Thursday, 31 December 2009


Ken Berwitz

Time Magazine, possibly as an accelerant to its already-progressing irrelevance, named Ben Bernanke its person of the year for 2009.

The Times of London, possibly as a demonstration of its continuing relevance - not to mention its simple logic and common sense - named Nedra Soltan instead.

Here's why:


December 26, 2009

Iranian student protester Neda Soltan is Times Person of the Year

Neda Soltan did not vote in her country's election, but was appalled by the rigging of the result. Since she was shot in a democracy protest, her face has become an opposition symbol

Neda Soltan was not political. She did not vote in the Iranian presidential election on June 12. The young student was appalled, however, by the way that the regime shamelessly rigged the result and reinstalled Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Ignoring the pleas of her family, she went with her music teacher eight days later to join a huge opposition demonstration in Tehran.

Even if a bullet goes through my heart its not important, she told Caspian Makan, her fianc. What were fighting for is more important. When it comes to taking our stolen rights back we should not hesitate. Everyone is responsible. Each person leaves a footprint in this world.

Ms Soltan, 26, had no idea just how big a footprint she would leave. Hours after leaving home, she was indeed shot, by a government militiaman, as she and other demonstrators chanted: Death to the dictator.

  • Arash Hejazi, a doctor standing near by, remembers her looking down in surprise as blood gushed from her chest. She collapsed. More blood spewed from her mouth. As she lay dying on the pavement, her life ebbing out of her, I felt she was trying to ask a question. Why? said Dr Hejazi, who tried to save her life. Why had an election that generated so much excitement ended with a government that claims to champion the highest moral values, the finest Islamic principles, butchering its own youth?

A 40-second telephone clip of Ms Soltans final moments flashed around the world. Overnight she became a global symbol of the regimes brutality, and of the remarkable courage of Irans opposition in a region where other populations are all too easily suppressed by despotic governments.

Her name was invoked by Barack Obama, Gordon Brown and other world leaders. Outside Iranian embassies huge crowds of protesters staged candlelit vigils, held up her picture, or wore T-shirts proclaiming, NEDA Nothing Except Democracy Acceptable. The internet was flooded with tributes, poems and songs. The exiled son of the Shah of Iran carried her photograph in his chest pocket.

She was no less of an icon inside Iran, whose Shia population is steeped in the mythology of martyrdom. Vigils were held. Her grave became something of a shrine, and the 40th day after her death an important date in Shia mourning rituals was marked by a big demonstration in Behesht-e Zahra cemetery in Tehran that riot police broke up.

It was not hard to see why Ms Soltan so quickly became the face of the opposition, the Iranian equivalent of the young man who confronted Chinas tanks during the Tiananmen Square demonstrations 20 years earlier. She was young and pretty, innocent, brave and modern. She wore make-up beneath her mandatory headscarf, jeans and trainers beneath her long, black coat, and liked to travel. She transcended the narrow confines of religion, nationality and ideology. She evoked almost universal empathy.

The story of her death was so potent that the regime went to extraordinary lengths to suppress it. It banned a mourning ceremony, tore down black banners outside her home, and insisted that her funeral be private. It ordered her family to stay silent.

In the subsequent weeks any number of leading officials, ayatollahs included, sought to blame her death on British and American intelligence agencies, the opposition, and even the BBC accusing its soon-to-beexpelled Tehran correspondent, Jon Leyne, of arranging her death so that he could get good pictures.

The regime announced investigations that, to no ones surprise, exonerated it and all its agents. It managed to coerce Ms Soltans music teacher into changing his story, but it failed to do the same with Mr Makan, despite imprisoning him for 65 days many of them in solitary confinement. Released on bail, he fled the country making a five-day overland journey to escape.

Dr Hejazi also fled, back to Oxford where he had been taking a postgraduate course in publishing. There he confirmed in an interview in The Times that Ms Soltan was shot by a Basij militiaman on a motorcycle. But the regime still hounds him. It has harassed his family in Tehran, is trying to close his publishing company in the capital, and has accused him of helping British agents to kill Ms Soltan. It stages demonstrations outside the British Embassy demanding his extradition. He would be arrested the moment he returned to Tehran, meaning that he, his wife and infant son are now exiles.

When The Queens College, Oxford, established a scholarship in Ms Soltans name the regime sent the university a furious letter of complaint.

Back in Tehran, the regime tried to buy off Ms Soltans parents by promising them a pension if they agreed that their daughter was a martyr killed by foreign agents.

Her mother, Hajar Rostami Motlagh, was outraged. Neda died for her country, not so that I could get a monthly income from the Martyr Foundation, she said. If these officials say Neda was a martyr, why do they keep wiping off the word martyr in red which people write on her gravestone? ... Even if they give the world to me I will never accept the offer.

Soon afterwards, government supporters desecrated her grave. The regime has not arrested or investigated Abbas Kargar Javid, who was caught by demonstrators seconds after he shot Ms Soltan. The crowd, unwilling to use violence, and with the police the enemy, let him go but not before they had taken his identity card.

Six months on, it is obvious that Ms Soltan did not die in vain. The manner of her death, and the regimes response, has shredded what little legitimacy it had left. She helped to inspire an opposition movement that is now led by her generation, which a systematic campaign of arrests, show trials, beatings, torture and security force violence has failed to crush, and whose courage and defiance has won the admiration of the world.

As the new year approaches, the so-called Green Movement appears to be gaining confidence and momentum. It no longer seems impossible that the regime could fall in 2010. If and when it does, Ms Soltan will be remembered as the pre-eminent martyr of the second Iranian revolution.

Thank you, Times of London, for your eminently reasonable selection.

And congratulations, Time Magazine, for again showing us why you are sinking so far so fast.



Ken Berwitz

It is about 10:10AM Thursday morning.  Way long enough for and to report that Rush Limbaugh was rushed to a hospital in Hawaii with severe chest pains and, as of last night, was reported in serious condition.

Neither has any mention of it at all.  As if it never happened.

I wonder why?


UPDATE:  I checked and it has an article about Limbaugh - with the expected complement of angry, nasty, gloating comments by its readers. 

And also has am article, with the sarcasm "What was he doing there, stalking Obama?"  attached to it.


Ken Berwitz

Note to Rick Sanchez of CNN:  You would have come off better if you just gloated over Rush Limbaugh being in the hospital, instead of wishing him well, while using others to insult and attack him. 

Mike Bates of has the sorry details:

CNN's Sanchez Wishes Rush Well, Then Bashes Him With Viewer Comments

By Mike Bates (Bio | Archive)
December 31, 2009 - 17:33 ET

On this afternoon's CNN Newsroom, anchor Rick Sanchez briefly updated his audience on Rush Limbaugh's medical condition.  He completed his comments with "We wish him well."  Sanchez's good wishes didn't square with the Twitter messages that crawled at the bottom of the screen for his entire program.

Here is a sampling of the tweets he aired:

rush is an excuse for people to be vicariously racist. I have nothing good to say about him except "gotta love karma"  

Rick can we get some answers on if rush's insur. will pay for his hospital stay if it is found out drugs were a part of this

I don't like to wish bad luck on people, but a 2010 without Rush's mouth going off would be fine with me

under yr new health plan Rush may pay higher premiums cuz of weight. Time to hit the treadmill and lose the weight Rush

May rush be worked on by a liberal democrat, feminist doctor who is pro gun control :)

Rush shld take this opportunity, being a New Year, 2 reflect on his treatment of ppl who disagree w/him. His ways R is wrong  

Rush: I hope it's nothing serious; just something that will keep him off the air for the next 40 or so years :)

re Rush, ummm. . .I have to go try that old saying, "if u can't say anything nice, dont say anything at all" lol (biting my tongue)

I'm not fond of Rush L. but I wish him the best. Maybe he will be a little kinder. . . nah

Can't you just feel the love?  Liberals like Sanchez often characterize conservatives as mean-spirited.  Mean-spirited is the ultimate epithet in the liberal lexicon. It's the adjective that they never tire of using, of ascribing to anyone who doesn't share their views. For decades we've been subjected to its wearisome reiteration.

If Sanchez truly wished Rush well, he could have provided some balance to those mean-spirited comments.  He didn't.  Then again, judging by their spiteful observations, many of his viewers wouldn't want him to.    

It's bad enough to be a biased, obnoxious jerk.  But being a biased obnoxious jerk and a weasel to boot?  That's much worse.

On the other hand, it is reassuring to see that Mr. Sanchez' style of "journalism" remains consistent.  I mean, who wants to be surprised by objectivity coming out of nowhere?

free` I think you have to love this one the most, talk about clueless, this person seems to be what they are accusing rush of>>> Rush shld take this opportunity, being a New Year, 2 reflect on his treatment of ppl who disagree w/him. His ways R is wrong (01/01/10)


Ken Berwitz

My sister just sent me an email I saw months ago, and put up in this blog. 

But y'know what?  It's worth putting up again.  So, with thanks to my sister, here it is:

If George W. Bush had been the first President to need a teleprompter installed to be able to get through a press conference, would you have laughed and said this is more proof of how he inept he is on his own and is really controlled by smarter men behind the scenes? 
If George W. Bush had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to take Laura Bush to a play in NYC, would you have approved? 
If George W. Bush had reduced your retirement plan's holdings of GM stock by 90% and given the unions a majority stake in GM, would you have approved? 
If George W. Bush had made a joke at the expense of the Special Olympics, would you have approved? 
If George W. Bush had given Gordon Brown a set of inexpensive and incorrectly formatted DVDs, when Gordon Brown had given him a thoughtful and historically significant gift, would you have approved? 

If George W. Bush had given the Queen of England an iPod containing videos of his speeches, would you have thought this embarrassingly narcissistic and tacky? 
If George W. Bush had bowed to the King of Saudi Arabia , would you have approved? 
If George W. Bush had visited Austria and made reference to the non-existent "Austrian language," would you have brushed it off as a  minor slip? 
If George W. Bush had filled his cabinet and circle of advisers with people who cannot seem to keep current in their income taxes, would you  have approved? 
If George W. Bush had been so Spanish illiterate as to refer to "Cinco de Cuatro" in front of the Mexican ambassador when it was the 5th of May (Cinco de Mayo), and continued to flub it when he tried again, would you have winced in embarrassment? 
If George W. Bush had mis-spelled the word "advice" would you have hammered him for it for years like Dan Quayle and potatoe as proof of what a dunce he is? 
If George W. Bush had burned 9,000 gallons of jet fuel to go plant a single tree on Earth Day, would you have concluded he's a hypocrite? 
If George W. Bush's administration had okayed Air Force One flying low  over millions of people followed by a jet fighter in downtown  Manhattan  causing widespread panic, would you have wondered whether they actually  get what happened on 9-11? 
If George W. Bush had failed to send relief aid to flood victims  throughout the Midwest with more people killed or made homeless than in  New Orleans , would you want it made into a major ongoing political issue  with claims of racism and incompetence? 
If George W. Bush had created the position of 32 Czars who report directly to him, bypassing the House and Senate on much of what is happening in America , would you have approved. 
If George W. Bush had ordered the firing of the CEO of a major corporation, even though he had no constitutional authority to do so, would you have approved? 
If George W Bush had proposed to double the national debt, which had taken more than two centuries to accumulate, in one year, would you have approved? 
If George W. Bush had then proposed to double the debt again within 10 years, would you have approved? 
So, tell me again, what is it about Obama that makes him so brilliant and impressive? Can't think of anything? Don't worry. He's done all this in 5 months -- so you'll have three years and seven months to come up with an answer.  


Ken Berwitz

We've just gotten our latest email from the DSCC (Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee).  I haven't actually counted, but I think we get at least two of these a week.  This latest one is supposedly from Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey (but I have a feeling that if we lived in New York it would have been from Senator Schumer, if we lived in Illinois it would have been from Seantaor Durbin, etc.).

Read it and enjoy the spin --- oh, and my thoughts about its content are in blue:



 We know how their Karl Rove politics work. Is Karl Rove in charge of anything anymore?  Funny, I thought he was doing analysis for the Fox network these days.  I guess the guy I see there just looks a lot like him. 

On Christmas Eve, the Senate passed sweeping health care reform. Not one Republican voted in favor. Trying to deny Democrats a legislative victory was more important than expanding health care to millions of Americans who need it.  Er, actually, one of the key reasons no Republicans voted for the health care legislation is that the Democratic majority you being part of it, Sen. Menendez did not allow any Republican to write even one word of that bill.  Republicans had no input.  They were completely shut out, as if we have one-party rule in this country.  OF COURSE they didnt vote for it.
They will spend the next 11 months spinning our health care victory into a weapon and hitting us with it. 
You mean the victory of passing a bill that, according to virtually every major poll, most voters do not want?  You bet your bippy theyre going to hit you with it, because youve forced them into something against their will.
We might have the momentum now, but we must show the GOP and the pundits that we can sustain it until the 2010 elections. A strong fundraising report will do just that, but we need your help.  Momentum?  With President Obama in the 40s approval-wise, Republicans winning in generic balloting, and Democrats behind in so many key races?  If I were a Republican Id be hoping you sustain this momentum right until election day.
There are only hours left until the DSCC's end-of-quarter deadline at midnight Thursday. We need you to contribute $5 or more right now. Every dollar will make a difference!  But could you make it $1,000?  Please? 

It's hard to believe that Republicans could be so united against legislation that will expand health care coverage to 31 million uninsured Americans, add choices and competition, force insurance companies to abide by strong new regulations and cut costs for families. The bill also reduces our national debt and ensures that Medicare will remain solvent. Republicans are on the wrong side of history on this one.  Let me remind you again that, no matter how many times you say this, it is not just Republicans against the health care legislation.  It is a majority of voters.  And most of us dont believe your legislation will either improve health care or cost less money.  In fact, I suspect most of us think anyone who does believe this is living in a dream world.
Now that they lost this battle, they will be focusing their fight -- and their millions and millions of dollars - on defeating us. That's why it's imperative that we match them now and at every fundraising goal from here on out.  Omigod.  The opposition party wants to defeat you?  Who ever heard of such unprecedented behavior?  What an outrage! 
There are only hours left until the DSCC's end-of-quarter deadline at midnight Thursday. We need you to contribute $5 or more right now. Every dollar will make a difference!

I truly believe that history will not look favorably upon the Republican Party. In the meantime, it's up to us to keep them out of the Senate. 
Keep them out of the senate?  There you go, Mr. Menendez, betraying your real agenda.  There are currently 40 Republican senators, and because you have intentionally shut them out of the entire legislative process you think they dont exist at all.  You have spent the last year treating the Senate as some kind of one-party hideaway and resent the prospect that Republicans might win a few seats and actually have to be included in something.  But too bad for you thats actually the way the country works.

Zeke ... ... Dang ! ! And a CHICKEN in Every POT ? ... ... Reassure us that the Gub'mint is properly funded ! ... ... How much ink does the Treasury have, to print more money. (12/31/09)


Ken Berwitz

The previous blog detailed how Israel handles airport security - thus, how it has kept its airports safe for so many years, even though the risk of terrorism is 100 times greater in Israel than it is in the USA.

Well, in the face of a successful terrorist attempt (he got it on the plane and detonated it.  The "failure" was only the detonating mechanism), here is what our wondrous Homeland Security secretary, Janet Napolitano is going to to.  I just pulled it from  I have decided to show both the article and the comments (5 so far) so you can see what at least the first few people have to say:

Napolitano announces international airport security campaign

By Tony Romm - 12/31/09 04:30 PM ET

The Department of Homeland Security on Thursday announced it would launch a campaign next week to strengthen security screening procedures at a host of international airports.

The effort is part of the White House's heightened response to a Christmas Day attempt to bomb Delta Flight 253 in Detroit, a flight that originated in Amsterdam.

As part of the ongoing review to determine exactly what went wrong leading up to Fridays attempted terrorist attack, we are looking not only at our own processes, but also beyond our borders to ensure effective aviation security measures are in place for U.S-bound flights that originate at international airports, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said in a statement Thursday.

Senior Homeland Security officials will meet with leaders at major airports in Africa, Asia, Europe, South America and the Middle East in the coming weeks "to review security procedures and technology being used to screen passengers on flights bound for the United States," the department announced this afternoon. Napolitano said she would follow up on those meetings with her own "ministerial level" discussions.

Europe will be the first leg of the wide outreach effort, where U.S. officials will brief their European counterparts "on the findings of President Obamas aviation security review," which he ordered last week, according to the department.

The secretary did not provide any other schedule or meeting details.

White House officials have scrambled since Christmas Day to assure passengers that air travel is safe, a mission that has resulted in a host of new security rules on international flights that land in the United States.

Some countries have since followed suit, announcing they would require international passengers to pass through full-body scanners prior to boarding their planes. But U.S. officials perhaps still hope to spearhead a larger, more unified effort to increase airport security.

 Comments (5) 

-I get it, it is the other guys fault. They didn't use scanners cause WE, the U S thought they were too invasive. Now, she is trying to announce she will make them strenthen their proceedureshow about how this guy was not on the no fly list gieven the numerous red flags. She is useless at best.BY Great on 12/31/2009 at 17:33


-I have an idea, how about less announcing and more doing. How about lessening the red tape between the CIA, FBI and airlines. How about getting rid of all these stupid in-flight rules (can't go to RR for final hour of flight, etc) and implementing some real and serious reforms. New scanners, more TSA agents, etc.BY gabe on 12/31/2009 at 17:45


-Why does she still have her job?BY larry on 12/31/2009 at 17:58


-keeping people in their seats the last hour is useless, what would stop someone from blowing it up 2 hrs. before landing? or while over the ocean,or anywhere? that is the stupidest rule i ever heard, she really needs to go.BY cargo65 on 12/31/2009 at 18:05


-I'm announcing a takeover of outer space, and my announcement will have about the same effect.BY Baloney Guy on 12/31/2009 at 18:17

Read the previous blog again.  Then shake your head in disbelief.  Just like I'm doing.


Ken Berwitz

So how do international leaders feel about the competence of President Obama? 

Here's an indication, from Ralph Peters, writing for the New York Post.  The bold print is mine:

Iran deadline just plain dead

Last Updated: 4:31 AM, December 31, 2009

Posted: 1:14 AM, December 31, 2009


Ralph Peters

It's showtime, folks! Today's the deadline President Obama imposed on Iran's leaders to give up their nuclear ambitions and be nice.

Not sure if the deadline expires at midnight in Tehran or on Washington time, but the mullahs and President Mahmoud "Mighty Mouse" Ahmadinejad aren't scrambling to give Obama a New Year's Eve smooch.

Rather than cave in to our president's mighty rhetoric, the Tehran tyrants took a break from killing protesters in the streets to attempt to import more than 1,300 tons of make-a-nuke uranium ore from Kazakhstan.

They've also increased their nuke-cooker centrifuge count, tested new long-range missiles and lied like Persian rugs about hidden nuke sites. In response, our president threatened to huff and puff and blow their house down.

Iran's retort? "Love the cool breeze, Barack."

This is another debacle of Obama's own making. It's a fundamental rule of playgrounds and security policy that you shouldn't make threats you can't or won't back up. But Obama's in love with the sound of his own voice. The fanatics in Tehran are more interested in the sound of a nuclear blast.

Desperate leftists in our country still compare Obama to Bush, insisting that, well, Obama's not doing so badly, not really, not if you really think about it.

Bush, for all his faults, worried our enemies. Obama amuses them.

Obama's primary threat against the Tehran thugs has been sanctions. OK, let's see if he can get internationally recognized sanctions that actually bite. I'm offering 100-to-1 odds in Tehran's favor.

China won't play. Beijing wants Iran's oil and values Tehran as a regional cat's paw.

Dubai won't halt its massive illicit trade with Iran. Local ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum's desert playground is $80 billion in the hole. And smuggling's Dubai's only growth industry these days.

And Russia will cheat on any paper agreements. As will the 'stans of Central Asia. And Qatar, the UAE and Kuwait. Iraq, too. And Pakistan.

Obama's threatened sanctions get even more laughable, since they'd target only Iran's power elite. Insiders in any dictatorship are those best able to duck the pain of sanctions. So Ahmadinejad can't get a visa for a Vegas vacation. That'll teach him a lesson.

Only comprehensive sanctions backed by a military blockade have any chance of working. Otherwise, as we've seen in North Korea, the well-connected continue to feast while the commoners faint from hunger. And there won't be a blockade, folks.

If sanctions weren't enough of a joke, we also have Obama's all-too-obvious reluctance to back the millions of Iranians struggling for freedom and democracy. Our president's empty remarks this week checked the block for nervous American leftists, but provided no useful support to Iranians risking their lives for basic rights.

What should this inept administration do? Provide clandestine, covert and overt support to Iran's freedom crusaders. And funnel money and arms to Baluchi, Kurdish, Azeri and Arab separatists willing to take on the Revolutionary Guard jihadis.

Meanwhile, a paradox arises from those courageous demonstrations in Iran: They really do threaten the monstrous regime of the mullahs -- and that makes Iran's bully-boys even more likely to use nukes as soon as they get them.

If Ahmadinejad and the turbaned tyrants sense that time's running out, they'll launch any nukes they have against Israel in a frantic attempt to kick-start Armageddon and entice the Hidden Imam to return.

These are not rational actors by our standards. They're authentic fanatics. And the (shrinking) civilized world is racing against the clock to change the Tehran regime before the regime can change the world.

President Obama's answer? Make it harder for Iran's rulers to acquire foreign luxury goods. Guess Ahmadinejad and the Ayatollah Khamenei won't be drinking Chateau Margaux or Cheval Blanc at their we-popped-a-nuke celebration.

While Obama dithers, Israel may have to act. The Gulf will explode. Oil will be a bargain at $400 a barrel. The global economy will freeze. And we'll be in the fight anyway.

And then? Obama will interrupt another vacation to explain that those wicked Israelis didn't give his sanctions time to work. And it'll be Bush's fault, too. And America's. And Islam will have nothing to do with religious madmen murdering their own people in the streets and begging Allah to help them nuke their neighbors.

Happy New Year!

This is our fault, folks.  Our fault.

We elected a man who is thoroughly unqualified to be President; a man with no executive, or military, or foreign policy experience.  And we elected a lopsidedly Democratic congress to back him up. 

How much damage can Barack Obama and his congress inflict before the people - many of whom have, if belatedly, caught on to what a disaster Mr. Obama is - can start to reverse this abysmal mistake?  The answer, sorry to say, is plenty.  Look what he's done so far.

The 2010 elections cannot come fast enough.  And that goes double for 2012.


Ken Berwitz

The ObamaCare progression seems to have gone like this:

From "changing health care is a great idea, everyone will love it", to

"Ok, a few right wing crazies don't like it but everyone else does", to

"Ok, a lot of right wingers don't like it but most everyone else does", to

"Ok, those goddamn teabaggers don't like it but pretty much everyone else does", to

"Ok, a lot of people don't like it but we can get the media to marginalize them - we certainly know how to do that", to

"Ok, a lot of people don't like it but we can pass it and then sell it all next year, so they'll still vote for us anyway" to

"Oh s%$t, the polls show that a majority of people don't like it and it might hurt us next year", to

"Oh s%$t, the majority against it is growing and we could get our backsides kicked over this", to......

And now we're waiting to see the next entry.

Here is how Jeffrey A. Anderson of The Weekly Standard sees things:

Rasmussen: Obamacare Disapproval at New High


Rasmussen's health-care polling results since Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid orchestrated the Christmas Eve vote are full of undeniably bad news for Democrats. In roughly ascending order of bad news (if one is a Democrat)...

Likely voters oppose Obamacare by more than the (18-point) margin by which Ronald Reagan beat Walter Mondale: 58 percent to 39 percent.

There are far more likely voters who "strongly" oppose Obamacare (46 percent) than there are likely voters who support it even "somewhat" (39 percent).

Only 24 percent of likely voters think that the quality of health care would get better under Obamacare, while 54 percent think it would get worse -- a gap of 30 percent.

Only 13 percent of likely voters think that the cost of health would go down under Obamacare, while 63 percent think it would rise -- a gap of 50 percent.

Seniors oppose Obamacare by more than 2 to 1: 63 percent to 31 percent.

And the worst news of all for Democrats...

Independents oppose Obamacare by the head-turning tally of 66 percent to 28 percent.

Lest Democrats try to console themselves with the thought that perhaps Rasmussen has got it wrong, CNN's latest poll, from just a few days before the Christmas Eve vote, showed Americans opposing Obamacare by a similar tally: 56 percent to 42 percent.

In light of these numbers -- and in light of the extreme difficulty that the Democrats had in squeezing a bill tailor-made for the House through the House, and one tailor-made for the Senate through the Senate -- anyone who thinks that either the passage or the subsequent implementation of Obamacare is anything remotely resembling inevitable, is forgetting that Tocqueville's book wasn't called Monarchy in America.

 FYI, Tocqueville wrote "Democracy in America", not "Monarchy in America".  Anderson's point, therefore, is that the American people do not like an imperious, answer-to-no-one government ramming ObamaCare down their throats whether they want it or not.


Heck, if Alexis de Tocqueville knew that when his book was published - in 1835 and 1840 - you'd think Mr. Obama, Mr. Reid and Ms. Pelosi could figure it out all these years later.  But, apparently, you'd be wrong.


Maybe some of the numerous at-risk Democrats in congress will have better luck.


Ken Berwitz

For the past year, Israel has continually gotten the back of our hand from the current administration.  But should we even care?  Does Israel have any importance to us as an ally?

I have tried to answer that question many times in many ways.  And here is another. 

The following is excerpted from an article in the Israeli newspaper, Ha'aretz.  The bold print is mine:

It is noon on Kibbutz Sasa, way up in the northern Galilee, at the foot of Mount Meron. Dozens of kibbutz members and hundreds of workers from the kibbutz-owned factory Plasan are thronging as usual to the dining hall for a pauper's meal. The simple lunch and vibrant kibbutz ambiance give no hint of the real story behind Kibbutz Sasa, one of extraordinary success on a global scale. The kibbutz owes its success to the company it runs, Plasan, a manufacturer of ballistic protection solutions for vehicles. In recent years Plasan has positioned itself as the world leader in armor protection technology for vehicles, signing contracts worth billions with major clients, first and foremost the U.S. military.

"It is not customary in our field to compliment rivals," said a senior Israeli defense industry executive who has watched Plasan triumph. "I have spent 30 years in this field, and this is one of the greatest successes in the industry. Their work is exceptional. To convince the U.S. military that you are a reliable outfit is no mean feat. They did it all alone, without any help from a former ambassador or Defense Ministry director general."

"No company, not even the American giants, had what Plasan could deliver: ready-made, effective and proven solutions," the senior industry executive said.

More than six years after their breakout success, Plasan's order book continues to swell. The factory's success is not limited to issuing excellent financial reports. It has also changed the lives of Kibbutz Sasa's 200 members.

Despite the great success and dramatic change in the kibbutz's cash balance, members insist that their way of life has remained practically unchanged.

"The question is what do you want to be when you grow up. Do you want to be a millionaire with a swimming pool, or do you want to go on living in a quaint village in the Galilee? I prefer the village," said Plasan CEO Dan Ziv, the driving force behind the company and the man credited with its big success.

Despite his modest lifestyle, Ziv knows that the mammoth deals Plasan landed in recent years have brought the company and kibbutz millions of dollars.

"At issue is your mentality; how you run your life, and not how much money you have in the bank. There is no simple answer to this," he said.

"We had had some nice projects even before Iraq. The demand for armor protection in Iraq began in 2003, and we were ready to go with proposals for solutions. Also, the main contractors already knew us. We had previously partnered with the truck maker Oshkosh, with which Plasan has signed several big contracts, to provide armored trucks for the British military. After Iraq, it was one project after another. It's already become boring," Ziv said.

The plant's corridors are decorated with thank-you letters blown up to poster size.

"Brian," a U.S. army sergeant fighting in Afghanistan, writes that not a single shot penetrated his vehicle's armor protection, including one that would have hit him in the head had it gone through the door.

"American soldiers come up to us at exhibitions and tell me that they won't get into any vehicle that has not been armor-protected by Plasan. To date, there has not been a single soldier killed by fire while in a vehicle that we armor-protected," said one Plasan employee, while showing battlefield statistics.

Driving over a roadside bomb can be fatal to soldiers sitting in a military vehicle even without suffering a direct hit, because the energy from the blast rises up from the ground and travels up the spine to the brain.

The key word at Plasan is survivability. The armored vehicles are built to manage and absorb the blast energy from an explosive device or a land mine, so as to cause minimum damage to the occupants and the vehicle's vital parts.

The wheels, which frequently set off the charge, are designed to continue functioning after an explosion; the floor in the crew compartment is isolated from the chassis and is connected to the walls and roof. The seats in the crew compartment are not mounted on the floor as in other vehicles, but rather suspended from the roof by ropes that do not conduct energy.

All these are designed to reduce the rising blast energy to non-lethal levels.

How many of our soldiers' lives have been saved by the innovation and quality of Plasan? 

How important is Kibbutz Sasa to our military?

How many of Israel's neighbors supply this kind of value to the United States of America?

Those questions, and their answers, are worth remembering when we discuss our relationship with Israel.

Maybe, someday, President Obama will understand.


Ken Berwitz

When it comes to airport security, we can learn a lot from Israel.  Why don't we?

Read this article from the (Canadian) Star, and see what I mean:

What Israel can teach us about security

At Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv, screening is done in 30 minutes. The key? Look passengers in the eye

While North America's airports groan under the weight of another sea-change in security protocols, one word keeps popping out of the mouths of experts: Israelification.

That is, how can we make our airports more like Israel's, which deal with far greater terror threats with far less inconvenience.

"It is mind boggling for us Israelis to look at what happens in North America, because we went through this 50 years ago," said Rafi Sela, the president of AR Challenges, a global transportation security consultancy. He has worked with the RCMP, the U.S. Navy Seals and airports around the world.

"Israelis, unlike Canadians and Americans, don't take s--- from anybody. When the security agency in Israel (the ISA) started to tighten security and we had to wait in line for not for hours but 30 or 40 minutes, all hell broke loose here. We said, `We're not going to do this. You're going to find a way that will take care of security without touching the efficiency of the airport.'"

Despite facing dozens of potential threats each day, the security set-up at Israel's largest hub, Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion International Airport, has not been breached since 2002, when a passenger mistakenly carried a handgun onto a flight. How do they manage that?

The first layer of actual security that greets travellers at Ben Gurion is a roadside check. All drivers are stopped and asked two questions: How are you? Where are you coming from?

"Two benign questions. The questions aren't important. The way people act when they answer them is," Sela said.

Once you've parked your car or gotten off your bus, you pass through the second and third security perimeters.

Armed guards outside the terminal observe passengers as they move toward the doors, again looking for odd behaviour. At Ben Gurion's half-dozen entrances, another layer of security is watching. At this point, some travellers will be randomly taken aside, and their person and their luggage run through a magnometer.

"This is to see that you don't have heavy metals on you or something that looks suspicious," said Sela.

You are now in the terminal. As you approach your airline check-in desk, a trained interviewer takes your passport and ticket. They ask a series of questions: Who packed your luggage? Has it left your side?

"The whole time, they are looking into your eyes which is very embarrassing. But this is one of the ways they figure out if you are suspicious or not. It takes 20, 25 seconds," said Sela.

Lines are staggered. People are not allowed to bunch up into inviting targets for a bomber who has gotten this far.

At the check-in desk, your luggage is scanned immediately in a purpose-built area. Sela plays devil's advocate what if you have escaped the attention of the first four layers of security, and now try to pass a bag with a bomb in it?

"I once put this question to Jacques Duchesneau (the former head of the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority): say there is a bag with Play-Doh in it and two pens stuck in the Play-Doh. That is `Bombs 101' to a screener. I asked Duchesneau, `What would you do?' And he said, `Evacuate the terminal.' And I said, `Oh. My. God.'

"Take (Toronto's) Pearson (airport). Do you know how many people are in the terminal at all times? Many thousands. Let's say I'm (doing an evacuation) without panic which will never happen. But let's say this is the case. How long will it take? Nobody thought about it. I said, `Two days.'"

A screener at Ben Gurion has a pair of better options.

First, the screening area is surrounded by contoured, blast-proof glass that can contain the detonation of up to 100 kilos of plastic explosive. Only the few dozen people within the screening area need be removed, and only to a point a few metres away.

Second, all the screening areas contain `bomb boxes.' If a screener spots a suspect bag, he/she is trained to pick it up and place it in the box, which is blast proof. A bomb squad arrives shortly and wheels the box away for further investigation.

"This is a very small, simple example of how we can simply stop a problem that would cripple one of your airports," Sela said.

Five security layers down: you now finally arrive at the only one which Ben Gurion airport shares with Pearson the body and hand-luggage check.

"But here it is done completely, absolutely 180 degrees differently than it is done in North America," Sela said.

"First, it's fast there's almost no line. That's because they're not looking for liquids, they're not looking at your shoes. They're not looking for everything they look for in North America. They just look at you," said Sela. "Even today with the heightened security in North America, they will check your items to death. But they will never look at you, at how you behave. They will never look into your eyes ... and that's how you figure out the bad guys from the good guys."

The goal at Ben Gurion is to move fliers from the parking lot to the airport lounge in 25 minutes tops.

And then there's intelligence. In Israel, Sela said, a coordinated intelligence gathering operation produces a constantly evolving series of threat analyses and vulnerability studies.

"There is absolutely no intelligence and threat analysis done in Canada or the United States," Sela said. "Absolutely none."

But even without the intelligence, Sela maintains, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab who allegedly tried to blow up Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on Christmas Day would not have gotten past Ben Gurion's behavioural profilers.

So. Eight years after 9/11, why are we still so reactive?

Sela first blames our leaders, and then ourselves.

"You can easily do what we do. You don't have to replace anything. You have to add just a little bit technology, training," Sela said. "But you have to completely change the way you go about doing airport security. And that is something that the bureaucrats have a problem with. They are very well enclosed in their own concept."

And rather than fear, he suggests outrage would be a far more powerful spur to provoking that change.

"Do you know why Israelis are so calm? We have brutal terror attacks on our civilians and still, life in Israel is pretty good. The reason is that people trust their defence forces, their police, their response teams and the security agencies. They know they're doing a good job. You can't say the same thing about Americans and Canadians. They don't trust anybody," Sela said. "But they say, `So far, so good.' Then if something happens, all hell breaks loose and you've spent eight hours in an airport. Which is ridiculous. Not justifiable."

Does this not make sense?   Would this not make us appreciably safer?

What are we waiting for?  A 9/11 sequel?

Steven Podvoll I would love to see such security implemented here, but if Obama did it, the Republicans would complain about the costs and if Bush had done it, he would have outsourced security to his cronies at Halliburton or Blackwater instead of doing it right. (01/01/10)

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