Monday, 10 November 2008


Ken Berwitz

Here is the latest news concerning the stealing of Norm Coleman's senate seat, which is in progress and going on right in front of our eyes.  

Please pay special attention to the two paragraphs I've put in bold print: 

For Ritchie, keeping recount nonpartisan is main goal

By PAT DOYLE, Star Tribune

Last update: November 10, 2008 - 5:15 AM

The recount of the closest U.S. Senate race in Minnesota history will be directed by a freshman elections chief -- a liberal DFLer who won election two years ago after accusing his Republican predecessor of bringing partisan bias to her official duties.

Secretary of State Mark Ritchie pledges to oversee a fair, accurate and open recount of the nearly 2.9 million ballots in the Senate race.

"Minnesotans have an expectation of a nonpartisan election recount," Ritchie said late last week.

Yet a fight with partisan overtones is shaping up over the recount of the race between U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, a Republican, and Democrat Al Franken.

On Friday, the Coleman campaign questioned the integrity of the vote counting by citing "improbable shifts" in vote tallies that it said benefited Franken.

Ritchie responded by scolding the Coleman campaign for trying "to create a cloud" over the recount and "denigrating the election process."

Republicans indicate they will be watching Ritchie closely.

"A recount of this magnitude is absolutely huge and it's going to define his time in office," said Rep. Laura Brod, R-New Prague, a critic of Ritchie. "The eyes are going to be very heavy on that office and on Secretary Ritchie."

Ritchie acknowledged that his office will face pressure over the next few weeks, but pledged to resist it.

"People who are the most active have a kind of bias to want to get [results] fast," he said of the recount. "Election administrators have a bias for wanting it correct, transparent and trusted. We know there will be pressure for fast, faster, get it done. We will not be swayed by those demands."

A recount requires ballot verification by precinct in each county and allows the public and representatives of the candidates to watch. Disputes over contested ballots go to the state canvassing board, made up of two state Supreme Court justices, two district court judges and chaired by the secretary of state.

Secretaries of state are elected partisan officials. Yet the composition of the canvassing board and Minnesota law limits the influence of secretaries of state over a recount, said Christian Sande, an attorney who lost the DFL endorsement to Ritchie in 2006.

But Sande said the political affiliation of a secretary of state gives a candidate from a different party an opening to raise doubts about a recount, "whether unfounded or not."

Since Tuesday's election, the vote margin between Coleman and Franken has narrowed, widened and narrowed again. On Friday Coleman campaign manager Cullen Sheehan issued a statement asserting there were "improbable shifts that are overwhelmingly accruing to the benefit of Al Franken," and cited some changes on the heavily Democratic Iron Range.

Ritchie said the shifting tallies were well within the normal range in the days immediately following an election, when county officials double check and verify election night tabulations reported to the secretary of state's office. He accused the Coleman campaign of carrying out "a well-known political strategy," and defended the work of local officials.

"If people want to accuse county elections officials of partisan activity, they better be ready to back it up," he said.

In response, Sheehan said the Coleman campaign has a right to question the recount. "I don't think it's raising a cloud over the process," he said.

Ritchie got high marks for a recount of the primary election this September for state Supreme Court.

"A shout out to the counties and the office of Secretary of State Mark Ritchie for getting this recount done so speedily," said the Minnesota Lawyer Blog. "The retabulation by hand of thousands of ballots in a statewide election is no easy feat, and in this case was carried out with record alacrity."

Political perceptions have been at the heart of past disputes over how secretaries of state administer other aspects of elections.

Ritchie, a longtime advocate for liberal causes, won election in 2006 after accusing the incumbent, Republican and social conservative Mary Kiffmeyer, of acting on her biases during her eight years in office.

"She's making decisions designed to help candidates from her party have a partisan advantage," Ritchie said in an interview before that election. He said Kiffmeyer discouraged turnout of Democratic-leaning voters. She denied it.

When Ritchie took over, Republicans accused him of mixing official and campaign business after he gave his campaign contact information for participants in a civic engagement program sponsored by his office.

Legislative Auditor James Nobles investigated and cleared Ritchie of any wrongdoing, but criticized him for initially failing to be forthcoming with the inquiry.

Ritchie became a liberal advocate in the 1980s when he marched with European and Canadian farm groups in Montreal protesting U.S. trade policies on agriculture.

Before taking office, he pushed to register low-income people and minorities in areas likely to lean Democratic. His National Voice effort to register voters for the 2004 election set the stage for his campaign against Kiffmeyer.

The office under Ritchie has made it easier for military personnel overseas to vote and improved its election results website.

Ok, let's get a few things straight:

-The headline of this article is about as neutral as a propaganda leaflet.  It tells you that Ritchie, whose partisanship is cited almost immediately within the article, is 100% on the up and up in this recount.  How did that go from speculation to fact?  Because THE PARTISAN said so?  Ridiculous and shameful;

-Take another look at those two bold-print paragraphs.  How does Doyle have the gall to imply that the votes are going this way and that way, as if there were no specific lean to the changes? 

If that were so than Coleman would still be about as far ahead of franken as he was in the initial count.  But in reality Coleman's lead has dwindled in these recounts to a small fraction of what it was.  Maybe that's why Doyle left out the NUMBERS.  Because if you saw them you would know that this "narrow, widen, narrow" premise is a crock of Bull droppings.

-And spare me Ritchie's response to the complaints lodged by Coleman and his people. 

When 100 votes in a heavily Democratic area suddenly materialize out of thin air, and every one of them (not even 95%  - 5% but every last one) are for Franken, you would have to be a blithering idiot not to question their legitimacy. 

A Secretary of State who is seriously invested in providing an honest recount would do more than offer an angry, partisan defense.  He would, at the very least, promise a full, immediate investigation to be certain about these highly improbable new results. 

By reflexively accusing Coleman of playing politics instead, Ritchie makes his true intentions very obvious to me.

Right in front of your eyes, folks.  Right on the square. 

Unless Ritchie is pressured into a fair count, Norm Coleman might as well be packing his things for the trip back to Minnesota right now. 

And can Mr. Coleman count on such pressure from a newspaper which glorifies the partisan Secretary of State with the headline "For Ritchie, keeping recount nonpartisan is main goal"?   Yeah, sure, right. 

What a complete, utter disgrace.


Ken Berwitz

Well, he won.  Now what is he going to do?

Do you think you know the answer to this question?  If so, explain this, which comes to us from

Agenda Airbrushed From Obamas Website

November 10th, 2008

A Washington Times exclusive of something we posted yesterday:

EXCLUSIVE: Agenda disappears from Obama Web site

Stephen Dinan

Over the weekend President-elect Barack Obama scrubbed, his transition Web site, deleting most of what had been a massive agenda copied directly from his campaign Web site.

Gone are the promises on how an Obama administration would handle 25 different agenda items - everything from Iraq and immigration to taxes and urban policy - all items laid out on his campaign Web site,

Instead, the official agenda on has been boiled down to one vague paragraph proclaiming a plan to revive the economy, to fix our health care, education, and social security systems, to define a clear path to energy independence, to end the war in Iraq responsibly and finish our mission in Afghanistan, and to work with our allies to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, among many other domestic and foreign policy objectives.

We are currently retooling the Web site, said Obama spokesman Nick Shapiro.

The site went active on Wednesday and was available to the public Thursday. The agenda items, which were active for at least part of the weekend, appear to have been deleted by late Saturday.

The site still contains pages about how to apply for jobs in the Obama administration, biographies of top transition team members and a call for Americans to serve in volunteer jobs and for students to do 50 hours of community service. The site also has press releases and a transition blog.

The 25 agenda items are still available on Mr. Obamas campaign site.

Indeed, not only did we first report the airbrushing, we may very well have caused it.

Oh well, what does this say about Mr. Obamas promises about a more open and honest government?

I guess we're starting to get a good idea of what Barack Obama meant by "change".  He's changed back to heavy-handed hatchetmen like Rahm Emanuel, to Israel-haters like Robert Malley and he's expunged his agenda from the web site.

Apparently his real motto is not "change we can believe in", it's "change he can relieve on"


Ken Berwitz

We see it again and again and again and again and again.  If there is an embarrassing story about a Democrat, no party affiliation is mentioned.

Here is the latest example:

Report: Jersey City councilman arrested

JERSEY CITY, N.J. - A Jersey City councilman has reportedly been arrested for urinating on a crowd of concertgoers from the balcony of a Washington D.C. nightclub.

The New York Daily News reports in Sunday's editions that two-term Jersey City councilman Steve Lipski has been charged with simple assault.

The newspaper says 44-year-old Lipski was removed from a place called the Nightclub 9:30 on Friday night.

That's after club staffers saw him relieve himself onto the crowd from a second floor balcony during a concert by a Grateful Dead tribute ban.

Messages left at Lipski's council office, and a Jersey City listing under his name were not immediately returned.

Is he an independent?  He must be, since there is no party affiliation mentioned, right?

Oh, he's a DEMOCRAT?  Never mind.  That explains everything.

I apologize for the frequency with which I use this line but, as Mr. Lipski is the latest to find out, life is sure easier when the referee is on your side.

Look at the bright side, Steve;  not only is your party unidentified, but the cranberry juice worked.


Ken Berwitz

The election is over.  Barack Obama has won the presidency, with massive help from mainstream media - provided in no small part by the Washington Post.

But now that they got what they wanted, the former journalists who run the Post (how can you call them journalists anymore) are feeling guilty.  So in addition to the mea-culpa from their ombudsperson, Deborah Howell, which I blogged about this weekend, they have allowed Michael Gerson to write a positive commentary about the man Mr. Obama will take over from.

Here is Gerson's piece.  No bold print from me this time, because every word is worth reading:

The Decency of George W. Bush

By Michael Gerson
Friday, November 7, 2008; A19

Election Day 2008 must have been filled with rueful paradoxes for the sitting president. Iraq -- the issue that dominated George W. Bush's presidency for 5 1/2 bitter, controversial years -- is on the verge of a miraculous peace. And yet this accomplishment did little to revive Bush's political standing -- or to prevent his party from relegating him to a silent role.

The achievement is historic. In 2006, Iraq had descended into a sectarian killing spree that seemed likely to stop only when the supply of victims was exhausted. Showing Truman-like stubbornness, Bush pushed to escalate a war that most Americans -- and some at the Pentagon -- had already mentally abandoned.

The result? A Sunni tribal revolt against their al-Qaeda oppressors, an effective campaign against Shiite militias in Baghdad and Basra, and the flight of jihadists from Iraq to less deadly battlefields. In a more stable atmosphere, Iraq's politicians have made dramatic political progress. Iraqi military and police forces have grown in size and effectiveness and now fully control 13 of Iraq's 18 provinces. And in the month before Election Day, American combat deaths matched the lowest monthly total of the entire war.

For years, critics of the Iraq war asked the mocking question: "What would victory look like?" If progress continues, it might look something like what we've seen.

But Air Force One -- normally seen swooping into battleground states for rallies during presidential elections -- was mainly parked during this campaign. President Bush appeared with John McCain in public a total of three times -- and appeared in McCain's rhetoric as a foil far more often than that.

This seems to be Bush's current fate: Even success brings no praise. And the reasons probably concern Iraq. The absence of stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction in the aftermath of the war was a massive blow. The early conduct of the Iraq occupation was terribly ineffective. Hopes that the war had turned a corner -- repeatedly raised by Iraqis voting with purple fingers and approving a constitution -- were dashed too many times, until many Americans became unwilling to believe anymore.

Initial failures in Iraq acted like a solar eclipse, blocking the light on every other achievement. But those achievements, with the eclipse finally passing, are considerable by the measure of any presidency. Because of the passage of Medicare Part D, nearly 10 million low-income seniors are receiving prescription drugs at little or no cost. No Child Left Behind education reform has helped raise the average reading scores of fourth-graders to their highest level in 15 years and narrowed the achievement gap between white and African American children. The President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief has helped provide treatment for more than 1.7 million people and compassionate care for at least 2.7 million orphans and vulnerable children. And the decision to pursue the surge in Iraq will be studied as a model of presidential leadership.

These achievements, it is true, have limited constituencies to praise them. Many conservatives view Medicare, education reform and foreign assistance as heresies. Many liberals refuse to concede Bush's humanity, much less his achievements.

But that humanity is precisely what I will remember. I have seen President Bush show more loyalty than he has been given, more generosity than he has received. I have seen his buoyancy under the weight of malice and his forgiveness of faithless friends. Again and again, I have seen the natural tug of his pride swiftly overcome by a deeper decency -- a decency that is privately engaging and publicly consequential.

Before the Group of Eight summit in 2005, the White House senior staff overwhelmingly opposed a new initiative to fight malaria in Africa for reasons of cost and ideology -- a measure designed to save hundreds of thousands of lives, mainly of children under 5. In the crucial policy meeting, one person supported it: the president of the United States, shutting off debate with a moral certitude that others have criticized. I saw how this moral framework led him to an immediate identification with the dying African child, the Chinese dissident, the Sudanese former slave, the Burmese women's advocate. It is one reason I will never be cynical about government -- or about President Bush.

For some, this image of Bush is so detached from their own conception that it must be rejected. That is, perhaps, understandable. But it means little to me. Because I have seen the decency of George W. Bush.

I think of this as the print version of crocodile tears from the Washington Post.  But, at the same time, I very much appreciate what Michael Gerson has written. 

Saying anything good about George Bush is a pretty thankless task these days.  I have a feeling, though, that it will somehow become easier as the years go on.


Ken Berwitz

This article, from Israel Today, is for my friends who think that Barack Obama is going to be a great friend of Israel. 

Report: Obama lied about firing anti-Israel advisor

Robert Malley, a top Middle East advisor that US President-elect Barack Obama promised months ago would play no role in his administration due to ties to Hamas, has reportedly been sent out on the next administration's first diplomatic mission.

According to a report in Middle East Newsline, Obama dispatched Malley to Egypt and Syria late last week with a message that the he intends to mend and bolster relations with both nations, and to give greater weight to their concerns regarding regional conflicts than did President George W. Bush.

During the Democratic Party primaries, Obama was lashed by critics for having Malley on his team after the latter admitted to being in regular contact with Hamas as part of his work with the International Crisis Group.

Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt quickly responded at the time that Malley had provided "informal advice to the campaign in the past," but insisted that he had "no formal role in the campaign and he will not play any role in the future."

This is the same Barack Obama who sat happily in the Jew-hating, Israel-hating church of jeremiah wright for 18 years without a peep of protest.  Not even when his church gave last year's lifetime achievement award to louis farrakhan.

But if the exit polls are correct, 78% of all Jews in the United States voted for him anyway.  And, presumably, a vast majority of them support the state of Israel.

What the hell did they THINK he was going to do as President?  Or is the week after the election when they START to think?



Ken Berwitz

When even the LA Times is trumpeting the end of  moqtada al-sadr's "mahdi army", you know it's really happening in a big way.

Want the details?  Well, you can read the entire article by clicking here, or the excerpt I've put out below:

In Iraq, Muqtada Sadr's followers struggle for relevance

 Once the mightiest of Shiite militias, the Mahdi Army finds itself on the run as rivals benefit from government ties and U.S. backing. Efforts to reorganize into a socio-religious group may not help.
By Ned Parker
November 10, 2008
Reporting from Baghdad -- The Mahdi Army fighter gets nervous every time he passes an Iraqi army checkpoint in Sadr City. He has even shaved his beard, a sign of his piety and his fealty to the Shiite Muslim militia, so the soldiers won't recognize him.

"I am hunted. I can't stay home. The neighbors are informing on us," 28-year-old Bassem said at a recent rally for his leader, cleric Muqtada Sadr. Using a derogatory term for the Iraqi army, he added, "Four times, the dirty division has raided my house."
At the height of Iraq's civil war, the Mahdi Army was arguably the mightiest group in the country, revered as a protector of Iraq's Shiite majority and feared for its death squads and criminal activities. The militia functioned as a state within a state, its members collecting protection fees from businesses, its fighters intimidating the Iraqi security forces that were supposed to police them.

In a telling measure of the militia's power, the U.S. military credits Sadr's decision more than a year ago to call a cease-fire as one of the chief reasons for the sharp drop in violence in Iraq.

But Sadr's fortunes have also plummeted, and his followers now contemplate a world where they are on the run and their Shiite rivals have the upper hand.

The current order in Sadr City is a bitter pill for the militia, a testament to its weakened state. Iraqi soldiers march through the street outside Sadr's headquarters in the crowded Baghdad district. Nearby, an army base fills the dirt lot where people once prayed on Friday afternoons. Deprived of the traditional spot, worshipers lay their prayer mats on the street.

The movement is trying to survive hard times by restructuring, absorbing fighters into a new social organization, and by waging a political campaign against an unpopular U.S.-Iraqi security agreement. The maneuvers could resurrect Sadr's militia as a leaner, more disciplined force that could vie for power in Iraq if America draws down and no longer provides military support to Sadr's rivals. Or they could mark the beginning of the end for the populist movement.

Although fighters such as Bassem say they must honor Sadr's freeze, others in Sadr City whisper about Mahdi Army loyalists who have started to set off explosives or shoot Iraqi soldiers at close range. The U.S. military says it has no record of such assassinations; still, the rumors suggest that some Mahdi Army factions could continue to carry out attacks even if the broader movement is marginalized, raising the specter of a return of the violent days of the past.

Sadr's troubles are rooted in the fighting between his militia and Iraqi security forces that erupted in March after Prime Minister Nouri Maliki ordered the army to clear the militia's strongholds in the southern city of Basra. The clashes there ended only when Sadr commanded his militia to stand down, and then did the same in Sadr City six weeks later.

The cleric's retreat was hailed as a victory for Maliki. Former Sadr supporters expressed relief at the end of the fighting and resentment toward the Mahdi Army for endangering them.

With his armed wing formally frozen, Sadr looked to repair his movement's image. He announced in June that his fighters should form a new social and religious education organization, named Mumahidoon, which aims to teach Iraqis about Islam. Some fighters would also be tapped to join an elite armed wing that Sadr has authorized to fight the Americans, outside the cities away from civilian populations.

Sadr's top aides echoed his message that the old Mahdi Army was finished in the cities.

"The Americans may fear that the Mahdi Army will come back with weapons. We tell them no. That chapter is finished. The struggle is now in parliament and the political arena," said Sheik Hazem Araji, a senior advisor to Sadr.

How did it happen?  How is it that the mightiest militia in Iraq is now in this state of near collapse?

The answer is that we did this.  The USA.  Our troop surge, which decimated much of its infrastructure and enabled Iraqi troops to train and take over for ours, has directly provided this wonderful result.

And who should get the credit for this?  Heaven forfend, do we have to give it to President Bush for implementing the surge and John McCain for insisting it was necessary?  Oh my God, what a horror show.  THEY were the ones.

But wait, what about Barack Obama?  Didn't he have something to say about the troop surge?

Well, yes.  He did.  In January of last year Mr. Obama said "I am not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq is going to solve the sectarian violence.  In fact, I think it will do the reverse" 

Let's remember this when that same Barack Obama, as President, orders a troop reduction in Iraq and takes personal credit for it. 

Let's remember that, if he can reduce our troop strength without handing Iraq to al qaeda or al-sadr on a silver platter, it will be because his dead-wrong opinion about the troop surge was ignored.

We better remember it.  Because you can bet the house that most media won't.


Ken Berwitz

Ideas never die.  And sometimes it's too bad.

Here's a little reichstag blast from Germany's past for you, straight from the Saxony region.  It comes to us from the Agence France-Presse, via

Jewish group mulls charges over neo-Nazi Obama slurs
Nov 10 11:48 AM US/Eastern
A prominent Jewish group said Monday it was reviewing legal options against a German neo-Nazi party for "racist" remarks calling Barack Obama's election a "declaration of war" on non-white America.

The Berlin chapter of the American Jewish Committee (AFC) condemned statements made by Juergen Gansel, a deputy in the Saxony state legislature for the far-right National Democratic Party of Germany, against Obama's election as the first African-American US president.

In a statement from his office entitled "Africa conquers the White House," Gansel said multicultural America sought the destruction of "pure" national cultures and that Obama aimed to destroy the United States' "white identity."

"A non-white America is a declaration of war on all people who believe an organically grown social order based on language and culture, history and heritage to be the essence of humanity," he said.

"Barack Obama hides this declaration of war behind his pushy sunshine smile."

Gansel said Obama's triumph was the product of "the American alliance of Jews and Negroes" and warned the president-elect enjoyed toomuch popularity in Germany.

"Many people in the 'diverse' republic Germany have been swept up in Obama fever which resembles an African tropical disease," he said.

Gansel said he hoped that Obama's voters would be quickly disappointed by his performance and rise up against the US government.

"It would be a gross irony of history if the first black president drove his clientele of minorities to openly revolt due to his grandiose domestic failure, and the much-touted American dream became a nightmare," he said.

The director of the AJC's Berlin office, Deidre Berger, said she was shocked by Gansel's "open expression of racism, anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism."

She said the AJC hoped German authorities would look into Gansel's press release and that German politicians would clearly distance themselves from his sentiments.

"We are investigating the legal situation concerning the statement and will continue monitoring closely political statements using extremist language," she told AFP.

"We urge state authorities to do their utmost within legal bounds to prosecute such incitement."

The NPD, which professes an anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic platform, holds seats in two eastern German states but has never cleared the five-percent hurdle for representation in the national parliament, the Bundestag.

joseph goebbels would be so proud. 

But I wish the folks in Saxony, where juergen gansel reeks from, were a little more discerning.  They are the ones who - so far - have accepted him in their state legislature. 

Of course it is possible (improbable considering his party, but possible) that they didn't know gansel has these views.  But they certainly do now. 

Will the people of Saxony demand that he be removed from his position?  Would they vote for him in the next election?

It doesn't get much uglier, does it?

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