David Siegel, the billionaire CEO of the highly profitable Florida-based Westgate Resorts timeshare company, has sent a letter to all his employees implying that they'll all get fired if Obama is elected. Concerning Mr Siegel, ThinkProgress notes "Siegel earned national notoriety this year for his quest to build the biggest house in America, 'a sprawling, 90,000-square-foot mansion inspired by Versailles.'"
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As most of you know our company, Westgate Resorts, has continued to succeed in spite of a very dismal economy. There is no question that the economy has changed for the worse and we have not seen any improvement over the past four years. In spite of all of the challenges we have faced, the good news is this: The economy doesn’t currently pose a threat to your job. What does threaten your job however, is another 4 years of the same Presidential administration. Of course, as your employer, I can’t tell you whom to vote for, and I certainly wouldn’t interfere with your right to vote for whomever you choose. In fact, I encourage you to vote for whomever you think will serve your interests the best.
However, let me share a few facts that might help you decide what is in your best interest.
So where am I going with all this? It’s quite simple. If any new taxes are levied on me, or my company, as our current President plans, I will have no choice but to reduce the size of this company. Rather than grow this company I will be forced to cut back.
Marilyn sez, "The Democrats criticized Bush for suspension of civil liberties and guaranteed them in their 2008 platform. In their 2012 platform, those guarantees have all been erased." Trevor Timm from the Electronic Frontier Foundation has the whole sad story in Al Jazeera:
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Listening to Obama's famous keynote address from the 2004 DNC - his springboard onto the national stage - Obama sounded like an entirely different politician. Then he argued, "If there's an Arab-American family being rounded-up, without benefit of an attorney, or due process," he said, "that threatens my civil liberties."
Ironically, on the same day Obama gave his latest DNC speech this year, a federal judge in DC issued a ruling excoriating his administration's recent decision to unilaterally restrict Guantanamo detainees' access to attorneys, saying "this country is not one ruled by executive fiat".
In fact, his administration's position on due process has been the most controversial of his presidency. Last year, he signed the National Defense Authorisation Act (NDAA), which contains provision authorising the indefinite detention of terrorism suspects that could potentially be used against American citizens. Another federal judge recently blocked the implementationof that law, saying it violated both the free speech and due process clauses of the Constitution. The Obama administration has predictably appealed.
In-depth coverage of the US presidential election
When it came to defending US drone strikes that have extrajudicially killed at least three American citizens in Yemen - including a 16 year old who has never even been accused of terrorism - the administration has tried to change the definition of "due process" all together.
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Science Debate is a group that's working to get political candidates in the United States actually talking publicly about issues of science and technology policy. In 2008, they tried (and failed) to get Barak Obama and John McCain to agree to a live, televised science debate. But they did get both candidates to send in written answers to 14 key questions.
This election cycle, Science Debate sent out a new set of 14 questions—all chosen from a crowdsourced list. Today, they announced that they'd gotten answers back from both Obama and Mitt Romney. You can compare the candidates side-by-side at the Science Debate website. I have to say that, while I disagree with a lot of Romney's conclusions, I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of thought and time his staff clearly put into writing some very long and detailed responses.
Perhaps most surprising was his response to a question about climate change. Instead of attempting to flatly deny the evidence, Mitt Romney has apparently moved on to acknowledging that climate change is happening—while simultaneously overplaying the uncertainty surrounding specific risks, and claiming that even if climate change is a big problem there's nothing we can really do about it anyway ... because China.
Personally, I think that's pretty interesting. Climate scientists, and the journalists who write about them, have been talking, anecdotally, about seeing this exact rhetorical shift happening in conservative circles. It seems that the Republican presidential nominee is now one of the people who acknowledge climate change exists, but would still rather not take any decisive steps to deal with it. Read the rest
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Tampa, Florida web developer Jon Gales mapped the city's new network of downtown surveillence cameras installed for the Republican convention, to empower fellow citizens to become aware of the encroaching surveillance society. City authorities have not responded to his queries about what will happen to the cameras once the convention ends.
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Nicko from the Sunlight Foundation sez,
The Sunlight Foundation recently launched a free mobile app to help voters better know who is buying political ads this election year. Ad Hawk available for iPhone and Android, listens to campaign, super PAC and issue ads on the TV or radio and then lists information about who placed the ads, their campaign finance profile and other information.
Ad Hawk is simple to use: just listen, identify and learn. When you see a political ad on TV or hear one on the radio, open the app to have Ad Hawk start listening to the ad. In less than 30 seconds, Ad Hawk will create an audio fingerprint using open-source technology and start searching our database of thousands of ads for a match. We identify new ads by monitoring media reports and the YouTube channels of political groups and campaigns. When Ad Hawk finds a match, users will get information on their phone about how much money the ad's sponsor received or spent, where the ad is on the air and media reports about the candidate or political group.
Ad Hawk: Identify Political Ads As They Air
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Nicko from the Sunlight Foundation sez, "The Sunlight Foundation published a very detailed analysis of campaign contributions from the 2010 cycle with accompanying infographics and profiles of the top political donors that show just who holds the power in U.S. electoral politics. Our analysis reveals a growing dependence of candidates and political parties on this 'One Percent of the One Percent,
resulting in a political system that could be disproportionately influenced by donors in a handful of wealthy enclaves. Sunlight's examination also shows that some of the heaviest hitters in the 2010 cycle were ideological givers, suggesting that the influence of the One Percent of the One Percent on federal elections may be one of the obstacles to compromise in Washington.
"How does their giving compare to the average American's wealth? In the 2010 election cycle, the average One Percent of One Percenter spent $28,913, more than the median individual income of $26,364. Additionally, Sunlight's analysis shows that lobbyists make up between 15 and 20% of The One Percent of the One Percent."
The Political One Percent of the One Percent
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With the Citizens United ruling, the Supreme Court turned money into a form of political speech, paving the way for enormous influxes of cash from the American ultra-elite one-percent-of-one-percent, and, to a lesser extent, organized labor (money given to the GOP by big business dwarfs labor's contribution to the Dems by a factor of about 2.5). The extent to which this has distorted American politics is only now becoming apparent, as statistics about SuperPACs and their "donations" are gathered and published. In this Salon report, Justin Elliott publishes some eye-opening figures about the new political reality in money-as-speech America.
Especially concerning: 80 percent of the money sloshing around in America's SuperPACs' warchests came from just 58 donors.
The Super PACs are not paragons of transparency, but what has been disclosed gives a sense of where the money is coming from and the interests of those giving it. Based on the donors and the origins of these groups, we can already discern what messages the Super PACs will generate in the home stretch of the campaign.
Red money, blue money: The making of the 2012 campaign
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If you watched Rick Perry's viral campaign video Strong, perhaps you were struck with by how it seemed a little off (and no, I don't mean the fact that a blowdried asshole like Perry recorded a video of himself conducting a homophobic rant while wearing the gay cowboy costume from Brokeback Mountain). No, it was something more sinister and weirder. Something about a rant that goes, "$INFERIOR_HATED_MINORITY has infiltrated our soldiery, and what's more, our educational institutions have prohibited $DOCTRINE_THAT_WE_EMBRACE from being taught to children at government expense."
If, like me, you struggled for an apt comparison, perhaps you, like me, will discover what you seek in this simple bit of netmemery. Maybe this explains how Mr Perry came to produce YouTube's most hated video.
Vote for Lord Perrymort 2012!
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Mike from Mother Jones sez, "For our upcoming "dark money" print package, we chartified the known
galaxy of outside political spending groups by their size. As you can see,
we ended up with red giants and blue dwarfs."
If Citizens United was the Big Bang of a new era of money in politics, here's the parallel universe it formed: rapidly expanding super-PACs and nebulous 501(c) groups exerting their gravitational pull on federal elections. A group's size in the chart below is based upon all known fundraising or spending since 2010…so keep an eye out for dark matter. Come back for regular updates.
The Crazily Expanding Political Money Universe
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Democratic congressional candidate Ray Lutz was arrested for registering voters in San Diego's public Freedom Plaza (AKA Civic Center Plaza), where the local Occupy protest has taken place. The San Diego police arrested Mr Lutz for trespassing and confiscated his voter registration forms.
I've been skeptical of the "this is what democracy looks like" slogan (since mostly, democracy looks like boring things like long meetings, constituency consultations, and voter booths). But by any measure, registering voters in a civic square is assuredly "what democracy looks like." And arresting people who register voters? Well, that's something else altogether.
Ray Lutz being arrested at Freedom Plaza - Occupy San Diego
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The Prime Minister of New Zealand, John Key, is angry that a conversation between him and a rightwing candidate for Parliament was recorded by a cameraman - so angry that he's reported the matter to the police which is now going to raid TVNZ, Radio NZ, TV3 and another, unnamed media organisation.
Key set up a stage-managed meeting between him and John Banks from the rightwing ACT Party, with media in attendance.
The meeting over a cup of tea was to discuss the candidate from Key's centre-right National Party folding in the wealthy electorate of Epsom, Auckland, in favour of Banks.
National needs Banks to win Epsom, to form a coalition with ACT.
A cameraman was stopped from retrieving his microphone that he'd left on Key and Banks' table while media was allowed inside the cafe where the meeting took place, and says he recorded the "private" conversation inadvertently.
The recording itself hasn't been published by anyone yet. Key and National has refused to give permission to publish the recording, but say it was "bland".
In NZ, it's a crime to record other people without their knowledge.
I'm somewhat ambivalent about covert recording, but it seems clear that this isn't merely about investigating the act of recording, or punishing someone who broke the law. This feels like a campaign of intimidation against the institution of the press itself, whose subtext is, "Cover politics with kid gloves or we will make your lives hell." Meanwhile, Key has defended his use of police time by saying his government has done so much to eliminate crime that the police have spare time they can use to pursue his vendettas. Read the rest