Nel's New Day

March 16, 2013

Nothing New from CPAC

March is Brain Injury Month with the past week, March 9-16, labeled Brain Awareness Week. During the same week, conservatives met in Maryland at the 40th annual Conservative Political Action Conference. Studies of the human brain have shown that conservatives are authoritarian and resistant to change. The speeches of those who are trying to move the Republicans toward an election victory in 2014 and 2016 through greater conservative actions resemble dinosaurs’ trying to cope with a changing world.

CPAC organizers claim that the purpose of the event is to “showcase the movement’s ‘diversity.'” They’re making progress with 20 percent of the panelists being African American avoiding last year’s white nationalists from the American Conservative Union. This year, however, they refused to allow two LGBT conservative groups, GOProud and Log Cabin Republicans, to attend, showing a farther move to the right.

Even the names of CPAC’s panels show the group’s clueless hostility and ignorance:

  • Should We Shoot All the Consultants Now?
  • The Future of the Movement: Winning with Generation X/Y
  • Stop THIS: Threats, Harassment, Intimidation, Slander and Bullying from the Obama Administration
  • How I Learned to Stop Worrying & Love Plastic Water Bottles, Fracking, Genetically Modified Food, & Big Gulp Sodas
  • Is America Coming Apart?
  • The Fight for Religious Liberty: 40 years after Roe v. Wade
  • Getting Hollywood Right
  • Free at Last: When the Right to Work Came Back to the Midwest

CPAC gave Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) an opportunity to push his budget plan as one “trying to improve people’s lives.” This plan is rooted in air and fantasy; past experiences and economists’ expertise prove that cutting taxes will fail to increase revenue and build the economy.

Despite its claim to move toward the future, CPAC invited all the old faces. (Think “lean backward.”) Mitt Romney, ignored by Fox News, told his audience to “learn from my mistakes” and to look to purple- and blue-state GOP governors for guidance. His role model governors, such as Chris Christie (NJ) and Bob McDonnell (VA), weren’t even invited to CPAC because they had accepted federal funding. At least Romney didn’t mention Scott Walker (WI) who lost jobs in his state after he promoted disastrous legislation and Rick Snyder (MI) who is destroying democracy through his appointment of emergency financial managers.

Gov. Rick Perry (TX) continued to attack Romney for not being conservative enough but got boos from his audience when he mentioned the changing Hispanic demographic. He saved himself by saying that the GOP could win over this population through its economic message, not through immigration.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY), tired of the “crybaby caucus,” said he wanted his party to move forward but continues his same old pattern of trying to get rid of Obamacare. “Don’t tell me Democrats are the party of the future when their presidential ticket for 2016 is shaping up to look like a rerun of the ‘Golden Girls,’ ” 71-year-old McConnell said in combined agism and sexism as he referred to Hillary Clinton and Vice President Biden.

Rep. Steve Scalise (LA) indicated the usual GOP ignorance of climate change. To Scalise, the fact that President Obama wore a trench coat at his inauguration shows that the world has no climate warming. GOP strategist Ford O’Connell repeated the GOP conclusion regarding success in winning voters: “You’re going to have to repackage [issues] and explain to people why that impacts them.”

Rick Santorum worked at the repackaging. In lamenting the problems of the poor, he said, “Yet the suffering is greater today because our culture and our political leadership have robbed them of the why of America–our purpose.” Translation: with the conservative “why of America,” people won’t mind lack of food and health care. 

Donald Trump set the tone for the second day, calling immigration reform a “suicide mission” for Republicans because “everyone of those 11 million people will be voting Democratic.” He argued that the U.S. should open the borders to the “tremendous” and “hard-working” European immigrants. Few people heard him, however, because of the largely empty room—sort of like an empty chair at the GOP convention.

trump room

Not everyone verbalized the continuance of old, failed ideas. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal told conservatives to get over their “obsession with zeros” and stop focusing only on the federal budget, arguing Republicans must take a broader view in order to succeed. Let’s remember, however, Jindal is the governor trying to move all taxes for government from the wealthy and the corporations to the poor.

Six years out of public office, Jeb Bush tried to move the party forward: “Way too many people believe Republicans are anti-immigrant, anti-woman, anti-science, anti-gay, anti-worker, and the list goes on and on and on. Many voters are simply unwilling to choose our candidates even though they share our core beliefs because those voters feel unwanted, unloved and unwelcome in our party.” Once again, GOP love may not make up for lack of rights and equality.

Fortunately for the Democrats, Sen. Rand Paul (KY) and his policy that the party needs to move farther right won the straw vote with 25 percent. Sen. Marco Rubio (FL) followed him by 23 percent. The next three places were taken by Santorum, the uninvited Christie, and Ryan. That left the remaining 17 on the ballot to share the leftover 31 percent. At 10th, Sarah Palin got 3 percent with the other four women garnering another 4 percent.

This is the field:

NH Senator Kelly Ayotte
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer
Kansas Governor Sam Brownback
Neurosurgeon Ben Carson
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie
Texas U.S. Senator Ted Cruz
Former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels
South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal
Ohio Governor John Kasich
New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez
Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell
Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin
Kentucky U.S. Senator Rand Paul
Indiana Governor Mike Pence
Texas Governor Rick Perry
Ohio Senator Rob Portman
Florida U.S. Senator Marco Rubio
Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan
Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum
South Carolina Senator Tim Scott
South Dakota U.S. Senator John Thune
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker

CPAC doesn’t represent the entire Republican Party, but it is a powerful force in getting their candidates into, and sometimes winning, primaries. Once into Congress, they drive the GOP leadership crazy with their truculent intransigence. And their anti-women, anti-people of color, anti-LGBT, and anti-youth, anti-union, and anti-middle class policies make them less and less electable.

Looking at the above list, I’ll stick with the “golden girls.”

December 5, 2012

Conservatives Meet to Work against Majority

ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council responsible for creating such laws as those that promote anti-immigration, stand-your-ground, and voter suppression, met a couple of weeks ago to decide how to destroy the people in the United States. The Heritage Foundation’s James Sherk discussed “how to limit union influence,” and the finance committee heard a presentation on “The Effects of Dodd Frank on the States,” sure to be an unhappy perspective on ways to help consumers.

Task force documents showed that the meeting concentrated on which of its destructive bills to “sunset” and retain, perhaps a response to the past year’s intense criticism when over 40 large corporations cut their links with ALEC. The organization also suffers from multiple complaints that it has violated its charitable 501(c)(3) status allowing special interest groups to write off lobbying expenses. As people became more savvy about ALEC’s actions, they got more vocal about elected officials who are more accountable to special interests than to their voters.

Before last year, ALEC successfully moved to privatize everything from schools to prisons and put legislators under corporate control. It was when identical bills popped up in a large number of states that journalists started looking into the background of these bills. By November, negative publicity caused 117 ALEC members to lose their elections.

Starting last April, ALEC struggled to erase trails for their most controversial legislation, and in July they promised to expand membership among “underrepresented segments,” probably meaning people of color and progressives. They hid their activities by sending members a link, that expires in 72 hours, to an Internet drop box instead of communicating through emails that might be discovered through an open records request.

ALEC is also using a public relations firm to examine public interest groups seeking information about its activities and then libel these groups to its legislative members.

The shooting of Trayvon Martin in Florida, when the killer claimed to be self-defense, brought information about ALEC to the forefront. Now another black 17-year-old has been killed, and again the killer is using ALEC’s law as his justification. As Jordan Russell Davis sat in his car with friends, 45-year-old Michael David Dunn fired nine shots into the car after complaining that their music was too loud. None of the teenagers was armed.

Even if ALEC just stuck to economic issues, it would cause great damage to the people. A study released last week by the Iowa Policy Project and Good Jobs First shows the correlations between ALEC policies and less prosperous state economies and concludes: “A hard look at the actual data finds that the ALEC…recommendations not only fail to predict positive results for state economies — the policies they endorse actually forecast worse state outcomes for job creation and paychecks. ”

According to the study, instead of boosting states’ fortunes, ALEC’s preferred policies provide “a recipe for economic inequality, wage suppression, and stagnant incomes, and for depriving state and local governments of the revenue needed to maintain the public infrastructure and education systems that are the true foundations of long term economic growth and shared prosperity.”

As if ALEC wasn’t bad enough, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) have joined forces to destroy the new health care act. Because they receive hundreds of millions of dollars from the insurance industry, they need to keep funneling money to private insurers. Currently they want to repeal a provision imposing a fee on some insurance policies to help subsidize coverage for millions of uninsured low-income people.

If they succeed, insurers can sell a highly profitable insurance product to small employers with mostly young and healthy male workers, allowing these employers to avoid the future state insurance exchanges for worker coverage. The employers would be exempt from complying with important consumer protections in the health law and make coverage only affordable and available to those stay healthy.

The Chamber and the NFIB took their fight to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners that just finished meeting in Washington. There, the Chamber pressured the NAIC to ease the way for insurers to sell this “stop-loss” coverage to small businesses which could then side-step state regulations. Stop-loss means that the employer assumes the risk of paying medical claims, but only to a previously-negotiated amount when the stop-loss insurer pays. The policy would be a disaster for employers with young female and older workers; doing this would drive up costs for small businesses who have these employees.

Leading the charge is the Illinois Chamber of Commerce with some of the biggest sellers of stop-loss insurance–WellPoint, UnitedHealthcare, Humana and Cigna—on its board. Part of NAIC understands that this will subvert the purpose of the health care act; another committee is keeping NAIC from voting it down by asking another committee to gather more information.

Today’s Asides from the News: Walmart could have prevented November’s fire in Dhaka that killed over 100 people if they had signed a contract agreeing to pay higher prices so the 4,500 Bangladesh clothing factories could afford fire safety improvements. The company met with others purchasers of the factories’ clothing—Gap, JC Penney, Sears, etc.—in April when Walmart set the tone by refusing to do this. According to a study by the Worker Rights Consortium, the cost to Walmart would have been less than 10 cents per garment. PVH Corp., which owns the Tommy Hilfiger brand, and the German retailer Tchibo signed on to the fire safety measures memorandum. You can sign a petition asking that Walmart meet basic safety and human rights for its workers. 

There were a few places where Arizona governor Jan Brewer wasn’t this week: she didn’t attend the state ceremony certifying the delayed election results, and she couldn’t be found among members of the National Governor’s Association who met with the President to discuss how the “fiscal cliff” will impact states. It seems she was found in Afghanistan. Is it possible that she now knows that she can’t run for a third term as governor and is aiming for the president’s position?

Mitt Romney  found a job—back with Marriott, the company that got in trouble with the IRS because of the ways it avoided taxes in the 1900s. Romney headed the audit committee in 1993 to 2001 when Marriott had a tax shelter known to attorneys as “Son of BOSS.” Marriott lost their court rulings in both 2008 and 2009.

Good news for Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)! He just finished paying off his student loans.  He said that when he graduated from law school in 1996 he had almost $150,000 in student debt, a sum ridiculed by wealthy Republicans who think that it’s outrageous that students are allowed to run up debts like this. Two years ago, he had between $100,001 and $250,000 in debt, but now he’s paid back the student loan—with the proceeds of his book, An American Son, which he touted at the Jack Kemp Foundation Awards dinner as “the perfect holiday gift and available on Amazon for only $11.99.” I wonder if he had copies there to sell.

The most amazing news of the day is that the Senate passed the $631 billion defense authorization bill, The National Defense Authorizations Act, unanimously with a vote of 98-0. The bill restores threatened Pentagon biofuels programs, issues new sanctions against Iran, and changes U.S. detention policy for American citizens. A unanimous vote has occurred for the defense bill in the Senate only twice in 51 years. The Pentagon policy bill now heads to a House-Senate conference committee, where there are numerous differences that must be resolved including a ban on same-sex wedding ceremonies on military bases. It’s not a done deal yet!

November 2, 2012

We Need to Vote!

Recent Barack Obama endorsements: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and The Economist!  For all his businesslike intentions, Mr. Romney has an economic plan that works only if you don’t believe most of what he says.”

One person can make a difference in the selection of the president for the next four years; in this case it may be Ohio’s Republican secretary of state John Husted. First, he fought for voter photo ID that would disenfranchise Democrats. Next, he continued to go to court to keep predominantly Democratic districts from early voting, particularly at nights and on weekends when blue-collar workers could go to the polls.

Not satisfied with these ploys, Husted is in charge of voting machines in a state where thousands of absentee ballot requests have been rejected. Husted said that it’s just a computer error, but the computers—owned by a company with connections to Mitt Romney—have dumped absentee ballot requests at an abnormally high rate in Cuyahoga County, a Democratic stronghold that includes Cleveland where 865 ballot requests have been erroneously thrown out.

Without the ability to vote by absentee, these voters are forced to go to the polls where they will probably be required to use a provisional ballot, which are notoriously thrown in the garbage. The total is 4,500 registered voters across the state left waiting for their absentee ballots while as many as 6,000 provisional ballots cast by registered voters could be tossed out. If by some good fortune the provisional ballots are counted, this won’t happen until November 17, according to state law.

Also, thanks to Husted, votes from people who vote in the wrong polling station because pollworkers directed them there will also be discounted, according to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. That was a common problem in the dysfunctional 2004 presidential election. How easy it is to get rid of votes—just sent voters to the wrong place. These are all the pieces that could add up to a win for Romney is a state with elected officials determined to be Republican no matter how many people vote Democratic.

That said, I want to talk about the importance of voting. On Monday, the day before Election Day, Oregon celebrates its 100th anniversary of woman suffrage, eight years before the nation followed suit in 1920. Today, I asked the owner of a small restaurant if she had voted. (Everyone in Oregon votes by mail.) She said that she planned to vote on Monday and that she was encouraging all her friends to vote although some of them said they might not bother. I told her to tell the young women that women starved themselves and were beaten and imprisoned so that they would have the right to vote. As for the men, I said to tell them that they should vote so that their girlfriends and wives could continue to get contraception.

Her friends who are considering not voting are joined by 90 million other people in the United States out of 207,643,594 eligible voters.    I understand why people caught in the storm and unable to get to the polls would not vote, but there is no excuse for the other “unlikely voters.” Two-thirds of these people are already registered to vote, and eight in 10 say the government plays an important role in their lives. But they’re too busy, or they don’t care much for either candidate, or their vote wouldn’t matter, or the president didn’t do everything he promised.

Another complaint that unlikely voters have is the negative tone to the campaigns. Ironically, the people who complain about this may determine their vote from the harsh lies told by one side or the other. If negative advertising didn’t work, candidates wouldn’t use this approach. But one woman who said she wouldn’t vote because of the negativity has never voted.

Yet over half the unlikely voters see a difference between the two major parties. By 43 to 18 percent, they support President Obama. Two-thirds of the unlikely voters say they voted four years ago. Yet four years ago, with enthusiasm at its high and no storm on the East Coast, almost 80 million people didn’t vote. Perhaps some of them had a sense of embarrassment in admitting that they didn’t vote. Almost half the unlikely voters have an annual household income of under $60,000, comparable to all eligible voters, and nearly six in 10 have no more than a high school diploma, again about the same percentage as eligible voters.

Asides: Even Fox servants are rebelling against the lies that the network spews out into the blogosphere. Appearing on Fox and Friends, Geraldo Rivera first called out host Eric Bolling for his claim that no one sent any help after the Benghazi attack. Rivera declared, “That is an obscene lie. You are a politician looking to make a political point.” When Bolling tried to assert that there were available rescue teams, Rivera continued to disagree, “You are misleading the American people because you want to make a political point. We have never in the history of this republic mounted a raid on the circumstance described here ever.” A new report, based on surveillance tapes, shows that the U.S. acted promptly following the attack.

Not happy with lies about Benghazi, Bolling and co-host Steve Doocy accused NBC of throwing a benefit tonight for storm victims rather than waiting for New York City to “get its feet under itself.” It’s like Michael Brown, Hurricane Katrina’s FEMA director, criticizing President Obama for rushing in to alert people about the storm rather than waiting a week after the disaster the way Brown did.  Bolling and Doocy, however, had no criticism for Romney’s faux “storm relief event.”

Concerned about Russia’s response to Romney’s harsh rhetoric, his son Matt traveled to Moscow on business and told a Russian known to deliver messages to President Vladimir V. Putin that his father wants good relations with Russia. Romney’s declaration that Russia “is without question our No. 1 geopolitical foe,” has caused alarm among Russian leadership regarding diplomatic relations between the two countries. Matt Romney was in Russia looking for investors for his California-based real estate firm, Excel, a real estate investment trust that avoids taxation by distributing 90 percent or more of its taxable income in the form of a dividend.

Voting lines are really long in Florida, partly because Gov. Rick Scott reduced the amount of time after then-Gov. Charlie Crist extended them in 2008—because the lines were really long. Democrats asked Scott to extend the amount of time; he refused but gave voters this advice: “I want everybody to get out to vote.”

When a non-partisan Congressional Research Service documented that giving tax breaks to the rich helps concentrate wealth at the top but doesn’t boost the economy, Republican lawmakers, led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), had the report killed this past week. McConnell follows the Republican Bush tradition of elimination information such as an increase in terrorism in 2005, increased factory closings in the same year, and under-performing charter schools.

The auto bailout that Romney complains about was good for his family: they personally profited at least $15.3 million. The bad news for Romney is the discovery that his June 1, 2012, Public Financial Disclosure Report to the Office of Government Ethics did not reveal this windfall because he did not disclose the underlying holdings of his private equity and limited partnership funds. The worse news is that a number of groups are calling on the U.S. Office of Government Ethics to investigate Romney for noncompliance with the Ethics in Government Act and compel him to either disclose his investments or divest them.

Last April, Bishop Daniel Jenky, head of a Catholic diocese in Illinois, used his mass to compare President Obama and Senate Democrats to Hitler and Stalin. Now he has mandated every priest in his diocese to read a letter indicating that parishioners’ salvation is based on voting the right way—no mention of President Obama but it’s obvious. Nicholas DiMarzio, a New York Catholic bishop, expressed similar sentiments last week. The wall between church and state is tattered.

Steven Benen has counted 917 lies out of Romney’s mouth this past year—but there could be more. We still have four days to go!

Even corporation executives are fed up with the lies—especially when their companies are affects. Trump, from his Twitter account, said, “Obama is a terrible negotiator. He bails out Chrysler and now Chrysler wants to send all Jeep manufacturing to China–and will!” Chrysler’s head of product design Ralph Gilles, from his Twitter account, answered Trump: “You are full of shit!”

While all this is happening, George W. Bush is in the Cayman Islands, giving the keynote speech at a conference on how to avoid paying taxes to the United States.

My last word: there will be a special The Rachel Maddow Show on Sunday!

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.

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 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 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 18, 2012

Voter Fraud, Romney’s Lies, Plus Good News

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:50 PM
Tags: , , , ,

In past years there have been reportings of people calling Democrats to give them the wrong date for the election. One of these was to tell voters that Republicans would vote on Tuesday and Democrats would vote on Wednesday. Most people reading this say, “Of course, everyone votes on Tuesday.” This year, it’s a county government agency in Arizona that tells Hispanics to go to the polls on the Thursday after the general election.

When Charlotte Walker of Sun City picked up her voter register card, November 6 was the date given in English. That’s the right date. In Spanish, however, people were told that they should vote on November 8, two days later.  The Maricopa County Elections Department said that they made the mistake only on cards that were handed out and that they may have handed out only about 50 cards—although they really don’t know.

Arizona isn’t the only state that’s still working on keeping people, many of them minorities, from voting. The good news in Ohio is that the Supreme Court rejected GOP attempts efforts to block early voting three days before Election Day. The bad news in Ohio is that Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted severely limited early voting hours on those crucial three days to 16 hours, none of them in the evening. Before this weekend, voters cannot cast ballots in-person on nights or weekends. Four years ago, with longer voting hours, and wait times were sometimes as long as two and a half hours. Minority voters who have less flexibility in getting time off from their jobs tend to vote in the evening; the GOP thinks that these same voters tend to vote Democratic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Pennsylvania, billboards in Spanish give the false image that people must have IDs in order to vote. A translation of this billboard is “If you want to vote, show it”–even though a court ruling last week blocked a requirement to produce an approved photo identification at polling places.

 

There’s an old saying, “follow the money.” That’s what Greg Palast did when he discovered that Mitt Romney has “concealed, until now, the fact that he and his wife, Ann, personally gained at least $15.3 million from the bailout—and a few of Romney’s most important Wall Street donors made more than $4 billion. Their gains, and those of the Romneys, were astronomical—more than 3,000 percent on their investment.”

A longtime aide to George W. Romney has accused Mitt Romney of shifting political positions in “erratic and startling ways.” Walter De Vries wrote, “It seems that Mitt would say and do anything to close a deal–or an election.”

When Katie Couric asked VP candidate Sarah Palin four years where she got her news, she didn’t have an answer. Romney does have answers. When Newsmax asked Romney the same question, the GOP presidential candidate said, “You know, increasingly, I’m getting news from electronic sources, whether Newsmax, Drudge, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal Online, even USA Today online, Fox online, CNN online.” There’s that token less-biased source of NYT, but the others are on the right, especially the Drudge, which even has a link to a site saying that black Americans will riot and kill and Romney if President Obama doesn’t win.

Kerry Healey, Mitt Romney’s Lieutenant Governor and a current surrogate for his campaign, called contraception a “peripheral” issue, and referred to women being denied contraception coverage because of religious objections a “hypothetical.” It’s no wonder that the polls show that women are returning to President Obama.

Yesterday I wrote about employers attempting an intimidation attempt to get thousands and thousands of their employees vote for Romney. They got the idea from Romney himself. An audio tape from June has recently been unearthed in which Romney addressed a group of self-described “small business owners,” probably including the Koch brothers. After he talked about how bad for business that President Obama is, he gave them their marching orders: “I hope you make it very clear to your employees what you believe is in the best interest of your enterprise and therefore their job and their future in the upcoming elections. And whether you agree with me or you agree with President Obama, or whatever your political view, I hope, I hope you pass those along to your employees.”

In the Citizens United case, the Supreme Court ruled that employers can force their employees to contribute to candidates and threaten them if they don’t vote for the chosen candidates.

Each election seems to bring the United States closer to a theocracy operated by the far right. If this comes into fruition, women could possibly lose the minority representation that we have now. That’s what Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association (AFA) wants. He stated on his radio show this week that political leadership should be in the hands of men. His position comes from Paul’s letter to the women of Ephesus in 1 Timothy 2:11-12 which states, “Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, not Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.” Fischer will probably not agree with a scholarly approach that this passage—and many others in the Bible—have been mistranslated because it’s written by women.

Romney and Ryan are leading the country to disaster in many ways; here are ten that Jon Perr put together.

1. Economists warn the Romney-Ryan plan means huge job losses, possibly 2 million within the next couple of years.

2. Romney and Ryan both supported Social Security privatization although they may now deny it.

3. 98 percent of Congressional Republicans voted for Ryan’s plan to ration Medicare.

4. The Ryan budget takes $716 billion from Medicare to give tax cuts to the rich.

5. Romney and Ryan will cut benefits for today’s seniors by taking away free preventative care now part of Medicare and reopening the “donut hole” in its prescription drug program which saved 5.4 seniors over $4.1 billion last year.

6. Romney-Ryan plans leaves at least 44 million more without health insurance by 2020: earlier this month, the Commonwealth Fund estimated President Romney would preside over a staggering 72 million Americans without coverage.

7. GOP ticket adds trillions more than President Obama in new debt. Both Romney and Ryan dodge the facts that Ronald Reagan tripled the national debt and George W. Bush roughly doubled it again. Ryan also skips over the fact that he voted for the drivers of most of the debt–two wars, the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003, and the Medicare prescription drug plan. The same Republicans leaders who held the debt ceiling hostage last summer voted to raise it seven times under President Bush.

8. Romney and Ryan won’t name a single loophole they’d close. Will the Romney-Ryan administration end the $63 billion Earned Income Tax Credit for working families that Ronald Reagan called “the best anti-poverty, the best pro-family, the best job creation measure to come out of Congress”? How about the $89 billion a year home mortgage tax deduction? Many of those breaks help explain the 47 percent of Americans who pay no federal income taxes, otherwise known as Mitt Romney’s “victims” and Paul Ryan’s “takers.”

9. Ryan supports GOP Platform’s ban on all abortions, and Romney changes his mind each day depending on how much he thinks that he needs the women’s vote.

10. Ryan voted for the defense sequestration he attacks President Obama for.

We’ll finish today, however, with a great achievement for the LGBT community and all others who believe that we should have freedom in this country. The ultra-conservative Chief Judge Dennis Jacobs of the 2nd Court of Appeals struck down the so-called Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional. In so doing, the George H.W. Bush nominee concluded that any law which discriminates against gay men and lesbians requires heightened scrutiny because this class of people “have historically endured persecution and discrimination”; “homosexuality has no relation to aptitude or ability to contribute to society”; “homosexuals are a discernible group with non-obvious distinguishing characteristics, especially in the subset of those who enter same-sex marriages”; and “the class remains a politically weakened minority.” Thus any attempt by government to discriminate against gay people must have an ‘exceedingly persuasive’ justification.”

The case was Edith Windsor v. New York State that I wrote about in more detail on September 29, 2012. Congratulations, Edi!

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