Posts Tagged Denver

Free Wood Post – Presidential Debate: Romney Rushed To Hospital After Smirk Freezes On Face

Presidential Debate: Romney Rushed To Hospital After Smirk Freezes On Face

October 4, 2012

By Jeff Musall

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The first debate between presidential candidates Barack Obama and Mitt Romney ended early when the Republican was rushed to a Denver area hospital for treatment of what doctors initially described as “frozen face syndrome.” Romney continually stood with an smirk on his face when it was President Obama’s turn to speak.

Unfortunately for Romney, he suffered the muscle condition that led to his facial expression freezing in the smirk. He was especially snide just before beginning his comment about Obamacare when he found himself unable to speak coherently. At first, everyone in the building thought it was just another feeble attempt for Romney to dodge a serious question, but then it became apparent there was a real medical condition in play.

Paramedics came on the stage and administered facial relaxants meant to ease Romney’s face back into its normal expression, but they were unable to smooth the snark off his face and the decision was made to transport him. It’s entirely possible surgery will have to performed to return Romney’s face back to what it was before, a condescending scowl with a fake smile.

After Romney was taken off the stage, vice presidential hopeful Paul Ryan took to the Republican podium to cover for the man at the top of the GOP ticket. Ryan quickly found himself in over his head and effectively ended the chances of the conservative ticket when he flubbed his lines and called himself the next president of the United States.

As for Romney, if he does require surgery, his face could be out of the public eye for a month. Conventional wisdom might suggest that being absent from the campaign trail would be a distraction. When looking at how Romney has moved from one gaffe to another, his being out of the public eye could actually benefit his campaign.

 Free Wood Post.


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5 Questions That Should Be Asked At The Presidential Debate But Probably Won’t Be | ThinkProgress


5 Questions That Should Be Asked At The Presidential Debate But Probably Won’t Be


On Wednesday, President Obama and Mitt Romney will face a number of carefully crafted questions on domestic policy at the University of Denver debate. As voters are overwhelmingly concerned about the economy this year, the bulk of the debate is likely to be spent on the candidates’ plans for taxes, unemployment, and deficit reduction. This focus on the economy, however, blinkers voters from issues that both Obama and Romney have so far ignored. Should debate moderator Jim Lehrer want to catch them off guard tomorrow, he could pose one of these questions:

How will you reconcile the federal government’s War on Drugs with state-level legalization efforts?

Both candidates have laughed off questions about marijuana legalization, even as Colorado and Washington prepare to vote on state-level legalization on Election Day. Medical marijuana is already legal in 17 states and DC, and Massachusetts and Arkansas will vote on whether to join them in November. Several cities, including Denver, Chicago and New York have decriminalized petty possession of marijuana. However, the federal government has actively targeteddispensaries in compliance with state law, in spite of Attorney General Eric Holder’s 2009 promise to leave them alone. The war on drugs has swelled the US prison population to the largest in the world, while failing to reduce drug use. Moreover, its disproportionate impact on communities of color led the NAACP to endorse Colorado’s marijuana legalization initiative. The momentum behind legalization on the local level promises to have major implications for federal drug policy in coming years.

In what cases is it acceptable to conduct warrantless surveillance of citizens?

In September, the House voted to reauthorize George W. Bush’s Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act (FISA). FISA grants the executive branch extensive spying powers on American citizens abroad and at home. The Obama administration unequivocally supports FISA renewal — and the Justice Department is making good use of its provisions. Records recently obtained by the ACLU show a huge spike in DOJ’s warrantless surveillance of telephone, email and Internet communications since 2010. A Romney administration would likely maintain or worsen this trend; in 2005, he called for monitoring and wire-tapping Masaschusetts mosques and foreign students.

What specific measures would you support to reduce national gun violence?

After Minneapolis became the site of this year’s sixth mass shooting last Friday, Mayors Against Illegal Guns released an ad in which a survivor of the Aurora movie theater shooting implored Obama and Romney to release a plan to tackle gun violence, which is expected to kill 48,000 Americans in the next four years. After the Aurora shooting, both candidates declined to talk in specifics. Obama called for “common sense” gun controls but immediately backed away from introducing any new measures, while Romney claimed gun control would not have prevented the “unspeakable tragedy.” The gun rights industry, led by the National Rifle Association, has spent $17.4 million in lobbying since 2009 and millions more in campaign donations to ensure the quick death of any gun regulation bill introduced in Congress.

What would you do to reduce child poverty in your first 100 days?

Poverty is a leading cause of America’s infant mortality rate, which is significantly higher than every other wealthy nation. 46 million people, including 16 million children, stayed below the poverty line from 2010 to 2011, while income inequality grew for the first time since 1993. Though Republicans and Democrats have both defined the middle class as households making up to $250,000 a year, lower middle class incomes actually hover around $20,000-$38,000 and are rapidly bottoming out. Meanwhile, a third of Americans identify themselves as lower class or lower middle class, up from 25 percent four years ago. Despite the urgency of this problem, a recent study found that campaign reporters almost studiously ignore the topic, dedicating less than .2 percent of their coverage to poverty. As the political influence of the poor is virtually nonexistent, it is no surprise that media and politicians alike have avoided discussing their plight.

How will you combat America’s obesity epidemic?

81 percent of Americans think obesity is an “extremely serious” or “very serious” social problem — and they’re right. Most adults in all 50 states are now obese or overweight. First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign is one way the administration is tackling the problem. However, Mrs. Obama refocused the initiative to promote exercise over diet change after taking heat for her criticism of processed food producers. Big Food’s influence has grown to staggering proportions; Congress declared pizza a vegetable this year after intense lobbying by the industry, while the USDA was forced to apologize for an internal Meatless Monday initiative after the beef industry attacked them. The new president will contend with these industry forces immediately, as the Farm Bill is one of the first issues lawmakers will tackle after the election. Given Romney’s close relationship with the industry, he is likely to back the House bill, which guts nutrition assistance, provides generous subsidies for Big Agriculture crops, and eliminatesany meaningful regulation of genetically modified crops and pesticides.

 5 Questions That Should Be Asked At The Presidential Debate But Probably Won’t Be | ThinkProgress.


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Cagle Post » Rocky Mountain Low


Rocky Mountain Low


Talk about broken election promises.  Four years ago, after moderating his 11th debate, Jim Lehrer, the highly respected PBS veteran, said he would retire.  Wednesday night in Denver he broke that promise, and the result was one of the most poorly moderated presidential debates in U.S. history.

Lehrer, 78, said he decided to take the helm once more after the Commission on Presidential Debates accepted a format he lobbied for: a format with few formal questions, in which the candidates challenge each other.  It doesn’t work.  The candidates don’t care to do it, and the moderator didn’t help.

Nate Beeler / Columbus Dispatch

Making matters worse, neither candidate spoke directly to camera.  The audience at the University of Denver may have enjoyed it, but for tens of millions watching on TV, it was awkward and unsettling.  Both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney addressed most of their comments to the moderator rather than the home audience, meaning they were often looking off to the side.  Only in his closing remarks did Romney wisely speak directly to viewers at home.

Lehrer supported the idea of cutting the number of questions from nine to six.  Even at that, he was so unable to control the process that there was barely time for the final question.

Worse, Lehrer chose a style of questioning that is both unfair and usually a roadblock for the candidates.  “What are the major differences between the two of you on jobs?” was his first question of the night.  Almost all of the questions that followed asked about the “differences” – on education, on social security, etc.  Candidates should never be asked to define their opponent’s positions, only their own.  It’s up to the moderator to identify the differences, and Lehrer was unable or unwilling to do it.

“Do you have a question for President Obama?” Lehrer asked Romney early on.  It was exactly what Lehrer asked John McCain in ’08.  McCain said, “No.”  Romney didn’t even bother with that; he simply delivered several minutes of talking points.

Lehrer said on a recent PBS broadcast that he favors a free-wheeling format in which the candidates question each other.  They don’t like that, which is why, for example, Romney was never asked about his “47 percent” remark in which he said people who don’t pay federal income tax consider themselves victims, and Obama was never asked about his remark that if he didn’t turn the economy around he’d be a one term president.

The event was such bad television that many Americans, including the prized “undecided voters,” probably gave up and changed the channel.  For those who stuck with it, Romney was the apparent winner – but more on style points than hard facts, most of which were never challenged by the president or the moderator.

The co-chair of the Commission on Presidential Debates, Frank Fahrenkopf Jr., told me two weeks ago that his group relied on Lehrer and Bob Schiefffer, 75, as moderators because they were impartial journalists who could be counted upon to interrupt when necessary and make the candidates stick to the facts.  The CPD will now have to rethink the process of selecting moderators.

As to the content, much was written before the debate that Romney practiced far more than the president.  It showed, particularly in the closing arguments, as Romney painted a clear picture of how his administration would differ from Obama’s, while the president seemed to be winging it.  That ad-lib style hurt Clint Eastwood at the GOP convention and it hurt Obama in Denver.

Thanks to the hype, many Americans probably tuned in expecting a raft of “zingers” from Mitt Romney.  There were few if any.  Voters might have hoped to see the candidates go after each other.  They really didn’t.  Pundits prepared long lists of possible questions.  None was asked.

There are still two more presidential debates, one on foreign affairs, the other using the so-called “town hall” format in which the questions come from undecided voters, selected by the Gallup Organization.  Frank Fahrenkopf told me, “The public loves town halls, but the media hates them.”

After watching Jim Lehrer in Denver, even media know-it-alls might find themselves looking forward to giving the public a shot.

 Cagle Post » Rocky Mountain Low.

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Entering Stage Right, Romney Moved to Center –


Entering Stage Right, Romney Moved to Center


Published: October 4, 2012



He used the first presidential debate to speak out forcefully to its wide television audience against the idea of cutting taxes for the wealthy, noting that “high-income people are doing just fine in this economy.” Asked if there was too much government regulation, he answered, “regulation is essential.” And he praised the Massachusetts health care bill, calling it a “model for the nation.”

These are all things that President Obama says occasionally on the campaign trail. But in this case, the lines were uttered at the debate Wednesday night in Denver by his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney.

Mr. Romney ran to the right in the Republican primaries in 2008 and this year, describing himself this winter as having been a “severely conservative” governor. This week, he pivoted to the center, as many political analysts had long expected him to do, seeking to appeal to more centrist general election voters. In doing so, Mr. Romney used striking new language to describe his policy proposals on taxes, education and health care in ways that may assuage independent voters — but which may be sowing confusion about how Mr. Romney would govern.

Mr. Romney suggested at the debate that while he would repeal the president’s health care law, he would retain one of its most popular provisions, saying, “I do have a plan that deals with people with pre-existing conditions.” But his plan could exclude millions of people, since it would explicitly guarantee insurance only if they have maintained coverage with no significant lapses.

Mr. Romney also said at the debate that “I don’t have any plan to cut education funding and grants that go to people going to college,” but his education plan says he would “refocus Pell Grant dollars on the students that need them most and place the program on a responsible long-term path,” suggesting fewer people would qualify.

The Romney campaign rejected the notion that Mr. Romney had shifted to the middle in tone or substance to woo independents, noting that he said little in the debate that he had not said before. In describing Massachusetts’ health care law as “a model for the nation, state by state,” aides noted, he was reaffirming his position that states, and not the federal government, should make such decisions individually. And they noted that Mr. Romney’s debate performance was praised by many conservatives — Rush Limbaugh, Erick Erickson of, William Kristol of The Weekly Standard — who have been critical of him in the past.

Kevin Madden, a spokesman for the Romney campaign, said that Mr. Romney had spoken about his past bipartisanship to indicate his ability to get things done. “This idea of bipartisanship, sitting down with people across the aisle and working on all these issues together, that’s something that appeals not only to people in the middle who are undecided, but to people on either side who look at a Washington that is not getting anything done,” Mr. Madden said.

But Mr. Romney’s change in tone on taxes was especially striking. He wants to cut income tax rates across the board by 20 percent and make up for the lost revenue by eliminating or reducing tax breaks — without raising the share of taxes paid by the middle class. A number of economists and independent analysts have said that it is not possible to achieve all of those goals, because cutting everyone’s taxes would lose so much revenue that it could not be made it up without raising taxes on middle-income Americans by ending some of their tax breaks, too.

While Mr. Romney has always said that his proposal was designed to be revenue neutral, because the cut in tax rates would be offset by the reduction in tax breaks, he sometimes described his plan as a tax “cut” when facing conservative opponents during the Republican primaries.

When Rick Santorum charged at a debate this winter that Mr. Romney might raise taxes on “the top 1 percent,” Mr. Romney countered that “we’re going to cut taxes on everyone across the country by 20 percent, including the top 1 percent.”

At Wednesday night’s debate he used different language. “I’m not going to reduce the share of taxes paid by high-income people,” he said. “High-income people are doing just fine in this economy. They’ll do fine whether you’re president or I am.”

And he faulted Mr. Obama for describing his plan as a tax cut for the rich, saying, “it’s going to take a different path, not the one we’ve been on, not the one the president describes as a top-down, cut-taxes-for-the-rich — that’s not what I’m going to do.”

Democrats seized on Mr. Romney’s shift, after many pundits proclaimed that Mr. Obama had done poorly in the debate. Mr. Obama told a rally in Denver on Thursday morning that he had gone on stage at the debate and “met this very spirited fellow who claimed to be Mitt Romney.”

“But it couldn’t have been Mitt Romney,” he said, “because the real Mitt Romney has been running around the country for the last year promising $5 trillion in tax cuts that favor the wealthy.”

The Romney campaign dismissed the criticisms, suggesting that Democrats were simply trying to change the subject from the president’s poorly received debate performance. “In full damage-control mode, President Obama today offered no defense of his record and no vision for the future,” Ryan Williams, a Romney campaign spokesman, said in a statement.

It is difficult to assess Mr. Romney’s tax plans because he has declined to name which deductions he would reduce, or to detail how his plan would work for different incomes — making his policy akin to what scientists call a “nonfalsifiable proposition,” since it does not contain enough detail to fully test.

This week Mr. Romney rolled out a few new — and, at times, contradictory — specifics. He suggested on Monday that one way to increase revenue would be to cap the total amount of deductions any taxpayer could claim. Currently, there is no cap on the total amount of deductions a taxpayer can claim for items like mortgage interest, charitable deductions and state and local taxes. Under Mr. Romney’s proposal, taxpayers could not deduct more than a set number, raising their taxable income and, therefore, their tax bills.

But the possible limit he first mentioned, $17,000, would raise only a small fraction of what the across-the-board tax rate cuts would cost and could result in tax increases on millions of middle-class families, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. By the time the issue was raised in the debate Wednesday night, Mr. Romney’s position was once again in flux.

“Make up a number,” he said at the debate. “Twenty-five thousand. $50,000. Anybody can have deductions up to that amount. And then that number disappears for high-income people.”

Mr. Obama objected that Mr. Romney’s cuts would cost $5 trillion over a decade and disproportionately benefit the wealthy and cost the middle class.

“It is not possible to come up with enough deductions and loopholes that only affect high-income individuals to avoid either raising the deficit or burdening the middle class,” he said. “It’s math. It’s arithmetic.”

Mr. Romney ceded no ground, saying, “no economist can say Mitt Romney’s tax plan adds five trillion if I say I will not add to the deficit with my tax plan.”

 Entering Stage Right, Romney Moved to Center –


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Daily Kos: Mitt Romney wants airplane windows to roll down in case of fire so people can breathe more easily


The Jed Report


MON SEP 24, 2012

Mitt Romney wants airplane windows to roll down in case of fire so people can breathe more easily

By Jed Lewison


No wonder Mitt thought Seamus was comfortable


As you may have heard, Ann Romney’s airplane had to make an emergency landing on Friday due to an electrical fire. Fortunately, nobody was hurt. But, via Wonkette, it did give Mitt thisgreat idea:

When you have a fire in an aircraft, there’s no place to go, exactly, there’s no — and you can’t find any oxygen from outside the aircraft to get in the aircraft, because the windows don’t open. I don’t know why they don’t do that. It’s a real problem.So it’s very dangerous. And she was choking and rubbing her eyes. Fortunately, there was enough oxygen for the pilot and copilot to make a safe landing in Denver. But she’s safe and sound.

Yeah, great question Mitt. I mean, wouldn’t it be awesome to be able to crack the window when you’re at 35,000 feet? You know, get a taste of that 500+ mile per hour breeze?

It’d be like the mile-high club for Seamus, with the added benefit of asphyxiation induced by the low oxygen levels at cruising altitude—assuming that you manage to avoid having the plane rip apart due to the sudden loss of cabin pressure.

Brilliant, Mitt. Just brilliant.

1:28 PM PT: Oh, and speaking of science, this is a good time to remember that late last year, Mitt Romney said he believed cold fusion was real. And that it had been solved.

2:43 PM PT: Figured it out: You need to be able to roll down the windows so you can check on the dog strapped to the roof. Duh.

Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 9:40 AM PT: According to New York Magazine’s Dan Amira, the reporter who first reported Romney’s comments says he was not being serious and that she didn’t report that he was joking because she believed it was self-evident.

The Los Angeles Times story that relayed Romney’s airplane remark to the world was based off a pool report written by the New York Times’s Ashley Parker. When we asked Parker this morning whether it seemed as if Romney made the mark in jest, she left no doubt. “Romney was joking,” she e-mailed. Parker told us that while the pool report didn’t explicitly indicate that Romney was joking, it was self-evident that he was. “The pool report provided the full transcript of his comments on Ann’s plane scare,” she said, “and it was clear from the context that he was not being serious.”

So I guess this is what it’s like when Mitt Romney tells a joke that gets people to laugh.

 Daily Kos: Mitt Romney wants airplane windows to roll down in case of fire so people can breathe more easily.


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Mitt Romney’s airplane window gaffe shows his head is in the clouds |


Mitt Romney’s airplane window gaffe shows his head is in the clouds



From his totally inappropriate comments on the embassy crisis in Libya, to his Monty Burns-esque “f you” to 47 percent of the country and even to his Al Jolson act at a Univision sponsored event, the Romney campaign appears to be run by Triumph the Insult Comic Dog. It seems all Mittie Rich can do is completely shut his mouth and he may just squeeze by with a minor loss, but the millionaire mormon mannequin just can’t seem to stop drinking the gaffeine.

This past Friday Ann Romney’s plane was temporarily grounded after the main cabin filled with smoke in an apparent small electrical fire, which thankfully caused no injuries. But while Anne’s plane was experiencing a small electrical fire, it seems that her husband’s brain was undergoing a massive electrical fire. The bumbling Republican presidential candidate seems to believe that the air at 30,000 feet is just as fresh and breathable as it is at ground level.

“I appreciate the fact that she is on the ground, safe and sound. And I don’t think she knows just how worried some of us were,” Romney said. “When you have a fire in an aircraft, there’s no place to go, exactly, there’s no — and you can’t find any oxygen from outside the aircraft to get in the aircraft, because the windows don’t open. I don’t know why they don’t do that. It’s a real problem. So it’s very dangerous. And she was choking and rubbing her eyes. Fortunately, there was enough oxygen for the pilot and copilot to make a safe landing in Denver. But she’s safe and sound.”

We can now literally say that Romney has his head in the clouds.

One doesn’t have to have a nobel prize in science to know that opening windows on aircrafts is strictly forbidden because the cabins are pressurized to fly safely at an altitude of tens of thousand feet. Opening a window in an airplane would seriously sicken the passengers and crew.

No word yet on if whether Mitt Romney wishes that passengers on battleships can open screen doors.

 Mitt Romney’s airplane window gaffe shows his head is in the clouds |


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Why don’t plane windows open, asks Mitt Romney


Why don’t plane windows open, asks Mitt Romney

Washington, Wed, 26 Sep 2012


Washington, September 26 (ANI): Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney lamented the fact that airplane windows don’t roll down after wife Ann’s plane had to make an emergency landing Friday because of an electrical malfunction.


Discussing the incident at a fundraiser the next day, he said: “When you have a fire in an aircraft, there’s no place to go, exactly, there’s no-and you can’t find any oxygen from outside the aircraft to get in the aircraft, because the windows don’t open. I don’t know why they don’t do that. It’s a real problem. So it’s very dangerous.”


Here Discovery News has provided the explanation to why they don’t do that.

Gravity tends to keep air molecules concentrated near the ground, so the atmosphere thins out as you go up.


The air becomes so thin at 10,000 feet (3,000 meters) or so that airplane cabins must be pressurized above that altitude to prevent occupants from suffering from hypoxia, or lack of oxygen.


Because temperature and pressure go hand-in-hand (i.e. low-pressure air feels cold), pressurization is also necessary to keep cabins sufficiently warm.


At 35,000 ft. (11,000 m), the typical altitude of a commercial jet, the air pressure drops to less than a quarter of its value at sea level, and the outside temperature drops below negative 60 degrees Fahrenheit (negative 51 degrees Celsius), according to The Engineering Toolbox.


Exposed to such conditions, you would quickly die.

Pressurization is normally achieved by pumping the cabin with “bleed air,” or compressed air sucked in and heated up by the plane’s turbine engines.


Pressurization only works in an airtight fuselage. If you open a plane window, the compressed air inside would rapidly rush out, atmospheric conditions inside and outside the plane would equalize, and everybody would die. (ANI)

 Why don’t plane windows open, asks Mitt Romney.


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Jovial Man Must Not Be Aware He Works At Airport Burrito Restaurant | The Onion – America’s Finest News Source


Jovial Man Must Not Be Aware He Works At Airport Burrito Restaurant


Sources are wondering if this man is actually smiling. Christ, he is.

DENVER—According to bewildered sources near gate B52 at Denver International Airport, the man cheerfully and energetically going about his tasks behind the counter of the Burrito Beach Mexican Grille must not be aware that he works at an airport burrito restaurant.

“Hi, there! Where you folks headed today?” said the jovial man, who, judging by his upbeat attitude and easy-going manner, has no idea that he is an adult human being making $7.64 an hour to serve a never-ending stream of agitated, ungrateful customers. “Orlando? I love Orlando!”

“You folks are going to have an absolute blast,” the man continued over the screams of crying children and the intermittent drone of flight announcements, apparently forgetting that he wakes up at 5:30 a.m. and spends his entire shift interacting solely with people who want nothing more than to get food from him as fast as possible so they can be on their way. “Say hi to the dolphins for me!”

Travelers departing from terminal B this morning confirmed the man currently singing along to the horrendous soundtrack of top 40 hits assaulting the restaurant’s loudspeakers has been observed chatting amiably and cracking jokes, as if his job didn’t involve wrapping burrito after burrito for impatient customers who do not enjoy the food’s taste and frequently complain about its price.

In addition, the man who spends 50 minutes every single morning finding a parking spot and then going through airport security before he can even clock-in for his mind-numbingly bleak job has reportedly requested high-fives from a number of children.

“More pico?” the man has been overheard to inquire throughout the day, in a tone indicating he is unmoved, unconcerned, or incognizant of the fact that he receives less than $2 in tips over an eight-hour period. “You want guacamole? Sour cream?”

“Tell you what: I’ll throw in some hot sauce just in case,” he has added with an encouraging nod, as though the restaurant’s patrons have the slightest appreciation for his extra effort or care about anything other than grabbing their burrito and getting away from the atmosphere of buzzing fluorescent lights and chemical food smells in which he spends every moment of his working life.

Noting the man’s habit of enthusiastically drumming on the countertops and neatly arranging the napkins and utensils on each customer’s tray, several travelers speculated the man might suffer from a personality disorder that prevents him from noticing he’s 15 years older than all his colleagues and passes his days more-or-less standing in a single spot with no view beyond the closed-down Panda Express nearby.

Moreover, observers expressed particular astonishment that the man had not once produced a long sigh, weary look, or downtrodden gesture of any kind, not even while wiping refried beans off the collar of the lime-green-and-red shirt he is required to wear every day.

“I really don’t understand why he’s smiling,” said United Airlines passenger Alex Rosenberg, who claimed he heard the jovial man say the words “Hey, I like your style!” to a customer ahead of him in line. “Is he somehow under the impression that he doesn’t work here?”

“It doesn’t make sense,” Rosenberg continued. “Every day the guy has to haul himself in here and do the same thing over and over again. He does know that, right?”

At press time, the man had reportedly waved goodbye to his coworkers, swiftly cleaned the countertops, and locked up the restaurant.

 Jovial Man Must Not Be Aware He Works At Airport Burrito Restaurant | The Onion – America’s Finest News Source.


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Going Undercover at the GOP’s Voter Vigilante Project to Disrupt the Nov. Election | Alternet


Going Undercover at the GOP’s Voter Vigilante Project to Disrupt the Nov. Election

The Republican True the Vote project is a well-funded scheme with training sessions for activists across the country. Will it work?

August 24, 2012 


I was nervous getting onto the flight to Denver. Since 2004, I have been a national radio producer, investigative reporter, author and consultant—writing about how elections are won, lost, bungled and improved, with a big focus on voter registration. But I had never snuck into a meeting of right-wing voting vigilantes who are the frontline of a national voter suppression strategy, and where the main speaker was a man whose new book I’d aggressively debunked days before, in an AlterNet articlelauded by a leading election law blog and Washington Post. The meeting was a state summit organized by a group called True The Vote. The author was John Fund, who absurdly claims that more than 1,000 felons voted illegally in Minnesota in 2008, sending Democrat Al Franken to the U.S. Senate, where he was the final vote that passed Obama’s health care reform.

I didn’t want to be outed or bullied. I support citizen activism and was intrigued, even if I knew I was heading into the heart of the GOP election fraud brigade at the Colorado summit. On the plane, I wondered why many of the right-wing activists I hoped to meet in Denver believe as they do—eyeing almost all phases of the voting process with suspicion and mistaking errors as political conspiracies. The group’s Web site was very thin, but as knowledgeable people told me, they had big money behind them and were organizing on a scale that recalled the early days of the Christian Coalition.  

The next day, Saturday, August 18, I got up early, ate quickly and took my props—a copy of Fund’s 2004 book, Stealing Elections, one of the first Republican tirades to make outsized and false claims that Democrats were involved in vast conspiracies to illegally vote, and a blog post saying the summit was open to walk-ins. I looked like I was going golfing and headed for the Sheraton conference center. A few minutes before 9, I got in line behind a manicured middle-aged man wearing an Americans for Prosperity T-shirt, the group founded and still funded by the Koch Brothers, and a few retirees, all white, and asked if they any room left. They nodded. When time came for pay, a perky woman at the welcome desk asked my name for a badge. Next to her sat Fund, selling and signing his book. I quickly replied, “Steve Rose,” what my friends call me. No one blinked. Then I bought the book for $20. He signed, “Keep Fighting. John Fund.”

Once inside, the meeting began with the Pledge of Allegiance, a prayer “for truth in America” in Jesus’ name, and then some of the most incredible tirades against liberals I’d ever heard, including Fund’s messianic exhortation to work against all those who “bear false witness,” which, ironically, is exactly what he and True the Vote does.

Voting Vigilante

True the Vote is a voting vigilante group that never should have grown past its Texas cowboy-meets-Tea Party justice roots. Its top leaders have a jaunty, string ‘em up, guilty-until-proven-innocent mindset. They represent the most extreme views on the Right when it comes to voting—that the process is filled with corruption that is bound to be exploited by local political bosses and machines, which, of course, are Democratic. Where liberals see that a third of all eligible voters in America do not vote and want to make the process more accessible, the Right believes to do so would mean the end of America as they know it. They think it’s patriotic to be self-appointed judges, juries and if necessary, citizen police, to stop what they believe is rampant illegal voting. This purview goes far beyond today’s fights over voter ID.

America is filled with leave-me-alone, blame-the-government types and paranoid groups on the left and right. But most fringe groups have not been given millions by rich right-wingers between 2009 and today. As 2012’s presidential election approaches, True the Vote has three main focuses: policing new voter registrations and winnowing existing voter rolls; training polling place watchers to spot and protest all kinds of slights that undermine voting; and filing suits to prompt states and counties to purge voter rolls. It claims it has 300 active chapters in three dozen states. It claims to have thousands of volunteers using its web-based software who are identifying thousands of questionable voter registrations or possibly illegal voters in battleground states. It is trying to partner with Republican election officials to detect and investigate suspicious names, and then stop those people from voting this November unless they prove their eligibility.

On Election Day, it says it wants to deploy one-million people at polling places to watch who shows up, how people are checked for ID, how they are given ballots, and ensure that people who ask poll workers for help fill out their own ballots. All of this is to prevent illegal voting, presumably for Democrats.

True the Vote has training materials online. Members are organizing Election Day hotlines and county-based chains of command for poll watchers. They are lining up lawyers to take their reports to sympathetic state officials. They’re being encouraged by Republicans in high office—such as Florida’s governor, secretaries of state in Colorado, Kansas and Ohio, attorneys general in Texas and Colorado. They are reviving discarded strategies from George W. Bush’s Justice Department by suing the state of Indiana and 160-plus counties all over America, to pressure them to purge voter rolls. They could collect court costs if they win—which would further fund their efforts. These Election Day plans and litigation strategy mimic the liberal groups they revile, such as Project Vote, ACORN, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and labor unions.

They could be very disruptive this fall, were it not for a track record so far in 2012 that has revealed them to be more amateurish than impactful. In fact, their allegations—which election officials have to take seriously—are filled with error rates on par with ACORN’s voter drives. (Part of that is because they want officials to follow the law as they see it, which is not always as the law is—leading election officials to investigate and dismiss a majority of their allegations.) However, bad behavior by some of their poll watchers—such as in Racine, Wisconsin, this June, during the Scott Walker recall election—has prompted that state’s top election board to issue stricter poll watcher guidelines for the fall. But in 2012, if you’re a new national group fueled by voting fraud fantasies, a God-given mission, and have plenty of money and spunk, you have a capacity to create chaos for unsuspecting voters, and confidence that you’ll be around long after November.

“They are convincing otherwise civic-minded people that there’s massive voter fraud out there and that their work is needed to protect the ballot,” said Matt Angle, a Democratic strategist who has been deeply involved in Texas voting rights battles for years. “They’re playing on fears and civic duty and promoting themselves all along the way… They think they are doing something patriotic. To me, that is the most distasteful thing.”

The Colorado Summit

I grabbed some handouts, stepped into the windowless conference room, got some coffee, and sat at one of a half-dozen cloth-covered tables. It didn’t feel like a political freak show. To be honest, it felt a bit familiar. To my right was a woman in her 50s, a quality control manager from Colorado Springs who was worried about elections. Around the table were Tea Partiers, a young woman who was a GOP county leader, and retirees concerned about government and democracy. I could relate to their worries that American democracy was in big trouble. These were civic-minded grassroots people not unlike those I’d met in Ohio after the 2004 election, when I helped publicize the ways that state’s GOP tried to suppress and steal John Kerry’s votes.

In the eight years since Ohio, I’ve learned that what really happens in elections is more complicated than easily minted conspiracy theories. At worst, I thought most attendees were low-hanging fruit, ready to be molded by this movement’s disingenuous national leaders—like Fund, who knows the real facts and ignores them, or Christian Adams, an embittered ex-Justice Department civil rights attorney who felt he could not work for Eric Holder and quit, and now inveighs against the DOJ’s liberal biases. Later, when a handful of attendees started snickering at California’s gays and civil unions, and loudly applauded an Oliver North-like local Republican County chairman who cited the most deadly Nazi fighter pilot’s wartime survival credo in his powerpoint—as advice on beating Obama—I thought, wow, let’s hope this crew is all bark and no bite.

The summit began with a classic political attack video—dark imagery, brooding camera angles, dropping all the names of liberals that Republicans love to hate, such as ACORN and Project Vote (which helped run ACORN’s voter drives). The screen decried “dead people” on the rolls, duplicate registrations, double voting, registrations with addresses from empty lots, and other would-be horrors that scholars say are the vast exception not rule in voting. Anita MonCrief, an African American who worked at Project Vote before quitting and becoming a conservative celebrity, recounted how poor people were paid to register voters, often turning in faked names and multiple registrations. (These are easily caught by election offices). Then the founder of the King Street Patriots, out of which True the Vote emerged, took the stage. You may have seen Katherine Englebrecht on Fox News. She’s tall, trim, blonde, articulate and driven—a typical activist.

“How did we as an organization get from working at the polls a few years ago to feeling the need to put together a video like that?” she began. “That is a story I would like to open today’s event with and share with you, what we’ve seen, and I suspect many of you possibly have seen yourselves.” She paused and looked at the room—perhaps 60 people filled the tables. “How many of you have worked at the polls before?” A few hands went up. “Okay. As a general statement, if you work at the polls, it is hard to find volunteers?” More murmurs and yeses were heard. “Agree or disagree, the process might lend itself to manipulation?” “Yes,” a woman shouted.

“I am just going to go way out here, agree or disagree,” she continued. “If you don’t have enough volunteers, and you have a process that is weak, can those weaknesses be exploited for political gain?” More fervent yeses replied. Englebrecht paused. “I think you’re right, and a lot of people across the country think you’re right.”

The way Englebrecht told her story, you would think she was another suburban mom whose faith-and-family moorings were upended during the 2008 presidential race and couldn’t stop shuddering at the way the mainstream media was not telling the truth—prompting sleepless nights, smeared glitter and glue on her kitchen floor as she made protest signs, her subsequent discovery of kindred spirits in the Tea Party, and a husband who asked her, “Have you lost your mind?” But according to Houston’s Maureen Haver, who ran a non-profit doing voter registration drives in Harris County’s poor and minority neighborhoods in 2008 and was among the first liberal registration groups to be attacked by Engelbrecht, there’s more to her story than what she shared in Denver.

Englebrecht didn’t say she and her husband live outside Harris County—where Houston is located and is more populous than 22 states. They run an oil services company worth millions. She has a record of disrupting public meetings going back to 2009, Haver said, when pre-Tea Party activists disrupted that summer’s congressional town hall meetings. Englebrecht didn’t say that she and her husband this year started a new company with the provocative name, Plan B Firearms. Acccording to Tea Party Web sites, “Plan B” refers to thesteps “patriots” might have to take if Obama gets re-elected.

No, in Denver, she put on a plucky smile and earnestly pitched for volunteers to enroll in True the Vote’s training sessions—to either review voter rolls online, or to join their fall poll watcher brigades to prevent electoral skullduggery. Of course, she added that True the Vote was a “non-partisan” organization, even though they were selling black T-shirts with Ronald Reagan’s profile on them. (They also had Elvis shirts.)

Republican ‘Election Integrity’

True the Vote’s paranoid and possibly disruptive civic activism in 2012 comes from its very predictable history. It is hardly the first group to peer behind the curtain of how elections are run in America, and quickly assume that anything and everything that could go wrong, would go wrong, and be used against their comrades. As Englebrecht recited their history, it foreshadowed the tools and strategy they’ve since developed and are deploying in 2012’s presidential election.

“We had heard there was a need for people to go and work the polls,” she said, referring to their roots in 2009. “We thought we would go work for a day, and check it off our list and move onto something else…” But then they discovered how erratic elections can be, especially when states pass all kinds of complex laws and rely on poorly paid volunteer poll workers to implement them with little or no training.

“What we saw ranged from levels of confusion and incompetence, frankly that were very disturbing, when you consider the importance of the proceedings in the polls,” she said. “When you have so much slack in the process, you know, whether or not the code was followed based on a wink and a nod… We saw people not show any form of ID whatsoever and be allowed to vote. In Texas, you have to show some form of ID. In Colorado you have to show ID. In some of our sister states, it is even illegal to ask for identification.”

Here is where her propagandizing and right-wingers jump orbits. Engelbrecht was talking to an audience who, by a show of hands, were more than half Tea Party members, avid Drudge Report readers, and mostly vote by mail. In other words, most don’t vote in the venues they were hearing about. But they still shook their heads and gasped anyway.

“We saw people who would come in with multiple registration cards,” she continued. “And when they would present the first one and be told, ‘I’m sorry, it looks as though you already voted in an earlier election,’ they’d go, ‘Huh, how about this card?’” That was good enough for poll workers, she said, her voice rising. “People would come in and want to vote and they’d open the poll book—in Texas, we print out these little labels, and you stick this label in the book and sign your name. Well, the label was in the book and that person’s name was signed. But that wasn’t his signature. Somebody beat ’em to the punch… There’s a lot of latitude for people who want to subvert the process.”

I might have been the only one in the room to realize that most of her anecdotes—if they were true—probably have little or nothing to do with padding elections. They could just as easily be explained by bureaucratic bungling, bad poll worker training, confusion by voters who don’t understand what they got in the mail or other factors. These problems also are not solved by stricter voter ID laws. In some counties, election administration can be as drab as polling places are chaotic. But that’s not a political conspiracy.

Her war stories continued. They were low-rent compared to later speakers, who described a full-throated U.S. Justice Department conspiracy to ignore discrimination against white voters, or Fund telling people that they should enjoy bullying liberals because they were doing God’s work. “Your opposition are cartoon characters. They are. They are fun to beat up. They are fun to humiliate,” he intoned. “You are on the side of the angels. And these people are just frauds, charlatans and liars.”

Propaganda and Internet Tools

True the Vote’s response to the problems it perceives is ambitious. It’s also incredibly error-prone, according to its track record thus far in 2012. The group’s pre-Election Day focus is not just about training poll observers—people who’ll watch how voters are checked in and speak up if they don’t like what they think they see. They’re also focused on voter registration rolls, trying to identify, weed out, challenge and remove people who they believe are illegal or phantom voters. This is where things get dicey.

Drawing on the power of Internet organizing and Tea Party networks, they’ve developed an infrastructure where they “crowd-source” analysis of voter registration records, using software and vetting standards they created. True the Vote will take various state databases, starting with voter registration lists (which are always in flux as people register, move and die), driver’s license databases and jury lists, and look for inconsistencies. If they don’t like the way a person’s signature varies from form to form, it is flagged as suspicious. If they see that too many voters are registered at an address, it is flagged. If a driver’s license has a different address than a voter registration form, it is flagged. Their research team then seeks to turn over these names to county or state officials, who they urge to investigate—and, of course, remove ineligible voters from the rolls.

Mark Antill, their national research director, explained that they developed the software to first identify addresses with the most registrants attached to them. “When you find 80 people [registered] at an empty lot, you push a button and all 80 people get challenged,” he told the room. “When you vote once, and some guy votes twice, that is an issue.”

If the local election officials do not remove names from voter lists (and there aredetailed federal laws that mostly bar voter purges within 90 days of an upcoming federal election, and require that names be left on voter lists to ensure that nobody is disenfranchised) then True the Vote wants those offices to take other steps. Antill said Colorado will send a postcard to the voter in question saying he must present proof before getting a ballot this fall; or that he can’t vote by mail until he shows up with documents at a polling place. (He did not say where they got the legal authority to do that, and I didn’t want to be too pushy. But in a state where 70 percent of people vote by mail, and 10 percent vote early, that hurdle could easily prevent infirm elderly people from voting.)

True the Vote’s Texas adversaries have seen these tactics before. “They are challenging new voter applications as they come in. They are challenging registrations that already exist on the rolls,” said Houston’s Haver. “They believe it’s grounds for a challenge if you have six people living at a household on a registration form.” Angle said, “They couldn’t operate in Texas or anywhere else unless they had officials supporting them.”

That is exactly what they have in Texas, Colorado, Florida, Ohio, Kansas and a handful of other states. At the Denver summit, Colorado’s Deputy Attorney General Cynthia Coffman fully backed their agenda. So did Secretary of State Scott Gessler, who told attendees “you will be demonized, called a racist and a vote suppressor” but encourged them to soldier on.

But True the Vote has not found as welcome a reception in Wisconsin, where the state board overseeing elections—composed of retired judges—rejected its effort to partner with them. This past winter, the group initially sought an official role validating the petitions calling for the gubernatorial recall. After that was rejected, several thousand volunteers across the country looked for errors on their home computers and flagged questionable signers. To be fair, examining 800,000 signatures and addresses in a month is a gigantic undertaking. Where their independent assessment became politically predictable was when they claimed that about 40 percent of the petitions they examined were incomplete or required “further investigation.” Of course, that figure brought the total number of legal signers—in their eyes—below the threshold to qualify the gubernatorial recall.

Following Whose Law?

It’s important to understand why True the Vote feels victimized and how that affects its politics, whether its results are amateurish or not. In Wisconsin, election officials give the benefit of the doubt to the voter when assessing voting documents and deciding disputes. That is true in many states. True the Vote takes the exact opposite approach. If there are any doubts, then in True the Vote’s world the burden of proof immediately shifts to the accused, not the accuser, to defend their voting rights. And if proof is not forthcoming, they believe that person’s voting credentials should be revoked.

Moreover, True the Vote’s assessment—and this is the case in its voter registration program and poll watcher trainings—is based on what they want to see in the law. But that’s not the same as what actually exists in the law. This split leads to a predictable collision between what they think they see, and what they think should be in law, and how local election officials process the same information and officially react to it. A Wisconsin Government Accountability Board report issued in May assessed their vetting of recall petitions. It concluded they “created results that were significantly less accurate, complete, and reliable than the review and analysis completed by the G.A.B.”

Another group affiliated with True the Vote, Minnesota Majority, used a similar method, also based on sloppy database analyses, and presented the Hennepin County Attorney (where Minneapolis is) with what it claimed were more than 1,500 instances of illegal felon voting during the November 2008 election. They claim Al Franken only won because felons illegally voted. That charge, which is repeated in Fund’s new book, was vigorously rejected this month by Hennepin County Prosecutor Mike Freeman. He said they brought 1,500 allegations — but there was only sufficient proof to charge 38 people.

What is dangerous here is that the voter fraud movement’s leaders know these facts, but that’s not what they are telling the grassroots at meetings like Colorado’s summit. Instead, they’re deliberately misinforming local activists who care about elections, and encouraging them to take the law into their own hands when the courts fail them.

“You know the job of a recounter. You count, you count, you count until your candidate is ahead, and then you stop counting,” Fund glibly explained to the Denver conference room. Never mind that he described precisely what the Minnesota Majority did in the Wisconsin gubernatorial recall election—they stopped “disqualifying” petitions when they had the number they wanted.

“We know this,” Fund thundered. “Eleven-hundred felons voted illegally. The margin was 312 votes. Minnesota Majority uncovered this. The media didn’t. The prosecutors didn’t. It had consequences. Al Franken went on to become the 60th vote in the U.S. Senate, in the majority that passed Obamacare.”

What we know is that there is an ascendant nationwide right-wing movement to police American elections. We know that movement is turning to dishonest public intellectuals to educate its ranks. We know the focus is much bigger than new voter ID laws, and that True the Vote may or may not disrupt polling place voting this fall. We also know that after November they will be around to share their “lessons” from the voting wars and push solutions. We might hope that they will be honest about the true scope and scale of voting problems that inevitably will surface, especially as they delve into the details of running elections. However, that’s probably naïve.

 Going Undercover at the GOP’s Voter Vigilante Project to Disrupt the Nov. Election | Alternet.


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Romney Forbids Questions on Akin, Abortion | Politicker


Romney Forbids Questions on Akin, Abortion

By David Freedlander 8/23



A Denver TV reporter scored a rare interview with Mitt Romney today, although the terms were more limited than she may have liked.

Political reporter Shaun Boyd of CBS4 told an anchor, “The one stipulation to the interview was that I not ask him about abortion or Todd Akin—he’s the Missouri Republican who created a firestorm after saying women’s bodies shut down in a legitimate rape to prevent pregnancy. I did ask him about health care, the female vote and energy.”

This created a predictably mocking response from the Obama campaign:

It’s no surprise why. On Tuesday, the Republican Party’s Platform officially endorsed the Akin amendment, which would ban abortion for all women, including rape victims, and Paul Ryan has struggled to explain his support for redefining rape. Mitt Romney’s campaign might be able to muzzle reporters from asking tough questions, but women across America deserve to know the truth about Romney-Ryan’s extreme agenda.

Video of the exchange is below, and a clip of the full interview–minus Akin and abortion questions–can be found here.

A Romney campaign source emails to say that there seems to have been some kind of misunderstanding.

“This is not how we operate.  The matter is being addressed.”

 Romney Forbids Questions on Akin, Abortion–UPDATE | Politicker.


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