Sarah Palin apparently has a limited understanding of the troubled mortgage finance industry, as she told voters in Colorado Springs (9/6) that lending giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had “gotten too big and too expensive to the taxpayers.” She promised that “The McCain-Palin administration will make them smaller and smarter and more effective for homeowners who need help.” Perhaps Gov. Palin may be forgiven for her shallow knowledge of the secondary mortgage market. Andrew Leonard of Salon.com noted (9/8) that Fannie and Freddie have been private entities and haven’t cost the taxpayer a dime—so far. Ironically, the lack of regulation of mortgage bankers brought on the abuses that forced the government takeover. But taxpayers likely will end up picking up a substantial tab.

Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson placed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac into government conservatorship (9/7), making taxpayers liable for hundreds of billions’ worth of troubled loans. The two “government-sponsored entities,” which own half of the residential mortgages in the US, are supposed to make a profit for their stockholders but they operated with the understanding that the government guaranteed the securities. The alternative, in Paulson’s view, was to allow the US mortgage market to collapse, possibly bringing down the global economy with it.

Fannie Mae—the Federal National Mortgage Association—originated during the New Deal in 1938 as a public agency to prop up the housing market. It created long-term, fixed-rate mortgages and allowed banks and savings-and-loans to write the mortgages and sell them to Fannie Mae, which allowed the banks and thrifts to write more mortgages. Home ownership rates soared and the mortgage industry remained a stable, if unspectacular, financial performer for decades. Fannie Mae was privatized in 1968 and Freddie Mac (Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp.) was created two years later to give Fannie Mae competition.

The system sailed along until the 1980s, when bankers realized there was big money to be made from “thrifts.” Reagan-era deregulation of S&Ls allowed them to get into more speculative deals, which fed a real-estate boom that busted in the late 1980s costing hundreds of billions in a taxpayer bailout. Sen. John McCain was caught in the “Keating Five” scandal after he tried to intervene with federal regulators on behalf of a campaign contributor with a failed S&L. He later adopted a reform agenda in part to reclaim his reputation.

McCain has said he doesn’t know much about economics, but one of his mentors was former Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Texas), who wrote the Gramm-Bliley-Leach bill in 1999, which repealed New Deal laws that maintained barriers between commercial banks, investment banks and insurance companies. Gramm’s bill deregulated the financial industry—and now is blamed by many economists for the epidemic of speculation and fraud. In December 2000 Gramm slipped the “Commodity Futures Modernization Act” into an 11,000-page government reauthorization with little notice. The bill allowed banks to use “credit default swaps” to pass mortgage risks to insurance companies and other investors.

Robert Kuttner wrote at Prospect.org (9/8) that Fannie Mae was perverted from a government-sponsored and well-managed agency that served the public interest into a privatized casino whose big bets enriched a few insiders and then helped crash the entire system.

“So now, the Bush administration is playing half-of-FDR. It is saving capitalism from itself as Roosevelt did—but without getting serious about regulatory standards going forward. The taxpayers will bail out Fannie, but the rules for regulation of the mortgage system have yet to be written. That will await the next administration. And if the next administration is led by John McCain, the top financial guy is likely to be former Sen. Phil Gramm, the Senate’s biggest cheerleader for reckless deregulation.”

SNARKS ATTACK BARRACUDA. As much as we hate to intrude in personal matters, our Republican friends have made it clear that when the National Enquirer reports on the sexual peccadilloes of politicians, attention must be paid. So after the conservative media (and a lot of liberals, too) judged John Edwards disqualified for public office after his affair with Rielle Hunter was exposed last month, we were a little surprised when the Republican National Convention went ahead and nominated Sarah “The Barracuda” Palin for vice president even after the Enquirer reported (9/3) that the Alaska governor had an affair with her husband’s business partner and tried to cover up her 17-year-old daughter Bristol’s pregnancy before John McCain chose Palin as his running mate. (McCain also reportedly engaged in adultery 30 years ago before divorcing his first wife.) A source told the Enquirer Bristol balked at the coverup and refused a quick marriage before McCain’s announcement. Instead, the GOP gave Bristol and her shotgun fiancé, Levi Johnston, 18, a star player on the Wasilla High School hockey team, an honored place at the convention. Maybe they’re hoping for a Blair House wedding next January ...

The McCain campaign deplored the media coverage of their press release on Bristol’s pregnancy, then called the Enquirer report of Palin’s extramarital affair “a vicious lie.” Coincidentally, a former business partner of Todd Palin on 9/3 filed an emergency motion to have his divorce papers sealed, claiming he was being bothered by reporters. But apparently Todd has lots of business partners ...

Palin cut funding for a state program benefiting teen mothers in need of a place to live. After the Legislature passed a spending bill in April, Palin used her line-item veto to reduce funding for Covenant House Alaska by more than 20%, cutting funds from $5 mln to $3.9 mln. Covenant House is a mix of programs and shelters for troubled youths, including Passage House, which is a transitional home for teenage mothers, the Washington Post reported (9/2).

CUT WELFARE: GO TO HELL. After Sarah Palin mocked Obama’s experience as a community organizer in Chicago, a reader emailed Politico.com’s Jonathan Martin (9/4), “Mrs. Palin needs to be reminded that Jesus Christ was a community organizer and Pontius Pilate was a governor.” Of course, others quickly objected that Jesus was NOT a community organizer.

It makes one wonder if right-wing “Christians” ever read the New Testament. For example, Matthew quoted Jesus describing the last judgment (25:41-46): “Then he will say to those at his left hand [our right], ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.’ And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Paul Rosenberg summarized Christ’s message at OpenLeft.com: “Cut welfare spending: Go to Hell. It’s just that simple. They are the scribes and Pharisees. Woe unto all of them.”

AUCTIONING THE TRUTH. Among the “stretchers” the McCain campaign has told is the claim that Palin sold the Alaska governor’s jet on eBay after taking office. John McCain said “She took the luxury jet that was acquired by her predecessor, and sold it on eBay—and made a profit!” A video tribute to Palin that aired at the convention made the same assertion. In her convention speech, Palin was a little more careful, saying, “That luxury jet was over the top. I put it on eBay.” In fact, the Washington Post reported (9/6) Palin tried but was unable to sell the plane on eBay, but eight months later she sold it to Larry Reynolds, a businessman from Valdez and a contributor to her 2006 campaign, for $2.1 mln—a considerable discount from the $2.7 mln purchase price. The governor still has a turboprop.

HOME IS WHERE THE PER DIEM IS. Palin also got applause at the convention for getting rid of the chief at the governor’s mansion in Juneau since she would be staying at home in Wasilla. Except that Palin, whose annual salary is $125,000, then billed taxpayers $16,951 for 312 nights spent in her own home during her first 19 months in office, charging a “per diem” allowance intended to cover meals and expenses while traveling on state business, the Washington Post reported (9/9). Her husband, Todd, also has billed the state for expenses and per diem for trips he makes on official business for his wife. The governor’s husband and daughters charged the state $43,490 to travel. (The governor’s former chef ended up cooking at the Legislative Lounge.)

WORKING THE PRESS. If you were making a serious attempt to follow the business of the conventions, good ol’ C-SPAN was your best bet. TV critic David Bianculli of tvworthwatching.com did a good job monitoring the coverage and marking which events the various “news” channels ignored from 8/25 through 9/4. In summary, C-SPAN was the only network with gavel-to-gavel coverage of both conventions. PBS did the next best job, presenting the major speakers during evening sessions. The other “news” channels all too often broke away from speakers to focus on pundits bloviating and speculating about the latest Republican talking points. The commercial broadcast networks offered one hour of coverage each night, but they made curious choices. For example, on 8/25 only ABC presented Ted Kennedy’s stirring, unscheduled speech intact. CBS and NBC only played snippets as they looked toward Michelle Obama’s speech.

The best political analysis came from Comedy Central, as The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report ridiculed goings-on from the previous day. Daily Show really hit its stride during the Republican convention, as Stewart ran videos of Republicans such as Karl Rove belittling the experience of Tim Kaine, who had been governor of Virginia for three years after serving as mayor of Richmond, when Kaine was on the short list for Obama’s running mate, and fellow travelers such as Bill O’Reilly, who called Jamie Lynn Spears’ parents “pinheads” because they allowed their teenager to get pregnant. Stewart noted 180-degree turnarounds when the bloviators were confronted with Sarah Palin’s lack of high-level government experience as well as her lack of parental control.

MSNBC also provided entertaining sideshows in the sniping between co-anchors Chris Mathews and Keith Olbermann. After the GOP convention, MSNBC announced that straight-arrow NBC reporter David Gregory would assume anchoring duties on MSNBC for the balance of the election season. That probably has as much to do with Republican complaints that liberals were getting too much airtime on the network, culminating with the addition on 9/8 of Air America Radio host Rachel Maddow to the weeknight lineup following Olbermann’s Countdown show. McCain reportedly threatened to pull out of one of the three presidential debates because it would be moderated by former NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw. The last straw, according to the New York Times (9/8), was when Olbermann took exception of the RNC’s video “tribute to the victims of 9/11” that included graphic footage of the World Trade Center attacks. He said it exploited the memory of the dead. The GOP might consider MSNBC as left-wing programming, but while Maddow is a progressive voice, Matthews has worked for years to distance himself from his Democratic roots and Olbermann has distinguished himself and raised the network’s ratings with his stated disgust with the excesses of the Bush administration—which puts him well within the mainstream of the US.

NEVER TOO EARLY TO PANIC. Polls varied widely on the Monday after the Republican convention. A USA Today/Gallup Poll (9/8) showing McCain with a 54-44 lead among “likely voters” induced some panic among Dems, but when the same poll was conducted among registered voters, the lead shrunk to 50-46 and other polls showed the race effectively tied.

Markos Moulitsas of DailyKos.com noted (9/8) that Pollster.com’s aggregates showed Obama leading in states totaling 309 electoral votes, while McCain led in states totaling 229. When he took out states where the margin was 6 points or less, Obama led 243-132, although, with the exception of New Hampshire and Michigan, all the remaining “battleground” states are considered “red,” with history of voting Republican. “So we’re not out of the woods just yet. This is a real battle,” Moulitsas said. “But make no mistake about it, I’d rather be in Obama’s shoes than McCain’s.

Jonathan Singer of MyDD.com (9/8) scored Obama leading 264-227 with four tossup states—Colorado (with 9 votes); Nevada (5); Ohio (20); Virginia (13). Assuming that Obama can hold onto Michigan, New Hampshire and New Mexico, where he now has narrow leads outside the margin of error, he needs to pick up 6 more votes to win.

Chris Bower of MyDD.com (9/9) scored Obama leading 251-186 with seven tossup states and 101 electoral votes up for grabs, including Colorado (9), Florida (27), Indiana (11), Michigan (17), New Hampshire (4), Ohio (20) and Virginia (13). “It looks like the Obama ‘firewall’ that I outlined a few weeks ago—Kerry states plus Colorado, Iowa and New Mexico—remains the surest path to victory. Nevada might have emerged as a back-up plan, but I wouldn’t count on North Dakota anymore,” Bower wrote. “It has probably gone the way of Alaska, Georgia and Montana before it: red states where Obama was way overperforming, but is now probably losing by substantial amounts. With Iowa and New Mexico probably secure, I keep coming back to Colorado as the most important state of this election. If the campaign remains this close, it will probably serve the same role as Florida in 2000, or Ohio in 2004. If, on the off-chance that you have the ability to target resources in multiple areas in this election, it would be wise to focus them on Colorado above all other states.”

AK LABOR OK WITH OBAMA. The Alaska AFL-CIO endorsed the Obama-Biden ticket, even though Palin’s husband, Todd, is a member of the United Steelworkers because of his job at British Petroleum. But a vote for McCain is essentially a vote against the working man, said Vince Beltrami, the state federation’s president. He added that any action placing Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell at the helm of Alaska government also goes against workers’ best interests. “We can’t afford to have John McCain as our president or to have Sean Parnell as our governor,” Beltrami said, according to the Fairbanks News-Miner (9/2).

McCain has a record of failing to support policies that encourage good jobs with good wages and benefits. He voted to undermine wages and cut overtime eligibility and unemployment benefits and he has not supported job-creating construction projects that stimulate the economy. He has spoken out against unions and consistently voted against collective bargaining rights for workers.

McCain also wants to tax millions of middle-class workers, including union members, who receive health insurance from their employers. McCain would offer families up to $5,000 in tax credit to buy their own insurance. But many workers would pay more in taxes on insurance benefits than they would get from the new credit.

In related Labor Day news, UCLA’s Institute for Research on Labor and Employment (irle.ucla.edu) reported that union membership is slowly but surely bumping up. According to the “State of the Unions” series, union members account for 12.6% of the nonagriculatural labor force (16.25 mln members),up from 12.1% last year (15.74 mln members) and 12% the year before that (15.359 mln members).

PALIN FINDS DEFERENTIAL NEWSMAN. Sarah Palin has been in a protective cocoon since John McCain picked her to be his running mate on 8/29. According to Rick Davis, McCain’s campaign manager, Palin won’t submit to an interview “until the point in time when she’ll be treated with respect and deference. On 9/8, we learned that Sarah Palin has selected ABC News anchor Charlie Gibson for her first sit-down interview.

WORDS MATTER. Most Republicans have tried to use code words, such as “elitist,” when referring to Obama, but Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.) went ahead and used the racially charged term “uppity” to describe the Democratic nominee. Discussing Sarah Palin’s speech with reporters, Westmoreland said, “Just from what little I’ve seen of her and Mr. Obama, Sen. Obama, they’re a member of an elitist-class individual that thinks that they’re uppity,” according to TheHill.com (9/4). Asked to clarify that he used the word “uppity,” Westmoreland said, “Uppity, yeah.”

JOBLESS RATE HITS 5-YEAR HIGH. Unemployment rose to a five-year high of 6.1% in August, with employers cutting 84,000 jobs, which was worse than economists’ forecasts. It was the eighth consecutive month for job losses, as the US has shed 605,000 jobs in 2008. The Labor Department also reported that if workers who have exhausted unemployment benefits and those who work part-time are included, the underemployment rate is 10.7%.

John McCain on 8/20 said he still believed that “the fundamentals of our economy are strong,” though he briefly mentioned “tough times” in his convention speech. Obama proposes tax relief for 95% of working families and $50 bln to states for health care and education and to rebuild roads and schools.

ASSASSIN PLOT NO BIGGIE. The Republican US Attorney for Colorado apparently has different standards for treating threats against John McCain and Barack Obama. David Neiwert noted at dneiwert.blogspot.com (9/3) that US Attorney Troy Eid of Denver dismissed conspiracy charges against three white-supremacists who were caught in a Denver suburb planning to assassinate Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention. KUSA-TV in Denver reported that the three men allegedly planned to sneak a gun hidden inside a camera into one of his events. Nathan Johnson, Shawn Adolf and Tharin Gartrell reportedly thought Obama was staying in the Hyatt hotel, where they were staying. In fact, he was staying in another Denver hotel.

The men were doing methamphetamine inside the hotel with two women on Aug. 23, discussing the plot to kill Obama, according to federal documents. An informant told law enforcement that Adolf also talked about using “a high-powered rifle 22-250 from a high vantage point” to shoot Obama during his acceptance speech at INVESCO Field at Mile High.

Aurora police found two sniper rifles, ammunition, bulletproof vests, walkie-talkies, wigs and fake identifications in the pickup truck that Gartrell was driving when patrolmen pulled him over for erratic driving Aug. 24. When police searched the hotel rooms and cars the men were using, they confiscated meth, needles, laptops, cell phones, a black mask, books indicating check fraud and forgery, bags of new clothes, tactical pants and bar coupons. Adolf, who reportedly told the women “it would not matter if he killed Sen. Obama because police would simply add a murder charge to his pending charges,” jumped through a sixth-story window, breaking his ankle, when police came knocking.

Based on the evidence, FBI special agent Robert Sawyer first believed there was probable cause to believe the men were conspiring to kill Obama, KUSA reported. However, Eid said that further investigation revealed insufficient evidence to indicate a “true threat,” plot or conspiracy against the senator. The men were charged with various weapons and/or drug charges.

However, Neiwert noted that when a black man in the Arapahoe County Jail in Littleton, Colo., sent a threatening letter containing what was later found to be baby powder to John McCain’s Colorado office, Eid brought down the full force of the law, complete with press conferences, public declarations that “We won’t stand for threats of this kind in Colorado,” and charging Marc Ramsey with knowingly threatening to harm or kill through the US mail, punishable by up to five years in federal prison and up to $250,000 fines. Ramsey has been held at the jail since Sept. 17, 2007, on charges of felony menacing, harassment and felony second-degree assault on a peace officer.

MAC’S SECRET PLAN. John McCain says he knows how to capture Osama bin Laden, but we’ll have to elect him president to see how he’ll do it. “President Clinton had opportunities to get Osama bin Laden. President Bush had opportunities to get Osama bin Laden. I know how to do it and I’ll do it,” he told ABC’s *World News* in an interview (9/3). As Markos Moulitsas noted, possibly sarcastically (9/4), “Given that the Taliban is killing Americans in Afghanistan (137 this year alone), perhaps it would be prudent for McCain to share his secret technique with Bush so we can rid this world of the Osama Bin Laden cancer once and for all? Or is it that he wants Bush to fail?”

MISS. LEADERS BURY SENATE RACE. Mississippi Republican officials apparently plan to bury the special US Senate race between former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove (D) and interim Sen. Roger Wicker (R) at the bottom of the state’s ballot, below local races. Gov. Haley (R) approved the sample ballot presented by Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann (R), despite Atty. Gen. Jim Hood’s objection that state law requires federal races be placed at the top of the ballot. “We will win this election no matter where the Secretary of State puts it on the ballot,” Tim Phillips, Musgrove’s campaign manager, said. “But this is about the law and they don’t get to make up their own laws.” Historically, there’s a dropoff in votes from the top of the ballot to the bottom.

BUSH CREW COULD FACE CRIMINAL REVIEW. Joe Biden said he and Barack Obama could pursue criminal charges against the Bush administration if they are elected in November, the London *Guardian* noted (9/3). “We will not be stopped from pursuing any criminal offense that’s occurred,” Biden said, going on to praise congressional committees for the deliberate pace of their inquiries into alleged Bush administration misdeeds. “If there has been a basis upon which you can pursue someone for a criminal violation, they will be pursued—not out of vengeance, not out of retribution, out of the need to preserve the notion that no one, no attorney general, no president—no one is above the law.”

Obama sounded a similar note in April, vowing that if elected, he would ask his attorney general to initiate a prompt review of Bush-era actions to distinguish between possible “genuine crimes” and “really bad policies ... [I]f crimes have been committed, they should be investigated,” Obama told the *Philadelphia Daily News*. “You’re also right that I would not want my first term consumed by what was perceived on the part of Republicans as a partisan witch hunt, because I think we’ve got too many problems we’ve got to solve.”

WHO’S AN ELITIST? Vanity Fair tallied up the cost of Cindy McCain’s outfit on her night at the GOP convention, Greg Sargent of TalkingPointsMemo.com noted (9/4), and it estimated that the Oscar de la Renta dress cost $3,000; Chanel J12 White Ceramic Watch: $4,500; Three-carat diamond earrings: $280,000; Four-strand pearl necklace: $11,000-$25,000; Shoes, designer unknown: $600. Total: Between $299,100 and $313,100.

REVISIONIST POPULISM. Andrew Leonard of Salon.com noted the following observation at TheEconomist.com in “Free Exchange” (9/4): “ So let’s see, what’s in the news? Well, last night Republicans trotted out a Massachusetts venture capitalist and governor, the former mayor of New York City, former executives of eBay and HP, and an Alaskan neophyte pol who as mayor of a small town delivered $4,000 in federal pork for every man, woman, and child, in railing against coastal elites and Washington politics, while supporting a candidate who’s been in the Senate for 26 years.”

HEY BIG SPENDER. John McCain and Sarah Palin criticized Barack Obama over the money he has requested for his home state of Illinois, even though Palin has asked Washington for 10 times more money per citizen for pet projects, Sara Kugler of the Associated Press noted (9/8). At a rally in Missouri, the Republican presidential nominee and his running mate accused Obama of requesting nearly $1 billion in earmarks for his state during his time as a senator. Obama hasn’t asked for any earmarks this yea, but last year, he asked for $311 million worth, about $25 for every Illinois resident. Alaska asked this year for earmarks totaling $198 million, about $295 for every Alaska citizen. Alaska is by far the largest per-capita consumer of federal pet-project spending.

GOP SHOTGUN MARRIAGE. Frank Rich wrote in the New York Times that the placement of Sarah Palin on the ticket at the orders of the GOP right wing is a bad sign of the direction a McCain presidency would take (9/7):

“He wanted to choose the pro-abortion-rights Joe Lieberman as his vice president. If he were still a true maverick, he would have done so. But instead he chose partisanship and politics over country. ... McCain is now the man of James Dobson and Tony Perkins. The “no surrender” warrior surrendered to the agents of intolerance not just by dumping his pal for Palin but by moving so far to the right on abortion that even Cindy McCain seemed unaware of his radical shift when being interviewed by Katie Couric last week. ...

The ideological sellout is not even the worst leadership trait McCain displayed, as his decisionmaking process was impetuous and potentially reckless, as the campaign did not seriously vet Palin and then lied about it when the issues that quickly cropped up. “We’ve already seen where such visceral decision-making by McCain can lead. In October 2001, he speculated that Saddam Hussein might have been behind the anthrax attacks in America. That same month he out-Cheneyed Cheney in his repeated public insistence that Iraq had a role in 9/11 — even after both American and foreign intelligence services found that unlikely. He was similarly rash in his reading of the supposed evidence of Saddam’s W.M.D. and in his estimate of the number of troops needed to occupy Iraq. (McCain told MSNBC in late 2001 that we could do with fewer than 100,000.) It wasn’t until months after “Mission Accomplished” that he called for more American forces to be tossed into the bloodbath. The whole fiasco might have been prevented had he listened to those like Gen. Eric Shinseki who faulted the Rumsfeld war plan from the start.

“In other words, McCain’s hasty vetting of Palin was all too reminiscent of his grave dereliction of due diligence on the war. He has been no less hasty in implying that we might somehow ride to the military rescue of Georgia (“Today, we are all Georgians”) or in reaffirming as late as December 2007 that the crumbling anti-democratic regime of Pervez Musharraf deserved “the benefit of the doubt” even as it was enabling the resurgence of the Taliban and Al Qaeda. McCain’s blanket endorsement of Bush administration policy in Pakistan could have consequences for years to come.

When McCain campaign manager Davis said “This election is not about issues” so much as the candidates’ images, Rich said it was one of the season’s most notable pronouncements. “Going into the Republican convention, we thought we knew what he meant: the McCain strategy is about tearing down Obama. But last week made clear that the McCain campaign will be equally ruthless about deflecting attention from its own candidate’s deterioration.”

YOU HAVE TO SHOW UP TO FIGHT. Paul Rosenberg noted at OpenLeft.com (9/7) that two of the themes that John McCain hit on in his acceptance speech were his willingness—nay eagerness to “fight” for the American people, and to work across the aisles to get things done. So, Rosenberg checked the record at the Library of Congress database at thomas.loc.gov for the current Congress to see who actually was trying to get things done. He found that Obama has sponsored 129 bills, compared with McCain’s 38. As an indication of the work he put into those bills, Obama signed on 547 co-sponsors, compared with McCain’s 91. Rosenberg also found that the facts contradict McCain’s claim that “Again and again, I’ve worked with members of both parties to fix problems that need to be fixed. ... I will reach out my hand to anyone to help me get this country moving again. I have that record and the scars to prove it. Sen. Obama does not.” On the seven bills with the most co-sponsors (for the most important fights, presumably), Obama had 29 GOP cosponsors while McCain got only 16.

DEMS POST VOTER GAINS. Democrats have used the enthusiasm generated by the Obama-Clinton primary struggle to add more than 2 mln to voter rolls since 2006 in 28 states that register according to party affiliation, the HuffingtonPost.com noted (9/6). Republicans have lost nearly 344,000 voters in the same states while unaffiliated voters dropped by nearly 900,000. Many signed up as Dems to take part in the primaries and caucuses, and now they’ll be targeted by an aggressive get-out-the-vote campaign. Nationwide, there are about 42 mln registered Dems and 31 mln Republicans, according to statistics compiled by the Associated Press. Democrats have posted big gains in many competitive states, including Nevada, New Hampshire, Iowa, Colorado and Florida. They have also been targeting historically Republican southern states. Since 2006, Dems have added 167,000 voters in North Carolina, while Republicans added 36,000. The Obama campaign hopes to register 500,000 voters in Georgia. The state has added 337,000 voters since 2006, but it does not identify them by party affiliation. In Pennsylvania, Dems have added 375,000 voters since 2006 while Republicans lost 117,000.

OHIO MAY ‘CAGE’ VOTERS. It’s one thing to register to vote, and another thing to stay registered. Ohio election officials sent out a mass mailer stamped “do not forward” to all registered voters (9/5) with an absentee ballot application and other notices for the 11/4 election, David Rosenfeld noted at Truthout.org (9/5). A similar mailing in March netted nondeliverable mail from almost 600,000 registered voters in five Ohio counties who could now have their ballots challenged for voting under the wrong address. In 2004, the year the national election hinged on results from Ohio, the Ohio Republican Party challenged 35,000 voters based on returned mail from the GOP’s own friendly reminder notices, in a practice known as “caging.” Since 2005, Ohio state law has required a non-forwarded mailer 60 days before each federal election. The suspicious part about the law, said Donita Judge of the nonprofit Advancement Project, is that it’s set to expire after the November election. Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner (D) set up a conflict with the GOP-dominated General Assembly when she sent a directive to county boards of elections that the returned mail should not be the only reason to cancel a registration and voters must be given a chance to respond ahead of the election, Associated Press reported (9/7). Ohio’s reformed election law opens a window between 9/30 and 10/6 when voters can register. (Voter registration deadlines generally are a month before the election.)

COURT LETS US BAR MAD-COW TEST. The US Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit says the government can prohibit meat packers from testing their animals for mad cow disease, the Associated Press reported (8/29). Because the Agriculture Department tests only a small percentage of cows for the deadly disease, Kansas meatpacker Creekstone Farms Premium Beef wanted to test all of its cows. The government says it can’t, siding with larger meat companies that worry that if Creekstone is allowed to perform the test and advertise its meat as safe, they could be forced to do the expensive test, too.

ALTERNATIVES ON THE BALLOT. According to Ballot Access News (ballot-access.org), as of 9/7 the Libertarian Party is on 42 state ballots, the Green Party is on 32 state ballots, the Constitution Party is on 33 ballots and Ralph Nader is on 39 ballots so far, including his nomination by the Peace & Freedom Party of California, Natural Law of Michigan, Peace Party of Oregon, Independent of Michigan and the Independence and Ecology Party of Florida, Hawaii and New Mexico.

From The Progressive Populist, October 1, 2008

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