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The 9 Most Anti-Science Candidates in America

Wow . . . I'm shocked to see that Liebelson included 2 Dems on her list . . . oh, West Virginia and Georgia . . . never mind.

By Dana Liebelson, Tue Oct. 30, 2012, posted on MotherJones.com

In 2012, America landed an adorable robot on Mars, found oxygen around one of Saturn's icy moons, and discovered a headless ladybug in Montana, among countless other achievements. A great year for science, right? That depends on whether you're watching the 2012 election. This year, candidates for Congress are actively denying climate change, slashing science funding, and even disputing basic facts of human anatomy. Here are nine of the worst offenders:


The race: Republican candidate for US Senate in Montana

The issues: Climate change, environment, health

Why he makes the list: Rehberg has been making Montana scientists cower in their cowboy boots since 2001. He calls climate change mitigation policies "unnecessary and economically destructive." He's voted twice against science and technology funding and also against stem cell research, according to Project Vote Smart. He also opposed AIDS funding in 1994, because, according to him, "The problem with AIDS is, you get it, you die, so why are we spending any money on people that get it[?]" He inexplicably doesn't want to ban human cloning.


The race: Republican candidate for US Representative of Georgia's 10th congressional district (incumbent)

The issues: Evolution, astronomy, geology

Why he makes the list: It's pretty easy to figure out where Broun stands on the whole evolution issue. He said recently that "all that stuff I was taught about evolution, embryology, Big Bang Theory—all that is lies straight from the pit of hell." Broun also thinks there is a scientific plot to hide the true age of Earth, which he believes is "9,000 years old." He serves on the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, but even Bill Nye "the Science Guy" says Broun is "unqualified to make decisions about science, space and technology."


The race: Democrat candidate for US Senate in West Virginia (incumbent)

The issue: Climate change

Why he makes the list: Manchin sort of believes in global warming: He told the Register Herald that "I don't think all the evidence is in it—that it's conclusive. That being said, there's 6 billion people on this planet earth and we're going to emit and we're going to use more and we're going to have an effect. Anyone that doesn't believe that, I think would be disillusioned."


The race: Republican candidate for US Senate in Indiana

The issues: Climate change, reproductive health

Why he makes the list: Mourdock made the "most anti-science lawmakers" list long before he said that conception from rape is God's will. Although the tea-party-backed candidate holds a master's degree in geology from Ball State University in Indiana, he calls climate change "the greatest hoax of all time" and says basing energy policy off of it "is a threat to our national security." At a news conference last week, he also told reporters, "I believe God controls the universe…I don't believe biology works in an uncontrolled fashion."


The race: Republican candidate for US Senate in Nevada (incumbent)

The issues: Climate Change, environment

Why he makes the list: Apparently environmental issues don't exist in Nevada: The "issues" section of Heller's website makes no mention of them. But Heller's voting record speaks louder than words: He's voted against cap and trade, voted to bar the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gasses, and voted against tax credits for renewable energy, energy production, and renewable electricity. He does, however, support stem cell research.


The race: Republican candidate running for US Senate in Oklahoma (incumbent)

The issues: Scientific research

Why he makes the list: Don't be fooled by the "M.D." after Coburn's name: He authored a report last year attacking the National Science Foundation for funding "wasteful and controversial projects." The diverse projects listed in the report seem only to have one thing in common: Coburn doesn't like them. The studies include a well-known nature vs. nurture experiment, a citizen science program for urban youth to study birds, and the impact of YouTube on the 2008 election.


The race: Democrat candidate running for US Representative of Georgia's 4th congressional district (incumbent)

The issue: Geography, Environment

Why he makes the list: Johnson seems to have confused islands with sailboats. But at least he shows some concern about climate change.


The race: Republican candidate running for US Representative of Minnesota's 6th congressional district (incumbent)

The issues: Climate change, environment

Why she makes the list: Bachmann is on the League of Conservation Voters' list of the worst environmental offenders in Congress. She calls global warming "all voodoo, nonsense, hokum, a hoax" and dismisses climate change by saying "Carbon dioxide is natural. It occurs in Earth. It is a part of the regular lifecycle of Earth. In fact, life on planet Earth can't even exist without carbon dioxide." This of course, goes against the scientific consensus that higher atmospheric CO2 levels caused by human activity are causing climate change.


The race: Republican candidate running for US Senate in Missouri

The issues: Reproductive health, climate change

Why he makes the list: Akin is famous for popularizing the term "legitimate rape." In August, he said that women who are raped won't get pregnant because "the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down." (Akin also wants to ban the morning-after pill because he mistakenly believes it causes abortions.) Akin also has an unusual perspective on climate change. "In Missouri when we go from winter to spring, that's a good climate change," he said in 2009. "I don't want to stop that climate change you know." Despite confusing the change of seasons in Missouri with global climate change, Akin serves on the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology with Broun.

Posted by fleur-de-lisa | Tue Oct 30, 2012, 11:09 AM (0 replies)

FEMA has plenty of money this time

FEMA can tap several billion dollars in additional funds without turning to Congress.
By SEUNG MIN KIM, 10/29/12, posted on Politico.com

Hurricane relief has been a nasty political football on Capitol Hill in the past.

But this time around – thanks to a confluence of several factors – the federal government has plenty of money to cover the costs in the short run as Hurricane Sandy barrels her way up the East Coast.

Nearly $7.8 billion is available for storm response through FEMA’s disaster relief fund, congressional aides said Monday. That includes more than $7 billion set aside in the stopgap spending bill that funds the federal government through March, as well as money designated for disaster relief carried over from last year that was not spent. On top of that — thanks to the debt limit deal last year — FEMA can tap a several billion dollars in additional emergency funds without turning to Congress for extra money.

And regardless of the ideology regarding how to pay for disaster aid, the hurricane is serving as a great equalizer, hitting states represented by a wide range of prominent politicians — with Eric Cantor in Virginia, Chris Christie in New Jersey, and Andrew Cuomo in New York.

“We have plenty of cash in the short term … but we will watch very closely,” said a Senate Democratic aide. “We will not want to end the 112th Congress without making sure the disaster relief fund is sound for fiscal year 2013.”

FEMA administrator Craig Fugate was also confident that his agency was sufficiently equipped.

“We have the funds to respond,” Fugate told reporters on a conference call Monday. “We have the funds to continue response to recovery of previous disasters and we’ll assess the impacts to determine any additional funding needs based on the impacts of Hurricane Sandy.”

A shored-up disaster relief fund and changes to the way that disaster aid is administered could help Capitol Hill avoid a replay of a bitter political fight that exploded last year over the response to Hurricane Irene. In September 2011, Republicans insisted that money allocated for hurricane relief be offset, and proposed paying for aid by slashing funds to an auto-industry loan program – infuriating Hill Democrats. The discussion over offsetting disaster aid also came up after the devastating tornadoes last year in Joplin, Mo. In 2005 with Hurricane Katrina, conservative members of Congress questioned the huge sums going to disaster relief without cutting the government elsewhere to pay for it.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1012/83030.html#ixzz2AnV67ZYQ
Posted by fleur-de-lisa | Tue Oct 30, 2012, 10:42 AM (1 replies)

Mitt flips on FEMA, now would keep it

OMG . . . MittWit reversed his position! Is anyone surprised?

Tuesday, Oct 30, 2012, By Alex Seitz-Wald, posted on Salon.com

Yesterday, we noted that even as a massive super storm was bearing down on the East Coast, Mitt Romney’s campaign was standing by his suggestion in a GOP debate last year that he would end FEMA and make the states handle disaster relief on their own. But how much has changed in 24 hours. As we wake up to see the disaster Hurricane Sandy had wrought, we also find a new position for Romney, who now says he wants to keep FEMA.

In a GOP primary debate in June of last year, moderator John King asked Romney if he would let states take on the responsibilities of FEMA, which was “about to run out of money.” “Absolutely,” Romney replied. “And every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction. And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better… We cannot — we cannot afford to do those things,” he added.

After the Huffington Post highlighted the quote Sunday under the headline, “Mitt Romney In GOP Debate: Shut Down Federal Disaster Agency, Send Responsibility To The States,” a spokesperson for the Romney campaign followed up with editor Ryan Grim. Did the spokesperson say Grim’s characterization of Romney’s comments was wrong? Nope. “Gov. Romney wants to ensure states, who are the first responders and are in the best position to aid impacted individuals and communities, have the resources and assistance they need to cope with natural disasters,” was all the unnamed Romney official said.

As we noted yesterday, eliminating the federal component of disaster relief is a terrible idea. And after Hurricane Sandy left millions suffering, the Romney campaign seems to have come around. “Gov. Romney believes that states should be in charge of emergency management in responding to storms and other natural disasters in their jurisdictions. As the first responders, states are in the best position to aid affected individuals and communities, and to direct resources and assistance to where they are needed most. This includes help from the federal government and FEMA,” Romney spokesman Ryan Williams said in a statement to Politico’s Andrew Restuccia.

It’s worth noting that what Williams describes is basically exactly the way emergency management functions now, though he curiously left out any mention of local and municipal responders, who are really in the best position to affect aid. When locals get overwhelmed, they bring in state resources. When state resources get overwhelmed, they bring in federal resources. As FEMA explains about the National Incident Management System (NIMS), the national standardized process that various tiers of government used to work together in emergencies: “NIMS does not take command away from state and local authorities… The intention of the federal government in these situations is not to command the response but, rather, to support the affected local, tribal, and/or state governments.”

There is a valid, though wonky, critique to be made of the current system of cost allocation between states and Washington. When the president declares a federal disaster area, the federal government commits to paying for 75 percent of the recovery effort. A report from the Government Accountability Office this year found that the formula used to determine whether states can handle the financial burdens of disasters on their own has not adequately kept up with inflation and increases in household incomes. So the federal government ends up taking on financial obligation that states could and should afford on their own.

Changing the way the threshold is calculated would save the federal government lots of money, but that’s not at all what Mitt Romney was talking about. He was making an ideological argument, not an accounting one. And by coming back around to support basically the status quo, it’s hard to see his position on FEMA as anything but another flip flop.

Posted by fleur-de-lisa | Tue Oct 30, 2012, 10:21 AM (8 replies)

Storm aftermath not likely to delay election

For all you bed-wetters and hand-wringers . . .

By NBC's Pete Williams, 10-30-12, posted on NBCNews.com

The answer is, yes, it could undoubtedly be delayed. But it almost certainly won't be.

The Constitution gives Congress the authority to establish the day for presidential elections, and since 1845, a federal law has set the date as "the Tuesday after the first Monday in November." Congress could change the date, just as it could change any federal statute. But it would have to act quickly.

And of course, it's the states, not the federal government, that run elections in America. Many states in areas not affected by Sandy's wrath would be likely to oppose a delay and its attendant costs. They could choose to go ahead with their elections for all but president and have a separate election for president later. But such a move would undoubtedly suppress the turnout.

Past disasters, including weather emergencies, have forced postponement of state and local elections. New York state suspended its primary election in 2001 -- on September 11th, the day of the suicide hijack attacks. But few states have a regular procedure for doing it. Florida, with its long experience in dealing with hurricanes, is one of the few with specific procedures in place, allowing the governor to suspend or delay elections.

John Fortier, a nationally respected expert on presidential elections, points out additional problems, writing on a blog sponsored by the Moritz School of Law at Ohio State University.

"If voting were disrupted and postponed in one state," Fortier says, "then we will likely know the results in all the other states before voting can resume in the affected state. If the affected state or states are determinative of the electoral college outcome, the pressure and focus on that one state would be enormous."

Among other questions, he says, are what to do with votes already cast.

Finally, consider the fact that never before the U.S. history has a presidential election been postponed or canceled, not even during the Civil War.

Posted by fleur-de-lisa | Tue Oct 30, 2012, 10:10 AM (2 replies)

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.

Posted by fleur-de-lisa | Mon Oct 29, 2012, 03:41 PM (3 replies)

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.

Posted by fleur-de-lisa | Thu Oct 25, 2012, 11:55 AM (22 replies)

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.
Posted by fleur-de-lisa | Thu Oct 25, 2012, 10:50 AM (1 replies)

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
Posted by fleur-de-lisa | Tue Oct 23, 2012, 03:01 PM (1 replies)

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 .


Posted by fleur-de-lisa | Tue Oct 23, 2012, 02:45 PM (1 replies)

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.

Posted by fleur-de-lisa | Tue Oct 23, 2012, 02:36 PM (3 replies)
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