Tuesday, 21 April 2009

HOW MANY SOCIALISTS ARE THERE IN CONGRESS?

Ken Berwitz

Spencer Bachus, the Republican Senator from Alabama, claimed last week that there are "17 socialists in congress".

Self-avowed socialist Senator Bernard Sanders from Vermont has challenged him to name them.  Fair enough. 

So far Bachus has not.  I don't know if he will.  But I do know it was pretty dumb of him to make that claim unless he had something with which to back it up.

Interestingly, however, Bachus is being given substantial help by Micahel G. Franc, who writes for National Review.  Here is Franc's position on the Bachus claim:



Only 17?
Plenty of senators are just as far to the left as Vermonts proud socialist or farther.

By Michael G. Franc

Sen. Bernie Sanders wants Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) to start naming names. So reports Politicos Glenn Thrush.

He was referring to the usually soft-spoken senior Republican on the House Financial Services Committee, who had told a Birmingham reporter that there are 17 socialists in Congress.

Bachuss assertion prompted what Thrush characterized as cries of McCarthyism in the lefty blogosphere especially when he named only one lawmaker: Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, who happily calls himself a democratic socialist.

Has Spencer released his list yet? Sanders joked. Everybodys waiting with bated breath. . . . I think at the very least he has to tell people what his definition of socialism is.

A
t the risk of inviting the Lefts wrath, let me help flesh out a list. As for that elusive definition of socialism, Ill use as a barometer the voting record compiled by the Senates only avowed man of the people the distinguished gentleman from Vermont himself. That is, we can presume the more often a lawmaker votes with Congresss lone acknowledged socialist, the greater his or her comfort level with the sort of policies he embraces.

Thus far in 2009, senators have cast 154 roll-call votes, many of which have been of historic importance. Its not every Congress, after all, that jumps out of the starting gate and passes trillion-dollar stimulus packages, creates new entitlement programs and expands old ones, repeals the most successful social-policy accomplishment in over half a century (welfare reform), doubles Uncle Sams role in education, lays the groundwork for the governments takeover of our health system, and sets in motion a multi-hundred-billion-dollar tax increase on that most despised of constituent groups the rich.

Yes, these first few months of the Obama Era have been heady times indeed for those who see a government solution to every societal problem.

Only one senator has voted entirely in sync with Sanders: Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts. But due to his severe illness, he has voted only eight times, so we will not count him in the following tabulations.

Over one-third of the Senate 35 senators, all of them Democrats have voted the Sanders line 90 percent of the time or more. Since thats more than twice the number we need to fill out Bachuss list, lets restrict membership in the Sanders Socialist Society to just those senators voting with him at least 95 percent of the time. They number 15: Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio), John Kerry (D., Mass.), Jack Reed (D., R.I.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D., R.I.), Patrick Leahy (D., Vt.), Tom Harkin (D., Ia.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.), Richard Durbin (D., Ill.), Jeanne Shaheen (D., N.H.), Ben Cardin (D., Md.), Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.), Jeff Merkley (D., Ore.), Barbara Mikulski (D., Md.), Roland Burris (D., Ill.), and Ted Kaufman (D., Del.).

Falling just shy of the cut-off at 94 percent agreement with Sanders are Sens. Daniel Akaka (D., Hawaii.), Chris Dodd (D., Conn.), Daniel Inouye (D., Hawaii), Carl Levin (D., Mich.), Robert Menendez (D., N.J.), Jay Rockefeller (D., W.Va.), Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.), and Ron Wyden (D., Ore.), along with Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.).

The sameness of voting records holds up when you exclude about 50 votes cloture motions, votes to confirm nominees to various executive-branch positions, and so on that shed little light on ones philosophical disposition.

Of course, not every Democratic senator votes in lockstep with Sanders. The greatest deviationist among Senate Democrats is Nebraskas Ben Nelson, who still managed to agree with the Vermonter 59 percent of the time.

Republican senators who toe the Sanders line most often are (can you guess?) Maines Olympia Snowe (61 percent) and Susan Collins (56), followed by Pennsylvanias Arlen Specter (53).

At the opposite end of the Sanders spectrum are such conservative stalwarts as Jim Inhofe (R., Okla.), Jim DeMint (R., S.C.), Tom Coburn (R., Okla.), John Cornyn (R., Tex.), and Jim Bunning (R., Ky.).

To the conservative untutored in the nuances of modern-day socialism, some of Sanderss votes may be surprising. For example, he joins most Republicans in his avid support of Second Amendment rights (a well-armed citizenry is the only defense against fascist storm troopers who might one day invade our homes and strip us of our rights). And he was one of only eight Democrats to vote against releasing the second $350 billion installment of funds for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (the proletariat should not pay for the sins of capitalist bankers). These votes explain why even Jim Inhofe and Jim DeMint agree with Sanders about 10 to 15 percent of the time, and they suggest that some of his liberal colleagues, who routinely vote against Second Amendment rights and for corporate bailouts, may actually be to the left of the socialist Sanders!

This raises the question: Why does Sanders fit so comfortably into the modern Democratic party? Is he a fraud, just another run-of-the-mill liberal Democrat who sports the socialist label to impress granola-crunching, tree-hugging, redistributionist liberals in Vermont? This is entirely possible. After all, during the eight terms Sanders served in the House before moving to the Senate, he amassed an impressive, but by no means remarkable, liberal voting record.

In fact, Representative Bachus may be surprised to learn that, according to the American Conservative Unions congressional voting scorecard, Sanders toed the conservative line more often at 6.5 percent of the time (must be those Second Amendment votes) than did more than 100 of his former House colleagues, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi (2.8 percent) and Reps. Henry Waxman (4.7), George Miller (4.5), Barney Frank (4.4), Rosa DeLauro (4.3), Maxine Waters (3.3), Jesse Jackson Jr. (3.1), and Charlie Rangel (3.7).

An alternative explanation may be that all the recent hyper-partisanship on Capitol Hill and the ideological realignment of our two major parties have left us with a national left-of-center party that boasts a sizable contingent of elected officials whose worldviews are for all practical purposes indistinguishable from those of their leftist counterparts in Europes socialist parties.

What one calls these lawmakers liberals, progressives, statists, or even (gasp) socialists is less important than our acknowledgment that the center of gravity for todays liberal is much farther to the left than it has been at any time in our recent history.

Now there's a analysis you will never see in almost any of our wonderful "neutral" media.  But, even if media would never tell you about them, those voting records are what they are. 

So now you have the facts.  It's your call as to whether Franc (or Bachus) has a point.


ATTENTION MICHAEL MOORE!!!!

Ken Berwitz

I admit this is unfairly insulting to Moore - and I also admit I would do well to lose some weight myself.  But I couldn't resist.

From The Sun - a UK paper which, it should be noted, is just a tad prone to sensationalist journalism:

Fatties cause global warming

THE rising number of fat people was yesterday blamed for global warming.

Scientists warned that the increase in big-eaters means more food production a major cause of CO2 gas emissions warming the planet.

Overweight people are also more likely to drive, adding to environmental damage.

Lard help us ... overweight must eat less for planet

Lard help us ... overweight must eat less for planet

Dr Phil Edwards, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: Moving about in a heavy body is like driving in a gas guzzler.

Each fat person is said to be responsible for emitting a tonne more of climate-warming carbon dioxide per year than a thin one.

It means an extra BILLION TONNES of CO2 a year is created, according to World Health Organisation estimates of overweight people.

The scientists say providing extra grub for them to guzzle adds to carbon emissions that heat up the world, melting polar ice caps, raising sea levels and killing rain forests.

The environmental impact of fat humans is made even worse because they are more likely to travel by car another major cause of carbon emissions.

Battle

And researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine say wealthy nations like the US and Britain are getting fatter by the decade.

Dr Phil Edwards said: Food production accounts for about one fifth of greenhouse gases.

We need to do a lot more to reverse the global trend towards fatness. It is a key factor in the battle to reduce carbon emissions and slow climate change.

It is time we took account of the amount we are eating.

This is about over-consumption by the wealthy countries. And the world demand for meat is increasing to match that of Britain and America.

It is also much easier to get in your car and pick up a pint of milk than to take a walk.

In peril ... polar ice melting

In peril ... polar ice melting

The study by Dr Edwards and colleague Ian Roberts is published in the International Journal of Epidemiology.

Dr Edwards went on: We are not just pointing the finger at fat people. All populations are getting fatter and it has an impact on the environment.

UK health surveys estimate fatness has increased from an average body mass index of 26 to 27 in the last ten years.

Thats equivalent to about half a stone for every person.

Anyone with a BMI above 25 is overweight, while more than 30 is obese.

A staggering 40 per cent of Americans are obese, among 300 million worldwide.

Disasters

Australian Professor Paul Zimmet predicted a disastrous obesity pandemic back in 2006.

And Oxfam warned yesterday that the number of people hit by climate-related disasters will soar by more than half in the next six years to 375million.

The impact of more storms, floods and droughts could overwhelm aid organisations.

Sun doctor Carol Cooper said last night: Im not sure which came first, people getting fat and driving or the other way around. It is true fat people eat more food than average.

A few obese people have a hormone problem, although most simply dont use enough calories and eat too many. But making them feel guilty antagonises them and may not help.

Obviously this is a problem we cannot take lightly.

The  back view of those two women reminds me of a very offensive but very funny joke I once heard (sorry, can't remember the comedian - though it might have been Bobby Slayton).  He said he was standing on a movie line and the woman in front of him looked like either of these two.  She was wearing Guess designer jeans, which have a "Guess?" logo on the back.  So he tapped her on the shoulder and said "I don't know, maybe 240 or 250?".

Personally, I don't picture that "Guess?" logo at all.  I'm thinking "Pass" and Don't Pass"....


JUAN WILLIAMS ON THE DC VOUCHER DISGRACE

Ken Berwitz

Regular readers of this blog know I have already expressed my outrage at the move to end Washington DC's school voucher program.  Doing so will  force motivated students right back into the schools their parents rescued them from;  schools that will not teach them; schools where they will be ridiculed and a lot worse for daring to work hard and get ahead.

Here, from www.foxforum.blogs.foxnews.com  is Juan Williams' version of this same outrage.  It is well worth reading - especially the paragraph I've put in bold print:

JUAN WILLIAMS: Obamas Outrageous Sin Against Our Kids

As I watch Washington politics I am not easily given to rage.

Washington politics is a game and selfishness, out-sized egos and corruption are predictable.

But over the last week I find myself in a fury.

The cause of my upset is watching the key civil rights issue of this generation improving big city public school education get tossed overboard by political gamesmanship. If there is one goal that deserves to be held above day-to-day partisanship and pettiness of ordinary politics it is the effort to end the scandalous poor level of academic achievement and abysmally high drop-out rates for Americas black and Hispanic students.

The reckless dismantling of the D.C. voucher program does not speak well of the promise by Obama to be the Education President.

This is critical to our nations future in terms of workforce preparation to compete in a global economy but also to fulfill the idea of racial equality by providing a real equal opportunity for all young people who are willing to work hard to succeed.

In a politically calculated dance step the Obama team first indicated that they wanted the Opportunity Scholarship Program to continue for students lucky enough to have won one of the vouchers. The five-year school voucher program is scheduled to expire after the school year ending in June 2010. Secretary Duncan said in early March that it didnt make sense to take kids out of a school where theyre happy and safe and satisfied and learningthose kids need to stay in their school.

And all along the administration indicated that pending evidence that this voucher program or any other produces better test scores for students they were willing to fight for it. The president has said that when it comes to better schools he is open to supporting what works for kids. That looked like a level playing field on which to evaluate the program and even possibly expanding the program.

But last week Secretary Duncan announced that he will not allow any new students to enter the D.C. voucher program. In fact, he had to take back the governments offer of scholarships to 200 students who had won a lottery to get into the program starting next year. His rationale is that if the program does not win new funding from Congress then those students might have to go back to public school in a year.

He does not want to give the students a chance for a year in a better school? That does not make sense if the students and their families want that life-line of hope. It does not make sense if there is a real chance that the program might win new funding as parents, educators and politicians rally to undo the bigotry of low expectations and open doors of opportunity wherever they exist for more low-income students.

And now Secretary Duncan has applied a sly, political check-mate for the D.C. voucher plan.

With no living, breathing students profiting from the program to give it a face and stand and defend it the Congress has little political pressure to put new money into the program. The political pressure will be coming exclusively from the teachers unions who oppose the vouchers, just as they oppose No Child Left Behind and charter schools and every other effort at reforming public schools that continue to fail the nations most vulnerable young people, low income blacks and Hispanics.

The National Education Association and other teachers unions have put millions into Democrats congressional campaigns because they oppose Republican efforts to challenge unions on their resistance to school reform and specifically their refusal to support ideas such as performance-based pay for teachers who raise students test scores.

By going along with Secretary Duncans plan to hollow out the D.C. voucher program this president, who has spoken so passionately about the importance of education, is playing rank politics with the education of poor children. It is an outrage.

This voucher programs is unique in that it takes no money away from the beleaguered District of Columbia Public Schools. Nationwide, the strongest argument from opponents of vouchers is that it drains hard-to-find dollars from public schools that educate the majority of children.

But Congress approved the D.C. plan as an experiment and funded it separately from the D.C. school budget. It is the most generous voucher program in the nation, offering $7,500 per child to help with tuition to a parochial or private school.

With that line of attack off the table, critics of vouchers pointed out that even $7,500 is not enough to pay for the full tuition to private schools where the price of a years education can easily go beyond $20,000. But nearly 8,000 students applied for the vouchers. And a quarter of them, 1,714 children, won the lottery and took the money as a ticket out of the D.C. public schools.

The students, almost all of them black and Hispanic, patched together the voucher money with scholarships, other grants and parents willing to make sacrifices to pay their tuition.

What happened, according to a Department of Education study, is that after three years the voucher students scored 3.7 months higher on reading than students who remained in the D.C. schools. In addition, students who came into the D.C. voucher program when it first started had a 19 month advantage in reading after three years in private schools .

It is really upsetting to see that the Heritage Foundation has discoverd that 38 percent of the members of Congress made the choice to put their children in private schools. Of course, Secretary Duncan has said he decided not to live in Washington, D.C. because he did not want his children to go to public schools there. And President Obama, who has no choice but to live in the White House, does not send his two daughters to D.C. public schools, either. They attend a private school, Sidwell Friends, along with two students who got there because of the voucher program.

This reckless dismantling of the D.C. voucher program does not bode well for arguments to come about standards in the effort to reauthorize No Child Left Behind. It does not speak well of the promise of President Obama to be the Education President, who once seemed primed to stand up for all children who want to learn and especially minority children.

And its time for all of us to get outraged about this sin against our children.

The blunt, honest truth is that there is one reason that thousands of children are being sacrificed.  It is to appease the strong, financially important, vote-rich teachers' unions.  I posted several blogs about this over a month and a half ago, which you can read  here, here and here .  Obviously, Juan Williams understands what is going on as well as I do.

But do you know it?  If you didn't before, I certainly hope you do now.

What a disgrace.  What a catastrophe for these children, and for the parents who want nothing other than to provide them with a good education so they will have a future.

What a shameful action from shameless people.


DID WE REALLY WATERBOARD TWO PEOPLE 266 TIMES?

Ken Berwitz

The New York Times sure thinks so.  It made this a front-page story.  And much of the rest of our wonderful "neutral" media dutifully marched along in lock step.

But is it true?  Does it even make the slightest bit of sense?

For this, we call on Steve Gilbert at www.sweetness-light.com.  Steve has put together a blog that should make anyone with a functioning cerebrum think twice - and then 1,000 times more - before believing the 266-time claim.

Here it is:

NYT Claims 266 Waterboardings Is A Fact

April 20th, 2009

From a ready to believe anything bad about the CIA New York Times:

Waterboarding Used 266 Times on 2 Suspects

By SCOTT SHANE

C.I.A. interrogators used waterboarding, the near-drowning technique that top Obama administration officials have described as illegal torture, 266 times on two key prisoners from Al Qaeda, far more than had been previously reported.

The C.I.A. officers used waterboarding at least 83 times in August 2002 against Abu Zubaydah, according to a 2005 Justice Department legal memorandum. Abu Zubaydah has been described as a Qaeda operative.

A former C.I.A. officer, John Kiriakou, told ABC News and other news media organizations in 2007 that Abu Zubaydah had undergone waterboarding for only 35 seconds before agreeing to tell everything he knew.

The 2005 memo also says that the C.I.A. used waterboarding 183 times in March 2003 against Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the self-described planner of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The New York Times reported in 2007 that Mr. Mohammed had been barraged more than 100 times with harsh interrogation methods, causing C.I.A. officers to worry that they might have crossed legal limits and to halt his questioning. But the precise number and the exact nature of the interrogation method was not previously known.

The release of the numbers is likely to become part of the debate about the morality and efficacy of interrogation methods that the Justice Department under the Bush administration declared legal even though the United States had historically treated them as torture.

President Obama plans to visit C.I.A. headquarters Monday and make public remarks to employees, as well as meet privately with officials, an agency spokesman said Sunday night. It will be his first visit to the agency, whose use of harsh interrogation methods he often condemned during the presidential campaign and whose secret prisons he ordered closed on the second full day of his presidency.

C.I.A. officials had opposed the release of the interrogation memo, dated May 30, 2005, which was one of four secret legal memos on interrogation that Mr. Obama ordered to be released last Thursday.

Mr. Obama said C.I.A. officers who had used waterboarding and other harsh interrogation methods with the approval of the Justice Department would not be prosecuted. He has repeatedly suggested that he opposes Congressional proposals for a truth commission to examine Bush administration counterterrorism programs, including interrogation and warrantless eavesdropping.

The Senate Intelligence Committee has begun a yearlong, closed-door investigation of the C.I.A. interrogation program, in part to assess claims of Bush administration officials that brutal treatment, including slamming prisoners into walls, shackling them in standing positions for days and confining them in small boxes, was necessary to get information.

The fact that waterboarding was repeated so many times may raise questions about its effectiveness, as well as about assertions by Bush administration officials that their methods were used under strict guidelines.

A footnote to another 2005 Justice Department memo released Thursday said waterboarding was used both more frequently and with a greater volume of water than the C.I.A. rules permitted.

The new information on the number of waterboarding episodes came out over the weekend when a number of bloggers, including Marcy Wheeler of the blog emptywheel, discovered it in the May 30, 2005, memo.

The sentences in the memo containing that information appear to have been redacted from some copies but are visible in others. Initial news reports about the memos in The New York Times and other publications did not include the numbers.

Michael V. Hayden, director of the C.I.A. for the last two years of the Bush administration, would not comment when asked on the program Fox News Sunday if Mr. Mohammed had been waterboarded 183 times. He said he believed that that information was still classified.

A C.I.A. spokesman, reached Sunday night, also would not comment on the new information.

Mr. Hayden said he had opposed the release of the memos, even though President Obama has said the techniques will never be used again, because they would tell Al Qaeda the outer limits that any American would ever go in terms of interrogating an Al Qaeda terrorist.

He also disputed an article in The New York Times on Saturday that said Abu Zubaydah had revealed nothing new after being waterboarded, saying that he believed that after unspecified techniques were used, Abu Zubaydah revealed information that led to the capture of another terrorist suspect, Ramzi Binalshibh.

The Times article, based on information from former intelligence officers who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Abu Zubaydah had revealed a great deal of information before harsh methods were used and after his captors stripped him of clothes, kept him in a cold cell and kept him awake at night. The article said interrogators at the secret prison in Thailand believed he had given up all the information he had, but officials at headquarters ordered them to use waterboarding.

He revealed no new information after being waterboarded, the article said, a conclusion that appears to be supported by a footnote to a 2005 Justice Department memo saying the use of the harshest methods appeared to have been unnecessary in his case.

This is news the New York Times considers fit to print.

All of it is speculation based on two sentences from a memo:

(Click to enlarge)

If you read the full Rizzo memo (a pdf file), you can see the the context of this is ambiguous at best. (This paragraph appears in the midst of a discussion about SERE training, techniques and standards.)

But common sense itself makes it seem very unlikely that anything like these numbers could be true.

The fact that waterboarding was repeated so many times may raise questions about its effectiveness

Gee, do you think so?

If the real power of waterboarding is the supposed to be fear of drowning, how effective would it be after the third or fourth time? Let alone the 182nd?

More importantly, wouldnt you think that Mr. Khalid Shaikh Mohammed attorneys would have mentioned it if he had been waterboarded 183 times? Or Mr. Zubaydahs attorneys?

Would this not have been a gold-plated get out of jail free card for them?

Also, lest we forget, Mr. Mohammed represented himself during his 2008 trial.

He didnt think it was worth noting that he had been tortured so often? Or did it slip his mind?

On the contrary, according to the August 13, 2007 edition of the New Yorker, Mr. Mohammed told the International Red Cross that he had been waterboarded five times:

According to the sources familiar with the Red Cross report, Mohammed claimed to have been waterboarded five times. Two former C.I.A. officers who are friends with one of Mohammeds interrogators called this bravado, insisting that he was waterboarded only once. According to one of the officers, Mohammed needed only to be shown the drowning equipment again before he broke.

Moreover, Mr. Mohammeds trial was attended by a regular Whos Who of "rights groups" from Amnesty International, the ACLU, Human Rights Watch, ad nausea.

They certainly would have loved to hear this account.

And dont you think that one of the many Congressmen or their staff who are investigating this would not have leaked this bombshell?

The 2005 memo also says that the C.I.A. used waterboarding 183 times in March 2003 against Khalid Shaikh Mohammed

Mr. Mohammed was captured in March 2003 by the Pakistanis. Its not at all clear how soon they turned him over to the US. Some say right away, some say not.

But even so, that cuts into the number of days they had to torture him.

But even if the US torturers had him for the full thirty days of March, that means that they had to waterboard him six (6) times a day, seven days a week.

Who really believes that?

Well, of course the New York Times would without question.

Among the number of things that make me question this story, the timing stands out most conspicuously.  If khalid sheikh muhammed were waterboarded 183 times in a month - if he were waterboarded one tenth that number of times in a month - do you doubt that his lawyers would have mentioned it?  Same with zubaydeh if he were waterboarded 83 times.

What does the Times think happened?  Did the lawyers and the defendants collectively have a case of temporary amnesia during the trial?

Something stinks here.  And it isn't just a selective declassification of documents designed to impugn the previous administration. 

Simply stated, the 266-time claim does not, you'll pardon the expression, hold water.


ZIMBABWE AND WHITE-OWNED FARMS

Ken Berwitz

Yesterday I blogged that "Durban II, the supposedly anti-racist conference being held in Geneva, Switzerland this week.  I characterized it as Israeli hate-fest which ignored actual racism in many other countries, and cited Zimbabwe as a prime example. 

In that connection, here is a year-old article from The London Times which details just how grim that racism is and how it has decimated the country.  Please pay special attention to the paragraph I've put in bold print:

Zimbabwe: desperate Mugabe begins new assault on white-owned farms

The sound of hands beating on drums grows louder, chanting voices chiming in, more insistent, wilder with every minute. At the entrance to the driveway, young men stand scowling, inhaling on fat joints. A lone policeman, trembling with fear, hangs back, glancing up and down the road.

At the corner of the driveway a farm invasion is in full swing. A hundred-strong mob bays against a flimsy wire fence and drunken men with cold, glazed eyes, surround our car with menace. Inside, a besieged, frightened family is weighing its options.

Mr Westheim is not coming out, a bearded man in a Mugabe T-shirt tell us in a mocking voice as others parade around, whipping up the mob. Perhaps we could persuade him to leave, the still shaking policeman tells us. We dont want violence, he says.

Violence and intimidation are, however, what this is all about, the last refuge of a wounded President fighting desperately to cling to power. Eight years after he launched his first bloody campaign to seize white-owned farms, Robert Mugabe has unleashed his shock troops again.

On Friday the veterans many of whom are too young to have fought against white rule 30 years ago marched through Harare. The Movement for Democratic Change, they said, was plotting to hand back farms to their previous owners and the country to its former colonial masters. In reality, there were no returning farmers, so the veterans turned their ire on the last of white farmers in Zimbabwe.

Uys van der Westhuizen was merely monitoring developments when the invasions began miles away in southern Masvingo, but on Sunday morning he awoke to a terrible commotion from Tom and Karen Prices neighbouring farm. By that afternoon, three farms had been breached and we were thinking of how to get out, Mr van der Westhuizen told The Times. One farmer set off for Mount Darwin but discovered that they had made a blockade on the road and we were trapped. The family decided they had no choice but to stay put and hunkered down behind the grenade-proof walls and blast doors.

Mr Mugabe was at a family funeral when news of the invasions trickled out. He told mourners: The land is ours, it must not be allowed to slip back into the hands of whites. The next morning the occupants of Westheim Farm woke before six oclock to the sounds of drums outside their windows. The veterans, many drunk or high, had arrived.

You know what weve come for, one of their leaders shouted through the fence. Then they took the black labourers from their lodgings and marched them before the house where Mr Westhuizen could see them. They would not let them go, they said, unless he handed over the keys.

At the Commercial Farmers Union in Harare, reports of invasions were pouring in, as were hints of the orders that had been given. We were told that they came from the very highest levels of government, Trevor Gifford, the unions president, said. They said they wanted to see white farmers bodies on the streets by Monday.

When The Times arrived at Westheim Farm on Monday, tension was mounting. The family had not left and the mob was growing agitated. Mr van der Westhuizen fashioned a fake copy of his kitchen key from an old one. He, his three daughters, son, brother-in-law and wife, walked through the mob to their cars and got in.

At the gate, the veterans suddenly baulked. We thought wed had it, that theyd sussed out the key, he said. It was really sticky for that moment. But the vets suddenly threw open the gate and the family fled in convoy to Harare, where they went into hiding.

Only a couple of hundred white farmers have remained on their land in Zimbabwe. Fears are growing that in the lead-up to a possible presidential run-off second vote, the farmers and their thousands of black labourers, the lucky few still to have employment, will once again find themselves in the front line of Mr Mugabes war.

How is it possible that a conference on racism wouldn't deal with Zimbabwe?  But this is the UN we're talking about - so if Zimbabwe is mentioned at all, it will be a couple of quotable comments in passing, then back to Israel.

Does the UN care about the Zimbabweans who are starving to death because of mugabe's racism, cronyism and general insanity?  Does the UN care that a "breadbasket" country of Africa has turned into hell on earth because of it?

Base your judgement on its actions, and you'll have your answer.


MURTHA'S EARMARK AND SHAKEDOWN OPERATION (CONT.)

Ken Berwitz

john murtha is such a dissolute, corrupt scumbucket that even CBS News - hardly what you'd call an enemy of the Democratic Party - has had enough.  Read this vintage take-down of murtha from the CBS web site:

Murtha's Defense Earmarks Draw Questions

CBS Evening News: FBI Investigates Those Close To Powerful Lawmaker

(CBS)  CBS News investigative correspondent Sharyl Attkisson and investigative producer Laura Strickler reported this story for CBSNews.com.

Spring in Washington is "earmark season" - a busy time for Congressman John Murtha.

"That's my business," Murtha said. "I've been in it for 35 years."

As head of a powerful Defense committee, Murtha controls hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars, reports CBS News investigative correspondent Sharyl Attkisson. And he's not shy about directing money to those who give generously to his election campaigns.

CBS News has learned that this month, Murtha is steering new earmarks toward 10 companies that recently donated to his campaign.

Murtha wants $8 million for Argon ST, a defense contractor whose CEO gave Murtha the maximum allowed by law - $2,400 by an individual. He's directing a $5 million earmark toward Advanced Acoustic Concepts, which also gave the max - $5,000 for a political action committee - to his campaign. In all, 10 recent Murtha donors are slated to receive $31 million in Murtha earmarks for 2010.

Taxpayer watchdogs may not like how it looks, but it's not against the law unless donations were required in order to receive the earmarks. Looking for evidence of wrongdoing, the FBI has recently raided offices of two other companies linked to Murtha.

"The sooner it gets to a bright line that's a direct connection of 'you give me money, you're going to get taxpayer dollars,' that's when you really cross the line," said Steve Ellis, with Taxpayers for Common Sense.

That line was crossed in one case, according to a defense contractor who spoke to us on condition of anonymity for fear of losing government contracts.

The contractor was set to receive $1 million tax dollars. He said the military told him the money would come through a company called Commonwealth Research Institute, whose parent company, Concurrent Technologies, ranked among the largest earmark recipients. Both were set up with Murtha's help in his own hometown. The defense contractor said Commonwealth officials told him to get the money, he should "consider opening an office" in Johnstown, Murtha's hometown, and chided his company for not giving "enough campaign contributions to Murtha," and not making "a showing at Murtha's annual defense contractor fair."

The contractor told CBS News: "I wouldn't do it. We're just not going to play." He didn't get the funds.

"You called this a 'shakedown?'" Attkisson asked Ellis.

"If you want the money then you've got to do these things, and that's being shaken down," Ellis said.

"Is there anything illegal about that?" Attkisson asked.

"It's hard to tell until you have all the details," Ellis said. "Illegality is a tricky thing on this. It's very hard to prove a quid pro quo because most of these things aren't written down."

Commonwealth, subpoenaed in a separate federal probe, would only say it's always encouraged companies to relocate to Johnstown, and attend Murtha's fair to promote growth - but does "not encourage anyone to make campaign contributions."

Murtha wouldn't comment for our report. He did recently tell a home state newspaper that he's only trying to bring home the bacon.

"If I'm corrupt," said the congressman, "It's because I take care of my district."

This disgusting excuse for a "public servant" was an unidicted co-conspirator in the ABSCAM scandal - and has continued this level of integrity ever since, spending countless amounts of taxpayer money to grease the palms of people who play ball.

Shame on the voters in murtha's district for electing him every two years.  Yes, he gets you lots of pork.  But don't you care about how corrupt he is and how he pays off the people who play ball with him?  He represents you.  Are you really comfortable with that?

It is time - long past time - to dispose of this garbage in a bad-fitting suit.  But since he is still in congress, is it asking too much to at least shut down his earmark factory?


TEA PARTIES: DEMOCRATS/THE LEFT VERSUS THE GENERAL POPULATION

Ken Berwitz

Well, we know what Democrats and the left think about the "tea parties" Here is just a small sampling: 

-Nancy Pelosi calls them "astroturf, not grass roots"

-Paul Begala calls the participants "Just a bunch of wimpy, whiny, weasels who don't love their country...."

-Left wing looney-tune janeane garofalo says  ....lets be very honest about what this is about. Its not about bashing Democrats, its not about taxes ... This is about hating a black man in the White House. This is racism straight up. That is nothing but a bunch of [homosexual act] rednecks. And there is no way around that.

-garofalo, along with a number of media people such as keith olbermann (of course), rachel maddow (of course), anderson cooper (he is better than this), etc, have insultingly and offensively referred to them as "tea-baggers***.

-etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., ad infinitum, ad nauseam.

Ok.  Now that we've heard from Democrats/the left, what doES the general population think? 

Here is an answer from Rasmussen research:

51% View Tea Parties Favorably, Political Class Strongly Disagrees

Monday, April 20 2009

Fifty-one percent (51%) of Americans have a favorable view of the tea parties held nationwide last week, including 32% who say their view of the events is Very favorable.

Thirty-three percent (33%) hold an unfavorable opinion of the tea parties according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Fifteen percent (15%) are not sure.

While half the nation has a favorable opinion of last Wednesdays events, the nations Political Class has a much dimmer viewjust 13% of the political elite offered even a somewhat favorable assessment while 81% said the opposite. Among the Political Class, not a single survey respondent said they had a Very Favorable opinion of the events while 60% shared a Very Unfavorable assessment.

One-in-four adults (25%) say they personally know someone who attended a tea party protest. That figure includes just one percent (1%) of those in the Political Class.

(Want a free daily e-mail update? Sign up now. If it's in the news, it's in our polls). Rasmussen Reports updates also available on Twitter.

David Axelrod, a top adviser to President Obama, on Sunday characterized the protests in dozens of cities on the day federal income taxes are due as potentially unhealthy.

Fifty-eight percent (58%) of Americans say they followed recent new stories about the tea party protests, including 32% who followed Very Closely. Forty-one percent (41%) say they didnt follow the reports.

Republicans were far more interested in the protests than others. Seventy-six percent (76%) of Republicans followed news reports, with 50% following Very Closely. By comparison, just 47% of Democrats and 50% of adults not affiliated with either major party say they followed the reports at least somewhat closely.

Just 32% of the Political Class was following along. Among those with populist, or Mainstream, views, 68% were paying attention.

While 83% of Republicans and a plurality (49%) of unaffiliated Americans have a favorable view of the tea party protests, only 28% of Democrats say the same.

The Political Class and Mainstream classifications are determined by the answers to three questions measuring general attitudes about government.

Most Americans trust the judgment of the public more than political leaders, view the federal government as a special interest group and believe that big business and big government work together against the interests of investors and consumers. Only seven percent (7%) share the opposite view and can be considered part of the Political Class.

On many issues, there is a bigger gap between the Political Class and Mainstream Americans than between Mainstream Republicans and Mainstream Democrats. That was true on the tea parties, but Mainstream Republicans do express a more positive view of the protests than Mainstream Democrats. Still, a majority (54%) of Mainstream Democrats had a favorable opinion of the tea parties.

While Americans are slightly more optimistic about the economys improvement in the short term, they are growing more concerned that the government may do too much to try to help things along.

Forty-five percent (45%) of Americans adults now think most people get involved in politics to protect themselves from what the government might do.

If these data bear out in the general population, it means there is a vast gap between the dismissal of tea parties by Democrats/the left, and the favorability level among the general population. 

Maybe the fear that tea parties are a genuine grassroots movement is what drives Democrats to so desperately try to marginalize them. 

Time will tell.

---------------------------------------------------------

**"Tea-bagging" refers to a sexual act, which you can read about by clicking here.


A CORRECTION ABOUT WWW.SMIRKINGCHIMP.COM

Ken Berwitz

Yesterday I blogged about www.thesmirkingchimp.com -- more exactly, about the offensive way it is soliciting funding.  I stand by that.

However, I was wrong in specifically referring to Matt Taibbi as if he were running smirkingchimp.com. While Taibbi has blogged there for years, I do not know that he has any ownership position.  And if he does not, my comments about how the site solicits funds should not be directed to him.

This was brought to my attention by commenter Jack Reynolds.  Thanks, Jack.  And an apology to Matt Taibbi for putting the wording of that solicitation on his head (unless he was the one who wrote it -- in which case the apology is retracted).

I am now going to change the original post accordingly. 


HOW MUCH IS A HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS?

Ken Berwitz

How much is one hundred million dollars? 

I know it would do wonders for my checking account.  I'm reasonably sure that, if it were there, I would not be overdrawn any time soon. 

But how much is it in the context of the country's overall budget?

To hear President Obama and his snarky, bumbling press secretary Robert Gibbs talk about it, you'd swear that saving one hundred million dollars is a major step towards balancing the budget.

But reality tells a very different story.   Please read the excerpts I've posted below, from an article at cnsnews.com:

Obamas $100-Million Savings Plan Equals 0.007 Percent of 2010 Deficit
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
By Fred Lucas, Staff Writer

(CNSNews.com) Less than a week after the nationwide tea party protests against high taxes and government spending, President Barack Obama on Monday directed his cabinet secretaries to slice $100 million out of their departmental budgets--an amount equal to 0.007 percent of the deficit spending Obama plans to undertake in 2010.
 
Proposed measures included targeting fraud in farm subsidies, reducing the number of computers used by the Department of Education, buying in bulk, and purchasing hybrid vehicles to cut fuel costs for the Department of Homeland Security, according to a White House news release.
 
This comes after the
Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projected last month that the cumulative deficit from 2010 to 2019 under the presidents proposals would total $9.3 trillion, compared with a cumulative deficit of $4.4 trillion projected under the current-law assumptions embodied in CBOs baseline.
 
That would put the $100-million cost-savings at about 0.001 percent of the projected national deficit for the coming decade.
 
Even for 2009 and 2010, when the CBO projects deficits of $1.8 trillion and $1.4 trillion, respectively, $100 million would be 0.005 percent and 0.007 percent of the deficit in those years.

Republican leaders on Capitol Hill are not buying into the proposed savings, which they say are dwarfed by massive spending increases in the proposed $3.5 trillion budget (for 2010) and the $787-billion recovery package that passed earlier this year. 
 
The federal government is already set to spend $4 trillion by the end of fiscal year 2009, said House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), citing a CBO report.
 
The administrations new talk of trimming a meager 0.0025 percent from the $4 trillion federal budget just doesnt square with its reckless record on borrowing and spending, Boehner said in a statement. Washington Democrats have spent the past three months doling out more taxpayer dollars than every previous president combined, and the administration is clearly feeling the heat.
 
Boehner said the administration should target projects, such as a skateboard park in Rhode Island and bike racks in Washington, D.C., that were funded by federal dollars in the stimulus bill. He also mentioned last week that hundreds of thousands of Americans participated in Taxpayer Tea Parties to say theyve had enough of Washington piling more debt on our children and grandchildren.
 
Obama has proposed a $3.5 trillion federal budget to Congress that includes many of his priorities regarding expanding health care coverage and environmental protection. This comes after the passage of the $787 billion economic stimulus package. 
 
Like Boehner in the House of Representatives, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) also viewed the White House announcement as little more than a political gesture, considering that $100 million is about how much the government will pay in interest per day over the next 10 years on just the stimulus bill.
 
I appreciate the efforts to save millions by identifying unnecessary or duplicative government spending, McConnell said in a statement. But lets not forget that at the same time theyre looking for millions in savings, the presidents budget calls for adding trillions to the debt. The nations debt is at its highest level ever, but under the administrations budget, the amount will double in five years and triple in 10.

As you can see, the "savings" touted by Mr. Obama and Mr. Gibbs are infinitesimal relative to the amount this administration's budget.  

Let me show you:  One hundred million is a tenth of a billion.  One billion is a thousandth of a trillion.  One trillion is slightly more than one fourth of the 3.5 trillion budget.

If you work the math out, you'll find that the 100 million dollar savings is......(can't you just hear the trumpets blaring in anticipation)........one entire dollar out of every $35,000. 

WOW!!!

President Obama has slashed every $35,000 expenditure all the way down to $34,999!!!!  Who said this man wasn't a fiscal watchdog?

I assume you recognize my sarcasm here (god help anyone who doesn't).  If so, you probably understand that I consider the hoo-ha over this hundred million dollar savings to be a pile of BS that Mr. Obama is foisting on whoever is gullible enough to think it is significant.  And, as usual, our wonderful "neutral" media are, for the most part, abetting him.

Now you know how much a hundred million dollars is.  Impressed?


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