Saturday, 10 April 2010

THE CRASH: YOU HAVE TO WONDER

Ken Berwitz

I have no basis to make any accusation. 

But, from CNN (and numerous other sources)....

Experts say the deaths of senior military chiefs in Saturday's plane crash could have more serious implications for Poland than the loss of the country's president.

 

President Lech Kaczynski was killed Saturday when a plane carrying senior Polish officials on their way to a memorial service in Russia crashed at an airport in Smolensk.

 

Ninety-seven people were killed including the president's wife, the deputy parliament speaker, the deputy foreign minister and the head of the National Bank of Poland.

 

"The entire top military brass, including the chief of defense and all the services, were on the plane," said Tomas Valasek, of the Center for European Reform. "If that is true, then you're looking at a situation, in effect, of the decapitation of the military services."

 

Among the military leaders confirmed dead are Aleksander Szczyglo, head of the National Security Office, Gen. Franciszek Gagor, head of the army chief of staff and Bishop Tadeusz Ploski, an army chaplain.

You have to wonder.  That's all I'm saying.

Zeke .... .... One has to question all the 'facts'. Ironically, the Polish delegation was going to Russia to .... commemorate [?] the Kaytn Forrest Massacre. Uncle Joe Stalin's Red Army's advance had freed 15,000 Polish officers from Nazi POW camps. On Stalin's orders, the POW's were executed by the Soviets, in order to eliminate potential resistance to Russian rule over post war Poland. ..... There is a very moving memorial to this event in Baltimore. ... ... On the plane crash: ..... 1) The aircraft was a 25 yr old Russian Tu-154 ... a type no longer in service in Russia. 2) The plane crashed on its FOURTH attempt to land in heavy fog. 3) The pilot was offered an alternative city to land, but refused it. ... ... ... Did Russian ground control send false signals on the blind approach, causing the plane to crash short of the runway ? .... This was the Polish presidential aircraft, presumably with a senior aircrew. ... ... Poland has been moving away from Russia's hegemony ... this is a 'perfect solution' to that. ... A ruthless solution ... but does anyone doubt that the guys who invaded Georgia last year would hesitate ? (04/10/10)


BARACK OBAMA'S NUCLEAR EXPERTISE

Ken Berwitz

Remember that old adage that people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones?

From John Hinderaker at www.powerlineblog.com:

Is B. Obama an Expert on Nuclear Arms Policy?

April 9, 2010 Posted by John at 8:10 PM

Sarah Palin, like pretty much every conservative, attacked President Obama's announcement of a new strategy on nuclear weapons that foreswears development of new weapons and promises not to respond to chemical or biological attacks with nukes. No big story there. But Obama was asked about Palin's comments by George Stephanopolous, and responded in his usual supercilious manner that "Last I checked, Sarah Palin's not much of an expert on nuclear issues."

Which raises the obvious question: what makes Barack Obama an "expert on nuclear issues?" Is there any evidence that Obama has studied issues relating to nuclear armaments? Has he written on them? Has he ever said anything especially intelligent on them? No. This is a subject on which, to my knowledge, everything Barack Obama has ever said or written has been vapid if not childish. It is revealing, I think, that he adopts an easy air of superiority even on those topics as to which he has no expertise and scarcely any interest. American voters do not like arrogance, and Obama is a uniquely arrogant politician.

Exactly. 

Yet in the two or so days since Mr. Obama made his dismissive kiss-off statement about Ms. Palin, I did not see one commentary in any of our mainstream media pointing out that he has no more nuclear expertise than she does. 

But listen to them squeal like stuck pigs if you call them biased.


THE ANTI-INCUMBENT FANTASY

Ken Berwitz

As we approach the mid-term elections, much if not most of the coverage by mainstream media seems to suggest that there is an anti-incumbent movement in the country.  And in more than a few of the articles and features I've come across, this is used to suggest that if Democrats lose congressional seats it is only because they have more of them to begin with - i.e. it is an inherent consequence of anti-incumbent feeling rather than people being against what Democrats have done in the past two years.

BS.

Here are the latest Gallup data, broken down by Democrats, Republicans and Independents.  Let's see what they say:

Although Democrats -- whose own party now holds a solid majority of House seats -- are much more likely than Republicans to say most members of Congress deserve re-election, not even half (46%) believe they do.

Do Most Members of Congress Deserve Re-Election? By Party ID

 

If these data are correct, they inherently put the lie to the anti-incumbent fantasy.  Why?  Because if the mood of the country were generically anti-incumbent, there would not be major differences between Democrats, Republicans and independents; they would all be telling us they want the incumbents out, by roughly the same margins.  Are they?

-Democrats, albeit by a thin plurality of 46-41, want most members of congress re-elected, not ousted (i.e. they want a  continuation of the Democrat majority).  Although they favor incumbency per se, it is awful news for Democrats, because of how small the preference is (probably within the statistical margin of error).  And, though it is almost certain that the pro-incumbency margin will increase as election day nears, it is hard to see how it could possibly get to anywhere near the 80%-or-over level we'd usually expect from voters asked about their own party.

-Republicans, by comparison, are 83%-13% anti-incumbent.  They don't have to worry about getting where they need to be, they are already there.

-And the all-important independents; the ones who are most susceptible to swinging one way or the other?  At 72% - 25% anti-incumbent, they are far closer to the Republican (i.e. anti-Democrat) position. 

So, in sum, we have Democrats barely favoring their own party's dominance in congress, while Republicans - and the independents both parties desperately fight for - are both strongly demanding that we "throw the bums out". 

That, folks, is anti-Democrat.  Not anti-incumbent, but anti-Democrat.  Period.

Don't let our wonderful "neutral" media fool you when they say otherwise.


THE REPUBLICAN SPENDING SPREE IN FLORIDA

Ken Berwitz

About the best thing you can say about the Florida Republican Party's spending spree (if there is a best thing to say at all) is that the junior staffer involved probably was unaware of a lot of it.

That's pretty thin gruel, though.  Frankly, the story you are about to read, from the St. Petersburg Times, makes the party look like a bunch of spend-crazy fools operating either barely within, or maybe just plain outside of, the rules.

See for yourself:

Junior Florida Republican Party staffer had $1.3 million charged to party credit card

By Adam C. Smith, Times Political Editor
In Print: Saturday, April 10, 2010

 

She was a 25-year-old junior staffer when the Florida Republican Party gave her an American Express card.

 

Over the next 2 years, nearly $1.3 million in charges wound up on Melanie Phister's AmEx $40,000 at a London hotel, and nearly $20,000 in plane tickets for indicted former House Speaker Ray Sansom, his wife and kids, for starters. Statements show thousands spent on jewelry, sporting goods and in one case $15,000 for what's listed as a month-long stay at a posh Miami Beach hotel, but which the party says was a forfeited deposit.

 

The credit card records, obtained by the St. Petersburg Times and Miami Herald, offer the latest behind-the-scenes look at extravagant and free-wheeling spending by the party touting fiscal restraint. Not only did certain elite legislative leaders have their own party credit cards to spend donors' money with little oversight, but Phister's records show these leaders also liberally used an underling's card without her knowledge, she says.

 

"I did not have the sole discretion to initiate credit card spending," Phister said in an e-mail statement. "Over that period of time, there were multiple instances when the card was used to make purchases that I had no knowledge of, and I did not regularly review the monthly credit card statements which I understand were sent directly to the Party's accounting office."

 

Even after a series of embarrassing revelations over profligate credit card spending by the likes of Republican U.S. Senate frontrunner Marco Rubio, Sansom and incoming House Speaker Dean Cannon and pending state and federal investigations of party finances revelations of the huge charges on Phister's card had veteran GOP fundraisers apoplectic.

"Oh my God. I can't believe it,'' said Al Hoffman, a top fundraiser from Fort Myers, when told of the $1.258 million on Phister's card. "See, that's it. They have an underling do it all. There's no reason a young assistant should be ringing up charges like that."

 

Phister served as finance director for state House campaigns for 2 years starting in mid 2006.

 

She was a Republican Party employee who mainly answered to Sansom, R-Destin, speaker-designate at the time and overseeing House campaign operations. The job involved planning fundraising events and often accompanying Sansom and other legislative leaders on fundraising and other political trips.

 

Sansom was indicted by a grand jury last year for inserting $6 million into the state budget for an airport building that a friend and GOP contributor, Jay Odom, wanted to use as an airplane hangar. That criminal investigation revealed that Sansom charged more than $170,000 on his party-issued credit card everything from plane tickets for his family to clothes to electronics.

 

Turns out Sansom spent heavily on Phister's card as well.

 

Her credit card statements include at least four sets of plane tickets for Sansom, his wife and four kids. He also ordered Phister to accompany him on a trade trip to London in the summer of 2008. Phister brought her mother along at Sansom's encouragement, and Phister's GOP AmEx saw plenty of action: nearly $40,000 at a London hotel, and more than $3,600 in sightseeing expenses.

 

"I can't believe it. Someone should be hanged for that," Mark Guzzetta, a Boca Raton developer who has raised millions of dollars for Republicans, said of the party allowing so much spending on a low-level staffer's card.

 

Republican legislative leaders during that period were raising many millions of dollars, and they note that it costs money to raise money. So such Phister expenses as $1,200 for Broadway tickets in New York, or $19,000 at the Water Club restaurant during a different New York City trip may have been for evenings that raised many times that much.

 

Neither Phister nor the party would discuss the credit card statements in detail, citing pending state and criminal federal investigations into its financial activities as well as an exhaustive "forensic audit" of party spending about to get under way.

 

"The Republican Party of Florida has hired the firm Alston +Bird LLP to conduct an independent forensic investigation of the party's finances. Members of the firm's Special Matters and Investigations staff will review questionable credit card expenses to determine whether or not the party may have been the victim of improper financial dealings,'' said Florida Republican Party spokeswoman Katie Betta.

 

"If the audit reveals any inappropriate expenses that have not been reimbursed to the party, we will seek to collect compensation from the individuals who incurred the expense."

Judging what's an appropriate expense may be subjective.

 

For instance, Phister's AmEx shows $10,000 to a watch company in California in August 2008. Republican donors paid for Sansom to present every legislator, Democrat and Republican alike, with a memento watch.

 

Phister's card paid for nearly $650,000 in lodging, $60,000 in airfare mostly commercial airlines and $66,000 for charter planes. The statements show Republican donors also paid for plane tickets to Germany for Phister and her mother.

 

Phister declined to discuss those tickets, though the party said the trip was part of the expense of accompanying Sansom to Europe. Now 28, Phister parlayed her insider access to become a well-funded public employee, now earning about $70,000 yearly working for the Florida House of Representatives as a scheduler for special projects.

 

The Florida Democratic Party requires staffers and leaders to use their own credit cards and seek reimbursement for appropriate expenses. That's now the practice at the Florida Republican Party, and fundraiser Hoffman suggested it's about time.

 

"My company, with 4,000 employees, nobody had credit cards,'' said Hoffman, a developer. "If you wanted to expense, you had to submit a form with backup. . . . It wasn't one employee taking another out to eat and charging it all off."

Are they just stupid, or just thieves, or both?

Just what Republicans need going into an election year where they have a chance to make up so much ground:  a scandal over campaign donations.

This, of course, begs the question of whether Democrats are guilty of the same practices.  And if I find information that they are, I'll have it up on the blog as well.  But even if they are, it doesn't change what these members of the Florida Republican Party have done.

They owe us all an explanation.  A major one.  Right now.


THE CABLE NEWS RATING WARS (CONT.)

Ken Berwitz

A lot has been made of CNN's precipitous decline in viewership, and the fact that MSNBC has somewhat "caught up" with the network ratings-wise.

But is it because MSNBC has moved up?  Or that it has fallen just like CNN, only not as precipitously?

Well, here's your answer, courtesy of www.tvbythenumbers.com:

MSNBC Declines Broadly Among Adults 25-54 vs. 2009 Q1

Posted on 09 April 2010 by Bill Gorman

 

Reading the recent media on cable news ratings (like here, here, and here), youd think that CNN was the only news network down on a year to year basis, but MSNBC is doing its share of declining as well.

 

From the first quarter of 2009 (12/29/08-03/29/09) to the first quarter of 2010 (12/28/09 3/28/10) i, theyve seen notable drops across the board in the adults 25-54 demographic targeted by news advertisers.

 

All numbers are average adults 25-54, not including Olympics programming.

Aggregate dayparts:

  • Total day (6a-6a) down -31% (125,000 v 181,000)
  • Dayside (9a-5p) down -49% (72,000 v 142,000)
  • Primetime (Monday-Friday) down -39% (239,000 v 392,000)

Morning Joe is down -36% (108,000 v 168,000)

Pre-primetime shows:

  • Hardball with Chris Matthews (5p) down -46% (96,000 v 178,000)
  • Ed Show (6p) down -28% (116,000 vs 162,000)
  • Hardball (7p) down -38% (151,000 v 243,000)

Primetime shows:

  • 8 pm Countdown With Keith Olbermann down -43% (263,000 v 460,000)
  • 9 pm The Rachel Maddow Show down -38% (241,000 v 389,000)
  • 10 pm Countdown down -30% (197,000 v 282,000)

Ouch, and double ouch.

FYI:  the latest daily ratings (for Thursday, April 9) show Fox News Channel with more viewers than CNN,  MSNBC and Headline News combined.

Make of it what you will.


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