Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Wed 7th Nov Todays News

Happy birthday and many happy returns Phillip VoAnthea Lai and James Moore. Born on the same day, across the years. Remember, birthdays are good for you. The more you have, the longer you live.

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Obama win celebrated in post-racial US

Andrew BoltNOVEMBER072012(7:59pm)

Sign of a future I’ll touch on in tomorrow’s column:
In the past week, conservatives who usually disagree with each other about many things, including Fred Barnes, Peggy Noonan, Dick Morris, my PJM colleague Roger Kimball, George F. Will, Karl Rove, and Michael Barone, among others, provided analysis and arguments, all of which led to predictions of an inevitable Romney victory. Instead of the outcome they all looked forward to and assumed would be inevitable given Obama’s failures and the state of the economy, they found that their theories collapsed as the returns poured in.
That theory? That a terrible economic record would sink the incumbent.
Well, welcome to the new age of identity politics - a time when seeming trumps doing, identity trumps performance and receiving beats giving. Ominous signs for Tony Abbott. And the West.

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Turning Treasury into a Labor campaign office

Andrew BoltNOVEMBER072012(11:37am)

Labor debauches another public institution:
Former Treasury secretary Ted Evans said while it was open to governments to ask the department to cost opposition policies, “certainly I cannot recall an occasion of them ever being misused, which seems to have happened on this occasion”.
The Treasurer, whose office confirmed the leak, yesterday accused the Coalition of a “pathetic” attempt at trying to hide its costings, while Julia Gillard said it was “very routine” for Treasury to cost policies that were being talked about in the public domain.
Opposition Treasury spokesman Joe Hockey accused the government of using the department as a “sword and shield”, while finance spokesman Andrew Robb said the leaking of the analysis could undermine confidence in what came out of Treasury.
UPDATE
Professor Judith Sloan: 
Fairfax Media’s Peter Martin, recipient of the leak, seems to think that this sort of activity is all in a day’s work for the Treasury, claiming that “Treasury maintains a watching brief on behalf on the government” by costing opposition policies…
How does this activity fit with the Australian Public Service values, to which all public servants commit. These values state, inter alia, that the APS: 
• “Is apolitical, performing its functions in an impartial and professional manner;…
• “Is responsive to the government in providing frank, honest, comprehensive, accurate and timely advice and in implementing government’s policies and programs;
• “Has leadership of the highest quality.”
...It is not appropriate for the Treasury to keep a watching brief on opposition policies on behalf of the government. As the APS values state, public servants are required to give advice on government’s policies and programs. There is no reference to opposition policies and programs.
The statements of Trade Minister Craig Emerson are all the more scary in this light. He claimed that “the Treasury has done these costings and they have made available the results of these costings. It is not unusual for the Treasury, when there are clearly articulated policies, to release costings of them.”
Actually, Craig, the costings are not generally available; they were just given to a chosen person. A request from The Australian to the Treasurer’s office to obtain a copy of the costings was denied yesterday.
Labor’s election tactic is to destroy Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey in the slipstream of their election costings close to voting day… But this strategy depends on two platforms—it assumes Labor’s fiscal credentials are not in tatters and it relies on the standing of the departments of Treasury and Finance as guardians of the nation’s purse.
The backdrop to the budget agonising is the growing tension within Treasury towards the government and the Coalition’s now unconcealed hostility towards the way Labor manages Treasury for political ends. This has culminated in Hockey’s November 5 letter to Treasury chief Martin Parkinson, documenting Coalition distrust of Treasury and its manipulation by Labor…
This week Deloitte Access Economics released its own budget numbers..., disagreeing with the mid-year review, and predicting a $4.2 billion deficit this year and a deterioration in 2013-14 with a $5.1bn deficit…
Bu [Labor’s] failure to achieve surplus would undermine, perhaps cripple, Labor’s tactic of exposing the Coalition on faulty costings… In the last pre-election budget Treasury forecast a $41bn deficit for 2010-11 that finished as a $48bn deficit. The next year it forecast a $23bn deficit that finished as a $44bn deficit. Last budget it forecast a $1.5bn surplus and the jury is out....
What does the Coalition remember? It remembers that in August-September 2010 it was dismantled by Treasury/Finance costings that found a black hole upwards of $10bn in its election costings yet at the exact same time the Treasury and Labor were advancing budget estimates almost without precedent in their inaccuracy.
UPDATE
Outrageous, and Fairfax should come clean on why it suggested something different:
The government has insisted for two days that Treasury routinely undertakes costings of opposition policies on its own initiative.
But the Treasurer today conceded his office had requested the costings on the Coalition’s tax policies and it later released the information.
“We are asking all the time for a range of matters to be looked at by the Treasury, including these ones,” he told Sky News in Washington.
Prepared as Treasury attempts to come to grips with a suite of Coalition policies yet to be announced, the analysis includes only those to which it has publicly committed...The three policies identified by Treasury are...
UPDATE
The Coalition may also have forgotten the ‘’multi-billion shortfall’’ Simon Crean would have inflicted on the economy in 2002 because of its opposition to changes proposed to superannuation. How did we know? Because Peter Costello had Treasury cost Labor’s policy promise. He issued a press release entitled ‘’LABOR’S SUPER BUNGLE’’.
It began: ‘’The Department of Treasury has carried out a preliminary costing of the Labor Party’s policy announced last night to oppose the superannuation surcharge tax cut and reduce superannuation contributions tax levels.’’
UPDATE
Actually, Coorey has modified his story after being corrected. Costello never did leak a Treasury minute on Opposition costings. Coorey now says:
Nonetheless, the Coalition acted similarly when in government by questioning Labor policies. As Martin noted this morning, Peter Costello blew a $350 million hole in a 2004 promise by then-opposition leader, Mark Latham, to introduce a new baby care payment. Costello says he calculated the figures himself and did not rely on the Treasury. A report from the time says he produced a Treasury minute to back his figures. [That was false.]
The Coalition may also have forgotten the ‘’multi-billion shortfall’’ Simon Crean would have inflicted on the economy in 2002 because of its opposition to changes proposed to superannuation. How did we know? Because Peter Costello had Treasury cost Labor’s policy promise. He issued a press release entitled ‘’LABOR’S SUPER BUNGLE’’.

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Gillard proud her “misogynist” smear fooled a leader or two

Andrew BoltNOVEMBER072012(9:53am)

Gillard really knows no shame, taking pride at sliming Tony Abbott before international leaders: 
“The President of France congratulated me on the speech, as did the Prime Minister of Denmark and some other leaders just casually as I’ve moved around have also mentioned it to me,” she told ABC Radio this morning.
“So some approval here from some leaders at the Asia-Europe Meeting.”
How squalid. Can anyone imagine John Howard boasting some vicious and baseless personal smear of his opponent had wowed gullible foreign leaders?

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America votes

Andrew BoltNOVEMBER072012(9:35am)

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But those polls largely assume the Obama turnout this year will be the same as four years ago, which Obama’s tears at his final rally suggest won’t happen:
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R: NC, FL
O: NH, PA, MI, NV
TOSS UP: OH, VA, CO, IA
In 2004, Kerry was picking out new curtains for the Oval Office because the exit polls showed him destroying George Bush.
But then people started noting: In the Pennsylvania exits, there were 22% more women surveyed than men. Could that be right?
No, it wasn’t right. The exit polls had a massive Democratic skew for several reasons. The people conducting the polls were young college students, for example. Older voters avoided them (figuring they would look down on their vote) and they, in turn, avoided older voters (because older voters are square, man!).
UPDATE
If Obama wins Florida, it’s over:
Lots of raw vote is in from Florida, about 40 percent. Obama leads by a few points. This vote doesn’t encompass the conservative panhandle area, whose polls are only now about the close. Romney should do quite well there.
I don’t know which parts of the state of the tabulated vote comes mainly from. But Fox says some early voting results released from key counties in the central corridor of the state are favorable to Obama.
Meanwhile:
In Virginia, Fox News exit polls show the race so tight that neither Romney nor Obama have even a slight lead.
UPDATE
Florida vote is now better for Romney, who leads in raw votes. Virginia looking promising for him, suggests CNN.
UPDATE
Republican campaign genius Karl Rove says Ohio is looking much better this time than four years ago, and he is optimistic.
UPDATE
NBC News’ Chief White House Correspondent Chuck Todd examined the state of Florida as returns from the Sunshine State pour in. He said that experts onboth sides have told him that they expect Mitt Romney to win the state, but by a slim margin.
But Wisconsin and Pennsylvania seem Obama’s. Getting tough for Romney:
UPDATE
I’d say it’s now unlikely Romney will win.  Even Florida is back to a toss up. The Republicans will nevertheless maintain control of the House, but not of the Senate. I expect gridlock and non-business-as-usual to continue.
UPDATE
UPDATE
The defeat of Richard ”God’s will” Mourdock in a Senate race the Republicans should have banked should warn the party of the limited appeal of religious hardliners. But the victory of pretend Cherokee and Democrat Elizabeth Warren (in admittedly traditional Democrat Massachusetts) is a defeat for reason - but also a warning to Republicans not to try to outflank Democrats from the Left.
Just to rub in that message, the Democrats’ Claire McCaskill has easily held on to her Senate seat for Missouri against Todd Akin, who looked like he could take it until in a discussion about abortion said: “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to shut that whole thing down.”
Those two bozos, and those behind them, probably cost the Republicans the Senate - and even the presidency.
UPDATE
Fox News calls Ohio for Obama. Obama will be re-elected President of the United States.

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I’d be more impressed if it was her own money

Andrew BoltNOVEMBER072012(9:27am)

Julia Gillard wants to be a “global philanthropist”. But with whose money?
IN an interview with women’s magazine Marie Claire on sale today, Julia Gillard says her dream job outside politics is global philanthropist. Like so much of what the Prime Minister says, it sounds damn good but what it really means is far from clear.
This disconnect between rhetoric and reality segues into a deeper problem facing modern politics. Sounding good is too often used as a cheap and easy substitute for the harder yards of doing good.
Indeed, if there were a Walter Mitty Award for fantastical dreaming in Canberra, the PM would win it hands down… Promises on the never-never include a grand dental scheme, a vision for a National Disability Insurance Scheme and, most recently, a project to launch Australia into the 21st Asian Century. Gillard’s visions lack any sign of real-time implementation, let alone real-time funding. It’s as if Walter Mitty has come to Canberra.

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Well, that’s embarrassing

Andrew BoltNOVEMBER072012(8:52am)

The Daily Mail shows its British readers what Australians look like at the races.

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How fat cats and government steal the super of the young

Andrew BoltNOVEMBER072012(8:37am)

ONE of the accounting tricks the government announced in its midyear budget review was to take over inactive superannuation accounts and treat them as government revenue. If you have an account with less than $2000 and your fund cannot contact you - perhaps you have changed jobs and changed address - the Tax Office can take the money. The Tax Office is supposed to find you and, as the explanation of the measure describes it, ‘’reunite’’ you with your lost superannuation. But the government is banking on a very large number not being found.

Under this proposal the government will raise $555 million before June 30 next year. If the average in those accounts is $500 that would mean 1 million ‘’lost’’ accounts. Some people will have multiple accounts. Could it be that hundreds of thousands of Australians don’t care enough to ‘’reunite’’ with their super?

More than likely, a lot of these will be young people with part-time jobs where super is compulsorily deducted from their wages. As they move through a number of jobs their contributions are paid to a number of different industry funds. They move house. If they ever get ‘’reunited’’ with their super they can’t take the money because it can’t be drawn down until they are 55. So they don’t bother chasing it and fees start to run down the balance. Now the government can take the remainder in an attempt to balance its budget.

This week I saw the annual statement of one 18-year-old who had $60 taken out of wages for super contributions. That paid for $26 of life insurance premiums, $17 in government tax, and $17 for ‘’administration fees’’. After earnings, the preserved retirement benefit for this employee is $1.52.
In other words the whole transaction was run for the benefit of the government and the fund. Thankfully the superannuation contribution was only 9 per cent of wages. Soon it will go higher. These are compulsorily taken from the wages of low paid and part-time workers. It is never going to fund their retirement.

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Will a change in the facts change Bacon’s opinion?

Andrew BoltNOVEMBER072012(7:52am)

Wendy Bacon is Professor of Journalism at the Australian Centre of Independent Journalism. Having learned we spend 100 times more on Aborigines each year than she told the world, will she now concede it sure is plenty and we deserve better results?
ABC1’s Q&A, Monday: 
TONY Jones: Bob, the Kimberley Land Council negotiated a $1.5 billion compensation package over 30 years.
Wendy Bacon tweets on Monday:
Maths for beginners: 
$1,500,000,000 / 30 years = $50,000,000 not $500,000.

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Gillard breaks silence to deny she had anything to tell police

Andrew BoltNOVEMBER072012(7:12am)

Julia Gillard drops her refusal to answer questions about the AWU scandal, now claiming she knew nothing which she could have reported to police: 
Working as a lawyer at Slater & Gordon in 1992, Ms Gillard provided legal advice that helped her then boyfriend, AWU official Bruce Wilson, set up an entity called the AWU Workplace Reform Association. Mr Wilson and fellow AWU official Ralph Blewitt are accused of using the association to defraud the union of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The AWU launched an investigation in August 1995 and Slater & Gordon interviewed Ms Gillard about her role the following month, when she described the association as a “slush fund” for the re-election of union officials…
Asked in parliament last week why she did not “report the fraud”, Ms Gillard replied: “By the time the matters . . . came to my attention, they were already the subject of inquiry and investigation.”
However, union officials learned of the existence of the slush fund only in April 1996 and former AWU official Peter Trebilco told The Australian this week that he would have acted faster to secure the funds if Slater & Gordon had told him of it.
Yesterday Ms Gillard rejected the assumption that she could have alerted the union or the police to the matter ...
“My role here was that as a lawyer I provided advice on the incorporation of an association,” she said. “I was never connected with the operation of any fund, never connected with the operation of any fund.
“I was not an office bearer of the association, I was not involved in its activities, I was not involved in any bank accounts it may have held, I was not an official of the AWU, I was not in charge of the conveyancing file. So you are effectively asking me why didn’t I report to authorities things I did not know.”
Can that be right? In her August press conference, Gillard suggested she indeed knew in 1995 something was fishy about her boyfriend and the association she helped set up under a deceptive name:
JOURNALIST: Can you be specific about exactly when and how you were informed that it might have been put to questionable use?
PM: These matters started to come to attention in 1995 when they became the subject of controversy within the AWU itself. That is the first time that they came to my attention…
What I can say to you, Dennis, and what I think your question is trying to drive at is once I became aware that I had been deceived about a series of matters, I ended my relationship with Mr Wilson…
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you mentioned this was first disseminated, this situation, during the election campaign in 2007.
PM: No, not first disseminated, no. These matters have been canvassed on the public record for the best part of 17 years… We’re talking about events 17 years ago. A series of allegations made, there were some police investigations at the time…
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, when the scandal erupted and it became known that this money had been stolen by two shysters, who told you?....
PM: Well, I can’t go to matters of privilege, but first and foremost, allegations were being raised and dealt with within the AWU. Those allegations came to my attention. I formed a view that I had not been dealt with honestly and based on that view I ended a relationship I had back then, 17 years ago....
JOURNALIST: Can I assume you’ve had no contact with Bruce Wilson since 1995?
PM: Correct.
Moreover, as Michael Smith notes, by January 1996 Gillard would have learned the AWU wanted a royal commission into secret bank accounts and other activities of her former boyfriend, yet she still didn’t contact police or the AWU about the slush fund she’d helped to set up - one the union still didn’t know about. Here is a press clipping from that time:
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Former union official claims he was part of alleged AWU fraud

Piers Akerman – Wednesday, November 07, 2012 (4:20am)

PRIME Minister Julia Gillard’s ongoing problems over her past association with a group of trade unionists including her former boyfriend, Bruce Wilson, have ratcheted up a notch.
Ralph Blewitt, a former branch head of the AWU, who last week told The Australian he would like to cooperate with police in return for immunity from prosecution, has now claimed he was part of a fraud along with Gillard and Wilson.
Gillard has consistently maintained that apart from her romantic involvement with Wilson, she helped set up the AWU Workplace Reform Association, which she later described as a slush fund for the election of union officials.
Bank accounts related to the association were set up and operated by Wilson and fellow union boss Ralph Blewitt.
An internal review of Gillard’s conduct, her partners at Slater & Gordon in August-September 1995 heard that she had given legal advice to help Wilson and Blewitt set up the slush fund in 1992, leading to its incorporation.
However, as The Australian has reported, she told neither the AWU nor the firm about this work until fraud concerns were raised in 1995. She left the firm soon afterwards.
Peter Trebilco, who was joint secretary of the West Australian branch of the AWU in 1995, has told The Australian that had he been made aware of the slush fund he would have done an immediate audit and proved that the AWU Workplace Reform Association fund and its accounts were secret, unauthorised and unlawful.
“If we had been told by Slater & Gordon that it was set up by Bruce Wilson and Ralph Blewitt, we would have been immediately more suspicious. We knew about the relationship between Julia Gillard and Bruce, but (not) of the slush fund until after the money in its accounts had disappeared.’’
Gillard was asked about Trebilco’s claims yesterday at a press conference in Vientiane.
Here is her response from the transcript: “I’d like to be very clear about the timeline here. Firstly, let me say I’ve dealt with all of these matters extensively on the public record and I’ve dealt with them in Parliament. I know the Opposition is making some points about this but the statement I made in Parliament that they are pointing to I stand by and it is wholly true.
“Just on the timeline here, in August 1995 it was becoming apparent in the AWU there were some issues here. In September 1995 it was the subject of an internal review in Slater & Gordon. That internal review is out there in the public domain and what I said in that internal review is not contradicted in anyway by any other things that have been said. What I said in that internal review is the truth.

“Let’s just, you know, there’s issues here with the coverage and because of issues in the coverage there are issues in your questions.
“My role here was as a lawyer, I provided advice on the incorporation of an association. I was never connected with the operation of any fund. Never connect(ed) with the operation of any fund. I was not an office bearer of the association. I was not involved in its activities. I was not involved in any bank accounts it may have held. I was not an official of the AWU. I was not in charge of the conveyancing file.
“So you are effectively asking me, why didn’t I report to authorities things I did not know.”
In fact, her response raises more questions and there are more to be asked now Blewitt has alleged she was involved..
Blewitt, who has been living in Asia since 1997, claimed in a statement posted on Mike Smith’s website that a Labor dirt unit had been trying to discredit him “to try and convince the general public that I’m an untruthful person whose evidence in AWU Workplace Reform Association cannot be trusted”.
The attack on Blewitt was published on a notoriously unreliable and abusive Victorian-based website reportedly operated by a former Labor staffer.
In an angry response, Blewitt wrote: “Well I don’t have to bear my sole (sic) or disclose my past to anyone but I’m not about to run and hide from mistakes I’ve made in my past.
“I apologize for my part in the AWU Workplace Reform Association Fraud the ONLY benefit I got from the fraud was I kept my job,” he said in the statement.
He then gave an account of his life since 1997 and concluded with a direct accusation:
“As I stated in my opening THEY ARE TRYING TO DISCREDIT Me As Credible Witness In The Fraud that I Along with (PM) Julia Gillard and Bruce Wilson committed in Western Australia in 1992 / 1995.”
Gillard has always maintained that she had no knowledge of the activities of her boyfriend or his associates though she was engaged as a partner in the Labor law firm Slater & Gordon when it organised a loan for the purchase a house in Victoria which was used by Wilson and which she visited.
Though she addressed an impromptu press conference in August at which she invited questions from members of the Canberra press gallery, many question marks remain.
As the Labor Party encouraged speculation about Opposition leader Tony Abbott’s history as a student politician 25 years ago, it seems reasonable to examine Gillard’s activities as law partner 17 years ago. 

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REPORTERS UNFILTERED

Tim Blair – Wednesday, November 07, 2012 (1:43pm)

The biases of Australian reporters are more pronounced when covering foreign elections. Perhaps they feel less constrained. Seven’s US election coverage, for example, has featured Chris Reason asking in astonished tones why Americans don’t adore Obamacare and continued Democrat cheerleading from US correspondent Angela Cox, who at one point sneeringly wondered if any Republicans had ever heard of the singer Rihanna.
It’s a relief when Seven crosses to the relatively even-handed NBC.

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AROUND THE BATTLEGROUNDS

Tim Blair – Wednesday, November 07, 2012 (12:08pm)

• In New Hampshire, Barack Obama has told a local radio station that he possesses “Gangnam Style” dancing abilities
“I just saw that video for the first time, and I think I can do that move,” said Obama, referring to the horse-dance move that Psy performs throughout the clip. 
He thought he could throw, too. Current score: Obama 55%, Romney 43%. UPDATE. New Hampshire now reported as a win for Obama.
• Nothing is going wrong in Florida. Yet. Current score: Obama 50%, Romney 50%. UPDATE. Florida voter turned away due to academic clothing. UPDATE II. With nearly seven million votes cast, Romney leads by 1288.
• Prominent political identity Lady Gaga leads the charge for Obama in must-win Ohio
“I’m a Catholic and I make a lot of money and I want to give a lot of it back and I don’t want any tax breaks. I want people in my country that don’t have a lot; I want them to have more. I want them to have what I have. I feel guilty every day that I can’t give it to everyone.” 
She’s a genius. Current score: Obama 51%, Romney 46%.
• Election officials in Virginia have stopped updating their count because so many voters are yet to cast a ballot. Current score: Romney 51%, Obama 47%.
• A possible omen in North Carolina
North Carolina elected a Republican governor for the first time in more than two decades tonight.
In the presidential vote, booting problems are reported. Current score: Romney 51%, Obama 48%.
• NBC is reporting that ballots have run out at several voting sites in Wisconsin. Current score: Romney 53%, Obama 45%.
• Claims of three-hour voting delays in Colorado. Current score: Obama 50%, Romney 47%.
UPDATE. Indiana, won by Obama in 2008, goes to Romney in 2012 – but that won’t be enough. As predicted, it looks like an Obama victory by a smaller margin than four years ago.
UPDATE II. Romney reclaims North Carolina for the GOP.

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CARBON ECONOMY COVERED

Tim Blair – Wednesday, November 07, 2012 (9:40am)

An impressive new title at the Sydney Morning Herald:

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“Carbon economy editor” Hannam delivers this remarkable scoop: 
The next United Nations climate report will ‘’scare the wits out of everyone’’ …
Yvo de Boer, the UN climate chief during the 2009 Copenhagen climate change talks, said his conversations with scientists working on the next report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggested the findings would be shocking. 
Maybe de Boer will start crying again. 
“That report is going to scare the wits out of everyone,’’ Mr de Boer said in the only scheduled interview of his visit to Australia. “I’m confident those scientific findings will create new political momentum.’’ 
His only scheduled interview, eh? Impressive. Readers are invited to offer their own predictions of IPCC scariness. Submissions must be scarier than the UN’s 2005 prediction of 50 million climate refugees by 2010 .

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VOTER CHALLENGED

Tim Blair – Wednesday, November 07, 2012 (7:42am)

Democrat John Kelso makes his point by wearing a Big Bird outfit to the polls: 
Just putting the suit on back at the house was a challenge. I had to ask my wife, Kay, to help me put the thing on because I couldn’t figure out what went where …
“You’ve got it on upside down,” Kay said. “These are the arms, and this is the tail.” 
Other Obama supporters have also turned things around. More reliably, here’s the NY Post:

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Romney’s result, of course, depends on Florida, Ohio, Colorado, IowaVirginia, Wisconsin, Nevada and North Carolina. From battleground New Hampshire, Mark Steyn observes recent electoral dancing activity
Yesterday was apparently National Dance For Obama Day. In Manhattan it attracted all of twelve dancers. 
Only twelve? Those arts cuts are really kicking in.

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HOPE CHANGES

Tim Blair – Wednesday, November 07, 2012 (6:01am)

Remember when pundits worldwide declared George W. Bush a bogus president because he failed to win the popular vote over Al Gore in 2000? 

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"Do not blame Caesar, blame the people of Rome who have so enthusiastically acclaimed and adored him and rejoiced in their loss of freedom and danced in his path and gave him triumphal processions. Blame the people who hail him when he speaks in the Forum of the ‘new, wonderful, good society’ which shall now be Rome’s, interpreted to mean: more money, more ease, more security, more living fatly at the expense of the industrious." — Marcus Tullius Cicero.
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