Monday, 12 October 2009

OBAMA'S DECLINE (THAT WASN'T)

Ken Berwitz

 

My previous blog cited Liz Cheneys thought on what Barack Obama should do with his ridiculously ill-gotten nobel prize.

 

Now it is Ross Douthats turn.

 

Douthat, who writes a column for the New York Times, also has excellent advice for Mr. Obama advice that he already has not taken.  Here it is:

 

 

October 12, 2009

Op-Ed Columnist

 

Heckuva Job, Barack

By ROSS DOUTHAT

 

This was Barack Obamas chance.

 

Here was an opportunity to cut himself free, in a stroke, from the baggage thats weighed his presidency down the implausible expectations, the utopian dreams, the messianic hoo-ha.

 

Here was a place to draw a clean line between himself and all the overzealous Obamaphiles, at home and abroad, who poured their post-Christian, post-Marxist yearnings into the vessel of his 2008 campaign.

 

Here was a chance to establish himself, definitively, as an American president too self-confident to accept an unearned accolade, and too instinctively democratic to go along with European humbug.

 

He didnt take it. Instead, he took the Nobel Peace Prize.

 

Big mistake.

 

People have argued that you cant turn down a Nobel. Please. Of course you can. Obama is a gifted rhetorician with world-class speechwriters. All he would have needed was a simple, graceful statement emphasizing the impossibility of accepting such an honor during his first year in office, with Americas armed forces still deep in two unfinished wars.

 

Would the world have been offended? Well, to start with, the prize isnt given out by an imaginary world community. Its voted on and handed out by a committee of five obscure Norwegians. So turning it down would have been a slap in the face, yes, to Thorbjorn Jagland, Kaci Kullmann Five, Sissel Marie Ronbeck, Inger-Marie Ytterhorn and Agot Valle.

 

But it wouldnt have been a slap in the face to the Europeans or the Africans, to Moscow or Beijing, or to any other population or great power that an American president should fret about offending.

 

In any case, it will be far more offensive when Obama takes the stage in Oslo this November instead of Morgan Tsvangirai, Zimbabwes heroic opposition leader; or Thich Quang Do, the Buddhist monk and critic of Vietnams authoritarian regime; or Rebiya Kadeer, exiled from China for her labors on behalf of the oppressed Uighur minority; or anyone who has courted death this year protesting for democracy in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

 

True, Obama didnt ask for this. It was obvious, from his halting delivery and slightly shamefaced air last Friday, that he wishes the Nobel committee hadnt put him in this spot.

But he still wasnt brave enough to tell it no.

 

Obama gains nothing from the prize. No domestic constituency will become more favorably disposed to him because five Norwegians think hes already changed the world and the Republicans were just handed the punch line for an easy recession-era attack ad. (To quote the Democratic strategist Joe Trippi, anticipating the 30-second spots to come: He got a Nobel Prize. What did you get? A pink slip.)

 

Overseas, there was nobody, from Paris to Peshawar, who woke up Friday more disposed to work with the United States because of the Nobel committees decision and plenty of more seasoned statesman who woke up laughing. (Vladimir Putin probably hasnt snickered this much since John McCain tried to persuade Americans that we are all Georgians during last years weeklong war.)

 

Meanwhile, the prize makes every foreign-policy problem Obama faces seem ever so slightly more burdensome. Now hes the Nobel laureate who has to choose between escalating a counterinsurgency in Afghanistan or ceding ground to a theocratic mafia. Hes the Nobel laureate wholl either have to authorize military strikes against Iran or construct an effective, cold-war-style deterrence system for the Middle East. Hes the Nobel laureate wholl probably fail, like every U.S. president before him, to prod Israelis and Palestinians toward a comprehensive settlement.

 

At the same time, the prize leaves Obama more open to ridicule. It confirms, as a defining narrative of his presidency, the gap between his supporters cloud-cuckoo-land expectations and the inevitable disappointments of reality. It dovetails perfectly with the recent Saturday Night Live sketch in which he was depicted boasting about a years worth of nonaccomplishments. And it revives and ratifies John McCains only successful campaign gambit his portrayal of Obama as the worlds biggest celebrity, famous more for being famous than for any concrete political accomplishment.

 

Great achievements may still await our Nobel president. If Obama goes from strength to strength, then this travesty will be remembered as a footnote to his administration, rather than a defining moment.

 

But by accepting the prize, hes made failure, if and when it comes, that much more embarrassing and difficult to bear. Whats more, hes etched in stone the phrase with which critics will dismiss his presidency.

 

Slick Willie. Tricky Dick. Jimmy Malaise Carter. Dubya the Incompetent.

 

And now Barack Obama, Nobel laureate.

 

What a great idea. 

 

Barack Obama should have just declined it, on the grounds that there are other more deserving finalists.  The nobel committee (and thanks to Douthat for naming its five members that I never heard of) could then pick someone who actually deserves the honor, while still accomplishing its juvenile goal of using the prize to insult George Bush one more time.

 

But he didnt, did he?

 

Such is the ego of the man.


RADICAL ISLAM: WHY WE FIGHT

Ken Berwitz

 

Why do we fight radical Islam?

 

For reasons like this (from the Associated Press, via www.sweetness-light.com):

Somali Muslim Court Amputates 3 Men

October 10th, 2009

From those defenders of the faith at the Associated Press:

By Mohamed Olad Hassan, Associated Press Writer Sat Oct 10

MOGADISHU, Somalia Six masked men used machetes to carry out amputations on three men accused of robbery by a Somali Islamist court, a witness said Saturday.

Abdulahi Hassan Afrah said the two of the men had both a hand and a foot cut off and a third had only a foot cut off after the Islamic court in the southern port city of Kismayo realized he was already disabled. He said a crowd of around 400 people, mainly women and children, watched the sentence carried out Friday on the three screaming young men.

"It was most painful thing I have ever seen," he said.

A spokesmen for the al-Shabab militia, Sheik Hassan Yaqub Ali, said the three had admitted robbing passengers on board a truck heading to Kismayo.

None of the three were allowed to appeal the sentence or had access to a lawyer

In 2008, the courts in Kismayo ordered a 13-year-old gang rape victim to be stoned to death. But amputations and public floggings are more common.

Ah, the beauty and majesty of Sharia Law.

Soon coming to a courthouse near you.

 We can fight radical Islam and either win or lose.  Or we can choose not fight radical Islam and most assuredly lose.  Because, either way, radical Islam is going to keep fighting.

 

And if we lose, western civilization will be ended.  To be replaced by what?  A society where the penalty for robbery is summary amputation after a trial with no defense or appeal allowed?

 

There are people who want to live this way.  Thats their business.  I know I dont, and I assume you dont either. 

 

Thats why we fight.


THE IDIOCY OF "ZERO TOLERANCE"

Ken Berwitz

What does "zero tolerance" mean?  Here, from Fox News, is your answer:

Year-Old Scout Suspended for Bringing Knife-Fork-Spoon Utensil to School

Monday , October 12, 2009

 

Six-year-old Zachary Christie was so excited to become a Cub Scout that he brought his camping utensil to school. The tool serves as a spoon, a fork and a knife, and Zachary wanted to use it at lunch.

 

What Zachary didn't know was that the gizmo violated his school's zero-tolerance policy on weapons. And now the Christina School District in Newark, Del., has suspended the first grader and ordered him to attend the district's reform school for 45 days.

 

Zachary's parents insist their son did not intend to hurt anyone, and they are fighting to overturn the ruling.

 

"Zachary wears a suit and tie some days to school by his own choice because he takes school so seriously," Zachary's mother, Debbie Christie, told the New York Times. "He is not some sort of threat to his classmates."

 

The school district, in a statement, said rules are rules and defended its decision to suspend the boy.

 

"At this time, the Student Code of Conduct does not take into consideration a child's age in a Level three offense," the statement read.

 

"This is the first incident this year involving a student under the age of seven in possession of a dangerous instrument. Christina School District staff and the Christina Board of Education are constantly examining ways to improve policies regarding student discipline."

 

At a meeting with the school disciplinary committee last week, Zachary's karate instructor and his mothers fianc made the case for the boy's character.

 

And Zachary's mother has started a Web site to attract support for her son before a meeting of the school board on Tuesday.

 Now you know what "zero tolerance" means.

It means an opportunity to use zero brain power, zero logic and zero common sense. 

How proud the Christina School District must be for saving its children from the menace of Cub Scout Zachary Christie.


OBAMA WINS ANOTHER ONE

Ken Berwitz

 FLASH:  President Obama was just named Britain's Poet Laureate

Although he is not a British citizen (that we know of) and does not write poetry, Mr. Obama did read "The Cat in the Hat to his children when they were younger.  And it is rumored that he laughed out loud when Johnnie Cochran said "If the gloves don't fit, you must acquit".

Congratulations to him.


OBAMA WINS ANOTHER ONE

Ken Berwitz

FLASH:  President Obama was just named NFL Player of the Week!

Although he is not in the NFL and has never played competitive football at any level, Mr. Obama has talked a lot about teamwork.

Congratulations to him.

Zeke ..... You take exception to Mr. Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize ? .... .... Do you believe he better qualifies for the Nobel Economics Prize ? (10/12/09)


THE LENO DISASTER

Ken Berwitz

 

What do you do with a late night superstar who is bombing in prime time, and taking down other shows with him?

 

Thats a question I would not want to be in the position of thinking about.  But the NBC brass better start thinking about it.  Fast.

 

Excerpted from todays article in the New York Times:  

 

October 12, 2009

Debate Over Effects of Lenos Show

By BILL CARTER

Two weeks into a new season, the talk of television is the Leno effect and whether it is hazardous to NBCs health.

It is not just a question of how the new Jay Leno Show itself is faring in the ratings, but also what the shows occupation of the 10 p.m. hour on NBC means to the network as a whole.

 

As Shari Anne Brill, the senior vice president and director of program analysis for the advertising agency Carat, put it, Its really looking like dominoes.

 

The dominoes in question are the other parts of NBCs schedule affected by the networks decision to relocate its late-night star, Mr. Leno, to prime time. Even though, as NBC executives point out, it is early in this experiment, signs of potential collateral damage have already emerged.

 

Shows seem to have suffered because they have been displaced to new time periods, like Law & Order SVU, which was the leading drama when it played at 10 p.m. on Tuesdays, but now is finishing last after moving to 9 on Wednesdays.

 

Late newscasts on local stations affiliated with NBC are reporting significant ratings declines, at least partly because of a ratings drop-off in the 10:30 half-hour that precedes them.

 

And the late-night programs, led by The Tonight Show, that have been a perennial source of strength for NBC are no longer the automatic winners against their CBS competition.

 

Conan OBrien, the new Tonight host, has been swamped recently by the tidal wave of publicity surrounding his CBS rival, David Letterman; but he also has been inheriting much smaller audiences than ever before in Tonights history.

 

That means NBCs second act in late night, Jimmy Fallon, is also getting a much weaker lead-in than Mr. OBrien did in the same hour a year ago, and as a result is falling behind his CBS competitor, Craig Ferguson, in audience totals.

 

NBC rightly points out that both its late-night stars remain more popular with younger viewers who are more valuable in selling to advertisers, but in the past NBCs late-night hours were dominant across the board, not just with narrower audience segments.

 

And all of this is playing out against a backdrop of reports that General Electric is in talks with Comcast to sell NBC Universal.

 

Looked at in isolation, Mr. Leno has been doing everything NBC expected of him.

His ratings, after a big first week, have leveled off to about five million viewers a night (though some nights have been much lower) with a 1.5 to 2 rating in the category NBC identifies as all-important, viewers ages 18 to 49, the group many advertisers want to reach.

 

Though most 10 p.m. shows with those kinds of numbers get canceled, NBC has said from the beginning that it could accept much lower ratings because of the enormous cost savings of Mr. Lenos show versus expensive hourlong scripted dramas. The network guaranteed advertisers that it would average only a 1.5 rating.

 

The networks performance over all has not shown signs of a comeback. While somewhat propped up so far by professional football on Sunday night, NBC has not added any standout new shows. The new drama Trauma has already faltered, and a promising new comedy, Community, struggled last week when it was moved to a new 8 p.m. time period.

 

NBC has only two real points of strength now, two hours worth of the reality show The Biggest Loser on Tuesday and the comedy The Office on Thursday.

 

NBC has also emphasized that Mr. Leno needs to be judged over the full year because he will be offering many more original weeks of shows than his competitors.

 

But for some, the judgment is already clear-cut. Producers of shows that have in the past, and could in the future, fill the 10 p.m. hour on several networks are using words like complete calamity and utter disaster to describe the current state of NBC though they are using the words while requesting anonymity because of the potential to be in business with NBC in the future.

 

 

Now thats a problem. 

 

And pretending it doesnt exist wont solve it.

 

The question NBC has to answer is whether there is a realistic chance for Leno to somehow turn this around.  Because if he cant, then continuing with this disaster in progress will only make things worse.

 

And if you think it is implausible that NBC would be so self-destructive, just look at how long CBS has stubbornly kept Katie Carwreck as its news anchor.  

 

As of just a few months ago, NBC news (Brian Williams) led with 7.96 million viewers, followed by ABC News (Charlie Gibson) with 7.15 million.  CBS News with Katie Couric?  5.18 million a disastrously poor third-place showing.  That is after almost three years in the anchor chair.

 

So, as Carwrecks story proves, a network is perfectly capable of taking a bad decision and continuing to run with it, no matter what the cost.

 

Congratulations to NBC for apparently keeping that flame alive with Jay Leno.


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