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Rogue electors threaten elections' integrity (some R's say they may not vote for rMoney)

By Robert M. Alexander, Special to CNN, Mon October 22, 2012

Editor's note: Robert M. Alexander is a professor of political science at Ohio Northern University and the author of "Presidential Electors and the Electoral College: An Examination of Lobbying, Wavering Electors and Campaigns for Faithless Votes."

While Barack Obama's and Mitt Romney's presidential campaigns rage on toward November 6, another campaign has been under way for some time, one that's mostly out of the public's eye.

An investigation by The Associated Press last month revealed that as many as five Republican electors expressed uncertainty whether they would actually vote for Mitt Romney if he carried their state. These electors appear to be unhappy with Romney and continue to show support for his primary rival Rep. Ron Paul.

In the wake of this news, one of the electors abruptly resigned her position. On another front, a Minnesota elector suggested that he may not vote for the Romney-Ryan ticket if the candidates fail to furnish their birth certificates (in an effort to put pressure on all candidates to furnish their birth certificates).

These potentially rogue electors would effectively disenfranchise hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of voters. The 2012 election will probably be very close. Consequently, in the worst of scenarios, a "faithless" vote might not only disenfranchise voters but alter the outcome of the race. While unlikely, this begs the question: Why do presidential electors still have independence in our current presidential selection process?

After examining those who make up the institution, I find one thing increasingly clear: We need to take the guesswork out of the Electoral College.

In 2004, I published a study aimed at shedding light on the mysterious figures who serve as presidential electors. In the hotly contested 2000 election, many electors were subjected to vigilant lobbying campaigns. Some received thousands of e-mails; at least one received a death threat.

A group called Citizens for a True Democracy, founded by two college seniors, published the contact information of 172 Republican electors online and asked people to urge them to put "patriotism before partisanship" and give their electoral votes to Al Gore. The group noted that it would have lobbied Democratic electors to give their votes to George W. Bush had he, rather than Gore, won the popular vote but lost the electoral vote.

Remarkably, four of the Republican electors I surveyed expressed unease over Bush's victory and the recounts in Florida. On its face, this would not be cause for great concern. However, the 271 electoral votes amassed by the Bush-Cheney ticket barely pushed them over the 270-vote Electoral College majority needed to win the election.

Consequently, just two Republican defections or abstentions would have denied the ticket of a majority of electoral votes and thrown the contest into the House of Representatives. Bush would still probably have been elected, but the Electoral College would have created yet another round of uncertainty.

Surveying the 2004 and 2008 presidential electors, I found that the 2000 election was not an isolated event. One-third of electors were contacted to change their votes in 2004, and nearly 80% were lobbied to change their votes in 2008. That year, the bulk of lobbying was conducted by "birthers" who saw presidential electors as a last hope to get their voices heard after their legal battles failed.

Currently, a majority of states and the District of Columbia have legal requirements or pledges to ensure that electors vote for their party's ticket. While the overwhelming majority of electors never consider changing their votes, a surprisingly large number do.

In my survey, nearly 10% of electors in 2004 and 11.5% of electors (including 20% of Republicans) in 2008 gave some consideration to voting contrary to expectations. To put this in perspective, this would be akin to all 55 of California's electors considering defection from their party's ticket. Such a prospect is quite unnerving.

Indeed, faithless electors are not fanciful creatures from mythology: Nine of the past 16 presidential elections have witnessed faithless votes (including two of the past three). Although none changed the outcome of an election, each faithless vote effectively disenfranchised hundreds of thousands of voters.

Electors are chosen primarily for their party loyalty, not for their judgment regarding candidates. Whatever one thinks of the Electoral College, Americans have come to expect that electors will faithfully translate the popular vote into the electoral vote. Elector independence simply adds another layer of uncertainty to a process that already has a great deal of cynicism attached to it.

Attempts to curtail faithless votes reflect a very real concern lawmakers and party officials have about the prospect of faithless voting. Ronald Reagan, for example, sent letters to each of the 538 Republican electors shortly before the 1980 election. If candidates are worried about such mischief, citizens should be concerned as well.

Efforts to prevent elector faithlessness, like the Uniform Faithful Presidential Electors Act, would provide greater assurance in the presidential selection process, a process where many citizens already have great concerns.

Too often, laws proscribing faithless voting take place in states after the act has been committed. States should move to adopt the Uniform Faithful Presidential Electors Act sooner rather than later. Doing so would remove the needless uncertainty created by potentially faithless electors and restore some confidence in the Electoral College process.

Posted by fleur-de-lisa | Mon Oct 22, 2012, 05:03 PM (0 replies)

Even Fox News Admits That Mitt Romney's Tax Plan Doesn't Add Up

By Remington Shepard, posted on AlterNet.org, October 22, 2012

A Fox business host has admitted that it isn't possible to calculate how GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney's plan would be paid for.

Independent fact-checkers and experts say that Romney's tax plan, a $5 trillion dollar tax cut that would largely benefit the wealthiest Americans offset by closing undisclosed loopholes, doesn't add up. The Romney campaign has responded by saying one possible way to pay for the tax plan is to cap the total amount of deductions a taxpayer can take. Experts have said that even with such a deduction cap, Romney's plan still doesn't add up .

And in a rare moment of truth for Fox, Fox Business host Stuart Varney admitted: "I cannot calculate how much money would be brought in" by Romney's plan.

Posted by fleur-de-lisa | Mon Oct 22, 2012, 04:41 PM (1 replies)

Watching Stephanie Miller right now . . . excellent parody

of the song 'I need you' (by America), substituted as 'Romneysia' . . . freaking hilarious!!! I don't know if a video is available yet, but this is hysterical!!!

Posted by fleur-de-lisa | Mon Oct 22, 2012, 11:48 AM (6 replies)

Social Security's rate of return is tough to beat

By Mark Miller, Reuters, posted on NBCNews.com, 10-19-12

Is Social Security a good deal? Many Americans worry that they will put more money into the system via payroll taxes during their working years than they will ever get back in benefits - and their concerns help fuel the ongoing push by Republicans to transform Social Security into a privatized system of personal accounts.

Mitt Romney has supported privatization in the past (see his book, "No Apology", and running mate Paul Ryan argued for it as recently as last week's vice presidential debate: "Let younger Americans have a voluntary choice of making their money work faster for them within the Social Security system."

Could workers make their money grow more quickly with personal accounts? The actuaries at the Social Security Administration (SSA) ran an analysis recently that simulated real (after inflation) annual rates of return on payroll tax contributions for beneficiaries who were born between 1920 and 2004.

It showed that some workers might beat Social Security's returns in some years if they took risks in the stock market. But over a lifetime, Social Security's consistent, risk-free and inflation-adjusted returns would be very tough to beat.

I say "simulated" because the amount of your Social Security benefit is not based on tax contributions, but on your lifetime wage history and longevity. Moreover, Social Security is not an investment vehicle dependent solely on market returns - it is more like a form of insurance, annuity or pension, since its promise is to pay a monthly benefit amount no matter how long you live. In that sense, there is a peace-of-mind value that is difficult to quantify.

"Since you're guaranteed an inflation-adjusted income stream for life, you can think about your other sources of income and assets knowing that you'll always have Social Security," said Melissa Favreault, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute.

The simulations:

The SSA ran simulations analyzing workers with low, medium and high wages, and broke out results by four different life situations: single men, single women, a one-earner couple, and a two-earner couple. Then they adjusted the results for other key factors, such as mortality rates and disability. In addition, mindful that reforms will be coming at some point, they ran variations from the current outlook showing the impact of lifting the ceiling on taxable wages, and another scenario showing scaled-back benefits.

Overall, they found that the current Social Security program is a good deal. However, your mileage will vary by lifetime earning history, longevity and your year of birth. The payroll tax rate for Social Security's retirement and disability programs reached its current peak level - aside from the current payroll tax holiday - in 1990 (6.2 percent each for workers and employers).

Since we do not know what will happen on the policy front, I focused on the SSA's numbers assuming no change in current law. They found that every age group received a positive return. Among current workers and retirees, the rates of annual return varied by about two percentage points - from a high of 6.52 percent (for single-earning couples born in 1920) to 4.52 percent (for their counterparts born in 1985). So if you wonder whether you will "come out ahead" on Social Security, here are some key differentiating factors to keep in mind:

•Younger workers will get less. Today's young people will see lower rates of return, because they will have paid the highest payroll tax rates of all the age groups compared in the SSA analysis.

•Couples do better. Marital status is a key factor affecting Social Security returns. In every age group, the best returns went to married couples where one spouse works. That is because Social Security's design includes valuable spousal features that pay benefits to nonworking spouses and surviving widows. Spouses are entitled to receive the greater of his/her own benefit or half of their spouse's benefit. And surviving widows can step up to 100 percent of a deceased spouse's benefit. A single-earning couple with medium wages, born in 1943, will see a 4.59 rate of annual return, while a single female born the same year - also with medium wages - can expect a 2.49 percent return. (Spousal benefits are also available in cases where a lower-earning spouse had some earnings but so much less that their worker benefit is less than half.)

•Longevity matters. All pension and annuity systems are structured around mortality credits - that is, they use assets of those who die young to fund the benefits of those who live to a very advanced age. A projection by Favreault of Social Security data found that 82 percent of individuals who live to age 85 get back more in benefits than then pay in taxes; about 52 percent of those who die between 75 and 84 come out ahead. Meanwhile, just 21 percent of those who die between 62 and 69 get back more than they put in to the system. The odds here are especially good for women, since they have a higher likelihood of surviving to retirement age and longer lives after retirement. That gives them higher rates of Social Security return - a medium-earning single female born in 1943 can expect a 2.49 rate of return compared with 2.09 percent for her male counterpart.

•Lower-income workers come out ahead. Low-income workers enjoy higher rates of return by design, because Social Security's benefit formula is weighted toward lower-earning beneficiaries and their payroll tax contributions will be relatively lower. A very low-income couple born in 1943 will receive a 6.79 percent annual return, compared with 3.92 percent for their high-earning counterparts.
Posted by fleur-de-lisa | Fri Oct 19, 2012, 09:29 AM (9 replies)

My 1st peek at the freeper website . . . what a complete clusterfuck!

HOLY SHIT . . . the freeper website is a complete clusterfuck . . . it is, graphically, a total mess! It looks like a 7 year old designed the site. I have a headache just from looking at it!

I won't bother to report on any of their nonsense. It's just too bat-shit crazy to repeat.

This makes me very thankful for the professionalism of DU. Not having been here very long, I guess I just took it for granted. THANK YOU, DU!

And now, I need a bleach bath!
Posted by fleur-de-lisa | Thu Oct 18, 2012, 05:37 PM (39 replies)

Tagg Robme . . . Ya know what comes to mind when I see that name?

Skin tags, or acrochorda, those nasty little skin growths that tend to pop up in areas where the skin creases and causes friction . . . small benign tumors in the neck, armpit, and groin.

Yeah, Tagg rMoney seems like something you would find in your groin or your pits . . .

Posted by fleur-de-lisa | Thu Oct 18, 2012, 02:28 PM (9 replies)

More funny tweets from the debate last night:

Andy Borowitz -- Romney: "Jeremy, if you are illegal, you can get a job working at my house." #debate

Samantha Bee -- When Obama is talking, Romney makes the same face my Catholic grandmother would make at a Wiccan wedding. #debate

Patton Oswalt -- "Binders Full of Women" is my favorite Motley Crue album. #debate

Adam Sternbergh -- "Binders full of women" is what they find in a serial killer's apartment.

Elise Foley -- Oh god, I just realized that now people will dress as binders for Halloween.

Bilge Ebiri -- Obama: "I passed a law allowing women to get equal pay." Romney: "I hired women once." #debate

David Weinberger -- Well, there goes the gangbanger vote! Nice job, Mr. President! #debate

Feministing -- Guns don't kill people. Single mothers kill people.

more at: http://www.cnn.com/2012/10/17/tech/social-media/funniest-second-debate-tweets/index.html?hpt=hp_t2
Posted by fleur-de-lisa | Wed Oct 17, 2012, 04:34 PM (0 replies)

Romney’s Seven Biggest Debate Lies

by George Zornic, posted on The Nation, on October 17, 2012

Perhaps the most famous moment to come out of Tuesday night’s presidential town-hall style debate in Hempstead, New York, was when moderator Candy Crowley fact-checked Mitt Romney on the spot on Libya.

But that isn’t the only time the Republican candidate said something completely false—it was perhaps just the most obvious. Here are the seven biggest lies Romney told:

ROMNEY: “We have fewer people working today than we had when the president took office.”

This is flatly false. The Bureau of Labor statistics just revised estimates from March 2011 to March 2012 upwards by 386,000 jobs—meaning that Obama crossed the magic imaginary barrier of net job creation for his term, and has actually created a net positive 125,000 jobs. This is a simple fact. And there have been 868,000 jobs created in the private sector during this time, which have been offset by public sector job losses—something Mitt Romney would like to see continue.

Moreover, this is an awful tough metric to judge Obama on in the first place. As he’s fond of mentioning, the economy was hemorrhaging 800,000 jobs a month when he took office—so holding him to a net job creation standard means he has to make up for those massive losses that were out of his control entirely. But he’s still done it.

ROMNEY: “I don’t believe employers should tell someone whether they could have contraceptive care or not. Every woman in America should have access to contraceptives.”

Recall back in March, when Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri introduced a bill that would allow employers to deny contraceptive coverage to employees.

Mitt Romney said: “Of course I support the Blunt amendment…. Of course Roy Blunt, who is my liaison to the Senate, is someone I support and of course I support that amendment. I clearly want to have religious exemption from Obamacare…. I really think all Americans should be allowed to get around this religious exemption.”

This one is pretty simple.

ROMNEY: “I am not going to have people at the high end pay less than they’re paying now. The top 5 percent of taxpayers will continue to pay 60 percent of the income tax the nation collects. So that’ll stay the same. Middle-income people are going to get a tax break.”

A Center for American Progress examination of Romney’s tax plan concluded that the top 10 percent of income earners would reap half of the plan’s benefits, and the top 1 percent would reap one-third of the benefits.

Romney tries to dodge this unassailable fact by saying he’ll cut deductions for the wealthy—but he refuses to say which ones. He’s also ruled out raising the tax breaks the wealthy get on capital gains and dividends. This lead the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center to conclude that Romney would have to end up cutting deductions used by the middle class to make his math work—thus raising their taxes.

ROMNEY: “As a matter of fact, oil production is down 14 percent this year on federal land.”

Obama immediately challenged this point, leading to the first of many back-and-forths between the president and Romney. But Obama was right. It’s true that drilling on public lands dropped 14 percent in 2011, but it went up 15 percent the year before. Overall oil production on federal lands is up under Obama—and Romney is being extremely dishonest in singling out the one year that it dropped.

We must pause here to note that—since the oil drilled on federal land in the United States has zero impact on global gas prices, since it’s such a trivial amount—it’s not such a hot idea, and not one Obama should be particularly proud of increasing. But he did increase it.

Also, it should be noted that Romney plainly said later in the debate that “coal jobs are not up.” In fact, 1,500 jobs in the coal industry have been created since Obama took office.

ROMNEY: “And — and so we — we took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet. I went to a number of women’s groups and said, ‘Can you help us find folks,’ and they brought us whole binders full of women. I was proud of the fact that…[Massachusetts] had more women in senior leadership positions than any other state in America.”

First of all, that effort was spearheaded by a nonpartisan coalition of women’s groups, not Romney. Second, the number of women in high-level appointed positions declined 27.6 during his tenure as governor.

Also, there were no binders full of women at Bain Capital—there were no female partners at that firm during the 1980s and 1990s, according to The Boston Globe. Today, only four of forty-nine of the firm’s managing directors are women.

More importantly, as my colleague Ben Adler notes, Romney has opposed pay equity for women in much more substantive policy ways beyond these anecdotes—opposing the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act.

ROMNEY: “I want to make sure we keep our Pell Grant program growing.”

This is simply not true. Romney and his running mate would cut Pell Grants—Romney has been vague on the issue, using ominous budgetspeak that he wants to “refocus” Pell Grant dollars to “place the program on a responsible long-term path,” but Paul Ryan has been far more specific—his budget would cut Pell Grants for up to 1 million students.

ROMNEY: “We’re going to bring that pipeline in from Canada. How in the world the president said no to that pipeline? I will never know. This is about bringing good jobs back for the middle class of America, and that’s what I’m going to do.”

Romney is joining many other members of the Republican party in saying the Keystone Pipeline is a job-creation engine. It’s not. The Cornell Global Labor Institute says it would create only 2,500 to 4,650 short-term construction jobs while it was being built—and the State Department found similar numbers in its environmental review of the project. That’s not enough to impact the unemployment rate, and is notably far, far less than the millions of jobs independent analysts say would be created by Obama’s American Jobs Act, which focuses on many infrastructure projects and increased hiring of teachers and public safety workers.

Posted by fleur-de-lisa | Wed Oct 17, 2012, 12:33 PM (2 replies)

Fun poll on Faux News . . . let's you predict electoral votes per state

versus Karl Rove and Joe Trippi predictions!

Posted by fleur-de-lisa | Wed Oct 17, 2012, 11:57 AM (5 replies)

Tight race? Avoid tea party label on stump

By Kate Nocero, posted on Politico,10/16/12 11:44 PM EDT

After fending off a tea party challenge in 2010, Rep. Denny Rehberg quickly decided to sign up for the movement: He joined the Tea Party Caucus as soon as he returned to the House.

But two years later, Rehberg wants a Senate seat, and in the 2012 version of Montana politics, Rehberg is Mr. Bipartisan. He touts his vote against the Paul Ryan budget; talks up his work with a New England liberal, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.); and has embraced expansion of a children’s health program.

He doesn’t mention his tea party membership.

Rehberg isn’t unique in looking for some distance from the diminished tea party brand. In close Senate and House races across the country, lawmakers who ran toward the movement in 2010 won’t ascribe the “tea party” label to themselves or, like Rehberg, avoid talking about it all together.

That’s not to say grass-roots tea party supporters have disappeared; they are still there ready to work for Republican candidates. And the movement remains a strong force in Republican primary politics, forcing many candidates rightward in their positions. Still, some activists acknowledge that some candidates can’t be quite as open about their tea party connections in tight races this year.

Eric Olsen, the co-founder of one of Montana’s leading tea party groups, Montana Shrugged, said they still know Rehberg is “on their side,” but they also realize Montana’s sole congressman has to appeal to independents and some Democrats to win a Senate seat that could determine control of the upper chamber.

“We talk with Denny often, and he still supports us; he still appreciates us; he’s completely changed the way he’s voted since we started working with him,” Olsen said. “He’s much more conservative now. We have a good voting bloc in the state but not enough to ensure him a win, so we get that he’s doing what he needs to do to win others over.”

The tea party had a profound impact on House races around the country in 2010 and helped sweep in 87 freshmen who ran on an uncompromising platform to change the way Washington does business. But now in 2012, with the congressional approval rating hovering around 10 percent, members in competitive races aren’t exactly touting their support from tea party groups.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1012/82496.html#ixzz29ZUKWLNl
Posted by fleur-de-lisa | Wed Oct 17, 2012, 11:43 AM (0 replies)
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