GOP Florida House Speaker Blasts Plan To Rig Electoral College

— by Scott Keys, Think Progress

Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford (R) poured cold water on a Republican plan to rig the Electoral College that is being considered in a number of states to all but ensure that the next president will be a Republican.

A number of states that have voted consistently for Democrats at a national level but are currently controlled by Republicans at a state level, such as Virginia and Pennsylvania, are considering a change to the way they dole out presidential electoral votes. Currently, every state but two small states uses a winner-take-all system, but a handful of Republican-controlled blue states are looking at a system of doling out electoral votes by congressional district, based on maps gerrymandered to the GOP’s favor.

More after the jump.
One possible state where this could happen is Florida, which has voted Democratic the last two presidential elections but is currently run by Republicans. However, Weatherford announced on Thursday that he opposed such a move. The Miami Herald has more:

Florida, the largest swing state, won’t go along with changing the Electoral College if Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford has any say (and he has a major say).

“To me, that’s like saying in a football game, ‘We should have only three quarters, because we were winning after three quarters and the beat us in the fourth,” Weatherford, a Republican, told the Herald/Times. “I don’t think we need to change the rules of the game, I think we need to get better.”

Fellow Republican leader, Senate President Don Gaetz, wasn’t favorable to the plan either. He said he would prefer a more progressive proposal: abolishing the Electoral College and replacing it with a national popular vote. Said Gaetz, “The farmer standing in his field in North Dakota should be just as important as the factory worker in Ohio.”

Netanyahu and Obama are in a similar bind

US President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu are both in the midst of fruitless negotiations for basically the same reason.

Obama is negotiating with Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff while Netanyahu is negotiating with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

The President offered Boehner huge concessions reducing stimulus spending from $425B to $175B, abandoning extension of the payroll tax holiday and slashing entitlement spending (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid) by $725B in order to obtain a modest 2% increase in taxes for the wealthiest 0.7% of Americans which he could have obtained automatically simply by waiting for New Year’s. Boehner and Obama seemed close to an agreement and much was made of the fact that neither was willing to bridge the (relatively) small gap that remained between them.

However, in the end the inability to come to agreement with Boehner was probably irrelevant since Obama was negotiating with someone who did not have to power to deliver the votes. Boehner was unable to get enough votes to pass his own so-called “Plan B” which would have raised taxes on the poorest Americans by up to $1500 by eliminating the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit while simultaneously permitting tax rates to rise for 400,000 extremely wealthy families. Boehner’s failure Thursday night to win support for his plan from the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party forced him to shutter Congress for the holidays  without avoiding the “fiscal cliff.”

Similarly, one Israeli government after another is having difficulty bringing Abbas to the negotiating table let alone coming to a peace agreement with him despite a unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, economic support for the Palestinian Authority and other concessions. However, this failure is almost irrelevant since the Palestinian Authority is not really controlled by its nominal figurehead Abbas in Ramallah, but rather by Hamas in Gaza.

So why does Netanyahu waste his time talking to Abbas when it is clear that the leadership of Hamas holds all the cards?

The problem is that Hamas is a terrorist organization which by its very charter defines itself as devoted to the complete destruction of the State of Israel. By choosing essentially civilian targets and terror tactics, Hamas holds itself outside the rules of conventional warfare and maintains its status as a pariah organization with whom negotiation is anathema.

Similarly, the Tea Party has shown itself time and time again willing to hold the economy of the country hostage to its own interests. The 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution says that our national debt “shall not be questioned.” Unlike Greece, our debt is in our own sovereign currency. If worse came to worst, our lenders should know that we can always simply print what we owe them, so they could consider United States Bonds to be completely risk-free and charge us the lowest rate available. However, by playing a game of “chicken” with the debt ceiling, the Tea Party puts the entire solvency of our country needlessly into doubt.

Now with the fiscal cliff, Grover Norquist and his Tea Party allies are unwilling to bend on the smallest tax increase for the wealthiest Americans in order to avoid across the board tax increases and automatic budget cuts will would certainly put our economic recover into jeopardy.  

Since Netanyahu and Obama’s real opponents (Hamas and the Tea Party) are intractable ideologues with whom there is no hope of negotiating, Netanyahu and Obama persist in hoping that negotiating with figureheads (Abbas and Boehner) will give their negotiating partners the “street-cred” necessary to make a deal.

Well, good luck with that!

November Election Post-Mortum

Gerrymandering a majority in the House

As we discussed earlier redistricting has given Republicans a 7.5% head-start in the Congressional elections, Hendrick Hertzberg agrees and notes how rare such an advantage is:

“For one party to win a majority of House seats with a minority of votes is a relatively rare occurrence. It has now happened five times in the past hundred years. In 1914 and 1942, the Democrats were the beneficiaries. In 1952, 1996, and this year, it was the Republicans’ turn to get lucky, and their luck is likely to hold for many election cycles to come. Gerrymandering routinely gets blamed for such mismatches, but that’s only part of the story. Far more important than redistricting is just plain districting: because so many Democrats are city folk, large numbers of Democratic votes pile up redundantly in overwhelmingly one-sided districts.”

Redistricting should be done with eye towards creating a map that accurately reflects the partisan makeup of that state. (Compare the map above with the one by Mark Newman after the jump.)

Former GOP leaders admit voter suppression – not voter fraud was their motivation behind voter id laws.
It’s Worth The Wait

Former Florida Republican party officials tell the Palm Beach Post that a new election law that “contributed to long voter lines and caused some to abandon voting altogether was intentionally designed by Florida GOP staff and consultants to inhibit Democratic voters.”

“Republican leaders said in proposing the law that it was meant to save money and fight voter fraud. But a former GOP chairman and former Gov. Charlie Crist, both of whom have been ousted from the party, now say that fraud concerns were advanced only as subterfuge for the law’s main purpose: GOP victory.”

As the bar chart above shows, Democrats and minorities were more likely to have to wait a long time in order to exercise their right to vote. Limiting voting hours, voting locations and voting machines in urban districts is part and parcel of the Republican strategy to discourage Democratic voters. As The Atlantic reports, “No one in America should have to wait 7 hours to vote. What’s happening at polling stations in Ohio and Florida isn’t some fluke of nature or breakdown in equipment. It’s all part of a partisan design…. Phil Hirschkorn, the last “early voter” in line for Saturday’s truncated early voting in Palm Beach County finally got to cast a ballot at 2:30 a.m Sunday morning, which means that voter waited in line for more than seven hours.”

Obama Victory Margin Grows

As the votes keep coming in, David Wasserman notes President Obama’s national lead over Mitt Romney is now 50.9% to 47.4%.

First Read: “That’s a bigger (and more decisive) margin that Bush’s victory over John Kerry in 2004 (which was Bush 50.7% and Kerry 48.2%). What’s more, the president’s lead has grown to close to 3 points in Ohio, 4 points in Virginia and 6 points in Colorado. One doesn’t win Colorado by six points without winning swing voters; there isn’t a big-enough Democratic base to make that argument.”

Markos Moulitsas notes that President Obama could have lost every state he won by less than 5.4 percentage points — Florida, Ohio, and Virginia — and he still would’ve won the electoral vote 272 to 266.

Cartogram by Mark Newman
Presidential election results 1960-2012. Each county is colored according the vote in that county. Increasing shades of red mean more Republican, increasing shares of blue mean more Democrat, so purple is evenly balanced. Shades of green are used to indicate support for third party or independent candidates.

Here is a 3-d version for the 2012 election. The height of each county shows the number of votes cast.

A Special Kol Nidre for Congress

Kol Nidre is the traditional Aramaic declaration recited for the Yom Kippur evening service. This solemn ceremony is meant to release the community from oaths which were made in error or under duress. The Rabbinical Assembly of New Haven has created a variant of the Kol Nidre formula for use by Congressmen, Senators and otehr politicians trapped by their pledge to Grover Norquist.

Dissolution of “No New Tax” Pledge

All vows, renunciations, bans, oaths, formulas of obligation, pledges,  and promises that were made by members of the House of Representatives or the Senate and other public officials, lawmakers,  city officials and candidates for office in the United States of America  before this Yom Kippur 5773 (17 September 2012), whether in writing or orally, to not raise taxes or impose new taxes, all are undone, repealed, cancelled, voided, annulled, and released, and regarded as neither valid nor binding by our community.  They are hereby released and forgiven by this Earthly Court, and so may they be released and forgiven by the Highest Court.

Thus ordered, thus decreed and thus released by the signatories below, constituting a rabbinic court of three under our authority and the authority of the Rabbinical Assembly of New Haven, Connecticut,  USA, and others who have joined with us.

Beit Din

  • Rabbi Jon-Jay Tilsen,  
  • Rabbi Yaakov Komisar, and
  • Rabbi Baruch A. Levine

Witnesses

  • Rabbi Murray Levine,
  • Rabbi Alan H. Lovins, and
  • Rabbi Joshua Ratner

כל נדרי ואסרי וחרמי וקנמי וכנויי וקנוסי ושבועות והבטחות והתחייבויות דנדרו ודאשתבּעו
ודאחרימו ודאסרו ודהבטחו והתחייבו חברי בית הנבחרים והסנאט ופקידי הציבור
ומחוקקים וחברי וועדי העיר ומועמדים למשרד בארצות הברית עד יום כפור זה שנת
ה׳תשע״ג בין בכתב ובין בעל פה בכוונה ללא להעלות מיסים וללא להטיל מיסים חדשים
כלּהון יהון שרן שביקין שביתין בטלין ומבוטלין לא שרירין ולא קימין.  אין כאן לא נדר
ולא אסור ולא חרם ולא קונם ולא קנס ולא שבועה ולא הבטחה ולא התחייבות ויש כאן
מחילה וסליחה וכפרה.  וכשם שמתירים בבית דין של מטה، כך יהיו מֻ תרים מבית דין של
מעלה.  

כך צוים וכך גוזרים וכך מתירים אנחנו، חתומי מטה، בישיבת בית דין של שלשה של כנסת
הרבנים בניו היבן ומצטרפים עלינו עוד רבנים מוסמכים כאן בעיר ניו היבן קנקטקט במדינת
אמריקה הצפונית.

   

Annotated Lowlights of Paul Ryan’s Acceptance Speech

Crossposted from Democratic Convention Watch

What Paul said, my tags for the bottom of the screen in blue.

Mr. Chairman, delegates, and fellow citizens: I am honored by the support of this convention for vice president of the United States. It's nice to see he mentioned Joe Biden in the first line.

I accept the calling of my generation to give our children the America that was given to us, with opportunity for the young and security for the old – and I know that we are ready. If every kid was like Paul, they'd get college paid for by Social Security, the reins of a government-subsidized construction firm, and a wife with a giant inheritance.

I’m the newcomer to the campaign, so let me share a first impression. I have never seen opponents so silent about their record, and so desperate to keep their power. WOW! I didn't know he considered multiple choice Mittens to be an "opponent" – and he forgot to add"tax returns".

President Barack Obama came to office during an economic crisis, as he has reminded us a time or two. Those were very tough days, and any fair measure of his record has to take that into account. My home state voted for President Obama. When he talked about change, many people liked the sound of it, especially in Janesville, where we were about to lose a major factory. That factory closed in 2008. Before the election. Liar, liar, pants on fire.

The first troubling sign came with the stimulus. It was President Obama’s first and best shot at fixing the economy, at a time when he got everything he wanted under one-party rule. It cost $831 billion – the largest one-time expenditure ever by our federal government. Um, not really. The Democrats didn't get everything we wanted as we believed in bipartisanship and worked with the GOP. We didn't get half of what we wanted. And as for "one-time expenditures" – we spent more on Iraq and Afghanistan – the large Republican messes. It's the gift we keep on paying for. 

But this president didn’t do that. Instead, we got a long, divisive, all-or-nothing attempt to put the federal government in charge of health care. Lie #3, but hey, Paul and his family have been getting government paid health care since the day he was elected. Why is it okay for him, but not other people?

Obamacare comes to more than two thousand pages of rules, mandates, taxes, fees, and fines that have no place in a free country. Unlike Paul, I read all 2,700 pages and I can say conclusively that these things DO have a place in a free country. And well, they are enacted in every other industrialized nations (and some that aren't) around the globe.

The president has declared that the debate over government-controlled health care is over. That will come as news to the millions of Americans who will elect Mitt Romney so we can repeal Obamacare. It may well come as news to the millions who will vote for Mittens and Eddie Munster, but not to the Supreme Court, nor the millions who vote for Barack Obama, who will win the election.

The greatest threat to Medicare is Obamacare, and we’re going to stop it. That's right, Romney-Ryan is going to stop Medicare. Wait? Did I read that wrong? NO. They want to dismantle the donut-hole fill the ACA put in place (the donut hole Paul voted for), they want to increase the cost to current seniors, and give everyone else a voucher that will go as far towards Medicare premiums as a free Big Mac voucher goes to buying a steak at Ruths Chris.

A Romney-Ryan administration will protect and strengthen Medicare, for my Mom’s generation, for my generation, and for my kids and yours. Lie #4.

Mitt Romney and I know the difference between protecting a program, and raiding it. Yes they do. And they're going to rob the little left for the poor and middle class and give it to themselves, the rich white guys.

It began with a perfect Triple-A credit rating for the United States; it ends with a downgraded America. Thank you teabag idiots, the only people stupid enough to vote against raising the debt ceiling.

Yet by his own decisions, President Obama has added more debt than any other president before him, and more than all the troubled governments of Europe combined. One president, one term, $5 trillion in new debt. Lies number 5, 6 and 7. Just not objectively true in any regard.

Republicans stepped up with good-faith reforms and solutions equal to the problems. Really, name two. Like voting to repeal the ACA 33 times, and not even bringing a single jobs bill to the floor? Like shutting down the FAA by temporarily defunding them? Like cutting Pell grants? Hey Paul, you've sponsored exactly 2 bills that were enacted in all your 13 years Congress. One of them renamed the Janesville post office, and the other modified the taxes on arrows used in archery equipment. 

My Dad used to say to me: “Son. You have a choice: You can be part of the problem, or you can be part of the solution.” Please Paul, be part of the solution. Lose both elections, go home, and never be heard from again.

My Mom started a small business, and I’ve seen what it takes. Amazing she didn't want to work for the multimillion dollar construction company the rest of the family owns and operates. You know, the one that got big and rich using Federal funds.

We have a plan for a stronger middle class, with the goal of generating 12 million new jobs over the next four years. They've never published the actual plan beyond the platitude. And 12 million jobs would dwarf anything the world has ever seen. But I'm game: prove it Paul, or this is lie #8.

In a clean break from the Obama years, and frankly from the years before this president, we will keep federal spending at 20 percent of GDP, or less. That is enough. The choice is whether to put hard limits on economic growth, or hard limits on the size of government, and we choose to limit government. And that is it: they do choose to limit government. Federal spending at 20% of GDP is only possible if government ceases to exist in most forms. I'll publish the numbers this weekend.

I learned a good deal about economics, and about America, from the author of the Reagan tax reforms – the great Jack Kemp. Jack Kemp lost.

He was the Republican governor of a state where almost nine in ten legislators are Democrats, and yet he balanced the budget without raising taxes. Unemployment went down, household incomes went up, and Massachusetts, under Mitt Romney, saw its credit rating upgraded. Lies #9, 10 and 11.

Mitt and I also go to different churches. But in any church, the best kind of preaching is done by example. Insert list here of pedophile priests, gay evangelical ministers caught on camera, churches closed due to embezzlement and court settlements and the whole Warren Jeffs group.

Our different faiths come together in the same moral creed. We believe that in every life there is goodness; for every person, there is hope. Except, of course, pregnant women who'd die under your belief system because the life of a never-viable ectopic pregnancy is more important to you than the mom. 

Whatever your political party, let’s come together for the sake of our country. Join Mitt Romney and me. Let’s give this effort everything we have. Let’s see this through all the way. Let’s get this done. I'm taking this to heart, Paul. I'm going to give it everything I have to make sure that you guys lose in November. I'm going to see that through. I'm going to get it done, with the help of all the other people in America who believe in America: all its people, all its promise.

GOP Convention, Night Two: Repelling the American Jewish Vote

— by David Streeter

Despite all claims to the contrary, meeting on the second night of its shortened convention in Tampa, the GOP appeared tonight to be doing everything possible to drive away every last American Jewish voter who might be watching. National Jewish Democratic Council President and CEO David A. Harris noted:

Tonight, American Jews saw an over-the-top tribute to one of the greatest opponents of the U.S.-Israel relationship on Capitol Hill — Rep. Ron Paul — with Republican official after Republican official, up to and including Senate Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), singing his praises. Then Jewish voters, whom the GOP claims to prize, got the privilege of hearing from his son, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who shares so many of his father’s policy positions albeit with less baggage. If they can stay tuned long enough, they’ll have the pleasure of seeing vice-presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan, whose social safety net-gutting budget was so widely scored in the Jewish community &jmdash; and who holds so many positions at odds with the values of so many American Jews.

If this is the Republican Party’s idea of Jewish outreach, I can only hope they keep trying.

Video of Rand Paul at the Republican National Convention follows the jump.

Hardly Surprised by Tribute to Ron Paul at GOP Convention

— by David Streeter

The National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) today expressed deep disappointment — but not surprise — at the announcement that the Republican Party will be honoring anti-Israel Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) at the Republican National Convention. NJDC President and CEO David A. Harris said:

It is extremely disturbing for so many Americans — especially American Jews — to see that the Republican Party will be honoring anti-Israel Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) at its convention next week, but it is not the least bit surprising. Throughout the campaign, every alarm bell possible has sounded signaling that Paul is a legitimate factor within the GOP — whether it was his strategic partnership with Mitt Romney, his delegates winning multiple state party conventions, his former spokesman receiving a senior position at the RNC, or the legions of followers who turned out the cheer him on during debates. As these alarms were sounding, Jewish Republicans and other pro-Israel Republicans utterly failed to counter Paul’s influence. Now they will be sitting respectfully — or perhaps even applauding — while their Party honors one of the greatest opponents of the U.S.-Israel relationship on Capitol Hill.

Paying tribute to this man who disparaged the U.S.-Israel relationship on Iranian television and empathized with Iran’s nuclear weapons program — on top of the history of his hate-filled newsletters — is a national disgrace. Romney and the RNC should cancel the tribute and end this dangerous strategic partnership once and for all.

More after the jump.
TPM reported:

Ron Paul and his supporters will have a lot to look forward to at Mitt Romney’s Republican National Convention, the Romney campaign told reporters Friday. Paul will be the subject of a ‘short film’ played to the crowd in Tampa and the national TV audience Tuesday night.

‘Gov. Romney and Rep. Paul, while they certainly disagree on many issues … they’ve always had — if you watched part of the debates this year, you’ve have seen there’s a lot of mutual respect between the two of them,’ Romney strategist Russ Schriefer said. ‘And so Rep. Paul’s people came to us and said they’d like to do a short tribute to him, and we said absolutely, it would be a good time to do that.’

Schriefer noted that the next generation of the Paul Nation is getting a prominent role in Tampa as well. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is speaking at the podium Monday night. ‘We look forward to his speech,’ Schriefer said.

GOP Platform Mistakenly Attributes Rabbi Hillel Quote to Reagan

Republicans have long idolized former President Ronald Reagan but now, according to Buzzfeed, they seem to be confusing him with one of Judaism’s important sages – Rabbi Hillel. According to Buzzfeed:

— by David Streeter

Republicans have long idolized former President Ronald Reagan but now, according to Buzzfeed, they seem to be confusing him with one of Judaism’s important sages – Rabbi Hillel. According to Buzzfeed:

The Republican Party’s 2012 platform misattributes a quote from Hillel the Elder, the Mishnaic sage, to former President Ronald Reagan.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell read the platform’s preamble after the conclusion of the platform committee’s business on Tuesday:

We must answer Ronald Reagan’s question: “If not us who? And if not now, when?”

But Reagan was loosely quoting Hillel the Elder’s guidance in the Jewish text of Pirkei Avoth (Ethics of the Fathers).

If I am not for myself, who will be?
And when I am for myself, what am I?
And if not now, when?

Presidential Campaign Fail To Vet Their Supporters

The Obama and Romney campaigns are both being attacked today having failed to vet their list of supporters.

Meanwhile, Romney has similar problems of his own:

  • Dr. John Willke is the doctor who misinformed Rep. Todd Aiken that women who are victims of “legitimate rape” do not become pregnant because their bodies “shut down” due to the trauma. Aiken is under pressure to abandon his US Senate campaign against Claire McCaskill in Missouri for having given voice to such an ignorant, misogynistic point of view. Dr. Willke told The Telegraph that he had a private meeting with Mitt Romney at his Cincinnati home last October and that Romney thanked him for his support and told him, “we agree on almost everything.”

    The 87-year-old endorsed Mr. Romney’s bid for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination and was one of his official campaign surrogates. “I am proud to have the support of a man who has meant so much to the pro-life movement,” Mr. Romney said at the time.

  • As we reported in June, the GOP selected Yossi Gestetner as their “Jewish Outreach Director” in New York. As reported by The Jewish Channel and Vos Iz Neias, “The newly appointed Director of Jewish Outreach for New York State’s Republican party has resigned from his position after just eight days in office, calling himself a distraction to the party.” The distraction? Espousing anti-Zionist positions, among others.

    As Vos Iz Neias notes,

    “According to a report by The Jewish Channel, Gestetner’s resignation came less than thirty minutes after Josh Rubin, a reporter for NY1, asked State Republican Party Chairman Ed Cox about an investigation of Gestetner by The Jewish Channel, which conducted an hour long on-camera interview with Gestetner. During that interview, Gestetner discussed several issues that may put him at odds with both the Republican party and many of New York State’s 1.6 million Jewish residents, which include his being a spokesman at a fundraiser to benefit an alleged child molester, his controversial stance on referring suspected cases of child abuse to a rabbi before alerting the authorities, his views on government assistance programs and his work for Torah True Jews Against Zionism, an anti-Israel organization that states that Zionism is contrary to Torah Judaism.”

 

Texas Republican Party Platform Opposes Critical Thinking

The Republican Party of Texas’ recently adopted 2012 platform contains a plank that opposes the teaching of “critical thinking skills” in schools.

We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.

The “American Dream” video on the right from George Carlin might explain why…