Friday, 16 January 2009


Ken Berwitz

Have you ever seen or heard of any mainstream media calling the Congressional Black Caucus racist?  I'll bet you haven't.

Ok, then; what do you call a group comprised exclusively of people with a specific skin color, which will only accept members who are of that skin color? 

C'mon, what do you call that group?  What's that six letter word starting with "r" and ending with "t".  You know it as well as I do.

It's bad enough that there are overtly racist private organizations.  But this one is comprised of publicly elected federal officials, who operate on federal property and are paid with federal tax dollars. 

Think about it.  Do I exaggerate in any way at all? 

Now that I've got your attention, please read the following article, written by Hazel Trice Edney for, and see how you feel about it:

Days Before Historic Inauguration, Congressional Black Caucus Anticipates Greater Power
by Hazel Trice Edney
NNPA Editor-in-Chief
Originally posted 1/15/2009

WASHINGTON (NNPA) The 41-member Congressional Black Caucus, which often describes itself as the conscience of the Congress, is anticipating a power surge next week as one of its former members takes the oath of office as president of the United States.

As I stand here today, I can tell you with certainty that these 41 members of the Congressional Black Caucus recognizes that this is our moment, said U. S. Rep. Barbara Lee, the new chairwoman of the 40-year-old caucus at the groups ceremonial swearing in last week.

Recalling the mission of the 13 founding members of the CBC as being to achieve greater equity for persons of African decent, Lee, of California, told the audience of hundreds in the new Capitol Visitors Center, As we change the course of our country, and as we confront the economy, and as we continue moving forward, we will continue their legacy in working day and night to make this a better and more secure world for our children.

Then U. S. Sen. Barack Obama served as a member of the Congressional Black Caucus with a consistent record of 100 percent on the NAACP Civil Rights report card. But it is often said that he must now govern the nation as a president - not as a Black president. Agreeing, members of the CBC interviewed by the NNPA News Service at a reception following the Jan. 6 swearing in, said as they push legislation to improve the plight of Blacks in America, they will be emboldened by the support of the president because of his principles, not because of his race.

It challenges the Congressional Black Caucus because now more than ever, America will recognize that there are three branches of government, the executive, the judicial and the legislative, the legislature being the initiator of ideas, says Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas). It will be very good to compliment the leadership of President Obama to have ideas coming from the Caucus - ideas and solutions to problems, working on the dream that is still a work in progress.

For too long have certain tenets of American democracy, such as freedom and justice for all been recited, but not fully realized, says Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.). He ticked off a list of issues that will need immediate attention.

Health care, jobs, educationgetting serious about reducing crime. We have a lot of work to do and we look forward to working with President Obama and we will work enthusiastically to solve these problems, says Scott.

Black political observers will also watch closely to see what will happen with legislation on predatory lending, police profiling and misconduct, sentencing disparities, affirmative action, and other areas of public policy that have largely remained stagnant.

The CBC was founded in January of 1969 when 13 African-American representatives of the 77th Congress formed the Democratic Select Committee. The committee was renamed the Congressional Black Caucus in 1971. Founding members of the CBC were Reps. Shirley Chisholm (N.Y.), William Clay (Mo.), George Collins (Ill.), John Conyers (Mich.), Ronald Dellums (Calif.), Charles Diggs (Mich.), Augustus Hawkins (Calif.), Ralph Metcalfe (Ill.), Parren Mitchell (Md.), Robert Nix (Pa.), Charles Rangel (N.Y.), Louis Stokes (Ohio), and Delegate Walter Fauntroy (D.C.).

Forty years later, two of the CBC founding members are chairing two of the most powerful committees in Congress. Rep. John Conyers, known as the dean of the CBC, chairs the House Judiciary Committee and Rep. Charlie Rangel chairs the House Ways and Means Committee. Two other CBC members chair House committees. They are Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) of the Homeland Security Committee and Edolphus Towns, who chairs the House Oversight Committee. In addition, there are 15 subcommittee chairs who are CBC members.

U. S. Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), the House majority whip, is currently the highest ranking African-American in Congress.

The growing power of the CBC is clearly bolstered by Democratic majorities in both houses. This will be an outstanding year in the history of our great nation, Clyburn told the audience at the swearing in. He introduced House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as a strong, steely petite woman.

Pelosi told the Caucus, Here we are in this incredible, incredible time. With all the good work, all of the inspiration, all of the volition, leading the challenge with much work undone, laying the foundation for two weeks, Barack Obama for president of the United States.

The audience burst into applause. This is a great opportunity and I think well take advantage of it, said Rep. Al Green (D-Texas) at the reception.

Rep. G. K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), newly elected CBC secretary, was emphatic: The CBC has the tremendous responsibility to expose and confront the disparities that hurt our community, Butterfield said in a statement. With a solid Democratic majority and a powerful ally occupying The White House, the African-American community can expect us to be relentless in our effort to empower our community.

For your information, "NNPA" stands for National Newspaper Publishers Association.  It is also known as the Black Press of America.

So what do we have here?  We have the editor-in-chief of a newspaper group comprised solely of Black newspapers (sorry, New York Times - you're not invited), adoringly reporting about the increased power of an overtly racist congressional caucus.

I'm not going to write the obvious counterpoint about what media would say if there were an all-White congressional caucus and/or newspaper association.  You've seen it before and know all about it.

But it would be nice if our wonderful "neutral" media had a word or two to say about the Congressional Black Caucus' racist composition. 

In fairness, I admit that it has only been 38 years since the caucus was formed, so maybe there wasn't enough time to gather sufficient information for an article.  But I just can't help thinking that, by now, one or two could have been written.

Or am I a racist for suggesting it?



Ken Berwitz

I regret to say that, until a couple of weeks ago, I had never heard of Connie Hair, let alone read any of her columns.

I regret this because she is so good a writer and so good a reporter that not knowing about her has caused me to miss an excellent source of information.

Here is her latest column, from  It explains just how godawful a selection Eric Holder is for Attorney General:

Would Holder Recommend Pardon for Oklahoma City Bombers?
The Senate Judiciary confirmation hearing of Eric Holder, President-elect Barack Obamas nominee for Attorney General of the United States, began yesterday with great fanfare and a few fireworks. Some Republican members of the committee asked very pointed questions, while Democrats blew kisses at the designee.

Rivaling Forrest Gump in sheer scope of participation in historys notorious moments, Holder appears to have played a part in every major scandal of the Clinton administration, aside from sex with Monica Lewinsky in the Oval Office.  There was hardly time to cover the magnitude of this nominees troubled experience, especially given that only one side of the committee was participating in real questioning.  Elian Gonzales, Waco, FALN terrorist pardons, the Marc Rich pardon, nuclear technology transfers to China -- the list goes on and on.  Holder has even popped up in the first big scandal to hit the Office of the President-elect, the Blagojevich corruption scandal.  

Early on, Holder was asked about his recommendation as an assistant attorney general to then President Bill Clinton in favor of the granting of clemency to 16 FALN Puerto Rican terrorists who were responsible for over 130 bombings in the United States.  It was revealed in the hearing today that these terrorists had not themselves asked for clemency.  Yet at the same time when then-President Clinton was considering granting clemency to these terrorists, Hillary Clinton was making her inaugural run to be the junior Senator from New York and was in dire need of the Puerto Rican vote.   
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) asked Holder if he personally thought that the decision and the ultimate pardon of these terrorists by President Clinton was a wrong decision. Holder defended the pardon.  The Presidents determination was that they had not committed any acts themselves that resulted in death or bodily injury.  And on that basis and given the amount of time that they had served in jail, roughly 16 to 19 years in jail, most had 19 years, and given the length of the sentences they had received it was his determination that the clemency requests were appropriate taking all of that into consideration, Holder said.

Sessions then asked, Do you personally have an opinion whether it was right or wrong?  Holder replied, I think that given all that I have described that what the President did was reasonable.

That response did not sit well at all with many of the Republican senators but in particular Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.).  I caught up with Coburn in the hallway outside of the hearing and asked him about the Holder response.  I dont think that it was in any way reasonable to grant clemency to these terrorists, Coburn said.  Terry Nichols didnt participate at all in the Oklahoma City bombing other than he was part of a conspiracy that allowed it to happen.  But these people [FALN terrorists] allowed it to happen and people died.  People were killed.  Families lost loved ones.  Thats like saying 10 years from now were going to let Terry Nichols go.  I hope he rots in jail.  By Eric Holders standard Terry Nichols would be free.

In a later round, Sessions went on to point out that Osama bin Laden and Khalid Sheik Mohammed were not directly responsible for the execution of the 9/11 attacks either, but they were part of the planning and conspiracy that surrounded the attacks.  Yet time and again, Holder maintained that freeing these terrorists was a reasonable decision.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, opened the morning proceedings by first playing the race card in support of this problematic nominee.  It was seven score and four years ago that this nation answered the fundamental question President Lincoln posed in his Gettysburg Address and the world learned that liberty, equality and democracy could serve as the foundation for this great and united nation, Leahy said, as if the civil war had anything to do with the fitness of this nominee to serve as the attorney general of the United States.

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) was outspoken in voicing concerns about the Holder nomination at the hearing, first taking the committee chairman to task for his refusal to co-sign any of the documentation requests or issue subpoenas to reluctant witnesses.  

The chairman declined to co-sign the letter requesting records from the Clinton Library and the records have not been obtained, Specter said in his opening statement.  When the minority previously had a dozen witnesses under similar circumstances, we got three.  When two witnesses, Ms. Mary Jo White and Mr. Roger Adams, refused to appear, our requests for subpoenas were denied.

When confronted with this lack of cooperation in compelling document production and witnesses, Leahy replied, jammed among other things, This is not a lifelong position.

Specter went on to excoriate Holder for his refusal to appoint an independent counsel to investigate Al Gores shady campaign fundraising practices allegedly involving foreign governments (China being the most prominent) and basing fundraising operations out of the White House.

If it hadnt been the Vice President, your superior, somebody to favor, an independent counsel would have been appointed, Specter said.  I think its so clear that it raises a question in my mind as to your fitness for the job.

Holder defended himself saying, We certainly didnt favor Al Gore when we decided to make that rescue of Elian Gonzales in Florida, a critical state, as it turned out, for Al Gore.  When do you rescue a child from his loving family by pointing a gun in his face?  It was Holder who did point out at the time that the officers finger was not on the trigger of that assault weapon when he went in and ripped Elian out of his bedroom.

A defensive Holder then accused Specter of questioning his competence as an attorney and his integrity, to which the senator replied, You are an excellent lawyer, Mr. Holder.  If you werent such a good lawyer I wouldnt be so surprised.  If you were a poor lawyer, an inexperienced lawyer, not a real professional, I could say, He doesnt know any better.  My evaluation is that a man in your position knew better.

Senators Sessions and Coburn pressed Holder on a variety of issues ranging from the Second Amendment to the Fairness Doctrine, and at these times, Holder bobbed and weaved, refusing to answer whether he would uphold states rights to permit concealed carrying of weapons and denying that anyone in the Obama circle was planning to interfere.  On the Fairness Doctrine, Holder avoided any clear answers.

Holders participation in the hearing concluded last night and the hearing will continue today with outside witnesses both in favor of and in opposition to the nomination.

Yes, I've written about the unfitness of Eric Holder too.  But, frankly, Ms. Hair's column blows my efforts away.  I don't know how a reasonable person can read this and be comfortable with this loser in the AG's office. 

You had a problem with John Ashcroft?  Alberto Gonzalez?  Compared to Holder they're Edmund Randolph and William Bradford.

Now, watch him be confirmed - with barely any of the information Ms. Hair has supplied us with reported by mainstream media.


Ken Berwitz

Now that Norm Coleman has been reduced to fighting in court to prevent the theft of his senate seat, the Wall Street Journal has published a terrific article explaining why the techniques that allowed Franken to steal Coleman's seat are unconstitutional. 

The writer, Michael Stokes Paulson, is not a columnist or a disgruntled Republican politician.  He is a professor of law, and former associate Dean at the University of Minnesota law school. 

Here's what he has to say:

The Minnesota Recount Was Unconstitutional

There's still plenty of time for the state to get it right.


You would think people would learn. The recount in the contest between Norm Coleman and Al Franken for a seat in the U.S. Senate isn't just embarrassing. It is unconstitutional.

[Commentary] AP

A disputed ballot in Minnesota.

This is Florida 2000 all over again, but with colder weather. Like that fiasco, Minnesota's muck of a process violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Indeed, the controlling Supreme Court decision is none other than Bush v. Gore.

Remember Florida? Local officials conducting recounts could not decide what counted as a legal vote. Hanging chads? Dimpled chads? Should "undervotes" count (where a machine failed to read an incompletely-punched card)? What about "overvotes" (where voters punched more than one hole)? Different counties used different standards; different precincts within counties were inconsistent.

The Florida Supreme Court intervened and made things worse, ordering a statewide recount of some types of rejected ballots but not others. It specified no standards for what should count as a valid vote, leaving the judgment to each county. And it ordered partial recounts already conducted in some counties (but not others) included in the final tabulation. The result was chaos.

By a vote of 7-2, Bush v. Gore (2000) ruled that Florida's recount violated the principle that all votes must be treated uniformly. Applying precedents dating to the 1960s, the Court found that the Equal Protection Clause meant that ballots must be treated so as to give every vote equal weight. A state may not, by "arbitrary and disparate treatment, value one person's vote over that of another." Florida's lack of standards produced "unequal evaluation of ballots in several respects." The state's supreme court "ratified this uneven treatment" and created more of its own, and was unconstitutional.

Bush v. Gore is rightly regarded as controversial -- but not because of its holding regarding the Equal Protection Clause, which commanded broad agreement among the justices. The controversy arose because of the remedy the Court chose for Florida's violation, which was to end the recount entirely. The majority thought that time was up under Florida law requiring that its results be submitted in time to be included in the Electoral College count. That aspect of Bush v. Gore commanded only five votes. Two justices thought Florida should get more time and another chance.

The problem with the remedy was that it arguably violated the same principle that led the Court to invalidate the recount: the need to treat all votes equally. It had the practical effect of awarding the election to Bush (though subsequent media counts confirmed that Bush won anyway, under any uniform standard). This has led to enduring partisan criticism of the case, some fair and some unfair.

But no matter: Bush v. Gore is the law of the land. On the question of how the Equal Protection Clause applies to state recounts, the ruling, which reflected a 7-2 majority, controls.

Minnesota is Bush v. Gore reloaded. The details differ, but not in terms of arbitrariness, lack of uniform standards, inconsistency in how local recounts were conducted and counted, and strange state court decisions.

Consider the inconsistencies: One county "found" 100 new votes for Mr. Franken, due to an asserted clerical error. Decision? Add them. Ramsey County (St. Paul) ended up with 177 more votes than were recorded election day. Decision? Count them. Hennepin County (Minneapolis, where I voted -- once, to my knowledge) came up with 133 fewer votes than were recorded by the machines. Decision? Go with the machines' tally. All told, the recount in 25 precincts ended up producing more votes than voters who signed in that day.

Then there's Minnesota's (first, so far) state Supreme Court decision, Coleman v. Ritchie, decided by a vote of 3-2 on Dec. 18. (Two justices recused themselves because they were members of the state canvassing board.) While not as bad as Florida's interventions, the Minnesota Supreme Court ordered local boards to count some previously excluded absentee ballots but not others. Astonishingly, the court left the decision as to which votes to count to the two competing campaigns and forbade local election officials to correct errors on their own.

If Messrs. Franken and Coleman agreed, an absentee ballot could be counted. Either campaign could veto a vote. Dean Barkley of the Independence Party, who ran third, was not included in this process.

Thus, citizens' right to vote -- the right to vote! -- was made subject to political parties' gaming strategies. Insiders agree that Mr. Franken's team played a far more savvy game than Mr. Coleman's. The margin of Mr. Franken's current lead is partly the product of a successful what's-mine-is-mine-what's-yours-is-vetoed strategy, and of the Coleman team's failure to counter it.

The process is not over yet, since the state court decision in effect kicked the can down the road. The candidates can revisit these issues by contesting the legal validity of the election under state law -- which Mr. Coleman's team did last week.

But as matters stand now, the Minnesota recount is a legal train wreck. The result, a narrow Franken lead, is plainly invalid. Just as in Bush v. Gore, the recount has involved "unequal evaluation of ballots in several respect" and failed to provide "minimal procedural safeguards" of equal treatment of all ballots. Legally, it does not matter which candidate benefited from all these differences in treatment. (Mr. Franken did.) The different treatment makes the results not only unreliable (and suspicious), but unconstitutional.

What is the remedy? Unlike Bush v. Gore, there is no looming national deadline. Minnesota can take its time and do things right.

This means two things: First, the process must conform to Minnesota election law. Second, it must conform to Bush v. Gore. Whatever standards Minnesota uses must be applied uniformly, consistently, and under clear standards not admitting of local variation. Discrepancies between machine counts and hand recounts, and between numbers of recorded votes and signed-in voters, however resolved, must be resolved the same way throughout the state.

The standards for evaluating rejected absentee ballots likewise must be uniform, with decisions made according to legal standards, not by partisan campaigns. If the Minnesota Supreme Court fails to assure these things, the matter could go right up to the U.S. Supreme Court.

And what if there is no reliable way to determine in a recount who won, consistent with Bush v. Gore's requirements?

The Constitution's answer is a do-over. The 17th Amendment provides: "When vacancies happen in the representation of any State in the Senate, the executive authority of such State shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies: Provided, That the legislature of any State may empower the executive thereof to make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct."

In a sense, a vacancy has already "happened." The U.S. Senate convened on Jan. 6 with only one senator from Minnesota. Still, the seat is perhaps not "vacant," just unfilled. But if the contest proceeding does not produce a clear winner that passes constitutional muster, a special election -- and a temporary appointment by Gov. Tim Pawlenty -- may be the only answer.

For now, the only thing certain is that the present "certified" result -- which is that Mr. Franken won by 225 votes out of more than 2.9 million cast -- is an obvious, embarrassing violation of the Constitution.

Maybe it's about time the Coleman people get up to speed and start dealing with Franken's theft from this constitutional angle.  Wouldn't you say?


Ken Berwitz

I saw this video while reading Andrew Sullivan's web site (  I only wish Sullivan was as entertaining.





Ken Berwitz

The election is over and, in just a few more days,  Barack Obama will become President of the United States.

The campaign is over too.  So, in just a few more days, Mr. Obama will be responsible for governing the country; not for making speeches about governing the country that are solely designed to get votes.

For this reason, Mr. Obama appears to be a somewhat different man than he was during the election process.  Not in all areas, but in some.  And - I fervently hope I'm right about this - national security appears to be one of them.

Here is Charles Krauthammer's take on the Obama ephiphany.  The brilliance is Krauthammer's.  The bold print is mine:

The sincerest form of flattery: Barack Obama is following in George Bush's footsteps

Friday, January 16th 2009, 4:00 AM

Except for Richard Nixon, no President since Harry Truman leaves office more unloved than George W. Bush. Truman's rehabilitation took decades. Bush's will come sooner. Indeed, it has already begun. The chief revisionist? Barack Obama.

Vindication is being expressed not in words but in deeds - the tacit endorsement conveyed by the Obama continuity-we-can-believe-in transition. It's not just the retention of such key figures as Secretary of Defense Bob Gates or Treasury Secretary nominee Timothy Geithner, who, as president of the New York Fed, has been instrumental in guiding the Bush financial rescue over the last year. It's the continuity of policy.

It is the repeated pledge to conduct a withdrawal from Iraq that does not destabilize its new democracy and that, as Vice President-elect Joe Biden said just this week in Baghdad, adheres to the Bush-negotiated status of forces agreement that envisions a U.S. withdrawal over three years, not the 16-month timetable on which Obama campaigned.

It is the great care Obama is taking in not preemptively abandoning the anti-terror infrastructure that the Bush administration leaves behind. While still a candidate, Obama voted for the expanded presidential wiretapping (FISA) powers that Bush had fervently pursued. And while Obama opposes waterboarding (already banned, by the way, by Bush's CIA in 2006), he declined George Stephanopoulos' invitation (on ABC's "This Week") to outlaw all interrogation not permitted by the Army Field Manual. Explained Obama: "Dick Cheney's advice was good, which is let's make sure we know everything that's being done," i.e., before throwing out methods simply because Obama campaigned against them.

Obama still disagrees with Cheney's view of the acceptability of some of these techniques. But citing as sage the advice offered by "the most dangerous vice president we've had probably in American history" (according to Joe Biden) - advice paraphrased by Obama as "we shouldn't be making judgments on the basis of incomplete information or campaign rhetoric" - is a startlingly early sign of a newly respectful consideration of the Bush-Cheney legacy.

Not from any change of heart. But from simple reality. The beauty of democratic rotations of power is that when the opposition takes office, cheap criticism and calumny will no longer do. The Democrats now own Iraq. They own the war on Al Qaeda. And they own the panoply of anti-terror measures with which the Bush administration kept us safe these last seven years.

Which is why Obama is consciously creating a gulf between what he now dismissively calls "campaign rhetoric" and the policy choices he must now make as President. Accordingly, Newsweek - Obama acolyte and scourge of everything Bush/Cheney - has on the eve of the Democratic restoration miraculously discovered the arguments for warrantless wiretaps, enhanced interrogation and detention without trial. Indeed, Newsweek's neck-snapping cover declares, "Why Obama May Soon Find Virtue in Cheney's Vision of Power."

Obama will be loath to throw away the tools that have kept the homeland safe. Just as he will be loath to jeopardize the remarkable turnaround in American fortunes in Iraq.

Obama opposed the war. But the war is all but over. What remains is an Iraq turned from aggressive, hostile power in the heart of the Middle East to an emerging democracy openly allied with the United States. No President would want to be responsible for undoing that success.

In Iraq, Bush rightly took criticism for all that went wrong - the WMD fiasco, Abu Ghraib, the descent into bloody chaos in 2005-06. Then Bush goes to Baghdad to ratify the ultimate postsurge success of that troubled campaign - the signing of a strategic partnership between the U.S. and Iraq - and ends up dodging two size-10 shoes for his pains.

Absorbing that insult was Bush's final service on Iraq. Whatever venom the war generated is concentrated on Bush himself. By having personalized the responsibility for the awfulness of the war, Bush has done his successor a favor. Obama enters office with a strategic success on his hands - while Bush leaves the scene taking a shoe for his country.

Which is why I suspect Bush showed such equanimity during a private farewell interview at the White House a few weeks ago. He leaves behind the sinews of war, for the creation of which he has been so vilified but that will serve his successor - and his country - well over the coming years. The very continuation by Democrats of Bush's policies will be grudging, if silent, acknowledgment of how much he got right..

You can accuse Barack Obama of being many things.  But being stupid isn't one of them. 

He knows that, no matter how lovingly the media have treated him so far, and no matter how easy it will be for them to blame his failures on Bush for a period of time after he takes office, at some point the "insulation period" will end. 

Put another way, at some point Barack Obama will be responsible for what Barack Obama does.

Call me a cockeyed optimist, but I suspect Mr. Obama would rather be called a turncoat/traitor by the hardcore leftists he enthralled during the campaign, than what he'd be called if he crippled or ended national security measures and we got hit by Islamic terrorists because of it.

Anyway, I sure hope so.


Ken Berwitz

Andew Wyeth, one of the most beloved painters in this country has died today, at the age of 91.

Wyeth specialized in painting the landscape and the way of life of rural America.  Much of his work was done where he lived, in small-town Pennsylvania and in Maine.

He was disdained by some of the more trendy people in the art world as a relic; a painter of nothing more than simple everyday things.  Ironically, that is probably why his work became so beloved by average people.

May he rest in peace.

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