Saturday, 20 February 2010


Ken Berwitz

First a quick review:

-As deputy Attorney General, eric holder advised then-President Clinton that it was fine and dandy to pardon 16 jailed FALN (Puerto Rican terrorists), even though virtually everyone else in his own administration advised Mr. Clinton not to;

-As a private citizen, eric holder was senior partner in the law firm of Covington & Burling, which has made it something of a mission to defend terrorists.

Regarding the FALN disgrace, here is how the Los Angeles Times (which ain't exactly a charter member of the vast right wing conspiracy) described it in an article about holder last January (the bold print is mine):

WASHINGTON After five years of often bitter internal debate, the Justice Department concluded in a report released Friday that the lawyers who gave legal justification to the Bush administrations brutal interrogation tactics for terrorism suspects used flawed legal reasoning but were not guilty of professional misconduct.

Holder had no comment for this article, but a spokesman for President-elect Barack Obama's transition team said Holder's actions were appropriate.

President Clinton's decision to commute prison terms caused an uproar at the time. Holder was called before Congress to explain his role but declined to answer numerous questions from angry lawmakers demanding to know why the Justice Department had not sided with the FBI, federal prosecutors and other law enforcement officials, who were vehemently opposed to the grants.

With credentials like these, you would think that any President serious about fighting terrorism wouldn't let eric holder anywhere near a position of power.  The fact that Barack Obama made him our Attorney General, therefore, should tell you plenty.

Further, as anyone with cognitive reasoning would probably have expected, if you put an eric holder into power he is going to bring like-minded people in with him.

So the following excerpts from a piece by Byron York, published yesterday in the Washington Examiner, should not surprise you.  They might disgust and scare you, but not surprise you:

Holder admits nine Obama Dept. of Justice officials worked for terrorist detainees, offers no details

By: Byron York
Chief Political Correspondent
02/19/10 3:52 PM EST

Attorney General Eric Holder says nine Obama appointees in the Justice Department have represented or advocated for terrorist detainees before joining the Justice Department. But he does not reveal any names beyond the two officials whose work has already been publicly reported. And all the lawyers, according to Holder, are eligible to work on general detainee matters, even if there are specific parts of some cases they cannot be involved in.

Holder's admission comes in the form of an answer to a question posed last November by Republican Sen. Charles Grassley. Noting that one Obama appointee, Principal Deputy Solicitor General Neal Katyal, formerly represented Osama bin Laden's driver, and another appointee, Jennifer Daskal, previously advocated for detainees at Human Rights Watch, Grassley asked Holder to give the Senate Judiciary Committee "the names of political appointees in your department who represent detainees or who work for organizations advocating on their behalfthe cases or projects that these appointees work with respect to detainee prior to joining the Justice Departmentand the cases or projects relating to detainees that have worked on since joining the Justice Department."

Holder says other Obama appointees, like Holder himself, came from law firms which represented detainees but did no work on behalf of the terrorist prisoners. But other than Katyal and Daskal, Holder does not reveal any names of any Obama appointees, nor does he mention the cases they worked on.

And what are they recused from, anyway? Very little. Holder writes that Katyal has not worked on any Guantanamo detainee matters but has participated in litigation involving detainees who continue to be detained at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan and in litigation involving [Ali Saleh Kahlah] al-Marri, who was detained on U.S. soil." As for Daskal, "she has generally worked on policy issues related to detainees," Holder writes. "Her detainee-related work has been fully consistent with advice she received from career department officials regarding her obligations."

As for everyone else, Holder lists no names and no cases, but in a paragraph filled with modifiers, he makes it clear that all the lawyers who had advocated for detainees are free to work on general detainee matters.

Finally, it is possible that there are more than nine political appointees who worked for detainees. Holder tells Grassley that he did not survey the Justice Department as a whole but instead canvassed several large offices within the organization.

Bottom line: Holder revealed no names beyond the two already publicly known. He revealed no cases from which Justice political appointees recused themselves. The letter, which will likely be interpreted on Capitol Hill as a thumb-your-nose statement, is sure to anger Republican senators more than satisfy them.

Can you possibly believe that the holder justice department is anywhere near as committed to fighting terrorism (also known as protecting this country from the people who want us all either under shari'a law or dead) as the last one?

Can you possibly think we are as safe, or anywhere near as safe as we were before holder became Attorney General?

And can you possibly believe that President Obama, the man who selected holder for this position and whose team said his FALN recommendations were appropriate, is as serious about fighting terrorism as President Bush was?

That's worth thinking about now.  And worth it even more in November.


Ken Berwitz

Frank Lautenberg, whom I blogged about just a few days ago, has stomach cancer.  His doctor says it is fully curable and Lautenberg says he will not resign.

I believe the doctor.  I doubt the patient.

Frank Lautenberg is 86 years old and has cancer.  Treatments will take place over a period of months.  It is hard to imagine him not being debilitated by those treatments and the cancer itself. 

On a personal level, I respect Mr. Lautenberg greatly (though we obviously disagree on many issues) and wish him a full recovery.

On a political level, any day he decides he must resign the senate will not surprise me at all.


Ken Berwitz

I am posting this as a public service for airline travelers - especially airline travelers who use US Airways.

Yesterday I was on a US Airways flight to Philadelphia, with a change of planes and then on to Newark Airport.  At the originating city (for client confidentiality reasons I can't say which), we were advised that our plane was smaller than expected, so there would be limited space in the overhead bins.  The gate attendant implored travelers to check our bags instead of bringing them on the plane.

I'll bet you already know where this is heading. 

I decided to be a good guy and, against my better judgment, had my carry-on bag checked in and put in the belly of the plane.

At Newark, after watching all the luggage come out, all the people get their luggage and leave, but not seeing mine, I walked into US Airways' baggage office.  The pleasant and helpful person behind the counter conversationally informed me that my bag didn't get to Newark because "there wasn't enough room on your flight":  a little something that no one told me about before the plane took off, and no one was at the carousel to tell me about after the plane landed.  My bag had a huge label with my name on it, so it wasn't like they didn't know. 

The idea, evidently was that I should stand there and wait as long as possible. 

In any event, I was told that it would arrive "at 5".  I could either hang around for two hours (after already traveling for much of the day), or it would be delivered to my home "this evening".  

Fortunately for me, I chose to go home.  Because when I didn't receive the bag by 8:30PM, and called US Airways, I was told that it didn't get on the next plane either (hey, why would there be any priority for a bag that already missed one plane, and why would they call and tell me it was going to be later?  Who do I think I am).  I was then informed that the bag was coming in at 9:30PM (to be exact, I think it was 9:31), I would be called by 10:00PM, and would then be given information on when it was being delivered.

As you might have guessed, no one called.  So I called back between 10:30 and 11:00.  I was told the bag it had arrived, was probably already on the way to my home and it would be delivered by midnight (fair enough, since I live within an hour of the airport).  I told them it to just leave it at the front door.

I waited up for a while but no bag came, so I finally went to bed well after 11:00. 

This morning?  Still no bag. 

I called again.  This time I got an agent who pleasantly and conversationally told me that they do not deliver bags to a residence that late.  She had nothing but an "I'm so sorry for that" when I asked how come I was told the exact opposite the night before.

She then told me my bag was going out early in the morning and that I could expect to get it by 8:00AM - but that I should keep a 4-6 hour window open.  Call me a pessimist, but, to me, that means somewhere between 8:00AM and 2:00PM.  .

It is now 9:50 AM and no bag yet. 

FYI, the bag has - or maybe I should say had; who knows anymore - my clothing, personal effects, electronic equipment, my notes from two different meetings and all the materials from the research project I was conducting - which I will need for additional work next week.

I'm trying to stay calm about this.  But it isn't easy. 

Y'know that old adage "no good deed goes unpunished"?  I've heard it but always ignored it.  Not anymore.

In the future it will take a crowbar to separate me from my carry-on luggage.  And a lobotomy for me to believe anything anyone US Airways ever tells me.


UPDATE:  The luggage finally arrived at about 11:00AM.  Everything seems to be in it.  Hallelujah.

FarmerJoe I've had the misfortune of being booked on US Airways for business trips and they have to be the worst airline in the world. 3 of the 4 trips I've been forced to use them (because of company travel rules), they've "misplaced my luggage" (claiming that my body being in Newark and my checked bags being in Chicago isn't technically "lost". The one trip where they didn't "misplace" my bags involved a 9 hour delay in the Philadelphia airport waiting for them to decide if they would cancel the flight, or bring another airplane to replace ours. After 7 hours of "we'll let you know in a minute", the gate agent was kind enough to give us $10 food/drink vouchers, but unfortunately all of the airport vendors had closed and gone home an hour before. (02/20/10)

FarmerJoe I wrote them a nasty email and they offered me a $100 voucher. I told them they could stuff their voucher, as I'd never fly with them again. 4 years later I still haven't. (02/20/10)



Ken Berwitz

The New York Times has descended so far that demonstrating its bias could, if I wanted, be a pretty-much everyday affair.  But in the interests of not being tedious I tend to pick and choose among the more egregious examples.

We have one today.

Yesterday, the justice department issued a final report on John Yoo and Jay Bybee, whose legal opinions were influential in how the  Bush administration interrogated terrorist suspects.  The report criticized them for judgment, but exonerated them of doing anything wrong.

Let's stop here for just a moment.  Let's reflect on the fact that this is a very different justice department than there was in the Bush administration.  This one is led by Attorney General eric holder, who not only has a rich history of defending terrorists (more on this in the next blog) but is a gung-ho Obama appointee more than eager to put the wood to the last administration's policies.  If this justice department says they're innocent, baby, they're innocent.

So what is the New York Times' headline - which many Times readers will never go beyond to see the whole story?  It is:

Report faults 2 Authors of Bush Terror Memos

And what do the first two paragraphs say?

WASHINGTON After five years of often bitter internal debate, the Justice Department concluded in a report released Friday that the lawyers who gave legal justification to the Bush administrations brutal interrogation tactics for terrorism suspects used flawed legal reasoning but were not guilty of professional misconduct.


The report, rejecting harsher sanctions recommended by Justice Department ethics lawyers, brings to a close a pivotal chapter in the debate over the legal limits of the Bush administrations fight against terrorism and whether its treatment of Qaeda prisoners amounted to torture.

In other words, the Obama/holder people do not agree with the lawyers' opinions, but are forced to conclude that neither did anything wrong.

Heeeyyy, I have a great idea.  What about a headline that said:

Report Exonerates 2 Authors of Bush Terror Memos

             Flawed Legal Reasoning,  But No Professional Misconduct

What a dreamer I am!!

If the Times had used that headline/sub-head, it would have accurately reflected the main point of the story (that Yoo and Bybee were exonerated of any wrongdoing) and noted that the justice department criticized their legal reasoning.  In other words, it would have told the truth.

But we don't live in a dream, do we?  We live in the real world and this is the New York Times. 

So forget the whole thing.


Ken Berwitz

President Obama and his lopsidedly Democratic congress are in the process of bestowing a second "stimulus package" on us. 

You may wonder why that is necessary since - if you believe Obama & Co. - the first one did such a bangup job.  But, hey, why carp about almost a trillion dollars, right?

On the other hand, if you've got a problem with that last sentence (me too), I have a column for you to read.  It is by Anthony Cline of, and it is excellent:

The Preposterous Stimulus Bill

Only 6 percent of Americans believe the stimulus bill passed a year ago this week has created jobs, a CBS News/New York Times poll reported last week. Six percent. Nearly six times as many Americans believe in ghosts as believe President Obama's jobs claims. It isn't hard to see why. All you have to do is go to the government's own website,, and look at the numbers. The site reports 1.2 million jobs funded by the stimulus bill by the end of 2009. Note the terminology. That's jobs funded, not created. The administration switched from jobs "created or saved" to jobs "funded" for accuracy's sake. Or maybe to stop the mockery. Either way, it's a telling methodology.

President Obama would have us believe that the stimulus is working because the government spent a bunch of money, and that money funded 1.2 million jobs. And he has the nerve to complain that dividing the number of jobs funded into the amount spent to come up with a price per job is simplistic.

If creating jobs were that easy, the government could simply tax the country into endless prosperity. But the money has to come from somewhere. For the stimulus bill, it was borrowed. That borrowing, combined with the rest of the massive government debt-taking in the past year, has left less money available for investors. Which means fewer jobs funded by the private sector than otherwise would have been.

The question is not: How many jobs were funded by the stimulus bill? The question is: How many jobs would have been funded if that same money had been put to other uses? The American people seem to think, not unreasonably, that more jobs would have been created without the stimulus bill than with it.

They also seem to understand that there is a big difference between a permanent private-sector job and a temporary stimulus job. reports that of the 634,000 stimulus jobs funded from Feb. 17 to Oct. 1, 2009, 601,000 were funded by grants. The largest grant recipient was the Governor's Office of Planning and Research in Sacramento, Calif. The second-largest was the Executive Office of the State of Washington. The third largest was "New York, State of." Go down the list. They're almost all state offices.

The bulk of the stimulus money was given to governors to spend on shoring up their state budgets. That money went primarily to employ government workers. A small fraction went to vendors.

The fraction of stimulus funds that were contracts, not grants, and went to "shovel-ready" projects went, of course, to short-term construction projects. When those projects are done, those jobs will cease to exist. The same can be said for many of the government jobs funded this past year. Many school districts, for instance, have already burned through their stimulus money. A lot of teachers will get pink slips this spring.

Much of the stimulus amounted to a "cash for clunkers" for jobs. "Cash for clunkers" basically moved car purchases from the future to last summer, meaning it delayed many auto industry layoffs. The stimulus bill moved the date of a lot of other layoffs. Instead of coming last year, they'll come this year.

So even though the Obama administration can point to specific jobs and say they were funded by the stimulus spending, it cannot say the jobs are permanent, or that the stimulus was the most effective way to create the largest number of jobs.

If the American people don't believe the stimulus bill created jobs, it's not just because of the inflated numbers in early reports of jobs "created or saved" last year. It's because the very idea of politicians creating lasting economic strength by borrowing $787 billion and doling it out to other politicians is simply preposterous. Even more preposterous than ghosts.

That, folks, is the real "stimulus package".  And now Mr. Obama and his merry spendaholics are going to foist a second round of so-called "stimulus" on us.

The 2010 elections cannot come fast enough.

And that goes double for 2012.

free` Something i don't see mentioned is that porkuless 1 is supposed to spend more money this year than it did last year when it passed. So why would they need to pass a new spending bill this year if the first one is still be spent? This government is a disaster. (02/20/10)

Zeke ... ... There is no doubt the Stimulation Package worked... ... Chris Mathews said he felt the TINGLE run up his leg ... ... Nearly $800 billion to give Chris that Thrill. (02/20/10)


Ken Berwitz

Here, from " and wire service reports", is one for the sore-loser hall of fame:

Plushenko rips Lysacek; Russia won't contest result

Lysacek responds after Russian says American not 'true champion'

By and wire service reports

The outcome of the men's figure skating competition at the Winter Games has been debated from Vancouver to Moscow and back. But a Russian officials has said his country will not officially protest American gold medal.

Yevgeny Plushenko, hoping to become the first man in almost six decades to win back-to-back Games titles, lost to the American by 1.31 points on Thursday. He told Russian media afterward that Lysacek could not be considered "a true men's champion without a quad."

Still, Russia will not challenge the results, the minister of sport, toursim and youth politics of Russia Vitaly Mutko said in an interview to RIA news.

Judging is an eternal problem. But, the system of judging is the way it is, and one has to fit into it, instead of criticizing it, said Mutko.

What is there to dispute? Things like that do not warrant issuing protests, he added.

On Friday, Lysacek, who said he had not yet been to sleep or taken off his medal, was diplomatic about the dispute. But, he admitted, he was "a little disappointed" in Plushenko.

"For him to discredit the field is not right, it's probably the strongest field there has ever been," Lysacek said at a news conference.

"It's tough to lose, especially when you think that no matter what you are going to win," he said.

"It's a really tough pill to swallow and I'm sure he said stuff in the heat of the moment that maybe he doesn't mean so we'll just try to not take it out of context and give him the benefit of the doubt.
Congratulations to him on a third Olympic medal."

In a telegram to Plushenko, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin climbed into the controversy and took his congratulations one step further.

"Your silver is worth gold," The prime minister wrote. 

"You were able to overcome all the obstacles in your brave comeback and performed the most accomplished program on the Vancouver ice."

"All Russian figure skating fans admire your brilliance, true fighting spirit, courage and the will to win. Well done!"

Lysacek did not attempt a quadruple jump in either Tuesday's short or Thursday's free programs, instead wowing the judges with artistry and exquisite footwork.

"For someone to stand on top of the podium with the gold medal around his neck by just doing triple jumps, to me it's not progress, it's a regress because we've done triples 10 or even 20 years ago," Plushenko said.

"Just doing nice transitions and being artistic is not enough because figure skating is a sport, not a show," he said.

"Of all the men who had competed tonight, only two -- myself and (Japan's) Takahiko Kozuka (who finished eighth) -- were able to land a clean quad.

"Later, when I saw Kozuka I shook his hand and congratulated him, saying 'Well done'. I also have a lot of respect for (Japan's bronze medalist) Daisuke Takahashi for trying to attempt a quad. That's a sign of a (future) champion."

Deserved gold
Plushenko, who came out of a 3-1/2-year retirement last month, said he was a victim of poor judging.

"I did a great short program but didn't get the marks I deserved. When I asked why they told me I was skating early and they had to retain top marks for the last group," he said.

"Then, in the free program I was the last to skate, did everything clean and still didn't get the marks. I thought I had done enough to get the gold but the judges gave it to someone else."

Most Russian TV analysts and commentators said Plushenko was robbed of a deserved gold by the judges.

When Plushenko walked into the RTR studio in Vancouver, host Alexei Popov presented him with a symbolic medal.

"You already have one gold and one silver so here's a platinum medal for you," Popov told the skater. "You are the real champion."

Another commentator called the decision scandalous, in the same mold as judging controversies at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics.

"We'd seen this before. In 2002 Irina Slutskaya unfairly was placed second in the short program so that Sarah Hughes could get a better shot at winning the gold," Alexei Vasilyev said.

Russia's Slutskaya, a favorite for the women's title in Salt Lake City, finished second behind American Hughes.

Incensed by what they thought was poor and biased judging, the Russians filed a protest, arguing Slutskaya had skated as well as, if not better than, Hughes. It was rejected.

"So what if Slutskaya lost?" asked the commentator.

"Who now remembers Hughes? Similarly, in a few years' time nobody will remember Lysacek while Plushenko would go down in history as one of the greatest of all time."

They won't protest?  How good of them.

Look, if the judges were all from, say, the USA and Canada, I could see their point.  But the judges were from all over the world.  They evaluated each skater using the same criteria.

If Plushenko thinks that doing a quad inherently puts him above anyone who doesn't, maybe he should quite ice skating and go into acrobatics.  The last time I checked, style, artistic interpretation and how cleanly each move is made affect judging too.  To read what Plushenko and his Russian cohorts said, you would think that this was a two-man competition and Lysacek, along with everyone else except  and Takahiko Kozuka, might as well not have shown up at all.

What a bunch of brown, puckered A-holes they are.

In any event, my strongest congratulations to the gold medalist,  EVAN  Lycacek  (I thought I would put his first name in capital letters and bold print, since didn't bother to mention it -- even though every other skater in the article was given the courtesy and respect of being referred to by their full names.) 

Maybe there are a few brown, puckered A-holes over at too.

Zeke ... ... I am a One-Trick Pony. ... ... If you don't make everyone do MY Trick, then nobody knows anything. ... ... Now, I am going to take my marbles and play elsewhere. (02/21/10)


Ken Berwitz

I just watched a 4 1/2 minute video of bill maher's show, "Real Time", during which he and seth MacFarlane, who created of "The Family Guy" TV series, exchange some of the sickest, most depraved vomit you will ever see on TV. 

If you want to see what I'm talking about, click here.  And be sure to keep a barf bag nearby, because you may need it.

There is so much that is so wrong with this, it is hard to pick and choose which things are the worst.  Let's list out a few:

-The supposedly funny image of Sarah Palin's Down Syndrome child with "F-U Seth MacFarlane" written on his palm;

-The gratuitous and unending insults to every conservative they could fit into the segment, for no reason other than an apparent belief that if people are to the right you can say anything about them, no matter how disgusting;

-The cheap shot of calling former President Bush retarded - to loud laughter and applause from maher's equally repulsive audience (more on that further on);

-And, very especially, the invoking of a Down Syndrome actor MacFarlane uses to play a Down Syndrome character on the show (macfarlane claimed she released a statement essentially saying there's no problem with any of this and it's all great). 

As you may or may not be aware, people with Down Syndrome typically have IQ's in the 30-60 range.  Assuming that the actor in question is at the high end of this range, macfarlane is exploiting someone with an IQ of 60 - far below normal - to justify the sick filth he is getting her to do.  With no disrespect of any kind to anyone with Down Syndrome, I have trouble believing she is capable of putting out the "statement" he is attributing to her.  I think it is a pretty fair bet she was "helped" by someone - maybe macfarlane himself -- to say what, amazingly and remarkably, turns out to be exactly what he would want her to say. 

A little like the ACORN workers who "help" people vote. 

But of all the things wrong with this segment (and, in my opinion, this show), the single worst is maher's audience.

The people in maher's audience certainly know what kind of "humor" he provides (if not the subject matter of the specific episode they are attending).  So we start with the obvious fact that they like what he does per se.  

Now, add in the fact that maher, like any other personality with an audience show, "owns" his audience.  They're fans - that's why they got the tickets to see him - so they're strongly disposed to "like" whatever he says, and will applaud and laugh to show him how much they're on his side.  In maher's case, this appears to translate into a bunch of mind-numbed robots who will rationalize a way to laugh at his "humor", regardless of how sick it is.

I suspect that if maher just looked at the audience, stuck up his middle finger and said "your mothers are all a bunch of whores", he would be greeted with laughter and maybe even some applause too.

I pity anyone who is entertained by what maher does.

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