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Tom Toles Rant- They all fall down

By Tom Toles
The polls are currently starting to whisper...shhhhh...listen closely for it....LANDSLIDE for Obama. Oh, of course, they may well “tighten” again. The press needs them to tighten, because all they care about is the horse...something. Oh, yeah, horserace. Yes, that’s what the press cares about the horseRACE, not the horse anything else. But then again, maybe the polls aren’t going to “tighten.” Maybe it’s the Necktie of Failure around Romney’s neck that is going to tighten. It doesn’t matter, the White House is out of his reach now, barring the most outlandish of scenarios.

And how is the GOP responding? This one I didn’t see coming, but for the life of me I don’t see how I missed it. They have concocted a little cottage industry, of you guessed it, POLL DENIAL. All regular polling is now MADE UP SCIENCE. They have created a little shop of “unskewed polls” which makes the numbers come out right for Romney by...hold your breath here...CHANGING THE NUMBERS. This is how the GOP has come to understand and present the world to themselves and others. Make something up, then make up numbers to support it, and get their side presented through the media as “one side of the debate.” Fun while it lasted, but this Party is over.

Whether or not Romney loses by a landslide, or just loses, it is now the scene in the movie where when one part of the edifice starts to fall, you realize he’s going to take the whole huge rotten structure down with him. The days of whine and poses are over. The 21st Century will officially recommence in November. We have some real work to do, and the Republicans have a ruined party to rebuild that can play a constructive role in American government.. Not a moment too soon. Actually about a decade late.


“47%” Was Bad for Romney; Ryan Has Been Deadly

Noam Scheiber

The conventional wisdom on Obama’s recent surge is that it’s due largely to Mitt Romney’s 47% disaster, and there’s clearly something to this. If nothing else, it’s given Team Obama grist for an absolutely devastating ad.

But it’s worth pointing out another dynamic that’s been overlooked here: The escalating disaster that is Paul Ryan. At the time of his selection, a number of pundits argued Ryan’s strategic benefits, suggesting he would boost Romney by energizing conservatives, or by allowing Romney to run as the candidate of big ideas, or that he would at least be the party’s best defender of the Medicare plan Romney was going to have to defend whether he wanted to or not. This seemed like a stretch at the time—after all, Ryan’s Medicare plan proved to be a massive liability the one time voters weighed in on it. But who could say for sure?

Well, fast forward a month-and-a-half and the numbers look pretty persuasive. This week the New York Times released a set of polls, conducted by Quinnipiac, assessing the state of the race in Ohio and Florida. The top-line numbers were jaw-dropping enough: Obama’s lead in Ohio grew from six to ten over the last month, and from three to nine in Florida. (It’s better to focus on the change here than the magnitude, which is highly sensitive to polling methodology.) But once you look at the internal numbers, they’re even less kind to Romney. More to the point, they suggest Ryan has done enormous damage to the ticket.

Back in late August, Obama led Romney on the question of who would handle Medicare better by 8 points in Florida and 10 points in Ohio; now he’s up 15 in Florida and 16 in Ohio. And the problems are especially acute among senior citizens, a group Obama has traditionally struggled with. A month ago, Obama was down 13 points in Florida among people 65 and older; today he’s up 4. On the specific question of Medicare, Obama was down 4 points among Florida seniors in August; today he’s up 5 points. (The Quinnipiac Poll re-shuffled its age-groups between August and September, so you won’t be make apples-to-apples comparisons by eyeballing their crosstabs. But the super-kind people at Quinnipiac re-reshuffled them for me.)


The Fight to Vote

The American experiment began on an exclusive note: only white male property owners who paid taxes, met religious prerequisites, and were 21 or older were allowed to vote. The next 200 years saw a fight over the franchise that pitted progress (elimination of religious tests and property requirements, passage of the Fifteenth Amendment) against reaction (Jim Crow literacy tests, poll taxes and grandfather clauses). It was only in the twentieth century that Native Americans, African-Americans, women and 18-year-olds were accorded the place in the democratic process that should have been theirs at the founding of the Republic.

What is so alarming about voting in the twenty-first century is that the forces of reaction are again on the march. Unsettled by their inability to “manage” an expanded and changing electorate, the corporations that fund the American Legislative Exchange Council and other right-wing groups are waging a war on voting. Restrictive voter ID laws—which Attorney General Eric Holder compares to the poll taxes of old—have gotten the most attention. But they are only part of a spate of recent anti-democratic measures that limit same-day voter registration, narrow options for early voting, and spin webs of restriction and intimidation for the same classes of voters who were once formally barred from the franchise (see Brentin Mock on the battle in Florida over eligibility for ex-felons).

The Brennan Center for Justice says voter ID laws alone could disenfranchise 25 percent of African-Americans and 16 percent of Latinos, with the very old and the young most threatened. That’s the immediate danger, which must be addressed with great urgency. The campaign against voter suppression must renew the civil rights–era coalition of churches, unions, and civic and good government groups and advocate on a nonpartisan basis—as the NAACP, the ACLU and the League of Women Voters are—for the removal of barriers to full and functional democracy. As the Voting Rights Watch project, a collaboration between The Nation and Colorlines.com, reports that is exactly what’s happening. Legislators are finally getting in on the action, too. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Representative John Lewis have introduced the Voter Empowerment Act, which has 140 co-sponsors in the House. The bill would widen ballot access with such measures as same-day and online registration and strengthen standards that ensure ballot integrity and accountability.

The fight should not stop there. Why not automatically register all citizens when they reach the age of eligibility? As Steven Hill observes, that’s the norm in most democracies. And as Justice Antonin Scalia condescendingly noted during the oral arguments for Bush v. Gore, Americans do not have a constitutionally protected right to vote. We should fix that. In addition to a constitutional amendment to clean up the money-in-politics mess created by the Citizens United ruling, America needs what all but twelve of the world’s democracies have: the right to vote enshrined in our Constitution.



The presidential debate myth: not the 'game-changer' you might think

Michael Cohen

Quick: name the most memorable moment from the three presidential debates between Barack Obama and John McCain?

Nothing coming to mind? (And no, Sarah Palin saying "you betcha" in the vice-presidential debate doesn't count.)

How about the 2004 debates between John Kerry and George W Bush? Well, there was that line about a "global test" and then that great internet rumor that Bush had a radio receiver on his back. But anything else ring a bell?

This isn't just a memory test for Guardian readers – it's a perhaps less-than-subtle reminder that even though presidential debates are often viewed as the most important part of a campaign (aside from the national conventions), they actually affect the final election results a lot less than you might think. If Mitt Romney is hoping that the debates turn the tide in what is an ever-widening polling gap between him and Barack Obama, he might want to think again.



Toon: Biased Fox Poll!

Convicted TSA Officer Reveals Secrets of Thefts at Airports

By MEGAN CHUCHMACH (@megcourtney) , RANDY KREIDER and BRIAN ROSS (@brianross)
Sept. 28, 2012
A convicted TSA security officer says he was part of a "culture" of indifference that allowed corrupt employees to prey on passengers' luggage and personal belongings with impunity, thanks to lax oversight and tip-offs from TSA colleagues.

"It was very commonplace, very," said Pythias Brown, a former TSA officer at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey who admits he stole more than $800,000 worth of items from luggage and security checkpoints over a four-year period.

"It was very convenient to steal," he said.

Speaking publicly for the first time after being released from prison, Brown told ABC News his four-year-long crime spree came to an end only because he tried to sell a camera he stole from the luggage of a CNN producer on E-bay but forget to remove all of the news networks' identifying stickers.

"It became so easy, I got complacent," Brown said.



Ex-Professor Gets Life in Prison for Meeting Rampage

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (AP) — A Harvard-educated biologist was sentenced to life in prison without parole Monday after being convicted of going on a shooting rampage during a faculty meeting at an Alabama university, killing three colleagues and wounding three others in 2010.

The jury deliberated for about 20 minutes before convicting Amy Bishop. The former professor at the University of Alabama in Huntsville showed no reaction as the verdict was read. She did not speak in court, but her attorney said she has often expressed great remorse for the victims and their families.

"She is shattered beyond belief," attorney Roy Miller said.

Bishop avoided a death sentence by pleading guilty earlier this month to the shootings on Feb. 12, 2010. Before the guilty plea — which she signed with a barely legible scrawl — her attorneys had said they planned to use an insanity defense.

However, she was still required to have a brief trial because she admitted to a capital murder charge.



‘Gospel of Jesus’ Wife’ Fragment Is a Fake, Vatican Says

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - An ancient papyrus fragment which a Harvard scholar says contains the first recorded mention that Jesus may have had a wife is a fake, the Vatican said on Friday.

"Substantial reasons would lead one to conclude that the papyrus is indeed a clumsy forgery," the Vatican's newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, said in an editorial by its editor, Gian Maria Vian. "In any case, it's a fake."

Joining a highly charged academic debate over the authenticity of the text, written in ancient Egyptian Coptic, the newspaper published a lengthy analysis by expert Alberto Camplani of Rome's La Sapienza university, outlining doubts about the manuscript and urging extreme caution.

The fragment, which reads "Jesus said to them, my wife" was unveiled by Harvard Professor Karen King as a text from the 4th century at a congress of Coptic Studies in Rome last week.



Go California! Election day voter registration OKd for future

Sacramento --
Californians will be able to register to vote all the way until election day after Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday signed a measure into law to allow for that.
However, the practice will not be in place this year or for several years, likely starting in 2016 at the soonest, according to the secretary of state.

"Voting - the sacred right of every citizen - should be simple and convenient," Brown said in a statement announcing his signature. "While other states try to restrict voters with new laws that burden the process, California allows voters to register online - and even on election day."

Brown last year signed into law a bill to allow for online registration, which took effect last week and is available for this election. The last day to register to vote for the November election is Oct. 22.

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/politics/article/Election-day-voter-registration-OKd-for-future-3890657.php

Oh Boy: Browser Plugin Helps People Balance Their Political News Reading Habits

ScienceDaily (Sep. 27, 2012) — As the U.S. presidential election approaches, many voters become voracious consumers of online political news. A tool by a University of Washington researcher tracks whether all those articles really provide a balanced view of the debate -- and, if not, suggests some sites that offer opinions from the other side of the political spectrum.

Balancer (http://balancestudy.org/balancer/), a free plug-in for Google's Chrome browser, was developed this summer by Sean Munson, a new UW assistant professor of Human Centered Design and Engineering. The tool analyzes a person's online reading habits for a month and calculates the political bias in that behavior. It then suggests sites that represent a different point of view and continues to monitor reading behavior and offer feedback.

"I was a bit surprised when I was testing out the tool to learn just how slanted my own reading behavior was," Munson said. "Even self-discovery is a valuable outcome, just being aware of your own behavior. If you do agree that you should be reading the other side, or at least aware of the dialogue in each camp, you can use it as a goal: Can I be more balanced this week than I was last week?"

The tool classifies more than 10,000 news websites and sections of news websites on a spectrum ranging from far left to far right, using results of previous studies and existing media-bias indices. For a few popular sites the tool also tries to classify individual columnists whose views may be different from those of the overall publication's slant.


Ho about a truth vs fantasy 'balancer'?
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