Sunday, 22 March 2009

HAS THE NEW YORK TIMES SOURED ON OBAMA?

Ken Berwitz

I didn't blog about it yesterday, but Paul Krugman, the left wing economics guru of the New York Times, wrote a genuinely scathing criticism of what President Obama and his people are doing. 

His key paragraph:

Why am I so vehement about this? Because Im afraid that this will be the administrations only shot that if the first bank plan is an abject failure, it wont have the political capital for a second. So its just horrifying that Obama and yes, the buck stops there has decided to base his financial plan on the fantasy that a bit of financial hocus-pocus will turn the clock back to 2006.

That's pretty remarkable commentary from someone who, along with the rest of the Times crew, has been so completely in the bag for Mr. Obama. 

But today we have Frank Rich, if anything even harder-left than Krugman, attacking President Obama just as scathingly.  Here is an excerpt of his commentary:

Has a Katrina Moment Arrived?

Barry Blitt
 
Published: March 21, 2009

A CHARMING visit with Jay Leno wont fix it. A 90 percent tax on bankers bonuses wont fix it. Firing Timothy Geithner wont fix it. Unless and until Barack Obama addresses the full depth of Americans anger with his full arsenal of policy smarts and political gifts, his presidency and, worse, our economy will be paralyzed. It would be foolish to dismiss as hyperbole the stark warning delivered by Paulette Altmaier of Cupertino, Calif., in a letter to the editor published by The Times last week: President Obama may not realize it yet, but his Katrina moment has arrived.

Six weeks ago I wrote in this space that the countrys surge of populist rage could devour the presidents best-laid plans, including the essential Act II of the bank rescue, if he didnt get in front of it. The occasion then was the Tom Daschle firestorm. The White House seemed utterly blindsided by the publics revulsion at the moneyed insiders culture illuminated by Daschles post-Senate career. Yet last weeks events suggest that the administration learned nothing from that brush with disaster.

Otherwise it never would have used Lawrence Summers, the chief economic adviser, as a messenger just as the A.I.G. rage was reaching a full boil last weekend. Summers is so tone-deaf that he makes Geithner seem like Bobby Kennedy.

Bob Schieffer of CBS asked Summers the simple question that has haunted the American public since the bailouts began last fall: Do you know, Dr. Summers, what the banks have done with all of this money that has been funneled to them through these bailouts? What followed was a monologue of evasion that, translated into English, amounted to: Not really, but you little folk neednt worry about it.

Yet even as Summers spoke, A.I.G. was belatedly confirming what he would not. It has, in essence, been laundering its $170 billion in taxpayers money by paying off its reckless partners in gambling and greed, from Goldman Sachs and Citigroup on Wall Street to Socit Gnrale and Deutsche Bank abroad.

Summers was even more highhanded in addressing the retention bonuses handed to the very employees who brokered all those bad bets. After reciting the requisite outrage talking point, he delivered a patronizing lecture to viewers of ABCs This Week on how our tradition of upholding law made it impossible to abrogate the bonus agreements. It never occurred to Summers that Americans might know that contracts are renegotiated all the time most conspicuously of late by the United Automobile Workers, which consented to givebacks as its contribution to the Detroit bailout plan. Nor did he note, for all his supposed reverence for the law, that the A.I.G. unit being rewarded with these bonuses is now under legal investigation by British and American authorities.

Within 24 hours, Summerss stand was discarded by Obama, who tardily (and impotently) vowed to pursue every single legal avenue to block the bonuses. The question is not just why the White House was the last to learn about bonuses that Democratic congressmen had sought hearings about back in December, but why it was so slow to realize that the publics anger couldnt be sated by Summerss legalese or by constant reiteration of the word outrage. By the time Obama acted, even the G.O.P. leader Mitch McConnell was ahead of him in full (if hypocritical) fulmination.

I assure you that neither of these two columnists would agree with my assessment of what Mr. Obama is doing wrong.  But, whatever our reasons, we all agree that it is wrong.  Egregiously wrong.

And if Mr. Obama is wrong, then it necessarily follows that the Democrat-dominated congress, which is passing his legislation, must be just as wrong. 

And that means, whether Mr. Krugman or Mr. Rich will say it in so many words, that the Democratic Party is wrong.

And if Krugman and Rich are saying it any way at all, you can be sure that somewhere in the bowels of the Times building, a new overall position on Mr. Obama has been taken.

Why?  Maybe it has something to do with what effect the legislation will have on the New York Times company (that's right, it's not just a newspaper, it's a company; a big one) and its executives. 

Today's lead story in the Times talks about how Mr. Obama is looking to regulate the compensation paid to executives at banks and other financial institutions -- but that the regulations might be expanded into other areas.  Do you think Pinch Sulzberger and his inner circle might have a worry or two about that?

Whatever the reason, I will now expect a significantly more critical view of President Obama by the Times and its sister paper, the Boston Globe.

My pal Jeff Jacoby, the Globe's house conservative, should be pleasantly surprised by this turn of events.  I'll contact him, ask what he thinks about this and let you know what he says.


THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ISRAEL AND ITS ARAB ENEMIES

Ken Berwitz

From Jonathan Kaye of Canada's National Post.  No comment necessary:

Jonathan Kay: Here is the difference between Israel and its Arab enemies
Posted: March 22, 2009, 10:24 by Jonathan Kay

Here, in a nutshell, is the difference between Israel and the terror-worshiping cultures that besiege it. When terrorists kill Israeli women and children with bombs or missiles, they regard it as a triumph worthy of celebration; sweets are passed out; the terrorists themselves are venerated as martyrs. When Israeli soldiers deliberately kill Arab women and children, on the other hand, most Israelis regard it as a disgusting aberration, and a legal investigation is launched.

Last week, the director of an Israeli military institute leaked unproven testimonials from soldiers who claimed they'd engaged in or been urged to engage in reckless and inhumane tactics during the recent Gaza campaign. In one instance, it was claimed a sniper had shot an elderly woman. In another, an Israeli gunman was alleged to have killed a woman and two children. All four of the victims, the testimonials allege, were killed because they approached Israeli positions or violated Israeli battlefield orders, despite the fact they posed no military threat. Other accounts leaked from the same military institute, all taken from a taped discussion among Gaza war veterans, feature claims that Israel had recklessly destroyed Gazan property; and that militant Israeli Rabbis had distributed unsettling propaganda to the soldiers prior to Israel's incursion.

None of the accounts have been verified. But no one should be surprised if some turn out to be true. No army even one serving a humane, democratic nation such as Israel, tragically well-practiced in the art of counter-terrorism is staffed by unbroken legions of angels. There are always bad apples. Thousands of Israeli soldiers fought in Gaza in late 2008 and early 2009. No doubt, a few of them fell under some of the lunatic and sadistic impulses that have been known to grip soldiers in times of war. (We should be far more skeptical of the related claim that Israeli units actually were commanded to maraud Gazan civilians and their homes. If that were true, the civilian death toll in Gaza would have been orders of magnitude higher than it actually was.)

What is more remarkable is how this all has been handled in Israel itself. As soon as the allegations surfaced, Israel's military advocate general launched an investigation. As with the United States following Abu Ghraib in Iraq, and Canada following the Airborne Regiment scandal in Somalia, the sadists will be identified and, where justified, punished. Israel is an open society in which ordinary soldiers often discuss their combat experiences in op-ed articles, blogs and radio programs. Indeed, this whole story was originally broken by Israeli newspapers. The prospect of a cover-up is remote.

Nevertheless, we all know how Israel's enemies and critics will play this news. From the opening days of the Gazan campaign, the blood-libels of "massacre" and "genocide" have flown thick and fast. From the moment this story appeared on the front-page of Thursday's New York Times, it was obvious that the Israel-Apartheid crowd had found its latest talking point. (It doesn't help matters that some Israeli soldiers are playing up the sadistic motif for gallows humor, with t-shirts bearing the image of dead Arabs and the like. Sometimes, Israel is own its worst PR enemy)

Well, here's another talking point worth considering. In April, 1979, a Lebanese terrorist by the name of Samir Kuntar murdered a 31-year-old Israeli father and his 4-year-old daughter dispatching the latter by smashing her head against a rock. (A 2-year-old sister also died from suffocation, as her mother tried to quiet the toddler's screams so as not to alert Kuntar to their presence.) Kuntar's crimes are now 30 years old. But recent events suggest they remain instructive to this day: Last year, after spending three decades in an Israeli jail for the killings, the murderer was sent back to Lebanon in exchange for the remains of two Israeli soldiers. Upon his return, Arabs greeted Kuntar with confetti and applause. The head of Al Jazeera's Beirut office called the man a "pan-Arab hero," and feted him at a special party. A few months later, in Nov. 2008, the Syrian president gave Kuntar his country's highest medal.

Such a sick spectacle could never unfold in Israel, of course: In the case of the soldiers alleged last week to have killed Gazan civilians, the reaction from Israelis has been what one would expect in a civilized culture that values human life: outrage, disgust, and a legal investigation. It is this contrast not the isolated outrages alleged to have been performed by Israeli soldiers that tell us all we need to know about the moral gulf between the Jewish state and its terrorist enemies.


MEDIA BIAS? NAAAAAHHHH

Ken Berwitz

From of Todd Huston of www.newsbusters.org:

SF Chron Reports 'Massive' Anti-War Protest, Completely Ignored Equally Large Cincy Tea Party

Back on March 15, Noel Sheppard noted that the San Francisco Chronicle completely ignored the thousands of average Americans that came together in Cincinnati, Ohio to protest Obama's unprecedented take over of the US economy. The Cincinnati Tea Party truly was massive but is just one of the many dozens of Tea Party protests that have occurred -- and are continuing to occur -- all across the country in the last two months. Still, the SF Chronicle didn't see any reason to cover the rally.

But never fear for the Chronicle does enjoy a good protest, nonetheless. As long as it's of a leftist, anti-war flavor, of course. Witness the Chron's coverage of the "Massive anti-war, anti-Wall Street protest in San Francisco" from this weekend, March 21.

This rally was no bigger (and arguably smaller) than the anti-Obama protests in Cincinnati, yet the Chronicle reserves the word "massive" for the anti-war/anti-Wall Street protest while offering no coverage at all for the one in Cincy. If size was the key here, as the Chronicle's headline seems to note, then why ignore the likely bigger protest in Ohio only a week ago?

I'll bet you can figure that one out, eh?

It seems that not all protests are created equal in the eyes of the SFChron.

The Chronicle also made another shifty move in its coverage of the Frisco weirdo's little march. It made the violence that happened there seem to be the fault of supporters of Israel when it clearly was not. In the third paragraph of the SF Chronicle story we are informed about when violence occurred.

The protest remained peaceful until the main group arrived at Civic Center Plaza. There, a couple hundred pro-Israel protesters waving Israeli flags were waiting for the larger contingent, which included many pro-Palestine protesters.

Yes, apparently everything was great until those darned Joooows showed up. The truth is, though, that it was the pro-Muslim protesters from the leftys side that accosted the pro-Israel group, not the other way around. The Chronicle would have been more proper to say something like the following: "The protest remained peaceful until pro-Palestinian protesters broke from the group to confront several hundred pro-Israel protesters that had gathered at the Civic Center."

The Chron did go on to say that the pro-Palestinian protesters broke off "to confront" the pro-Israel group, but that first paragraph does make it seem as if everything was fine until Jewish supporters showed up placing the onus on the Jews and not the Palestinians. Subtle, but just so.

In any case, what we have here is clear. The Chronicle had no desire to cover the massive protest in Cincinnati against Barack Obama's socialist intervention in the U.S. economy, a protest that is noteworthy for the fact that those thousands all came together for one goal. On the other hand, the protest in San Francisco represented dozens of different causes -- from Planned Parenthood and Code Pink feminazi groups to the common anti-war, and anti-Jew folks -- and was an effort organized by several of those professional protest organizations so ubiquitous on the American extreme left.

Whereas the Cincinnati protest was organized almost spontaneously and with singular purpose, the Frisco protest was a melange of nutty causes and fringe characters brought together in a kaleidoscope of ideas that did not reveal a united message. In light of this, the Cincinnati protest was far more consequential since everyone was there for that one purpose while the Frisco gathering was a bunch of smaller groups coinciding for all sorts of reasons.

It would seem to any disinterested reporter that the protest in Cincinnati deserved at least as much coverage as the San Francisco anti-whatever protest received. Sadly, the Chronicle doesn't seem to agree with that more balanced journalistic viewpoint.

On a side note, it was amusing to read an eyewitness account of the lefties trying to organize a protest in front of several AIG executives house this weekend. Apparently, there was only two small buses of protesters and about 20 vanloads of media folks to cover it.

For a Business Insider blog, Rhys Southan wrote:

At this point, we're waiting outside of AIGFP HQ, and still waiting for another bus to arrive. But we've heard that that bus is being followed by 20 vans of media. Once again, it seems the media is much more interested than anyone who's actually protesting.

And then

One amusing anecdote: The protesters stopped at one point in an organic grocery store and were suprised to learn that many AIG execs were shoppers there, and that according to the store's proprietor, they were actually very nice people.

The flummoxed protesters spent several minutes outside trying to figure out how such "evil" people could be nice to an organic grocer.

Classic stuff!

But, as with the SF Chronicle covering the massive anti-war protest (for a war that is essentially over and won, by the way) the AIG protests got all sorts of Old Media coverage. Meanwhile, Tea Party after Tea Party goes unremarked upon by the Old Media.

Any bias there do ya think?

Thanks to the San Francisco Chronicle for so clearly showing us how agenda-driven its "news coverage" actually is. 

And, being Jewish, I offer particular thanks for turning the Palestinian Arab/Jewish confrontation on its ear.  Nice touch, making it seem as though Jews were the aggressors but then backing off after leaving that indelible first impression.

But listen to them squeal like stuck pigs if you call them biased.


YES, WE HAVE NO BANANAS (THAT YOU WANT TO TOUCH)

Ken Berwitz

I love Whole Foods and wish there were a store closer to where I live.

But, to tell you the truth, this story, from Fox News, isn't giving me any warm fuzzies.  Please pay special attention to the parts I've put in bold print:

'World's Deadliest Spider' Found in Whole Foods Produce Section

Friday, March 20, 2009 

One of the most deadly spiders in the world was found in the produce section of an upscale Oklahoma grocery store.

Or was it?

An employee of Whole Foods Market in Tulsa discovered what an expert said was a Brazilian wandering spider in a bunch of bananas from Honduras on Sunday and managed to catch it in a container.

The spider was given to University of Tulsa animal facilities director Terry Childs, who identified the arachnid and said that type of spider is one of the most lethal in the world.

Childs said a bite will kill a person in about 25 minutes, and while there is an antidote, he doesn't know of any in the Tulsa area.

But a Tulsa Zoo official disputed the findings, saying his analysis through video and photos he'd seen led him to believe that it was a Huntsman spider which is harmless to humans.

"There's pretty definitive evidence it has been misidentified," said Barry Downer, the zoo's curator of aquariums and herpetology.

Downer said the spider should have been preserved for study, but he was told that the body would not be made available.

"It doesn't make any sense to me why it wouldn't be saved," he said.

Childs said Wednesday night that he had destroyed the spider at the urging of a university administrator because of safety concerns.

A school spokesman said Thursday that the university is looking into how and why the spider was destroyed.

Richard Grantham, director of the plant disease and insect diagnostics lab at Oklahoma State University, also said the arachnid didn't appear to be a Brazilian wandering spider and should not have been killed.

"We preserve it," Grantham said. "We don't destroy it."

In addition, Downer and Grantham disagreed with Childs' characterization of the danger of a Brazilian wandering spider.

Death from its bite is rare, and only victims with compromised immune systems, such as babies or older people, would be at risk, they said.

Spiders often are found in imported produce. A manager at Whole Foods says the store regularly checks its goods and that's how the spider was found.

Oddly, the Brazilian spider delivers more than a painful bite that sends most victims to the hospital. Researchers have found its venom also stimulates an hours-long erection in men.

Patients not only experience overall pain and an increase in blood pressure, they also get an uncomfortable erection.

In Brazil, emergency room staff can immediately spot the victims of a bite.

"The erection is a side effect that everybody who gets stung by this spider will experience along with the pain and discomfort," said study team member Romulo Leite of the Medical College of Georgia, presumably speaking only about male bite victims.

"We're hoping eventually this will end up in the development of real drugs for the treatment of erectile dysfunction."

Unbelievable.

The good news, Mr. Jones, is that you have the best erection of your life, and it will last for hours.  The bad news is that YOU won't last for hours.  You've got 25 minutes to use it.

But if you're going to, can you get out of the produce section? 


THE MOST DIFFICULT 100 DAYS?

Ken Berwitz

My previous blog mentioned the great Boston Globe columnist (and really good guy) Jeff Jacoby.

Jeff's latest column laughs off the ridiculous claim that President Obama's first 100 days are the most difficult that any President has faced in the history of the country.

Here it is:

'The most difficult first 100 days'? Not quite

by Jeff Jacoby
The Boston Globe
March 22, 2009

"WHEN the stock market crashed," Joe Biden told Katie Couric in a CBS interview last fall, "Franklin Roosevelt got on the television and didn't just talk about the princes of greed. He said, 'Look, here's what happened.'" Katie didn't embarrass her guest by pointing out that there were no TV broadcasts when Wall Street crashed in 1929 and that the president at the time was Herbert Hoover -- though she would surely have pounced had Sarah Palin committed such a howler.

Last week the vice president brought up FDR again, telling a Democratic audience that President Obama "has inherited the most difficult first 100 days of any president, I would argue, including Franklin Roosevelt."

Perhaps that generated some quizzical looks, for Biden continued: "Let me explain what I mean by that. It was clear the problem Roosevelt inherited. This is a more complicated economic [problem]. We've never, ever been here before -- here or in the world. Never, ever been here before."

If nothing else, Biden's comment was at odds with the administration's new line on the economy: Whereas last month the president was saying we were in a "crisis as deep and as dire as any since the Great Depression," now he declares that things are "not as bad as we think they are" and his adviser tells "Meet the Press" that the nation's economic "fundamentals are sound." Apparently Biden didn't get the memo to stop bad-mouthing the economy.

Faces of the Depression: A destitute family in Alabama, 1935 (Library of Congress)

Talking points aside, does Biden's claim have merit? Is Obama faced with grimmer, more formidable conditions than any incoming president has ever known? Were FDR's first 100 days notably less challenging than Obama's?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported earlier this month that unemployment has reached 8.1 percent for the first time since 1983. When Roosevelt took the oath of office on March 4, 1933, more than 25 percent of American workers were unemployed. "Those fortunate enough to have work," historian Anthony Badger writes in FDR: The First Hundred Days , "had seen their income fall by a third in three years. Farmers had been crushed by catastrophic price falls, drought, and debt. A thousand homeowners a day were losing their homes. No region, no industry, no class escaped the Depression."

Since the beginning of 2008, 42 US banks have failed. But as FDR came to power, banks were failing by the thousands, wiping out the life's savings of countless American families. Tens of thousands of other businesses had also gone under, turning once-bustling city centers into near-ghost towns. Between 1929 and Roosevelt's inauguration, national income had been cut in half; industrial output had plummeted just as much.

The recession we are in now is painful. American households have lost 18 percent of their wealth, and millions fear for their jobs. No one knows for sure what the next few years will bring. But at least this much is clear: Conditions today are nowhere near as desperate as they were in 1933, a reality for which all Americans, including their vice-president, should be grateful.

Even apart from FDR, Obama is hardly the first president to take office amid bleak or threatening circumstances. When Ronald Reagan assumed the presidency in 1981, he inherited a "misery index" of 19.5 percent -- the impact of 12 percent inflation combined with 7.5 percent unemployment rate. Mortgage rates were at 15 percent and climbing; the prime rate had reached 20 percent. Today inflation is at one-half of 1 percent, while mortgage rates are at historic lows. Biden may insist that "we've never, ever been here before." The data tell a different story.

And what of the non-economic challenges new presidents have had to confront? When Harry Truman succeeded FDR in 1945, the United States was fighting a world war on multiple fronts. The Battle of Berlin raged in Europe; B-29 bombers were pounding Tokyo. Nearly 200,000 American lives had been lost, and new casualties were averaging 900 per day. Truman had no background in foreign policy, and was shocked to discover how little national-security intelligence Roosevelt had shared with him -- including the imminent development of the atomic bomb. No wonder he told reporters he felt as if "the moon, the stars, and all the planets had fallen on me."

But even Truman had it easy next to Abraham Lincoln, whose election had prompted most of the South to secede from the Union and form the Confederacy. For his inauguration, the 16th president had to enter Washington in disguise, so serious were the threats to his life. Five weeks into Lincoln's presidency, Confederate batteries attacked Fort Sumter, triggering the Civil War -- the worst and bloodiest calamity in American history.

No, these are not the worst of times. Americans have come through graver crises. Biden should be focused on helping the nation get through this one, instead of trying to paint it as the most daunting we've ever faced.

(Jeff Jacoby is a columnist for The Boston Globe.)

Thank you, Jeff, for so clearly showing that this claim is self-serving nonsense.

Simply stated, the administration's PR machine has floated the "most difficult 100 days" BS in an effort to elevate Mr. Obama.  It is designed to create the illusion that he is some kind of superman overcoming uniquely difficult circumstances.

Pathetically, some people are going to buy into this BS.  I'm hopeful that, after reading Mr. Jacoby's column, you won't be one of them.


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