in their own ethics system. Disciplinary action against a senator usually requires a long investigation by the Senate's ethics committee. While a preliminary inquiry on Burris is under way, that's only the first early step. And, with ongoing criminal investigations in Illinois, the committee probably would have to postpone any action as it usually does to avoid interference.

In 2006, Republicans lost control of the House after Democrats effectively used a "culture of corruption" theme against them.

The final scandal broke shortly before the election, when it was revealed that then-Rep. Mark Foley, a Florida Republican, sent sexually suggestive e-mails and explicit instant messages to teenage boys who had served as House pages.

Republicans were further harmed when it was disclosed that several of their members were aware of the problem and failed to take action.

Democrats, who've been in control of both Congress and the White House less than two months now, are lucky on one point. The next congressional election is nearly two years away.

I would have liked Mr. Margasak to mention that the Democratic house "leadership" has refused to remove Rangel as chair of the house Ways and Means Committee (in other words, this tax cheat is being allowed to write tax policy). 

It would also have been nice if he mentioned that Republican Mark Foley was never charged with any wrongdoing because, however offensive we might have found them to be, the e-mails and IM's he sent all were to house pages who were of age.  But you can't have everything.

All in all, a very well done, very fair assessment. 

Now - how many other places in mainstrem media have you seen a similarly honest look at the Democratic Party? 

Why not start looking?  Meanwhile I'll go on to my business-related activities, eat lunch and dinner, get a good night's sleep, etc.  I figure that's how long you'll need.

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