Wednesday, 26 August 2009

RESUMPTION OF "THE PEACE PROCESS"?

Ken Berwitz

If the UK's Guardian has it right (you decide, after reading the excerpt from yesterday's article which I've posted below), Barack Obama may have found a way to resurrect the so-called "peace process" between Palestinian Arabs and Israel.  The bold print is mine:.

Barack Obama on brink of deal for Middle East peace talks

Barack Obama is close to brokering an Israeli-Palestinian deal that will allow him to announce a resumption of the long-stalled Middle East peace talks before the end of next month, according to US, Israeli, Palestinian and European officials.

Key to bringing Israel on board is a promise by the US to adopt a much tougher line with Iran over its alleged nuclear weapons programme. The US, along with Britain and France, is planning to push the United Nations security council to expand sanctions to include Iran's oil and gas industry, a move that could cripple its economy.

In return, the Israeli government will be expected to agree to a partial freeze on the construction of settlements in the Middle East. In the words of one official close to the negotiations: "The message is: Iran is an existential threat to Israel; settlements are not."

 

Rory McCarthy reports on the hurdles Binyamin Netanyahu might face if he stopped building on occupied territory Link to this audio

Details of the breakthrough deal will be hammered out tomorrow in London, where the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, is due to hold talks with the US special envoy, George Mitchell. Netanyahu met Gordon Brown today in Downing Street, where the two discussed both settlements and the Iranian nuclear programme.

Although the negotiations are being held in private, they have reached such an advanced stage that both France and Russia have approached the US offering to host a peace conference.

If true, this means that United States policy toward Iran will finally be what it should have been all along -- because a nuclear Iran threatens our security as well as Israel's. 

And Israel will allow some settlement construction but not all of it - as it would have if there were no "deal" at all. 

In other words, Mr. Netanyahu's agreement is little other than a face-saver for Mr. Obama, who desperately needs one at the moment.

That said, the payoff of all this is what?  The continuation of a 42 year old series of "negotiations", which have absolutely no meaning unless Palestinian Arabs agree to the concept of peaceful coexistence with Israel. 

Until they do, this is nothing more than a dog and pony show.

Yawn.

free` Ken, I couldn't agree with you more, in order to believe in this so called peace partner, you would have to disregard everything the palestinian leaders say. When is the world going to wake up and realize the palestinians don't want peace. (08/26/09)


THE JIM MORAN/HOWARD DEAN CONCEPT OF DEMOCRACY

Ken Berwitz

Yes, Howard Dean was shouted down by angry protestors at congressperson jim moran's "town hall meeting".

Now, as you watch the video (by clicking here), please note:

-The stacked deck moran gave Dean (all those professionally printed "Thank You" and "Health Care Not War" signs in the front - just coincidence I'm sure);

-The idiotic comment by moran (who is no stranger to idiotic comments) that the protestors are just "a handful of people");

-The equally idiotic comment that they are not from his district (how would he know?);

-And the demand that they leave (yep, that's the ticket.  If they disagree get rid of them):

There you go.  jim moran and Howard Dean's idea of democracy in action.

How do you like it?


TED KENNEDY R.I.P.

Ken Berwitz

Ted Kennedy died this morning at the age of 77.  The cause was brain cancer, which he suffered with for almost two years before succumbing.

I agreed with Mr. Kennedy on some issues and disagreed on a good many others.  But it would be very hard to find a United States Senator who was more dedicated to his beliefs, or more effective at moving them through the legislative process.  And it would be hard to find a United States Senator who was more beloved by his constituents.

May he rest in peace.

 


GOVERNOR SANFORD ASKED TO RESIGN

Ken Berwitz

Excerpted from an Associated Press article:

Bauer to ask embattled Sanford to resign

JEFFREY COLLINS
The Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, August 26, 2009 at 10:47 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, August 26, 2009 at 10:47 a.m.

 

COLUMBIA South Carolina's lieutenant governor will ask embattled Gov. Mark Sanford to resign at a news conference Wednesday, a spokesman said.

 

Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer will agree to stay out of next year's governor's race if Sanford steps down, an offer he first made in June after his fellow Republican admitted a yearlong affair with an Argentine woman.

 

"People need to take their personal, political considerations off the table and think about what's best for the state," Bauer spokesman Frank Adams said.

My take on this:  Sanford has irredeemably disgraced himself, and should have resigned without being asked.  Every day he is in office is a travesty and every day he is in office hurts his party.

Governor Sanford:  Go away.  Now.


DOMINICK DUNNE R.I.P.

Ken Berwitz

Dominick Dunne, the best-selling author, regular contributor to Vanity Fair magazine, and a man with as varied and fascinating a career as you're likely to find, died today in Manhattan at the age of 84.  The cause was bladder cancer.

Dunne was a decorated veteran of WWII, a stage manager for, of all things, the Howdy Doody children's show in the '50's, a recovered addict and alcoholic, a reporter who covered many famous trials (the Menendez brothers among them), and an author who wrote a number of books, most of which sold quite well - with one on the way, which will be published posthumously by Random House.   He is also the father of actor Griffin Dunne.

It is sad that Ted Kennedy's death will probably overshadow Dunne so completely in the media.  But not at this blog.

May he rest in peace.


DARWIN AWARD FINALIST

Ken Berwitz

This genius is definitely in the running. 

From AOL news:

Victim Sees Suspect Wearing Her Clothes

AOL News

posted: 4 HOURS 32 MINUTES AGO

 

(Aug. 26) -- It wasn't hard for Tammy Brown to identify a likely suspect in the burglary of her home.

 

One of her neighbors, Kathleen Lawson, 36, allegedly walked right up to Brown while wearing Brown's own clothes.

 

Brown was planning to move from her home, so much of her belongings were packed. She left her home briefly Monday and returned to find it had been burglarized, reported CBS13 in Sacramento, Calif.

 

"I was shocked," Brown told the local CBS affiliate. "She walked right up the gate and said, 'What are you going to do with the dryer?' I said, 'How do you know there is a dryer? You've gone in my house you are wearing my clothes.'"

 

Brown said Lawson told her she had "good taste in clothes."

 

Lawson faces burglary and drug charges, and two other suspects were also arrested in connection with the case.

.


HEALTH CARE: IS THIS OUR FUTURE?

Ken Berwitz

Want to see your future under government-run health care?

This story, which comes to us from the London Daily Mail, just may be a part of it:

The babies born in hospital corridors: Bed shortage forces 4,000 mothers to give birth in lifts, offices and hospital toilets

By Jenny Hope and Nick Mcdermott
Last updated at 8:36 AM on 26th August 2009

Maternity crisis: Women are giving birth in lifts and even toilets

Thousands of women are having to give birth outside maternity wards because of a lack of midwives and hospital beds.

The lives of mothers and babies are being put at risk as births in locations ranging from lifts to toilets - even a caravan - went up 15 per cent last year to almost 4,000.

Health chiefs admit a lack of maternity beds is partly to blame for the crisis, with hundreds of women in labour being turned away from hospitals because they are full.

Latest figures show that over the past two years there were at least:

  • 63 births in ambulances and 608 in transit to hospitals;
  • 117 births in A&E departments, four in minor injury units and two in medical assessment areas;
  • 115 births on other hospital wards and 36 in other unspecified areas including corridors;
  • 399 in parts of maternity units other than labour beds, including postnatal and antenatal wards and reception areas.

Additionally, overstretched maternity units shut their doors to any more women in labour on 553 occasions last year.

Babies were born in offices, lifts, toilets and a caravan, according to the Freedom of Information data for 2007 and 2008 from 117 out of 147 trusts which provide maternity services.

One woman gave birth in a lift while being transferred to a labour ward from A&E while another gave birth in a corridor, said East Cheshire NHS Trust.

Others said women had to give birth on the wards - rather than in their own maternity room - because the delivery suites were full.

Tory health spokesman Andrew Lansley, who obtained the figures, said Labour had cut maternity beds by 2,340, or 22 per cent, since 1997. At the same time birth rates have been rising sharply - up 20 per cent in some areas.

Mr Lansley said: 'New mothers should not be being put through the trauma of having to give birth in such inappropriate places.

 

More...

'While some will be unavoidable emergencies, it is extremely distressing for them and their families to be denied a labour bed because their maternity unit is full.

'It shows the incredible waste that has taken place that mothers are getting this sort of sub-standard treatment despite Gordon Brown's tripling of spending on the NHS.

'Labour have let down mothers by cutting the number of maternity beds and by shutting down maternity units.'

The NHS employs the equivalent of around 25,000 full-time midwives in England, but the Government has promised to recruit 3,400 more.

However, the Royal College of Midwives estimates at least 5,000 more are needed to provide the quality of service pledged in the Government's blueprint for maternity services, Maternity Matters.

At the same time almost half of all midwives are set to retire in the next decade.

Jon Skewes, a director at the Royal College of Midwives, said: 'The rise in the number of births in other than a designated labour bed is a concern. We would want to see the detail behind these figures to look at why this is happening.

'There is no doubt that maternity services are stretched, and that midwives are working harder and harder to provide good quality care. However, we know the Government is putting more money into the service.

'The key now is to make sure this money is spent by the people controlling the purse strings at a local level.'

Care services minister Phil Hope said: 'The number of maternity beds in the NHS reflects the number of women wanting to give birth in hospital. Giving birth can be unpredictableand it is difficult to plan for the exact time and place of every birth.

'Local health services have plans to ensure high quality, personal care with greater choice over place of birth and care provided by a named midwife.

'We recognise that some parts of the country face particular challenges due to the rising birth rate and that is why last year we pledged to increase funding for maternity by 330million over three years.

'We now have more maternity staff than ever before and we have already met our target to recruit 1,000 extra midwives by September.'

I know I know.  This could never happen under Obamacare.  He promised.

And a man who promised us transparency in government, no earmarks on legislation and no legislation passed until we all got a chance to read it wouldn't lie to us.

Would he?


CHARLES RANGEL: THE MOST CORRUPT PERSON IN CONGRESS?

Ken Berwitz

I don't know if Charles Rangel is the single most corrupt person in congress.  But he has to be in the running.

Over the last year, I have detailed Rangel scandal after Rangel scandal, including his tax cheating, his illegal use of rent-controlled apartments, his financial shenanigans, etc.  And now we have this new one, which comes to us via an article at Congressional Quarterly by Richard Rubin and Alex Knott:

Rangels Wealth Jumps After Disclosure

By Richard Rubin and Alex Knott, CQ Staff

House Ways and Means Chairman Charles B. Rangel , already beset by a series of ethics investigations, has disclosed more than $500,000 in previously unreported assets.

Among the new items on Rangels amended 2007 financial disclosure report were an account at the Congressional Federal Credit Union worth at least $250,000, an investment account with at least $250,000, land in southern New Jersey and stock in PepsiCo and fast food conglomerate Yum! Brands. None of those investments appeared on the original report, which was filled out by hand and filed in May 2008.

According to the original report, Rangels net worth was between $516,015 and $1,316,000, while the amended report showed his net worth, as of Dec. 31, 2007, roughly double that amount at least $1,028,024 and as much as $2,495,000.

Rangel also revised his disclosed investment income from 2007. The original report showed he had received between $6,511 and $17,900, but the new report shows between $45,423 and $134,700. The report also includes eight previously undisclosed financial transactions.

House rules allow lawmakers to exclude their personal residences and report asset values within broad ranges.

Rangels office and his lawyers did not respond Tuesday to requests for comment.

The forensic accounting firm he hired, Watkins, Meegan, Drury & Company, declined to comment.

If there were an "R" instead of a "D" after Charles Rangel's name, it is highly likely that he'd have been removed from congress and in a jail cell already, because of his actions before this latest scandal.

But Rangel has a "D" after his name instead of an "R".  So you'll be lucky to see any mention of his latest disgrace on the network news, the morning shows, the NY Times, the LA Times, etc. etc. etc., let alone any editorial demand that he step down.

Oh, did I forget to mention?  Charles Rangel currently chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, which is responsible for tax law.

Outraged yet?


THE ACLU'S SELECTIVE CONCERN ABOUT PRIVACY RIGHTS

Ken Berwitz

Does the American Civil Liberties Union give a dam about privacy rights?

The answer just may be that they do - when the rights protect enemies of the state - but not when the rights protect people who try to protect us.

Think I'm exaggerating?  Then you better read Michelle Malkin's latest column:

ACLU SPIES ENDANGER AMERICA

Last updated: 4:34 am
August 26, 2009
Posted: 4:33 am
August 26, 2009

SAVOR the silence of America's self-serving champions of privacy. For once, the American Civil Liberties Union has nothing bad to say about the latest case of secret domestic surveillance -- because it is the ACLU that committed the spying.

Last week, The Washington Post reported on a Justice Department inquiry into photographs of undercover CIA officials and other intelligence personnel taken by ACLU-sponsored researchers assisting the defense team of Guantanamo detainees. According to the report, the pictures of covert CIA officers -- "in some cases surreptitiously taken outside their homes" -- were shown to jihadi suspects tied to the 9/11 attacks in order to identify the interrogators.

The ACLU undertook the so-called "John Adams Project" with the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers -- last seen crusading for convicted jihadi assistant Lynne Stewart. (She's the far-left lawyer who helped sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, convicted 1993 World Trade Center bombing mastermind, smuggle coded messages of violence to outside followers.)

Working from a witch-hunt list of 45 CIA employees, the ACLU team tailed and photographed agency employees or obtained other photos from public records. Then they showed the images to suspected al Qaeda operatives implicated in murdering 3,000 innocent men, women and children on American soil.

Where is the concern for the safety of these American officers and their families? Where's the outrage from all the indignant supporters of former CIA agent Valerie Plame, whose name was leaked by Bush State Department official Richard Armitage to the late Robert Novak?

Lefties swung their nooses for years over that disclosure, citing federal laws prohibiting the sharing of classified information and proscribing anyone from unauthorized exposure of undercover intelligence agents.

ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero refused to comment on Project CIA Paparazzi and instead whined some more about the evil Bush/CIA interrogators.

Left-wing commentators and distraction artists are dutifully up in arms about such "inhumane" tactics as blowing cigar smoke in the faces of Gitmo detainees. But it's Romero blowing unconscionable smoke: "We are confident that no laws or regulations have been broken as we investigated the circumstances of the torture of our clients and as we have vigorously defended our clients' interests," he told the Post. "Rather than investigate the CIA officials who undertook the torture, they are now investigating the military lawyers who have courageously stepped up to defend these clients in these sham proceedings."

Courage? What tools and fools these jihadi-enablers be.

Civil-liberties opportunism is literally a part of the al Qaeda handbook. A terrorist manual seized in a Manchester, England, raid in 2005 advised operatives: "At the beginning of the trial . . . the brothers must insist on proving that torture was inflicted on them by state security before the judge. Complain of mistreatment while in prison."

Since 9/11, the "champions of privacy" have recklessly blabbed about counterterrorism operations, endangered the lives of military and intelligence officials at Gitmo and undermined national security through endless litigation. Now, caught red-handed blowing the cover of CIA operatives, they shrug their shoulders and dismiss it as "normal" research on behalf of "our clients."

But don't you dare question their love of country. Spying to stop the next 9/11 is treason, you see. Spying to stop enhanced interrogation of Gitmo detainees is patriotic. And endangering America on behalf of international human rights is the ultimate form of leftist dissent.

I hope you read that carefully.  Because I doubt you'll hear much about it from our wonderful "neutral" media - what we laughingly call "mainstream" media, that is.

But, hey, it's not that important anyway.  It's just the ACLU "outing" people who are trying to protect the country from terrorism, and showing their faces to the people who are trying to destroy us.  What's so important about that?


HEALTH CARE MYTH MYTHOLOGY

Ken Berwitz

The www.yahoo.com headline was all you needed to know where that site is coming from:

 

Ok, why bother to read on?  The story is already told.  There are a bunch of imbeciles out there who are buying into myths about the health care proposals being pushed by Barack Obama and his lopsidedly Democratic congress.

But are they myths?  Or is the myth found in the claim that they are myths? 

Here is an excellent piece about the "myth mythology" from John Hinderaker of www.powerlineblog.com.  The mythology is yahoo's.  the common sense is John's, and the bold print is mine:

Why We Believe "Myths"

August 25, 2009 Posted by John at 7:19 PM

 

This story was highlighted on Yahoo News today: "Majority of Americans Believe Health Care Reform 'Myths.'"

 

More than 50 percent of Americans believe a public insurance option will increase health care costs, according to a new survey on assertions the White House has called myths.

 

The national survey, conducted from Aug. 14 - 18, involved a random sample of 600 Americans aged 18 and older living in the 48 contiguous states and Washington, D.C. Respondents indicated whether or not they believed 19 claims about health care reform, each of which is considered a myth by the White House.

 

The survey was originally reported here. In general, the "myths" are believed by many because they are true, like "Millions of Americans will lose their current health insurance." But let's focus on one example:

 

46 percent believe reforms will result in health care coverage for all illegal immigrants (66 percent of Republicans, 29 percent of Democrats, 43 percent of Independents).

 

Put aside the "all" for a moment: is it a myth that illegal immigrants' health care will be paid for if the current bill passes? The Democrats insist that it is. But, as is so often the case, the Democrats' assurances fall apart if you actually look at the details of the House bill. Congressman Lamar Smith points to a Congressional Research Service analysis of this issue:

 

Open access to Insurance Exchange: HR 3200 contains no provisions preventing illegal immigrants from participating in the Health Insurance Exchange that is to be created, including the government-run "public plan" that will be available through the federally-run and federally-subsidized Exchange.

 

According to CRS: "Under H.R. 3200, a 'Health Insurance Exchange' would begin operation in 2013 and would offer private plans alongside a public option...H.R. 3200 does not contain any restrictions on noncitzens--whether legally or illegally present, or in the United States temporarily or permanently--participating in the Exchange."

No verification mechanism: Democrats point to language in the House bill that says illegal immigrants cannot get benefits. While that may be technically accurate, it is far from the truth.

 

The fact is that the statement is meaningless because the bill contains no verification mechanism to ensure that illegal immigrants do not receive benefits. Democrats defeated amendments in two congressional committees to close this loophole, including amendments that would use the very same verification mechanism that already exist in statute for other federal programs. Why not include the same verification mechanisms in this bill as already exist for other federal benefits programs? Without the requirement that there be a verification mechanism or a specific verification mechanism provided in statute, the Commissioner could determine that the eligibility requirements could be met either without verification or with as little as a signed attestation.

 

According to CRS: "Some have expressed concerns that since H.R. 3200 does not contain a mechanism to verify immigration status, the prohibitions on certain noncitizens (e.g, nonimmigrants and unauthorized aliens) receiving the credits may not be enforced. However, others note that under 142(a)(3) of the bill, it is the responsibility of the Health Choices Commissioner (Commissioner) to administer the "individual affordability credits under subtitle C of title II, including determination of eligibility for such credits."

 

Family eligibility for affordability credits: Section 242(a)(2) of the bill provides that "[e]xcept as the Commissioner may otherwise provide, members of the same family who are affordable credit eligible individuals shall be treated as a single affordable credit individual eligible for the applicable credit for such a family under this subtitle." This suggests that if one member of a family is legally eligible, every family member will be considered eligible. This is significant in terms of numbers -- the Pew Hispanic Center estimated that there are almost two million families in the United States where illegal immigrant parents have U.S.-born children. That does not include other "mixed status families" - one legal parent, one illegal parent and illegal child, etc.

 

According to CRS: "There could be instances where some family members would meet the definition of an eligible individual for purposes of the credit, while other family members would not. For example, in a family consisting of a U.S. citizen married to an unauthorized alien and a U.S. citizen child, the U.S. citizen spouse and child could meet the criteria for being a credit-eligible individual, while the unauthorized alien spouse would not meet the criteria. H.R. 3200 does not expressly address how such a situation would be treated. Therefore, it appears that the Health Choices Commissioner would be responsible for determining how the credits would be administered in the case of mixed-status families."

 

Most Americans, like most Congressmen, haven't read the House bill. But Americans' skepticism about what the effects of the Democrats' legislation will be is amply justified.

 

Via The Corner.

Refresh my memory:  Isn't this the same administration that told us there would be transparency in government, that we would all get a chance to read the bills before congress voted on them, and that the President would not sign legislation that had earmarks embedded in it?  

Since every one of those promises was demonstrably untrue, why then would we believe the same people when they call our concerns about the health care legislation "myths"? 

The only surprise to me is that so many are still buying into their baloney.


JEFF JACOBY EXPLAINS CASH FOR CLUNKERS

Ken Berwitz

Here is Jeff Jacoby's column from today's Boston Globe.  It explains the "cash for clunkers program just about perfectly. 

See if you agree:

Clunker Q&A

by Jeff Jacoby
The Boston Globe
August 26, 2009

Q: CONGRESSMAN, was "Cash for Clunkers" a success?

 A: Of course it was! I'm surprised you'd even ask. "It has been successful beyond anybody's imagination," President Obama said last week. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood said he was thrilled "to be part of the best economic news story in America." GM executive Mike DiGiovanni raved that "it really is all thumbs up," a rare example of an undertaking "that it's hard to find anything negative about." If that's not success, I don't know what is.

Q: If it has been such a wonderful program, why did it end this week?

A: Well, nothing wonderful lasts forever. All the money available for rebates has been claimed, so the program has come to a close.

Q: But why close down "the best economic news story in America?" You extended it once; why not a second time? Why not keep it going forever?

A: You forget that Congress has other priorities too. Cash for Clunkers has been terrific for automobile dealers, but there is more to the economy than cars.

Q: Oh, you mean you're now going to offer rebates to consumers who buy other things, like new couches or paint jobs or airplane tickets?

A: No, that wasn't exactly what I --

Q: But aren't those purchases as deserving of subsidies as cars? Surely Congress wants to help furniture dealers and housepainters and airline employees too?

A: Yes, of course, but -- I mean -- well, let me think about that.

Q: By the way, if the "clunkers" program were really such a boon for the auto business, why did so many car dealers back out of it early?

A: "So many?" Don't exaggerate!

Q: It's no exaggeration, congressman. Associated Press reported that AutoNation, the largest dealership chain in America, pulled out of Cash for Clunkers last Thursday -- three full days before the deadline. Automotive News ran a story about other dealers who found the government so difficult to deal with that they got out even earlier. "It's just a mess, an absolute mess," one of them said. The News surveyed dealerships, and more than one-eighth of those responding said they had stopped doing "clunker" deals because it was such a bureaucratic nightmare. According to the New York Post, half of the Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association dropped out early. Does that sound like something the president should be calling "successful beyond anybody's imagination?"

A: OK, maybe there have been snafus with the government's computers and whatnot, but you're missing the forest for the trees: This has been an incredible shot in the arm for the economy. Thousands of jobs have been created or saved, and hundreds of thousands of cars were sold.

Q: Yes, but for every car sold, a car had to be destroyed. I understand why that might make GM happy. But how does the destruction of 750,000 used cars -- all of which had to be in drivable condition to qualify for a rebate -- help your constituents who can't afford a new car? All this program did for them was guarantee that used cars will become more expensive. Poorer drivers will be penalized to subsidize new cars for wealthier drivers. Isn't that immoral?

A: Look, there are tradeoffs to everything. You're overlooking all the benefits that those new car sales will generate.

Q: No, I'm refusing to ignore all the costs that inevitably accompany those benefits. Congress and the administration took $3 billion from taxpayers in order to boost car sales. That's $3 billion taxpayers will not be able to spend on groceries or tuition or a down payment on a new house. Before you can credit Cash for Clunkers with the "multiplier effect" of those new-car sales, you have to charge it with a negative multiplier effect at least as great: all the jobs and growth and stimulus that won't materialize because the government decided to spend $3 billion disabling, crushing, and shredding used cars. Don't you see that everything government does, it does at someone's expense?

A: You can say what you like, but this was a popular program.

Q: According to the polls, 54 percent of Americans opposed it. You call that popular?

A: Look, I have to go. But let me just say this: If Cash for Clunkers were as dubious as you suggest, it wouldn't have had so many takers.

Q: Oh, for heaven's sake, congressman: If you give away money, won't people always line up to take it?

 Remember, again:  This is the same government that wants to take over your health care. 

You ok with that?


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