Nel's New Day

October 31, 2012

Romney Desperate in Last Few Days

Mitt Romney’s campaign was headed downhill after President Obama’s two successful debates, but the tragic storm on the East Coast has required the Republican candidate to frantically think up a new strategy.

First, Romney campaigners admitted that they would try to look sensitive by not campaigning so they changed the name of their events to “storm relief events.” As a businessman, Romney is big on rebranding. If the public doesn’t like what he’s doing, he just changes directions and calls it something else.

Part of the event was to collect items for clothing, food, and bottled water. By doing this, Romney showed that he knows nothing about the Red Cross. Because it takes more effort to clean clothing and package all these items, the Red Cross always requests just money and blood donations. But that didn’t stop Romney.

Always prepared for contingencies, Romney sent out his campaign aides to a local Wal-Mart on the night before the event with $5,000 to buy granola bars, canned foods, and diapers for camera ops. Supporters who wanted to greet the candidate were told, “You need a donation to get in line!” Empty-handed potential voters were told, “Just grab something.” Two teenage boys each picked up a jar of peanut butter, handed their “donations” to Romney, and were given a warm “Thank you” by the candidate.

To show how prepared he was to take care of a similar disaster, Romney compared the federal government’s hurricane relief efforts to the time he and some friends had to clean up a football field strewn with “rubbish and paper products.” He then talked about how Hurricane Katrina survivors were given food and television sets by people in Cape Cod.

Romney has also got his nineteenth “pants on fire” from Politifact, this time for his collective lies about the automobile industry including the falsehood that the Jeep factory was leaving for China.

Romney’s “sensitivity” in not campaigning was short-lived. Today he was back in Florida with Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, still bashing the president. New Jersey governor Chris Christie is one person, however, who has stopped bashing President Obama as the president works tirelessly to help storm victims. Of course, Rush Limbaugh is spouting trash about President Obama blackmailing Christie to get his support.

Despite appearances, Romney refuses to take interviews or answer questions from the media. DailyKos reports that it’s been nearly three weeks since Mitt Romney’s last interview (if you count sitting down with Newsmax to be an interview) and more than a month since he last answered a question from his traveling press pool.

In comparison, President Obama has sat down for interviews with NBC’s Brian Williams, at least seven local news stations, and the Des Moines Register editorial board—just in the last two weeks. The president also took a question from a White House reporter following his Hurricane Sandy statement and agreed to interviews with The Tonight Show’s Jay Leno, The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart and MTV’s Sway Calloway. Somehow he managed to do this while he continued with his more-than-fulltime job.

Another highly questionable tactic from the Romney campaign is training that Romney Poll Watchers in Wisconsin have received. Their document gives guidance that can send these observers to jail if they follow them:

Any “person [who] has been convicted of treason, a felony, or bribery” is not eligible to vote. [State regulations permit people in Wisconsin to vote after they have served their sentences and probation.]

If a handicapped voter is unable to come into the polls to vote, an assistant can deliver the ballot to the voter if the CEI verifies the elector’s proof of residency. [The CEI does not have to verify the elector’s proof of residency.]

Election Observers should not assist [voters]. [The law allows voters to request assistance from anyone, including poll observers.]

“The ONLY Acceptable Forms of “Proof of Residency” omits a multitude of options.

At a training session for poll watchers, a woman who just graduated from law school last year gave lots of bad advice: for example, if observers cannot see or identify the proof of residence, the observers are to ask the poll worker about this. The law: Observers do not have the right to inspect proof of residence documents, and they do not have the right to ask poll workers what the documentation is. 

The Romney campaign PowerPoint states that in order to register to vote a “WI driver’s license number or WI ID number is required (whether current, revoked, expired or suspended).” The law: “If you have been issued a WI driver license and it is current and valid, you must provide the number and expiration date. If you have not been issued a WI driver license you must provide either your WI DOT-issued ID number OR the last 4 digits of your Social Security number.” The same PowerPoint cell states that the “last four digits of the social security number are only to be used if the citizen has never been issued a driver’s license or WI ID.” The law: it’s either one or the other. 

The presenter also worked hard to get observers to force voters to use provisional ballots because they tend to be trashed. The presenter said that “A first-time voter who registers by mail and but has failed to to provide proof of residency” and omitted the end of the sentence “and is unable to provide proof of residence at the polling place.” The presenter also said a provisional ballot would be required for “An individual who registers on Election day who has a Wisconsin driver’s license but is unable to provide the license number.” The law: in a circumstance in which a person does have a valid license and is absolutely unable to get that number as a last resort they will accept the last 4 digits of a social security number.  

Training also recommends a level of intimidation. According to the presenter, voters who have not produced valid Wisconsin driver’s licenses should also be followed and photographed. All this pressure makes me very happy that I live in Oregon and vote by mail.

A Wisconsin election official has confirmed that information in the Romney document is false. Reid Magney, a spokesman for Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board, also criticized the Romney campaign for instructing their poll watchers not to disclose any affiliation with the campaign when they sign in at the polls. They were told to list themselves as only a “concerned citizen” instead. “We would hope that people would accurately represent who they are with,” Magney said.

The Obama campaign has sent a letter to Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen requesting he open an investigation into the trainings. “These acts of willful misinformation to individuals sent to polling locations to enforce the law raise serious concerns under Wisconsin law,” Bob Bauer, general counsel for the Obama campaign, wrote. “I ask that your office review this matter urgently, and take all necessary steps to protect the rights of our state’s voters.”

Vote revisions have already started in Florida. In Broward County, a Democratic Party stronghold, the vote total was dropped by 536 votes, just two fewer than the number of votes that decided the entire state in the 2000 presidential election. Votes across the country can also be manipulated by computer hacking, as shown after the Arizona primary.

In Florida, Virginia and Indiana people are getting calls falsely telling them they can vote early by phone and don’t need to go to a polling place. In  Broward County (FL),  elderly voters who requested absentee ballots say they were visited by unknown people claiming to be authorized to collect the ballots. Mailings to voters in at least 23 Florida counties raise questions about the voter’s citizenship and provide a form that supposedly must immediately be filled out and returned to elections officials to keep the voter’s name from being purged from the rolls.

Only six more days to hold our breath about voter fraud changing the results of the election—for this year.

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October 30, 2012

Bain Capital, Romney – Part Two

Before I continue with Part Two of the Bain Capital debacle, I want to say how sad I feel for the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, both in the Caribbean and in the United States. In addition, I am grateful for the speed with which government has moved to keep the storm’s effects from as much tragedy as possible. In watching all the work that has been done to save people’s lives and make their lives a bit better, I am also angry at the outrageous comments made by Michael Brown, head of FEMA largely responsible for the disaster in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina and now a radio host in Colorado. From his safety on the other side of the country, he criticized President Obama for moving too fast. Yesterday he talked about how New Yorkers were saying that the storm, Sandy, isn’t a big deal. The people hit by Sandy are indeed fortunate that he is no longer in charge of government emergency assistance.

The same people are also fortunate that the United States has a president who believes that government should help people in need after such an act of nature. Mitt Romney not only said in the primary debates that the federal government, and probably the state governments, should have no part in emergency aid, he also refused to answer any questions today—14 times after one interview–about how he sees the role of FEMA.

In his writings, David Stockman, budget director for Ronald Reagan, summarized Bain Capital in less than glowing terms: “Bain would put in a little money, borrow much more, and buy out a company. It wasn’t hostile because Bain paid company executives so much they welcomed a takeover. Bain would have the company fire the workers and sell off assets to pay the crushing debt and high ‘management’ fees to Bain. Often the ‘saved’ company would go bankrupt after Bain left. Companies almost never produced more useful goods or services or employed more people after Bain than before.”

Stockman was kind enough, however, not to explain the source of Romney’s capital to set up Bain. When Romney says he knows how to start a small business, he may mean one that is funded by Central American elites linked to death squads in El Salvador. After initially struggling to find start-up investors, Romney traveled to Miami in 1983 to win pledges of almost 40 percent of Bain’s $37 million start-up money. Huffington Post reporter Ryan wrote, “There’s no possible way that anybody in 1984 could check out these families–which is the term that [Romney’s campaign] use, these families–and come away convinced that this money was clean.”

During the 1980s, Romney managed to get lots of cigarettes into Russia. Bain & Co.—and Romney–worked with British American Tobacco (BAT), which is behind brands like Kool and Lucky Strike, to move their products into Russia. Before Bain, BAT was largely locked out of the Russian market; now it controls almost one-fourth of cigarette sales that have skyrocketed since the Soviet Union collapse. Then Bain moved into the U.S.; a month after Romney took over, the first got a $1 million contract with Philip Morris.

Romney clearly described Bain’s goal in 1985: its purpose has never been to create jobs; its purpose is to “harvest” companies. The most recent harvested company is moving into China right before this year’s general election.

Although Romney is no longer active in Bain, he’s still reaping the benefits from moving Sensata Technologies from Freeport (IL) to China. The company made record revenues last year, and workers have been working three shifts for 24 hours a day. They make $14-$17 per hour with benefits. The first thing that Bain did after buying the company was to organize its capital funds in the Cayman Islands so Bain could avoid paying taxes on these funds. Now Bain will get money for relocating the plant offshore while U.S. taxpayers have paid $780,000 to retrain some of Sensata’s fired workers.

Romney has a history with Bain and China. In 1998, when he was running Bain, he saw the horrible conditions of workers making $.24 an hour at the Global-Tech Appliances plant in Dongguan and invested millions in the firm. But he could make money by exploiting these workers.

William Cohen wrote in Bloomberg, “Is there any fairness in a system where a group of people can borrow a bunch of money to buy a company and pay themselves millions of dollars in dividends and fees, while the company itself ends up bankrupt and its employees lose their jobs, health insurance and pensions?”

Romney’s experience with Bain makes him uniquely unqualified to be president of the United States. In campaigning he said, “A prairie fire of debt is sweeping across Iowa and our nation. Every day we fail to act, that fire gets closer to the homes and children we love.” Our collective debt is no ordinary problem: According to Romney, the debt will “burn our children alive.” Yet he made his personal fortune by borrowing vast sums of money that other people were forced to pay back. His experience with Bain shows that he is one of the greatest and most irresponsible debt creators of all time, piling more debt onto more unsuspecting companies and writing more gigantic checks that other people have to cover than perhaps all but a handful of people on planet Earth.

A private equity firm like Bain typically finds floundering businesses with good cash flows. It puts down 10-30 percent of its own money and then borrows the rest from a large bank to buy a controlling stake in the company. Bain avoided the hostile takeover, done without the company’s consent, by buying off the management with huge bonuses. The takeover companies, including Bain, aren’t on the hook for the debt; the company they purchase is. That company is destroyed by just the interest they have to pay, either going bankrupt or slashing benefits and firing workers. Then Bain can swoop in and purchase the company for pennies on the dollar, the vulture approach.

Romney is a prime example of why lowering taxes doesn’t create jobs. He pays low taxes while he destroys jobs or sends them offshore. And he can’t pretend that he doesn’t know what happens at Bain.  “I insisted on having almost dictatorial powers.” Colleagues described him as cunning, manipulative and a little bit nuts, with “an ability to identify people’s insecurities and exploit them for his own benefit.”

In the business world, lying and changing positions is praised because it makes money. Romney seems genuinely puzzled by the public’s insistence that he be consistent. “I’m not going to apologize for having changed my mind,” he’s fond of saying. But that doesn’t translate into successful leadership of a country.

And it’s all legal. The entire business of leveraged buyouts wouldn’t be possible without a provision in the federal code that allows companies like Bain to deduct the interest on the debt they use to acquire and loot their targets. And he couldn’t pay such low taxes if it weren’t for the same tax code. Romney rails against the national debt at the same time he exploits a tax deduction specifically designed for mortgage holders. He bilks every dollar he can out of U.S. businesses before burning them to the ground.

Romney also shows his lack of ethics in his tax avoidance strategies. He used a loophole to “rent” the Mormon church’s tax exemption status and defer paying taxes for 15 years. Bloomberg News reported that Romney set up a charitable remainder unitrust (CRUT) in June 1996 just before Congress cracked down on the loophole in 1997. “In this instance, Romney used the tax-exempt status of a charity — the Mormon Church, according to a 2007 filing — to defer taxes for more than 15 years,” Bloomberg’s Jesse Drucker explained. “At the same time he is benefiting, the trust will probably leave the church with less than what current law requires.” The amount available to go to the Mormon Church has decreased from at least $750,000 in 2001 to $421,203 at the end of 2011 as Romney has collected yearly cash payments from the trust. Although a small amount when compared to Romney’s fortune, he has many other methods of avoiding taxes.

Romney’s hypocrisy is overwhelming. His strong opposition to federal aid has no relationship to the experiences of himself and his family. According to Romney’s biography The Real Romney, written by  journalists Michael Kranish and Scott Helman, the United States first helped the Romney family in 1912: “Fortunately for the Romneys, the U.S. government, which had once chased Miles [Romney] to Mexico due to his polygamy, now welcomed the Romneys and other Mormons to the United States. Congress established a $100,000 relief fund that enabled the Romneys and other Mormon exiles to receive food and lodging. Initially, the [Romneys’] stay on U.S. soil was to be temporary. The El Paso Herald reported on October 25, 1912, that Gaskell Romney and his family, including little George, had gone to Los Angeles “until it is safe for his family to return to the colonies in Mexico.’”

Much later George Romney received welfare from the federal government. According to his wife,Lenore Romney, [George Romney] was a refugee from Mexico. He was on relief, welfare relief for the first years of his life. But this great country gave him opportunities.” Romney is unwilling to give anyone else the same opportunities that his family had.

The Olympics is a classic example of Romney’s hypocrisy. While describing his magical leadership to save the faltering Winter Olympics in 2002, much of his success came from the $1.5 billion that he took from the federal government, an amount 1.5 times the amount, adjusted for inflation, spent by the federal government to support all seven Olympic games in the United States back to 1904.  These expenditures averaged $625,000 in taxpayer money for each athlete, an increase of 5,582 over the $11,000 average at the 1984 games in Los Angeles. Even Sen. John McCain pointed out that at the time that this was a bailout.

Donald Barlett and James Steele reported that “wealthy Utahans used the games as an excuse to receive exemptions for projects that would otherwise never meet environmental standards, or to receive generous subsidies for improvements of questionable value to the games—but with serious value to future real estate developments.” bailout.

Romney has always been clear about all his priorities. The Salt Lake games came just months after 9/11. When a representative of widows and orphans whose husbands and fathers were firefighters killed in the terrorist attack inquired about free or discounted tickets to games, Romney twice denied the request, saying that there was a policy against giving away tickets. Six weeks later, Romney offered a hundred tickets, valued at $885 each, free to Utah legislators.

Romney has always used Bain to justify his ability to become president instead of his time as governor of Massachusetts. During his one term the state ranked 47th in job growth; suffered the second-largest labor force decline in the nation with only Louisiana greater because of Hurricane Katrina in 2005; lost 14 percent of its manufacturing jobs, double that of the nation at the time perhaps because he vetoed legislation that would have banned companies doing business with the state from outsourcing jobs to other countries; experienced “below average” economic growth and was “often near the bottom”; and piled on more debt than any other state despite his raising fees while he was in office.

That’s what would happen to the United States if he were to be elected—or appointed—president.

October 29, 2012

Bain Capital, Romney – Part One

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 6:39 PM

When Rick Perry called Mitt Romney a “vulture capitalist,” he was right on target. Even Ronald Reagan’s budget director, David Stockman, agrees, so much so that he has published a book about Romney’s “business acumen.” In an excerpt from the book in Newsweek, his first paragraph gets right to the point: “Bain Capital is a product of the Great Deformation. It has garnered fabulous winnings through leveraged speculation in financial markets that have been perverted and deformed by decades of money printing and Wall Street coddling by the Fed. So Bain’s billions of profits were not rewards for capitalist creation; they were mainly windfalls collected from gambling in markets that were rigged to rise.”

What Romney did with his company would be of less interest to people across the United States if he had not bragged that he is qualified to be president because of his 15 years of business experience at Bain. Supposedly Bain’s returns averaged over 50 percent annually during his time there. Romney, however, is not a businessman: he is a master financial speculator who bought, sold, flipped, and stripped businesses. He did not build enterprises the old-fashioned way—out of inspiration, perspiration, and a long slog in the free market fostering a new product, service, or process of production. Instead, he spent his 15 years raising debt in prodigious amounts on Wall Street so that Bain could purchase the pots and pans and castoffs of corporate America, leverage them to the hilt, gussy them up as reborn “roll-ups,” and then deliver them back to Wall Street for resale—the faster the better.

Stockman explains, “We have a rigged system—a regime of crony capitalism—where the tax code heavily favors debt and capital gains, and the central bank purposefully enables rampant speculation by propping up the price of financial assets and battering down the cost of leveraged finance.” He bases his belief on 17 years of experience leveraging buyouts at first Blackstone and then his own business. “The whole business was about maximizing debt, extracting cash, cutting head counts, skimping on capital spending, outsourcing production, and dressing up the deal for the earliest, highest-profit exit possible… Without cheap debt and deep tax subsidies, most deals would not make economic sense.”

Agreeing with the “vulture” description, Stockmen explains that “LBOs are capitalism’s natural undertakers—vulture investors who feed on failing businesses. Due to bad policy, however, they have now become monsters of the financial midway that strip-mine cash from healthy businesses and recycle it mostly to the top 1 percent.”

Because the country’s bubbles and recessions are correlated with the artificially swollen LBO business, Romney can look good: he made money during the first Greenspan bubble and had then bailed out of the business by the stock-market crash of 2000-02. During rising markets and abundant credit, the portfolio outcomes looks great.

Romney is totally unprepared to deal with a nation that is not riding at the top because bringing back the country will require sacrifice. Romney knows nothing about sacrifice.

When Romney started Bain Capital in 1984, the S&P 500 stood at 160. In 1999 when he said he quit the company, it was 1270, an annual return of 17 percent. Romney did even better because he just set up the deals; the lenders who provide 80 to 90 percent of the money to buy a business lose if the deal is bad. Bain Capital doesn’t. Really good deals make up for the losing ones.

Of the 77 significant deals during Romney’s time, Bain generated an impressive $2.5 billion in investor gains on $1.1 billion in investments, according to The Wall Street Journal. That’s what Romney is bragging about. But 10 of Bain’s deals accounted for 75 percent of the investor profits. Bain’s returns on the other 67 deals were actually lower than what a passive S&P 500 indexer would have earned even without the risk of leverage or paying all the private-equity fees.

In addition, four of the 10 money-makers, weighed down by the massive load of debt Bain had bequeathed them, ended up in bankruptcy because Bain got its money out at the top of the Greenspan boom in the late 1990s before the companies hit the wall during the 2000-02 downturn. In fact, nearly $600 million, or one third of the profits earned by the home-run companies, had been extracted from the hide of these four eventual debt zombies.

One of these deals was a group of department stores and apparel chains suffering from the growth of Wal-Mart and other big-box retailers. This deal limped along for almost ten years before Greenspan allowed them to raise $300 million in new junk bonds to buy another faltering clothing store chain. With lots of hype, the company’s stock price doubled, and Bain and partner Goldman Sachs dumped their shares right before the stores filed for bankruptcy. Bain accused them of “operating problems,” probably true because of the bad inventory and vastly overstated assets that Bain caused. The company had nothing left because Bain borrowed on everything and took the money, leaving it with $1.3 billion debt and 5,000 lost jobs.

Staples is another Romney bragging point. Bain gave $5 million in seed money and took out $15 million profit after it destroyed tens of thousands of Main Street stationery and office-supplies stores and other traditional distributors. My small town saw three small businesses closed after Staples arrived. Staples also caused job losses, shrinking to 40,000 part-time employees from an approximate 90,000 total head count.

The job losses go on. American Pad and Paper made $95 million for Bain, but Ampad workers and shareholders were left holding the bag, resulting in bankruptcy after massive debt. Bain made its money because it announced fantastic growth but didn’t explain that 90 percent of this came from debt-funded acquisitions.

According to Stockman, the lesson of all Bain’s losses is that “LBO’s would be rare in an honest free market—it’s only cheap debt, interest deductions, and ludicrously low capital-gains taxes that artificially fuel them.” He doesn’t blame Romney for how he runs his business but explains that this isn’t the way to run a country. “The Romney campaign’s feckless narrative that private equity generates real economic efficiency and societal wealth is dead wrong.”

Stockman explains other “deals” from Bain Capital, somewhat incomprehensible to many readers—including me! This is how Romney can succeed: no one wants to admit that they don’t understand what he is saying or what he has done. His followers just stick with his “trust me” approach. “I know what it takes” was a common statement in all three of his recent debates.

How hard did Romney work to get his money that he pays less than 14 percent tax on? On a deal with Italian Yellow Pages that made a profit of $375 for a $17 million investment, he appeared during a due-diligence session. The company’s CEO said, “He came into the room, asked a couple of very sharp questions immediately, shook hands and left.” Twenty-eight months later, in February 2000, he got a reputed $50 million.

Tomorrow is Part Two of the Bain Capital tragedy from other sources.

October 28, 2012

Perverted Perspectives from So-Called Christians

“When you elect Mitt you’re electing every right wing nut he’s pandered to in the last 10 years. If the Mitt-mobile does roll into Washington it’ll be towing behind it the whole anti-intellectual, anti-science freakshow.”—Bill Maher

The vast majority of Romney supporters identify as white and Christian, nearly eight in ten (79%), including 37% who identify as white evangelical, 19% who identify as white mainline Protestant, and 19% who identify as white Catholic. Not all these people can be classified as belonging to the “right wing nut” category, but there are many of them. Here’s a recent sample:

Gary Cass, a former leader of the San Diego Republican Party and current leader of the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission, has usually spent his time attacking the president, Muslims, LGBT people, and Mormons. According to Cass, Harvard is now “animated by the spirit of Antichrist.” His latest rant claims that people without guns cannot be Christians. He uses the Bible for his rationale:

“You have not just a right not bear arms, you have a duty. How can you protect yourself, your family or your neighbor if you don’t have a gun? If I’m supposed to love my neighbor and I can’t protect him, what good am I?”

Evangelist Cindy Jacobs has called for prayer against Hurricane Sandy and “rebuke this storm in Jesus’ name.” She claims that “the authority of the believer is powerful enough to shift weather patterns.”

The theory that President Obama is a Muslim because of the ring he wears has been confirmed by Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association. When “Chip in Fitzgerald, Georgia” asked Fischer on his radio show why no one in the mainstream media is reporting on this fact, Fischer responded that there are no reports because President Obama “may in fact be a closeted Muslim.”

In his strong support of fellow Mormon Mitt Romney, Glenn Beck has a new reason behind his claim that the Obama administration lied about the attack in Benghazi, Libya: it’s an attempt to cover up the president’s arming Syrian rebels for the benefit of al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood.

After her attempt to literally follow the Bible for a year, evangelical Rachel Held Evans wrote and published a book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood. LifeWay Christian Resources, operated by the Southern Baptist Convention, has refused to stock the book. Although they gave no reason, Evans assumes that the problem is that she left the word “vagina” in the book despite the fact that she removed a few mild profanities.

The same white Christians are trying to remove what is left of the separation of church and state in the United States. An example is the initiative on the ballot to allow public funding of religious ministries. Amendment 8 would remove century-old language in the State Constitution that bars religious or sectarian institutions, or people, from receiving state money. Religious groups in Florida already receive state money, but they are barred from using the money to proselytize. Typically, the money is used for social services and health programs run through organizations like Catholic Charities. Passing this amendment would allow the state to funnel taxpayer funds to religious schools through the use of vouchers.

A basic premise of the religion known as Jehovah’s Witnesses is a separation from state, such a deep separation that they don’t even vote in political elections. Yet the city of Raleigh (NC) is providing $150,000 so the Jehovah’s Witnesses can hold a major event locally. And it’s not the first time. Once again, taxpayers are funding a religion.

So many evangelicals are upset with voting for either a Mormon or someone they believe to be a Muslim, that they are pledging to write in another name for president—Jesus. Evangelist Bill Keller, founder of the Internet ministry liveprayer.com, has set up a website where people can do this pledging, at the rate of 1000 names an hour during Eastern daytime hours. By now, Keller has harvested between 1.5 million and 2 million pledges. Keller describes his reasons for opposing both candidates:

“If President Obama is re-elected, his anti-American, socialist policies will continue, as will his attacks on Christianity and Christian churches. He will continue to support abortion, homosexuality, the enemies of Israel. How can a true follower of Christ vote in good conscience for a man who has proven to be a true enemy of God and His Word and will continue to be so in his next term?

“If Mitt Romney is elected, he will be the fulfillment of his cult’s polygamist, pedophile, racist, con artist, murdering founder Joseph Smith’s ‘White Horse’ prophecy that Romney and all Mormon’s believe. That prophecy says that the United States will facing great economic and social unrest, a Mormon will be elected President, declare a national emergency and set aside the US Constitution and enact a Mormon theocracy.”

Mormons who displease the church leadership, or commit “apostasy,” can be excommunicated from the LDS Church. When Mormon blogger David Twede found himself in this position, he resigned his church membership. His sin was writing critical essays about LDS history, temple worship and contemporary issues. Those who take this path can belong to the Exmormon Foundation, a group that provides support for those leaving and/or questioning the Mormon faith.

LDS Church spokesman Michael Purdy has vehemently denied that any Mormon would be disciplined “for having questions or for expressing a political view,” and the faith claims that they are neutral in political affairs. This is the same church that admitted to spending almost $200,000 to pass California’s Proposition 8, that stopped marriage equality in the state. Some people guess the church was behind 70 percent of the almost $44 million raised to pass the initiative that has now been blocked by courts.

I’m still pondering what kind of government we would have it Jesus Christ got elected in a write-in. Maybe less money on defense and more to help people?

October 27, 2012

Election Insanity Continues

Texas is still sending out mailings telling everyone that photo IDs are required for voting despite the fact that a judge overturned that law. The state has also threatened to arrest any international voting observers despite the fact that they have been doing this for at least a decade. Texas is home to the organization True the Vote that is determined to intimidate any suspicious voters (aka possible Democrats).

In Florida Palm Beach County hasn’t learned its lesson about ballots. The Board of Elections sent out about 27,000 absentee ballots that can’t be digitally scanned because of a recently discovered design flaw. After discovering that the design had omitted a heading for a new category, they inserted the heading that then shifted the placement of the races. Their solution for the problem is to duplicate the ballots. This is the state where the Republicans pretended to solve the problem of fraudulent voting.

Rachel Maddow’s blog has regularly posted photographs of busy polling places during early voting. My favorite thus far comes from William Fassett of Spokane (WA) where everyone in the state votes entirely by mail. He wrote, “It’s hard to create barriers to voting at the ‘polls’ when there are no polling places.” I live in Oregon which has the same mandated voting by mail. When we started the process, I had my doubts, but every election convinces me more and more that it’s the only way to go.

 

I have worked very hard to give the Republicans the benefit of the doubt in media claims about racism. The statement from John Sununu is so blatant, however, that there’s no way to give it a pass. The following is an exchange between Sununu and CNN’s Piers Morgan about why Colin Powell endorsed the president:

SUNUNU: You have to wonder whether that’s an endorsement based on issues or that he’s got a slightly different reason for President Obama.

MORGAN: What reason would that be?

SUNUNU: Well, I think that when you have somebody of your own race that you’re proud of being President of the United States–I applaud Colin for standing with him.

 

John McCain may be closer to the edge than Sununu; now he’s accused Powell of lying to the UN about the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. After Powell’s endorsement of President Obama, McCain said, “I think one of the sad aspects of his career is going to the United Nations Security Council and telling them things about Iraq that were absolutely false.” The saddest part about this situatio–and McCain’s misrepresentation–is that the Bush/Cheney administration lied to Powell and used him as a front man for the bogus case of a preemptive war against Iraq. This is also the same McCain who almost a decade ago, said, “When the people of Iraq are liberated, we will again have written another chapter in the glorious history of the United States of America.”

McCain reflects how frantic the GOP has become about the really stupid things that their candidates are saying. In Florida, wealthy Republican incumbent Mary Bono Mack now scores “zero” on voting for the interests of the middle class. And she does so without shame when she describes her own constituents, many of them struggling people whose homes are under water with the mortgages higher than the value, as “a third world toilet.” She has been depicted as a politician who earned her House seat the “old-fashioned way” through nepotism, cronyism, and big-money politics.

Montana may have to have a special election for governor if Republican Rick Hill wins the position. The dispute comes from a $500,000 donation to Hill from the Montana Republican Party in the week between a U.S. District judge striking down Montana’s donation limits and the reinstatement of these limits by the 9th U.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

A state judge has ordered Hill to stop spending the donation and cancel all pending ads bought with the money while she reviews the legality of the contribution. Democrat candidate Steve Bullock argues that the $500,000 donation exceeds the state limit of $22,600 that any political party can give a candidate for governor. Montana will be a place to watch during on Election Day. Further investigation shows that the donation actually came from the Republican Governors Association who filtered their money through the Montana Republican Party.

The money is rolling in from Big Oil.  Determined to keep the GOP in control so that they can continue to rake in the bucks, Chevron just gave John Boehner’s superPAC another $2.5 million.

After Richard Mourdock, one of the candidates who want to replace Indiana’s senior Sen. Dick Lugar, said that pregnancies resulting from rape were a “gift from God,” I thought we might have hit rock bottom. There’s a lot farther to go. At this time women on welfare in Pennsylvania receive additional assistance if they have children. A state bill wants to refuse any additional stipend unless the women become pregnant from rape—and they will have to prove they were raped.

Ryan has screwed up so badly in his statements since Mitt Romney named him VP candidate last August that he’s been sent to non-swing states to raise funds. Nevertheless,  Ryan is working at the Romney tradition of lying. The man with the budget shredding the safety net has not claimed,

“[A] Romney-Ryan administration will clearly restore those parts of the welfare-reform law that have been undone or weakened. We will do this for the sake of millions of Americans who deserve to lead lives of dignity and freedom. We will also apply other lessons from welfare reform’s success…. Mitt Romney and I want to apply this idea to other anti-poverty programs, such as Medicaid and food stamps. The federal government would continue to provide the resources, but we would remove the endless federal mandates and restrictions that hamper state efforts to make these programs more effective.”

Ryan’s proposed budget plan, that Romney praised, identifies $5.3 trillion in nondefense budget cuts over the next decade, with almost two-thirds of the savings come from programs intended to help Americans of limited means. CBPP’s Robert Greenstein said that Ryan’s plan “would cast tens of millions of less fortunate Americans into the ranks of the uninsured, take food from poor children, make it harder for low-income students to get a college degree, and squeeze funding for research, education, and infrastructure.”

It appears that Romney’s “Romnesia” may be contagious.

The Rolling Stone interview of President Obama by Douglas Brinkley is well-worth reading, but this is a great piece from it. When Brinkley asked the president what he thought Paul Ryan’s obsession with Ayn Rand’s work would mean if Ryan became vice president, President Obama said,

“Well, you’d have to ask Paul Ryan what that means to him. Ayn Rand is one of those things that a lot of us, when we were 17 or 18 and feeling misunderstood, we’d pick up. Then, as we get older, we realize that a world in which we’re only thinking about ourselves and not thinking about anybody else, in which we’re considering the entire project of developing ourselves as more important than our relationships to other people and making sure that everybody else has opportunity–that that’s a pretty narrow vision. It’s not one that, I think, describes what’s best in America. Unfortunately, it does seem as if sometimes that vision of a “you’re on your own” society has consumed a big chunk of the Republican Party.

“Of course, that’s not the Republican tradition. I made this point in the first debate. You look at Abraham Lincoln: He very much believed in self-sufficiency and self-reliance. He embodied it–that you work hard and you make it, that your efforts should take you as far as your dreams can take you. But he also understood that there’s some things we do better together. That we make investments in our infrastructure and railroads and canals and land-grant colleges and the National Academy of Sciences, because that provides us all with an opportunity to fulfill our potential, and we’ll all be better off as a consequence. He also had a sense of deep, profound empathy, a sense of the intrinsic worth of every individual, which led him to his opposition to slavery and ultimately to signing the Emancipation Proclamation.

“That view of life – as one in which we’re all connected, as opposed to all isolated and looking out only for ourselves – that’s a view that has made America great and allowed us to stitch together a sense of national identity out of all these different immigrant groups who have come here in waves throughout our history.”

It seems that the president’s reference to Ryan as an adolescent has the  far right wing of the Republican party plenty riled. They’re pretty unhappy about the rest of the interview too.

One last very sad comment: Conservatives are now claiming that if people have a car, microwave, cell phone, and refrigerator, they aren’t really poor—that they’re doing just fine and there’s no serious separation in wealth in the United States. People who are making $21,000 or less a year—0.01% of Romney’s annual salary—may not agree.

Aside: A BBC World Service opinion poll of people from 21 countries showed that 20 of these prefer—by a large margin—that President Obama be relected. Only one country prefers Romney over Obama: Pakistan. Do they think that he will be easier on them than the current president?

October 25, 2012

A Literal War on Women

Recently a friend was telling me about his participation in a protest at The Oregonian, Oregon’s largest newspaper, because they were not reporting on any of the protests at the time. The spokesperson told them that there were so many protests that these were no longer news. Now the same response is probably being applied to the mass killings across the United States.

Last Sunday Zina Haughton’s husband, Radcliffe, went to her workplace, Azana Salon & Spa in Brookfield (WI). He killed her and two other women who worked there, Maelyn Lind and Cary L. Robuck, as well as wounding four other women. He then killed himself. Lind died when she shielded Zina Haughton’s 20-year-old daughter. There was barely a mention of this horrific event in the mainstream media.

It was the second mass shooting in Wisconsin this year. Wade Michael Page, a 40-year-old Army veteran and white supremacist, killed six people and injured three others before fatally shooting himself Aug. 5 at a Sikh temple south of Milwaukee.

The police knew that Radcliffe Haughton was a threat to his wife. They had been called to their home 20 times during the past decade but never made any arrests. During a January 2011 visit to the couple’s home in Brown Deer, officers thought they saw him with a rifle, and they set up a perimeter around the house. They told Haughton he was under arrest and ordered him to surrender, but he refused. The police left after 90 minutes without arresting him. A misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct was dismissed because Zina Haughton and the officer who could identify Radcliffe did not attend the court proceeding.

Village President Carl Krueger said, “Obviously, in retrospect we regret the lady didn’t pursue the complaint against him and we regret the ultimate result and we feel bad for the victims, but I don’t think it was something that we could have prevented unless we take up a policy of tear-gassing every house where a guy says he will not come out.” Brown Deer Police Chief Steven Rinzel said officers left the scene without making an arrest because they weren’t sure Haughton had a gun, thought he was alone in the house, and didn’t think he posed a danger. In other words, not their fault.

Three days before her killing, Zina Haughton had secured a restraining order against her husband shooting and talked in court about how she feared for her life.

Even with his extensive history of domestic abuse, Radcliffe Haughton managed to get a legal firearm in Wisconsin. NRA lobbying caused Republicans to pass a loophole for firearms purchases that allows individuals to purchase guns from a private seller without submitting to a background check. In 2010, the NRA successfully lobbied against Wisconsin legislation that would have required individuals subject to a restraining order to turn in their weapons within 48 hours or face arrest.

Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen opposes changing the law because it would be too hard to enforce. “Who is to draw the line between, ‘I sold you a firearm, I loaned you a firearm, I’ve given you a firearm, you’ve taken the firearm from me?’ ” asked Van Hollen. “Not to mention, you could try to close every presumed loophole you can, and people who want to do these things are going to find a way to do it.” He apparently thinks that the solution is to do nothing.

The loophole gave Haughton the opportunity to legally and lawfully purchase a gun without anyone’s knowledge after the court’s restraining order that required him to turn in all his firearms to the police. At the time Haughton purchased his gun, he was prohibited under federal law from purchasing one. A private seller sold him one anyway. Federal law requires that individuals “engaged in the business of selling firearms” obtain a license and conduct background checks on their customers. But the definition of what it means to be “engaged in the business” is vague and allows the private sales market.  An estimated 40 percent of gun sales are conducted by private sellers without a background check.

The NRA is on record as opposing mandatory background checks on gun purchases and has repeatedly denied that allowing private sales without a background check poses a danger to the public. At the same time Republicans are dragging their knuckles in passing a continuation of the Violence against Women Act because it supports lesbians and Native American women. In a survey of 733 domestic violence shelters across the country, nearly 80 percent have experienced an increase in requests for help this year; almost 60 percent said the abuse has become more violent than before the recession. Yet 80 percent of the shelters surveyed reported decreased government assistance which required them to end or scale back programs and services.

Half of all women murdered in this country are killed by a partner or an ex-partner while ammunition for firearms is easier to purchase than birth control pills.

And spare me the the indignant responses when I suggest that there should be restrictions to keep all people from purchasing an unlimited number of guns—ostensibly for “protection” or “hunting” or just plain “freedom.” People can’t kill without guns, the Constitution never intended that individuals should be able to possess huge arsenals, and laws cannot be enacted without knowledge of people owning guns.

Even NRA members show some sanity about gun control although the leadership out of control.

Gun Show Loophole: In over 30 states anyone can purchase a firearm from a “private seller” without any kind of background check, including a .50 caliber sniper rifle that can take down a helicopter. Sixty-nine percent of NRA members want this loophole closed.

Terror Gap: People on the U.S. terror watch list cannot fly commercially but they can buy guns and explosives. Eighty-two percent of NRA members want this loophole closed.

Tiahrt Amendments: These laws limit law enforcement’s ability to access, use, and share data to enforce federal, state, and local gun laws. Sixty-nine percent of NRA members want this loophole closed.

Reporting Lost and Stolen Guns: Some cities and townships have passed laws that lost and stolen guns must be reported, but the NRA threatens to overturn these laws. Seventy-eight percent of NRA members approve of laws that mandate the reporting of lost and stolen guns.

Sharing Records With National Instant Background Check System (NICS): After Rep. Gabby Giffords (AZ) was severely wounded with others and six people were killed, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) introduced the Fix Fun Checks Act to close the gun-show loophole and require states and federal institutions to share records of people who cannot purchase firearms because of criminal record or mental health defects. In Indiana, Ohio, Virginia, Arizona and Colorado, more than 82% of gun owners support fully funding states to share these records while 91% supported requiring federal agencies to share information on potentially dangerous persons such as the shooter in the Giffords case. NRA opposes all these methods of closing these loopholes.

The GOP won’t listen to the NRA members because it can no longer present any semblance of rationality. While they want absolutely no control over violence from guns, going so far as to allow anyone to claim self-protection after killing another person, they are equally determined to control women. The following Republican Rape Chart shows how far over the edge the GOP has gone.

October 24, 2012

Voting Fraud, Craziness during the Past Few Days

As I get older, the more I appreciate “re-sales”—used books, yard sales, flea markets, etc. Re-selling items became even more important during the recent recession when buyers didn’t have the money to get new items and sellers really needed the money. A case before the Supreme Court may stop any re-selling in the country by making it illegal for anyone to resell anything.

Copyright holders only have control over the first sale based on a law on the books since 1908 . An ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that copyright holders of anything made overseas must give permission to sell it. The case came from a Thai student at Cornell University who found it easier to have his Thai relatives buy his textbooks and ship them to him in the United States where he sold them for almost $1.2 million. Wiley, the company that sold the textbooks, admitted that it sold these books cheaper outside the U.S. but sued the student for copyright infringement.

The ruling was based on the theory that people don’t own any possessions made overseas. Instead buyers “share ownership” with the companies that made the goods, and those companies get a veto over your disposal of them and can also demand a cut of the proceeds.  If the high court rules in favor of this theory, it could be illegal for American consumers and businesses to sell, lend, or give away the things they own  if the company manufactured the goods overseas and put a copyrighted logo or text on them.

When you consider this ruling, think about all the things that you buy that are not made in the United States.

More horrifying news comes from CNN Health that purported that “women’s ovulation cycles” influence the election when they “raise the chances for both presidential candidates that’s totally out of their control.” They claim that there is research indicating hormones may influence female voting choices, depending on whether a woman is single or in a committed relationship.  Several political scientists questioned a study from Kristina Durante of the University of Texas, San Antonio that CNN supported:

 “The researchers found that during the fertile time of the month, when levels of the hormone estrogen are high, single women appeared more likely to vote for Obama and committed women appeared more likely to vote for Romney, by a margin of at least 20%, Durante said. This seems to be the driver behind the researchers’ overall observation that single women were inclined toward Obama and committed women leaned toward Romney.

“Here’s how Durante explains this: When women are ovulating, they ‘feel sexier,’ and therefore lean more toward liberal attitudes on abortion and marriage equality. Married women have the same hormones firing, but tend to take the opposite viewpoint on these issues, she says.”

CNN Health has decided that posting this was not a good idea;  it has taken down its editorial.

Another anti-woman piece came from State Treasurer Richard Murdock (R-IN) last night when he said that women who had been raped should not have access to abortion services because pregnancies resulting from the violent act are a “gift from God.” He’s not alone in his craziness regarding women’s rights. Rep. Steve King (R-IA) refuses to say that insurance should cover women’s contraception and agrees with other GOP members of the Congress who believe that rape results in few or no pregnancies, including Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD). Candidate Tom Smith also compared rape to having a child out of wedlock.

My favorite wacko, however, is still Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO), a U.S. Senate candidate this year. The man who pushed the “legitimate rape” statement has now been found to have been arrested at least three times in the 1980s during violent anti-abortion protests. At least two of these arrests, for criminal trespass and resisting arrest at women’s clinics, were under a different name, William Akin. Todd Akin began using his middle name after the arrests when he entered politics.

It’s not that Akin respects women. He and his campaign are now comparing his opponent, Sen. Claire McCaskill, to a dog. At a fundraiser, Akin said, “She goes to Washington, D.C., it’s a little bit like one of those dogs, you know ‘fetch.’”  Later, Rick Tyler, a top campaign manager, tweeted, “If Claire McCaskill were a dog, she’d be a “Bullshitsu.”

Mitt Romney has crossed the country, touting his ability to “cross the aisle” and therefore win over the Democrats to his beliefs. The facts from his one term as Massachusetts governor don’t back this up. In that one term, Romney issued more than 800 vetoes, over 700 of which were overridden precisely because of his reluctance to work with Democrats. As National Journal noted, Romney demonstrated a “relative disinterest in bipartisan collaboration” during his tenure.The New York Times added, “[I]n contrast to his statements in the debate, many say, Mr. Romney neither mastered the art of reaching across the aisle nor achieved unusual success as governor. To the contrary, they say, his relations with Democrats could be acrimonious.”

More negative information came to light today about Romney, including his potential illegal action. The presidential candidate has proudly displayed Staples as one of his success stories. Yet when the company’s founder, Tom Stemberg, was fighting his wife in a toxic divorce case, Romney testified in court that the company was pretty worthless so that Stemberg’s wife at the time, Maureen Stemberg Sullivan, would get much less money. Staple’s stock was “overvalued,” Romney said in court, adding, “I didn’t place a great deal of credibility in the forecast of the company’s future.” Reports show that just weeks after the divorce settlement, both Romney and Stemberg cashed in their stock for a fortune.

At the time of the divorce Stemberg worked with Romney as a health care adviser for Romney. After the divorce, Stemberg canceled her health insurance when she was suffering from cancer and multiple sclerosis.  The chickens may come home to roost because lawyer Gloria Allred, representing Maureen Stemberg Sullivan, has gone to court to “tell a judge that [Maureen Sullivan] does not object to unsealing testimony given by presidential candidate Mitt Romney in her divorce case,” according to The Washington Post.

 

Yesterday I wrote about the ways that conservatives are fraudulently trying to suppress voting. Here are a few new ones. In Florida, Indiana, and Virginia, mysterious phone calls are telling residents that they can vote by phone instead of going to the polls. Most of the complaints come from seniors.

A mass mailing in Florida, written on fake letterhead of a local county’s Supervisor of Elections, states that the recipients in 23 counties must complete  a “voter eligibility form” with Social Security information, Florida drivers licence numbers, and addresses. The letter claims that if the form is not sent to the Supervisor of Elections within 15 days, the recipients will be purged from the voting rolls—just like the actual purge letters ordered by Florida governor Rick Scott (R).

State-sponsored ads on television, radio, DMV posters, and mailings in Pennsylvania are still telling residents that they have to show a photo ID when voting despite a judge’s overturning this law for the upcoming election.

For a bit of  black humor and information about voter need for photo ID, check out this short video from Sarah Silverman. Her slogan is great: “No Photo = No Voto.”

October 23, 2012

Voter Fraud Comes from Those Who Control Elections

The debates are over, and the countdown to Election Day 2012 is the focus.

Never before has a presidential candidate owned voting machines in the United States. This year, the voting machine provider Hart Intercivic counting the votes in crucial swing counties of Ohio, Colorado, and elsewhere throughout the country has extensive corporate ties to the Mitt Romney. Ohio is well aware of the problems after a state-commissioned study in Ohio labeled labeled its voting system a “failure” when it comes to protecting the integrity of election.

This is not new news. Reports of Hart Intercivic’s ties to Romney first surfaced almost a month ago when a blog post by Gerry Bello and Bob Fitrakis in The Free Press, an Ohio website reported that a key investor in Hart was HIG Capital, seven of whose directors were former employees of Bain & Co. HIG Capital announced its investment in Hart on July 6, 2011, just one month after Romney formally announced the launch of his presidential campaign.

Four of the HIG directors are Romney bundlers along with former Bain and H.I.G. manager Brian Shortsleeve. According to the Center for Responsive politics, HIG Capital contributed $338,000 to the Romney campaign this year. The Nation also reported that HIG Capital is tied to the Romney family via Solamere, a private equity firm that has invested in HIG and is run by Tagg Romney, the candidate’s son.

Suspicion of computer fraud in Ohio goes back to 2004. Although Democrat John Kerry had a 4.2 percent lead in the exit polls in Ohio, which would have given him the presidency, George W. Bush won the state by more than two points and, as a result, kept the White House.

Ohio’s Republican Secretary of State, Ken Blackwell, had contracted with SmarTech, a Tennessee-based tech firm indirectly tied to Karl Rove, to serve as the “failover” site for 2004 election results in Ohio. At approximately 11:14 p.m. on Election Night, SmarTech became part of the process, at the same time that the Ohio returns were characterized by anomalies involving the tabulation of punch cards, electronic voting machines of various types, spectacularly high turnouts in pro-Bush precincts, and turnouts in pro-Kerry precincts that were astoundingly low. Virtually all the irregularities favored Bush, and the vast majority of them remain unexplained.

A 2007 study, commissioned by Democratic Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner to evaluate Hart and other voting systems in the 2004 elections in Ohio concluded that the Hart system performed “poorly” because unauthorized individuals could gain access to memory cards and “easily tamper” with core voting data and that Hart scored a “zero” on the twelve-step baseline comparison because it “failed to meet any of the twelve basic best practices” necessary to have a secure system.

In addition, the report asserted that the Hart system “lacks the technical protections necessary to guarantee a trustworthy election under operational conditions.” The concluding words show what will happen two weeks from today: “The vulnerabilities and features of the system work in concert to provide ‘numerous opportunities to manipulate election outcomes or cast doubt on legitimate election activities….virtually every ballot, vote, election result, and audit log is ‘forgeable or otherwise manipulatable by an attacker with even brief access to the voting systems.’”

The system has not been upgraded since that time.

Not satisfied with all the obstructions that Ohio has put in the way of voters with limited time for voting, the Republican-controlled Ottawa County sent an elections mailer to 2,300 voters in the northern Ohio county telling them that they are to vote on November 8 and giving them the wrong place for voting. [Please remember that Election Day is November 6!]

Another false mailing came out in Pennsylvania. PECO, the Philadelphia power company, sent a newsletter to 840,000 customers in its October billing with an announcement that voters must have a valid photo ID, something that the court overturned for the upcoming election. The company said that their website will have an update announcement and information will be corrected in the next mailing which goes out in four days. But the situation has been muddied with the court ruling that people can be asked if they have photo ID for the election. The logic is missing: people don’t have to have photo IDs, but they can be asked if they have them, an act that can be intimidating .

Who are some of the other people who may not be able to vote? One group of victims are transpeople whose faces may not match the gender on their identification. Many of these people are in transition with no official state recognition of their gender. More than 25,000 transgender people may lose their right to vote because of revised photo ID laws.

“New voter ID laws have created costly barriers to voting for many trans people. And much worse, the debate about voter ID laws have made even the idea of voting harder so many of us may feel discouraged from even trying to vote on election day,” said Executive Director Mara Keisling of the National Center for Transgender Equality Executive Director Mara Keisling.

Native Americans will be disproportionately disenfranchised by the new voter ID laws. The National Congress of American Indians has released a report Monday that highlights the problems. Two of the states, Alaska and Florida, do not accept tribal ID cards for identification at the polls. Gun permits yes, government-issued tribal cards no.

Another serious issue for Native Americans is the requirement that voters provide home addresses. Some tribal communities have not street addresses. And as always “barriers of cost, logistics and distance to obtaining required IDs” can be a serious problems.

Six “states of concern” for Native voter access are Alaska, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. New ID laws also could disproportionately affect Native voters in Arizona, Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Washington. NCAI President Jefferson Keel said there are races that could hinge on the Native vote. Several of the affected states with a large Native American population are considered swing states in the decision of the next president.

Wait until you hear the screaming from the far right about the need for photo ID because 899 ballots have been cast by 112-year-old voters in North Carolina. But it’s not fraud at all; it’s a system that the Board of Elections uses. Until the 1980s, people in North Carolina didn’t have to give birthdates, just their ages. Because there was no birthdate, the Board of Elections used a default of Jan. 1, 1900, for the birthday.

Once again, there’s no need for voter photo IDs. There is a need, however, to have accurate voting records so that each person’s vote counts instead of being manipulated by the company that owns the computers.

October 22, 2012

Presidential Debate Three

Those who watched all three presidential debates in the last few weeks have now seen four different debaters. After the first debate, commentators discussed how remote President Obama was while Mitt Romney attacked him. Talking with Jon Stewart on The Daily Show,  even the president laughed at himself about having slept through the debate. Viewers of the second debate saw much more combat with Romney coming out as a greater bully than the first one because President Obama pointed out his opponent’s “fact-challenged” statements. The same president showed up tonight, but a different Romney—quiet, agreeable, middle-of-the-road, and meek, almost pathetic—decided to attend. This new Romney didn’t push the moderator, Bob Schieffer, to get more time.

As far as fact-checking, Romney slipped in a few of his standard lies such as creating 12 million jobs (which has already been debunked by the conservative Washington Post) and accusing the president of making an “apology tour” when soon after his inauguration (which the president pointed out had been debunked by every fact checkers).

But the majority of Romney’s “lies” were in agreeing with the president in almost all the policies after having opposed them. He wants to leave Afghanistan in 2014, help women gain equality in foreign countries, use drones—the list goes on and on. The man who ridiculed the president for wanting to heal the planet now stressed that he wanted peace across the planet—a dozen times.

Romney even supported the president in forcing Mubarak out of Egypt, an action that he had earlier criticized. Six days ago, Romney almost turned purple when he talked about the president’s failure in the attack on Benghazi; tonight he just looked benevolent during the discussion about Libya.

Probably realizing that he knew little about foreign policy, Romney avoided looking like a radical, settling for occasional sniping. President Obama stressed the idea that the U.S. needs a careful, thoughtful approach toward foreign policy and should proceed in a strong, steadfast manner instead of the “reckless” manner that Romney has proposed.

Although Romney obviously did some studying before the debate, he had a bit of problem with his geography. He said, “Syria is Iran’s only ally in the Arab world. It’s their route to the sea.” In fact, Iran not only has a large southern coastline with access to the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman but also no land border with Syria.

Roger Simon’s description of the event was right on target: “Romney wasn’t terrible. But he was on the defensive for much of the evening, a fine sheen of sweat popped put on his forehead long before the debate ended, and – – worst of all – – Romney was repeatedly forced to say he agreed with Obama on policy after policy.”

Both candidates used the tactic of counting in many of the answers. Some undecided voters had earlier stated that they liked Romney’s “five-point plan” despite the lack of any details in these five points. They also said that they didn’t know what the president stood for so he took great care tonight in not only being high specific but also counting off all the items in a series.

People who know Romney’s past positions (like those he espoused last week!) realized that he had reversed himself in almost all of his positions. But I wondered how those less familiar with his past statements would react. One Republican pundit described him as reasonable, thoughtful, presidential, and circumspect with a reset to more traditional style of Republican policy.

The early polls erased much of my concerns that watchers would swallow Romney’s statements. CNN’s poll of registered voters gave the president 48 percent and Romney only 40 percent. Stronger was the CBS poll of uncommitted voters: President Obama – 53 percent; Mitt Romney – 23 percent; and tied – 24 percent. The 30 points difference was greater than the 24 points difference between the two men in the first debate with Romney winning.

In some ways, foreign policy is more important than domestic policy in a presidential debate because the president has greater latitude than foreign affairs. With U.S. foreign policy less constrained by Congress and relatively free from the media scrutiny that attends the president’s more domestic endeavors, foreign affairs largely remains the domain of the commander in chief.

In this discussion of foreign affairs, however, Romney merely looked pleasant as he largely agreed with the president during this narrow view of the country’s foreign affairs. Missing were issues such as drug traffic from South America, European economics and global finance, consequences of bombing Iran, keeping our planet habitable.

While Romney claims that he wants to help women, nothing was said about the “gag order,” the restriction that denies federal money for family-planning work abroad to any organization that provides information, advice, referrals, or services for legal abortion or supports the legalization of abortion, even using its own money.” Government financing for abortions overseas is already illegal under federal law, but the Republican’s gag rule forced clinic closures, reduced services, and increased fees. It also violated principles of informed consent by requiring health care providers to withhold medical information from female patients. By stifling political debate on abortion-related issues and violating free speech principles, the gag rule also badly undermined America’s credibility as it tries to promote democracy abroad.

Not mentioned in this debate, Romney also vows to renew another of George W. Bush’s shameful policies which blocked the United States from contributing to the United Nations Population Fund. This fund supports programs in some 150 countries to improve poor women’s reproductive health, reduce infant mortality, end the sexual trafficking of women, and prevent the spread of H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS. The Republican presidential candidate purports the debunked claim that the Population Fund supports coerced abortions in China.

The annual federal contribution to the fund is now down to $35 million, compared with $55 million in fiscal years 2010 and 2011. Overall support for international family planning and reproductive health programs stands at $610 million, far short of the need but still paying for contraceptive services and supplies that reach more than 31 million women and couples, averting 9.4 million unintended pregnancies, 4 million abortions (three-quarters of them unsafe), and 22,000 maternal deaths annually.

Romney may have known that criticizing President Obama for the death of four men at the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi would have gotten him into more trouble.  Even Fox Republican pundit Juan Williams pointed out that Romney’s political strategy is based on deliberate misinformation about the Benghazi assault. These are Williams’ corrections for the myths that Republicans have been spreading:

Correction #1: U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice told the truth based on existing intelligence when she said that the violence grew out of a spontaneous demonstration that was prompted by an American anti-Muslim video. Even two days later, CIA Director David Petraeus confirmed Rice’s statement when he briefed the House Intelligence Committee. Both of them said that there was an ongoing investigation where conclusions were subject to change.

Correction #2: Extra security was requested, not for Benghazi but for Tripoli, 400 miles away. Also U.S. security officials reported that more guards could not have repelled heavy weapons used by the attackers. Nine armed guards were at the embassy as well as four other unarmed Libyan guards inside to screen visitors. House Republicans are also conveniently forgetting that they voted to cut $300 million from Embassy security.

Correction #3: The Taliban threat has diminished, despite Romney campaign claims. Under President Obama, missions have killed the top commanders of the terrorist group including Osama bin Laden, and drone strikes are decimating the other Taliban members. The third and final correction comes in response to the charge that the attack on Benghazi is evidence that al Qaeda is resurgent.

Romney didn’t want the debate to be interesting: he just wanted to survive the 90 minutes without losing more votes.

Much more information available here.

October 21, 2012

Ain’t Some Religions Grand!

Less than a year ago, prominent Southern Baptist pastor Robert Jeffress condemned Romney’s faith, calling it a “cult.” Now he’s “made peace” with Romney’s Mormonism because he opposes President Obama more. Jeffress told Janet Mefferd on her radio show that it is still better to vote for Romney, even though he is a member of a “cult” and “false religion” that believes in a “multiplicity of god,” than President Obama because of his stances on marriage equality and abortion rights.

Another religious leader scrubbed away the cult, this time on the website of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Other religious groups haven’t caved yet: the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, lists the LDS Church as a theological cult, and the Catholic Church does not recognize Mormon baptisms as being theologically compatible with its own.

In another church-based sex scandal, 30-year-old Sovereign Grace Ministries with 80 congregations is being sued for sexual abuse against, failing to report these, and discouraging members from law enforcement cooperation. The plaintiffs allege a conspiracy of than two decades while church representatives permitted suspected pedophiles to interact with children, supplied them with free legal advice to avoid prosecution, and forced victims to meet with and “forgive” their molesters.

After Dinesh D’Souza accused President Obama of “attacking the traditional values agenda” and “traditional morality” in his best-selling “documentary,” 2016: Obama’s America, the president of an evangelical Christian college in New York, resigned from his position after it was reported that he shared a hotel room with his mistress at a religious conference. D’Souza is still married although separated from his wife. As for the film, the New York Daily News judges the material in the film as having “no evidence” and wrote that many of D’Souza’s opinions “don’t hold water.”

Ayn Rand, Paul Ryan’s atheist and anti-charity mentor, would be proud of the Catholic vice-presidential candidate. First he fights a safety net for disadvantaged people, saying that this will make them “victims,” and then almost single-handedly cuts donations to a non-profit, nonpartisan soup kitchen for the poor. Ryan went to the Mahoning County St. Vincent De Paul Society (Youngstown, OH) soup kitchen last week without permission after people had finished most of the cleanup and washed a few “dirty” dishes that volunteers had saved for him.

Brian J. Antal, president of the facility, told the Washington Post that he feared Ryan’s political theater would jeopardize donations to the foodbank that annually serves over 100,000. Antel was right. Donations to the all-volunteer charity are down, but Ryan got his photo-op.  Donations to the Mahoning County St. Vincent De Paul Society can be sent to P.O. Box 224, Youngstown, Ohio 44501 or online. Donors should specify that their donations are for the Youngstown, Ohio, soup kitchen.

In trying to explain away his disregard for women’s rights, Ryan has compared them to “left-handed Irishmen.” (Yes, he did say that the war on women was as fictional as war on left-handed Irishmen. But he still used the comparison!)

Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) has had to apologize—again!—after he accused his opponent, Elizabeth Warren of using paid actors in her advertisements defending the legal work she did on asbestos-related lawsuits. At least three people in the ads have complained about Brown’s offensive statements. Ginny Jackson, whose husband died of mesothelioma after working at a Quincy shipyard that was filled with asbestos, said, “What Scott Brown said today is so offensive to me and my family after what we went through. He’s sunk to a new low.” John F. English was more direct than Jackson. “Let Scott Brown tell me to my face that I am nothing but a paid actor, and I’ll set him straight on what it was like to watch my father suffocate to death,” English said. Nate Silver gives Warren a 89.1 percent chance of winning.

Also sinking to a new low is Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL). After his debate with opponentTammy Duckworth, Walsh said that women never die from childbirth. He claimed that pro-choice advocates use the possibility of maternal death “to make us look unreasonable.” In fact, pregnancy-related deaths have increased  in the US, climbing to a rate of 15.1 deaths for every 100,00 live births . For black women the rate is 34.8 percent.

One poll has Duckworth leading by 54 percent to Walsh’s 39 percent. The super PAC Now or Never, which has already put $2 million behind Walsh plans another $2.5 million to “bury Duckworth” (the PAC’s words). Duckworth is a veteran who had both her legs amputated after a helicopter crash in Iraq.   

First Paul Ryan has yet to bring home his own state for the Republican presidential ticket, and now the Salt Lake City Tribune, Utah’s biggest newspaper, endorsed President Obama and attacked Romney. I’ve provided a few quotes, but the entire editorial is well worth reading.

“Who is this guy [Romney], really, and what in the world does he truly believe? The evidence suggests no clear answer, or at least one that would survive Romney’s next speech or sound bite. Politicians routinely tailor their words to suit an audience. Romney, though, is shameless, lavishing vastly diverse audiences with words, any words, they would trade their votes to hear.

“And what of the president Romney would replace? For four years, President Barack Obama has attempted, with varying degrees of success, to pull the nation out of its worst financial meltdown since the Great Depression, a deepening crisis he inherited the day he took office. In the first months of his presidency, Obama acted decisively to stimulate the economy. His leadership was essential to passage of the badly needed American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Though Republicans criticize the stimulus for failing to create jobs, it clearly helped stop the hemorrhaging of public sector jobs. The Utah Legislature used hundreds of millions in stimulus funds to plug holes in the state’s budget.

“In considering which candidate to endorse, The Salt Lake Tribune editorial board had hoped that Romney would exhibit the same talents for organization, pragmatic problem solving and inspired leadership that he displayed here more than a decade ago. Instead, we have watched him morph into a friend of the far right, then tack toward the center with breathtaking aplomb. Through a pair of presidential debates, Romney’s domestic agenda remains bereft of detail and worthy of mistrust.

“Therefore, our endorsement must go to the incumbent, a competent leader who, against tough odds, has guided the country through catastrophe and set a course that, while rocky, is pointing toward a brighter day. The president has earned a second term. Romney, in whatever guise, does not deserve a first.”

The last presidential debate is scheduled for tomorrow. The subject is foreign policy, and the format the same as the first one although the participants will be seated at a table. Moderator Bob Schieffer, like his close friend Jim Lehrer, has a reputation for being fair and balanced, but also non-confrontational. Lehrer described dealing with the candidates’ aggressiveness as a “form of hell.” He said, “That aggressiveness is new, that sense of, ‘I’ve got more to say, and to hell with the rules. I was surprised by that. I didn’t expect it. No pair of candidates have ever done that before,” added Lehrer who has moderated more presidential debates than anyone else.

The 90-minute debate divided into six segments seems to concentrate on the Middle East and thus terrorism: America’s role in the world; the war in Afghanistan; Israel and Iran; the changing Middle East; terrorism; and China’s rise. Once again, Romney will lie. He will accuse the president of single-handedly reducing the military budget a year ago because the bipartisan sequester will force this issue if Republicans remain intransigent—which they are sure to do.

Romney will lie about his position on China, failing to remember (because of his Romesia) that three years ago he protested Obama’s decision to slap tariffs on cheap Chinese tires flooding the United States:

“Long story short, the wrong answer for America’s workers and for the wealth of every citizen of this nation is to try and put up barriers to stop competition, either domestic competition or competition from abroad. The right answer is always to see competition as an opportunity and a necessity for investment, innovation, technology and becoming more productive.”

Later in his book, No Apology, Romney wrote, “President Obama’s action to defend American tire companies from foreign competition may make good politics by repaying unions for their support of his campaign, but it is decidedly bad for the nation and our workers. Protectionism stifles productivity.”

By the primary debates in 2011, Romney had reversed his position: “The actions a president can take are, No. 1, to declare China a currency manipulator. And under our law, that allows the president to apply tariffs in places where the president believes that China’s practices are killing American jobs.” When asked if this would harm jobs in this country, Romney said that you just had to forge ahead and do it and everything would be okay.

As for Libya and the death of four people there over a month ago, Rahm Emanuel declared Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) “reckless” for releasing Libya documents, thus endangering the lives of people still there. Romney will attack President Obama on the basis of veracity and competence, but he has to be very careful to not let his ignorance show as he did in the last debate. Instead he may concentrate on other areas such as Israel, Iran, Afghanistan, and Russia. This debate is a toss-up depending on how hard Romney hits, how people react to the hits, and how many missteps he has.

 

Today’s Good News: District Court Judge Neil Wake has blocked Arizona from applying a new law preventing Planned Parenthood clinics from receiving money through the state to provide medical care. Wake was a George W. Bush appointee based on the 2004 recommendations of both Arizona Republican senators John McCain and Jon Kyle. Can’t you just hear Fox news damning those liberal judges?!

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