Saturday, 13 December 2008


Ken Berwitz

Apparently the Washington Post is going to end its fact-checking feature - and the Annenberg Foundation will be severely curtailing its activities.

How convenient that this will be done just as the Obama administration is about to take office.

Here are the particulars - with appropriately sarcastic commentary - from

Where Have All The Fact Checkers Gone?

December 11th, 2008

First, these sad tidings from the (laughably self-styled) Fact Checker at the Washington Post also called it quits:

Farewell Edition

November 3, 2008

The Fact Checker is shutting up shop on Nov. 4. Over the last 15 months, I have checked some 200 claims and statements relating to the presidential campaign, and received 18,000 comments, many of them vehemently disputing my verdicts. Pinocchios have entered the campaign lexicon, and are sometimes used as a verb, e.g. You were Pinocchioed for that statement. I will leave it up to readers to decide whether the whole experiment has been worthwhile. For this farewell edition, here are a few of my personal favorites from the long, winding campaign trail.

Sure, it could be argued that the Washington Posts Fact Checker was just an election thing. The rest of the time the Washington Post is unconcerned about facts.

But what is the Annenberg Foundations also closing down:

Good-bye For Now

See you in 2009!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

We end our weekly series with one, last look at the 2008 election circus. Just the Facts! will be back in 2009 with occasional episodes and updates.

Oddly enough, the Annenberg folks never said they were only doing this for the campaign in their about page:

About - Our Mission

We are a nonpartisan, nonprofit consumer advocate for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics. We monitor the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews and news releases. Our goal is to apply the best practices of both journalism and scholarship, and to increase public knowledge and understanding.

The Annenberg Political Fact Check is a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. The APPC was established by publisher and philanthropist Walter Annenberg in 1994 to create a community of scholars within the University of Pennsylvania that would address public policy issues at the local, state and federal levels.

The APPC accepts NO funding from business corporations, labor unions, political parties, lobbying organizations or individuals. It is funded primarily by the Annenberg Foundation.

Obviously this is no longer going to be necessary, since there will be no more deception in politics with the Obama ascendency and the Democrats taking complete control of the federal government.

Still, for their sheer hypocrisy, we award the Annenberg Foundation and the Washington Post five (out of five) Pinocchios.

They have a point, of course.  What possible reason has Barack Obama given us for fact-checking?  Hasn't he been completely honest with us about jeremiah wright?  And tony rezko?  And william ayers?  And rod blagojerkevich?  And wasn't he completely forthcoming about blocking BAIPA legislation in Illinois because it didn't assure the retention of abortion rights (which it did)?  And didn't he immediately make sure we saw his original birth certificate to prove he is legally able to be our President?

What possible reason do we have to doubt him?


Ken Berwitz

Poor Nicolas Sarkozy. 

The President of France wants all the right people to like him.  But he has this information that flies in the face of one of their most cherished, indisputable facts. 

What a dilemma.

Here, courtesy of the Financial Times of London, is how he is handling it.  The suppression is his; the bold print is mine:

Politically inconvenient truth about electric cars

By Paul Betts and Song Jung-a

Published: December 11 2008 19:24 | Last updated: December 11 2008 19:24

President Nicolas Sarkozy would dearly like to end Frances rotating presidency of the European Union on a high note by brokering this week a deal on a grand European response to global warming and energy efficiency. The ultimate plan is to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 20 per cent with member states at the same time drawing their future energy needs from clean renewable sources by the same percentage amount. Under the circumstances, it is no surprise that the automobile industry has found itself at the heart of the climate change debate.

Indeed, Mr Sarkozys own government commissioned months ago one of Frances leading energy experts Jean Syrota, the former French energy industry regulator to draw up a report to analyse all the options for building cleaner and more efficient mass-market cars by 2030. The 129-page report was completed in September to coincide with the Paris motor show. But the government has continued to sit on it and seems reluctant to ever publish it.

Yet all those who have managed to glimpse at the document agree that it makes interesting reading. It concludes that there is not much future in the much vaunted developed of all electric-powered cars. Instead, it suggests that the traditional combustion engine powered by petrol, diesel, ethanol or new biofuels still offers the most realistic prospect of developing cleaner vehicles. Carbon emissions and fuel consumption could be cut by 30-40 per cent simply by improving the performance and efficiency of traditional engines and limiting the top speed to about 170km/hr. Even that is well above the average top speed restriction in Europe, with the notable exception of Germany. New so-called stop and start mechanisms can produce further 10 per cent reductions that can rise to 25-30 per cent in cities. Enhancements in car electronics as well as the development of more energy efficient tyres, such as Michelins new energy saver technology, are also expected to help reduce consumption and pollution.

Overall, the Syrota report says that adapting and improving conventional engines could enhance their efficiency by an average of 50 per cent. It also argues that new-generation hybrid cars combining conventional engines with electric propulsion could provide an interesting future alternative.

By combining electric batteries with conventional fuel-driven engines, cars could run on clean electricity for short urban trips while switching over to fuel on motorways. This would resolve one of the biggest problems facing all electric cars the need to install costly battery recharging infrastructures.The report warns that the overall cost of an all-electric car remains unviable at around double that of a conventional vehicle. Battery technology is still unsatisfactory, severely limiting performance both in terms of range and speed. The electricity supply for these batteries would continue to come from mostly fossil sources.

There you go.  If you don't like the answers, just forget you ever asked them.  That makes it all go away. 

Al Gore will be so proud.....


Ken Berwitz

This highly informative little blog from John Hinderaker of explains how al franken can overturn the Minnestota senate election and remove Norm Coleman as the winner.  Please pay special attention to the two paragraphs I've put in bold print, which are the blueprint for this theft-in-progress:

Coleman-Franken Race Takes A Left Turn

Today, in a surprise move, Minnesota's Canvassing Board acceded to Al Franken's demands and requested that all of the state's counties identify absentee ballots that were incorrectly disqualified on election day, and count them. No one knows how many such ballots there are, but the most recent indications are that there may be 1,600 that will be so classified.

What makes this situation odd is that each county is being called on to identify its own election day errors. How the counties choose to do so may depend on their partisan composition. Following the Canvassing Board's ruling--which is only a request, not an order--the Coleman campaign petitioned Minnesota's Supreme Court for an order setting out uniform standards for the counties to follow in defining and identifying "improperly" disqualified ballots.

This means that the scenario many Republicans have feared will come to pass; two Republican Supreme Court judges are on the Canvassing Board and likely will recuse themselves from participating in Coleman's appeal. The bottom line may well be that the more partisan counties--generally speaking, the Democrat-dominated ones--will have considerable latitude in selecting the ballots that are now to be added to the vote total.

On paper, this is a losing battle for Franken. He needs to make up a 200-vote deficit, and errors by county election judges presumably are randomly distributed among the candidates (the Senate race had three viable candidates). Even if 1,600 new ballots are put into play, it would strain the law of averages to the breaking point to imagine that Franken's total would exceed Coleman's by more than 200. But with varying levels of partisan commitment among county officials, the identification of "improperly" excluded ballots will not necessarily be random.

Got that?  They can decide who to count and not count. They can make up their own rules as they go along. 

As John pointed out, since both candidates got virtually the same number of votes, it stands to reason that ballots erroneously rejected - which should therefore be entirely random - will be just about even too.  For franken to overcome his deficit requires a percentage of ballots in his favor that does not have anything to do with reality and would, in a black-humor way, be comical if it happened.

But then again, franken writes comedy sketches, doesn't he?

It looks (and smells) like al franken's Christmas present came early this year.  (Yeah, I know he's Jewish - so is Coleman, by the way - but this ruling is straight from Santa Claus).

John Emerson There's no evidence of any misbehavior. There is a possibility that Coleman might lose, which is what bothers you. Coleman never won the election, so Franken can't steal it. No winner will be declared before next Friday at the earliest. The recount was automatic and required by law. The standard for rejecting write in ballots will be less vague during the recount than it was when the ballots were first rejected. Nobody knows who the rejected votes are for, because the envelopes haven't been opened. If there's any standard established, regardless of what it is, and if all counties apply it, it doesn't favor anyone. But if the Republican counties refuse to play, it will hurt Coleman. People should really quit making fact-free accusations. There's no evidence that anyone is cheating. (12/13/08)

Ken Berwitz John Emerson: Your comment sounds good, but is more than a little disingenuous. Since each county can choose to "play" (as you call it) the way they want, the election now degenerates into a "game" of who can find the most ballots that favor one candidate or the other. Yes, no one knows for sure what is in each envelope; but we certainly know for sure which counties are more and less Democratic. And recent history suggests that the Democratic party is far more adept at this "game" than Republicans. Reference Washington State in the 2004 gubernatorial race to see for yourself. (12/13/08)

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