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Friday, October 31, 2008

Factchecking 43's Fuzzy Math



George Bush has been giving us fuzzy math for eight long years, from faulty punch-card ballots, to misunderestimates on everything from Medicare costs to the Iraq War bill. Now, here's one more error that must be fixed for history's sake: the presidential tally.

Bush's nickname for Clinton—he has them for most everyone—is 42, a reference to his standing as the 42nd president of the United States, and his dad, George Sr., Bush calls 41. That makes him 43, and our next president 44. Straightforward enough math, simple addition, right? Yeah, but he still has it wrong, and so does everyone else who plays along. Here's why:

Grover Cleveland was president from 1885-89, and again from 1893-1897, with Benjamin Harrison serving the term in between. By current numeration, then, Cleveland was our 22nd and our 24th president, but this is just a matter of non-consecutive termage. To those who say, "he served as both 22 and 24" well then by that logic George Washington was both our 1st and 2nd president, Thomas Jefferson our 4th and 5th, and so on with all of our multi-termers who were newly elected each time.

Whitehouse.gov counts Cleveland twice and lands at 43 currently, but if we are truly talking terms then we have way more than 43 terms served. The sum total is the number of presidents we've had, not the number of terms served by all presidents. And any way you slice it, even if you want to parse out Cleveland's terms into two eras, we have actually only had 42 presidents total, meaning at least an asterisk is in order. Because what are people conveying when they refer to that historical number—that 43 men have served in that office. Besides who would vote to give Grover Cleveland, of all presidents, two ticks and guys like Teddy, FDR, and Washington only one?

This might be trivial trivia in the grand scheme of things, but it's worth correcting so we are historically accurate in referring to the chronology and legacy of our executive leaders. And even if the numbering system stays as is, people should take care not to say Obama/McCain is our 44th president, because, no matter how much they might want to flee from the association, one of these men will in fact be #43.

Consider this too: while Bush may have fooled us twice, wouldn't it be nice if 43 were a do-over?

Original here

Court Docs: GOP Donor Secretly Funneled $75K To Coleman Family

The CEO of a major marine technology company is alleging that he was pressured by a friend and associate of Norm Coleman to secretly funnel tens of thousands of dollars to the Senator's family.

Paul McKim, the founder and CEO of Deep Marine Technology, alleges in a civil suit that Nasser Kazeminy -- a longtime Republican donor, friend of Coleman, and DMT shareholder -- directed the company to send $75,000 to the Senator and his wife.

The transaction, which occurred in 2007, allegedly went as follows: DMT would make payments for services to Hays Company, even though no services would be rendered. Since Norm Coleman's wife Laurie worked at Hays, that money would be given to her in the form of 'salary.'

According to the suit filed against Kazeminy and several other defendants:

In March 2007, Kazeminy began ordering the payments of corporate funds to companies and individuals who tendered no goods or services to DMT for the stated purpose of trying to financially assist United States Senator Norm Coleman of Minnesota. In March 2007, Kazeminy telephoned B.J. Thomas, then DMT's Chief Financial Officer. In that conversation, Kazeminy told Mr. Thomas that "U.S. Senators don't make [expletive deleted]" and that he was going to find a way to get money to United States Senator Norm Coleman of Minnesota and wanted to utilize DMT in the process. Mr. Thomas later approached Mr. McKim, asking him whether this was appropriate and whether they should follow Kazeminy's orders. Mr McKim told him that it was not appropriate and shortly thereafter he also spoke with Kazeminy."


In this same conversation, Kazeminy told Mr. McKim that he [Kazeminy] would make sure there was paperwork to make it appear as though the payments were made in connection with legitimate transactions, explaining further that Senator Coleman's wife, Laurie, worked for the Hays Companies, an insurance broker in Minneapolis, and that the payments could be made to Hays for insurance. When Mr. McKin made further objections, Kazeminy repeatedly threatened to fire Mr. McKim, telling him "this is my company" and that he and Mr. Thomas had better follow his orders in paying Hays.

All told, the court documents, which were filed on Monday in a Texas district court, allege that three payments of $25,000 were sent through Hays Company to the Colemans from May 2007 through September 2007. Two of those came without McKim's approval because Kazeminy went around him. A fourth payment was "in the process of being made" before being stopped by McKim, the suit alleges.

Sen. Coleman was initially asked about these findings on Wednesday, when two investigative reporters from the Minneapolis Star Tribune cornered him at a campaign rally. He ducked their questions.


On Thursday, Coleman's campaign manager Cullen Sheehan was asked about the issue during a press conference, He claimed that "the lawsuit was withdrawn," and said he had no further details to offer. "I just know there was a lawsuit filed and it was withdrawn."

Casey T. Wallace, the attorney representing McKim, confirmed the withdrawal and said he would have more comment later in the day [updated below]. A person familiar with the case, however, emphasized that while the complaint may have been withdrawn, the charges contained within it were still valid.

"It doesn't affect that," said the official. "By withdrawing the complaint and withdrawing the petition, we are not saying now that our allegations are false."

Requests for comment from McKim and the Coleman campaign went un-returned. But lawyers familiar with Senate ethics law say that if the complaint turns out to be true, Coleman could be in hot water, possibly facing a trial and potentially jail time.

"This is why [Sen]. Ted Stevens just got convicted," said a Washington D.C.-based attorney. "If this is true and Kazeminy gave a gift -- which includes money to a candidate's family member -- it doesn't mean that you can't take it, but you would have to report it on [your financial disclosure form]... If he knew about it, and of course, all of this has to be proven to be true, then yeah," he could go to jail.

The attorney additionally noted that the firm representing McKim in this suit is Haynes and Boone, "a pretty serious law firm that is a major player in Houston. I can't believe they would have agreed to file this if they didn't have documentation to support this."

Kazeminy, a reclusive businessman who serves as chairman of Minnesota-based NJK Holding Corporation, has significant ties to Coleman. The Kazeminy family has contributed more than $75,000 to the Senator directly and has paid for flights for him and (occasionally) his wife to the Bahamas, Paris and Jordan, often described as fact finding missions. Kazeminy is even alleged to have paid for Coleman's suits, a charge that the Coleman campaign has never denied.

UPDATE: An official close to the proceedings tells the Huffington Post that the case is now going back to court. The two parties, he said, had reached an agreement to drop the suit and hammer out a settlement. But negotiations broke down and the suit has been re-introduced.

Original here

Virginia=Win; North Carolina=Landslide

Here is a handy dandy guide to watching election night. The East Coast states will report first. If John McCain is going to win, then he will win Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida. And then it will take the rest of the night to figure out if he still has enough electoral votes. Obama's victory could be a lot easier to figure out.

If Obama wins Virginia - it's over. That simple. He is comfortably ahead in all of the blue states that John Kerry won in 2004. He is very likely to win all of those. He is also comfortably ahead in Iowa and New Mexico. So, that means all he has to do to get an electoral majority is win Virginia, or Ohio, or Florida, or Colorado. Any of them will do. If McCain wins three out of the four, he still loses.

So, unless something gargantuanly unexpected happens, if they call Virginia for Obama, you will know at that moment that he is the next President of the United States.

Notice North Carolina is not on the list of states that Obama needs. That's because if he wins North Carolina, then he probably won all of those other states anyway and he has blown John McCain out of the water. So, if they call North Carolina for Obama, that's the moment you know that we have a landslide on our hands.

Now, none of this is bound to happen. The polls are just polls, they are not actual votes. That's why they play the games on Sunday (and in this case, do the voting on Tuesday). But this is just a quick guide to watching the game. Virginia equals Obama win. North Carolina equals Obama landslide.

Original here

Obama uses his TV time well


By Robert Bianco

It pays to buy airtime only if you know what to do with it — and Barack Obama clearly does.

Voters will make the final judgment on the content and effectiveness of last night's cross-network infomercial, a half-hour block purchased by the Obama campaign from CBS, NBC, Fox, MSNBC, Univision, BET and TV One. But as a piece of political theater, the program was a low-key triumph, a message perfectly attuned to the cool side of the medium.

Unusual but not unique, Obama's 30-minute ad was the first such presidential campaign pitch since Ross Perot's series of extended TV talks in 1992. But where Perot's were notoriously (at times humorously) low-tech — just Perot and some pie charts — Obama's was a more elaborate mix of live TV and tape that came across as well-produced without seeming slick and overproduced.

The show presented Obama as both candidate and host, making his points by introducing representative Americans and their stories. Each segment was bracketed by Obama speaking in a wood-paneled office, a flag prominent in the background, as he calmly laid out his plans.

In part, the show was designed to prove Obama understands us, that he can connect with the problems of workers and retirees. But it was also designed to help us understand him, to become comfortable with the idea of him as president. Reassurance was not just the point of the biographical tidbits and the recorded testimonials; it was the point of the entire broadcast.

There was talk about tough issues but no harsh attacks on the other side and no flashes of anger. It was if the campaign had adopted a new political mantra: Speak softly and carry a big ad.

The only break in tone came at the end, as the ad cut to Obama's live speech in Florida, and the candidate was forced to raise his voice above the recorded whisper. But even that shift was caused more by the venue than by any change in message.

Some parts, perhaps, were hokey: the soft piano music, the rapt faces of the adoring crowd. But if these are political film clichés, they're clichés because they work. They were well-used here to convey the ad's underlying message: "I am one of you."

Did it amount to Obama Overload? In the old three-network universe, it might have. But we live in a multimedia world where anyone who lost interest had hundreds of other available choices. At any rate, Obama's team chose his time slot well: Only someone who's ready to be offended could be sorely chafed at being denied Knight Rider, Gary Unmarried and a baseball pregame show.

You can, of course, complain about the money spent. But it's hard not to think it was well-spent.

And if the format catches on, doesn't it at least stand a chance of being more informative than the 60 30-second spots it replaced?

Original here

Red State Socialism: 84% Red States Take More Than They Give

Data Source: taxfoundation.org

Original here

Obama Not A Socialist, McCain Admits (VIDEO)

In an interview with Larry King that aired last night, John McCain admitted that he doesn't think Barack Obama is a socialist, which runs counter to most of his campaign rhetoric for the past week. The admission is reminiscent of when McCain, after days of hammering Obama about a supposedly sexist remark, finally conceded that Obama probably wasn't calling Sarah Palin a pig when referencing "lipstick on a pig" at a campaign speech. Video below, with transcript:


Transcript, via CNN:

KING: You don't believe Barack Obama is a socialist, do you?


MCCAIN: No. But, I do believe -- I do believe that he's been in the far left of American politics. He has stated time after time that he believes in "spreading the wealth around." He's talked about courts that would redistribute the wealth.


He has a record of voting against tax cuts and for tax increases. And I don't think there's any doubt that he would increase spending and he would, sooner or later, we would be increasing taxes. There is no doubt in my mind that that's what his record -- 94 times he voted to cut taxes -- against tax cuts and for tax increases. He voted for -- and that's what matters. Not rhetoric. To raise taxes on individuals making $42,000 a year.


KING: Concerning spreading the wealth, isn't the graduated income tax spreading the wealth? If you and I paid more so that Jimmy can get some for him, or pay for a welfare recipient, that's spreading the wealth.


MCCAIN: Well, that's spreading the wealth in the respect that we do have a graduated income tax. That's a far cry from taking from one group of Americans and giving to another. I mean, that's dramatically different.


Sen. Obama clearly has talked about for years, redistributive policies. And that's not the way we create wealth in America. That's not the way we grow our economy. That's not the way we create jobs.

And when small business people see that half of their income, half of the income of small businesses is going to be taxed by Sen, Obama, then they're very upset with it.


KING: He says, it's only the personal income tax. If you run a store, if you make $250,000 or more, as a personal income, not a business income, that's where he's (INAUDIBLE).


MCCAIN: And that's where his folks just reduced it to $200,000. And then Sen. Biden yesterday said $150,000. And the fact is that if Joe the Plumber is able to buy the business that he works in, the guy that he buys it from is going to see an increase in capital gains taxes. They're going to see an increase in payroll taxes. They're going to see -- if he reaches a certain level, an increase in his income taxes. And that's what got people concerned. That's what's got Joe the Plumber upset. He wants to redistribute the money.


KING: Doesn't taxes pay for services?


MCCAIN: Taxes pay for services.


KING: (INAUDIBLE) taxes.


MCCAIN: But, do we want -- taxes pay to keep our government secure. To help those who can't help themselves. And other functions of government, which, by the way, expanded by some 40 percent in the last eight years and gave us a $10 trillion debt --


KING: Under Bush.


MCCAIN: And to the last two years, under Democrat majorities in the House and Senate.


But, that's the job of government. But it is not the job of government that I believe in, that would take a group of Americans who have some money and say, we're taking your money, and we're giving it to others. This 95 percent tax cut he's talking about for 95 percent of Americans -- 40 percent of Americans pay no income tax. So he is just going to give them some money. Where is he going to get it? He is increasing taxes for other groups of Americans. That's his plan.


KING: What are you going to do?


MCCAIN: I'm going to keep taxes low. I'm going to ...


KING: Where they are?


MCCAIN: Sure. Absolutely

Original here

McCain Shocked That Obama Campaign Would ‘Boycott’ Hostile Media

Last week, Sen. Joe Biden (D-IL) sat down for an interview with Barbara West of WFTV in Orlando, FL. The result was one of the most “embarrassing,” “hostile,” and “blatantly biased” interviews of the campaign season, according to media experts. One example of West’s questions to Biden was whether Obama wanted to “turn America into a Socialist country like Sweden.” Following that decision, the campaign canceled West’s upcoming interview with Biden’s wife.

Yesterday in an interview with Fox News’s Sean Hannity, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) was incredulous that the Obama campaign would “boycott” WFTV: “And of course, if anybody in the media, much less Joe the Plumber asks a tough question, then they’re boycotted. They pull their ads, etc.” Watch it:

McCain should know all about boycotting the media. Some examples:

– McCain canceled an appearance on CNN’s Larry King Live after CNN’s Campbell Brown conducted a tough interview with McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds about Palin’s foreign policy experience.

– Last month, the McCain campaign barred New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd from flying on both the McCain and Palin press planes after she wrote a negative column.

– McCain campaign officials barred Time’s Joe Klein from traveling with them, after he asked McCain an uncomfortable question about foreign policy.

– Campaign officials have repeatedly gone on air to bash journalists after tough interviews, saying that Katie Couric asked Palin “a series of trapdoor questions,” the New York Times “cast aside it’s journalistic integrity to advocate for the defeat of John McCain,” and demanded that the media treat Palin with “deference.”

Yesterday, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani leveled similar charges against the Obama campaign, saying that the West debacle “gives an indication of what an Obama administration would be like. I mean, as long as you drink their Kool-Aid, you’re fine.” Earlier in the week, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney condoned West’s interview, saying, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”

Transcript:

J. MCCAIN: This Joe the Plumber event has really been a catalyst. It really has. You know we look back on political campaigns. I paid for this microphone, Mr. Breen. Ed Muskie crying outside the Union Leader, or whatever it was, you know?

There are moments when something happened, and clearly Senator Obama going to Joe the Plumber’s drive way, and him getting an answer that clearly he didn’t like, and, by the way, the way that they attacked him, please.

HANNITY: They’ve gone after him pretty hard. They’ve mocked him on the campaign trail. There’s been, apparently, issues of investigating his background.

McCAIN: Yes.

HANNITY: And I thought Governor Palin had it bad at one point when they sent a mini army up to Alaska to investigate her. Well, here’s –

McCAIN: And of course, if anybody in the media, much less Joe the Plumber asks a tough question, then they’re boycotted. They pull their ads, etc.

Original here