By: Dan Froomkin
The Huffington Post

Poll watchers from groups ostensibly targeting voter fraud are headed primarily to minority voting precincts on Election Day, lending support to the argument that their real goal is to suppress the African-American and Latino vote.

A partial list of precincts targeted by a Pittsburgh Tea Party group working on behalf of the Republican Party shows that nearly 80 percent of the voters in those precincts are African-American, compared to 13 percent countywide, according to civil rights and union groups who on Monday called on the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate.

An Ohio political blog is reporting that forms submitted to election officials by Tea Party spin-off group True the Vote in Franklin County — which includes Columbus — show poll watchers heading to 28 precincts, where most voters are African-American. Overall, the county electorate is 20 percent African-American.

“We’ve been concerned from the beginning that the efforts of True the Vote and aligned groups were going to be targeted largely in communities of color,” said Eric Marshall, manager of legal mobilization for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “We’ve seen in the past where these kinds of tactics can lead to intimidation and harassment of voters.”

A potentially even greater concern now is that the groups will use the voter challenge process “for the express purpose of creating lines and confusion,” Marshall said.

Prohibitively long lines, particularly where Democrats are in the majority, are a net plus for Republicans; extraordinarily long lines for early voting in South Florida resulted from Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s rollback of early voting days there.

Pittsburgh Tea Party Movement founder Patti Weaver, whose group trained the would-be poll watchers there, said her volunteers wouldn’t interfere with anyone. “We are not harassing voters. We won’t be talking to voters. We’re just there to observe,” she told HuffPost.

As for the list of precincts, she said: “Nobody’s targeting African-Americans anywhere in the country, that I know of. We’re sending volunteers to precincts which have had irregularities in the past or statistical issues.”

Weaver said the list was provided by fellow activist Bob Howard, but Howard told HuffPost he didn’t make the list himself. “I was not involved in the selection process. I don’t know the details,” he said.

He was told that many of the precincts were on the list because in previous elections, reports were sent in to the local Republican Party or to specific GOP candidates “that there was something at the poll that was a problem.” Others were there because of unusual swings in voting activity, he said.

He said the reasons were explained to him by the man who gave him the list: Chris Metz, executive director of the Republican Committee of Allegheny County.

Metz, however, would not answer questions about how the list was created. “That I cannot speak upon,” he told HuffPost. “That is the state party that put that together.”

He had no further comment. The spokesperson for the Pennyslvania Republican Party did not return phone messages.

But Nicole Berner, a lawyer with the Service Employees International Union — the group that obtained the list of precincts — said the only strong statistical correlation among them is race. The list was obtained by an independent community organizer who attended one of the poll watcher-training sessions and was able to jot down information about 59 of the 111 precincts that the group was asking people to sign up for, according to Berner.

Berner and others have requested that the Department of Justice ask the Republican Party for the complete list. “On the basis of the data that we ran, we can’t find any other single factor that would tie these precincts together, so how did you get this list?” said Berner.

A spokesperson for True the Vote, which vowed to send a million poll watchers out to hunt down voter fraud, did not respond to an email inquiry. Its founder, Catherine Engelbrecht, told The New York Times that she suddenly became concerned with voter fraud after President Barack Obama’s election in 2008. “I don’t know, something clicked,” she told the Times.

Marshall pointed out that none of the groups has provided evidence of in-person voter fraud anywhere — and groups have not provided evidence “to back up exactly why they should send all their poll watchers to African-American neighborhoods.” Lacking that evidence, he said, “we have concerns as to why they’re sending them to those locations.

“I’m not going to describe motivation,” he said. “I think the targeting of where they’re sending people speaks volumes.”

Marshall said that anyone witnessing any kind of voter intimidation on Election Day should call the voter protection hotline at (866) OUR-VOTE, or 866ourvote.org. “Then we’ll try to work through the laws and procedures in that county to get those people to either stop or be removed.”

Posted: November 4, 2012 in Uncategorized

Mind: Blown

The latest polls show Romney either leading Obama or closing the gap. With all the inconceivably blatant, unbelievably overt flip-flopping, surrogate gaffes, right-wing extremism…HOW CAN THIS BE HAPPENING!?!?!

Romney may say he’s center-right on abortion, but his running-mate is a co-sponsor on bills banning abortion, creating personhood amendments, and advocating intrusive trans-vaginal probes on women. Yet, Romney is supposedly closing in on the polls for women voters…HOW?!?! Do they not read? Or put two and two together?

I understand that the demographic of white males will obviously be slanted toward Romney, but WHY?!?! His foreign policy is all over the place, until recently where it almost mirrored Obama’s…including his timeline for withdrawal from Afghanistan. This is after he’s campaigned for God knows how long about how any timeline for withdrawal is a mistake and giving the enemy an advantage. His economic policy is vague at best; time and again the math doesn’t add up…though Romney & Ryan will tell you different. They always bring up the “six different studies” slogan, but their “studies” are right-wing blog posts that Fox News’ Chris Wallace and Bill Kristol, who also writes for the Weekly Standard, have refuted.

From what I’ve read over the span of this campaign, I understand that moderate Republicans are afraid he’s too extreme, and fringe Right-wingers are afraid he’s too moderate…and this is because Romney is a professional panderer. But these groups of folks have no one left to vote for. They can’t vote for Obama, so, to them, Romney is the most logical choice…the truth, he’s their only choice. They won’t vote for Gary Johnson and Ron Paul hasn’t stolen their hearts and minds…so Romney it is!

Even the African-American vote is not being considered as deadly to Romney as it was to McCain in the last election. Why? From what I gather, Obama didn’t do enough to encourage them, to help the inner-city youth, to promote their welfare. There are multiple arguments to be made here but the crux of it is, the African-American community still feel disenfranchised and that Obama didn’t do enough…To those that feel this way, I say this: What did you want him to do exactly? I’ve talked to many of my African-American friends to see what their feelings are on this matter. Many of them do feel Obama is a good President and will vote for him again, however there were a few that said that they felt he wasn’t strong enough or he was a straw-man and will not vote at all…they refuse to vote for Romney, and they can’t bring themselves to vote for Obama again.

Another thing that is floating out there, is the idea that Obama didn’t work well with a Republican House of Representatives. To that I say, HOW COULD HE?!?!?!?! When a majority of the House say that it will be their one and only goal to make Obama a one-term president and vote against any of the policies he brings to the table…no matter how beneficial for the country it is…HOW DO COMPETE WITH THAT?!?!

Facts?!?! We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Facts!

It is not clear who the culprit is. It is not clear if the GOP is causing it, or Fox News, or the Romney/Ryan ticket, or the Religious Right, or if it’s just the “nature of the beast,” but it seems that Conservatives are allergic to facts. What else is the reason to avoid them like the Plague. One can argue that this condition popped up on the radar during the Nixon administration, but it definitely exploded during the Reagan years and then again during the “W” Dark Age.  Just a single, small point to support this position: “[Public Policy Polling] asked voters who they thought deserved more credit for the killing of Osama bin Laden: Obama or Romney. 63 percent said Obama, 31 percent weren’t sure, and 6 percent said Romney. The results for Republican voters were even more astonishing. 38 percent said Obama, 47 percent weren’t sure, and 15 percent said Romney,” (Matthews, Washington Post)  It is not understood how this even happened.  I get how some people are misinformed and others are completely uninformed, however to even come to the decision in one’s head that Mitt Romney had ANYTHING at all, ever, to do with the killing of bin Laden is beyond comprehension.

Fox News is the known source of information to much of the right-wing and almost all of the people in the South and Midwest of the US.  However, there have been more than one study showing that a person is more informed if they don’t watch any television at all than if they sat and watched Fox News all day, every day.  Starting with an article written by Kenneth Rapoza for Forbes.com about a Fairleigh Dickinson University poll and an additional SIX more studies, there has been evidence that Fox News viewers to be the most misinformed about, and in a right-wing direction, about global warming, health care, health care a second time, the Ground Zero mosque, the Iraq war, and the 2010 election.  This unofficially named “Fox News Effect” is frightening and says a lot about today’s media, what is truly fair and balanced, and the right-wing.

The Romney/Ryan Campaign are not ignoramuses.  They are analysts, advisers, strategists, and former staffers to other administrations.  They HAVE to know about this “information-gap” within their base and they have to be capitalizing on it.  Why else would Romney be so close to President Obamain the polls?  Romney/Ryan are campaigning to the ignorant, sometimes racist, Palin-loving, religious conservatives that do not know much and are happy about it.  That could be a reason why Romney and Ryan never get into the specifics about their policies.  It is because they know that their uninformed base cannot comprehend the specifics, and they do not care to boot.  The problem is Romney and Ryan have to run as “the Other;” the anti-Obama; the lesser of two evils.  In talking with other conservatives, Romney is not specific enough, not conservative enough, he’s not a real Christian, and no one knows what position he’ll take from day-to-day.  He’s a businessman trying to run his campaign, and maybe his presidency, like a business.  But the American govt is not to turn a profit, and besides Romney was a lousy businessman who inherited his fortune from his father. And if there were specifics to his policies and positions, the Right does not have a Bill Clinton to explain it to them.

Bill Clinton Explaining Pres. Obama’s Policies at the 2012 DNC

Say what they must about their own campaign and policies, nothing gets the Romney/Ryan ticket up in the polls like Obama-bashing.  But they are finding it increasingly difficult to bash him in anything other than not solving the economic crisis fast enough.  They can’t touch President Obama on foreign policy, or drilling for gas/oil, or mining, or green energy.  They can’t touch him on healthcare, even though they’ve tried like hell, or education, or immigration. They throw the word socialist around, but Obama has been the worst socialist President ever, even though he is not one.

You see, there are a few things the right-wing do not know about President Obama because either Fox News “forgot to mention it” or because they were distracted by the President’s skin color.  When facts are released, the Romney/Ryan Ticket have NOTHING to run on.  Obama probably stopped the Second-Coming of the Great Depression, gave the country healthcare, got the US out of Iraq, started the withdrawal from Afghanistan, was essential in the killing of Osama bin Laden and Muammar al-Gaddafi, implemented Wall Street Reform, the Auto Bailout, the DREAM Act, repealed Don’t Ask – Don’t Tell, put two women on the Supreme Court, reactivated Stem Cell Research, equal pay for women, stopped torture, and reformed student loans for college students.
But hey, don’t distract yourselves with the facts and figures of history and current events.  Because if you do, you forget that the President is a Black Muslim with a Negro army who are coming to take you away to socialist FEMA re-education camps that will make you give away all your money to the poor illegals while you sit in front of a death-panel…

Lies. Deceit. Betrayal. The Romney/Ryan Ticket has spent millions of dollars from all their shadow-donors on advertisements attacking President Obama. This is contrary to Former Gov Romney’s absurd claim that the President is out-spending him. Some of the television ads have been controversial, sparking questions and challenges from journalists. Thus far, one specific topic of the advertisements have been the most controversial as of yet. Romney’s camp have put out a series of television commercials spewing filthy lies about President Obama’s change to the Welfare requirements. And when challenged about these ads, he supports them while rejecting them…huh? Romney responded that the Obama administration does not have the authority to change, and especially waive, the Welfare work requirements that have been in place since the Clinton Administration. This is a different story from the ads Romney’s camp delivered to millions of people all over the United States. These ads claim that the work requirements have been dropped…completely. News organizations from around the country have pointed out that fact-checkers have said that is not the case, and the ads are untrue…completely.

“Fact-checkers on both sides of the aisle will look in the way they think is most consistent with their own views,” Romney said. Doesn’t that conflict with the whole point of being a fact-checker? Do we have fact-checker-checkers? Romney continued, “It’s very clear that others who have looked at the same issue feel that the president violates the provision of the act which requires work in welfare, defines what work is. He guts that, he ends that requirement for those that seek that welfare.”

Multiple states, Democratic- and Republican-led, have asked the administration to consider implementing a system where the states have to demonstrate they can increase welfare employment by 20% or face penalties.  As of this moment, the Obama administration has not announced that it has issued any waivers.  But the Romney Camp does not allow this accuracy to flow.  They just shout from the rooftops that the sky is falling and Obama is eliminating welfare work requirements.  We shall see if the American people will truly believe the big lie, before they believe all the small ones.

So this weekend, in Tampa, Florida, in the path of a possible hurricane, the Republicans will hold their national convention. The RNC Chair, Reince Priebus will be there, Mike Huckabee is speaking, Paul Ryan has a small spot in the schedule, even Mitt Romney’s wife, Ann Romney, will have a speaking role over the course of the next few days. Republican bundlers will have their own hotel all to themselves, and of course, unless you’re staking out the hotel, no one knows who these shadowy figures are. The RNC even renamed a pavilion after the gazillionaire donor Sheldon Adelson‘s wife, just for the time during the convention. But do you know who’s not going to be there? Some of the biggest decision-makers of the Republican Party over the past decade – George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Sarah Palin… John McCain will be there, but only for a tiny little speech in between 2 relatively unknown Republican Party “figures.”  There will be, however, lots of mini-conventions that are not going to be open to the press.  These are the expensive dinners, closed-door meetings, strategy-sessions, and million-dollar fundraising events garnered toward the donors funding the RNC machine.  Who’s going to those?  Well, it is almost a given that the Koch brothers, Sheldon Adelson, Karl Rove and his Crossroads GPS “peeps” will be among the attendees, as well as hundreds more of the 1%-ers swarming the poor town of Tampa.

Not only is this storm coming to Tampa, but a possible hurricane as well.  As this is being typed, Tropical Storm Isaac is moving directly towards the RNC Convention.  If this isn’t the world shoving Global Climate Change down the throats of the “deniers,” I don’t know what is.  Rick Scott, the Republican Governor of Florida, is already declaring a State of Emergency for the entire state, ahead of Isaac making landfall.  So this is a chance for the conservatives to do what they do best, raise millions of money at the expense of others, and pray for sunshine.

So far, here’s the shaping of the US Presidential Election, based on HuffPost Pollster charts and analysis.

By Bill Maher

 

New Rule: If your entire party tries to get rid of you, and you stay in, you can’t talk about how easy it is for a woman to push a stupid prick out of her body.

I don’t want to waste another second thinking about Todd Akin, and his theory that you can’t get pregnant unless your eggs are asking for it. Here’s the only thing you need to know about Todd Akin and human anatomy: he’s an asshole. What I want to talk about is how it’s not a coincidence that the party of fundamentalism is also the party of fantasy. When I say religion is a mental illness, this is what I mean: it corrodes your mental faculties to the point where you can believe in tiny ninja warriors who hide in vaginas and lie in wait for bad people’s sperm.

Evangelicals might like to pretend that the magical thinking that they indulge in at home doesn’t affect what they do at the office, but it absolutely does. The brain that believes in angels and miracles and Jesus riding a dinosaur is trained to see the world not as it is, but as you want it to be.

Republicans would like to pretend like Congressman Akin’s substitution of superstition for science is a lone problem but it’s not: they’re all magical thinkers, on nearly every issue. They don’t get their answers on climate change from climatologists, they get them from the Book of Genesis. Hence Sharia Law in America is a dire threat, and global warming a hoax.

Or take the issue that consumes the right these days, our sea of red ink: Republicans are united in their fervent desire to reduce the deficit, but they want to do it in some magical fashion that doesn’t involve raising taxes or cutting any spending. When given a choice in polls between these two options, a majority of Republicans check “none of the above” as a way to reduce the deficit. That’s like deciding to pay off your student loans by daydreaming.

Or as it’s known on Capitol Hill, supply-side economics. Remember that magic beans theory? That you actually bring in more revenue by bringing in less? Ronald Reagan believed it. But at least back in the ’80s it was new. The thing is, we tried it, and it doesn’t work. Yet, Paul Ryan, who every shit-for-brains pundit in America keeps telling us is a “serious” guy, still believes in the supply-side theory. All the Republicans do. They all believe in something that both science and history have shown to be pure fantasy. The symbol for their party shouldn’t be an elephant — it should be a unicorn.

Paul Ryan is their tough guy on spending but he doesn’t want to touch defense — that’s right, a budget hawk who doesn’t think there’s anything bloated about the Defense Department’s budget. It’s like being a health inspector and finding nothing wrong with the Asian place that has the chicken hanging in the window. This is how low we’ve put the bar for political courage — that you can just write, “I want a pony” in a binder and call it the “Plan For Restoring Vision For the Future of America’s Greatness” or some shit, and then everyone has to refer to you as the serious one in Congress. It reminds me of health care. Republicans are for all the popular things, like covering people with pre-existing conditions, but they’re not for the part where you pay for it, like the mandate. Just like they were for our recent wars, but not for paying for them. For the prescription drug bill, but not for paying for it.

How do they get away with it? They know that, because we’re already such a religious country, our minds are primed for magical, fantasy thinking. The gullibility comes factory-installed. They’ve learned that you appeal not to an American’s head, but to his gut — it’s a much bigger target. But here’s the problem: life is complicated. I mean, I know we know some things for sure, like why Jesus put us here on Earth: to watch Here Comes Honey Boo Boo on a 50-inch TV screen. But what about the Chinese slaves who made the TV? What about carbon from the coal that generated the electricity? What about the Walmart where we bought it, where the workers don’t have health insurance? What about racism, or the oceans turning into nail polish remover? The grown-up answer is: identify problems scientifically, prioritize and solve. The Republican answer is: there isn’t a problem. And anyone who tells you different is a liar who hates America. We don’t have to make hard choices. We just have to ignore the science and the math — that’s why God gave us values.

If rape babies throw a monkey wrench into the whole right-to-life pitch, just make believe rape babies don’t exist. If you want to cut down on teen pregnancy, just tell curious kids with raging hormones to practice abstinence. Until they get married. Because everyone knows, that’s when the fucking never stops. Health care? Not a problem if you just keep repeating, “We have the greatest health care in the world.” Even though the U.N. ranks it 37th.

What’s the solution to global warming? It’s that it isn’t real, and even if it is, big whoop, just buy an air conditioner, you pussy. Republicans also believe that putting the word “clean” next to the word “coal” creates something called clean coal. Even though there’s the exact same amount of evidence for clean coal as there is for Todd Akin’s mistaken baby makin’ theory.

Republicans also believe if they kick all the Mexicans out of the country, the strawberries will pick themselves, and that if they cut the safety net all the poor blacks are “resting” in, they will fall gently to the ground, stand up, dust themselves off, and get good-paying jobs as Olympic gymnasts.

Next week in Tampa the Republicans must admit that the difference between a GOP convention and Comic-Con is that the people at Comic-Con have a much firmer grasp of reality.

~ Bill Maher is the host of HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher.

President Obama and congressional Democrats finally found a fight they wanted to pick with Republicans. And it’s a policy fight they thought they could win. They were fighting for a tax CUT for the working people, also known as the Middle Class… or what the Republicans call, The Ones Who Need to Pay Their Fair Share.  Republicans do not want that tax cut.

            This payroll tax is going to expire at the end of December, just around Christmas time…perfect right?  If the Dems allowed that to happen, or if the Almighty Congress continues to be that Lame Duck, the Middle Class (the spoiled children), are going to get a nice tax hike for Christmas.  The average family would have to worry about $1,000 tax increase on top of bills, Christmas spending, other taxes, etc.  It’s found that a single person making $50,000 a year would have to pay $1,000 more next year if Congress didn’t extend the cuts.  This is politics folks, not just basic math.  Herein lies the problem, Dems don’t work well in politics and Republicans don’t work well in MATH.  Mind you, the Republicans have already voted NO on the President’s job bill and the tax cuts included in the bill.  But the dastardly Democrats decided to make them do it again.  The Republicans were forced to vote a second time against tax cuts.  As of yesterday evening, the Republicans caved for once… and in an intelligent manner.

            On December 1st, Senator Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell ofKentucky, gave a little statement at the end of the day, saying, “In all likelihood, we will agree to continue the current payroll tax relief for another year. I think at the end of the day, there’s a lot of sentiment in our conference. Clearly, a majority of sentiment for continuing the payroll tax relief that we enacted a year ago in these tough times.”  Awww, thanks Mr. McConnell, that’s mighty white of you.  But once again, you LIED!

On December 2nd, the Senate blocked the vote with a filibuster and the bill to extend the payroll tax died a 51-49 death.  The last time I checked 51 over 49 is a majority, but that’s a different argument for a different day.  Obama is now trying to get the American public involved in the fight, as they should already be, “Let your members of Congress know where you stand, Obama said. “Tell them not to vote to raise taxes on working Americans during the holidays.  Tell them to put country before party.  Put money back in the pockets of working Americans. Pass these tax cuts.”  The whole “Pass these tax cuts” sounds awfully close to the “Pass this bill” mantra the administration adopted during its push of their American Jobs Act.  We all saw how well the Republicans in Congress listen to chants.

This shows how the obstructive Republicans in Congress actually are.  One cannot believe how intelligent, center-leaning Republicans can still vote their party line during elections.  The obstructionist Right Wing voted AGAINST keeping teachers in the classrooms, cops on the street, firefighters on the job, and construction workers on site rebuilding our roads and bridges.  So there, Republicans have STOPPED job creation and halted REAL job creators, the people they say they are looking out for.  Also, the Republicans in Congress decided against helping to solve the nation’s deficit by promoting policies that protect tax cuts for the millionaires and billionaires (Republican Job Creators), while cutting funds for children’s education…you know, our future…medical research, and Medicare.

But they believe increasing the tax on the Middle Class of 160 million people by a thousand dollars or more. That’s more than half of this nation’s population!  How do tax cuts on the rich pay for themselves, while tax cuts on 160 million people need to be made up by further spending cuts?  Not only do the Dems want the Payroll Tax Cut to be extended, but expanded to $1,500 to the typical family who make $50,000 a year.  Additionally, the Democrats wants new incentives given to six million small businesses to expand and hire…AMERICANS!  Independent economists, you know, the guys that do the research for A LIVING, agree that the Middle Class and the American economy cannot risk being at risk.  Republicans are playing politics with 160 million people’s lives, like Wall Street played games with millions of people’s mortgages.  These are people, real live breathing human beings…NOT CHIPS ON A TABLE.

During the previous administration, the Republicans in Congress had no problem initiating AND extending the Payroll Tax Cut.  Here are some examples:

Sen. Alexander

12/9/10:  ”QUESTION: And if you look at the proportions, though, of the top, top sector of earners in this country getting the bulk of the benefits, why does that help?

ALEXANDER: Well, if you’re a small business person in Tennessee, what this means is that you won’t be paying tens of thousands of dollars, perhaps more, in taxes and you can use that to create a job. It also means that your employees who work there will get a one-third reduction in their payroll tax payments every two weeks. And maybe they’ll spend some more money creating more jobs. So it’s a combination of policies that all together are focused on jobs.” [NPR, 12/9/10]

Sen. Kyl

11/20/09: MR. KUDLOW: All right. Let me go to a couple of other things. We had Senator Thune on last night about ending TARP, putting a stake in TARP by the end of the year. But Mr. Kyl, let me just ask you. Suppose you got $300 billion from ending TARP. Wouldn’t it be better to give it back to the taxpayers in the form of lower tax rates? Wouldn’t that be a terrific thing with 10.2 percent unemployment, kind of “we, the people,” the government works for us, and they could use the extra cash right now and maybe some incentives on lower rates for payroll taxes?

SEN. KYL: Yeah. As a matter of fact, the original intent here was that when the money was paid back by the banks, you didn’t create a revolving account there, you lowered the debt. That is to say, you simply retired that aspect of the debt. Remember, this is all borrowed money from the Chinese and elsewhere. So you can do one of two things with it. You can either retire the debt, or what you’re suggesting here is that you can do some things to stimulate job creation and certainly something like reducing the payroll tax, which has been written about recently, would accomplish that. There are other ways you can do it as well.”  [CNBC, Kudlow Report, 11/20/09]

Sen. DeMint

11/29/11: “Republican leaders said Tuesday they would join Democrats in supporting an extension of the 2011 payroll-tax cut despite some reluctance within the GOP, virtually assuring that American wage-earners will continue to receive the benefit next year. Republicans still oppose Democrats’ plan to pay for the tax break with a tax on people earning more than $1 million a year. GOP leaders said they would find another way to pay for the tax break and predicted it would pass. ‘I think at the end of the day, there’s a lot of sentiment in our conference—clearly a majority sentiment—for continuing the payroll-tax relief that we enacted a year ago in these tough times,’ Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) said. Republicans and some economists have questioned the value of the payroll-tax break, saying its economic impact is limited by its temporary nature and the fact that some people use the spare cash to pay down debt, rather than buy things. Some argue Congress should revamp the whole tax code rather than temporarily reducing individual taxes. ‘I think it’s a mistake to do this little tax and that little tax,’ said Sen. Jim DeMint (R., S.C.). ‘We need to reform our tax code if we’re going to be competitive internationally.’ Nonetheless, Mr. DeMint said he would support the extension because ‘I just don’t think it’s a good time to increase any taxes.’” [Wall Street Journal, 11/30/11]

Sen. Kirk

9/10/11: AP: Republican Sen. Mark Kirk said Obama’s proposals to cut the payroll tax and approve trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama should receive quick, bipartisan action.” [AP, 9/10/11]

Sen. Blunt

7/8/10: “Blunt agreed that a payroll tax holiday, a 100 percent depreciation of capital expenses, and other ideas could have worked to stimulate the economy, but said the $800 billion federal spending plan happened in 2009 because President Barack Obama has a fundamentally different view of how to help the economy than most Republicans and many rural Americans.” [Pulaski County Daily, 7/8/10]

Sen. Johanns

11/30/11: New York Times: “Another Republican senator has opened the door to tax increases on high earners as a way to pay for a payroll tax cut, showing more movement in the party ranks after resistance all year to tax increases. ‘I sense a change in mood,’ Senator Mike Johanns, Republican of Nebraska, said Wednesday. ‘It’s a little more bipartisan. My position has always been, ‘Let’s not raise taxes,’ but on the other hand, I don’t want our country to collapses under a mountain of debt. If that means compromise, I am going to do everything to get that done.’…Democrats are seeking to reduce the Social Security payroll tax paid by employees by half, to 3.1. percent of wages, a position many Republicans support.” [New York Times, 11/30/11]

2009 Republican Stimulus Proposal Included a Payroll Tax Cut

2/5/09: 40 Republican Senators Voted For The Republican Substitute Stimulus Which Included A Payroll Tax Cut.  On February 2, 2009, 40 Republican senators voted for a McCain motion to consider an alternative Republican stimulus bill that “would have cut income and payroll taxes….” according to the Associated Press.  The motion was rejected 40-57. [Senate Roll Call Vote #45, 2/5/09; AP, 2/5/09]

  • 18 Republican Senators Voted Against Both Payroll Tax Cut Extension Bills On December 2, 2011 But Voted For A Payroll Tax Cut On February 5, 2009: Alexander, Burr, Chambliss, Coburn, Cochran, Corker, Cornyn, DeMint, Graham, Hatch, Inhofe, Isakson, Johanns, Kyl, Roberts, Sessions, Shelby, And Thune.  [Senate Roll Call Vote #45, 2/5/09; Senate Roll Call Vote #219, 12/1/11; Senate Roll Call Vote #220, 12/1/11]
  • 10/15/09: Sen. McCain: “Mr. President, earlier this year I put forward a proposal to eliminate the 3.1 percent payroll tax for one year for all employees in order to put more money in every working American’s pocket during these difficult economic times.  This would have been a real stimulus to our economy.  Unfortunately, every Democrat in this chamber voted against this common sense proposal. ‘The regressive payroll tax oppresses all Americans, especially young men and women, and burdens small businesses that must match the tax that their employees pay.  About 41 percent of Americans have no income tax liability.  But every wage-earner is hit by the payroll tax no matter how much or how little one earns.  For 86 percent of all working Americans, the payroll tax they pay is more than their income tax liability.” [Sen. John McCain – Floor Statement, 10/15/09– video available via C-SPAN]
  • 3/26/09: Sen. McCain: “Our proposal would have helped fix the housing crisis, invested in our nation’s infrastructure through effective and restrained spending, put money immediately back into the hands of all Americans through a payroll tax holiday, and allowed businesses to keep more of their profits to hire new employees, invest in capital and expand their businesses.” [Sen. John McCain – Remarks to the Heritage Foundation, 3/26/09

The Israeli government’s current mantra is that the Palestinians must recognise a “Jewish State”. Of course, the Palestinians have clearly and repeatedly recognised the State of Israel as such in the 1993 Oslo Accords (which were based on an Israeli promise to establish a Palestinian state within five years – a promise now shattered) and many times since. Recently, however, Israeli leaders have dramatically and unilaterally moved the goal-posts and are now clamouring that Palestinians must recognise Israel as a “Jewish State”.

In 1946, the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry concluded that the demand for a “Jewish State” was not part of the obligations of the Balfour Declaration or the British Mandate. Even in the First Zionist Congress in Basel in 1897, when Zionists sought to “establish a home for the Jewish people”, there was no reference of a “Jewish State”. The Zionist Organisation preferred at first to use the description “Jewish homeland” or “Jewish Commonwealth”. Many pioneering Zionist leaders, such as Judah Magnes and Martin Buber also avoided the clear and explicit term “Jewish State” for their project of a homeland for Jews, and preferred instead the concept of a democratic bi-national state.

Today, however, demands for a “Jewish State” from Israeli politicians are growing without giving thought to what this might mean, and its supporters claim that it would be as natural as calling France a French State. However, if we consider the subject dispassionately, the idea of a “Jewish State” is logically and morally problematic because of its legal, religious, historical and social implications. The implications of this term therefore need to be spelled out, and we are sure that once they are, most people – and most Israeli citizens, we trust – will not accept these implications.

Many implications

First, let us say that confusion immediately arises here because the term “Jewish” can be applied both to the ancient race of Israelites and their descendants, as well as to those who believe in and practice the religion of Judaism. These generally overlap, but not always. For example, some ethnic Jews are atheists and there are converts to Judaism (leaving aside the question of whether these are accepted as such by Ultra-Orthodox Jews) who are not ethnic Jews.

Second, let us suggest also that having a modern nation-state being defined by one ethnicity or one religion is problematic in itself – if not inherently self-contradictory – because the modern nation-state as such is a temporal and civic institution, and because no state in the world is – or can be in practice – ethnically or religiously homogenous.

Third, recognition of Israel as a “Jewish state” implies that Israel is, or should be, either a theocracy (if we take the word “Jewish” to apply to the religion of Judaism) or an apartheid state (if we take the word “Jewish” to apply to the ethnicity of Jews), or both, and in all of these cases, Israel is then no longer a democracy – something which has rightly been the pride of most Israelis since the country’s founding in 1948.

Fourth, at least one in five Israelis – 20 per cent of the population, according to the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics – is ethnically Arab (and are mostly either Muslim, Christian, Druze or Bahai), and recognising Israel as a “Jewish State” as such makes one-fifth of the population of Israel automatically strangers in their own native land and opens the door to legally reducing them, most undemocratically, to second-class citizens (or perhaps even stripping them of their citizenship and other rights) – something that no-one, much less a Palestinian leader, has a right to do.

Fifth, recognising a “Jewish State” as such in Israel would mean legally that while Palestinians no longer have citizens’ rights there, any member of world Jewry outside of Israel (up to 10 million people perhaps), should be entitled to full citizens’ rights there, no matter wherever they may be in the world today and regardless of their current nationality. Indeed, Israel publicly admits that it does not hold the land for the benefit of its citizens but holds it, in trust, on behalf of the Jews of the world for all time. This is something that happens in practice, but that obviously Palestinians in the occupied territories – including Jerusalem – do not see as fair, especially as they are constantly forcibly evicted off their ancestral homeland by Israel to make way for foreign Jewish settlers, and because Palestinians in their diaspora are denied the same right to come and live.

Sixth, it means, before final status negotiations have even started, that Palestinians would have then given up the rights of about 7 million Palestinians in the diaspora to repatriation or compensation; 7 million Palestinians descended from the Palestinians who in 1900 lived in historical Palestine (ie what is now Israel, the West Bank including Jerusalem, and Gaza) and at that time made up 800,000 of its 840,000 inhabitants; and who were driven off their land through war, violent eviction or fear.

Seventh, recognising a “Jewish state” in Israel – a state which purports to annex the whole of Jerusalem, East and West, and calls Jerusalem its “eternal, undivided capital” (as if the city, or even the world itself, were eternal; as if it were really undivided, and as if it actually were legally recognised by the international community as Israel’s capital) – means completely ignoring the fact that Jerusalem is as holy to 2.2 billion Christians and 1.6 billion Muslims, as it is to 15-20 million Jews worldwide.

In other words, this would be to privilege Judaism above the religions of Christianity and Islam, whose adherents together comprise 55 per cent of the world’s population. Regrettably this is a narrative propagated even by renowned Jewish author and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, who, on April 15, 2010, took out full page ads in The New York Times and The Washington Post and claimed that Jerusalem “is mentioned more than six hundred times in Scripture – and not a single time in the Qur’an”. Now we do not propose to speak for native Palestinian Arab Christians – except to say the that Jerusalem is quite obviously the city of Jesus Christ the Messiah – but as Muslims, we believe that Jerusalem is not the “third holiest city of Islam” as is sometimes claimed, but simply one of Islam’s three holy cities. And, of course, despite what Mr Wiesel seems to believe, Jerusalem is indeed clearly referred to in the Holy Qur’an in Surat al-Isra’ (17:1):

“Glorified be He Who transported His servant by night from the Inviolable Place of Worship to the Aqsa Place of Worship whose precincts We have blessed, that We might show him of Our tokens! Lo! He, only He, is the Hearer, the Seer.”

Moreover, Muslims wanting to take a similar, religiously exclusive narrative, could point out that while Jerusalem is mentioned 600 times in the Bible, it is not mentioned once in the Torah as such – a fact that any Biblical Concordance will easily confirm. Of course we do, however, recognise the importance of the land of Israel in the religion of Judaism – this is even mentioned in the Qur’an, 5:21 – we only ask that the Israeli government reciprocate this courtesy and allow Muslims to speak for themselves in expressing what they consider, and have always considered, as holy to them.

There is another reason, more serious than all of the seven mentioned above, why Palestinian leaders – and indeed no responsible person – can morally recognise Israel as a “Jewish State” as such. It has to do with the very Covenant of God in the Bible with Ancient Israelites of the promise of a homeland for Jews. God says to Abraham in the Bible:

On the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying:

“To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates – the Kenites, the Kenezzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.” (Genesis, 15:18-21; NKJ)

The ancient Israelites then go on to possess this land in the time of Moses, upon God’s command, as follows:

“When the LORD your God brings you into the land which you go to possess, and has cast out many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than you, and when the LORD your God delivers them over to you, you shall conquer them and utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them nor show mercy to them. (Deuteronomy, 7:1-2; NKJ)

“Hear, O Israel: You are to cross over the Jordan today, and go in to dispossess nations greater and mightier than yourself, cities great and fortified up to heaven, a people great and tall, the descendants of the Anakim, whom you know, and of whom you heard it said: ‘Who can stand before the descendants of Anak?’ Therefore understand today that the LORD your God is He who goes over before you as a consuming fire. He will destroy them and bring them down before you; so you shall drive them out and destroy them quickly, as the LORD has said to you.” (Deuteronomy, 9:1-4; NKJ)

The fate of many of the original inhabitants is then as follows:

And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, ox and sheep and donkey, with the edge of the sword. (Joshua, 6:21; NKJ)

And this continues even later on in time, as follows:

Samuel also said to Saul: “The LORD sent me to anoint you king over His people, over Israel. Now therefore, heed the voice of the words of the LORD. Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he ambushed him on the way when he came up from Egypt. Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.'” (1 Samuel, 15:1-3; NKJ)

Now it is very easy to cherry-pick quotes from scripture permitting or enjoining violence. One could cite, out of context, verses such as the “sword verse” in the Holy Qur’an:

Then, when the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them, and confine them, and lie in wait for them at every place of ambush. But if they repent, and establish prayer and pay the alms, then leave their way free. God is Forgiving, Merciful. (Al-Tawbah, 9:5)

One could even cite verses – again out of context – from Jesus Christ’s own words in the Gospel, as follows:

“But bring here those enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, and slay them before me.'” (Luke, 19:27; NKJ)
“Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.” (Matthew, 10:34; NKJ)

Democracy or a Jewish State?

Nevertheless, it remains true that, in the Old Testament, God commands the Jewish state in the land of Israel to come into being through warfare and violent dispossession of the original inhabitants. Moreover, this command has its roots in the very Covenant of God with Abraham (or rather “Abram” at that time) in the Bible and it thus forms one of the core tenets of Judaism as such, at least as we understand it. No one then can blame Palestinians and descendents of the ancient Canaanites, Jebusites and others who inhabited the land before the Ancient Israelites (as seen in the Bible itself) for a little trepidation as regards what recognising Israel as a “Jewish State” means for them, particularly to certain Orthodox and Ultra Orthodox Jews. No one then can blame Palestinians for asking if recognising Israel as a “Jewish State” means recognising the legitimacy of offensive warfare or violence against them by Israel to take what remains of Palestine from them.

We need hardly say that this comes against a background where every day the Israeli settler movement is grabbing more land in the West Bank and Jerusalem (there are now 500,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank alone) – aided, abetted, funded and empowered by the current Israeli government – and throwing or forcing more and more Palestinians out, in so many different ways that it would take volumes to describe. Moreover, there are credible reports that despite the almost universal agreement in Rabbinical texts throughout the ages that the divine command to kill the Amalekites was a unique and isolated historical incident that applied only to the race of the Ancient Amalekites, there are now, in certain religious schools in Israel, people who draw parallels between the Palestinians of today and the ancient Amalekites and their like (this was apparently the opinion of Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, a former chief Rabbi of Israel; see also, for example: Shulamit Aloni’s article ‘Murder Under the Cover of Righteousness‘, CounterPunch, March, 8-9, 2003).

In short, recognition of Israel as a “Jewish State” in Israel is not the same as, say, recognition of Greece today as a “Christian State”. It entails, in the Old Testament itself, a Covenant between God and a Chosen People regarding a Promised Land that should be taken by force at the expense of the other inhabitants of the land and of non-Jews. This idea is not present as such in other religions that we know of. Moreover, even secular and progressive voices in Israel, such as former president of the Supreme Court of Israel, Aharon Barak, understand the concept of a “Jewish State” as follows:

“[The] Jewish State is the state of the Jewish people … it is a state in which every Jew has the right to return … a Jewish state derives its values from its religious heritage, the Bible is the basic of its books and Israel’s prophets are the basis of its morality … a Jewish state is a state in which the values of Israel, Torah, Jewish heritage and the values of the Jewish halacha [religious law] are the bases of its values.” (‘A State in Emergency’, Ha’aretz, 19 June, 2005.)

So, rather than demand that Palestinians recognise Israel as a “Jewish State” as such – adding “beyond chutzpah” to insult and injury – we offer the suggestion that Israeli leaders ask instead that Palestinians recognise Israel (proper) as a civil, democratic, and pluralistic state whose official religion is Judaism, and whose majority is Jewish. Many states (including Israel’s neighbours Jordan and Egypt, and countries such as Greece) have their official religion as Christianity or Islam (but grant equal civil rights to all citizens) and there is no reason why Israeli Jews should not want the religion of their state to be officially Jewish. This is a reasonable demand, and it may allay the fears of Jewish Israelis about becoming a minority in Israel, and at the same time not arouse fears among Palestinians and Arabs about being ethnically cleansed in Palestine. Demanding the recognition of Israel’s official religion as Judaism, rather than the recognition of Israel as a “Jewish State”, would also mean Israel continuing to be a democracy.

Sari Nusseibeh is a professor of philosophy at Al-Quds University in Jerusalem.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

Source:
Al Jazeera

I have found something to be trending among Republican ideologues, social conservatives, and “Tea-Baggers” (I mean Tea-Partiers); That Republicans would support BIG Government if it supported them.  For example, if tomorrow, President Obama and all the Dems in Congress decided to ban abortion across the board, or gay marriage, or stem cell research, or science…the Republican and Tea Parties would be all for it.

No, you say? Well if you start looking at the states and members of Congress submitting bills for such antiquated social policies such as aforementioned, you may change your mind.

Even today, a federal judge granted Planned Parenthood’s preliminary injunction to prevent a new South Dakota abortion law from taking effect while it’s being challenged in court. The fact is that Planned Parenthood, centers for women’s health, etc. are under attack by Right-Wing extremists in the states’ and federal legislatures.  Just in the last few months, bills have been submitted and are on the verge of passing that ban abortions no matter what the patient’s choice or status is.

Republicans are for individual responsibility as long as they deem what responsible is. They won’t let you have an abortion, but they will make you incur the cost of having a child.  Isn’t that BIG government?  It’s having the state, or the federal if they had their way, MANDATE a person to make one choice over another.

I have had debate after debate on my positions on both Gay Marriage and Abortion. My view is that it is not my nor anyone else’s place to tell someone who they can and cannot marry, however, limits on what and how many spouses can be imposed. For instance, any person should be allowed to marry another person if they are in love, but must maintain a single human spouse. Is that confusing? I didn’t think so. Also, my position on abortion is that it is not up to any government, federal, state, municipal, to decide whether a woman will or will not have an abortion.  Now, I do hope the woman chooses to bear and keep her child, however it is not my, nor anyone else’s place to make that call other than the woman.  That is limited government my conservative friends.

To ban Planned Parenthood or other women’s health centers while referring them to a women’s prison as an alternative for female healthcare is an abomination. The legislators, and those who fund them, should be ashamed of themselves and should look into the void where their soul had been and reflect on what they REALLY wanted to do. I wouldn’t be surprised if these women’s prisons are privately owned, and the owners continuously make large donations to these legislative scheisters.  How can conservatives be so pro-life, and then turn around and be supporting the death penalty? Doesn’t the Bible say that every life is precious and equal in God’s eyes?

However, its now the Liberals turn…How can you be pro-choice, especially if the choice is indeed abortion, but then be against the death penalty, or the euthanizing of animals? A human life is definitely a little more important than a rat’s and if you can’t recognize that, well then you need to move to a deserted island and really contemplate your position. And if you are fine with ending a life that is in the same stage of gestation you once were, then why are you not fine with destroying one that has been so detrimental to society that his or her peers have deemed them unworthy of life? Aren’t you committing that same judgment on an unborn human who is not guilty of anything?

Bill O’Reilly and Bill Maher: Two completely opposite ideologues, yet they are the best at knowing their ideologies. Which is why i give them both my utmost respect and audience. O’Reilly stands against abortion AND the death penalty. Maher doesn’t mind if people are sent to prison to be executed at a later date AND he is in favor of a woman’s right to end the life of her unborn baby.  Why can’t the Liberals and Conservatives be as consistently honest about their own ideologies as these two ?