Saturday, 13 June 2009

THE JOY OF "ROBUST DEBATE"

Ken Berwitz

Here, from Reuters, is what a college professor might say about the vote in Iran.  The problem is that the one saying it is our President:

Obama "excited" by Iran's robust election debate

Fri Jun 12, 2009 1:42pm EDT

By David Alexander

 

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama said on Friday he was hopeful the robust debate taking place in Iran's presidential election would advance his administration's efforts to engage longtime U.S. rival Tehran in new ways.

 

"We are excited to see what appears to be a robust debate taking place in Iran," Obama told reporters when asked about the Iranian election during an event at the White House.

"Whoever ends up winning the election in Iran, the fact there has been a robust debate hopefully will advance our ability to engage them in new ways," he said.

 

Iranians voted on Friday in a hotly contested election that will determine whether hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gets a new term or is unseated by one of his more moderate challengers.

 

The United States has had no ties with Iran since shortly after the 1979 Islamic revolution, but Obama has expressed an interest in a dialogue if Tehran "unclenches its fist."

 

Obama said he had tried to send a clear message during a speech to the Islamic world last week in Cairo that his administration sees a possibility for a change in relations.

 

He said while "ultimately the election is for the Iranians to decide," voters in the Middle East had shown they were looking at the possibility of a change.

 

Obama was referring to the victory of Saad al-Hariri's anti-Syrian bloc in Lebanon on Sunday. The bloc won 71 of parliament's 128 seats, versus 57 for an opposition alliance that included Hezbollah, a pro-Iranian group Washington formally has designated a "foreign terrorist organization."

 

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she was encouraged by the size of the Iranian voter turnout.

"It's a very positive sign that the people of Iran want their voices and their votes to be heard and counted. And like many people inside and outside of Iran we are going to wait and see what the results are," Clinton told reporters.

 

A senior State Department official said the United States would not be surprised if there was a run-off.

"It's anyone's guess what is going to transpire. If you were a betting person you would probably look at some sort of run-off," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

 

There will be a run-off on June 19 between the two front-runners if none of the four candidates wins 50 percent of the votes in the first round.

Note to President Obama:  The guy who "won" (it looks like a cooked election) is the guy telling Israel Iran is creating a nuclear capability and he intends for Israel to be wiped off the face of the earth.

But yes, the debate is robust.  Isn't that wonderful?  After all, what's it all about other than debate?

God help us.


KEITH OLBERMANN: SHAMELESS

Ken Berwitz

Earlier this week, david letterman made some unseemly, tasteless jokes about Governor Sarah Palin and her daughter.  Among his gems of humor were that Ms. Palin looks like a slutty flight attendant*** and that her daughter (a 14 year old) got knocked up during the 7th inning of the Yankee game they attended together.

This pathetic verbal vomit is what passes for humor on the letterman show.  And, lamentably, there are plenty of people who think it is clever and witty.

When Sarah Palin went on the Today show to talk about this disgrace, instead of neutrally interviewing her Matt Lauer went after Ms. Palin with a degree of malevolence you will never see him use for a Democrat.  Palin made mincemeat of him.

Now we come to keith olbermann.

I don't know what olbermann said about this before last night.  But I watched last night's segment on Palin just now (MSNBC proudly puts it up for you, and - at least on the day I'm posting this - you can see it by clicking here). 

If you didn't think olbermann was a nasty, obnoxious, shameless twerp before, this should seal the deal for you. 

-Olbermann starts off by listing out a bunch of adjectives to describe Sarah Palin.  He calls her:  sanctimonious, holier-than-thou, exploitative, undignified, pedantic, childish, self-inflating, insipid, backwards, embarrassing, overreactive, overreaching...yammering".  A nice start to this hard-hitting journalistic report.  Very evenhanded.

-olbermann then says that Palin"...returned to national television to exploit her own daughters...".  In other words, defending her daughter (not daughters, keith, only one was attacked by letterman) is exploiting her daughter.  Yeah, ok, sure.

"...pursuing a bizarre and unwinnable vendetta..."  letterman attacks both Palin and her daughter - and, by responding to his crude insults Palin is engaging in a vendetta?  That's just brilliant.

-"...against a TV figure who has already apologized..."  I watched letterman's entire commentary the night he "apologized", and he did not apologize at all.  Not once in his comments did he say "I apologize", "I'm sorry" or "I regret..."  letterman did however whine about how put upon he was to have to explain his Palin jokes (e.g. looking ruefully at the audience and saying "Yeah, think about getting yourself a talk show").  Poor baby. 

Further, the audience was laughing and applauding throughout his comments.  But not one time did letterman say any version of  "I can't stop you from laughing, but I'm serious about this".  He just accepted the laughter and applause.  Yep, that's some apology.

-"...and who is several times more popular than she is"  The "she is" part is said with an emphatic air of finality, apparently to communicate that if letterman is more popular than Palin (a very questionable premise) this somehow means she shouldn't defend herself and her 14 year old daughter against letterman's vicious, personal attacks on them.

Folks, that was just the first two sentences of olbermann's segment.  If you want more, go to the MSNBC site and watch it for yourself.  Believe me it continues at this level, and even lower.  You'll hear olbermann - incredibly - call letterman the victim.  And a lot more. 

keith olbermann is a disgrace and MSNBC is a disgrace for airing his one-side-only rants. 

I'd say MSNBC should be punished for having olbermann represent the network during prime time (or any time).  But since olbermann, after all these years, still hovers at about one-third the viewership of Bill O'Reilly, the rival he so pathologically hates, I guess he is his own punishment.

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

***The "top 10 lists I am seeing on various web sites indicate he said "slutty flight attendant", not "slutty stewardess".  My initial recollection was that he said "stewardess" instead, and vaguely remember someone commenting, the next day, that his use of the word "stewardess" was outdated - that term is no longer used.  But I have found two sites with a video of the list being read, and apparently "flight attendant" is, in fact what letterman said.

Of coure, this has no bearing on my comments, since it is no less insulting to say that Sarah Palin looks like a "slutty flight attendant".  But I strive to be accurate, as much as david letterman strives to be vicious and tasteless.


DAVID LETTERMAN'S SON

Ken Berwitz

A quick point:  The picture below is david letterman and his son, Harry, who is now 6 years old.

 


How do you suppose letterman would react if a popular late night host - say, Conan O'Brien - started cracking jokes about letterman's wife Regina Lasko looking like a slut and Harry being molested at a sports event?

I'm sure that will never happen.  Not from Conan O'Brien.  He has far too much class.

But if it ever did?  Welcome to Sarah Palin's world, dave.  How do you like it?

carolina beltrann sarah palin needs to stop overanalizing jokes. shes so gay and does anything she can to milk being in the spotlight. (07/02/09)


TAKE THE 'R' TRAIN TO 14TH ST, AND TRANSFER TO MATERNITY...

Ken Berwitz

From CBS News, New York:

Baby Born On NYC Mass Transit For 2nd Straight Day

Passenger Plays Doctor As Brooklyn Bus Becomes Makeshift Delivery Room Friday After 'R' Train Childbirth On Thursday

Believed To Be Nation's First Back-To-Back Mass Transit Births

(6/12/2009)

For the second day in a row a newborn girl has been born on New York City's mass transit system.

A Brooklyn bus became a makeshift delivery room on Friday morning. A woman passenger helped the mother deliver the baby that just couldn't wait to come aboard.

Paramedics took the new mother and baby to a hospital. Their names were not released.

On Thursday, conductor Bretta Sykes helped a mother deliver a girl in a subway car. The mother of two says she used information from her own chilbirth classes to coach the woman through her seven-minute delivery.

A New York City Transit spokesman says it could be the system's first consecutive births on a subway train and a bus.

Sykes was waiting for an incoming train in lower Manhattan on Thursday afternoon when a woman in a subway train at the station went into active labor.

The conductor and mother of two says she used information from her own childbirth classes to coach the woman through her seven-minute delivery.

Sykes says the emerging newborn girl just slid right into her hand.

A passenger in the subway car took out her cell phone and recorded the birth which landed on the local evening news.

Transit officials say mother and child are doing well at a hospital. Their names were not released.

The last mass transit birth was a girl born on a Manhattan subway platform last June.

MTA subways, buses, and railroads provide 2.6 billion trips to New Yorkers annually.

I had a friend who swore that when his wife was overdue with their child, he induced her labor by driving down Pennsylvania Avenue in Brooklyn between Linden Boulevard and the Belt Parkway.  The road was so uneven that she bounced around enough to break water.

Well, they fixed that road some years ago.  So maybe mass transit is the new way to do it. 

I hope both sets of moms and children are doing fine.  And don't let them make you pay an extra fare for the kid!!


TWO VIEWS ON PRESIDENT OBAMA'S OUTREACH TO MUSLIMS

Ken Berwitz

If you want to consider two thoughtful views on how President Obama is trying to connect with, and presumably redirect, Muslim culture, this is about as good as it gets.

Here is Paul Mirengoff's very useful opinion, and a link to Charles Krauthammer's column which, as always, is brilliant.  Mirengoff and Krauthammer are partly in agreement but, as you will see, they do differ in key aspects as well. 

Enjoy the read -- and the food for thought:

Obama's misguided rhetoric

June 12, 2009 Posted by Paul at 10:19 PM

Charles Krauthammer rips President Obama for "the moral equivalencies and self-flagellating apologetics" of his Muslim outreach rhetoric. Among other examples, Krauthammer cites these:

On religious tolerance, he gently referenced the Christians of Lebanon and Egypt, then lamented that the "divisions between Sunni and Shia have led to tragic violence" (note the use of the passive voice). He then criticized (in the active voice) Western religious intolerance for regulating the wearing of the hijab -- after citing America for making it difficult for Muslims to give to charity.

Obama offered Muslims a careful admonition about women's rights, noting how denying women education impoverishes a country -- balanced, of course, with "meanwhile, the struggle for women's equality continues in many aspects of American life."

Krauthammer concludes:

Creating false equivalencies is not moral leadership, but moral abdication. And hovering above it all, above country and history, is a sign not of transcendence but of a disturbing ambivalence toward one's own country.

I think that Krauthammer, to some extent, is misunderstanding what Obama is up to here. Obama is trying, as President Bush did, to induce Muslims to modify their ways on issues such as religious tolerance and women's rights. He believes he will have more success with this project if he acknowledges that the U.S. is also imperfect in these areas. This is a familiar rhetorical device; there may even be a Greek name for it.

Greek name or not, Obama is quite misguided to think he can "jawbone" Muslims into being more tolerant . And Obama's confession of Western error will hurt rather than help. Muslims in his audience who are not already disposed in favor of the reforms he urges will ignore the critique of Muslim society and hear only the part about America's ills. Thus, anti-Americanism will be reinforced.

But it is unfair, I think, to argue that Obama is drawing moral equivalencies or that he is not seeking to advance American interests. Our interests would be greatly served If Obama could pursuade Muslims to become more moderate and more tolerant. The real problem is what Krauthammer correctly describes as Obama's messianism, which allows him to believe that his words can bring this about.

.


CHRIS "CORRUPTION" DODD

Ken Berwitz

What a surprise.

It turns out that Chris Dodd, the Senator from Connecticut with as rich a history of scandal as just about anyone in that body (e.g. his involvement in Enron, his involvement in the sub-prime mess, the fact that he personally inserted the language of the "stimulus package" that allowed those AIG executives those big bonuses, etc.), has another scandal.

That's like saying that the Pacific Ocean gained more water.

Here are excerpts from a story in today's Hartford Courant which tell the tale.  The bold print is mine:

FINANCIAL DISCLOSURES

In Financial Disclosure Forms, Dodd's Irish Cottage Jumps In Value

By DAVE ALTIMARI and DANIELA ALTIMARI | The Hartford Courant

 

June 13, 2009

A new appraisal of the Irish cottage owned by Sen. Christopher Dodd concludes that it is worth about three times as much as Dodd has been reporting on his financial disclosure forms.

The new value of the cottage, on Inishnee island in County Galway, is $658,000, according to Dodd's 2008 financial disclosure form released Friday.

The two-page appraisal was done by the same man who did the original one in 2002 when the 1,200-square-foot cottage was valued at about $190,000.

The new appraisal comes two years into a historic crash in property values in Ireland, which suggests that it might have been worth even more in recent years when Dodd never reported its value at more than $250,000 in annual Senate financial disclosures.

Dodd's new disclosure form also shows that his wife, Jackie Clegg Dodd, has received compensation from three of the four health care companies on whose boards she sits.

Clegg Dodd is on the boards of Brookdale Senior Living, Cardiome Pharma Corp., Javelin Pharmaceuticals and Pear Tree Pharmaceuticals, although she did not receive any income from Pear Tree, a Cambridge, Mass.-based firm that is developing drugs for aging women.

Dodd will play a key role in shaping health care policy as the No. 2 Democrat on the Senate's Committee On Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.
Committee Chairman Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., is being treated for brain cancer and has deputized Dodd to lead the charge for health care reform in his absence.

Republicans have accused Dodd of having a conflict of interest because his wife serves on the boards of health care and pharmaceutical firms.

The disclosure forms do not require Dodd to list specifically how much Jackie Clegg Dodd received from her various directorships, only that she received more than $1,000 for each.

However, Clegg Dodd was compensated at a rate of about $500,000 a year in 2007 and 2008 from seats on five corporate boards, according to the most recent filings by the companies to the federal Securities and Exchange Commission. Dodd's office said that her annual compensation was actually about $400,000.

How malodorous does this get? 

Dodd grossly underestimates the value of an asset in his disclosure forms (maybe he learned that from charles rangel, the equally corrupt house member who chairs the Ways and Means Committee), and he is now the point guy on legislation involving his wife's $400,000 - $500,000 a year income (why does she sit on those boards, other than because her husband is a powerful senator?).

Apparently, the Democratic Party (which joined in censuring Dodd's father when he was the Senator from Connecticut) won't do a thing about this.  But Dodd is up for re-election next year - maybe the voters there will finally come to their senses about Dodd. 

Maybe.


THE PROBLEM WITH MEDIA'S OBAMA WORSHIP

Ken Berwitz

From veteran columnist and talking head Cal Thomas: Posted on Saturday, 06.13.09

Media must confront, not fawn

BY CAL THOMAS

tmseditors@tribune.com

A criticism heard during the early years of the Bush administration was that the media were ''in the tank'' for Bush, fearing to question his foreign and domestic policies in the aftermath of 9/11 because of his then-high approval numbers and concern that they would be labeled unpatriotic.

Such fears have evaporated with the advent of the Obama administration. The intensity of media worship and slavish devotion by more journalists to President Obama and his policies has risen to what one might expect from members of a cult.

On MSNBC, Newsweek editor Evan Thomas said of the president: ''. . . in a way, Obama's standing above the country, above -- above the world. He's sort of God.'' Speaking of Ronald Reagan, Thomas said he was ''all about America'' [and] Obama is 'we are above that now. We're not just parochial, we're not just chauvinistic, we're not just provincial.' '' When was the last time you heard an American president faulted for putting America first?

This religious-like faith in Obama has led the media not to question much of what he does. He claims that his stimulus plan has ''saved or created'' 150,000 jobs and that ''stimulus II'' will ''save or create'' 600,000 jobs this summer. How does government ''save'' a job and how does one measure such a claim? In January, before taking office, the president said 90 percent of the new jobs he would create would be in the private sector. The media have yet to ask him why that promise has not yet been fulfilled.

Last March, the president visited Columbus, Ohio and announced that 25 police jobs were being saved because of his stimulus bill. According to CNN, ''without the money, the officers never would have hit the streets. They were to be laid off before their first day of patrol, victims of city budget cuts.'' The influx of federal stimulus money, however, has done little to solve the city's budget crisis. Columbus voters will decide in August whether to approve a tax increase. If they refuse, city officials may have to lay off 324 police officers. That would be a net loss of about 299 jobs. Don't look for the media to headline that outcome, should it occur, as they trumpeted the original ''job-saving'' announcement.

Commenting (reporting is a lost art) on Obama's D-Day speech at Normandy, Chip Reid of CBS News said Obama ''hopes to create a world where there never has to be another D-Day.'' Who told Reid that? And why didn't Reid ask how Obama intends to bring that about and what makes such an effort different from, say, the failed League of Nations and failing United Nations?

NBC's Brian Williams recently hosted an Inside the Obama White House special. As the conservative Media Research Center has noted, even liberal Bill Moyers couldn't take the sugar rush: ''NBC News this week delivered a candygram to the president -- two primetime specials called Inside the Obama White House. President Obama couldn't have asked for a sweeter salute . . .'' Perhaps what gave Moyers a toothache was this statement by Williams, ``People react strongly to this president. We've seen people moved to tears after just the briefest encounter with him.''

The danger in such hero worship is that this president (or any politician) might begin to believe his own press. A president who hears nothing but praise is likely to be less cautious and more enamored with himself. He could be tempted to think, if not actively, than passively, that he is, like Caesar, a ''god,'' above all others in ability and accountability.

It is neither in the interest of the country, nor the president, for the public and the media to treat President Obama as a messianic deliverer.

I recently saw two bumper stickers on the same car. One said, ''Obama '08'' and the other ''Question Authority.'' Surveys have shown most in the mainstream media supported Obama's election. Too many journalists have forfeited their responsibility by failing to question his authority, losing what little remains of their credibility, not to mention readers and viewers. The public is losing its right to be told the truth. There are houses for worship. Newsrooms ought not to be one of them.

What an excellent piece - and sorry commentary - on media's love affair with President Obama and its consequences for the way they report news.

What we need is neutral media, just as willing to report the negatives of a politician as the positives.  But we don't have it.

What we don't need is media falling all over themselves to prove their love for a politician, to the point of looking the other way at his distortions and overt lies.  That, sad to say, is what we do have.

When do they wake up?  When do they start acting like journalists instead of members of a fan club?  Ever?


THE IRAN VOTE

Ken Berwitz

Well, the votes are in.  And mahmoud ahmadinejad, it is claimed, has won with 63% of the vote, over the so-called "moderate" Mir Hossein Mousavi.

There are reports of increasingly violent clashes in the streets and the "supreme leader" Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (who, despite this so-called "election", actually runs the show) is calling for unity.  Maybe he'll get it and maybe he won't.

Assuming ahmadinejad holds on to his presidency (which is very likely), it means Iran will continue down the path of creating a nuclear weapon which then can be used to fulfill its desire to "wipe Israel off the face of the map". 

What is President Obama going to do about it?  Talk?

What do you think Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel is going to do about it - especially if all President Obama will do is talk?  Sit on his rump and wait for his country to be vaporized?

There are very, very dangerous times.  And they are not helped by a tra-la-la vision of talking things out with people who don't talk things out.


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