Sunday, 05 April 2009

THE "TRANSPARENT" OBAMA TEAM

Ken Berwitz

Barack Obama promised us transparency in government.  And baby, we got it.

Yesterday I blogged about the millions that Lawrence Summers got in speaking engagements from companies he now has influence over.  But it is becoming transparently obvious that Summers was just the tip of the iceberg.

Here is a taste of how "transparent" the Obama team is, courtesy of Kenneth P. Vogel, writing for www.politico.com:

W.H. team discloses TARP firm ties

  
 

Lawrence Summers, a top economic adviser to President Barack Obama, pulled in more than $2.7 million in speaking fees paid by firms at the heart of the financial crisis, including Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, Merrill Lynch, Bank of America Corp. and the now-defunct Lehman Brothers.

He pulled in another $5.2 million last year from D.E. Shaw, a hedge fund for which he served as managing director from October 2006 until joining the administration.

Thomas E. Donilon, Obamas deputy national security adviser, was paid $3.9 million last year by the power law firm OMelveny & Myers to represent clients, including two firms that received federal bailout funds: Citigroup and Goldman Sachs. He also disclosed that hes a member of the Trilateral Commission and sits on the steering committee of the supersecret Bilderberg group. Both groups are
favorite targets of conspiracy theorists.

And White House Counsel Greg Craig last year earned $1.7 million in private practice representing an exiled Bolivian president, a Panamanian lawmaker wanted by the U.S. government for allegedly murdering a U.S. soldier and a tech billionaire accused of securities fraud and various sensational drug and sex crimes.

Those are among the associations detailed in personal financial disclosure statements released Friday night by the White House. The income reported on the forms mostly covers 2008 and in some cases the beginning of 2009.

Presidential appointees are required to disclose information about their income, assets and investments, and those of their spouses and dependent children, within 60 days of starting work. And the disclosure forms filed by
many appointees to top agency jobs have been available for public inspection for some time, thanks to the federal Freedom of Information Act.

But the White House is
largely exempt from the act, and Obama press aides dragged their feet on reporters requests for the disclosure documents filed by officials in the Executive Office of the President.

Craig disclosed that his work for Williams & Connelly included representing Pedro Miguel Gonzalez Pinzon, a Panamanian lawmaker who allegedly murdered a U.S. soldier in 1992, as well as Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, a former Bolivian president who has lived in exile since 2003, when clashes between protesters and the Bolivian military killed an estimated 70 people and wounded hundreds more.

During the presidential campaign, Craig, then serving as a senior foreign policy adviser to Obama,
drew flak for representing Sanchez de Lozada.

Craig also listed among his clients Henry Nicholas, founder of microchip maker Broadcom, who is facing securities fraud charges in an alleged stock option backdating plot. In June, the government unsealed an indictment also detailing a raft of drug and prostitution charges,
which Craig called a kitchen-sink attack on Dr. Nicholas.

Valerie Jarrett, a senior Obama aide, reported $852,000 in salary and deferred compensation from Habitat Executive Services, a Chicago real estate development and management firm, plus nearly $350,000 in directors fees from groups including the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and USG Corp.

She also indicated that she served as vice-chairwoman of the committee seeking to lure the 2016 Olympics to Chicago, which
paid a public relations firm owned by Obama political guru David Axelrod and to which White House social director Desiree Rogers, another member of the Obamas inner circle, donated more than $100,000.

Other forms showed that White House ethics lawyer Norm Eisen earned $1.3 million from the firm in which he was a partner, Zuckerman Spaeder, and press secretary Robert Gibbs earned $156,000 from Obamas presidential campaign and also owns a pair of rental properties in Alexandria, Va., worth as much as $1 million.

A simple question:  do you trust this bunch to perform fairly and impartially....with the companies that have made them millionaires?

You've certainly got to hand it to President Obama.  He promised you transparency.  And this is nothing if not transparent.


THE OBAMA THANK-YOU TO "JASIM"

Ken Berwitz

As you read here (and, I hope elsewhere) about a week ago, the Obama administration is considering releasing some enemy combatant prisoners in the United States - and giving them a taxpayer-funded grubstake as well.

If you doubt this - and I wouldn't blame you a bit - read the Agence France-Presse news release by clicking here or the Reuters report by clicking here.  Please note that both of these major media sources are from outside the USA.

Also, please note that I didn't say the guantanamo prisoners were being incarcerated in the United States, I said they were being released.  As in free. 

Sadly (I wish this surprised me), our wonderful "neutral" media are so carefully suppressing this story. 

But if you think releasing enemy combatants into the US is an outrage, how do you feel about preventing entry into the US to someone who risked his life to help us in Iraq, and is in constant danger if he stays there?  Joel Mowbray writing for Fox, provides the details. 

Visa Denial Puts Heroic Iraqi Translator in the Crosshairs

Friday, April 03, 2009 
By Joel Mowbray

Jasim, whose name is being withheld for his safety, has received strong support from the U.S. military, and the Department of Homeland Security approved his application for a visa. But the State Department has denied Jasim a visa because he was arrested in 1996 for actions against the Saddam dictatorship.

Some of Jasim's supporters, however, believe the real reason he's been denied a visa is that he has become a "nuisance" to State Department personnel at the Baghdad Embassy. The State Department, citing privacy concerns, declined to discuss Jasim's case.

Because Iraqi translators are seen by jihadists and former Baathists as "traitors," Jasim's life is at greater risk the longer he stays in Iraq, according to multiple State Department and U.S. military officials. A number of translators and their families have already been tortured and/or murdered.

Jasim said his stepbrother, in fact, was captured in the fall of 2007 and was tortured to death in an effort to get to him. The U.S. Army officer who received and processed the report on the murder, Major Leslie Parks, told FOXNews.com that Jasim's stepbrother was tortured with an electric drill through his eyes.

U.S. military officials familiar with Jasim's case believe that he will be in even greater danger after U.S. forces withdraw from most of Iraq next year.

The State Department, meanwhile, has told Jasim that he must wait three more years before he can apply for a waiver of its visa rejection.

When he applied for his visa, Jasim feared it might be denied by an overworked consular officer on the basis of his arrest, so he attached a letter explaining the full circumstances.

Jasim wrote that his hatred of Saddam was formed at a young age, as the regime murdered five of his relatives during his childhood. Barely into adulthood, Jasim joined the Peshmerga, a largely Kurdish group whose primary goal in the 1990s was to overthrow Saddam an objective supported by the Clinton administration.

The Pehmerga assigned Jasim to obtain documents and eavesdropping equipment that were in the possession of Saddam's ruthless son, Uday, and Jasimn said that he stole Uday's car in order to retrieve the documents and equipment.

Soon after, he was arrested, and he was sentenced to life in prison. For the next six and a half years, he was routinely tortured, he said.

On the eve of the Coalition invasion in 2003, Hussein released many prisoners as a "goodwill" gesture, and Jasim was among them.

A year later, he joined the Iraqi Special Forces. Though officially allied with Coalition forces, the Iraqi military suffered at the time from ethnic and religious divisions, as well as corruption. Jasim came to believe that they weren't fully behind the cause of freedom, so he signed up as a translator for U.S. forces.

During his three years as a translator, Jasim has exposed himself to enemy fire in the course of saving American lives. Three different Americans who served with him in Iraq told FOXNews.com that they are alive today because of Jasim.

"The only reason I am here today is because of Jasim," said Elisabeth Keene, a U.S. Army specialist who serves in a combat unit. "He saved the life of everyone in my unit.

"On several occasions while our guys were putting rounds down range, Jasim put himself in harm's way to pull the wounded out and treat them," Keene said. "Jasim is a hero to everyone he has ever met."

"I owe my life to Jasim ... hands down," said Master Sgt. Jason Krieger, who went on over 200 combat patrols with Jasim. "I consider him a brother, not only in arms, but in love as well."

Those who have worked with Jasim are astonished at the decision to deny him a visa. FOXNews.com has obtained numerous letters submitted by U.S. Army and Marine Corps personnel supporting his application. Each letter praises his heroism in glowing terms and strongly recommends issuing a visa.

Click here to see the letters of recommendation.

Jasim even received letters of recommendation from a couple of two-star generals. It is unusual for a translator's visa application to be endorsed even by one general.

U.S. Army Captain Joseph Schwankhaus wrote about one day in particular when Jasim performed multiple heroic acts. "While establishing security positions around a patrol that was struck by an IED, [Jasim] singlehandedly removed a wounded soldier from a disabled vehicle and ensured that he was treated by the company medic. During this security cordon, another soldier was shot in the head by a sniper and a large fire fight ensued. [Jasim], while under direct enemy fire provided cover for the wounded soldier while medical personnel rendered life-saving first aid."

Schwankhaus stated emphatically, "His dedication to my soldiers and his total disregard for his own personal safety assisted in saving the life of a very good Non-Commissioned Officer."

Many of the letters note that Jasim helped Coalition forces capture several high-ranking terrorists, including some from Al Qaeda. A joint letter from Sgt. Charles Burns and Maj. Charles Burnett stated, "[T]he information [Jasim] enabled the team to gather resulted in intelligence relevant to 90% of the maneuver commander's High Value Targets." Lt. Col. Antonio Aguto wrote, "The information [Jasim] gathered from Iraqi local nationals led directly to the capture" of the two highest-value targets in that region.

Click here to see his certificates of commendation.

Four experts in visa policy, including three former consular officers who reviewed Jasim's case history for FOXNews.com, said they found the official reasoning for Jasim's denial puzzling. Each expert spoke on condition of anonymity because of current employment or contacts with the State Department.

They said a specific provision in the law relating to "crimes of moral turpitude" should define Jasim's action of stealing Uday Hussein's car as "political," thus making him eligible for a visa. The first exception listed in the relevant law is that "purely political" actions do not qualify as "crimes of moral turpitude."

A former Capitol Hill staffer who was intimately involved in shaping visa policy for many years asked rhetorically, "How could this not be political? Did he get some personal benefit out of stealing Uday's car?"

Even if the State Department were to ignore the political motivations of Jasim's actions, each expert agreed that standard car theft likely wouldn't disqualify an applicant with an otherwise clean record.

"It's not such a serious crime that you could say anyone who steals a car is ineligible for a visa. Then you consider that it happened over a decade ago, while he was young, and he has no other criminal history," explained a former consular officer who served two tours. But, he stressed, "It certainly seems political to me."

Vice Consul David Jendrisak, the Baghdad-based consular officer who denied Jasim's visa, said in a phone interview that the decision to deny Jasim a visa was made in consultation with the legal office of Consular Affairs in Washington, D.C., something that isn't done for most visas. He acknowledged that the decision was based on Jasim's theft of Uday Hussein's car, which he said was not deemed a "political" act for purposes of the visa denial.

Based on government documents obtained by FOXNews.com, it appears that the Department of Homeland Security cleared Jasim for a visa, issuing him last May a "notice of approval." Jendrisak, however, said that DHS had no authority to issue a visa now. The consular officer explained that Jasim would have to wait three years to apply for a waiver from the Department of Homeland Security. He refused to explain why Jasim would have to wait three years.

Asked if he was concerned for the safety of Jasim and his family during that time, Jendrisak refused to comment.

Some of Jasim's supporters believe the State Department has ulterior motives for denying the visa. "When all the other agencies, including DHS, give their stamp of approval, I have a hard time believing that there is a generous explanation for this decision," says Maj. Leslie Parks, who served in Iraq coordinating outreach to local Iraqi civilian and government officials.

Parks, who worked with Jasim and estimates that the translator has gone on 1,300 combat patrols, believes the State Department may be singling out Jasim for being a "nuisance."

"Jasim's been high-profile for a while, starting with being featured on 60 Minutes in early 2007 (as 'Timmy,' his previous cover name) about translators who weren't getting the visas, despite their lives being threatened," Parks said.

Hes also been a whistleblower on a few occasions, exposing potentially embarrassing information regarding the Embassy and other U.S. and Iraqi government agencies operating in the Green Zone.

Starting a few months ago, Jasim organized his fellow translators to oppose a provision negotiated by the State Department to hand over the names and personal information of all translators to the Iraqi government. Translators feared that their lives would be at risk if their identities were learned by Iraqis who view them as "traitors."

Making sure their voices would be heard, Jasim gathered a public meeting of over 100 translators in Baghdad last December during the time his visa application was being processed.

In a FOXNews.com story on this issue in January, Jasim criticized the State Department's deal. "We work so hard to get the bad guys, to capture terrorists, and now, because of a political deal, they're putting our lives at risk," he said. FOXNews.com identified him only by first name in that story. The consular officer who denied Jasim's visa, though, admitted that he knew of Jasim's role in leading opposition to the release of translators' personal information.

For now, Jasim continues his work with U.S. forces, hoping that the country he has served loyally for the past three years will welcome him, his new wife and their baby. Asked if he regrets his decision to support the U.S., he replied, "No, I'm proud of what I've done. I have to do what is right."

Every day he walks out in public, Jasim knows he could be murdered for working with the U.S. He is much more worried, though, about the safety of his family.

It's a concern shared by Americans who have served with him. "To deprive him of his opportunity to protect his family, after he had protected mine for well over a year, is nothing short of criminal," said Master Sgt. Krieger. "Every day he remains in Iraq, he, his wife, and newborn son are at risk of death, solely due to his service to our country."

If I did not see this I would find it hard to believe, even for the bumbling Obama administration.  But there it is.

I hope you are as sickened as I am.


WAS OBAMA HIGH? (OUTRAGEOUS BUT FUNNY)

 

Ken Berwitz

I hope I don't need to tell you the following video is doctored.

It is absolutely outrageous -- but so funny I'm putting it up here anyway.

Enjoy, or be enraged -- your choice.  (If you can't see the video below, just click here):

CBS 60 MINUTES INTERVIEW - WAS OBAMA HIGH?




JEFF JACOBY ON ISRAEL'S PEACE PROSPECTS

Ken Berwitz

All of Jeff Jacoby's columns for the Boston Globe are meticulously researched.  Just about all of them are brilliant.   That's a nice combination.

Here is Mr. Jacoby's latest, on how the new Israeli regime is going to approach "peace" with Palestinian Arabs in Gaza and Judea/Samaria (the west bank):

Finally, harsh realism from Israel

By Jeff Jacoby
Globe Columnist / April 5, 2009
 
IF AVIGDOR LIEBERMAN'S first speech as Israel's new foreign minister did nothing else, it certainly vexed the media.

The Associated Press called it a "scathing critique of Mideast peace efforts" that had diplomats "cringing," while other reports said Lieberman had "dropped a political bombshell," "sparked an uproar," "repudiated a key accord," and "reinforced fears." The New York Times pronounced Lieberman's remarks "blunt and belligerent," describing the foreign minister as a "hawkish nationalist" who is "not known for diplomacy" and heads an "ultranationalist" party that is "seen by many as racist." Headlines summed up Lieberman's debut as an attack on peacemaking: "Lieberman dashes peace hopes," "Israeli official hits peace efforts," "Lieberman dumps peace deal."

But the headlines were wrong, as anyone can ascertain by reading Lieberman's short address. Far from disparaging peace, Israel's new foreign minister called for pursuing it with the respect and realism it deserves. And far from "dumping" agreements entered into by his predecessors, he explicitly committed himself to upholding the Roadmap - a step-by-step blueprint to a "two-state solution" adopted by Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and the international Quartet in 2003.

"I voted against the Roadmap," Lieberman acknowledged, but it was "approved by the Cabinet and by the Security Council" and is therefore "a binding resolution." However, he insisted, it must be implemented "in full." The Roadmap imposes specific obligations that the Palestinians must meet prior to achieving statehood - above all, an unequivocal end to violence, terrorism, and incitement against the Jewish state - and Israel will not agree to waive them in order to negotiate a final settlement.

If Lieberman is as good as his word - and if he is backed up by Benjamin Netanyahu, the new prime minister - we may finally see an end to Israel's fruitless attempts to buy peace with ever-more-desperate concessions and retreats. Under Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert, Israel surrendered the entire Gaza Strip, released hundreds of arrested terrorists, and even offered to divide Jerusalem with the Palestinian Authority. "But none of these far-reaching measures have brought peace," said Lieberman. "To the contrary." The steeper the price Israel has been willing to pay for peace, the more it has been repaid with violence: suicide bombings, rocket attacks, kidnapped and murdered soldiers, and wars with Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

It is time, Lieberman is saying, for Israel to stop genuflecting to a feckless and counterproductive "peace process" and to return instead to the pre-Oslo policy of deterrence. "The fact that we say the word 'peace' 20 times a day will not bring peace any closer," he noted. It only makes Israel seem weak and irresolute, encouraging its enemies not to halt their murderous jihad, but to redouble it. Sixteen years of appeasement have left Israel more demonized and isolated than ever, the foreign minister observed. And when was Israel most admired in the world? "After the victory of the Six Day War," when no one doubted the Jewish state's audacity or resolve.

"If you want peace, prepare for war," Lieberman declared.

That idea may offend the smart set and leave diplomats "cringing," but Israel's new foreign minister is hardly the first to express it. "To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace," affirmed President George Washington in his first address to Congress in 1790.

Perhaps the world would more clearly understand the nature of Israel's enemy if the media weren't forever fanning moral outrage at the Mideast's only bulwark of freedom and democracy.

In recent weeks, the Palestinian Authority has warned Arabs that it is "high treason" punishable by death to sell homes or property to Jews in Jerusalem; shut down a Palestinian youth orchestra and arrested its founder because the ensemble played for a group of elderly Holocaust survivors; and celebrated the deadliest terrorist attack in Israel's history with a TV special extolling the massacre. On Thursday, after a Palestinian terrorist used an axe to murder a 13-year-old Jewish boy, the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades - a wing of the "moderate" Fatah party - issued a statement claiming responsibility.

There is no appeasing such hatred, and demonizing those who say so will not change that fact. "If you want peace, prepare for war." How refreshing to hear an Israeli foreign minister say so.

If what you know about the Israel/Palestinian Arab "peace negotiations" is derived from what is reported by our wonderful "neutral" media (very much including the paper Mr. Jacoby writes for) this should triple your knowledge base.

Thank you to Jeff Jacoby.  And shame on the media that decline to give you the facts he has provided.


PRESIDENT OBAMA'S EFFECT ON PAKISTAN

Ken Berwitz

Last year, the Democratic congress condemned Pakistan's head of state Pervez Musharraf and insisted that he leave office (mission accomplished). 

Barack Obama campaigned on doing things differently than the Bush administration which, he assured us, would improve our results in the Pakistan/Afghanistan region. 

Just this past week Mr. Obama asked the G20 nations to join the US and add troops in Afghanistan.

Now please read the following excerpt from today's Associated Press article - keeping in mind that it is one of an almost daily series of such attacks:

Bomber kills 22 in Pakistan Shiite mosque

Violence surging outside dangerous Afghan border region

ISLAMABAD - A suicide bomber attacked a crowded Shiite mosque south of the Pakistani capital on Sunday, killing 22 people and wounding dozens more, officials said.

Pakistan has been plagued by rising violence outside the dangerous Afghan border region, including a suicide bombing in Islamabad on Saturday that killed eight paramilitary personnel and a deadly commando-style attack against a police academy last week in Lahore.

The suicide bomber set off his explosives Sunday at the entrance to a mosque in Chakwal city in Punjab province, about 50 miles south of Islamabad, during a religious congregation, said Nadim Hasan Asif, a top security official in Punjab. He said the blast killed 22 people and injured more than 30.

Does that look like a change for the better?  Does that look like removing Musharraf helped matters?  Does that look like Pakistan has any control over the fundamentalist Islamic violence that permeates much of the country?

But wait, you might say;  President Obama has only been in office 2 1/2 months, he needs more time to turn things around.

The answer, however, is:

-Musharraf has been gone for a year and, if anything, the violence is worse;

-This past week, President Obama begged the G20 nations to join the US in sending additional troops to Afghanistan.  He asked Britain for thousands, and got hundreds.  And the sum total of every other nation's troop contribution is...47 (that is not a typo).  35 from Belgium and 12 from Spain.  None at all from anyone else.

You no doubt have seen and/or read reports that President Obama got a rock-star reception in London during the G20 meetings.  And that is true.  The crowds were enthralled by him.

But Mr. Obama is not a rock star.  He is the President.  So maybe the fact that his requests were virtually ignored by the people he was meeting with are a bit more important. 


PRESIDENT OBAMA INVENTS A LANGUAGE

Ken Berwitz

Have you ever heard anyone speak Austrian?  I hope not, because there is no such language.  Austrians speak a form of German.

Now read this transcript from President Obama's news conference in Strasbourg, Germany after the G-20 meetings and think about what the press would have said if it were President Bush instead:.

Q Sonja Sagmeister from a little country, Austria, from Austrian Television. Mr. President, you said you came here to learn and to listen. So a quite personal question -- what did you learn from your personal talk with the European leaders? And did this change in a certain way your views on Europe and its politics?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: It's an interesting question. I had already formed relationships with many of them. ... There's a lot of -- I don't know what the term is in Austrian -- wheeling and dealing -- and, you know, people are pursuing their interests, and everybody has their own particular issues and their own particular politics.

If that were President Bush world media - very especially US media - would be ridiculing him as an ignorant dunce.  They would have noted that this comes on the heels of the President bowing (literally) before the king of Saudi Arabia, like some grovelling acolyte.  They would have called him a hopeless idiot.  They would have taken him apart from stem to stern.  They would have......

Oh, but wait.  This is Saint Barack. 

In the words of SNL's Emily Litella......"Never mind".

bobw IT REALLY IS NO BIG DEAL BUT IF IT WAS BUSH- THE TALK SHOWS AND THE LIBERAL MEDIA WOULD HAVE HAD A FIELD DAY.ALL THIS WILL BUILD UP AND HOPE IT ALL GOES INTO THE BANK AND AT THE RIGHT TIME- OPEN THE GATES AND RELEASE ALL HIS STUPID COMMENTS.  BY THE WAY- -WHAT IS THE WORD AND MEAN?   OUR KING NEVER ENDS A SENTENCE AT ALL - LISTEN TO HIM- EVERY THOUGHT IS CONNECTED BY THE WORD AND (04/05/09)


FARRAH FAWCETT

Ken Berwitz

In the 1970's, it would have been hard to find an actress who more symbolized beauty and poise than Farrah Fawcett. 

For those of us who remember her as she was, this story from www.radaronline.com is especially sad:

Exclusive: Farrah Fawcett Hospitalized; Family Gathers

Posted on Apr 04, 2009 @ 14:00  
April 2009
 
Farrah Fawcett has been hospitalized and is in bad shape, sources close to family and friends tell RadarOnline.com exclusively.

She has been battling cancer for three years and recently returned from Germany, where she had experimental stem-cell treatment. Sources told RadarOnline.com that she is critical but stable in a Los Angeles-area hospital. They also say she is unconscious and has been hospitalized for days.

Long-time love Ryan ONeal has been by Farrahs bedside, as has troubled son Redmond, who bolted from rehab earlier this week.

Farrah, 62, was diagnosed with anal cancer in 2006 and later pronounced cancer free at a press conference.

It is not known whether she will survive.

I take the last line of this story to be a nuanced way of saying that Ms. Fawcett is about to die.  What a terrible way to go.  I hope the end is as peaceful and pain free as is possible.


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