States: Voters Report Intimidation Scams

WASHINGTON, (UPI) —  Election officials in U.S. swing states have reported getting complaints of phony phone calls, fraudulent letters and other voter intimidation efforts.

Florida’s State Department reported some voters were being targeted with fraudulent efforts meant to keep them home on Nov. 6, CBCNews.com reported.

Chris Cate, the department’s communications director, said between 50 and 100 Floridians in at least 28 counties recently got letters telling them questions had been raised about their citizenship and right to vote. The letters, printed on phony letterhead from Supervisor of Elections Kathy Dent, told recipients to return voter eligibility forms within 15 days of receipt.

“A non-registered voter who casts a vote in the state of Florida may be subject to arrest, imprisonment, and/or other criminal sanctions,” the letter said.

Cate said the letters have shown up across the state, While Democrats and independent voters have gotten them, Cate said a “significant majority” of recipients are Republicans.

The FBI is working with Florida law enforcement to investigate the letters, CBCNews.com reported.

Cate also said a handful of voters have received calls during which they were told they could vote by phone, which is “not true whatsoever.”

Similar complaints were reported in Virginia, another battleground state. Earlier this month, state election officials said they received complaints from voters who said they’d gotten phone calls telling them they could vote by phone, CBCNews.com said.

Obama, Romney Cancel Events

ORLANDO, Fla., (UPI) —  Hurricane Sandy affected the political landscape Monday as President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney canceled campaign appearances.

Obama, who flew to Florida Sunday evening, canceled an appearance in Orlando, and returned to Washington Monday before bad weather conditions deteriorated further.

The Democratic incumbent also canceled a visit Tuesday to Green Bay, Wis., so he can monitor the impact and response to Hurricane Sandy, White House press secretary Jay Carney said.

“The president’s priority right now is the safety and security of Americans who are in the path of the storm and who will be affected by it. It’s essential in his view that he be in Washington, one of the areas that will be affected, and where his team is to oversee that effort,” Carney said during a news briefing aboard Air Force One.

Obama instructed his team to ensure that needed federal resources are in place to support state and local recovery efforts, Carney said.

Carney said it was too soon to address how the storm may impact Election Day, now eight days away. Several states canceled early voting because of Sandy.

Obama campaign official Jen Psaki said get-out-the-vote activities were continuing “where it is safe.”

Romney canceled campaign events in Ohio, Wisconsin and Iowa Monday, and Romney and running mate Paul Ryan also canceled all of their events Tuesday because of Hurricane Sandy, the campaign announced Monday.

Romney believes “this is the time” for the nation and its leaders to focus on those Americans “who are in harm’s way,” Talking Points Memo reported.

“Out of sensitivity for the millions of Americans in the path of Hurricane Sandy, we are canceling tonight’s events with Gov. Romney in Wisconsin and Congressman Ryan in Melbourne and Lakeland, Fla.,” campaign communication chief Gail Gitcho said in a statement. “We are also canceling all events currently schedule for both Gov. Romney and Congressman Ryan on Tuesday.”

Flying solo in Orlando, former President Bill Clinton urged 7,600 people at the University of Central Florida Monday to re-elect Obama based on his record concerning education, energy, environmental, healthcare and economic issues, the Orlando Sentinel reported.

Clinton, who was to have appeared with Obama at the event, described the president’s plans for higher education, including student loan reform that would link payments to income, while saving $60 billion on costs and then used that savings for Pell grants and research. Romney, he charged, wants to repeal the student loan bill Obama pushed through Congress during the summer.

“On this issue alone, every person within the sound of my voice should vote for Barack Obama for president of the United States,” Clinton said.

The Romney campaign, meanwhile, reportedly released an ad in Ohio stating he would do more to help the auto industry, the Detroit Free Press reported. In the ad, the Romney campaign also said Jeep, owned by Italian automaker Fiat, would manufacture its vehicles in China.

Late last week, Romney told a rally in Defiance, Ohio, that he’d seen an article that Jeep — which has a facility in Toledo — was moving its production to China. Not only was the story wrong, Romney caught heat for repeating it without it being vetted.

The article subsequently clarified that the production move would be an expansion or return of jobs to China for Chrysler, not a transfer of North American jobs.

Meanwhile, Illinois supporters wanting to spend Election Night with Obama can earn a ticket by crossing the border to door-knock in Wisconsin, the Los Angeles Times reported.

“We want to make sure we’re using every opportunity, right up to the end,” a campaign official said.

FBI: Violent Crime Drops For Ffth Year

WASHINGTON, (UPI) —  Violent crime in the United States declined in 2011 for the fifth year in a row and property offenses were down for the ninth, the FBI said Monday.

The information was contained in the agency’s annual compilation of crime statistics. This year, 18,233 police agencies contributed to the report.

The rate of violent crime was down 4.5 percent from the previous year, the report said, while the property crime rate fell 1.3 percent.

An estimated 1.2 million violent crimes were reported during the year, the FBI said, and about 9.1 million property crimes. Excluding traffics violations, an estimated 12.4 million people were arrested.

The biggest decrease in violent crime, 4 percent, was in robbery while murder and non-negligent manslaughter dipped 0.7 percent.

Burglaries were estimated to have climbed 0.9 percent in 2011 while auto theft was down 3.3 percent.

Excluding arson, an estimated $15.6 billion was lost by victims of property crime, the agency said.

Researchers Test Voting Machines

CHICAGO, (UPI) —  Researchers at Argonne National Laboratory outside Chicago say touch-screen voting machines may be vulnerable to tampering.

Security researcher at facility at Lemont were able to access electronic components inside a touch-screen voting machine using a straightened paper clip, the Chicago Sun-Times reported Monday.

“You can reach inside and do lots of damage pretty easily,” said researcher Roger Johnston after the recent demonstration, which he and fellow researcher Jon Warner said illustrates a weakness that could be exploited to attack the commonly used machines.

However, election officials say the security tests carried out by Argonne are not accurate, as the tests involved different models of touch-screen machines and didn’t take into account other security measures used in Chicago and Cook County.

“It’s not even apples and oranges, it’s apples and hippos,” said Jim Allen, a spokesman for the Chicago Board of Elections, who described the tests as “a sideshow.”

Election officials also questioned Argonne’s political ties as the security test was commissioned by a Republican group called Defend the Vote.

“In this case, the group has a partisan agenda,” said Courtney Greve, a spokeswoman for Cook County Clerk David Orr, who oversees county elections.

However, Johnston said Argonne routinely signs consulting contracts with organizations like Defend the Vote and that disputes about the political connections of the group overlook the larger issue.

“I don’t think election security should be a partisan issue,” Johnston said.

Battleground Poll: Obama Reclaims Lead

WASHINGTON, (UPI) —  U.S. President Obama, with support among women and an edge in early voters, had a slim lead over Mitt Romney, Politico’s Battleground Tracking Poll indicated.

Among likely voters, Obama led his Republican rival by a percentage point, 49 percent to 48 percent, a 3 percentage point swing in Obama’s favor from a week ago, but a reflection that the race remains statistically a dead heat, results from the Politico-George Washington University Battleground Tracking Poll released Monday indicated.

Obama held an 8 percentage point lead among those who have already voted, 53 percent to 45 percent.

Among women, Obama had an 11 percentage point lead, 54 percent to 43 percent, over Romney, results indicated. The gap had narrowed to 6 percentage points a week ago.

Men indicated they prefer Romney over Obama by 12 percentage points, 55 percent to 43 percent.

Results also indicated 43 percent say they will “definitely” vote Romney while 42 percent said they’d “definitely” vote for the president.

Results are based on a nationwide telephone survey of 1,000 registered likely voters conducted Oct. 22-25. It has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.

Keep Medicine On Hand For Emergencies

An understanding of the bacteria that cause disease is necessary if you are to prescribe antibiotic treatment. While there are hundreds of bacteria, there are relatively few that that cause most of the problems in people. They can be classified into four classes: gram positive, gram negative, anaerobes and others.

Gram positive bacteria include:

  • Staphylococcus: Causes boils, abscesses, impetigo, wound infections, bone infections, pneumonia, food poisoning and septicaemia.
  • Streptococcus: Causes Strep pneumoniae and the Strep pyogenes. Strep pneumoniae causes pneumonia, ear infections, sinusitis, meningitis, septic arthritis and bone infections. Strep pyogenes causes sore throats, impetigo, scarlet fever, cellulitis, septicaemia and necrotising fasciitis.

Gram negative bacteria include:

  • Neisseria meningitides: Causes bacterial meningitis and may also cause pneumonia and septicaemia. Can be rapidly fatal.
  • Neisseria gonorrhoeae: Causes gonorrhea.
  • Moxella catarrhalis: Causes ear and sinus infections, also chronic bronchitis exacerbations.
  • Haemophilus influenzea: Causes meningitis (especially in children under 5), epiglottis, cellulitis and a sub group cause chest infections.
  • Escherichia coli: Causes urinary infections, severe gastroenteritis, peritonitis (from bowel injury), septicaemia.
  • Proteus sp.: Causes UTIs, peritonitis (from bowel injuries), wound infections.

Anaerobes include:

  • Bacteroides sp.: Causes infections following injury to the bowel or in wound contamination and causes abscess formation.
  • Clostridium sp.: Produces spores and toxins.
  • C. perfringens/C.septicum: Causes gangrene.
  • C.tetani or tetanus: In tetanus and botulism, the damage is from toxins, not the bacteria themselves.
  • C. botulinum. Causes botulism.
  • C. difficille. Causes diarrhea following antibiotics.

Bacteria that fall into the “other” category include:

  • Chlamydia sp. ( C.pneumonia): Causes a type of atypical pneumonia.
  • C.trachomatis: Causes the sexually transmitted disease chlamydia.
  • Mycoplasma pneumonia: Causes atypical pneumonia.

The list of antibiotics and the bacteria they treat most effectively is:

  • Penicillin: For Streptococcal infections, pneumococcal infections, anaerobic infections “above the diaphragm” such as abscessed teeth. This drug is relatively cheap and causes fewer side effects such as diarrhea and vaginitis. Unfortunately, streptococci and pneumococci are increasingly antibiotic resistant.
  • Ampicillin or Amoxicillin: For urinary, middle ear, and lower respiratory infection. This is a broader spectrum penicillin. Staphylococci are usually resistant. Is also available in suspension for children who cannot swallow amoxicillin capsules.
  • Erythromycin ethylsuccinate: For pneumonia or Streptococcal sore throat. It is also of some benefit in Staphylococcal skin infections.
  • Tetracycline: For plague and various other insect-borne infections, urinary infections, bronchitis, infected animal bites, some venereal diseases and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Pregnant women and young children should avoid using this drug, if possible. A more expensive drug in this class is doxycycline. Doxycycline has fewer gastrointestinal side effects and is better absorbed than tetracycline with food in the stomach, but is more likely to sensitize the skin to sunlight.
  • Metronidazole: Very effective against certain protozoans, including amoebae and Giardia, and for anaerobic bacteria such as those that normally inhabit the bowel and the female genital tract. It can be extremely useful in intra-abdominal, pelvic and wound infections caused by such bacteria.
  • Chloramphenicol: For anaerobic infections, typhoid and other Salmonella infections, psittacosis, rickettsial infections, or meningitis due to Hemophilus or Meningococcus. This drug is very well absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract and penetrates well into the cerebrospinal fluid (hence, its value in meningitis). However, it causes fatal aplastic anemia in about one in 50,000 persons treated with it, and some drug companies have stopped manufacturing it.
  • Trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole DS (Bactrim, Septra): For urinary infections and some types of bacterial diarrhea or as a back-up drug for sinusitis, bronchitis, ear infections (for resistant organisms or allergic patients).

Some other drugs to have on hand — if you can get them — and their uses are:

  • Adrenalin: To treat acute anaphylaxis or drug or other allergy such as bee sting, or for a severe asthma attack.
  • Prednisone: For severe cases of asthma, poison ivy, sunburn and allergic reactions; but it is not a substitute for epinephrine because the response is not fast enough. Use with great caution because steroids depress the immune response, among other side effects; however, the drug can be life-saving.
  • Theophylline preparation: For asthma. Combinations with ephedrine (such as Theodrine), while out of favor these days, may be much cheaper. Theophylline is being used much less often. Tea contains a little theophylline.
  • Prochlorperazine: For nausea and vomiting, this drug also may be of some value in acute psychosis.
  • Phenobarbitol: As a sedative. Caution: Barbiturate addiction is very dangerous; fatal withdrawal reactions have occurred.
  • Xylocaine 1 percent or 2 percent: As a local anesthesia.
  • Acetaminophen with codeine: As a pain reliever in combination with acetaminophen (or aspirin). It also relieves severe cough.
  • Proparicaine ophthalmic solution 0.5 percent: Will anesthetize the cornea of a patient with a foreign body in his eye. Use only once to enable you to remove the foreign body. Continued use may allow severe damage to the eye to occur without the patient’s awareness.
  • Nalbuphine hydrochloride: For relief of severe pain. This drug is considered to have less potential for abuse than morphine because it is also a narcotic antagonist (that is, it will cause acute withdrawal in an addict).
  • Hydrochlorthiazide: Helps to control high blood pressure or congestive heart failure.
  • Nitroglycerin 11150 gr: Helps to relieve angina (heart pain).
  • Lanoxin (digoxin) 0.25 mg: Good for certain cardiac conditions such as congestive heart failure or atrial fibrillation with rapid heart rate.
  • Atropine 0.5 mg/cc (30 cc): Because it speeds the heart rate, this drug is useful in some heart attack victims if they have a profound decrease in pulse. More importantly, it is an antidote to many poisons (such as organophosphate insecticides, some poisonous mushrooms and chemical warfare agents such as tabun and sarin).

And don’t forget the medicines you and your family take every day. You should have a year’s supply of any prescription drug needed. Rotate each year. This is especially important for drugs with a short shelf life, such as insulin. (Insulin lasts about six months at room temperature, but for only two to six weeks at 80 degrees F.)

Finally, don’t forget to have a good supply of common, everyday over-the-counter medications like aspirin or ibuprofen for fever and pain relief,  Kaopectate for diarrhea, Pepto Bismol or Mylanta for stomach maladies, diphenhydramine for insect bites and allergic reactions, cortisone cream for insect bites and skin allergies, and antihistamines for respiratory allergies.

Colloidal Silver

Until the beginning of the development of modern antibiotics in the 1940s, colloidal silver was the natural antibiotic of choice and had been for 50 years. Pharmaceutical antibiotics looked like miracles because, in the beginning, there were no antibiotic-resistant strains of disease organisms. There was a lot of excitement over the new wonder drugs. So naturally, colloidal silver disappeared into the memory hole.

But as there are more and more resistant strains to antibiotics, colloidal silver is reappearing. There is no doubt about the antibacterial and antimicrobial properties of colloidal silver. It is very effective against bacterial infections like Strep throat and flu and fungal infections like Candida.

Germs can’t escape colloidal silver no matter how much they mutate. And colloidal silver doesn’t harm good bacteria. There are no known risks to using colloidal silver internally or externally.

NYPD Officer Makes Plans To Cook And Consume Women

An officer with the New York Police Department was making plans to cook and consume as many as 100 women. Gilberto Valle, a six-year veteran of the NYPD force, was conspiring to kidnap, kill and consume lots of women, according to the FBI.

Valle kept a large database of women whom he planned to abduct. There were individual files for each woman. Such as the document for the first victim entitled “Abducting and Cooking: A Blueprint.” In it, Valle had detailed information on the woman, including her bra size.

Valle discussed his plans online with two co-conspirators.

Valle typed things such as: “I was thinking of tying her body to some kind of apparatus… cook her over low heat, keep her alive as long as possible. …I love that she is asleep right now not having the slightest clue what we have planned. She does look tasty doesn’t she?”

Valle’s attorneys say that the messages were nothing more than a fantasy that Valle would not have acted out.

Forensic psychologist Dr. N.G. Berrill seems to think that could be the case. He told CBS 2 in New York, “Typically, the individuals that I’ve encountered who have actually engaged in serial murders or engaged in cannibalism don’t really write about it.”

Valle has been suspended from the NYPD and charged with conspiracy to commit kidnapping.

Supreme Court Hears Wiretapping Arguments

Today, the Supreme Court will consider a matter (Amnesty International v. Clapper) that could take away the National Security Agency’s ability to eavesdrop on Americans’ email and cellular communications without first obtaining a warrant.

Following the events that took place on 9/11, President George W. Bush ordered amendments (FISA Amendment Act) to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) — which was originally implemented in 1970 — that allowed the government to monitor the U.S. citizens corresponding with people outside of the country.

Last month, when the U.S. House voted to reauthorize the amendments, civil liberties activists issued harsh criticism of the move.

A legal briefing filed by the American Civil Liberties Union stated: Under the FAA, the government can target anyone — human rights researchers, academics, attorneys, political activists, journalists — simply because they are foreigners outside the United States, and in the course of its surveillance it can collect Americans’ communications with those individuals.

Aside from gripes over the potential 4th Amendment violations, civil liberties activists call the Justice Department’s justification for disallowing challenges to the FISA Amendments bunk. Justice contends that Americans cannot challenge the government’s eavesdropping because they likely do not know whether they have been targeted.

“This law clearly intrudes on constitutionally protected privacy and free speech rights, and the courts have not just the authority but the obligation to intervene,” said ACLU deputy legal director Jameel Jaffer, who will appear before the justices. “The Court of Appeals rightly held that our clients have the right to challenge the law, because the substantial risk that their communications will be monitored under it has compelled them to take costly measures to protect information that is sensitive. We are hopeful that the Supreme Court will agree with the Court of Appeals that the constitutionality of the government’s surveillance powers can and should be tested in court.”

Any time information about those targeted for surveillance under FAA has come up, Federal officials have simply stated that national security prohibits them from releasing the information. Furthermore, the government has tried to block courts from determining the Constitutionality of its actions by using its own refusal to provide information as the bulwark to prevent court hearings.

Bill Binney worked at the NSA from 1965 to 2001, and J. Kirk Wiebe worked at the NSA from 1975 to 2001. Last week, the two penned a whistle-blowing column in POLITICO outlining why the NSA has too much power to spy on U.S. citizens:

The NSA cannot be trusted with this power. No agency should be. Since 2001, the NSA has been willing time and again to throw the Constitution overboard and snoop on innocent Americans who are not suspected of any wrongdoing. Using shockingly fast machines called NARUS devices, the NSA can monitor virtually every single phone call, email and text that passes through the United States. The agency can make a mirror image of all those communications, then funnel those copies to massive data vaults. When it wants to, the NSA can then go through and compile a dossier on each and every one of us. That would be well and good if the agency followed the law and tracked only suspected terrorists. But it does not. Under the warrantless wiretapping program and now the FISA Amendments Act, the NSA conducts blanket, dragnet surveillance of Americans’ international communications, even when there is not even a hint that we’ve done something wrong.

America’s Mighty Drones

The United Nations has its sights set on American drone policy in the Mideast after long condemning the use of drone strikes in areas where civilian casualties often result. Early next year, a U.N. investigative team is set to conduct a thorough investigation of civilian casualties resulting from the strikes.

In a speech last week at Harvard Law School, U.N. special rapporteur Ben Emmerson, who monitors counterterrorism efforts, said that the organization could explore the possibility that the drone strikes are war crimes.

Emmerson said:

[It is] alleged that since President Obama took office at least 50 civilians were killed in follow-up strikes when they had gone to help victims and more than 20 civilians have also been attacked in deliberate strikes on funerals and mourners. [U.N. consultant, professor of human rights] Christof Heyns … has described such attacks, if they prove to have happened, as war crimes. I would endorse that view.

Also last week, The Washington Post reported that U.S. officials are developing an expanded drone kill list that is “designed to go beyond existing kill lists, mapping plans for the ‘disposition’ of suspects beyond the reach of American drones.”

“The problem with the drone is it’s like your lawn mower,” Bruce Riedel, a former CIA analyst and Obama counterterrorism adviser, told The Post. “You’ve got to mow the lawn all the time. The minute you stop mowing, the grass is going to grow back.”

The CIA recently also submitted a proposal asking Congress to provide it with more drones for use in the Mideast. The unmanned aerial vehicles are tools that both President Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney agree should continue to be used in the same manner which they are now.

Looming Price Explosion

Dear Bob,

What will have to happen to make the price of gold and silver skyrocket? You had stated in the (October issue of The Bob Livingston Letter) newsletter it was being repressed right now. Also when do you feel this will take place?

Anne E.

Dear Anne,

The most important thing in the future price of silver and gold is shortage of silver, which is here but being suppressed. I don’t think that a price explosion is very far away!

Best wishes,

Bob

A ‘Turning Point’ Election?

We are eight days out of another “turning point” election. Like the one before it, the one before that and the one before that, we are told by one camp that the election of candidate A will bring ruin upon the Nation, while the election of candidate B will bring us salvation; and from the other camp we get the inverse.

But what will the election turn?

Certainly not the growing totalitarian police state. The liberty-stealing USA Patriot Act was such an important part of the 2008 campaign that Barack Obama had a campaign position paper on it (since scrubbed from the Web) that promised to seriously amend the act and install provisions to protect civil liberties. It stated, “As president, Barack Obama would revisit the Patriot Act to ensure that there is real and robust oversight of tools like National Security Letters, sneak-and-peek searches, and the use of the material witness provision.” Yet in 2009, Obama signed a Patriot Act extension that removed the few civil liberties that remained in the bill.

And rather than pass legislation to provide Americans some protection from warrantless searches and seizures, the Obama Administration and a complicit Congress (so much for a Republican Congress preserving liberty) passed the National Defense Authorization Act — signed by Obama on New Year’s Eve — that suspended habeas corpus and sanctioned the indefinite detention of Americans. The President also decided ad hoc that he could be judge, jury and executioner and slay anyone — Americans included — with drones; trials not necessary. He has simultaneously claimed he didn’t support it while sending out an army of lawyers to have it upheld in court.

During last week’s Presidential theatrical presentation in Boca Raton, Fla., Mitt Romney confirmed ad nauseam that he agreed with the President’s policy on NDAA, drone strikes and targeted assassinations. It’s one of the few policy positions that Romney hasn’t flipped on. Invoking boos from the audience during the GOP debate performance in the South Carolina, Romney staunchly advocated for the President’s right to targeted assassinations. He essentially said, “You can trust us Presidential guys. We never lie or do anything illegal.” Right.

Federal spending? Hardly. Both Obama and Romney spent several minutes trying to out-macho each other on military spending. Obama even went so far as to say that sequestration — across-the-board military cuts that were part of a policy he pushed through Congress (his protestations that he didn’t notwithstanding) — would not happen under his watch. Romney has promised to increase military spending by $2 trillion. Both have promised to cut the growth in government, but neither have made significant cuts part of their plan.

Foreign policy? Perhaps by degrees. Romney spent almost half his talking time agreeing with Obama’s Afghanistan timetable, his Iran sanctions, his Syria policy and his “Pockkeeston” policy. Both demonstrated that America’s foreign policy is subservient to Israel’s. Obama mentioned Israel 17 times during the debate; Romney 14. Obama has carried on George W. Bush’s foreign policy on Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Africa during his more than three years in office. Romney has employed many of Bush’s foreign policy advisers. Beyond Romney’s more aggressive stand against Iran, not much will change there. Oh, yeah, Romney says he won’t apologize for America.

Socialized medicine? Not likely. Obamacare is, essentially, Romneycare (Robamneycare?). Romney once claimed proudly that his first day in office he’d repeal it. Then he sort of, kind of said he’d repeal it — but maybe not all of it because, after all, 26-year-olds mooching off their parents’ insurance is a wonderful thing. There’s really no need to grow up prior to age 27.

Now, Romney says he plans to repeal and replace Obamacare. Republican lawmakers say they like many of Obamacare’s provisions: especially those that provide a sop to whatever aggrieved class — like worthless 20-somethings who vote? — they happen to be targeting while lining the pockets of their corporate masters with your money.

The Federal Reserve? Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke has all but sealed the fate of the fiat dollar with quantitative easing to infinity. Bernanke was a Bush holdover re-appointed by Obama. Using Obama’s words and policy decisions as a guide, it’s a safe assumption that Obama would welcome the demise of the dollar and its replacement as reserve currency by some worldwide World Bank-backed fiat money.

For his part, Romney has alternately praised Bernanke and condemned him. Now, Romney says he won’t reappoint him. Not so fast, says Bernanke, I may quit. It’s a crime that he didn’t quit before he destroyed the world’s economy and Bush “abandoned free market principles to save the free market system.” Romney says he wants to appoint someone who shares his “economic views.” That means money printing and bailouts and a continuation of bubbles and busts.

Tax policy? We may be onto something here. Obama is a “spread-the-wealth-around” kind of guy. He has said so, and he was mentored by communist Frank Marshall Davis and raised by his socialist mother, stepfather and grandparents. He advocates trickle-up poverty. He loves to use high-minded phrases like “fair share,” which is progressive code for thievery.

Romney is a “free market” kind of guy — well, at least as corporatists see the free market. That is one that is over-regulated, overburdened and tilted in favor of those who buy off the most lawmakers and bureaucrats. In other words, a fascist corporatocracy. He did, after all, benefit from the system.

But are their plans really that different? Obama’s tax plan would negatively impact nearly 1 million companies: small businesses that employ about 60 million Americans. He wants to let the so-called (and misnamed) Bush tax cuts expire at the end of 2012. He wants to raise the top two tax brackets from 33 percent and 35 percent to 35 percent and 39.6 percent. He insists it will only affect the wealthiest Americans: those earning more than $200,000 per year ($250,000 if married).

Romney wants to reduce tax rates but limit deductions. He says the top 5 percent of taxpayers will continue to pay 60 percent of the taxes. Sounds reasonable, right? That is if you’re a socialist distributionist and until you learn that Romney has now changed his definition of middle class. Where it used to mirror Obama’s $200,000, now it has dropped below that threshold. The top 5 percent includes those earning slightly less than $200,000 adjusted gross income. Obviously, there’s more to Romney’s plan and, in fact, much of it remains nebulous; but to think that Romney’s plan is strikingly different from Obama’s is fanciful dreaming. He isn’t advocating a tax overhaul that would make accountants and tax attorneys unnecessary or setting a flat rate for everyone or anything else beyond a tinkering around the edges of the regressive tax structure now in place.

Gun laws? Difference by degree. Responding to a nonsensical question about “assault weapons” from an uncommitted nincompoop in the audience during the second debate, Obama said: “We’ve done a much better job in terms of background checks, but we’ve got more to do when it comes to enforcement. But I also share your belief that weapons that were designed for soldiers in war theaters don’t belong on our streets.” Reductio ad absurdum. But it reveals, in living color, Obama’s belief that law-abiding citizens shouldn’t have guns.

For his part, Romney claimed: “I’m not in favor of new pieces of legislation on guns and taking guns away or making certain guns illegal. We, of course, don’t want to have automatic weapons, and that’s already illegal in this country, to have automatic weapons.” So Romney also fails to understand the phrase “shall not be infringed.” As Governor, his record on gun rights was poor. He’s since flipped on the issue so much it’s difficult to anticipate where he will go next.

I know my Republican friends don’t want to hear these things — especially this close to the election. But Romney is better than Obama in only a few areas and only by degrees. He likely won’t, as Obama has, hand over fistfuls of dollars to failing “Green” industries. But it’s not because he doesn’t believe in corporate welfare; he does. It’s just that those failing Green industries aren’t Romney contributors. But the big banksters are.

I understand you can argue that, as a Republican, Romney will nominate better Supreme Court Justices (John Roberts, Anthony Kennedy, David Souter and John Paul Stevens notwithstanding) than Obama. And I understand the neocon wing of the Republican Party — which is now the dominant wing — appreciates Romney’s bellicosity toward Iran and Islamofascists around the world. And I understand that Obama’s policies have been disastrous and four more years of them — especially as he’s unfettered by re-election concerns — will only be worse than the past three and a half. And I understand that Republicans don’t want to hear any criticism of Romney (and haven’t since he secured the nomination because “anything is better than Obama”).

But can’t Republicans at least admit that if Romney ran his current campaign but called himself a Democrat they’d be calling this a “turning point” election and saying that if Romney wins, the Republic is doomed? And can’t Democrats admit that were Romney their standard bearer this election cycle, they’d be defending him like there was no tomorrow?

Until the majority is willing to admit these truths, there will never be a true “turning point” election.

If we remain on the current path (whether guided by Obama or Romney), the dollar will crash, liberty will continue to be eroded and fascist corporatocracy will continue to grow. Neither candidate has put forth a single policy proposal that takes us on a different path, and it’s probably too late anyway. One hundred fifty-one years of increasing centralization and 99 years of fiat money has taken too big a toll.

Oh, I almost forgot. Unlike Obama, evidence seems to indicate Romney is a natural-born citizen. I’ll give you that. And since he’ll have an “R” after his name, everything will surely be OK. After all, Republicans have never fixed prices, increased entitlements, raised taxes or grown government. They are, after all, advocates of small government, lower taxes and free markets. Just ask them — or, better yet, listen to their stump speeches. But then watch what they do.

Maybe in four years or eight years or 12 years or 16 years or 20 years we’ll be ready for a real liberty candidate. Maybe then we’ll quit settling for the “lesser of two evils” just this one more time — if there’s a country left to govern by then.

Addendum

I had finished writing this column when I learned of the new double entendre Obama campaign ad cut by Lena Dunham. I linked to it, but I urge you to spare yourself from watching it and enduring an “I-just-threw-up-in-my-mouth” moment. Dunham starts by talking about how “the first time” should be with a “great guy.” By about 15 seconds in, it’s obvious she’s talking about voting, not sex. But the ad is childish, crude, creepy and boorish, especially coming from the campaign of a man with two young daughters.

This from the party advocating abortion on demand and up until the moment of birth. This from the party that booed God.

Also showing how low the Obama campaign has fallen is the softball Rolling Stone interview in which Obama tells Executive Editor Eric Bates that kids can recognize that Romney is “a bullshitter.”

These items reminded me of just how immaturely the whole Obama camp has carried itself for more than three years — sort of like a group of overprivileged frat boys on a long bender. So I have to admit that one thing will change if Romney’s elected: There will finally be an intelligent adult in the White House.

Woman Arrested For Speaking Too Long At City Council

A California resident was arrested after speaking at a Riverside City Council meeting. The woman was cuffed after she exceeded the three-minute time limit.

Karen Wright of Riverside was cited with disrupting a public meeting, a misdemeanor.

According to The Press-Enterprise, Wright commented on a sludge-hauling contract.

After her time expired, Wright was being escorted to her seat by an officer when she turned and told the council, “I would like you to quit the harassment with the police.”

Wright pulled away from the officer and ended up in cuffed and in the floor.

Mayor Ron Loveridge said he has not seen such an incident in his 32 years of being a mayor.

A video of the incident was recorded.

“Can you see my wrists? You’re pulling and jerking on my wrists!” Wright shouted. “I cannot get up without putting my hands down!”

First-Time Jobless Claims Drop By 23,000

WASHINGTON (UPI) — The U.S. Labor Department Thursday said first-time jobless benefits claims dropped sharply in the week ending Saturday.

Initial claims fell by 23,000 to 369,000, the department said.

It was the third consecutive week of volatile movement in the data. Two weeks prior a drop of 30,000 cut the weekly figure down to 339,000, a 56-month low. In the previous weekly report, claims rose by 46,000, wiping out the gains of the week before.

The current four-week rolling average showed movement long-term is more muted. The average rose by 1,500 in the week to 368,000.

The advance number of unadjusted actual first-time jobless benefits claims under state programs totaled 342,702 for the week, a decrease of 20,032 from the previous week, the Labor Department said.

There were 377,156 initial benefits claims in the comparable week in 2011, the department’s Employment and Training Administration said.

Durable Goods Orders Rebound Strongly

WASHINGTON (UPI) — U.S. durable goods orders rose 9.9 percent August to September, the largest jump in nearly three years, the Commerce Department said Thursday.

After posting gains in May, June and July, new orders for goods intended to last at least three years fell sharply in August, dropping 13.2 percent to $198.5 billion.

New orders for factories rose by $19.6 billion to $218.2 billion in September. Excluding transportation, new orders for durable goods rose by 2 percent, while keeping defense orders out of the data shows a gain of 9.1 percent.

Transportation orders, which includes planes, trains, trucks and ships, rose by 31.7 percent to $69.6 billion, provided the biggest boost to the new orders data.

In another telling statistic, new non-defense capital goods orders excluding aircraft came to $60.3 billion, essentially unchanged from the previous month, the report said.

New orders, however, beat expectations, which called for a 6.9 percent rise and did far better than August, when new orders fell 13.2 percent.

Pending Home Sales Rise A Touch

WASHINGTON (UPI) — The U.S. Pending Home Sales Index rose slightly in September, a trade group in Washington said.

The National Association of Realtors said the index that keeps track of contracts of intention rose 0.3 percent in the month after sliding away from the highest level in more than two years in August.

Although gains were slight, the index has shown year-over-year improvements for 17 consecutive months. In step with that data, the index in August is 14.5 percent higher than the 86.9 posting from September 2011.

“Home contract activity remains at an elevated level in contrast with recent years, but currently appears to be bouncing around in a narrow range,” Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, said in a statement.

NAR said the pending home sales index rose 1.4 percent in the Northeast to 79.3.

The index fell 5.8 percent in the Midwest to 89.5. In the South it rose 1 percent to 111.5. In the West, the index rose 4.3 percent to 106.9.

NAR’s monthly forecast was increased slightly in September.

NAR forecast existing home sales to climb 9 percent to 5.1 million in 2013.

The last report predicted a rise of 8 percent to nearly 5.02 million next year.

Long-Term Mortgage Rates Up Slightly

WASHINGTON (UPI) — Fixed mortgage rates on long-term loans in the United States rose modestly in the week that ended Thursday, the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp. said.

The average 30-year fixed mortgage interest rate rose from 3.37 percent to 3.41 percent with an average 0.7 points, Freddie Mac said.

A year earlier, interest rates for 30-year, fixed-rate loans were at 4.1 percent.

For 15-year loans, interest rates rose from 2.66 percent to 2.72 percent with an average 0.6 points. A year ago, 15-year loan rates averaged 3.38 percent.

Average interest rates for five-year adjustable-rate mortgages were unchanged at 2.75 percent. In the same week of 2011, rates for five-year ARM contracts stood at 3.08 percent.

The average interest rate for one-year ARM contracts was 2.59 percent in the week with 0.4 points, down from 2.6 percent in the previous week.

Rates a year ago for one-year ARM contracts averaged 2.9 percent.

“Mortgage rates remained relatively unchanged this week and should continue to support the housing market and mortgage refinance,” said Freddie Mac vice president and Chief Economist Frank Nothaft in a statement.

“And not surprisingly, the Federal Reserve in its Oct. 24 monetary policy announcement acknowledged the further signs of improvement in the housing sector, albeit from a depressed level,” Nothaft said.

Women In Same Job, Field As Men, Paid Less

WASHINGTON (UPI) — Recent women college graduates were paid 82 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts, a U.S. woman’s group found.

The study, by the American Association of University Women, examined the pay gap between young men and women working full time in 2009. They had an average age of 23, were unmarried and had no children. A year after their college graduation in 2007/2008 — the latest data available — was tough time to get hired, but the majority of college graduates were working full-time one year after graduation.

The study, by Christianne Corbett and Catherine Hill, said education and occupational differences between men and women help explain the pay gap. Choice of a college major is an important factor driving pay differences, men are more likely than women to major in fields like engineering and computer science and work in higher-paying sectors of the economy. Women major more in education and the social sciences, which pay less.

However, the report found one year after graduation, a pay gap existed between women and men who majored in the same field.

For example, among business majors, women earned about $38,000, while men earned just over $45,000. Among full-time workers in the for-profit sector, women earned $35,841 — 80 percent of their male counterparts average of $44,638.

This $7,000 pay gap repeated yearly would result in the women losing out on about $1.2 million at retirement if the money was invested with an annual 6 percent rate of return.

Differences in the number of hours worked also affected earnings. One year out of college, women in full-time jobs reported working 43 hours per week on average, and men in full-time jobs reported working an average of 45 hours per week.

Nonetheless, the study found a hypothetical pair of graduates — one man and one woman from the same university who majored in the same field both working full-time one year later, the same number of hours each week, in the same occupation and sector — a woman would earn about 7 percent less than the man.

Clinton Plans Exit ‘After Inauguration’

WASHINGTON (UPI) — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says she will stay in office until a successor is in place but she plans to leave “after the inauguration.”

One day after The Wall Street Journal reported Clinton may stay in her post for a while if President Barack Obama is re-elected, she told The Washington Post she hasn’t had an opportunity “to sit down and talk to the president yet because he’s trying to win an election.”

She said, as she has in the past, she intends to leave the State Department whether Obama is re-elected nor not.

“I’m aiming to leave shortly after the inauguration; that’s my plan,” she said.

The Sept. 11 death of U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three other Americans at the consulate in Benghazi have left a cloud on Clinton’s tenure at the State Department, the Journal said Thursday.

Her job approval rating was near 70 percent before the consulate attack and there had been speculation she might run for president in 2016, when she will turn 69.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said Thursday Obama has said “very explicitly what an excellent job she’s done as secretary of state and how he would, of course, like her to stay on.”

Clinton then told the Post: “I’m not really open to staying longer but I also know that we have to be conscious of the work that has to be done. And again, I’ll have to talk to the president.”

Cuba Says Welcome Back, Rafters

HAVANA (UPI) — Cuba announced it will welcome the return of citizens who left illegally, including rafters to the United States, doctors and baseball players.

“We will normalize the temporary entry to the island of those who emigrated illegally after the 1994 migration accords [with the United States, designed to discourage leaving Cuba by raft],” said Homero Acosta, secretary of Cuba’s ruling Council of State.

The change is expected to allow the return of Cubans now banned from the island, estimated between 70,000 to 300,000 and mostly people who left by raft to the United States, including those branded defectors or traitors, and those wishing to return to care for ailing relatives.

While the Cuban government considers the move a normalization of immigration policy, analysts outside the country see it as an attempt to attract money through immigration fees, the Miami Herald reported Friday.

“I have to submit a humanitarian request so that someone can decide whether to allow me to return to where I was born? Big deal!” scoffed Juan Antonio Blanco, a former Cuban Communist Party Central Committee analyst now living in Miami.

Putin: Pussy Riot Deserved Harsh Jail Term

MOSCOW (UPI) — Russian President Vladimir Putin said that if members of the punk band Pussy Riot “had not broken the law, they would now be at home, doing the housework.”

Speaking at a meeting with the Valdai Discussion Club Thursday, Putin dismissed any hope of mercy for incarcerated band members Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, The Independent reported.

“Whether the sentence was too much or too little is not for me to judge,” he said. “That is a matter for the court,” Putin said. “If they had not broken the law, they would now be at home, doing the housework, or back at their jobs.”

Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina, along with a third member of the band, Yekaterina Samutsevich, were sentenced to two years in prison for hooliganism motivated by religious hatred related to a performance at Moscow’s main Orthodox cathedral. Samutsevich was released from prison after she appealed her case.

Texas: Planned Parenthood Out Of Program

AUSTIN, Texas (UPI) — Texas officials say the state will immediately stop paying for health services provided by Planned Parenthood after a U.S. court has refused to rehear the case.

The federal appeals court ruled in August Texas has the right to bar organizations that perform abortions or are affiliated with organizations that do so from receiving state funding. The court refused Thursday to hold what is known as an en banc hearing, with all appeals judges in the 5th Circuit participating, The Dallas Morning News reported.

Officials said the Texas Women’s Health Program will stop using Planned Parenthood clinics next week, the Houston Chronicle reported.

The organization had been providing gynecological services and birth control for 43 percent of the low-income poor women in the program, with most of the funding coming from the federal government.

“Today’s ruling affirms yet again that in Texas the Women’s Health Program has no obligation to fund Planned Parenthood and other organizations that perform or promote abortion,” Gov. Rick Perry said. “In Texas we choose life, and we will immediately begin defunding all abortion affiliates to honor and uphold that choice.”

Jeffrey Hons, president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood Trust of South Texas, said the group plans to remain active in the state.

“The court’s disappointing decision today agrees with the politicians in Austin who engineered this disaster. This ruling further dismantles family planning in the state simply because women trust Planned Parenthood for their Pap tests and birth control. This is shameful,” he said. “Politics should never come between a woman and her health care, but in this decision, which conflicts with Supreme Court precedent, it appears it has.”