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September 28, 2012, 5:18 pmVoter registration problems widening in Florida
Voter registration problems widening in Florida
Published - Sep 28 2012 01:49PM EST
GARY FINEOUT, Associated Press
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — What first appeared to be an isolated problem in one Florida county has now spread statewide, with election officials in at least seven counties informing prosecutors or state election officials about questionable voter registration forms filled out on behalf of the Republican Party of Florida.
State Republican officials already have fired the vendor it had hired to register voters, and on Thursday took the additional step of filing an election fraud complaint against the company, Strategic Allied Consulting, with state officials.
A spokesman for Florida's GOP said the matter was being treated very seriously.
"We are doing what we can to find out how broad the scope is," said Brian Burgess, the spokesman.
Florida is the battleground state where past election problems led to the chaotic recount that followed the 2000 presidential election.
The Florida state party has paid Strategic Allied Consulting more than $1.3 million, and the Republican National Committee used the group for nearly $3 million of work in Nevada, North Carolina, Colorado and Virginia.
The company said earlier this week that it was cooperating with elections officials in Florida. It said the suspect forms were turned in by one person, who has been fired.
"Strategic has a zero-tolerance policy for breaking the law," Fred Petti, a company attorney, said Thursday.
An email request to the company seeking additional comment, following the company's instructions, was not immediately returned Friday.
In Florida, it is a third-degree felony to "willfully submit" any false voter registration information, a crime punishable by up to five years in prison.
The questionable forms have showed up in South Florida, including Miami-Dade, as well as northeast Florida and the Florida Panhandle.
Election officials in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties on Thursday handed over more than 100 suspect forms to local prosecutors. They did so days after officials in Palm Beach County also alerted prosecutors.
Ann Bodenstein, the elections supervisor for Santa Rosa County, said her staff started raising questions after an employee saw a form that changed the home address of a neighbor.
Paul Lux, election supervisor for Okaloosa County, said questionable forms in the Florida Panhandle appear to have all come from Strategic's effort based at the local Republican Party headquarters. He said his office has turned up dozens of suspect forms.
Lux said there have been forms that listed dead people and were either incomplete or illegible. He met with local prosecutors on Friday, but added that his staff was still going through hundreds of forms dropped off by Strategic employees.
Lux, who is a Republican, said he warned local party officials earlier this month when he first learned the company was paying people to register voters.
"I told them 'This is not going to end well,'" Lux said.
But Lux added that he did not blame the Republican Party of Florida.
"I can't place the blame on RPOF if they hired a firm and that firm wasn't following the rules they were given to follow," Lux said.
Lux also heard a complaint from the head of the local chapter of the League of Women Voters, who raised questions about Strategic employees.
Mary Blackwell said the league's Okaloosa County chapter held a voter registration drive at a college campus in Niceville and that a person who was registering voters told her he was "lucky" he only had applications from Republicans or independents. Blackwell said she was "distressed" by the comments and became worried that he may be discarding voter registration forms filled out by Democrats.
The state party filed the complaint against Strategic Allied Consulting with state election officials, who can refer the case to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement if it is found legally sufficient.
Last Edited: September 28, 2012, 5:47 pm
September 4, 2012, 8:38 pmIt's an easy choice
Beverly Perdue at the DNC in Charlotte NC.
"We can go back to the same old failed economic plans that brought about the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. We can go back to economic plans that are only designed to benefit the wealthiest among us, like Mitt Romney. Or we can keep moving forward with President Obama's vision for a growing economy that works for middle-class families in North Carolina and all across the country. For me, for North Carolina and for America, it's an easy choice."
Last Edited: September 4, 2012, 8:39 pm
August 31, 2012, 8:09 pmRepublicans Tried to Steal This
Judge restores 3 early voting days in Ohio
Published - Aug 31 2012 06:22PM EST
KANTELE FRANKO, Associated Press
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A federal judge in Ohio on Friday granted a request from President Barack Obama's campaign to give all voters in the swing state the option of casting their ballot in person during the three days before Election Day.
U.S. District Judge Peter Economus in Columbus issued a preliminary injunction in the case involving state law that cuts off early voting for most residents on the Friday evening before a Tuesday election. The law makes an exception for military personnel and Ohio voters living overseas.
Economus concluded that the law was unconstitutional in changing the in-person early voting deadline and that the state was wrongly valuing certain votes above others.
Attorney General Mike DeWine plans to appeal the decision, likely on Tuesday.
"We believe states should have the right to set the hours of election and the time of election," DeWine said, adding that there's "ample opportunity for everyone to vote."
The judge's ruling said he expects Ohio's elections chief, Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted, to direct all county elections boards to maintain a specific, consistent schedule on those three days "in keeping with his earlier directive that only by doing so can he ensure that Ohio's election process is 'uniform, accessible for all, fair, and secure.'"
A spokesman said Husted's office was reviewing the decision and declined to comment further.
Obama's campaign and Democrats had sued Husted and DeWine over the legality of the law. They argued everyone should have the chance to vote on those three days before the election.
"We are pleased the court agreed to restore equal and fair access to early voting," Aaron Pickrell, senior adviser for the Obama campaign in Ohio, said in a statement. "The people of Ohio had overwhelmingly expressed their desire to preserve the early voting system which has been so successful in recent years."
The Obama campaign and Democrats said a series of legislative changes by state lawmakers had arbitrarily eliminated the opportunity for most Ohioans to vote in person on those days, while giving military or overseas voters the chance to do so.
Attorneys for the state have said many laws already grant military personnel special voting accommodations, such as requirements for states to send absentee ballots to them 45 days before the election. And they contend local boards need those three days to prepare for the election.
But the judge said the voters' right to cast ballots in person on those days outweighs the state's reasons for limiting that opportunity.
Economus found that the Obama campaign was likely to succeed on the merits of its claim, and he granted the preliminary injunction blocking Husted from enforcing the law.
Ohio is among 32 states, plus the District of Columbia, that allow voters to cast an early ballot by mail or in person without having to give a reason.
Economus had pointed out during an early hearing that Ohioans can cast ballots by other methods — in person on Election Day or by mail beginning 35 days before the election. Lawyers for the state also noted the multiple ways voters can cast a ballot this fall, including casting an early ballot in person on other days.
Before the law, local boards of elections previously set early voting hours on those three final days, and weekday hours and weekend voting varied among the state's 88 counties.
Democrats estimated in their lawsuit that 93,000 people voted during the final three-day window before the 2008 election.
Democratic lawmakers praised the judge's ruling.
"Today's decision reinstates fairness for Ohio's busy working voters," said Ohio House Democratic Leader Armond Budish of Beachwood.
Following the ruling, the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio called on Husted to restore in-person voting opportunities during every weekend in the early voting period, not only the weekend before the election.
Associated Press Writer John Seewer in Toledo, Ohio, contributed to this report.
Last Edited: September 28, 2012, 5:47 pm
August 31, 2012, 1:59 pmRomney's Support Among Black Voters Now Up To
August 30, 2012, 7:18 pmTruth and Ryan's speech
FACT CHECK: Ryan ignores parts of his own record
Published - Aug 30 2012 04:58PM EST
CALVIN WOODWARD, Associated Press
Republican vice presidential candidate, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., addresses the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Republican National Convention is drawing to a close with some factually slippery statements from its presidential ticket.
On the eve of presidential nominee Mitt Romney's speech closing the convention Thursday night, running mate Paul Ryan ignored conspicuous parts of his own record on budget cuts, the stimulus and Medicare in his haste to accuse President Barack Obama of taking the economy off the rails.
In a brief fundraising email before taking the stage himself, Romney made the unemployment picture even grimmer than it is, and his campaign came out with a new website with selective descriptions about only some of his work at Bain Capital, the venture capital firm where Romney earned millions of dollars in profits.
A closer look at some of Romney's campaign statements and Ryan's remarks at the GOP convention in Tampa, Fla.:
ROMNEY: "We believe in America, even though President Obama's failed policies have left us with record high unemployment, lower take-home pay and the weakest economy since the Great Depression."
THE FACTS: It's fair game to tangle over who's to blame for an economy that went into deep recession under President George W. Bush, officially climbed out of it six months into Obama's term and has continued to be plagued with high unemployment and anemic growth since.
But the unemployment rate, 8.3 percent in July, is not a record. The jobless rate reached 9 percent in 1975, and 10.8 percent in 1982, topping the rate of 10 percent in October 2009. During the worst years of the Depression, more than 20 percent of the labor force was idle.
No one disputes that this was the worst economic crisis since the Depression and that this recovery has been the longest to take hold.
The July 1981-Nov. 1982 recession, the previous worst post-World War II downturn, lasted 16 months. The most recent recession lasted 18 months and, a full 38 months later, unemployment remains above 8 percent.
ROMNEY'S NEW WEBSITE: "Governor Romney's time at Bain Capital was spent fixing struggling businesses and giving new businesses a shot at success. From 1984, when Romney co-founded the firm, to February 1999, when he left to lead the Olympics, Romney helped save thousands of jobs at companies that were in trouble. And the businesses Romney helped start while at Bain Capital employ more than 100,000 people today."
THE FACTS: Bain Capital undoubtedly turned around failing companies and made profits in the process. But Bain's record during Romney's tenure is more complicated than Romney's new website, SterlingBusinessCareer.com, makes it out to be. The website lists only a handful of firms that he helped build, fix or grow to profit, including household names like Staples office supplies and the Brookstone gadgets store. Yet notably absent are references to other companies that laid off workers or foundered on his watch — which Democrats have repeatedly underscored in their attacks on Romney.
Georgetown, S.C.,-based GS Industries was one such company that Bain bought in the mid-1990s. In 2001, the steel mill filed for bankruptcy and was tied up in lawsuits from local residents alleging the plant polluted their historic town. Romney blamed the bankruptcy on Chinese dumping cheap steel into the U.S. market, although Bain ultimately realized more than $30 million on its investment, according to financial documents.
At another Bain-owned South Carolina company, the Holson Burnes Group, Inc. in Gaffney, about 150 workers lost their jobs as some plant operations were sent up north — and later overseas. By 2004, a prospectus showed Bain saw a $33.8 million valuation on its initial investment.
The new website's name is a hat-tip to former President Bill Clinton, who in May told CNN that Romney's business record at Bain was "sterling." Indeed, Clinton said this in May, to the chagrin of the Obama campaign.
RYAN: Obama "created a bipartisan debt commission. They came back with an urgent report. He thanked them, sent them on their way and then did exactly nothing."
THE FACTS: It's true that Obama hasn't heeded his commission's recommendations, but Ryan's not the best one to complain. He was a member of the commission and voted against its final report.
RYAN: "And the biggest, coldest power play of all in Obamacare came at the expense of the elderly. ... So they just took it all away from Medicare. Seven hundred and sixteen billion dollars, funneled out of Medicare by President Obama."
THE FACTS: Ryan's claim ignores the fact that Ryan himself incorporated the same cuts into budgets he steered through the House in the past two years as chairman of its Budget Committee, using the money for deficit reduction. The cuts, used in part to expand health insurance to more people, do not affect Medicare recipients directly but ultimately could by cutting into the profits of hospitals, health insurance plans and other service providers. Even so, the cuts are part of an overhaul that extends the solvency of Medicare's giant trust fund by eight years.
RYAN: "The stimulus was a case of political patronage, corporate welfare and cronyism at their worst. You, the working men and women of this country, were cut out of the deal."
THE FACTS: Ryan himself asked for stimulus money shortly after Congress approved the $800 billion plan, known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Ryan's pleas to federal agencies included letters to Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis seeking stimulus grant money for two Wisconsin energy conservation companies.
One of them, the nonprofit Wisconsin Energy Conservation Corp., received $20.3 million from the Energy Department to help homes and businesses improve energy efficiency, according to federal records. That company, he said in his letter, would build "sustainable demand for green jobs." Another eventual recipient, the Energy Center of Wisconsin, received about $365,000.
RYAN: Said Obama misled people in Ryan's hometown of Janesville, Wis., by making them think a General Motors plant there threatened with closure could be saved. "A lot of guys I went to high school with worked at that GM plant. Right there at that plant, candidate Obama said: 'I believe that if our government is there to support you ... this plant will be here for another hundred years.' That's what he said in 2008. Well, as it turned out, that plant didn't last another year."
THE FACTS: Although Obama did not explicitly promise to save the plant, Ryan is right that Obama implied that he had the backs of its workers when he spoke at the factory early in 2008 and issued a statement about its closure later. The plant halted most of its production in December 2008, weeks before Obama took office and 1,200 workers lost their jobs. The remaining 57 workers were kept on until April 2009, when the plant was mothballed.
Obama enacted a more robust auto industry bailout than the one begun by predecessor George W. Bush. The aid helped GM and Chrysler keep most of their plants open, though not the Janesville facility. Ryan himself voted for Bush's bailout, geared to GM, but was a vocal critic of the one pushed through by Obama that has been widely credited with revitalizing both GM and Chrysler.
Associated Press writers Tom Raum, Andrew Taylor, Henry C. Jackson and Bradley Klapper contributed to this report.
August 21, 2012, 10:25 pmNever underestimate
August 21, 2012, 10:06 amStraw Man
A straw man, known in the UK as an Aunt Sally, is a type of argument and is an informal fallacy based on misrepresentation of an opponent's position. To "attack a straw man" is to create the illusion of having refuted a proposition by replacing it with a superficially similar yet unequivalent proposition (the "straw man"), and refuting it, without ever having actually refuted the original position.
The origins of the term are unclear. The usage of the term in rhetoric suggests a human figure made of straw which is easily knocked down or destroyed, such as a military training dummy, scarecrow, or effigy. The rhetorical technique is sometimes called an Aunt Sally in the UK, with reference to a traditional fairground game in which objects are thrown at a fixed target. One common folk etymology is that it refers to men who stood outside courthouses with a straw in their shoe in order to indicate their willingness to be a false witness.
The straw man fallacy occurs in the following pattern of argument:
- Person A has position X.
- Person B disregards certain key points of X and instead presents the superficially similar position Y. The position Y is a distorted version of X and can be set up in several ways, including:
- Presenting a misrepresentation of the opponent's position.
- Quoting an opponent's words out of context — i.e. choosing quotations that misrepresent the opponent's actual intentions (see fallacy of quoting out of context)
- Presenting someone who defends a position poorly as the defender, then refuting that person's arguments — thus giving the appearance that every upholder of that position (and thus the position itself) has been defeated
- Inventing a fictitious persona with actions or beliefs which are then criticized, implying that the person represents a group of whom the speaker is critical.
- Oversimplifying an opponent's argument, then attacking this oversimplified version.
- Person B attacks position Y, concluding that X is false/incorrect/flawed.
This sort of "reasoning" is fallacious because attacking a distorted version of a position fails to constitute an attack on the actual position.
Straw man arguments often arise in public debates such as a (hypothetical) prohibition debate:
Person A: We should liberalize the laws on beer.
Person B: No, any society with unrestricted access to intoxicants loses its work ethic and goes only for immediate gratification.
The proposal was to relax laws on beer. Person B has exaggerated this to a position harder to defend, i.e., "unrestricted access to intoxicants"It is a logical fallacy because Person A never made that claim. This example is also a slippery slope fallacy.
Person A: Our society should spend more money helping the poor.
Person B: Studies show that handouts don't work; they just create more poverty and humiliate the recipients. That money could be better spent.
In this case, Person B has transformed Person A's position from "more money" to "more handouts", which is easier for Person B to defeat. Furthermore, Person B fails to mention what the money could be "better spent" on.
Person A: Sunny days are good.
Person B: If all days were sunny, we'd never have rain, and without rain, we'd have famine and death.
In this case B has falsely framed A's claim to imply that A says that only sunny days are good, and has argued against that assertion instead of the assertion A has made.
August 20, 2012, 11:42 pmBling Bling
August 20, 2012, 10:57 pmThey're Creepy and They're Spooky
August 20, 2012, 10:11 pmTrickle down effect
Last Edited: August 20, 2012, 10:16 pm
August 20, 2012, 10:06 pmMinn. lawmaker urged to step aside amid scandal
Published - Aug 20 2012 08:31PM EST
BRIAN BAKST, Associated Press
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A Minnesota state lawmaker who authorities say admitted having a liaison with a 17-year-old boy at a rest stop faced calls from party leaders Monday to give up his re-election bid.
Rep. Kerry Gauthier, 56, hasn't been charged in the July incident, and authorities said he wouldn't be because the boy was older than 16, the legal age of consent, and no money was exchanged. Police say the teenager responded to the lawmaker's Craigslist ad for "no strings attached" sex.
Gauthier admitted to the liaison, according to police reports made public late last week. The teen told police the two had oral sex, according to the reports.
The scandal has hurt Democrats' hopes of retaking at least one chamber of the Legislature. They need to pick up at least six seats in the House, and Gauthier's Duluth-area seat usually is reliably Democratic. But if he drops out, any Democrat seeking to replace him would have to run as a write-in candidate, making the race much more difficult to win.
Still, Democratic leaders called on Gauthier to withdraw from the race. House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, D-Minneapolis, said he was "deeply disappointed" in Gauthier's conduct and wants him to step aside.
"As I shared with Rep. Gauthier, I believe he should withdraw from the race for re-election," Thissen said in a statement released by his office.
Less than an hour later, state Democratic Party Chairman Ken Martin echoed Thissen's comments, although neither man asked Gauthier to leave office before his term ends in January.
"His actions are inexcusable," Martin said. "No one in our party condones what he did, nor will we defend him in this matter."
Gauthier hasn't commented to reporters about the incident. A call to his cellphone rolled to voicemail Monday. Thissen's statement said he expects Gauthier to "address these issues publicly and soon."
Gauthier was hospitalized for an undisclosed condition until last weekend, which prompted Thissen to wait to issue his statement. House Speaker Kurt Zellers, a Republican, on Friday urged Gauthier to resign.
House Majority Leader Matt Dean, another Republican, said Monday that simply withdrawing his candidacy does not go far enough.
"I don't see any reason for him not to resign," Dean said. It's "the appropriate thing for him to do."
Republicans note that simply forgoing a re-election campaign still would entitle Gauthier to salary and benefits for four more months. Some lawmakers were preparing an ethics complaint against him should he stay, said House GOP spokeswoman Jodi Boyne.
Gauthier was elected in 2010 with 73 percent of the vote. He is not married.
Duluth City Councilor Jay Fosle already has filed paperwork to run as a write-in candidate against Gauthier and Republican nominee Travis Silver.
The Duluth News Tribune reported that Erik Simonson, an assistant fire chief in Duluth, also plans to run for Gauthier's seat.
August 20, 2012, 9:40 pmIt was truly a mistake
It was truly a mistake, "but telling the haters that is futile. They are rejoicing. So all of you haters kiss my ass. Wiggle. Wiggle. The rest of the people who love and appreciate me "You're Welcome."
August 20, 2012, 9:23 pmLook again at that dot.
August 20, 2012, 3:08 pmVote against their own interest.
August 19, 2012, 8:50 pmAkin says he 'misspoke' about rape in interview
Akin says he 'misspoke' about rape in interview
Published - Aug 19 2012 05:51PM EST
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Missouri Congressman Todd Akin, the conservative Republican U.S. Senate candidate, quickly backed off comments that aired earlier Sunday, in which he told an interviewer that a woman's body "has ways" to prevent pregnancy during rape and that such pregnancies are "really rare."
Akin, a six-term congressman running against incumbent Democrat Sen. Claire McCaskill, was asked in an interview that aired Sunday on St. Louis television station KTVI if he would support abortions for women who have been raped.
"It seems to me first of all from what I understand from doctors that's really rare," Akin said. "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down," Akin said of a rape victim's chances of becoming pregnant.
He also said he would prefer that punishment for rape be focused on the rapist and not "attacking the child."
Akin said in an emailed statement later Sunday that he "misspoke" during the interview, though the statement did not say specifically which points.
"In reviewing my off-the-cuff remarks, it's clear that I misspoke in this interview and it does not reflect the deep empathy I hold for the thousands of women who are raped and abused every year," Akin's statement said. "Those who perpetrate these crimes are the lowest of the low in our society and their victims will have no stronger advocate in the Senate to help ensure they have the justice they deserve."
Akin also said in the statement he believes "deeply in the protection of all life and I do not believe that harming another innocent victim is the right course of action."
Akin was interviewed on KTVI's "The Jaco Report," and also talked about numerous campaign issues, such as voter ID laws, the economy and Medicare. KTVI said the interview was conducted earlier in the week.
McCaskill, who is seeking a second term, said in an emailed statement Sunday that she found the comments "offensive."
"It is beyond comprehension that someone can be so ignorant about the emotional and physical trauma brought on by rape," McCaskill said. "The ideas that Todd Akin has expressed about the serious crime of rape and the impact on its victims are offensive."
This month, Akin won the state's Republican U.S. Senate primary by a comfortable margin of victory. During the primary, Akin enhanced his standing with TV ads in which former Arkansas governor and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee praised him as "a courageous conservative" and "a Bible-based Christian" who "supports traditional marriage" and "defends the unborn."
Akin, a former state lawmaker who first won election to the U.S. House in 2000, also has a long-established base among evangelical Christians, and was endorsed in the primary by more than 100 pastors.
Within hours of Akin's win, McCaskill had cast him as a conservative extremist who would jeopardize seniors' health care and retirement savings while putting college out of reach for all but the rich.
Akin countered by portraying McCaskill — one of the most vulnerable Democratic incumbents in the nation — as a budget-busting, tax-hiking, big-spending liberal.