Monday, 21 January 2008


Ken Berwitz

With apologies to Pete Seeger for the quality of my "singing":

"Oh when will they ever learn, when will they ever learn?"

How many media celebrities, who stick their nose into partisan politics and get their backside in return, does it take?  When do they learn that this doesn't generate a good result?  That they can damage their candidate and, more often than not, themselves as well?

Apparently this is a really tough lesson, because even as smart and worldly a woman as Oprah Winfrey hasn't learned it. 

Please read the following, courtesy of the Times -- of London.  (Yes, I know that London dailies are prone to sensationalizing and exaggerating the news---but I have a feeling that there is no exaggeration to this story at all):

Women turn on traitor Oprah Winfrey for backing Barack Obama

Oprah fans leave a barrage of negative messages on her official website in response to the talk show host's support of Obama

AMERICAS favourite television presenter is paying a painful price for her intervention in the US presidential campaign last month. Oprah Winfrey has been dubbed a traitor by some of her female fans for supporting Barack Obama instead of Hillary Clinton.

Winfreys website,, has been flooded with a barrage of abuse since the queen of daytime chat shows joined Obama on a tour of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina in mid-December.

Her intervention was widely credited with broadening Obamas national appeal - especially among women - and with helping him to an upset victory over Clinton in the first vote of the election year 

Yet a backlash by Clinton supporters appears to have prompted a rethink by Winfrey, the African-American media titan who is routinely described as the most influential woman on television.

She did not reappear in the final days before the New Hampshire primary - which Obama lost to Clinton - and has been absent from the most recent campaigning in South Carolina, which votes next weekend.

Obama aides believe that Winfrey will return to the campaign. Her own staff noted last week that in addition to her daily broadcasts on television and satellite radio, she has also been busy negotiating a multi-million-dollar deal with the Discovery cable network to create her own television channel, the Oprah Winfrey Network.

Yet Obamas rivals suspect that Winfrey has been startled by the virulent reaction to her previous campaign appearance.

It started with a message on her website entitled Oprah is a traitor and rapidly expanded to include several discussions that attracted hundreds of comments.

In the original post, a reader called austaz68 said she cannot believe that women all over this country are not up in arms over Oprahs backing of Obama. For the first time in history we actually have a shot at putting a woman in the White House and Oprah backs the black MAN. Shes choosing her race over her gender.

In a subsequent comment, 2nurselady wrote: I dont think Oprah is a traitor, but I do think she may be alienating a lot of her fans.

Others have accused Winfrey of racism for siding with Obama when such a well qualified woman as Clinton was running.

Winfrey has built her career on empathising with womens issues and offering a daily diet of redemption and hope. Her show typically focuses on women who have suffered but survived.

So hostile has the response been that some suspect dirty tricks. All the rude and hateful messages on here cant be from Oprah fans, another visitor noted. Someones campaign (wonder who?) is sabotaging the message boards.

Winfrey received a rapturous reception when she campaigned with Obama last month. Yet several analysts warned that she might adversely affect his chances.

Steve Ross, a history professor at the University of Southern California, said: The moment a star opens their mouth and endorses one candidate, they alienate half their viewership. .

Given the balkanization of USA politics, especially in the Democratic party (that's the one which claims to be open to all, not segmented by things such as race and gender), how could Ms Winfrey not have seen this coming?

Could anyone doubt that there would be an ugly undercurrent of racism and sexism when a female Black celebrity outwardly supports a Black man over a woman?  Could anyone doubt that there would have been an ugly undercurrent of racism and sexism if she'd outwardly supported the woman over the Black man?

Oprah Winfrey is a terrific lady.  She is one of this country's great success stories and a role model for everyone, regardless or race or gender.  It took her many trials over many years to achieve this status, against terrible odds. 

Why in the world would she do something that so easily could undo so much?

"Oh when will they ever learn, when will they ever learn?"



Ken Berwitz

I won't be doing updates, this is the one and only in-progress blog I'm making on this debate.

After an hour it is clear to me that Hillary Clinton and John Edwards are taking down Barack Obama and cutting him to pieces.  It is a tag-team and it's working.  Obama is stammering over his words in a way I haven't seen before, he looks tense, uneasy and  - I suspect - would like to tell them both to go eff themselves.

I'll talk more about the debate tomorrow.


Ken Berwitz

I'm not sure I agree 100% with how Ed Morrissey at  handicaps the Florida primary and its meaning.  But so much of what he says is so logical that I think it's well worth your attention.  So here it is:

The Big Contest

And so we come to Florida for the ultimate clarification, much as Rudy Giuliani predicted. Can John McCain win a race that includes only Republican voters? Can Mike Huckabee win another state at all? Can Mitt Romney parlay his financial advantage to victory in a state not predisposed to support him? Will Fred Thompson even bother to campaign?

Riding the momentum from his weekend victory in South Carolina, John McCain turned his attention Sunday to Florida and the high-stakes primary there that will test whether the Arizona senator can consolidate support among Republican voters and take control of the GOP nomination battle.

The Jan. 29 contest in Florida will be the first Republican primary closed to independent voters, who have provided McCain with his margins of victory in both New Hampshire and South Carolina. A victory, strategists agreed, would stamp McCain as the front-runner in what has been a muddied Republican race and give him a clear advantage heading toward Super Tuesday on Feb. 5. ...

Florida has played a pivotal role in the past two general elections and now is poised to help determine who the Republicans will send into the main event this November. The primary looms as a potential showdown in the GOP nomination battle not only because of its size and importance but because it will be the first this year in which all the leading candidates are competing.

Rudy Giuliani finally arrives on the scene for this contest. He made no secret of his plans to keep the powder dry for this contest, and now he has to fight off the perception that he has disappeared in all of the media coverage that ignored him over the last three weeks. While Rudy sat patiently in Florida, the national media covered races in earlier primary states 24/7, and his voluntary irrelevance in those contests meant no earned media exposure. He has slipped in national standing to those who have already won states as a result.

He still remains in the thick of it in Florida, however. Recent polls listed at Real Clear Politics show John McCain winning five out of six, but almost all within the margin of error with Rudy. Romney and Huckabee trade for third place in most of the same polls, all taken in January.

Given Florida's status as the first fully closed primary, this will provide a bellwether for Republicans going into Super Tuesday. McCain won two states with help from crossover voters, but with Rudy in the race, Rudy could dilute enough support from other candidates to give McCain an opportunity to win.

I'd guess that Rudy wins Florida. It's tailor-made for him, with plenty of Northeastern retirees and an active Cuban-American base that wants to see hard-nosed policy rather than moderation. If that happens, we can forget clarification, and Super Tuesday becomes a delegate hunt, pure and simple, with everyone viable and a brokered convention more and more likely. If McCain wins Florida, it turns into a two-man race, with Romney becoming the improbable conservative standard-bearer..

I disagree that Giuliani has to win in Florida. I think that a strong showing there (within striking distance of the winner) puts him right back in play.  Obviously (to me, anyway) an outright win has the potential to move him into position to fly right past the others - none of whom has been able to break away so far.

Little more than a week to go, and then we'll see how it plays out.

steve schneider he has to win florida....... (01/21/08)


Ken Berwitz

We hear a lot about how colleges and universities strive for "diversity".  We hear a lot about how standards at those colleges and universities are adjusted to create such diversity.

So that would hold true for faculty as well as students, right?  Because diversity is a cherished goal, isn't it?  And what could be more important, diversity-wise, than the faculty, which is responsible for teaching every student? 

You know what's coming, don't you?  Well, you're right.

This article comes to us from the Daily Princetonian.  See how you feel about the university's policy of  "diversity" after reading it. 

The one-dimensionality is Princeton's...the bold print is mine:

Profs. vote for Obama with wallets

    All Princeton faculty members who have given to 2008 presidential candidates so far have donated to Democrats, according to federal records of donations to presidential campaigns from Princeton University employees.

    Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) is the runaway favorite candidate among those donors, having received $12,050 from Princeton employees. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) drew the second-highest total contributions from Princeton faculty and staff with $5,600. Other donations have gone to candidates including former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.), Gov. Bill Richardson (D-N.M.) and Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.).

    In total, donors who listed the University as their employer have given $23,700 to presidential campaigns in the current election cycle. Of that, $21,900  92.4 percent  has gone toward Democratic candidates.

    Federal Election Commission records list any donation over $200 to a political organization or candidate and are public by law.

    Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) is the only Republican candidate to receive donations from Princeton employees so far, receiving a total of $1,800 from a graduate student and a Public Safety officer.

    Princeton employees' overwhelmingly high support for Democratic candidates  90 percent of donors who listed the University as their employer gave to a Democrat, and no professors donated to the GOP  outpaces its peers. The Harvard Crimson reported that 86 percent of Harvard professors' contributions went to Democrats, while according to Georgetown's student newspaper, The Hoya, 75 percent of the donations made by the school's employees went to Democratic candidates.

    The statistics of political giving at Princeton mirror larger trends at campuses across the country. Inside Higher Education reported that Obama is the "clear favorite of academics," having received over $2.1 million from them.

    Electrical engineering professor Stuart Schwartz, who has been on the faculty for 42 years and donated $400 to Richardson, said he doesn't think Princeton's numbers are representative of the faculty's usual political composition.

    "I just think this is an unusual year," he said. "And maybe the Republican faculty are holding back and the Democrats are just so anxious to get their candidates in a good position. I don't think [the lack of support for Republican candidates] will hold up. That's not this faculty; there's a mix. I think the majority are Democrats, but I think there's a mix."

    Other professors said that donations don't often come up in faculty conversations and aren't a source of tension among faculty members. "To be honest, I don't talk politics on campus," said physics professor Chiara Nappi, who gave $1,000 to Edwards last September. "I'm too busy doing my work."

    College Republicans president Andrew Malcolm '09 said that the overwhelming support for Democratic candidates came as no surprise. He said there is no reason to believe that political donations will affect professors' teaching, but the leftward trend "does raise some concerns about ideological diversity among the faculty," he said. "I hope that all students, regardless of their political beliefs, feel comfortable expressing their views in the classroom."

'Putting my money where my hopes are'

    Professors gave a range of reasons for their choices.

    For Wilson School professor Stanley Katz, donating $250 to Obama's presidential primary campaign was a matter of "putting my money where my hopes are."

    "He's the only candidate who makes me feel like I did in the 1960s," he added.

    University Director of Communications Lauren Robinson-Brown '85, who donated $250 to Obama's campaign, lived in the same dorm as Michelle Obama '85 for three years and ate dinner with her frequently. Though she and Michelle were not close friends, she said, they knew each other "very well."

    But she added that her reasons for donating to Obama run deeper than a college friendship. "I do believe that he is a candidate of hope and vision, and I love that he's inspiring young people to engage in the political process," she said.

    Wilson School Dean Anne-Marie Slaughter '80 and Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory Director Robert Goldston GS '77 both donated $2,300  the maximum amount allowed by law during the primary season  to Clinton.

    Curiously, Slaughter also donated $1,500 to Obama's campaign.

    Schwartz said he was attracted to Richardson's record and background. "He had a lot of experience, he was from the West, and I did not want the nomination process to degenerate into who had the most money at the beginning, so I gave to an underdog, which I tend to do every four years and lose my money," Schwartz said.

    He added that he had just thrown out an envelope with another check for Richardson that was waiting to be mailed. He isn't sure whom he'll support now

That's some demonstration of diversity.  Georgetown, comparatively, is a Republican bastion, because only 75% of all the money goes to Democrats instead of 86% or 90%.  You have to laugh.

But watch them go through hoops to insure diversity of STUDENTS.  

This, sad to say, is Princeton's view of diversity - duplicated by countless other colleges and universities around the USA. 

And for god sake, don't complain about it: after all, what does the faculty have to do with diversity anyway?



Ken Berwitz

Ever wonder why Yugo Chavez acts as erratically and irrationally as he does?  Maybe this story, which comes to us from the Miami Herald, will provide a little insight.  As usual the bold print is mine:


Chvez says he chews coca daily

Analysts said Chvez's comments before National Assembly amounted to a dangerous endorsement and might be an admission of an illegal act.

El Nuevo Herald

Venezuela's controversial President Hugo Chvez has revealed that he regularly consumes coca -- the source of cocaine -- raising questions about the legality of his actions.

Chvez's comments on coca initially went almost unnoticed, coming amid a four-hour speech to the National Assembly during which he made international headlines by calling on other countries to stop branding two leftist Colombian guerrilla groups as terrorists and instead recognize them as ``armies.''

''I chew coca every day in the morning . . . and look how I am,'' he is seen saying on a video of the speech, as he shows his biceps to the audience.

Chvez, who does not drink alcohol, added that just as Fidel Castro ''sends me Coppelia ice cream and a lot of other things that regularly reach me from Havana,'' Bolivian President Evo Morales ``sends me coca paste . . . I recommend it to you.''

It was not clear what Chvez meant. Indigenous Bolivians and Peruvians can legally chew coca leaves as a mild stimulant and to kill hunger. But coca paste is a semi-refined product -- between leaves and cocaine -- considered highly addictive and often smoked as basuco or pitillo.

''It is another symptom that [Chvez] has totally lost the concept of limits,'' said Anbal Romero, a political scientist with the Caracas Metropolitan University. ``It shows Chvez is a man out of control.''

More seriously, Venezuelan and Bolivian analysts said Chvez's comments amount to a dangerous endorsement of a substance controlled around the world, and perhaps even an illegal act by a very public head of state.

''If he is affirming that he consumes coca paste, he is admitting that he is consuming a substance that is illegal in Bolivia as well as Venezuela,'' said Hernn Maldonado, a Bolivian analyst living in Miami. ''Plus, it's an accusation that Evo Morales is a narco-trafficker'' for sending him the paste.

Morales is the longtime head of a Bolivian coca-growers' union and is known to chew coca in public, even during cabinet meetings, since he took office. Bolivia limits the coca acreage in an effort to control supplies of coca leaf that wind up being refined into cocaine.

Most likely, however, it seems Chvez was referring to chewing coca leaves, a traditional and legal practice among indigenous groups in the high Andes mountains but illegal in Venezuela, according to experts.

''Venezuela signed the Vienna Convention of 1961, which regulates everything that has to do with narcotics,'' said Mildred Camero, former president of the government's main counter-narcotics agency, the National Council Against the Illicit Use of Drugs. ``On the list . . . the coca leaf was prohibited.''

Although the growing and chewing of coca leaf is legal in Bolivia, Morales ''should explain the shipments he sends to Chvez,'' said Carlos Snchez-Berzan, a Morales critic and former Bolivian interior minister now living in Miami.

''The [Bolivian] government should declare how it sends the coca, how much it sends, with what frequency, the weight, in what type of container, because it is a controlled substance and the government must be monitored,'' Snchez-Berzan said.

This is not the first time that the president praised the properties of coca leaves. During a visit to a communal kitchen in western Caracas in early 2006, with Uruguayan President Tabar Vsquez, Chvez suggested using the kitchen's ovens to bake bread made from a special coca-based flour.

''We could try that here, as part of that effort to de-Satanize a product that our indigenous people have been producing for centuries,'' he said.

In early 2007, Venezuela signed an agreement to buy 4,000 tons of coca leaf from Bolivia in what it said was an effort to diminish the supply available for refining paste and cocaine and launch the manufacture of food and medicinal products on an industrial scale.

Caracas made the first payment of $500,000, but the project remains frozen, in large part because of the legal implications of shipping the leaves across borders.

Although coca leaves have nutritional and medical characteristics, ''the principal component is an alkaloid, cocaine,'' that can be ''harmful'' if it's made part of a daily diet, Nancy Siles, a biochemist with the Bolivian College of Biochemistry and Pharmacy, wrote in a a recent report..

I wonder how many leaves he chewed before insulting Spain in the presence of its king, Juan Carlos.  I doubt that King Juan Carlos needed any coca at all when he told Chavez to "shut up" - and made himself a hero around the world.


** This is an intentional misspelling, based on my opinion that Chavez performs about as capably as the Yugo did.


Ken Berwitz

I've written several blogs about how Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has to put some serious political moves on Hillary Clinton or he will be conceding the nomination to her.

Here, courtesy of the always-worth-reading, is an example of what Mr. Obama is up against.  In this instance it takes the form of mainstream media looking the other way as especially damning information comes out about Ms. Clinton's behavior during her 1993 health care task force debacle:

January 21, 2008

The Hillary Papers Get Ignored By The Media

After last week's release by Judicial Watch of internal documents of Hillary Clinton's Health Care Task Force, many of us waited to see the national news media cover their disturbing contents. No surprisingly, none of them did so. Despite the proposals to use smears against critics of the government and to turn the DNC into a domestic espionage unit for the White House against its opponents, the mainstream news media has shown little interest in even noting the fact that this evidence appeared in a microscopic sample of the three million documents that have been blocked from public scrutiny.

Let's recall what the media has ignored. The following comes from my earlier posts on the subject.

Senator Jay Rockefeller proposed that the federal government conduct smear campaigns against the opponents of the plan:

A Confidential May 26, 1993 Memorandum from Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) to Hillary Clinton entitled, Health Care Reform Communications, which criticizes the Task Force as a secret cabal of Washington policy wonks that has engaged in choking off information from the public regarding health care reform. The memorandum suggests that Hillary Clinton use classic opposition research to attack those who were excluded by the Clinton Administration from Task Force deliberations and to expose lifestyles, tactics and motives of lobbyists in order to deflect criticism.

Rockefeller had allies in mind for this effort:

Senator Rockefeller also suggested news organizations are anxious and willing to receive guidance [from the Clinton Administration] on how to time and shape their [news] coverage.

Rockefeller also offers a little intellectually honest advice at least twice. When discussing abortion, he gets very terse (emphasis mine):

Response concepts: ... Full Reproductive Services. Do not engage on this topic.

And remember, this isn't a political action commitee or an electoral office campaign. This was the elected government of the United States discussing how it would steamroller opposition to nationalizing an entire industry by smearing them and by avoiding discussion of the policy itself.

The HCTF anticipated a tough debate over its proposal to nationalize American health care, and it proposed some specific remedies -- including using the DNC to conduct intelligence operations.

A February 1993 memo to Hillary Clinton from Alexis Herman and Mike Lux proposes that the HCTF -- a White House policy group -- enlist the DNC for several purposes, discussed on page 5:

C. The DNC Role

The DNC clearly has a critically important role to play in the campaign. I would suggest the following roles ...

3. The DNC can be instrumental for us in intelligence gathering and opposition research. Their staff will hear talk about things that may never reach us inside these walls.

All of that falls into the category of "politicizing" the White House, and much more than having Karl Rove as deputy chief of staff. But this goes beyond mere politicization. The HCTF foresaw using the DNC to "gather intelligence" on political opposition -- a way to gain information to intimidate or extort their critics. It's bad enough when electoral campaigns do this, but having the White House use the DNC for these purposes doesn't border on abuse of power but invades it with a vengeance.

And this memo came to Hillary Clinton a mere two weeks after her husband's inauguration. The impetus for this kind of political warfare existed within the Clinton administration within the first hours of its birth.

Where are the media organizations that style themselves as the bulwark against governmental abuses of power? Why haven't they reported on these memos, which clearly delineate a type of attack on government opposition that hasn't been this baldly proposed since the Nixon administration? Given Hillary Clinton's campaign for the presidency -- one on which she relies on her experience in her husband's administration for her qualifications -- isn't all of this terribly relevant to the question of how she will run the White House, and what kind of treatment her critics can expect to receive?

The silence from the Fourth Estate is deafening. It screams either cowardice or collaboration.

As usual, Ed Morrissey is spot-on. 

This is the real hillary clinton.  Fangs showing.  The one who is in the process of overhauling Mr. Obama while he threatens to do something about it.....but, so far, at least, doesn't.

Media, most of which remain in Ms. Clinton's hip pocket, may not be providing this information to the general public.  But Barack Obama, along with his campaign, is surely aware of it. 

Now, what is he going to learn from it and what is he going to do with what he learns?

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