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zuul's Journal
zuul's Journal
October 29, 2012

Let's get real about abortions

I rarely agree with David Frum . . . okay, I NEVER agree with him (he was a Shrub speech-writer, for crying out loud) but this is an interesting critique of the republican stance on abortion:

By David Frum, CNN Contributor, October 29, 2012, posted on CNN.com

(CNN) -- When Richard Mourdock delivered his notorious answer about rape and abortion, I was sorry that the debate moderator failed to follow up with the next question:

"OK, Mr. Mourdock, you say your principles require a raped woman to carry the rapist's child to term. That's a heavy burden to impose on someone. What would you do for her in return? Would you pay her medical expenses? Compensate her for time lost to work? Would you pay for the child's upbringing? College education?

"If a woman has her credit card stolen, her maximum liability under federal law is $50. Yet on your theory, if she is raped, she must endure not only the trauma of assault, but also accept economic costs of potentially many thousands of dollars. Must that burden also fall on her alone? When we used to draft men into the Army, we gave them veterans' benefits afterward. If the state now intends to conscript women into involuntary childbearing, surely those women deserve at least an equally generous deal?"

That question sounds argumentative, and I suppose it is.

But there's a serious point here, and it extends well beyond the anguishing question of sexual assault.

If you're serious about reducing abortion, the most important issue is not which abortions to ban. The most important issue is how will you support women to have the babies they want.

As a general rule, societies that do the most to support mothers and child-bearing have the fewest abortions. Societies that do the least to support mothers and child-bearing have more abortions.

Germany, for example, operates perhaps the world's plushest welfare state. Working women receive 14 weeks of maternity leave, during which time they receive pay from the state. The state pays a child allowance to the parents of every German child for potentially as many as 25 years, depending on how long as the child remains in school. Women who leave the work force after giving birth receive a replacement wage from the state for up to 14 months.

Maybe not coincidentally, Germany has one of the lowest abortion rates, about one-third that of the United States. Yet German abortion laws are not especially restrictive. Abortion is legal during the first trimester of pregnancy and available if medically or psychologically necessary in the later trimesters.

Even here in the United States, where parental benefits are much less generous, abortion responds to economic conditions. In the prosperous 1990s, abortion rates declined rapidly. In the less prosperous '00s, abortion rates declined more slowly. When the economy plunged into crisis in 2008, abortion rates abruptly rose again.

These trends should not surprise anyone. Women choose abortion for one overwhelming reason: economic insecurity. The large majority of women who chose abortion in 2008, 57%, reported a disruptive event in their lives in the previous 12 months: most often, the loss of a job or home.

Of the women who choose abortion, 58% are in their 20s. Some 61% of them already have a child. Almost 70% of them are poor or near poor.

Three-quarters say they cannot afford another child.

Pro-life and pro-choice debaters delight in presenting each other with exquisitely extreme moral dilemmas: "Would you ban abortion even in case of rape?" "Would you permit abortion even when done only to select the sex of the child?"

These dorm-room hypotheticals do not have very much to do with the realities of abortion in the U.S. and elsewhere.

Here's an interesting example of those realities: The Netherlands has one of the the most liberal abortion laws in the world. Yet for a long time, the Netherlands also reported one of the world's lowest abortion rates. That low incidence abruptly began to rise in the mid-1990s. Between 1996 and 2003, the abortion rate in the Netherlands jumped by 31% over seven years.

What changed? The Guttmacher Institute, the leading source of data on reproductive health worldwide, cites "a growing demand for terminations from women in ethnic minority groups residing in the country." Well over half of all abortions performed on teenagers in the Netherlands are performed on girls of non-Dutch origins.

These girls and women weren't being raped. They weren't selecting for the sex of their child. They chose abortion because they had become sexually active within male-dominated immigrant subcultures in which access to birth control was restricted, in which female sexuality was tightly policed, in which girls who become pregnant outside marriage are disgraced and in which the costs and obligations of childbearing loaded almost entirely on women alone.

Abortion is a product of poverty and maternal distress.

A woman who enjoys the most emotional and financial security and who has chosen the timing of her pregnancy will not choose abortion, even when abortion laws are liberal. A woman who is dominated, who is poor and who fears bearing the child is likely to find an abortion, even where abortion is restricted, as it was across the United States before 1965.

So maybe at the next candidates' debate, a journalist will deflect the discussion away from "what if" and instead ask this:

"Rather than tell us what you'd like to ban, tell us please what you think government should do to support more happy and healthy childbearing, to reduce unwanted pregnancies and to alleviate the economic anxieties of mothers-to-be?"

Those are the questions that make the difference. It's amazing how little we talk about them.

October 25, 2012

CNN removes story about women’s hormones affecting voting

Thursday, Oct 25, 2012
By Natasha Lennard
Posted on Salon.com

Following widespread ridicule, CNN has removed a story published online Wednesday about whether hormones could influence female voting choices.

The piece by Elizabeth Landau looked at unpublished research that suggested female voting behavior was affected by whether a woman was ovulating on Election Day, or as our own Jillian Rayfield put it Wednesday, whether “their lady parts might be doing the voting for them.” As Poynter noted Thursday, CNN has taken down the post an put up a notice stating that “after further review it was determined that some elements of the story did not meet the editorial standards of CNN.”

Poynter notes that CNN has not elaborated on which precise elements in Landau’s post fell short of their standards.

October 25, 2012

Jon Stewart slams GOP senators for voting down bill to help vets

By Craig Berman, NBC News contributor


You know it’s late in the election season when Jon Stewart doesn’t take advantage of Donald Trump’s October Non-Surprise to do a five-minute set on that "bombshell."

Instead, Stewart devoted himself to veterans’ issues on Wednesday’s “Daily Show.” There was some comedy, naturally, as Stewart railed against the Republican lawmakers who blocked a bill to ease veterans’ reintegration into the civilian workforce because they were concerned about how to pay for that initiative.

“Forty GOP senators thought it would be wrong to reintegrate veterans into the workforce … part of which was because of the money that they already spent on war to make them veterans in the first place,” Stewart said.

He addressed the serious issue of those with skills learned in combat rather than in the classroom, which results in qualified applicants falling short of job requirements or requiring redundant training to acquire the necessary certification. Stewart brought on field medics Meg Mitcham and Daniel Hutchison to illustrate how their record of saving battlefield casualties would leave them short of the posted skills needed to be a school nurse, for example.

Then again, as Stewart said, it may be their own fault. “What gave the veterans the idea that their military skills would be transferable in the real world in the first place?”

Anyone who has ever seen an Army recruitment commercial knows that answer.

Who knows whether Mitcham and Hutchison will get new jobs out of this, but Stewart didn’t let Hutchison walk away empty-handed once he heard about his hometown.

“Oh, I didn’t realize you were from Ohio -- the only state that matters. Here’s a voter registration form,” Stewart said.

In contrast, Stephen Colbert stuck to the usual comic script on his “Colbert Report," focusing attention on Libya and the continuing questions about who knew what when, how did they know it, and why didn’t they do whatever the folks in opposition wanted them to do.

“Questions that Fox News has not been afraid to ask … 24 hours a day for the past six weeks,” Colbert noted.

Colbert is sympathetic towards the desire for more transparency, harking back to a more open time. “Frankly, don’t you miss the Bush Administration? When we knew how to be afraid thanks to a color-coded scale that changed based on threats they often wouldn’t explain.”

Question after question after question. It’s impossible to answer them all. But that’s not really the point.

“Ultimately the question is how many questions do we have to ask before voters forget President Obama killed Osama bin Laden,” he said.

Another who shouldn’t expect a lot of sympathy is Indiana senatorial candidate Richard Mourdock, the latest GOP hopeful to trip up while inexplicably trying to make a point about rape and abortion. If he winds up losing because of that, consider it divine will.

“Don’t shed a tear, folks, because I’ve come to realize that this is just something that God intended to happen,” Colbert said.
October 23, 2012

How a Mitt-Style Increase in Military Spending Might Cost You Your Job

By Lynn Stuart Parramore, posted on AlterNet, October 23, 2012

The link between bloated military budgets and unemployment is clear and scary.

As predicted, one of the big clashes in the final presidential debate on Monday night concerned military spending. The dustup not only revealed a key difference between the candidates, it gave us the best line of the night, Obama's quip that we no longer rely on horses and bayonets .

When it comes to federal spending, the choices we make reflect our national priorities. If you listened to Mitt Romney during the debate, it was pretty clear what his priorities would be if elected. He could not hide the fact that when it comes to spending, children, education, eldercare, trains, roads, technology, research – in short, the things that make life livable at home – will take a backseat to fighting foreign wars abroad and pumping up an already bloated military budget. He vowed to raise military spending by an additional $2 trillion, an increase the military hasn’t even asked for. In other words, he wants to spend more regardless of need.

But here’s what he really didn’t want you to know: Increased military spending could land a pink-slip on your desk.

A little history: Military spending by the United States has skyrocketed in recent years. According to the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, the defense budget expanded from $432 billion in 2001 to $720 billion in 2011, an increase of around 67 percent. Much of this increase has been in reaction to the attack on 9/11. Sadly, instead of making us safer, this trend has weakened the economy and left us far less secure in our daily lives.

Budget experts and economists have long been calling for an end to this hideous misuse of resources. Joseph Stiglitz, 2001 Nobel Prize winner in economics and Linda J. Bilmes, a Harvard University senior lecturer in public policy, have spoken plainly about the problem and co-authored a book called The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict , in which they sum up the folly of that military adventure:

There is no question that the Iraq war added substantially to the federal debt. This was the first time in American history that the government cut taxes as it went to war. The result: a war completely funded by borrowing. U.S. debt soared from $6.4 trillion in March 2003 to $10 trillion in 2008 (before the financial crisis); at least a quarter of that increase is directly attributable to the war. And that doesn’t include future health care and disability payments for veterans, which will add another half-trillion dollars to the debt.”

Stiglitz has also shown how these unnecessary wars fought on credit are directly related to unemployment . The Iraq war exacerbated the deficit and increased the cost of oil, which meant that people had less money in their pockets to buy American goods. That, in turn, dampened company profits, a trend that inevitably leads to layoffs. For a while, Federal Reserve hid the weakness in the economy by blowing up a housing bubble that fueled a consumption boom – and we all know how that turned out: Millions of indebted Americans who were wiped out once the financial crisis finally exploded and jobs evaporated from coast to coast.

more at: http://www.alternet.org/economy/how-mitt-style-increase-military-spending-might-cost-you-your-job
October 23, 2012

Last night’s debate can only help Obama

By Jamelle Bouie, Posted 10/23/2012, The Washington Post

Last night’s debate was destined to be an unfair fight. It’s not just that foreign policy is the area where Barack Obama is most comfortable — where he’s had the most freedom to implement his agenda and steer the United States in a particular direction. Rather, it’s the oft-noted fact that — unlike a candidate — he is conducting foreign policy and acting as commander-in-chief. He has ordered troops into combat, made phone calls to the families of fallen soldiers, and held intense negotiations with leaders of other countries. That lends a gravity to Obama’s arguments that Mitt Romney couldn’t replicate.

Post-debate snap polls are not a good way to judge the effect of debates on public opinion, but they do give you a starting point for how the debate was perceived. In this case, Romney’s loss was on par with Obama’s in the first debate: The CBS instant poll has Obama winning the debate by a margin of 30 points, 53 percent to 23 percent; CNN shows an 8 point win, 48 percent to 40 percent, and Public Policy Polling shows Obama winning by an 11 point margin in swing states, 53 percent to 42 percent.

But there’s a key difference between now and then. When Obama lost big, Democrats and liberals entered a spiral of panic that almost certainly contributed to the public’s sense that the president was a loser (see: Sullivan, Andrew). Mitt Romney has lost two consecutive debates — one by modest amount, the other in a rout — and conservatives are spinning it as a solid performance.

The media consensus, so far, is that this debate won’t have an effect like the one in Denver. That’s probably correct: Romney was underperforming for most of the fall, and the first debate effectively reset his campaign, and brought it in line with the fundamentals.

But last night could still matter to the outcome. It’s worth considering Nate Silver’s take: “with the contest being so tight, any potential gain for Mr. Obama could matter.” A one point bounce in the polls seems insignificant, but with less than two weeks before the election, it could turn Obama’s slight lead into a small, more comfortable one. Right now, the simple fact is that for all the talk of Romney’s momentum, his path to 270 is steeper than Obama’s. At a minimum, last night’s debate won’t alter this. Let’s let Charlie Cook have the last word:

"Although this race is very close, the road to 270 electoral votes is considerably more difficult for Romney than it is for Obama...If Obama carries Ohio and Wisconsin, where he is ahead in most polling, he gets the 270 with one electoral vote to spare, so Romney could sweep Colorado, Florida, Iowa, and New Hampshire and still come up short. No matter how you cut it, Ohio is the pivotal state, and it isn’t just the history of having gone with every winner from 1964 on and with no Republican ever capturing the White House without it. To be sure, this race is so close that it clearly can go either way, but the Obama electoral path looks less steep than the one Romney must traverse, and the final debate seems unlikely to have altered that fact."

Jamelle Bouie is a staff writer at The American Prospect, where he writes a blog .


October 23, 2012

Falling pump prices could give Obama a lift

By John W. Schoen, NBC News, Oct. 23, 2012

Gas prices are displayed at a gas station and mini-mart in the Mid City section of New Orleans. Pump prices have fallen quickly in the past several days, giving Mitt Romney one less thing to slam President Barack Obama with in the run-up to the election.

In a week that saw President Barack Obama poll dead-even with Republican rival Mitt Romney in the race for the White House, it may have been some relief to Democrats that gas prices have shed 17 cents in the last 12 days.

While that could help boost the president's chances for another four-year term (or at least not hurt them), the drop in prices has more to do with luck than with White House energy policy.

After refinery bottlenecks sent prices surging ahead of a seasonal switch from summer to winter gasoline blends, those kinks have been cleared and gasoline has begun flowing smoothly again.

The global oil markets, meanwhile, are awash in oil thanks to a global economic slowdown that has cut into demand. And while tighter sanctions on Iran have crimped that country’s oil exports, any shortfall has been more than made up by rising U.S. production set in motion by forces in place before Obama took office.

For all the spirited debate about the success or failure of the White House's energy policies, presidents have little control over the market forces that drive gas prices higher or lower.

“(Obama) gets blamed for high gasoline high prices -- which he has nothing to do with -- and he takes credit for higher production -- which he has nothing to do with,” said John Kingston, director of news at Platt’s. “So maybe it all sort of balances out.”

The timing of the pump price plunge comes as the candidates continue to pound each other over energy policy. After surging to more than $4 a gallon in many parts of the country, the national average price of a gallon of regular has fallen by 13 cents to $3.58 in the past week, according to Energy Department data.

The sharp slide is expected continue, according to AAA, pulling average pump prices down to between $3.40 and $3.50 by Election Day and $3.25 to $3.40 by Thanksgiving.

The prospect for that continued decline rests, in part, on continued stability in the price of crude oil, which has remained remarkably steady despite ongoing tensions with Iran over its nuclear program.

As the U.S. and its allies have tightened the noose on Tehran this year, the loss of oil revenues has plunged the Iranian economy into chaos. Crude oil sales generate about half of Iranian government revenues. Oil and oil products make up nearly 80 percent of its total exports, according to U.S. estimates. Oil analysts calculate that the sanctions have blocked sales of roughly 1 million barrels a day, or about a quarter of Iran’s production capacity.

The lost oil income has lopped roughly a third off the value of the Iranian currency, the rial, relative to the dollar, sparking a round of painful inflation for Iranian consumers and putting added pressure on the Iranian regime to end its nuclear weapons development program.

On Tuesday, Iran said it would halt oil exports altogether if Western sanctions tighten any further.

"We have prepared a plan to run the country without any oil revenues," Iranian oil minister Rostam Qasemi told reporters in Dubai. "If you continue to add to the sanctions we (will) cut our oil exports to the world. ... We are hopeful that this doesn't happen, because citizens will suffer. We don't want to see European and U.S. citizens suffer."

Until recently, the threat of a full cutoff of Iranian oil production would have been enough to send crude prices soaring. But with global demand slowing because of sluggish economies, the oil markets have remained surprisingly stable.

That could change if Iran ups the ante and moves to restrict oil shipments from other oil producers in the region. One long-standing worry in the oil markets is the potential crimp in supplies from military action in the Strait of Hormuz, the global pinch point bordering Iran through which roughly 20 percent of the world’s oil flows every day.

An Iranian blockade remains a constant threat to global oil supplies. Last month, more than 30 nations, led by the U.S. Navy, conducted naval exercises that included efforts to thwart a simulated mining of critical shipping lanes.

The results were not reassuring, according to a report by PBS Newshour.

Of the 29 simulated mines that were dropped in the water, “I don’t think a great many were found,” retired Navy Capt. Robert O’Donnell, a former mine warfare director for his service, told the NewsHour. “It was probably around half or less.”

U.S. oil refiners are getting an even bigger break on crude prices. That's thanks to a steady rise in North American production captive to a pipeline system that was designed and built before recent production surges in Canada and revived U.S. oilfields. Much of the credit goes to advances in technology that have had little to do with U.S. energy policy. But the gains have been both unexpected and dramatic.

Since 2009, shortly after Obama took office, U.S. oil output has risen by roughly 1.6 million barrels per day, ending a more than tw-decade decline in production. The glut of oil has depressed domestic prices compared to the global benchmark, providing U.S. refiners with a discount of about $20 a barrel below the global price of about $110. That lower U.S. price will continue to help keep U.S. pump prices in check.

The domestic oil boom has also helped cut unemployment in energy-producing states, adding roughly 1.7 million new jobs this year, according to IHS Global Insight’s energy research group. That number could rise to almost 3 million by 2020, the firm said in a study released Tuesday.

October 23, 2012

Brit Hume on Faux: 'Pres did a good job.'

Chris Wallace: 'Romney was big picture, President tried to start fights.'

October 23, 2012

Tweety: 'Nothing said about the drug trade, Europe, Latin America . . .'

Well, at least he's not attacking the President, yet!

October 23, 2012

Tagg with the Pres?!?

Please try to hit him . . . I want the SS to take you out!!!

October 23, 2012

Robme's closing statement:

'The president is responsible for the failed economic policies of Dumbya' . . . 'I know what it takes to get this country back' (how many times did he say that during the campaign?

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