Saturday, September 29, 2012

Potential voter registration fraud in Florida: GOP’s own 'ACORN' scandal?

Colo. girl registering ‘only Romney’ voters tied to firm dumped by RNC over fraud
Eli Stokols
FOX 31 Denver
September 28, 2012

The Colorado Republican Party has terminated its contract with a firm hired to run voter registration and get-out-the-vote operations here after allegations of fraud, FOX31 Denver has confirmed.

The move came at the recommendation of the Republican National Committee, leading to the termination of contracts with Strategic Allied Consulting in seven swing states, following an investigation of voter fraud by the company in Florida...

In Colorado, the state GOP has spent $466,643 — roughly half its total budget — with Strategic Allied Consulting, the firm in question.

Already this year, the RNC has funneled more than $3.1 million to the company, just formed in June by Nathan Sproul, an Arizona voting consultant who has run other firms that have been accused of dumping registration forms filled out by Democrats and other improprieties aimed at helping Republican candidates.

And FOX31 Denver has confirmed that the young woman seen registering voters outside a Colorado Springs grocery store in a YouTube video, in which she admits to trying to only register voters who support Mitt Romney, was indeed a contract employee of Sproul’s company...

Strategic Allied Consulting was hired to do voter registration drives in Florida, Virginia, Colorado, North Carolina and Nevada, and had been planning get-out-the-vote drives in Ohio and Wisconsin, Sproul told the Los Angeles Times Thursday.

Reports from the Federal Election Commission show that Sproul’s other company, Lincoln Strategy Group, has been paid more than $80,000 by the Romney campaign to help register voters between November 2011 and March 2012 during the GOP primary season.

Sproul told the Times he formed Strategic Allied Consulting at the request of the RNC for publicity’s sake, given past negative media coverage of Lincoln stemming from past allegations going back to 2004, when employees in Nevada and Oregon signed up Democrats but threw out their forms instead of turning them in.

Sproul has also been linked to signature fraud this election cycle in his home state of Arizona where he was working on a ballot initiative that would allow the state to nullify any federal laws it finds to be unconstitutional.

In Florida, the state GOP fired Strategic Allied Consulting on Tuesday after election workers in Palm Beach County discovered numerous registration forms that appeared to be filled out in the same handwriting, some including wrong addresses and birthdays...

Florida GOP Election Fraud scandal spreads to ten counties
*UPDATED x3 with CO Tie-in*
Daily Kos
SEP 28, 2012

...This is sort of like our ACORN story - except that ACORN actually reported fraudulent or suspicious registrations whereas Strategic Allied Consulting has been systematically trying to engage in voter registration fraud in order to add fictitious and/or redundant GOP voters to the rolls. Disgusting.

...Third Update: As someone downthread has correctly pointed out, the young lady from El Paso County, Colorado (Colorado Springs) who was only registering Republicans was indeed working for this Strategic Alllied group - that is, Nathan Sproul's group.

And FOX31 Denver has confirmed that the young woman seen registering voters outside a Colorado Springs grocery store in a YouTube video, in which she admits to trying to only register voters who support Mitt Romney, was indeed a contract employee of Sproul’s company.

“I’m actually trying to register people for a particular party,” the girl tells a woman in the video, which has been viewed more than 417,000 times. Because we’re out here in support of Romney, actually.”

Potential voter registration fraud in Florida: GOP’s own 'ACORN' scandal?
By Patrik Jonsson
The Christian Science Monitor
September 29, 2012

Saying the party has “zero tolerance” for voter fraud, the GOP also filed complaints against the company with the Florida Secretary of State’s office. The company, run by long-time GOP operative Nathan Sproul, says a single employee was responsible for the forged signatures, though the problem, by Friday, had spread to 10 counties.

"This is an issue we take extremely seriously," RNC spokesman Sean Spicer told CBS News. "When allegations were brought to our attention we severed all ties to the firm."

While reasonable, those explanations could have trouble finding traction among the US electorate, which has watched battles erupt in mostly swing states from Florida to Ohio over control of voter rolls, and heated debates about potential disenfranchisement of key Democratic constituencies, poorer, minority, and elderly voters.

Why do Election 2012 swing states matter? 5 resources to explain.

The allegations are particularly poignant in Florida, which decided the presidential race in 2000 after a massive recount was halted by the US Supreme Court in a way that gave the election to the GOP, and where the current Republican state administration has fought with the US Department of Justice over an effort to weed out illegal immigrants from the state’s voter rolls.

Even more to the point of third-party voter registration contractors, the League of Women Voters sued Florida earlier this month after it instituted a new 48-hour deadline for turning in registration forms. The state relented, reinstating a 10-day deadline.

What’s more, the fraudulent registration findings have echoes of the 2008 controversies over the now-disbanded ACORN community activism group, which was accused by Republicans in 2008 of falsifying forms.

Brad Friedman, who runs the electoral watchdog Brad Blog, helped break the story, tying it to other emerging GOP registration controversies in California and Colorado. Other states where Sproul’s firm had been hired to gather registrations have not reported any problems.

“A massive GOP voter registration scheme, which appears to involve the upper-echelons of the national party, [has begun] to emerge,” Mr. Friedman writes.

At the center of the controversy is Mr. Sproul, a long-time GOP campaign operative, whose firm has faced allegations of questionable tactics in the past, including changing or throwing out registration forms filled out by Democrats.

Quoted by Lee Fang of the nonpartisan Republic Report, former Rep. Chris Cannon (R) of Utah, during a voter fraud hearing, admitted that “the difference between ACORN and Sproul is that ACORN doesn't throw away or change registration documents after they have been filled out.”

Mr. Sproul has worked for a string of Republican presidential campaigns, including Mitt Romney’s. He was recommended to the Florida GOP by the National Republican Committee. Until being fired Tuesday, Sproul’s company had received $1.3 million from Republicans, including nearly $700,000 from the Florida Republican Party...

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Fighting Over God’s Image

American Protestants were once deadly serious about forbidding images of God.

Fighting Over God’s Image
New York Times
September 26, 2012

THE murders of four Americans over an amateurish online video about Muhammad, like the attempted murder of a Danish cartoonist who in 2005 had depicted the prophet with a bomb in his turban, have left many Americans confused, angry and fearful about the rage that some Muslims feel about visual representations of their sacred figures.

The confusion stems, in part, from the ubiquity of sacred images in American culture. God, Jesus, Moses, Buddha and other holy figures are displayed in movies, cartoons and churches and on living room walls. We place them on T-shirts and bumper stickers — and even tattoo them on our skin.

But Americans have had their own history of conflict, some of it deadly, over displays of the sacred. The path toward civil debate over such representation is neither short nor easy.

The United States was settled, in part, by radical Protestant iconoclasts from Britain who considered the creation and use of sacred imagery to be a violation of the Second Commandment against graven images. The anti-Catholic colonists at Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay refused to put images of Jesus in their churches and meetinghouses. They scratched out crosses in books. In the early 1740s, English officials even marched on an Indian community in western Connecticut, where they cross-examined Moravian missionaries who reportedly had a book with “the picture of our Saviour in it.”

The colonists feared Catholic infiltration from British-controlled Canada. Shortly after the Boston Tea Party, a Connecticut pastor warned that if the British succeeded, the colonists would have their Bibles taken from them and be compelled to “pray to the Virgin Mary, worship images, believe the doctrine of Purgatory, and the Pope’s infallibility.”

It was not only Protestants who opposed sacred imagery. In the Southwest, Pueblo Indians who waged war against Spanish colonizers not only burned and dismembered some crucifixes, but even defecated on them.

In the early Republic, many Americans avoided depicting Jesus or God in any form. The painter Washington Allston spoke for many artists of the 1810s when he said, “I think his character too holy and sacred to be attempted by the pencil.” A visiting Russian diplomat, Pavel Svinin, was amazed at the prevalence of a different image: George Washington’s. “Every American considers it his sacred duty to have a likeness of Washington in his home,” he wrote, “just as we have images of God’s saints.”

Only in the late 19th century did images of God and Jesus become commonplace in churches, Sunday school books, Bibles and homes. There were many forces at work: steam printing presses; new canals and railroads; and, not least, the immigration of hundreds of thousands of Catholics who brought with them an array of crucifixes, Madonnas and busts of saints. Protestants began producing their own images — often, to appeal to children — and gradually became more comfortable with holy images. In the 20th century, the United States began exporting such images, most notably Warner Sallman’s 1941 “Head of Christ,” which is one of the most reproduced images in world history.

But there was also resistance. When Hollywood first started portraying Jesus in films, one fundamentalist Christian fumed, “The picturing of the life and sufferings of our Savior by these institutions falls nothing short of blasphemy.” Vernon E. Jordan Jr., an African-American who was later president of the National Urban League and an adviser to President Bill Clinton, recalled that white audience members gasped when he played Jesus as an undergraduate at DePauw University in Indiana in the 1950s...

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Greed and Debt: The True Story of Mitt Romney and Bain Capital

Greed and Debt: The True Story of Mitt Romney and Bain Capital
How the GOP presidential candidate and his private equity firm staged an epic wealth grab, destroyed jobs – and stuck others with the bill
Rolling Stone Magazine August 29, 2012

The great criticism of Mitt Romney, from both sides of the aisle, has always been that he doesn't stand for anything. He's a flip-flopper, they say, a lightweight, a cardboard opportunist who'll say anything to get elected.

The critics couldn't be more wrong. Mitt Romney is no tissue-paper man. He's closer to being a revolutionary, a backward-world version of Che or Trotsky, with tweezed nostrils instead of a beard, a half-Windsor instead of a leather jerkin. His legendary flip-flops aren't the lies of a bumbling opportunist – they're the confident prevarications of a man untroubled by misleading the nonbeliever in pursuit of a single, all-consuming goal. Romney has a vision, and he's trying for something big: We've just been too slow to sort out what it is, just as we've been slow to grasp the roots of the radical economic changes that have swept the country in the last generation.

The incredible untold story of the 2012 election so far is that Romney's run has been a shimmering pearl of perfect political hypocrisy, which he's somehow managed to keep hidden, even with thousands of cameras following his every move. And the drama of this rhetorical high-wire act was ratcheted up even further when Romney chose his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin – like himself, a self-righteously anal, thin-lipped, Whitest Kids U Know penny pincher who'd be honored to tell Oliver Twist there's no more soup left. By selecting Ryan, Romney, the hard-charging, chameleonic champion of a disgraced-yet-defiant Wall Street, officially succeeded in moving the battle lines in the 2012 presidential race...

Read more:

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Team Obama releases tongue-in-cheek video taking Romney out of context

Team Obama releases tongue-in-cheek video taking Romney out of context
By Justin Sink
The Hill

President Obama's campaign released a new web video Thursday comprised of entirely out-of-context clips of opponent Mitt Romney, intended, they say, to illustrate that Romney's attack on Obama's "redistribution" comment was unfair.

On Wednesday night NBC News posted extended audio of Obama's remarks at a 1998 academic conference, during which he said that he "believes[s] in redistribution." But the following sentence shows Obama arguing the importance of competition and the marketplace for government services.

"In a desperate attempt to distract Americans from another disastrous week for Mitt Romney, his campaign has once again flagrantly taken the president's statements out of context to make a point that simply doesn't exist," said Obama press secretary Adam Fetcher in a statement. "After falsely accusing the president of wanting to redistribute wealth when he was actually talking about reforming government and making it more effective, it’s now come to light that they selectively removed additional context from the 14-year-old remarks in which then-Senator Obama stressed the need for competition, innovation and a strong marketplace in expanding opportunity for all Americans."

The Web video from the Obama campaign opens with on-screen text defining "context" as "the parts of something written or spoken that immediately precede and follow a word or passage and clarify its meaning."

Sunday, September 16, 2012

What 'rogues and vagabonds' have to do with Pennsylvania voter ID law

Pennsylvania judge supports Republicans who don't want "to place the vicious vagrant, the wandering Arabs, the Tartar hordes of our large cities, on a level with the virtuous and good man.”

What 'rogues and vagabonds' have to do with Pennsylvania voter ID law
By Patrik Jonsson
The Christian Science Monitor
September 13, 2012

An 1869 ruling used by a Pennsylvania state judge in August to uphold a tough new voter ID law is providing some new and startling historical context to deliberations by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, as it mulls whether to block the controversial law before the Nov. 6 presidential election.

Looking specifically at the tumult and vagrancy of 19th century city life in Philadelphia, the so-called 1869 Patterson v. Barlow decision, which in part allowed election officials to consider a voter’s “virtue” before being allowed to cast a ballot, formed the backbone of Judge Robert Simpson’s decision last month that the new law was constitutional and could go into effect immediately. The original Patterson ruling was written by state Supreme Court justices, whose legal descendants are now weighing the voter ID law.

The ruling was more of a legal side note in the actual hearing Thursday. But citation of the ruling, which used what today would be considered by many to be bigoted language to justify early curbs on the franchise, has hit a nerve among critics who say Judge Simpson’s reliance on the ruling ties modern day critiques of voter ID laws directly, and shockingly, to a historical narrative of “anachronism and … outright prejudice,” according to one legal brief filed in the case.

The Patterson decision “shows that a majority of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court was once led to rationalize burdensome election procedures based on generalized and biased fears about fraudulent voting. That historic mistake should make the court hesitate to uphold another election law ostensibly aimed at preventing fraud when the state has offered no evidence that any such fraud has actually occurred,” writes Jessie Allen, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh, in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Painting a colorful Dickensian view of old Philadelphia, the 1869 court wrote, “Where the population of a locality is constantly changing, and men are often unknown to their next-door neighbors; where a large number is floating upon the rivers and the sea, going and returning and incapable of identification; where low inns, restaurants and boarding-houses constantly afford the means of fraudulent additions to the lists of voters, what rule of sound reason or of constitutional law forbids the legislature from providing a means to distinguish the honest people of Philadelphia from the rogues and vagabonds who would usurp their places and rob them of their rights?"

For emphasis, the court further explained that to deny the tougher voting rules for Philadelphia voters “would be to place the vicious vagrant, the wandering Arabs, the Tartar hordes of our large cities, on a level with the virtuous and good man.”...

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Evidence piles up that Bush administration got many pre-9-11 warnings

Evidence piles up that Bush administration got many pre-9-11 warnings
By Robert Windrem
NBC News
September 11, 2012

Video: Author Kurt Eichenwald talks about what the White House knew leading up to the attacks and how they used the intelligence information in the months after.

On the 11th anniversary of the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil, there is mounting evidence that the Bush administration received more intelligence warnings than previously known prior to the Sept. 11 attacks that killed nearly 3,000. Kurt Eichenwald, a former New York Times reporter, wrote in an op-ed piece in Tuesday’s newspaper about a number of previously unknown warnings relayed to the White House by U.S. intelligence in the weeks and months prior to the attacks.

Eichenwald wrote of the warnings in his new book, “500 Days: Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars.”

And former US intelligence officials say there were even more warnings, pointing to a little noticed section of George Tenet’s memoir, “At the Center of the Storm.”

In it, Tenet describes a July 10, 2001, meeting at the White House in the office of Condoleezza Rice, then President George W. Bush’s national security adviser. The meeting was not discussed in the 9-11 Commission’s final report on the attacks, although Tenet wrote that he provided information on it to the commission.

What’s critical to understanding the difference between this meeting and others, says one former senior U.S. intelligence official who spoke with NBC News on condition of anonymity, is that the intelligence provided that day was fresh, some of it having been collected the previous day. And other intelligence and national security officials, also speaking on condition of anonymity, say the briefings make clear that, while Bush administration officials understood the nature of the threat, they didn’t understand its magnitude and urgency.

“This intelligence delivered on July 10 was specific and was generated within 24 hours of the meeting,” said the first official, who pointed out the text in the Tenet memoir.

Tenet wrote about how after being briefed by his counterterrorism team on July 10 -- two months prior to the attacks -- “I picked up the big white secure phone on the left side of my desk -- the one with a direct line to Condi Rice -- and told her that I needed to see her immediately to provide an update on the al-Qaida threat.”

Tenet said he could not recall another time in his seven years as director of the CIA that he sought such an urgent meeting at the White House. Rice agreed to the meeting immediately, and 15 minutes later, he was in Rice’s office.

An analyst handed out the briefing packages Tenet and just seen and began to speak. “His opening line got everyone’s attention,” he wrote, “in part because it left no room for misunderstanding: ‘There will be a significant terrorist attack in the coming weeks or months’!”

The team laid out in a series of slide, the concerns Tenet’s counterterrorism team had based on intelligence that included information “from the past 24 hours.” Citing his notes on the briefing, Tenet wrote, “A chart displayed seven specific pieces of intelligence gathered over the past twenty-four hours, all of them predicting an imminent attack. Among the items: Islamic extremists were traveling to Afghanistan in greater numbers, and there had been significant departures of extremist families from Yemen. Other signs pointed to new threats against U.S. interests in Lebanon, Morocco, and Mauritania.”

A second chart followed, listing a summation of the most chilling comments by al-Qaida. According to Tenet, they were:

• A mid-June statement from Osama bin Laden to trainees that there will be an attack in the near future.

• Information that talked about moving toward decisive acts.

• Late June information that cited a “big event” that was forthcoming.

• “Two separate bits of information collected only a few days before our meeting in which people were predicting a stunning turn of events in the weeks ahead.”

Another slide detailed how Chechen Islamic terrorist leader Ibn Kattab had promised some “very big news” to his troops.

There were more details, as laid out by one of Tenet’s top analysts, known in the book as “Rich B.” Tenet recounts his aide telling Rice and others, “The attack will be ‘spectacular.’ and designed to inflict mass casualties against U.S. facilities and interests. ‘Attack preparations have been made,’ he said. ‘Multiple and simultaneous attacks are possible, and they will occur with little or no warning. Al-Qaida is waiting us out and looking for vulnerability.”

Rice, Tenet wrote, reacted positively to the briefing and asked her counter terrorism adviser, Richard Clarke, if he agreed with the assessment. Clarke said he did, and Tenet said he and his aides left the meeting feeling that Rice understood the threat. However, he wrote, the White House never followed up on the presidential finding that Tenet had been asking for since March, authorizing broader covert action against al-Qaida. That finding was signed by President Bush on Sept. 17, six days after the attacks.

Roger Cressey, who was Clarke’s deputy and is now an NBC News counter terrorism analyst, says one thing that is missing from Tenet’s description of the events is that the intelligence pointed to overseas attacks. although CIA did tell officials that they couldn’t discount an attack on the US homeland.

“Everything we had (from US intelligence) pointed overseas, specifically to the Gulf,” he said. “There was no actionable intelligence that pointed to the homeland. What we did know, and what we told domestic agencies, was there was "a disturbance in the force” and we were very worried about an attack.

Still, Cressey remains critical of the lack of a response going back to the first week of the administration, saying the counterterrorism team at the National Security Council and experts elsewhere in the government were “butting our heads against the wall” in an effort to get a meaningful response from the White House.

Would action by the White House have helped? Like Eichenwald, Cressey says he isn’t sure, but notes that when similar intelligence pointed to attacks on Jan. 1, 2000, “Sandy Berger (Rice’s predecessor) and (President Bill) Clinton went to battle stations.” Did warnings prior to the millennium help thwart a number of attacks back then? Cressey believes they did.

One intelligence official also noted that after the interception of the July intelligence, there was little conversation on the al-Qaida communications network prior to Sept. 11. It wasn’t until much later U.S. intelligence understood why. “They laid low because they were waiting for Congress to come back in session,” the official said.

The reason, he said: United Flight 93 was headed for the U.S. Capitol when passengers tried to thwart the hijacking and the plane bound for Washington crashed in a field near Shanksville, Pa.

Robert Windrem is a senior investigative producer for NBC News.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Family feud eyed in grisly killings in French Alps

Many people are afraid of those who look different, or believe different things. But very often in this world it's brother against brother, especially when an inheritance is involved.

Family feud eyed in grisly killings in French Alps
By Jamey Keaten
Business Week
September 07, 2012

ANNECY, France (AP) — The brother of an Iraqi-born British man shot dead in the French Alps with his wife and two other people came forward to British police on Friday and denied any conflict in the family, while investigators looked into a possible money dispute among the siblings, a French prosecutor said.

Two days after the killings, authorities identified the dead as mechanical design engineer Saad al Hilli and his wife, Ikbal, based partly on the testimony of their 4-year-old daughter Zeena, who survived unhurt by hiding under her mother's skirt as some 25 automatic-handgun rounds were fired.

French cyclist Sylvain Mollier, 45, whom authorities suspect was in the wrong place at the wrong time, was also killed in Wednesday's rampage. Investigators were working to identify a fourth victim, an elderly, Iraqi-born Swedish woman also inside the family's vehicle.

French authorities, cautious about tipping off the culprit or culprits, offered only a trickle of clues about the investigation.

Eric Maillaud, the prosecutor in nearby Annecy, said British police reported that Saad may have feuded with his brother Zaid over money.

On Friday, after learning about media reports that cited authorities' suspicion about a possible family dispute, Zaid went to British police and told them, "I have no conflict with my brother," according to Maillaud.

"This brother came forward spontaneously to investigators, first to ask simply about the state of his brother because he heard through British media that his brother was dead," Maillaud said.

But Mae Faisal El-Wailly, a childhood friend of the brothers, made available a letter written to her by Saad last year that alluded to a possible inheritance dispute. She said the brothers' father had died recently, and she described the family as wealthy and well-traveled.

"Zaid and I do not communicate any more as he is another control freak and tried a lot of underhanded things even when my father was alive," Saad wrote. The letter was dated Sept. 16, 2011.

"He tried to take control of fathers assets and demanded control," the letter says. "(A)nyway it is a long story and now I have just had to wipe him out of my life. Sad but I need to concentrate now on my wife and two lovely girls ..."

Public records show Zaid resigned from Saad's small aeronautics design firm, Shtech Ltd., last year.

Maillaud said he had not heard about any possible inheritance issue and that Zaid remains "a free man."

The prosecutor also said it was a "miracle" that the dead couple's other daughter, 7-year-old Zaina, who was shot in the shoulder and beaten, survived. She remained unconscious Friday in a medically induced coma in a Grenoble hospital, under close police guard...

Thursday, September 06, 2012

World's richest woman says poor should have less fun, work harder

World's richest woman says poor should have less fun, work harder
By David Lazarus
LA Times
August 30, 2012

Just in case you were beginning to think rich people were deeply misunderstood and that they feel the pain of those who are less fortunate, here's the world's wealthiest woman, Australian mining tycoon Gina Rinehart, with some helpful advice.

"If you're jealous of those with more money, don't just sit there and complain," she said in a magazine piece. "Do something to make more money yourself -- spend less time drinking or smoking and socialising, and more time working."

Yeah, let them eat cake.

Rinehart made her money the old-fashioned way: She inherited it.

Her family iron ore prospecting fortune of $30.1 billion makes her Australia's wealthiest person and the richest woman on the planet.

"There is no monopoly on becoming a millionaire," she said by way of encouragement.

"Become one of those people who work hard, invest and build, and at the same time create employment and opportunities for others."

Boom. Almost too easy.

Why are people poor? Rinehart blamed what she described as "socialist," anti-business government policies, and urged Australian officials to lower the minimum wage and cut taxes.

"The millionaires and billionaires who choose to invest in Australia are actually those who most help the poor and our young," she said. "This secret needs to be spread widely."

And now it's out there.

Thank you, rich people. We're not worthy.

Richest woman: Africans who work for $2 a day are an inspiration
Andy Johnson
Sep. 5, 2012

The world's richest woman isn't backing away from earlier remarks that poor Australians should smoke and drink less, in fact she's issued a new statement praising Africans who are willing to work for just $2 a day.

Australian mining tycoon Gina Rinehart made the comments in a rare video statement. "We must get realistic, not just promote class warfare. Indeed if we competed at the Olympic Games as sluggishly as we compete economically there would be an outcry," said the woman who inherited her family's iron ore fortune.

She went on to urge her country to look to Africa for inspiration and guidance. "Africans want to work and its workers are willing to work for less than $2 a day. Such statistics make me worry for this country's future," Rinehart said.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard quickly dismissed the comments.

"It's not the Australian way to toss people $2, a two-dollar gold coin, and then ask them to work for the day. We support proper Australian wages and decent working conditions for Australian people," Gillard told reporters.

Things we learned from Day Two of the DNC

Five things we learned from Day Two of the DNC
By Peter Hamby, Ashley Killough and Paul Steinhauser
September 6, 2012

...[#5]Paul Ryan a bigger thorn in Romney's side than Bain?

Mitt Romney faced a tsunami of attacks this summer over his business background and former private equity firm, Bain Capital. A pro-Obama super PAC particularly hammered Romney, spending $20 million on commercials in crucial swing states painting Romney as a greedy corporate raider.

And while speakers addressed Bain during prime time, Democrats seemed to be more fired up about another target Wednesday night: his running mate.

Fact or fiction? Paul Ryan's RNC speech

Speech after speech dealt several zings at Rep. Paul Ryan's budget plan, a proposal widely backed by the GOP and one that favors tax cuts coupled with large entitlement cuts.

Sister Simone Campbell especially hammered home the point. The nun has led other nuns on a nine-state bus tour this summer, campaigning against Ryan's plan as a measure that stands in the way of the church's moral teachings.

"Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are correct when they say that each individual should be responsible. But their budget goes astray in not acknowledging that we are responsible not only for ourselves and our immediate families," she said. "Rather, our faith strongly affirms that we are all responsible for one another."

Her comments were carried further by U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, who serves on the same House Budget Committee chaired by Ryan. Van Hollen, who's been tapped to play the role of Ryan in debate prep for Vice President Joe Biden, said Romney and Ryan's "obsession with tax breaks for the wealthy is part of a rigid ideology."

"But this theory crashed in the real world. We all lived through the recession when jobs went down and the deficit went up," he said. "So when they say they'll turn around the economy, beware. They mean a U-turn back to this failed theory that lifted the yachts while other boats ran aground."

Wednesday night's program certainly highlighted Romney's time at Bain, especially when three laid-off workers took the stage to blast the GOP nominee as a heartless businessman motivated only by profit.

But a stronger theme threaded throughout the night could be found in Ryan's sweeping budget proposals and Democrats' fervent opposition to it.

Political observers say Romney's pick in Ryan was risky, given the congressman's highly polarizing policy proposals. Watching the convention this week, it seems those attacks fuel plenty of fire against Romney, one that may not die down anytime soon.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Why Do Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan Tell Small, Dumb Lies?

Why Do Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan Tell Small, Dumb Lies?
Robert Schlesinger
US News and World Report
September 1, 2012

Paul Ryan caught a lot of guff last week—correctly—for delivering a vice presidential acceptance speech which was festooned with lies and false assertions. It was so bad that when the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein and his staff scoured the speech looking for truth, lies, and misleading statements—they produced a grand total of two “true” policy items. Two.

But what intrigues me today isn’t the big lies like the ones for which Ryan has been excoriated recently. Right now I’m more interested in the smaller variety of lie whose triviality raises questions about their deployment. I’ll give you two examples.

Ryan caught notice last week when he told the conservative radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt that he had run a sub-three hour marathon. This is apparently an impressive enough figure that Runner’s World wanted to find out more. What they found out was that his actual personal best time was a hair over four hours. I’m no runner (I follow my wife’s dictum: Run only when chased), but even I know that a difference of more than an hour in a marathon time is a big deal.

So why tell the lie?

As James Fallows writes:

You're on a nationwide show. You're one of the handful of people most prominently in the national eye. You know that everything you say is going to be recorded, parsed, and examined. And still -- last week, not at a freshman mixer or in a Jaycees speech somewhere -- you happily reel off a claim that is impressive enough to get people's interest and admiration, and specific enough to be easily testable.

I don't understand this. I can understand, while obviously deploring, why Bill Clinton brazenly said "I did not have sexual relations with that woman" on national TV. It was a flat-out lie that to him might have seemed necessary to his survival. I can understand the little embellishments politicians and everyone else make -- especially when these occur in early days of the campaign, or in odd corners where you think no one is listening.

Or I’ll give a more contemporary large-lie example: I understand why Romney has made a fabrication about President Obama’s welfare policy a centerpiece of its campaign; I condemn it, but I can see the anything-to-win reasoning behind it (for more, see Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s blunt explanation).

But if big lies have a purpose, what’s the point of trivial untruths?

Here’s another example, from way back in November. CNN’s Wolf Blitzer opened a GOP presidential debate he was moderating by telling the crowd that “yes, that’s my real name.” Romney in turn introduced himself by saying, “I'm Mitt Romney and yes, Wolf, that's also my first name.” Except that it’s not. His first name is in fact Willard.

So what was the point of claiming otherwise?

This isn’t a partisan thing. I’m not trying to draw conclusions about Ryan’s and Romney’s personal veracity here (though I think there’s an abundance of evidence that their campaign is setting a new standard for political mendacity). I’m just really curious—why tell small, dumb lies?

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Cleric held in blasphemy case for adding burned Quran pages to evidence against girl

Cleric held in blasphemy case
02 Sep 2012

A Pakistani cleric who accused a young Christian girl of blasphemy in a case that sparked international concern was remanded in custody Sunday on suspicion of evidence-tampering and desecrating the Quran.

The girl, Rimsha, has been held in prison since being arrested in the poor Islamabad suburb of Mehrabad more than two weeks ago accused of burning papers containing verses from the Koran, in breach of Pakistan's strict blasphemy laws.

A medical report last week said she had a mental age of less than 14 and her case has prompted concern among Western governments and anger from rights groups who say Pakistan's strict blasphemy legislation is often abused to settle personal scores.

Hafiz Mohammed Khalid Chishti, the imam of the mosque in Rimsha's area, who first gave police the burned papers as evidence against her, was detained by police on Saturday evening.

"The imam was arrested after his deputy Maulvi Zubair and two others told a magistrate he added pages from the Koran to the burnt pages brought to him by a witness," police investigator Munir Hussain Jaffri said.

Zubair and the two others, Mohammad Shahzad and Awais Ahmed, said they had urged Chishti not to interfere with the papers, Jaffri said.

"They protested that he should not add something to the evidence and he should give the evidence to the police as he got it and should not do this," Jaffri said.

"But they said Chishti said, 'You know this is the only way to expel the Christians from this area.'"

On August 24 Chishti told AFP he thought Rimsha had burned the pages deliberately as part of a Christian "conspiracy" to insult Muslims, and said action should have been taken sooner to stop what he called their "anti-Islam activities" in Mehrabad.

Jaffri said the cleric was arrested at his home on Saturday under the blasphemy law.

"By putting these pages in the ashes he also committed desecration of the Holy Quran and he is being charged with blasphemy," he said...