Saturday, 01 August 2009


Ken Berwitz

President Obama and his people are giddily proclaiming what an amazingly great success the "cash for clunkers" idea has been. 

For those who do not know, the more formal name of this initiative is the Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS).  The way it works is that, if you trade in a "clunker" (18MPG or less) for a new car, the government will give you $3,500 - $4,500 towards that new car, depending on how much better the mileage of the new car is.  There are other restrictions as well, which attempt to eliminate instances of people just hauling in junk cars that weren't in use anyway.

Initially, $1 billion dollars has put against this plan, and it has run out in a matter of days.

A few points to be made here:

-I have no doubt that a great many of the car sales over these past few days would not have taken place - at least not over the same few days - without CARS legislation in place.  That's good news.

-I have no doubt that some number of people who would otherwise have kept running their older "clunkers" have been spurred to replace them with newer, more energy-efficient replacements.  That's good news too.

-I have no doubt that a limited-time offer of handing thousands of dollars of our money (not "the government's money", our money) for cars worth a fraction of that amount is going to spur sales - especially since, based on disastrously low sales over the past two years, so many people are overdue to buy. Common sense kicks in here - people who held off buying a new car suddenly can get a thousands-of-dollars discount straight from Uncle Sam that is available only for a limited time.  Not surprisingly, that sent many people straight to the local dealership.

This is both good and bad news.  It is good news that older low mileage cars are being replaced by newer, better-mileage alternatives.  Good for car sales and good for energy conservation.  But it is bad news that the only reason for it happening is that we are paying part of the cost of their cars. 

I have a vague memory of an anecdote that pertains here (it is purely from memory, so forgive me if one or more details are wrong).  During the depression, there was a snowstorm in New York and then-mayor Fiorello LaGuardia bragged that instead of using the city's snow removal equipment he sent out an army of unemployed men with shovels to do the job, thus creating at least temporary employment for them.  When josef stalin was told about this he sarcastically joked that if Laguardia had sent them out with teaspoons instead of shovels he could have put even more men to work.

My point is that, just as artificially lowering per-worker productivity created more jobs, so does artificially lowering car cost create more buyers.  This is not "innovative", it is a basic, common-sense fact.

Heck, let's take it even further:  if knocking off up to $4,500 of the cost stimulates demand, why stop there?  Have the government raise its contribution (of our money) to $10,000 and we'll have the biggest car-sales month in history.

As you might guess from this, I have mixed feelings about "cash for clunkers".  For that reason I'm posting no conclusions about it.  I'll leave the conclusions to you.


Ken Berwitz

I just learned from, that Reverend Ike (Frederick J. Eikerenkoetter) died on Tuesday in Los Angeles.  He was 74 years of age.

Being a Jewish kid from Brooklyn and Queens, I can't say I had much personal involvement with clergymen like Reverend Ike.  But I loved watching his TV shows.

In his heyday, Reverend Ike broadcast from his church in Washington Heights, north of Harlem.  Always dressed to the nines, he would be preaching a message of prosperity being part of godliness.  

Among his more famous quotes:

"The best thing you can do for the poor is not be one of them"

"God doesnt want you to have your pie-in-the-sky, bye and bye, when you die. He wants you to have it now with a cherry on top!"

"Some may say money is the root of all evil, but being in poverty is a damn shame!"

I don't know whether Reverend Ike was legitimately a man of God, but he certainly did inspire a lot of people to get the most out of life - materially, anyway.  And wow was he fun to watch.

May he rest in peace.  And prosperity.


Ken Berwitz

This just came to me from West Coast Russ

I signed the petition.  I urge you to do so too.

This takes 10 seconds.  Please look at this.  This is not a petition that goes no where. It goes directly to the Congressman.

 It took me less than 20 seconds to sign up to require our congressmen and senators to drink at the same trough! Three cheers for Congressman John Fleming of Louisiana!

 Congressman John Fleming ( Louisiana physician) has proposed an amendment that would require congressmen and senators to take the same healthcare plan they force on us (under proposed legislation they are curiously exempt). Congressman Fleming is encouraging people to go on his Website and sign his petition (very simple - just first, last and email).

I have immediately done just that at:
. Please urge as many people as you can to do the same!
If Congress forces this on the American people, the Congressmen should have to accept the same level of health care for themselves and their families.

What a great idea.  If they think Obamacare is so great, let's make them take it too.  What's good for us is good for them, isn't it?

Thank you congressperson Fleming!!!!!!!


Ken Berwitz

I just read a curious column at, written by Brian Stelter.  It appears to be telling me that there used to be a feud between competing hosts Bill O'Reilly ("The O'Reilly Factor") and keith olbermann ("Countdown"), but that feud was ended last month.

If you read Mr. Stelter's piece (no problem on that account, I'm posting it below) you'll find that it, correctly, points out the "feud" in reality, is olbermann attacking O'Reilly by name over and over again.  That's not a feud to me.  That's one person attacking another person.

By contrast Mr. O'Reilly, to my knowledge, has never even mentioned olbermann's name throughout this years-long lunatic-asylum-quality assault.  O'Reilly has, however, attacked the people olbermann works for (MSNBC President Jeffrey Zucker and parent-company GE President Jeffrey Immelt) instead.

Here is Mr. Stelter's piece:

Voices From Above Silence a Cable TV Feud


Published: July 31, 2009


It was a media cage fight, televised every weeknight at 8 p.m. But the match was halted when the blood started to spray executives in the high-priced seats.


For years Keith Olbermann of MSNBC had savaged his prime-time nemesis Bill OReilly of the Fox News Channel and accused Fox of journalistic malpractice almost nightly. Mr. OReilly in turn criticized Mr. Olbermanns bosses and led an exceptional campaign against General Electric, the parent company of MSNBC.


It was perhaps the fiercest media feud of the decade and by this year, their bosses had had enough. But it took a fellow television personality with a neutral perspective to help bring it to at least a temporary end.


At an off-the-record summit meeting for chief executives sponsored by Microsoft in mid-May, the PBS interviewer Charlie Rose asked Jeffrey Immelt, chairman of G.E., and his counterpart at the News Corporation, Rupert Murdoch, about the feud.


Both moguls expressed regret over the venomous culture between the networks and the increasingly personal nature of the barbs. Days later, even though the feud had increased the audience of both programs, their lieutenants arranged a cease-fire, according to four people who work at the companies and have direct knowledge of the deal.


In early June, the combat stopped, and MSNBC and Fox, for the most part, found other targets for their verbal missiles (Hello, CNN).


It was time to grow up, a senior employee of one of the companies said.


The reconciliation not acknowledged by the parties until now showcased how a personal and commercial battle between two men could create real consequences for their parent corporations. A G.E. shareholders meeting, for instance, was overrun by critics of MSNBC (and one of Mr. OReillys producers) last April.


We all recognize that a certain level of civility needed to be introduced into the public discussion, Gary Sheffer, a spokesman for G.E., said this week. Were happy that has happened.


The parent companies declined to comment directly on the details of the cease-fire, which was orchestrated in part by Jeff Zucker, the chief executive of NBC Universal, and Gary Ginsberg, an executive vice president who oversees corporate affairs at the News Corporation.


Mr. Olbermann, who is on vacation, said by e-mail message, I am party to no deal, adding that he would not have been included in any conversations between G.E. and the News Corporation. Fox News said it would not comment.

Civility was not always the aim of Mr. Olbermann and Mr. OReilly, men who, in an industry of thin skins, are both famous for reacting to verbal pinpricks. Both host 8 p.m. programs on cable news in studios a few blocks apart in Midtown Manhattan.


The conservative-leaning Mr. OReilly has turned The OReilly Factor into a profit center for the News Corporation by blitzing his opponents and espousing his opinions unapologetically. He found his bte noire in the liberal-leaning Mr. Olbermann, the host of MSNBCs Countdown, who saw in Mr. OReilly a regenerating target he nicknamed the Bill-o the Clown.


The 6-foot-4 Mr. Olbermann started sniping regularly at the also 6-foot-4 Mr. OReilly in late 2005, sometimes making him the subject of the Countdown segment, the Worst Person in the World. Mr. OReilly was also a stand-in for the perceived offenses of the top-rated Fox News.


By punching up at his higher-rated prey, Mr. Olbermann helped his own third-place cable news show. Honestly, I should send him a check each week, he remarked to a reporter three years ago. Fox noticed. Mr. Murdoch remarked to Esquire last year that Keith Olbermann is trying to make a business out of destroying Bill OReilly. Mr. OReilly refused to mention his critic by name on the Factor, deeming him a vicious smear merchant, but he regularly blamed Mr. Zucker for ruining a once-great brand, NBC.


In late 2007, Mr. OReilly had a young producer, Jesse Watters, ambush Mr. Immelt and ask about G.E.s business in Iran, which is legal, and which includes sales of energy and medical technology. G.E. says it no longer does business in Iran.


Mr. OReilly continued to pour pressure on its corporate leaders, even saying on one program last year that If my child were killed in Iraq, I would blame the likes of Jeffrey Immelt. The resulting e-mail to G.E. from Mr. OReillys viewers was scathing.


The messages hit nerves on both sides. Mr. Immelt remarked to MSNBC staff members last summer that he would never forgive Rupert Murdoch for Foxs behavior, according to two people who were present. In private phone calls, the Fox News chairman, Roger Ailes, told NBC officials to end the attacks.


In February, Mr. Zucker told Newsweek what he had told Mr. Olbermann privately: I wish it werent so personal. The previous year, Mr. Murdoch said that Mr. OReilly shouldnt be so sensitive to the attacks lobbed by MSNBC.


Over time, G.E. and the News Corporation concluded that the fighting wasnt good for either parent, said an NBC employee with direct knowledge of the situation. But the session hosted by Mr. Rose provided an opportunity for a reconciliation, sealed with a handshake between Mr. Immelt and Mr. Murdoch.


But like any title fight, the final round could not end without an attempted knockout. On June 1, the day after the abortion provider George Tiller was killed in Kansas, Mr. Olbermann took to the air to cite Mr. OReillys numerous references to Tiller, the baby killer and to announce that he would retire his caricature of Mr. OReilly.

The goal here is to get this blindly irresponsible man and his ilk off the air, he said.


The next day, Mr. OReilly made the extraordinary claim that federal authorities have developed information about General Electric doing business with Iran, deadly business and published Mr. Immelts e-mail address and mailing address, repeating it slowly for emphasis.


Then the attacks mostly stopped.


Shortly after, Phil Griffin, the MSNBC president, told producers that he wanted the channels other programs to follow Mr. Olbermanns lead and restrain from criticizing Fox directly, according to two employees. At Fox News, some staff members were told to be fair to G.E.


The executives at both companies, it appears, were relieved. For this war to stop, it meant fewer headaches on the corporate side, one employee said.


Tensions still simmer between the two networks, however, and staff members have been unwilling or unable to stop the strife altogether. This week, for instance, the Fox host Glenn Beck called Mr. Obama a racist, prompting rebukes on a number of MSNBC shows. But for now, the daily back and forth has quieted.


Theyve won their respective constituencies, said a former member of MSNBCs senior staff. They dont need to do this anymore, really.

Is this "feud" over?  Frankly, I doubt it. 

Look, I'm not taken with Bill O'Reilly.  He's more and more a contrived self-caricature, he doesn't let his guests finish their sentences, let alone complete thoughts  (a la Chris Matthews) and his newer segments are pretty silly to me.  But, to O'Reilly's credit, his guests almost always include voices from both sides of the issues.

By contrast, I consider olbermann a vicious, nasty, farbissoner*** rumpelstiltskin wannabe.  Unlike O'Reilly, olbermann allows his guests to finish their sentences - but why wouldn't he, since virtually every guest on his show agrees with him.  If you want two sides of an issue, the last place you'll find it is on "Countdown".

I'll keep watching for signs of the enmity between these shows, and these networks, to abate.  If I think it is happening, I'll say so.  And if I don't, I'll give you the reasons why.  Fair enough?


***"farbissoner" is a yiddish word that means perpetually sour/unhappy/miserable.  In my opinion, it fits keith olbermann perfectly.


Ken Berwitz

When I think of Chris Dodd, the senior Senator from Connecticut, I think of cancer.  Two kinds of it.

The first kind is prostate cancer, which Mr. Dodd has recently found out he has.  I wish him well on that one, and hope the treatment he receives results in a full physical recovery.

The other is that Chris Dodd is a slimy, corrupt politician who is a cancer on the senate.  For this, the necessary recovery here is ours, not his.  We can start to recover when he leaves office, and the sooner the better.

Michelle Malkin has a terrific column today on just how slimy and corrupt Mr. Dodd is - and how many of his fellow Democrats are joining in the fun as well.  Read it below, and please pay special attention to the segment I've put in bold print:



Last updated: 4:18 am
August 1, 2009
Posted: 3:50 am
August 1, 2009


EVERYTHING you need to know about false Hope and Change can be found in one picture: the image of President Obama embracing embattled Sen. Chris Dodd.

The troubled Democrat is in deep over his sweetheart Countrywide home-loan deals, corporate bailout cash and crony associations. New revelations by Countrywide whistleblower Robert Feinberg confirm what more and more of Dodd's Connecticut constituents are coming to realize: He's a lying weasel.

Dodd denied knowledge of the special treatment the subprime-mortgage company had given him and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad on home loans. (Dodd's were worth more than $800,000.) Feinberg flatly contradicted him in secret testimony on the Hill this week.

Connecticut voters aren't smiling about Dodd's hypocritical bashing of lobbyists on the airwaves while he parties with them behind closed doors. They haven't forgotten about Dodd's cozy Irish cottage deal with convicted insider trader Edward Downe Jr. (who received a Clinton pardon with Dodd's generous help).

Sandra Harris, an unaffiliated voter from West Hartford, Conn., told the Hartford Courant: "I've lost respect for him . . . It's time for a change." A Quinnipiac poll now shows that 60 percent of key independent voters disapprove of Dodd.

But his cratering numbers and mounting ethics scandal aren't just about Dodd. Damaged birds of a feather flock together. Even before this week's disclosures, his approval ratings had dropped to their lowest levels ever. Yet, President Obama -- agent of the "new politics" -- declared his support for Dodd's 2010 re-election campaign bid.

"I can't say it any clearer: I will be helping Chris Dodd because he deserves the help," Obama announced in April."He just has an extraordinary record of accomplishment, and I think the people of Connecticut will come to recognize that."

Obama progressives should cringe at their president's bear hug of one of the most ethically compromised politicians on Capitol Hill.

The Beltway swamp is teeming with Democratic corruption scandals -- Pennsylvania Rep. John Murtha's earmark factory; New York Rep. Charlie Rangel's rent-controlled apartment scams and tax scandals; California Rep. Maxine Waters' business ties to a minority-owned bank that received $12 million in TARP money under smelly circumstances, for starters.

But Dodd's career epitomizes the most fetid aspects of Washington's culture of corruption. It's a textbook case of nepotism, self-dealing, back scratching, corporate lobbying, government favors and entrenched incumbency.

When he launched his presidential bid in February 2007, Obama inspired millions and rallied the world with his pledge to "build a more hopeful America." He told a cheering crowd in Springfield, Ill., land of Lincoln, that "I have not spent a long time learning the ways of Washington, but I have been there long enough to know that the ways of Washington have to change."

Two years later, Obama declared his support for an entrenched senator drowning in the decrepit old politics of pay-for-play.

Two years later, at a "historic" and "unprecedented" record pace, Obama presided over a heap of botched nominations, crony appointments, lobbyist paybacks, union and left-wing activist payoffs, and abandoned promises to make government more transparent and accountable to ordinary Americans.

"Washington is broken," Obama lamented on the campaign trail. Yet, under President Obama, the business of Washington is booming. As government grows, corruption flows. Huge new federal spending plus tens of thousands of pages of new regulations plus unprecedented new powers over taxpayers and the economy ensure limitless new opportunities for sleaze, favor trading, deal cutting and influence peddling.

The president's dwindling blind faithful may still cling to the belief that he can work miracles. But no one, not even Obama, can drain a swamp by flooding it.

Ms. Malkin has just published a book, "Culture of Corruption:  Obama and His Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks & Cronies".   I have not read it, but my understanding is that the book is loaded with information about Dodd, Murtha, Rangel, etc. etc. etc. ad infinitum, ad nauseam.  I just checked and, as of this moment (9:25AM) it is already #2 in sales at

Now, when do our wonderful "neutral" media decide it is ok to report the corruption detailed in Michelle Malkin's book?  I don't mean the one-day-and-out treatment it gets (if it gets any at all), I mean real reporting. 

I'd settle for one fifth as much reporting about the corruption of Dodd et al., as the amount of vicious, offensive, insulting attacks on Sarah Palin for the crime of being Sarah Palin.  It would be an amazing upgrade.

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